If you’ve been following along since Miles’ was born, you know our breastfeeding journey was anything but a walk in the park. You can get up to speed here.
I still get messages weekly from new moms thanking me for my breastfeeding post. Sharing how they are struggling now and reading what I went through makes them feel not alone. That it gives them hope. These kinds of messages seriously fill me with warmth. It’s the reason I do what I do. It’s the reason I take the risk of sharing my life on the internet because I hope that my stories can help other women and moms.
That being said, a lot has transpired since I wrote that first post. While we had many breastfeeding victories, we also had struggles, and I wanted to share that. I know if my first breastfeeding post helped so many that this one can, too.
So, where did I leave you off? After countless weeks of breastfeeding + pumping + supplementing, Miles and I were finally able to exclusively breastfeed! It was amazing not only because it was something I wanted, but because I truly LOVED breastfeeding. I enjoyed the ease of it. The convenience of no bottles or not having to pack extra when we left the house. I loved the quiet moments with Miles (not that those didn’t exist with bottle feeding, but it is different.)
Exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) went great for quite a few months, probably until he was about 7 months old. A few things happened then. First, we had started to introduce solids and Miles LOVED them. I was careful to only offer them after a nursing session, but he ate a lot and it definitely impacted how much he wanted to nurse. Second, Miles became a lot more aware. He is a little FOMO baby. He was a very distracted nurser which made it hard to get him to concentrate on the task at hand…eating. Thirdly, around 7-8 months Miles went through a big growth spurt (he went from the 9th percentile to the 40th in weight in less than 2 months). Finally, I was working to push Miles further between feeds. Because of reason 1, 2, and 3, he was an overall lazy eater and didn’t always take a full feed at each session. I wanted to get from nursing every 2-1/2 hours to nursing every 4 hours.
All these things combined brought me to a place where I decided it was best to introduce one bottle of formula back each day (again, if you read our first breastfeeding post, you know Miles was breastfed + formula-fed early on due to feeding struggles). This worked really. That one extra bottle helped push Miles between feeds and ensure he was getting enough ounces/calories every day.
Then, at about 9 months I noticed Miles nursing less and less. No matter WHAT I did he wouldn’t take a full feed. He twisted, spun, kicked off, even started to bite a little (insert awkward face emoji). It’s not that he wouldn’t nurse, it’s just that most of the time he would never take a full feed. I fought with him for a bit, being stubborn (and a little selfish) because I didn’t want to give up on breastfeeding.
Eventually, I realized I had three choices:
- I could continue this fight and ultimately be back to nursing every 2 hours because he was never taking full feeds
- I could try exclusively pumping
- I could drop 1-2 nursing sessions for bottles
The first option was off the table. Miles was on a great 4 hour eating schedule + solids. If we went back to 2 hours he’d be snacking all day long.
The second option made me want to poke my eyes out. I was already pumping 3x at work and before bed every night. And let’s not forget I pumped 7-9x a day for the first 11 weeks of Miles’ life. I wanted to light my pump on fire and watch it burn and die a slow death at this point. I know it sounds dramatic but if you’ve been through it – you know.
The last option seemed like the best choice. So, I started by replacing two nursing sessions a day with bottles (formula or breastmilk depending on what I had for a stash). I added one extra pumping session at a day during his morning nap at first, but I finally dropped that.
At just about 10 months, Miles’ top two teeth came in an he went on a mini nursing strike. This led to me dropping one more nursing session for a bottle. Which basically leads us to where we are now. I nurse once a day and the rest of Miles’ feeds are bottles. I now only pump 1x a day.
The truth is, at first this decision was hard. Like, really hard. As much as I knew my sanity and Miles’ full belly mattered more than anything, I felt a little bit like I was giving up. I felt like I could PUSH THROUGH a little more. But the truth was, that wasn’t the case. Pushing through would have meant fighting at every nursing session with a Miles. Pushing through would have meant losing my free time to a breast pump. Pushing through would have meant risking a hungry baby.
Besides our rocky start, my breastfeeding journey with Miles was mostly full of really great memories of quiet moments together. I knew it was slipping away and ending sooner than I wanted, but trying to hold on to it longer wouldn’t have been worth it. It would have ended our journey on a bad note.
So, that’s where we are. Almost at the end of our breastfeeding journey – which I’ll be honest makes me a sort of sad to type out. I try not to overthink it because I get very nostalgic that this season of our life is coming to an end. For now, I’ll keep hanging on to my morning nursing session. Mainly it’s for me; selfishly unwilling to get rid of these last few quiet moments together.
What Worked for Me
In my last breastfeeding post, I shared what worked for me to get to a place where I could exclusively breastfeed. Now, I want to do the same and share what worked for me when it came to letting go of exclusively breastfeeding.
- Remember there is no magic number – when it comes to breastfeeding I feel like there’s this magic number of 12 months. It’s what everyone says to aspire to. It’s what your pediatrician usually recommends. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times, we’re raising humans, not tiny robots. Not every baby will make it to 12 months. Many go longer, unwilling to give it up. Some make it months, weeks, days, or not at all. These are all OK numbers.
- Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing – I don’t know why this seems like such an eye-opening statement. But, I feel like we talk a lot about all the ways babies are fed: breastfed, formula, donor milk….as if it’s a one or the other option. You can breastfeed your baby AND formula feed your baby.
- Formula isn’t the devil- Listen, breastmilk really is an amazing thing. Scientists are STILL learning about its spectacular properties. And, while the “breast is best” movement was amazing in so many ways (like helping to normalize breastfeeding, giving moms more rights to nurse in public, etc.) it has also, unknowingly, vilified formula. While the “fed is best” movement has helped, there’s certainly still an assumption that moms who formula feed are lazy, not as nurturing, gave up, or are just downright selfish. Please know this isn’t true. I’ve talked to SO many women through my platform who have had to formula feed and NONE are doing it for any other reason than they selflessly love the heck out of their babies.
- Breastmilk is never worth your sanity – Another ounce of breastmilk isn’t worth losing more precious sleep. Another pumping session isn’t worth you giving up the little bit of free time you have in the morning. Your sanity as a mom means SO MUCH more than having a little bit more breastmilk in a bottle for your baby. Your baby needs you – they need you present, rested, loving, nurturing. Part of being a good parent is making sure to care for yourself, too. I think we too often forget this. Our children need us (and deserve us) at our best, which means we need to make decisions for our own well-being just as much as theirs.
I hope this post helps some people in some ways. Every journey is different and every baby is different. I’m VERY CLEARLY no pro at this. I just wanted to share my story since I know it’s similar to many others, and some of the insights I learned along the way that helped me.