Making Life More Complicated: Breastfeeding Edition

I think I must have wanted to choose the method for feeding my child that would be the most complicated and that would require the most amount of time and stuff. Looking at my procedure objectively, at least, that is how it would appear.
I even went to a breastfeeding class at the university while I was still pregnant. I learned a lot in the class about how it all worked and what you’re supposed to do, but reality is a different story. On a side note, you know what’s not helpful in a breastfeeding class? Not talking about formula supplementation, even when asked. Being so sanctimommy that you refuse to talk about certain practicalities that can actually help people make informed decisions. Thanks, UNC Women’s Health.
As I was saying, reality. The little guy came 5 weeks early, and when you spend time in the NICU, you are beholden to their methods, and some of those things that babies become accustom to early on can be very difficult to unteach a newborn. Bottle feeding (pumped breastmilk) was a necessity, with a limited number of breastfeeding attempts per day for various reasons. Even with a lactation coach, establishing a breastfeeding regime with a premature baby takes weeks of work, and we only ever managed to have small bouts of breastfeeding throughout the day, with bottle feeding breastmilk making up the majority of his intake. This lasted for 3 months before he decided that he was done with the nipple entirely.
The first month was breastmilk only, but after that, I began to supplement with formula. Pumping all the time is incredibly taxing. It takes so much time to keep your milk supply up, and I wanted to be able to go out and have a few drinks every once and a while. I could never get my supply up high enough to stockpile before a night out, so formula and waiting for the alcohol to leave my system it would have to be.
This is all to say that not only have I been tied to a breast pump and breastmilk storage supplies for the past six months, I also have everything that goes with making formula as well. Now try traveling with all of this crap, plus everything else your baby needs. I realized just how annoying and borderline martyring myself it is to not just pick a method to make traveling and all of our lives easier. We have gone on two trips since having the baby, one to Florida (pictured above at the beach) and one to Colorado, and I just couldn’t even fathom flying with all of this stuff. Driving long distances with an infant is super fun (not even sure how sarcastic I mean this), but we did it anyway, with me pumping in the passenger seat of the car and storing milk in an ice chest. Don’t even get me started on my desperation to find hotels with dishwashers along the way. Residence Inn is my hero.
Why did I do it this way? I wanted to provide as much breastmilk as I could for 6 months, primarily for its immunological benefits. After 6 months, I gave myself permission to quit, although I haven’t yet. I also think that supplementation has benefits that do not get touted. When I was providing breastmilk only, the NICU wanted us to fortify milk with formula anyway and add vitamin D drops fortified with iron if the formula was not agreeing with him. Supplementing with formula, I don’t have to worry about adjusting the breastmilk, and he gets nutrients that he may not be getting from me. Breastmilk is the perfect liquid, blah, blah, blah, but it actually varies a bit more than commonly believed. I also don’t think variation is a bad thing in terms of giving formula as well. It makes him more adaptable, and while he has a clear preference for breastmilk, if I decided that I was done with it tomorrow, it would not be a struggle.
While I chose the most labor- and equipment-intensive method for feeding, I had my reasons for doing so. One method does not fit all, and even for the same mom, different child, there is likely to be differences out of preference or necessity. What is important is that you are doing your best and you are only making compromises that you are comfortable with. No one else’s opinion matters if your baby is healthy and happy. I must say though, I’m looking forward to my breast pump retirement party.

Diary of an imperfect mum

Rhyming with Wine

29 thoughts on “Making Life More Complicated: Breastfeeding Edition

  1. Oh the breast-formula debate is a tricky one! It sounds like you’ve done an amazing job.

    I think there is no doubt that breastmilk is best (as you say the immunological benefits as well as a whole host of other things) and a lot of women give up too easily because it can take a LOOOONG time to establish breastfeeding and nobody warns you about that.

    However, if you need to give formula, then that’s what you need to do, and there’s no point in making anyone feel guilty about it. The baby needs feeding at the end of the day. #ABloggingGoodTime
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    1. Thank you! It’s so hard to make the decision guilt free, and it is so important that we all support each other! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Everyone has to choose what works best for them and their child, and like you say it can differ between children. I know my two were very different. I certainly don’t miss the breast pump, they’re like medieval torture devices!

  3. BF is hard! And pumping takes a lot of commitment! I used to carry around my pump, 2 extra pumps and the whole thing that would clean & steam bottles ( i don’t even rem what it is called!) And to make sure I pump every 6 hours meant pumping in rest rooms, airplanes, back seat of cars. Once I even pumped in a hired jeep in front of a volcano in Indonesia!! haha.

    I was so relieved when I was done.


    1. Yes, it’s just so much stuff! Having to sterilize in hotel rooms and pumping on the highway as truckers rode on by. Necessary if you ever want to leave the house. Pumping in front of a volcano is pretty badass! 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

    1. Yeah, it is really not helpful. It’s like they feel like the only way to get you to persevere is to not give you any alternative by not providing information about supplementation. Breast milk is best, but people have different reasons behind how long they can continue breastfeeding and every family is going to have different needs. Interesting to see that the practice is widespread. Thanks for commenting!

  4. So after four kids I think I have done it all- my first was mostly mostly

    Second mostly breast

    twins strictly pumped milk

    Each way certainly had its pros, cons and fair share of mom guilt.


  5. I’m always somewhat in awe of mothers who feed their babies pumped breastmilk. That is some epic commitment to the cause – I salute you Mama. I BF both my girls but was exhausted very quickly – at about three-four months. I say, when it comes to feeding babies, do what feels right. Enjoy your first hangover!

  6. My aunt was the breastfeeding educator for her hospital and so therefore anyone in our family who was about to have a baby, we got the 411. I appreciated that she had given us both sides so we knew all the options should we find ourselves realizing the breastfeeding was to difficult for whatever reason. I tried my best but couldn’t hold on as long as I wanted when I went back to work and to boot how my kid was not a good latcher. (which surprised her as she spent a whole day my first week home alone to try to help with feeding her. That whole new mom thing)

    anyway, i love what you wrote. As long as the baby is being fed and getting what they need should be the only concern =) #DreamTeam.

    1. Thanks so much! I’m so glad that your aunt provides the whole picture. I think that is so important and helpful to help families make their own decisions based on what they need. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Loved this! Feeding your baby (whatever way) is a personal choice and not one taken lightly, definitely not a one size fits all method! You’re doing an amazing job. #StayClassyMama

  8. I supplemented with formula in the early weeks too. It was a great decision and helped Peachy a lot. I resisted formula so much because of all the breast is best brainwashing. When I finally broke down and did it I wanted to kick myself for not doing it earlier. It helped Peachy immensly and we could have helped her so much earlier. #StayClassyMama

    1. Agreed. There is not only one option out there, so people need to stop acting like there is and giving all the information so that we can make the best decisions for our little ones.

  9. Totally agree. They should prepare you for any situation. What also annoys me, my hypnobirthing class didn’t talk about what ELSE could happen! As in, if I didn’t have a natural water birth with candle light and soft music what would happen. What would I need to be prepared for? I think in both instances they should really give you examples of all possible routes, even if they are “scary.” And then you just hope for the best! Thanks so much for sharing with #StayClassyMama!
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  10. I’ve never been to an NCT class but surely they should be teaching you about other ways to feed as well as it’s not always possible to breastfeed, even if you want to. No wonder mothers end up feeling like they’ve failed if they can’t. You just do what works best for you. #blogstravaganza

  11. One size definitely does not fit all. I think you have done amazingly well to breastfeed for so long! As the class, I can’t understand why they don’t cover all eventualities, it’s so important to be prepared! Thanks so much for sharing with #Blogstravaganza xx
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    1. I know! I’m hearing that almost all of these classes are like that. It’s sad that they’re not being supportive however you choose.

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