Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why I gave up breast feeding for a day: And don't regret it

We started out exclusively breast feeding. We had to start pumping when Clarissa turned out to not be eating enough and got dehydrated (ultimately needing an IV at the ER). I had to start pumping everything to bottle feed her so we could see measurably how much she was getting to eat. We found quickly that she was still hungry after eating the little bit I could pump and started to supplement.

Breast feeding is natural. That's what we all know and hear on a regular basis. What I didn't realize when I got so excited and set on breast feeding my second child is that it doesn't come naturally. Not to everyone. It's hard, hard work! It's tiring, frustrating, difficult, and a huge learning experience. That's not to say it doesn't have benefits and its beautiful moments too, but, by the time Clarissa was 2 1/2 weeks old I was dreading breast feeding and pumping. It was painful, I wasn't getting much, and it was just so frustrating!

I loved my baby but I found myself getting mad at her when she wouldn't latch properly or stay on the breast for more than a couple minutes and then we'd have to struggle to get back on. I was mad at myself that she'd still be hungry after we'd spend a literal hour breastfeeding and then we'd have to just make some formula anyway. I was literally crying at the pump. Soon I realized that my feelings were getting worse and I was starting to really resent the whole process, I was getting depressed, and would give up and just bottle feed her more and more regularly. Soon my exclusively breast fed baby became a breast fed and supplemented baby and my dismay... was a formula fed baby getting supplemented with breast milk.

I gave up. Completely, all the way, for one day (in actuality it was maybe 14-18 hours).

I sat aside the pump and I didn't put Clarissa to breast for a day. I didn't think about my milk, about how much was getting or wasn't getting made, I didn't worry about how much it was going to hurt latching her on, I didn't worry about how awkward and difficult holding a nipple shield on while trying to hold your breast (I'm very large chested and have to hold my breast the entire feeding to keep from smothering Clarissa) and help her get latched. I didn't feel anxious, stressed, or cry at all during a feeding.

I enjoyed extra sleep! I didn't have to spend a bunch of time at breast and then on the pump to try to fall asleep and get about an hour of sleep before the baby was up again wanting to eat. That's not counting when the cluster feeds popped up! I don't know about all of you, but the only let downs I was getting had nothing to do with my milk getting to baby.

Now, this is exactly what I was told NOT to do. That it would only make things worse and that what I needed to do was trudge through. I was sick of hearing I just needed to keep at it... or getting a million suggestions of things I had already tried. I had to decide what was best for me and my family. Me being anxious, depressed, resentful, and angry about breast feeding wasn't helping any of us. Neither was me being exhausted! It wasn't fair to my husband who had to put up with me, my older daughter who was getting the short end of the stick with my bad mood and sleep deprivation, or baby who was likely also sensing my frustrations.

Then we came back around. I reintroduced Clarissa to the breast and started pumping again. My first pump after break was the biggest I've had (nearly 3oz) and since then has gone back down to about where it was before (about 1-1 1/2 oz). The nice thing, I don't feel so horribly upset about it anymore! I regrouped and refreshed on my day off. I had to accept that if I never got more than an ounce at a pumping well that was one less ounce of formula. I picked up some mother's milk tea and drink it about 3 times a day in hot apple cider to cover the awful black licorice taste and smell. I try to make sure I drink plenty of water and that I eat foods that the lactation consultant said could better milk supply. I'm still a little disappointed that my supply hasn't met demand but it does seem to be improving! Pumping allows me to set aside a bottle (even if it's not a full feeding worth) so her father can feed her for a little bit before I try breast feeding, giving me a tad more sleep and hopefully a little less formula every time and fingers crossed eventually will be off the formula all together!

Here's the takeaway:

  • I am NOT saying that taking time off breast feeding is a good idea for everyone and every situation. As I mentioned before I was actually warned not to take the break but decided that ultimately I really needed to. Please do not take my experience as actual advice, only you can decide what is best for your family. There are other ways to help yourself through the tough time (I'll share a few things that have been really helpful with my breast feeding at the end). 
  • Try not to feel bad if you aren't making enough, are struggling with latch or other problems, or if breast feeding isn't coming naturally to you! Every woman is different and there is definitely a learning curve that can take several weeks for both you and baby to work through. You're a rockstar! Reach out for support from your partner, friends, family, or even professionals. Lactation consultants or supports might be available at the hospital you delivered at, through your local WIC program, or La Leche League. There may even be breast feeding groups on Facebook for moms in your area!
  • Acknowledge the feelings you're having. Feelings like stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, sadness, and resentment are all legit and might be prohibiting progress. I was warned that those feelings could be keeping me from getting a good milk supply and that baby could also be feeling what I am, making our jobs more difficult. You're not a bad person if you aren't finding breastfeeding to be what you imagined. It's not always joyous and beautiful for us all and you're not alone in feeling that way.
  • Here's what helps me: watching my baby breastfeed, deep breathing during breast feeds or pumpings, making a list of all the reasons why I wanted to breast feed and referring back to it if I feel discouraged, writing down my feelings (journal style) it can be really therapeutic getting it all out, hot showers, drinking my hot apple cider/mother's milk tea mix during a feeding, cuddling with my husband and sharing my frustrations, and having skin to skin cuddles with my baby. 
What are your experiences with breastfeeding? What works for you to help through the tough times? 


  1. Hi Jacey!! What a great post. No criticisms here!! I nursed both of my boys. I was not a big milk producer with them, either. With my first son, I had no problems with latching on or with pain, so nursing him was very pleasurable. With my second son, latching on was not a problem, but nursing him was so painful I cried every time I had to feed him. I could not understand why it wasn't like child #1. There were many times I truly considered quitting nursing him. I can relate to some of your feelings. I did consult a lactation specialist and the LaLeche League, but still couldn't get any relief. I really don't know how I continued to do it, but at about 12 weeks, the pain slowly subsided, and after a while no pain at all. I really am glad I did not give up. I nursed him til he was 14 months and I nursed my first son til he was 16 months. As I said, I was not a big milk producer, so at about 10 weeks, I also had to start supplementing with formula with both boys. Not what I wanted to do, but my ped was concerned with their lack of weight gain, so it was neccessary. I tried to pump, but it just didn't work for me. I would nurse until I was empty and then offer a bottle. Sometimes they took it and sometimes they were full enough without taking the bottle. Even if you end up having to supplement with formula at times, your baby will still get the benefit of the breast milk. So, overall, it worked out for me. I absolutely loved nursing my babies, and I'm glad you decided to stick with it. I hope it all goes well for you.

  2. has great tips and suggestions, and the only one that worked for me was to order the domperidone online from whatever country didn't need a prescription (it's available in the US with a prescription, but it is SO HARD getting most doctors on board since they know nothing on how much and how often to prescribe it, etc.) Fenugreek made me and both my babies sick, so Mother's Milk tea is out for me (as are many curry powder blends!) Reglan (metoclopramide) worked great, but it's only safe short-term, and the second I stopped taking it, my supply plummeted again. I tried long-term anyway, but had neurological side effects (massive fatigue, inability to focus, easily distracted - I would try to read a book and get caught up in the font! Then be too tired to read anyway...)

    My oldest ended up being primarily formula fed after 3 months, since I had to go back to work, but she liked to nurse after her bottles and at nap and bedtimes, which we did until she was 3. Even that tiny amount of milk (seriously - no squirting during breast exams!) was beneficial though, as she rarely got sick, despite licking things at McDonald's PlayLand! Once I weaned her, she would routinely get sick for weeks at a time!

    My little one had to be supplemented from birth due to jaundice and failure-to-thrive, but we did the tube while nursing thing for ages. She finally quit me at 6 months, since the bottle was way faster, and she hated nursing anywhere other than in bed, which we rarely had time for with a big sister with a full schedule! She was sick almost non-stop for a year after.

    So any amount you can give is still beneficial. Just don't check out's article on the toxins they put in baby formula. It's scary, especially when it feels like your only option! But both my girls had the side-effects listed for the (illegal) ingredients the USDA turns a blind-eye to. :(

  3. My best bit of advice...that no one told me...was that when pumping, even if you're not seeing any more milk flow into the bottles, just keep doing it for another five to ten minutes if you can. I never saw so much milk as I did once I started doing that. Sometimes I would think I was done since no more milk was coming, then I'd keep pumping and BAM! Like 5 ounces would be in there. The body thinks the baby needs more food, so the more you try to take, the more it will try to produce. Another thing is once she is done nursing, immediately try to pump for a little while. It really helps. You're using an electric pump, right? Double?

    Hang in there, its hard work, but you can do it!! This is a great post! And I love the way you've worded it.

  4. Wow ladies! You are a inspirational. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment your experiences. I'm actually pumping by hand. I rented a pump from my hospital but it was only short term. I'm working on getting another! I do continue to pump once nothing comes, something I just started last week and I think it has been very helpful! I was thrilled to get a 3oz pump tonight. Highly unusual for me. Again, you've all been inspirational. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story Jacey! I've had issues BF my two as well. The first one had drawn blood on my cracked nipples before she was even 24 hours old, so I can sympathise with you one the pain front. Also the awkwardness of shields and the who supplement/compliment feeding thing. With my first I would nurse (for up to an hour) then top up with formula, then pump 10 minutes (regardless of how much/little came out) each side, then spend up to 30 minutes to wash & sterilise & prep any bottles for the next feed. By which time she was just about ready for another feed. My life felt like one giant feeding 'frenzy'.

    Number 2 has been a little easier which I put down to less pressure on watching her weight (with #1 I could tell you exactly how much she weighed each week & how much she'd put on, #2 I'm lucky to get in the ball park) and taking fenugreek & blessed thistle supplements on & off.

    The fact that lactation consultants exist is testament to the struggle that exists with breastfeeding. I assumed everything after giving birth would come naturally, which it really *really* didn't. One thing someone suggested recently to aid with relaxation while feeding it to do the 5s.Think of your 5 senses & then observe 5 things for each. While I sit here feeding my baby, I can hear the fan spinning, the traffic on the road, her rhythmic breathing, my own breath, the dog barking down the street. While I sit here feeding my baby I can feel the pressure of the seat beneath me, her hand against my arm, her feeding motion, my hair tickling my neck, the breeze etc etc

    Good on you for standing your ground for what suits you & your family!

    1. Wow thank you for commenting. I'm glad that you could understand where I am coming from. I think there are a lot of women out there struggling with breast feeding and maybe feel ashamed to say something about it. I know I had a lot of guilt with it at first. Luckily, I haven't bled yet (knock on wood) but I have gotten a blood blister on my nipple as well as odd hickies from my pump. Things seem to be on the up swing as far as continuously getting 2-3 oz for a pumping if she hasn't fed first. I'm trying to be good about continuing to take my prenatal vitamins, my mother's milk tea, and staying hydrated with good ole water. I'll definitely give the 5's thing a try. Thanks for the suggestion.