Breast-Feeding: Take Three

On Wednesday I had my six-week checkup to find out if everything healed OK. It had. I also had a lot of questions for my doctor. Some of the questions were about my boobs. I’m gonna be honest. I’m exhausted. I’ve been seeking medical advice from the Internet and comparing my own experiences to other’s for far too long. I have a tendency to do this especially when I’m alone. And I’ve been by myself a lot lately. (Well, I’m with Emory, who is amazing, but he’s not the best conversationalist.) So I finally sat down with an actual doctor, a real live doctor!

I have been feeding Emory pumped breast milk since a day or two after he got home. At first I didn’t have a lot to offer. I’d give him a few ounces here and there because I wasn’t producing much milk. I supplemented with Enfamil because that’s what he was given while in the NICU. (I have written about this before. I had every intention of breast-feeding Emory and I tried my damnedest at the hands of two lactation consultants and several nurses, but it just didn’t work out. I got him to latch a few times only to have him vomit on me, the bed, his crib. I knew right away something was wrong. And when he finally threw up green, he was immediately taken to the NICU and I stopped trying to cram my breast down his throat. Tests were run and then some more tests. And there was a whole bunch of crying. Thankfully, things worked out.)

Determined to do the “right” thing, I pumped and pumped and pumped in hopes of keeping my milk supply up assuming we’d work things out. That didn’t happen and so I continued to give him the breast milk I was so diligently pumping. About three weeks after he came home, still having trouble getting him to the breast, I began to wonder about exclusively pumping milk for Emory. At around the same time, a friend of mine sent me a link to a forum where countless other women were doing the very same thing. Some had premature babies, others had trouble getting their baby to latch. The point is, I realized I wasn’t alone. So, I became and “EPer”, or an “Exclusive Pumper”. Now, I am producing a lot more of milk. I still supplement with formula because I’m not producing enough milk to sustain his needs. But pumping is working for me. And 80% of what he eats is breast milk.


I began receiving email about it. And that’s partly my fault because I have a blog where I repeatedly ask for advice. And I’m grateful for everything I read, even the stuff I disagree with. But this time? This time the information was a lot more difficult to stomach and my paranoia level was high. When I combined the doubts I had regarding my new job as a mother, my hormones, and the email I received about my breast-feeding issues, I had myself a recipe for self-loathing. I’ve been asked how I can stand to wash bottles, carry them around whenever we go out, etc. I really don’t mind washing bottles and I certainly don’t mind carrying them with me whenever we go out. Another person asked me if I care that others may assume I’m giving my baby formula instead of breast milk since it’s in a bottle. Like formula is poison or something. I’m not even sure what to say in response to that. I guess if someone were to judge me for such a thing, they’re not someone whose opinion I’d care for anyway. Others have suggested that I didn’t try hard enough and that might very well be true. I will never know because I am so tired of comparing myself to others with regard to this. Perhaps I did give up too early. (Although, I do still try from time to time and still haven’t had a 100% success.) More recently, someone wrote me who I know in real life, someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The first sentence of their email read: CONGRATULATIONS! The second one: “Are you breast-feeding?”

Exclusively pumping is not for everyone. Sure, it’s a little weird at first but so is childbirth, breast-feeding, becoming a parent, and talking about poop like it’s fine art. I really don’t mind pumping. I don’t mind getting up at night to do it. I don’t mind waking up in the morning to do it. Plus, I get to wear really strange, homemade garments like this:

And the blessing in all of this is that since I’m feeding a given amount of breast milk from a bottle, I don’t have to wake up as often as a breast-feeding mama. He sleeps longer! For some, having that boob to mouth bond is extremely important. And I respect that entirely. I do think I share a bond with my son even if I’m not giving him food straight from my nipple but I won’t argue with a breast-feeding mama. At some point, it became really important to me that I get some sleep. That was the number one ingredient in keeping me happy. And when I’m happy, I’m a better person and a better mother.

On Wednesday, I finally spoke with my doctor. She reiterated everything I already knew. Emory is getting all the benefits of breast milk and that supplementing with a bottle of formula every now and again – even if it’s two a day – is absolutely fine. It’s also normal for some women to produce less milk than others no matter how often they pump, breast-feed, or how much oatmeal or fenugreek they consume. Contrary to popular belief, some women create more than others. It’s that simple. And had Emory relied entirely on what I was producing from the beginning, he’d be a whole lot skinnier right now and I most certainly would have been reprimanded by my pediatrician. Instead he’s a healthy, thriving, leg flailing baby boy. (Video)

I am writing today for very much the same reason I have written about potentially controversially subjects in the past; I hope that someday someone stumbles on this site, reads this post, and leaves feeling a little better, a little less alone. Because I really beat myself about this. And I regret it entirely. I regret not enjoying the last 6 weeks more. I regret comparing myself to others. I regret taking the email and comments I received so to heart instead of feeling secure with my choice(s). Even if I was being slightly paranoid, misreading tones, etc, I still felt badly and that was unnecessary. I don’t want to see another woman go through what I put myself through. I wasted a lot of precious time doubting myself.

Lastly, there is nothing wrong with a person who chooses to feed their baby formula. That person is no lesser than any other, they are not ignorant or stupid. They are not failures. There is nothing wrong with a person who wishes to feed pumped breast milk to her baby either. If she wants to pump, wash bottles, etc. then so be it. It is of no concern to anyone else. There is nothing wrong with a woman who exclusively breast-feeds her baby and if she pulls that tit out in public? Then deal with it, it’s just a tit. No one is better or worse than the other. And that sounds so obvious now! But it’s not always obvious. There are too many women out there eager to make others feel doubtful about their decisions just because they differ from their own. (And one has to wonder why that is.)

Mothers of the world need to be more kind to other mothers. It’s that simple. And if a mother can’t do that, then she needs to mind her own damn business.


  1. Well said Michele. I’m glad you’ve gotten to a point where you are happy with the feeding thing. As long as your baby is gaining weight and happy and healthy, why does it matter what you feed him? (as long as he isn’t eating twinkies for every meal at this age) ;)

    Motherhood is such a competitive thing. Sad to say, but true. I wish we could just ignore what everyone else does and says and be confident with the way we parent, but it is so hard.

    I admire you for exclusively pumping. I have done that for a week at a time, and I hate every single minute I am pumping. I just can’t do it. And I couldn’t stick with it either.


  2. Thank you for being so honest. I know that I, personally, have learned a lot from you. Your sharing will make it easier for me, when I have children.

    Your post made me think of this one –


  3. Yeah, believe me, baby, at first I wanted to quit every damn second. But now it’s just become a part of my routine. Plus, I get a lot more milk having stuck with it, so I don’t have to pump nearly as often. :] And I gave up feeling shitty for giving him formula. At fist I tried desperately to keep up with him and felt awful every time I had to give him formula! How retarded is that? Really? I look back and think, man you were dumb. Anyway…

    so, yeah, it did get easier. I almost gave up a hundred times before now. But at this point, I think I can do this for several more months. We’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to say that, fail and then feel bad again. :]

    You said it! Motherhood is so competitive. It’s strange. I find that I sometimes start feeling that way and suddenly back up to ask myself why I care. It’s none of my business. :]


  4. oops! That was in response to what Wendy wrote. Sorry, Erica!


  5. People who judge what other people are doing are paranoid that others are doing the same to them. I really think to them it rationalizes how they approached things.

    We (those who gave you advice and traded stories) have the luxury of hindsight. I was a loon when I first had Grace – Boobs hanging out, is she getting enough to eat, sleeping in 2-3 hour blocks. I am sure we all were. Then just like you, we all had our epiphany and then it did not matter.

    I love your friendship and your honesty and Kelly. You have safely made it to the other side. Start throwing your opinions around!

    By the way, I used to sit and watch Grace in the crib with that mobile and just cry. I was so in awe and in love and hormonal.


  6. amen! unfortunately the competition continues. i’m just glad i’m the worlds bestest mother and i have nothing to worry about. kidding :)


  7. There is nothing wrong with feeding your baby any way you choose. Some women get too opinionated about it, but I think the vast majority of us are supportive of each other. I just started to pump because I was engorged beyond belief. Dex started sleeping longer stretches at night and my body was over-producing because of it. After exclusively breastfeeding for 5 weeks, I found it to be odd (I laughed at it at first), but convenient. I’m too modest to breastfeed in public, so now I can pump a bottle and go. Now dad has a chance to feed as well. I say hooray for bottles – who cares what’s in them!


  8. Once again, I am SO glad that I am not a woman.


  9. Mihow,
    Thank you for speaking your mind! Not many are as brave to speak up like that. It just kills me that people say things about how other mothers should feed or care for their child. Ya gotta do what is best for you and your child and that is it. Who cares what others think! Just keep being to totally cool mommy that you are! :o)


  10. P.S. I just watched your little video. We had the same mobile for my girls!


  11. Maybe this is all because Toby isn’t “helping out” enough, if you know what i mean ;)

    In all seriousness I can’t imagine why someone would give you grief over your child nourishment decisions. You’re a smart woman, and have put far more thought and effort into what you’re doing than any armchair lactation enthusiast (not to mention being 10x smarter to start with). Your baby is healthy getting all the nutrition he needs when he needs it, and his parents are going out of their way to support him.

    If I were you, the only different thing I’d do is this: when someone asks me about breastfeeding/formula habits, I’d respond “Are you fucking kidding me? That’s so none of your business.”


  12. “Mothers of the world need to be more kind to other mothers. It’s that simple. And if a mother can’t do that, then she needs to mind her own damn business.”

    I’ve never commented before, but this one has got me typing. Sit down everyone. I did not breast feed. Why? For numerous reasons that remain personal to me. I have never once however, had anything but a negative response or reaction when this is the topic discussed with other mothers. On a good day, I could care less. But we (mothers) do not always have good days. So on a bad day, I am left feeling inadequate. I have learned to no longer take part in these discussions.
    My son will be four in October. The last time I checked he doesn’t appear to be sprouting an extra foot or walking into walls. He is healthy. Very. And always has been.
    So please, spare me the negative thoughts.


  13. Good for you, Michele!! Look how far you’ve come! You should be so proud of yourself.


  14. Michele, I am so sorry that you’ve felt so badly about the breastfeeding. I hope I didn’t contribute to that. I am a supporter of breast milk – by nipple or pump – and I have known a number of women who didn’t get the support to keep it up. It is totally true that Moms can be kind of rabid on certain subjects and, unfortunately, it doesn’t get much better as the kids get older. Wait until you meet the helicopter moms at elementary school. They scare the hell out of me. Anyhow, that’s a subject for your blog in five years. You’re a great person and a great mom. You tried things and found what worked for you. That’s the most important skill any mom has – being able to figure out solutions to seemingly unresolvable situations – solutions you and your family can live with. Don’t be so hard on yourself. So many kids out there don’t have moms who even think about this stuff.


  15. I’m totally feelin’ yah. I am pregnant right now and have a big decision to make regarding breastfeeding. I nursed my first baby for 2 months but had massive pain and ending up quiting. My son I nursed until he was 10 months old with great success on most accounts but the pain started again. I was finally diagnosed with Raynaud’s and no treatment helped. It was horrible!!! The pain from Raynauds is like no other. I would cry from the pain and take HOT showers. Since Raynauds flares up when it’s cold outside I didn’t have symptoms right away bx my son was born during the summer, my daughter winter!!
    My third is due at the end of March and it is still very chilly here in Seattle. Nursing and having my Raynauds pain scares the shit out of me. Would I be less of a person to just feed my baby formula from the start or do I have to be in pain and miserable for the sake of my baby??? This mommy business is tough. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t!! Maybe I can EP for a bit and see how that goes!! You have made me realize there are other options. Thanks.


  16. Here Here!

    I’m crying as I write this. I commented last week to let you know that our experiences are so similar, and after reading this, I’m convinced! I am exclusively pumping as well. After 3 weeks of spending an hour and a half at each feeding trying to breastfeed, giving my baby a bottle, then pumping, I was so exhausted that I realized I wasn’t enjoying my baby. I dreaded each feeding. I hated to feed my baby, how messed up is thatI knew something must give. My pediatrician was the one that said “so, what’s the plan? how long are you going to go on like this?” I felt like a switch was flipped – someone was giving me the OK to say “I don’t have to kill myself to breastfeed”. So, I decided to exclusively pump. And the day that I made that decision, a huge weight was lifted. I felt giddy that I didn’t have to spend the extra 20-40 minutes breastfeeding, for her to still be hungry and require a bottle. HOWEVER – I cried about giving her formula. Oh, the evil formula. Do you know what my husband was given as formula? Condensed milk. Condensed milk! And I’m worried about giving my baby food that is specifically designed to replicate breastmilk? He’s perfectly fine! I was given formula. I’m perfectly fine! It’s really a shame that with the hype that has come with pushing the benefits of breastfeeding, there isn’t a movement to counsel women that have problems.

    I’m not able to produce enough milk either, and I’ve tried everything – pumping every hour, Fenugreek, Domperidone (which helps move things along the digestive system if you’re taking iron after delivery, by the way) so I know how you feel. Boy, do I ever. I try to remember “enjoy her – she’s only going to be like this today, she’ll be different even tomorrow, she’s gaining weight and thriving. You’ve made the right decision”. Emory looks like he’s a very healthy, very happy baby. Ergo, you’re doing the right things!!!

    And thank you so much for posting the picture of the modified sports bra. I mentioned it to my husband, because I’m getting tired of only being able to stare at the TV while I pump!



  17. My mother said her mom used to use condensed milk as well! Too funny.

    All three of us (my brothers and I) were raised on formula. My little brother was raised on the powdered variety. I can’t speak for myself, but my brothers are both very bright and healthy individuals.

    Truthfully, I am not sure what happened that made this breast-feeding movement so out of control. It’s a little strange. Women feel pressured to the point of nearly hating themselves if it doesn’t work out for them. I know people firsthand who felt really badly when things didn’t work out.

    Wouldn’t it be ironic if there were side effects to our taking supplements such as fenugreek? We’re doing all we can to keep up with this breast feeding thing, we’re ingesting herbs unregulated by the FDA. I take it too. And I’m sure it’s fine, but one never knows, you know?


  18. When I was pregnant with Grace there was a series of articles written about environmental pollutants, how they effect our bodies and their presence in breast milk. It is pretty sobering. Nursing actually helps reduce their presence in mothers but the downside is that they end up in our babies. Since the discovery of this is is relatively new (within the last 5-10 years) scientists have no idea what the long term effect will be. It usually takes a lifetime of exposure as opposed to the now jump start babies are getting from the chemicals that are present in bm. The consensus is that the benefits right now out weigh the risk. (I breast fed for 9 months)


  19. I wonder also why society swings back and forth over which is the “best” way to feed your child. When my grandma gave birth (to twins), I don’t think she even considered breastfeeding. Formula was just the way to go. My mom tried, but didn’t really want to breastfeed, so she also formula fed all three of us. Then 30 years never crossed my mind that it was a decision to make, really. And why do I think that way? I just assumed I would breastfeed, although no one in my family has done it for generations. I’ll be interested to see what my sisters choose, if they have children.

    Jonah is partly weaned now, as I am back to work full-time (he is 14 months), so he only breastfeeds 3 times per day. I enjoy the freedom of it on the weekends, but I miss it too. I guess if I had never bf him, I would not have felt like I was missing anything. I spent his first year of life never being separated from him for more than about an hour, as he bf so frequently.

    I don’t know where I am going with this, just wanted to say it!


  20. i meant to make this point more clear before:

    ‘Science’ flip-flops about which option is ‘better’—as does popular culture.
    9/10 moms I’ve known haven’t put half as much thought and research into what they should do—they just read Readers Digect or watch The View, and let others make their decisions for them.

    Emory is lucky to have a mom who went above and beyond the call of duty, trying to figure out what is best for her child. Twenty years from now, you’ll never be in the situation with the thought/regret of “well, if i only….”. You’ve clearly done your homework, explored every option, and used you & toby’s smarts to the fullest extent. You’ve made the the best decision possible for your child, and are 10 times more informed about it than anyone else. If someone wants to comment on your decisions, you have every right to tell them to shove it.


  21. Check this out.

    I haven’t seen this ad but I find it really weird that the government is willing to dump a million dollars into an ad created solely to scare women (instead of creating something positive) and they won’t put calorie content on fast food menus, for example. However, apparently serving a baby formula is like riding an electronic bull while pregnant?

    Shame on them for this.


  22. I think you are fabulous. And I firmly believe Emory couldn’t possibly have a better mom, or dad.

    If I were a mom, I have a feeling I probably would do some damage to my kid. Just in the number of times I’d be telling other people to go fuck themselves within his earshot.


  23. :)
    This post makes me happy. I personally breast fed my kids, and my husband personally bottle fed our kids. They alternated every day from breast milk and formula. Does it matter? Nope. That we feed our kids PERIOD is what matters.
    Good for you. Good for Emory. Keep feeding him.
    (Incidentally, I read a story once about a woman who had a c-section and a good friend said to her, “Oh, that’s too bad that you don’t get to be a ‘real mother’. Sometimes people stink.)


  24. Thank you for this. Here I am a year and a half after the latest comment on this blog, searching for some reassurance that pumping and feeding my beautiful 6 week old daughter a combination of breastmilk and formula does not make me a bad mother. I have tried for the past 6 weeks to successfully breastfeed, and it just has not been working – I have met with several lactaction consultants, both at the hospital and at my home, and nothing has helped me to have an enjoyable breastfeeding experience with my daughter. She and I both end up frustrated after each breastfeeding session. To top that off, she has not been gaining sufficient weight for the past 2 weeks. Her pediatrician recommended a schedule of breastfeeding, supplementing with a bottle and pumping after each session. For the past 5 days, I have not left the house, as this schedule does not allow time for much else. I have been extremely stressed out, am convinced that my daughter picks up on my stress, am sure that my husband does, and have not bee enjoying being a mother as much as I know I should. All because everyone tells me that breastfeeding is the “right” thing to do. It doesn’t feel right to me – today, I skipped breastfeeding, pummped and gave my daugther a bottle of breastmilk and formula. I am happier, she is happy and full and hopefully when we return to the pediatrician for a weight check in a couple of days, she will have gained a sufficient amount of weight. I am finished worrying about what other people will think of my mothering abilities – this is not about me, it’s about keeping my daughter healthy and happy. I know that I love my daugther and that she is surrounded by a big loving family. Being a happy mother and able to enjoy my tim with my daughter will allow me to “bond” with her far more than any breastfeeding session will. Thank you again, this was just what I needed to read.


  25. Thank you for writing about this. I have a 3 week old who I want to breastfeed desperately but like yours, he was in the NICU for a week. He was given formula in bottles and pacifiers. I went every three hours to try to nurse him, but he just fell asleep at my nipple. So I am pumping too. I still don’t produce enough to feed him exclusively breastmilk, but it’s something. I also now just accept that he sees my breast as a pacifier and I am learning to cherish that time anyway. I have been agonizing over this, so thank you for being supportive and not chastizing mothers who can’t breastfeed exclusively.


  26. Thank you for confirming my decision.

    I’m a mother of 4. My first borns are a pair of twin sons, second a daughter and last June I gave birth to a lovely son. All my children were born through C-sect.

    I have always wanted to breastfeed. However, I couldn’t because of my inverted nipples. This is made worse that each of my nipples has only ONE hole. So all my babies could never get enough milk from my breasts. I am also suffering from Polycyctic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) which results in me having a chronic low milk supply. The first two rounds, I formula fed my babies and kept on trying to latch them on to my breast. But couldn’t. I had a lot of heartbreak trying that.

    This time around, I made the decision to pump and feed my baby by bottle. Thanks to my Medela Pump-in-style. However, what I pump is not enough for his daily need. So, I supplement with formula. I’m a more contented mother now.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that whatever decision we make to feed our baby, what is important is WE FEED them. It’s nobody’s business to say what we do is wrong. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  27. Emory is so very adorable! Thank you for sharing your experience with your readers. I especially like your homemade pumping bra. I am 36 weeks pregnant and so super nervous about everything.

    Today, I spent a lot of times looking for the perfect pumping bra (so you can be hands-free), but they are expensive! You just saved me from buying expensive bra so I can allocate the fund for the baby stuffs. Thank you so much!!


  28. Exactly what I needed to hear. THANK YOU! I’ve been exclusively pumping, and decided to give my baby girl a formula bottle yesterday for the first time since I wasn’t producing enough milk to keep her full and not fussing… the first formula bottle I gave her left me feeling inadequate and guilty, almost like I was doing her harm. Glad to hear I’m not the only who has gone through this and that I made the same smart decision that some breast milk is better than none, no matter how they drink it – bottle or breast!

    P.S. I thought I was a genius for saving some money and cutting holes into one of my comfy bras — great minds think alike.


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