She Says… The Decision

I finally made it. The decision to stop breastfeeding.

When Benjamin and I had trouble getting pregnant, I remember dreaming of the day when I would get to hold my little baby and gaze into his/her eyes while we nursed. The idea of breastfeeding was the quintessential “mom moment” that I longed for. I knew that it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, since I watched my sister struggle with breastfeeding her daughter, but I still idolized the idea. Which is a big part of the reason that it was so hard for me to give up, even when it wasn’t working for Owen and I.

Another reason, which is harder to put into words without sounding annoyingly snide, is that I’m not used to not being good at things. I am an overachiever who has almost always been able to ace any test with a little studying. Perseverance always pays off. Right? And so, as with our struggle with infertility, when I came up against breastfeeding issues, I studied. I researched and saw doctors and lactation consultants and discussed with friends. I took classes and watched videos and read articles. I took supplements and medicine and tried different positions and eliminating foods. I can honestly say at this point that I tried everything.

After 13 weeks of struggling, I’m finally ready to acknowledge that there are forces at work here that are beyond my control. A tongue tie. Reflux. Possible allergies. Perhaps it’s the first of many life lessons that having a baby will teach me — it’s not only about me anymore. I finally realized that I was pushing breastfeeding for the wrong reasons. Owen was uncomfortable and in pain and I was beginning to dread feeding time. The number one rule of caring for a newborn is FEED THE BABY. And I was so wrapped up in figuring out what was wrong and trying to fix it that I was neglecting to follow that very important rule.

And so, we’re done breastfeeding. But I’m not giving up yet. My goal was to breastfeed Owen until he is at least 6 months old (ok, my original goal was to breastfeed him for the 1st year, but that quickly changed as the reality of how difficult breastfeeding was set in). And even though the breast part of breastfeeding isn’t working out, I can still give him that liquid gold. My new, amended goal is to exclusively pump for him as long as I can keep up with his intake.

This has been an excruciating decision to make. A part of me feels like I’m giving up. Like I wasn’t strong enough to stick it out until I could figure out our issues. Part of me mourns the loss of the image of motherhood that I’ll never get to have; the sweet, quiet bond of a mother feeding her baby. Part of me feels like my body failed me in something it was made to do. But another part of me feels an enormous and overwhelming sense of relief. Over the last few weeks I felt myself becoming depressed by how difficult nursing was. I was constantly worrying about how much Owen was eating and why he was so unhappy. I stressed about feeding him in public because it was such a struggle. Diagnosing our issues had become a full-time job, and I could barely talk or think about anything else.

And now? Now my boobs are not in pain, I’m learning to work with my breast pump and Owen’s knocking back the bottles like a champ. He’ll be packing on the pounds in no time. He still has some reflux and gas issues, but I no longer feel those challenges in such an intensely personal way. He’s ok. I’m ok. We’re all ok.

So no more depressing posts about things that are wrong with Owen and/or my nipples. Onwards and upwards!


33 responses to “She Says… The Decision

  1. I know this wasn’t an easy decision, but if it is best for YOU AND OWEN, then more power to you!! You are a great mama and don’t let anyone tell you any different!

  2. Just know that it really is ok! Just because our bodies were made with all the functional necessities to do it, doesn’t mean it’s always going to work. You definitely gave it your best shot, and now you can sit back and enjoy your baby, not worrying about the feedings! I have made this decision myself, and it was a heartbreaking one, but it was well worth it!

  3. I exclusively pump even though I had previously decided to breast feed. My daughter was so tiny (5lb 14oz) and lost almost a full pound in the two weeks after her birth – I couldn’t deal with not being able to KNOW what her intake was each day. I dont regret it although I do sometimes feel like I gave up too soon. Number one best tip – get a pumping bustier! You’re doing what’s best for him, you’re a great mama!!

  4. You are an amazing mom – don’t ever forget that!

  5. Good for you! You and Owen will both be happier! 🙂

  6. You are a fabulous mama! Exclusively pumping is no joke so I commend you for making that decision. I have been an exclusive pumper for over one year for my little girl (she was a preemie and she BFed in the NICU but once we got home, our pediatrician wanted every one of her feeds to be higher calorie so I became an exclusive pumper) and while it was/is probably one of the top 5 hardest things I have had to do in my life, it is totally, totally worth it. I had to pump 7-8 times a day for a year and still had to supplement with formula (I’m an underproducer) but I would do it again in a heartbeat because I truly believe breastmilk is why my 1 lb 4.3 oz preemie is now a healthy little girl. I don’t know if I would have made it without the support of the Exclusive Pumpers board on BabyCenter. The women on that board are fabulous and such a support system. I highly recommend you check it out! I got and gave so much invaluable advice. Anyway, enough of my rant but kudos to you and Owen is not only cute, but so blessed to have a mommy like you!

  7. Great job Mama! And no one can say that you didn’t give it your all!! Happy Baby, Happy Mama……what could be better?

    Don’t forget to get a car adapter for the pump and you can pump sitting in the back of the car. It’s not as awkward as it seems! 🙂

  8. As a mom-to-be, I can only imagine how hard that decision must have been for you. I was talking to a mom friend about the posts you have written about breastfeeding and I am simply amazed that you have made it this long with everything you and Owen have gone through. I’ve seen it written and heard it spoken many times, but it really does make sense that a happy mom is a very important part of having a happy and healthy baby.

  9. I had to make the same decision. I’ve come to the realization that I’m doing the absolute best that I can with the situation that I’m in! At the end of the day, my daughter is healthy and happy and that’s all that really matters! And I also look at it as a learning experience for future babies. I’ll be much more prepared to look at things objectively and maybe it won’t be so emotional next time around if things don’t work out so well again. I also have the same plan as you — I’ll just pump as much as I can for as long as I can and see where it goes!

  10. You have worked so hard to make this work out, so you can’t feel bad about it. If the little man gets breastmilk (or formula for that matter) out of a bottle, he is still getting all he needs. Plus, I’m sure you spend plenty of time bonding with him!

  11. I almost could have written that. It reads very, very similar to what I wrote in my journal when I just couldn’t continue breastfeeding, when my little boy was the same age, too!
    My feelings were exactly the same – dreading feeds, feeling depressed, feeling like I’d be losing something, feeling guilty but relieved. I had to switch to formula (I never produced much milk and my supply was getting worse), and our family life completely changed. Happy baby finally putting on weight, happy mother, happy father!
    Babies need to be fed, and mothers need to keep their sanity. You did so well to persevere this far, and to make the hard decision to stop.

  12. It is so heartbreaking, isn’t it? I remember the day I made the call, too. While it did take some time for me to really make peace with it, I can say that our lives were a lot less stressed immediately after I stopped. It was the right decision for all of us.

    You made an absolutely heroic effort. You can never doubt that you did everything you possibly could to make it work, but there were just too many factors out of your control. Clearly you are making the decision that is best for the whole family, even if it wasn’t the one you always thought it would be.

    Giving you a big virtual hug and pat on the back.

  13. I stand by the “healthy mom” “healthy baby” adage. And healthy encompasses emotional well being, too! Breastfeeding is an emotionally charged relationship that is not always intuitive…and doesn’t always work the way we envision. “Success” is certainly not always dependent on attitude, determination, and desire. You’ve done an exceptional job at identifying obstacles, making adjustments…and this is just the next adjustment!
    Although I am not an EPer, I work full time and sometimes feel like an EPer. I’ve found the greatest healp in the PumpMoms yahoo group. The network is vast, informed, and just about every question you can think of has been asked! (There are also a smattering of funny stories to get you through some of those days when you want to throw the pump out the window.)
    Keep up the fantastic work. What is so clear from you account is that you really are considering what decision is the best for all involved. And something to focus on now is to enjoy a new bond of feeding him with bottles…and also having your husband potentially take an even more active role. Yes, it may be different, but no less emotionally satisfying. There’s nothing like watching your child thrive from what you can produce–whether from your breast, a bottle…or even formula.

    As others have offered up, here’s another virtual hug!

  14. I’m so glad you came to a decision you feel good about (at least mostly good about). It’s hard to give things up, even if they aren’t working for you. I had similar problems while dealing with Isa’s sleep issues, not wanting to give up things that were ultimately making me crazy. But now we have and I feel SO MUCH better.

    I totally relate to your “I do things well” paragraph. I’ve also studied hard about breastfeeding but I’ve come to realize that we’re not that great at it either and it’s just dumb luck that I have enough milk to keep us going despite our bad latch and other issues. I originally planned on one year but I doubt I’ll keep up pumping at work for six months. I’m starting to accept that now, so I won’t be so disappointed when I have to let it go in the spring instead of the summer.

    Thanks for sharing your struggles with us. It’s important that women talk about their problems with breastfeeding, otherwise new mom’s will think it’s all about that iconic picture of a mom gazing into her baby’s eyes. For many of us, that is just not what it’s all about.

  15. Well done for giving it your all hun! And awesome also for wanting to pump as long as possible. Sometimes the cards are so stacked against us… and it is really hard when there’s no clear answer or solution to your problems and you can’t FEED YOUR BABY. It’s horrible. So look forward to less stressful days 🙂

  16. You sound a heck of a lot like my wife – self-described overachiever… we had almost the exact same issue with our first – he was a “tongue thruster” (or so that’s what they called him).

    All the best to you and your family!

  17. The way I see it, pumping is still breastfeeding! Owen will be getting your milk as long as you can give it to him. This is a huge difficult decision– I totally get it. We’re 5 weeks in & I have felt guilty for giving Liam a bottle of pumped milk at times, but I’ve had to realize that it doesn’t make me a traitor to breastfeeding. We do what we can, when we can.

    We’re experiencing some issues too– I’m starting to suspect that Liam may be dealing with reflux. I called the pedi this morning and am waiting to hear back. I’m hoping that we figure out what is making him so uncomfortable soon!

  18. Breastfeeding is something that we feel such pressure to do. But as you said you are making the right decision for everyone. Clearly this is the best for both of you and it will make him so much happier. Pumping is a great alternative, but don’t feel guilty if you end up having to give him formula, it’s not bad!

  19. So glad you made a decision you are happy with, breastfeeding is hard and ultimately it’s not doing anyone any good if you are not happy doing it. And you’re totally right, the ultimate goal is for the baby to be fed and it doesn’t matter what way that happens!

  20. I have been in your shoes before with my first baby and everything you are feeling is exactly what I went through. The relief when the decision was made felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders and mothering became much more of a joy.
    But, if you are planning to have more children don’t give up on that image of motherhood that you had/have. I am successfully breastfeeding my 2nd baby. Each child is so different.
    I commend you for sticking through it this long…you have definitely given it your all and that is all that you can do as a parent.
    Now that you are more relaxed and not in pain maybe the pumping will go smoother and be a great success for you. I know of a gal who has 2 children and she never breastfed them at all….she pumped for a whole year and bottled fed it to her children and was very successful doing it this way.
    And you know…having been down your road, even bottled feeding can be a bonding experience. I was still able to sit and gaze into my daughter’s face and bond with her when feeding her a bottle. So enjoy this new road you have chosen. It still holds wonderful and beautiful bonding and joyous moments!

  21. I think it’s great that you are finding an alternative solution. Your baby is still getting breast milk which is HUGE! good for you! I wish you lots of luck!

  22. You’ve put so much thought and care into this decision–I’m excited to see how this settles everything down for you!

  23. I didn’t breastfeed or pump my 3 kids and they turned out just fine. It was so much easier to bottlefeed than pump or breastfeed (DON’T TRY TO JUSTIFY THIS!!) Anyone could help me feed the baby, burp the baby and so on. And please don’t tell me that bottlefed babies get more ear infections, that’s crap.

    My 2 cents

  24. I understand that breastfeeding can be rough, since I myself am a breastfeeding mother, but still, you’ve been able to support him for 13 weeks so you were doing something right! I can’t agree with all the other 23 commenters………since you HAVE been doing it you HAVE been doing a great job! Pumping is better than no breast milk but I really think it’s sad that you’re giving up. I would think that if you were an overachiever you’d want to keep at it!

    I don’t want to be harsh or anything but I feel like you’ve made it to here and you’re quitting because it’s no longer convenient for you rather than your son.

  25. ^ Diana, things haven’t been going right! Not just for Kate, for Owen also not… he hasn’t gained as much weight as the pediatrician would like and from what I gathered from Kate’s posts, every feeding session was a battle of sorts. Leaving her and Owen in pain.

    In the end, all that matters is a healthy happy baby & family.

  26. So, people can only make negative comments about your decisions because they have clearly never been in your situation, otherwise, they wouldn’t be making judgments. Try to ignore that kind of nonconstructive and guilt-provoking commentary. I mean, really. Aren’t we all supposed to be kind to each other and supportive of each other in these complicated and difficult decisions. Isn’t that part of motherhood? Shame on anyone who tries to make you feel bad.

    You did the right thing for your baby and yourself and your family, and you should be nothing but proud. YAY! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your stories here. It’s helpful for women to hear that nursing isn’t always perfect (as I too had imagined it would be).

  27. oh–by the way, anyone who thinks that exclusively pumping is MORE convenient than breast-feeding is really really really uninformed.

  28. Kate, this can’t have been an easy decision, but from all you’ve said, I’m sure it is the right one for you and Owen. And I’m no expert, but I really think you’re still breastfeeding if you’re pumping! Owen will still reap all the benefits of nursing, but life will be easier for you both. Good luck with the new process! xoxo Katherine

  29. With my first baby I breast fed for a week and was pulling blisters off my bleeding nipples. It killed. I should have asked for a nipple shield, but didn’t know any better. I also could not sit down without crying for 9 days strait due to a rough delivery and was sent home with no pain medication. I tried pumping but had a clogged duct, and every time I pumped, my baby was already getting formula, I couldn’t keep up! So I just gave bottles with formula from a week on. And my son was very healthy and happy having not been breast fed. And now your husband can feed the baby which helps with the father / baby bonding too. I think you put more effort into breastfeeding then anybody else I know of and if it has been hurting for weeks or months it is not worth it. Especially when you are cringing while feeding and not enjoying it, it can be depressing. Breastfeeding does not make somebody a better mother than one who does not do it. In the end it is not how or what you feed your baby as long as you feed him and love him.

  30. Kate, you’re doing a great job and made a good decision for the two of you. Who wants to dread every single feeding? Eventually, the emotional toll becomes too much on you and the baby! I went through the same thing with my son–tongue tied, tongue thruster, preemie…he never learned to latch, so I pumped exclusively for the first 12 weeks of his life. It was HARD…so hard…you feel like you’re constantly in a state of feed with the bottle, pump. 1-2 hrs later, come back, change diaper, feed bottle, pump…I became so fatigued that my milk just dried up. I fought it with fenugreek, some prescription meds, etc…but in the end my body said “enough” and just stopped. I remember flat out crying the day I used the last of my freezer stash, but then realized what I actually was able to give him and felt pride that I did the absolute best I could. That’s all any of us can ask for, right? You did (and will do, by pumping) your best for yourself and your son. Ignore the naysayers–I’m simply amazed that you lasted this long given the pain you have experienced! Great job. 🙂

  31. Diana,
    Your post is judgmental and self-important. Your comments are cruelty guised as kind advise. Please save your condescension for your own breast fed children. Thank you.
    Jenny Dare

  32. Kate, I think you’re an amazing strong person to have even started a blog about infertility. Keep being your awesome self and pay no attention to anyone who judges you. No one needs any more negativity in their lives. Sending you good thoughts!

  33. I actually believe this specific blog post ,
    “She Says The Decision | This Place Is Now a Home”, relatively compelling
    not to mention the blog post was indeed a good read. Many thanks,Bryant

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