Breastfeeding :: It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

Breastfeeding Series (1){Click image above for more stories of inspiration, encouragement, and support.}

Going into motherhood, my hopes were sky high for a year+ of  breastfeeding. I don’t even know if I should call them hopes, more like absolutes. My daughter came out a nice 7lb 12oz and latched on the second I got her to the breast. High Fives all around in one of those little rooms they created at Women’s Hospital so anyone with a C-Section can get skin-to-skin as soon as possible. From there, we just kept on rocking and rolling; a baby gaining weight, very little nipple pain, and a freezer full of extra pumped milk. I remember bringing her to the pediatrician’s office for a fever {it was my first baby, 99.6 necessitated a Saturday appointment, obviously}, and we saw another doctor from the office – he took one look at her and excused himself to go grab all the residents/fellows in the office to show them what a breastfed baby should look like. It was a really proud moment in the life of Sarah.

maggie baby 600

I went back to work when Maggie was around 14 weeks old. A friend told me that she was surprised I wasn’t struggling with going back, and one of her reasons being that I had been so successful with breastfeeding. I laughed inside – Didn’t she know I could do it all?! I had my protein filled snacks, my big old hospital cup ready to fill with water, my super cool work pump bag, and my over-producing boobs! I checked myself in to the lactation room {I didn’t have an office door at the time}, and I just knew I’d be rocking this. Milk waterfalls all around! HA. HA. HA.

As it turns out, I don’t produce much milk if there isn’t an actual baby nursing every 3 hours. I think it took about 2 weeks for my supply to go from EXPLODING OVER to strugggggling to just make enough milk for the next day’s bottles. I also started on a “mini-pill” birth control around this time, and it completely halted any production within 2 days of taking the first pill. I put myself in research panic mode. Fenugreek, the uber-expensive lactating mothers capsules from whole foods, lactation cookies, oatmeal {I hate oatmeal}, mother’s milk tea, more water, more fenugreek, standing on my head while pumping, Massage-Stroke-Shake {google it}, EVERYTHING that the internet said… I tried. I called La Leche League, their advice – mothers all over the world work and pump and make it happen. Umm, okay. I talked to everyone I knew. Jessica started a water drinking challenge with me. My baby was sleeping through the night, but I was still waking up to pump at 2am just to get a few more ounces. One day another Mom in the lactation room asked me mid-pump if I had any extra milk storage bags because she had completely filled hers up and she still had milk coming out. I looked down at my own little bottles, the bottles that had maybe 1 oz in them, and the tears started to rolled down my face. I couldn’t believe I was failing at this – I wanted it so bad, and it was really hard for me to accept defeat.

Maggie was around 5 months old, and I was supplementing with formula. My freezer stocked with milk had been depleted, and we were getting close to the point of not even being able to nurse at night and in the morning since a nursing session wasn’t yielding enough milk to satisfy her. I took one last stab by calling my pediatrician and OB and asking for a prescription for something I had read on the internet – supposedly a medication that would increase my milk supply. My OB called it in, my pediatrician called me back herself and said ABSOLUTELY NOT. Not safe, not worth it, formula was fine and basically to GET OVER IT. I almost filled the script the OB had called in, but I stopped myself. I needed to be told to stop – stop the middle of the night pumping session, stop feeling guilty that I wasn’t 1000% successful at this, stop COMPARING myself to other moms in the lactation room, within my own circle of friends…and you know…the internet. OH my goodness, it’s all so silly as I look back on it now.

When I was pregnant with Jack, I pep-talked myself up and down and around this subject. I have a dear friend, we are the same in many things, but we are soul sisters in milk production/pumping/working. She reminded me upteenmillion times before having Jack {and after} that “It’s Not All or Nothing.” For some reason, the message given out by the Breastfeeding Advocates forgets to remind hormonal, nervous, stressed, tried mothers of this fact. 3 days, 3 weeks, 3 months, heck – go for 3 years if you want! It’s all good for you and your baby. When you are done – NO guilt and move on!

maggie baby jack 600

Jack got himself a trip to the NICU after being born because he had fluid in his lungs causing him to breathe really fast. He was also 10lb 6oz when he was born, and this came with a large appetite. The NICU was giving that boy bottles filled with formula before I even had the epidural taken out and the ability to get up to him and nurse. And when I did, the colostrum I was producing was not satisfying his chunk. Honestly, we never fully recovered, and he has had formula supplemented from the get go. I caught myself a few times during our nursing tenure, falling back into my panic – not making enough milk, guilt, worry. I kept repeating my mantra- “It’s Not All or Nothing” over and over and over. We stumbled through his huge appetite and made it to six months before the amount of milk I was pumping at work was really only filling one bottle. Once I made the decision, I nursed him one last time and told him we were done. He just smiled at me, popped his thumb in his mouth, and drifted off to dream land nuzzled in my arms. Full belly, safe, secure. He didn’t care, I didn’t ruin him, I gave him what I could and left the experience happy and healthy. Breastfeeding – it’s not one size fits all. No guilt and move on!

Now if you’ve got more tips I have yet to uncover on the internet about pumping at work and maintaining supply, give them to me! If/When there is a next time, I will surely be giving it my all again!


Please Note :: We are so very thankful to have A Woman’s Work sponsoring our entire breastfeeding series! They believe that bearing and nurturing children is some of the most important work in the world, and we could not agree more.  If you are searching for products, services, and resources for birth, breastfeeding, and beyond – we urge you to check them out both online and in store!

A Woman’s Work

4101 Greenbriar Suite 210
Houston, TX 77098

713.524.3700

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6 Responses to Breastfeeding :: It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

  1. Chelsea
    Chelsea August 6, 2014 at 2:21 pm #

    Awesome post Sarah! Such an important reminder that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. I hate when people have to throw in the term “exclusively” when talking about breastfeeding. Who cares…your baby certainly doesn’t as long as their tummies are full.

    • Jessica and Sarah
      Jessica and Sarah August 7, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

      EXACTLY- Using the word exclusive just makes it makes it so negative. Like you aren’t in the good mom club. Blah!

  2. Shelly August 6, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more, Chelsea. Thanks Sarah for another great post that you all have done.

    • Jessica and Sarah
      Jessica and Sarah August 7, 2014 at 1:26 pm #

      Yay! So glad you enjoyed Shelly!

  3. Beth September 3, 2014 at 11:17 pm #

    Great article! I also assumed I would breast feed exclusively per all the recommendations, but my sweet baby and I struggled a lot. I primarily pumped for the first month and finally got to the point where I wasn’t getting enough for him and for my sanity, my marriage, and my hungry boy, I switched to formula. He has done beautifully and is incredibly healthy, but man, did I struggle with guilt and compared myself to other moms constantly and felt judged even when I probably wasn’t. I’m about to have #2 and dreading going through this all again. I must remind myself that it’s not all or nothing!

  4. Ali July 26, 2017 at 9:11 pm #

    Thank you for this reminder. My baby girl is 4 months old today and although it’s having plenty of wet and poppy diapers from just breastmilk, has only gained 6 ounces this MONTH. I gave her 2 oz of formula tonight on hopea that just a bit more calories will be what she needs. I needed to read this and be reminded that she has had only my milk for 4 months and that’s awesome! We will continue nursing as well, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

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