Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Breast Feeding Part 1 (Hopefully)

The hardest thing that was the easiest to quit. Hanging in there for the sake of it... My take on breast feeding 3 months in:

The Decision
First it starts with a choice: to breast feed or to bottle feed. For me it was an easy. As a pharmacist and semi-hippie, breast feeding was the smart and obvious way to go. So it was settled. The next question is: how long? I started with my mom, who told me she breast fed us until we could look at her with a mischievous, 'put your boob in my mouth' smirk (at about 3 or 4 months). I laughed, unsure and I still don't know what she meant. Perhaps I haven't seen that look yet and I will soon know this perceived creepiness. The various pediatrician groups recommended breast feeding for one year. Whoa, that just seemed way too long. So I set some guidelines for myself. My goal: to breast feed for 6 months, and to do so exclusively for the first 3 months. Easier said than done.
Starting Out
No one told me the difficulties of breast feeding! It is amazingly difficult. A c-section was my first set back, and I have the memory of a temp nursery staffer plopping the baby on my lap *ouch* not realizing I'd had a c-section and me just crying and crying in pain attempting to get my crying baby to latch on (dammit!). I was delirious with frustration and pain. My nipples were raw and exhaustion had the best of me. Just quit, I thought, Its so easy to just give up, save yourself now! But no, I was determined. I stuck out those first 2 weeks of hell. Yes, breast feeding was hell for me.
Then things either got easier or I got used to the difficulty. The nipple destruction subsided (I seriously thought at one point that my nipples had been permanently chewed off) and 4 hours of sleep was plenty of rest. Then it was time to go back to work...
Pump Pump Pump
I was back at work full time 7 weeks after the baby was born, and at first I was a pumping champion. Every 3 hours I was pumping away, creating delicious feedings for my little man. But then a funny thing happened. I got busy. At work. Go figure. Pumping became more and more of an inconvenience, and I was getting to the point were I couldn't keep up with his demand. It happened during a particularly stressful time at work. There was the Women's Expo, my 2 hour presentation to a women's group that I hadn't prepared for, and a full work week that we happened to be short staffed. I was pulling my hair out. I had a mini panic attack at work. I was NOT O.K. It wasn't until later, when I prepared baby E's first bottle of formula (in tears mind you), that I realized the real source of my stresses. I was giving him formula prior to the completion of my 3 month exculsive breast feeding plan! As he happily devoured the formula, all of my tension melted away. It was ok, he was fine. One bottle of formula didn't hurt him or any other baby who had ever recieved formula! He continued to breast feed just fine after that. Whew. What a relief.
Where I Stand
Breast feeding is probably one of the biggest stigmas when it comes to having a baby. If you say you won't, you will likely meet opposition. If you choose to do it, you might not make it. Most days I still think about quitting. So for me, it really is a daily struggle. I hope to make it to 6 months, and at that point I will probably dabble in breast feeding, but I want to get away from pumping all the time. I am still looking forward to it getting easier, and I think the key (after some reflection) is letting go and not putting so much pressure on yourself. Go ahead and give the little one some formula if you need to! Don't stress about it. Here's to me taking a bit of my own advice.


  1. You're a great Mom, Erika. You've come a long way with breastfeeding since I saw you in the hospital and when I saw you a few weeks ago. You're a champ and Baby E appreciates it....along with how much you love him.

  2. This was really well written. Keep it coming! I love hearing of your nipple destruction LOL

  3. I followed you here from the Femenist Breeder blog...Just wanted to share.

    I had an unexpected c-section with my first. In the first 48 hours after birth, I had no milk and the nurses/ped said my body just won't make milk...I will have to use formula.

    My mother sent me to LaLecheLeague. At LLL I cried b/c I saw all these women nursing babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers (I'll admit the almost school aged nursers did and does creep me out a little) and I couldn't take care of my own newborn! She was 5 days old. One of the leaders took me into the hallway asked me some questions, hugged me and said, "Honey, your body didn't go through the hormonal process that happens when you push a baby out. It doesn't realize it is allowed to make milk yet." While I was with her this very miraculous thing happened...I made ACTUAL MILK. No more was finally milk.

    Obviously, GETTING MILK was the first hurdle I had to get over. Then there was latching, sore nipples, working & trying to pump, etc. Luckily, the one REALLY awesome thing I had going for me was support. My husband and mother were both willing to do whatever I needed them to do!

    Anywho...I made very little milk while pumping...sometimes an ounce or two at most. I think it was stress from knowing I would be at work soon (then once I was at work it was stress from being away from the baby!). My mother was also the primary caregiver while husband and I worked...she would time the feedings so I only had to pump once while at work, then come home to nurse, so I didn't skip too many feedings, and didn't have to pump too often.

    We went to solids a little early - 4 sort of stretch the little bit of milk I was able to pump (an ounce or so in cereal). Then by month 5 we went to fruits & veggies, so that I could skip the pumping at work all together. I would still nurse the moment I got home, then would nurse regularly through the evening/night, and in the mornings. Weekends felt so free b/c I didn't have to worry so much about timing and scheduling (and my supply actually went up a little during this time and over the weekends I was able to pump 4 or 5 ounces at a sitting).

    Anywho...I nursed until my infant weaned herself. I had taught her a sign for "nurse", so that she wouldn't be yelling, "Nu-nus mommy!" out in public...I sort of started weaning early b/c I thought it would be a long process (it was according to everything I read!). Well, I basically let her dictate feedings. If she asked for it, I gave it to her. Otherwise I prepared her little foods and drinks. I still pumped I added breastmilk to some things like oatmeal...And at 10 months, we had 2 or 3 days when she didn't ask for it. I was really full, and I was going to attend a party. So I brought her into bed after my shower, and nursed one last time so I wouldn't leak onto my clothes during the party (it was on a boat, I didn't want to overflow my nursing pads and be left with a wet dress the whole time). Anywho. She didn't ask for it again after that that was it.

    Nursing came MUCH easier with my second, although, by then, I was no longer working...I think the lack of stress from having to perform in 2 different environments changed everything. That one took much longer to wean. 17 months...and I started at 12 months, lol.

    Anywho...I know I went on forever...But I just want to say good luck...and if you need encouragement...I can be reached through my blog! ;)

  4. I breastfed my baby, its tough, but totally worth it!! In fact, I was really sad when my son was lactose and tolerant and I had to stop breast feeding him because of it, he was just to allergic and was getting to much in my breast milk. :( I tried going dairy free and was able to do it for a while, long enough to breast feed til my son was just a lil over 2 months old and then I returned to work, but eventually going dairy free was expensive and got to be very hard to do. Great post!! :) I like your blog. I have a mommy blog myself and I was wondering if you would be willing to do a mommy interview for my blog? You can see what completed mommy interviews look like on my blog. If you are interested I would love to hear what your answers are and you can email me at
    Hope to hear from you soon!