Breastfeeding… and Type A Women

type a moms and breastfeedingHere’s what may be a weird question: as a Type A, goal-oriented, overachieving chick, what was your thought process regarding the decision to breastfeed or formula feed? What was your emotional and intellectual response to the idea of it, and how did you reason through whichever decision you made?

Among friends I’ve seen a wide variety of responses to it, all of which may have been made… stronger, shall we say, based on the Type A-ness of the mom. But I think it’s an interesting question. (I really hope we can talk about this without judgment — for my $.02, there is no “right” answer for whether/how long to breastfeed or formula feed your child.) I’ve seen some moms grit their teeth and approach it with a grim determination. I’ve seen some who really loved the closeness with the baby — and some who were turned off by the feeling of being the Milk Lady. I’ve seen some high-achieving women say, “I’ll give it a go during maternity leave, but my career is too busy to be bothered with pumping and timing all of that.” I saw one interesting Facebook post from a very high achieving mom who noted that she felt she had to stop nursing each of her kids at 15 weeks in order to reclaim some ownership of herself and her body. I noticed commenters were talking about “nursing goals” last Tuesday, which is new to me but makes sense to me as a goal-oriented woman.

So: how did YOU approach breastfeeding or formula-feeding? Why did you make the decision you made? Especially for those among you who have pumped for an extended period — how do you think about it?

For my own $.02 — even though I’d read a lot about how great breastfeeding was for the baby — the primary reason I really, really wanted to breastfeed my first kiddo, Jack, was because I’d heard it helps with weight loss. I went into the pregnancy with extra stress weight, and then gained 35 pounds with the pregnancy. Yay? When I had Jack in 2011, there had been a lot recently in the news about a state-sponsored campaign focusing on how breastfeeding helps with weight loss — and a lot of noise from random bloggers (I can’t find a single link right now, I’m sorry!) about how “disgusting” the campaigns were when there are so many other good reasons to breastfeed. These dissenters seemed to all be saying: get over yourself, Selfish Mom! But: when I was in the weeds with Jack, and breastfeeding was SUCH a struggle, I was thankful to have a selfish reason to struggle forward with it. Our breastfeeding journey was a bumpy one — my milk took forever to come in, Jack dropped a ton of weight too quickly, and there was a time period of about a week where my lactation consultant had me pump every two hours — around the clock. Good times! Of course, the “helps with weight loss” advice isn’t necessarily true for everyone, and I found I couldn’t take off any of the weight while nursing Jack. But I persevered with breastfeeding because another selfish reason won out: laziness. I didn’t want to wash a zillion bottles, and I liked that “milk” was one less thing I had to remember to take with me when I left the house with him.

What was your thought process, ladies? A penny for your thoughts on breastfeeding/formula-feeding…

(Pictured: Production is 25% of what it…, originally uploaded to Flickr by Diana Schnuth.)

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Comments

  1. I’m a strong Type A, and I approached it like a project. I was one of the ones who set mini-goals for nursing/ pumping, with the option to reassess at any point if it wasn’t working for baby, me, or career.
    At 12 months I stopped, because I felt like that was good enough for me, and I was VERY ready to have my body back to myself. I actually struggled with that concept during pregnancy as well – I hate being pregnant because I hate feeling “forced” to share my body with someone else.
    And yes, I found that I lost all 45 pounds of baby weight, plus another 10 pounds, which helped push me on those days that were a little tougher – I never had any issues that outweighed my (admittedly) selfish desire to keep losing.

  2. EB0220 says:

    I was just thinking about this after reading some discussions in earlier posts on this site. I think that personality may be a component – a woman who is more Type A may be more committed to a pumping/nursing goal. I have a pumping spreadsheet with graphs as I am tracking my milk supply. I also wonder if there is a socioeconomic factor. For example, can working moms who have higher pay buy better pumps, a bazillion sets of parts, etc? Maybe this makes it easier to keep going. For me personally, I like the closeness with the baby but I keep going because it’s so darn easy. Fewer bottles to wash, no milk to bring/heat up/serve when out and about, etc. I have never seen these wonderful weight loss benefits – I tend to keep on a few extra pounds until I wean!

    • EB0220 says:

      I will add that my positive emotional response surprised me. When my first was born, my only goal was to try breastfeeding. It ended up being pretty easy for us. I loved the closeness and excuse to hold my baby for hours. I started supplementing with formula around 7-8 months and then weaning at 10 months because my milk supply declined (I now know it was because of an undiagnosed thyroid condition). I was SO sad to stop, but I started taking some medicine that was not safe for breastfeeding. With my second baby (now 5 months) I went in expecting to breastfeed and hoping to go for a year. I’m a little more committed this time – extra pumping sessions, mothers milk tea, pumping log, etc. I still love the closeness, but it’s all about convenience this time. When the baby is hungry, I can put her in a carrier, latch her on, and chase my toddler/make dinner/etc. while nursing. The diaper bag is basically empty except for a few diapers and wipes, since my oldest is potty-trained and my baby just needs breastmilk to eat. It’s kind of awesome. So – I came for the closeness and bonding, I stay for the convenience and simplicity!

    • Ciao, pues says:

      excellent point on socioeconomic privilege.

  3. CPA Lady says:

    To be honest, my decision to use formula started as an act of self-preservation-based rebellion. I actually made that decision before I was even pregnant when I read the article “The Case Against [email protected]” from the Atlantic. It led me to the conclusion that the it’s a lot easier to blame women for using formula than it is to examine broad societal issues like differences in access to education or medical care, which IMO, is where the real problems lie. I don’t think it matters one way or the other how you feed your child.

    And I’m just going to come right out and say this even though I think it’s something I “shouldn’t” say… I’m a “rich white girl”, and there is a huge amount of pressure that comes along with that privilege– a ton of type-A high achieving, always do the best, do the most research, buy the $800 stroller, send your kid to the best school, buy the organic produce, pump at work, breastfeed for a year, lose the weight immediately, do your kid’s science project, endless competition … that kind of pressure. I had a friend come right out and tell me that I needed to nurse because “its what people like us do”. I hate being told what “people like us” do. I think it’s such crap and it makes me want to rebel, especially when the benefits of breastfeeding can be so overstated, and the drawbacks to it are so rarely explored.

    I work a TON of hours, my husband has a weird work schedule where’s he’s out of the house 4 days a week, and something had to give. I decided not to even try to pump at work. So I nursed exclusively for the first month, then started supplementing with formula even though I didn’t have supply problems or anything like that. I went back to work at 12 weeks, at which point I was nursing my daughter three times a day and not pumping at all. Now I’m down to nursing twice a day. I started out planning to switch entirely to formula, but it turns out that I love nursing her (totally not expecting that), which is why I’m still doing it.

    My new goal is to nurse her ’til she’s 6 months old because after that I’ll be working so much I don’t see it happening beyond that point. The thought of me weaning her makes me a little sad, even though I know it’ll happen when it needs to happen and we’ll both be fine.

    • pockets says:

      I read the same article and made the decision not to breastfeed before I was pregnant as well. You did better than I did – I pumped 2-3x a day for the first month and then just stopped because it was annoying and I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

      So I look at all the other moms who breastfeed (despite the horrible breastfeeding stories they’ve told me) and I wonder: am I missing something? or are you?

      And FWIW, I lost all the baby weight pretty quickly. Not bragging but just saying that weight loss isn’t a great reason – not guaranteed to work and you might just lose the weight quickly on your own.

  4. Even before I planned to get pregnant, I wanted to breastfeed. I was interested mainly in the health reasons for baby, although the weight loss component was compelling as well. I was (am) determined to nurse for as long as baby will allow, aiming for a minimum of 12 months. When my first was born prematurely, pumping was one of the very small handful of things I could do for him – so I pumped like a maniac for a week. Every two hours, around the clock, for a full week. It felt like my one tangible thing I could do as his mom. It gave me such a different perspective on pumping – and a perspective I’m glad to have. When he passed away, I took some solace in the fact that I had done everything I physically could for him and it eased the pain of his loss.

    With my second, I struggled for 8 weeks to get him to latch. He was what the LCs called an early-full-term, and he hadn’t fully developed his suck/swallow reflex. The necessary introduction of a bottle meant it took even longer for him to figure out latch. This was really where my type-A, driven, goal-setting personality kicked in – I was bound and determined this kiddo would breastfeed. And eventually he did. Sticking it out that long is definitely not for everybody, and would have been nearly impossible without a very supportive SO. Now that I’m back at work, I’m pumping, and while it is my least favorite mommy duty, I put on my handsfree bra, and use that time to read industry newsletters, send emails, or review financials. My favorite moments of my day are nursing my LO first thing in the morning and before he goes to bed – they are such sweet, precious times. While I’m not spreadsheeting my pumping, I keep track every day of how much I pump, and it’s a bit of a competition with myself to pump at least as much as I did the day before.

    So while I started mainly interest in health benefits for me and LO, I’m sticking around for the bonding experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

  5. pockets says:

    It surprises me when women say they breastfeed for convenience. IMO formula is more convenient and there isn’t even really a comparison. Anyone can give your baby a formula bottle so you can leave your baby with a caregiver (overnight! for a weekend!) without spending hours tied to a pump and then worrying about your freezer stash being sufficient. You have to wash bottles, but we’re talking about 10 mins a day to handwash. So if you manage to pawn off one feeding a day on someone else, you’re winning. Or buy 8 bottles and put them through the dishwasher every day. Or task your husband with the chore. I guess you have to take a bottle with you when you leave the house, but you’re carrying a bunch of other stuff already so it’s not like the bottle + formula dispenser is weighing you down.

    • I found breastfeeding was incredibly convenient when baby was with me and incredibly inconvenient when she wasn’t. I definitely struggled to keep up the motivation to breastfeed/pump once I returned to work because of the inconvenience and hassle.

    • Lyssa says:

      I agree with this. I’ll add that I took some shortcuts with bottlefeeding that I think were fine – assuming that we were home, we used the same bottle and kept it in the fridge and warmed it in the microwave (I know that they say not to, but as long as you’re careful and shake it up, it’s fine), so we often only had one to wash a day. If I was going out, I took a bottle of warm water and a serving of formula – easy to mix on the go and the bottle would stay warm for a few hours in the insulated part of the diaper bag. Bottles went in the dishwasher, and we didn’t worry about sanitizing after the first use. So, it was really not much trouble at all.

    • Sarabeth says:

      During maternity leave, breastfeeding was a million times more convenient – stick her on and go, no dishes to do, no waiting to make up a bottle. Once back to work, though, it was a whole other ball game. Formula would have been much less hassle than pumping (especially because daycare would’ve made up the bottles for me and washed them).

    • Julia S says:

      I never had to plan ahead except diapers for outings, but the biggest reason – night time. Baby cries, we had a co-sleeper bassinet attached to the side of the bed – just roll over, scooch him up, latch & doze, then scooch him back and go back to sleep. I’d pump in the morning when my supply was huge – I’d pump one side while baby nursed on the other – and then just freeze and date the milk. I never had a problem going out – I’d try to pump fresh beforehand, and I’d usually take a small manual pump with me in my purse just in case I’d get engorged, or sometimes I’d just express in the bathroom – granted, a little hard in a public restroom, but I’d often get a plastic cup or something. It took no thought, no measuring, no cleaning, no sterilizing, no coolers… much easier.

  6. Lyssa says:

    “I’ve seen some high-achieving women say, “I’ll give it a go during maternity leave, but my career is too busy to be bothered with pumping and timing all of that.””

    I wouldn’t phrase it like this, of course, but this is probably closer to where I end up. I probably wouldn’t say just “career,” either, more like “sanity, career, lifestyle, frustration level, comfort, etc.” For my first, I was a litigator on a very unpredictable schedule, so the idea of pumping while juggling court dates and client meetings seemed very much not worth the effort.

    All of that said, I’m pretty much of the opinion that the benefits to breastfeeding are way overstated (the advantages are more about the type of women who breastfeed having a lot of other advantages than the milk itself) and that formula is fine, and I didn’t like breastfeeding all that much (never got the great emotional connection that people talk about), so I don’t see it as a really big deal either way. I sympathize with Kat saying that weight loss was a motivator – I’d say that mine is primarily money saving, so, equally selfish.

    I’m pregnant again, but now I have a job where I’m in the office 99% of the time, so I could pump fairly easily, but I still don’t plan to, for the reasons above. Even though it’s obviously doable, it just doesn’t sound like it would work well with how I want to live my life. I’ll probably do the same as I did with #1 and wean a few weeks before the end of leave.

    (I’m glad for people who like and get a lot out of breastfeeding, though. I’m definitely not trying to disparage anyone who does it, just discussing my own personal thought process.)

    • PregLawyer says:

      This is basically me, but I haven’t yet had the baby, so I don’t know exactly what I will do. My other motivation to use formula–aside from alleviating the stress of pumping at work–is that it involves my husband fully in feedings. Either one of us can get up and feed the baby in the middle of the night if we use formula. If it’s just me, then I’ll be the one waking up while he blissfully sleeps.

      I also have heard from other working moms that it helps create a balanced parenting structure early on if the dad is actively involved in feedings. He is more comfortable with the baby, takes more ownership when the baby is upset, and early on adopts a nurturer role. To the extent possible, I will try and breastfeed and use formula during my pregnancy leave to balance out the duties. I will switch to formula full time after 3 months when I return to work.

  7. lawyermama says:

    I began breastfeeding my first out of a need to do the “best” thing. The pro-breastfeeding movement was in full-swing, and I felt the pressure. So, like another commenter, I set mini-goals and decided to reevaluate at each marker. I ultimately breastfed for my oldest for two years. Although the achievement mindset motivated me to start nursing, it was probably jealousy that kept me going (along with the convenience). I really liked the thought that was I was the only person in the world who could nurse my son, and no daytime caregiver could replace that. I felt connected to him during the workday while pumping, etc. I nursed my next two children for just over a year and just under a year, respectively. The ease of breastfeeding and the same bonding reasons motivated me with both of my subsequent babies. I stopped at 15 months with my daughter because I was pregnant with my third and suddenly very ready to stop. My third self-weaned at 11 months because I hated pumping, didn’t manage to get it done very much at work, and as a result had a very low milk supply. For me, breastfeeding remains one of my favorite parts of motherhood – I’m expecting my fourth and last baby, and I really plan to soak it in this time!

  8. Katarina says:

    I was committed to breastfeeding because it is “best” for the health of the baby. In retrospect, I think the evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding is overstated, and largely a correlation not causation. There was a lot of emotion involved, partly because my mom is a pretty strong breastfeeding advocate. For me, breastfeeding was neither more convenient or less expensive than formula would have been. It means that I have to do all the night wakings, mornings, and bedtimes. Also, it involves pumping at work. The money I lost from billing fewer hours, both for pumping and exhaustion from the night wakings, is much greater than the cost of formula would have been. I nursed full time for a year, and once a day for another two months. I can’t say I regret it, and I did sometimes enjoy the closeness, especially as my son got older and more active. I did not have any real roadblocks, just pain in the normal range. Breastfeeding did not lead to magical weight loss for me. I could eat quite a lot and lose weight, but I was very hungry, and had to restrict calories to lose weight.

    • lawyermama says:

      I didn’t experience any magical weight loss, either. In fact, it seemed to me that I held on to extra weight, no matter what I did, until I finally weaned.

      • Thus far, I haven’t seen this magical weight loss either. I’ve found that restricting my calories reduces my milk supply – so I’m probably SOL until I wean. I’d personally still choose to breastfeed with a future child – but never with weight loss as a motivating factor.

    • CPA Lady says:

      The cost argument gets me too– One of the things that stuck out to me the most about that Atlantic article that I mentioned in my comment above was the idea that nursing is only free as long as a woman’s time has no value. It’s hard to put a monetary value on time, but I do know that one hour at my billing rate = what one month of formula costs.

      Also, all the time I would lose at work pumping would be time I would have to make up somehow, meaning fewer hours with my daughter. I may have made a different decision about trying to pump at work if I weren’t a slave to billable hour requirements.

      • pockets says:

        100% agree. FWIW, a month’s worth of formula on Amazon is about $90. I will trade $90/month for getting to sleep 2 hours longer every morning because my husband was the one who gave the baby her morning bottle while I was on maternity leave.

      • This realization, that time pumping is time away from my daughter since my job is billable hour based, is what’s letting me “justify” my plan to pump until she’s 6 months old and then do a combination of nursing and formula. Not from a monetary point of view as much from a benefit to baby point of view.

      • Anonyc says:

        +1000. This is also what I took away from the Hanna Rosin article (which I pass around any chance I get, btw).

    • Katarina says:

      I want to add that, although I sound really negative, I will try to breastfeed subsequent children. I just think for me my decision was based on emotion and not logic, which is generally unlike me. I also feel a strong emotional attachment to breastfeeding, and I was sad when I first introduced solid food and when I weaned. Although now that I have weaned, I am glad I have.

  9. Anonforthis says:

    I’m going to start this comment with a trigger warning. I don’t know if that’s Kat’s policy or not, but better safe than sorry.

    I am a pretty strong type A in a leadership position. I am still breastfeeding my son, who will be two next month. He drank exclusively breastmilk until he was one, when I had to stop pumping due to nipple burn from the pump. Ow.

    Pumping was mostly easy, especially because I have a door to my office, so I could sit and pump while working with no interruptions. Other moms in my workplace haven’t had it so lucky, and I feel very guilty about that.

    I am proud of the fact that we are still going, but I never imagined we would still be at it. At this point, I’m waiting for him to give me cues that he’s ready to stop. But, seeing as how I am still nursing him to sleep (Oy! Another thing I thought I’d never do), I don’t see an end point in the immediate future.

    The reason I have gone anon for this is to bring up an uncomfortable aspect of my nursing experience. For me, it has sometimes brought on a s3xual sensation, which is terrible and awkward beyond measure. And unpacking that sensation in my head has also brought on a lot of maybe repressed, maybe manufactured memories of childhood s3xual abuse. The whole thing is so fuzzy around the edges that I can barely articulate it. But for a long time, until I had the courage to google this, I thought I was a freak and a pervert. Anyway, it turns out this is pretty common. So, if any of you out there reading this have had this experience, you are not alone.

    Finally, I’ll address the weight loss issue. Like others have said above, I feel like I’m holding on to 5 or 10 extra pounds that really should have come off by now. I’ll bet they come off once I wean… I hope!

    • lawyermama says:

      I’m sorry to hear about the abuse aspect for you. I wanted to reply to encourage you in the weaning, whenever the time comes. I too was nursing at bedtime until 2, and I was worried it would be hard to stop. The nice thing about that age for us was our ability to communicate. So, I started telling my son a couple weeks before his birthday that a second birthday meant he was a big boy, and big boys didn’t nurse anymore. We would chat about it almost every night, and he showed no distress. On the night of his second birthday, I reminded him that it was his last time. He said goodbye (sort of awkward!) and never looked back. We replaced the nursing with songs. I hope your experience is just as easy whenever you are ready!

    • MomAnon says:

      Your story is interesting – thanks for sharing. I’m sorry to hear about the abuse aspect and I’m glad you’re working through that.

      I was interested in the guilt aspect you have about pumping conveniently at work.

      Sorry to reference Sheryl Sandberg here, but she mentions in Lean In how when she was a pregnant executive looking for parking, she asked for “Expectant Mother” spots to be reserved. Have you thought about using your leadership at work to benefit other nursing/pumping moms – ask for more or better or cleaner lounges, that sort of thing?

      • Anonforthis says:

        That’s a good idea. I should use my (limited) power for the greater good. :) It hadn’t really crossed my mind before because I already felt like I was being a PITA about pumping all the time, so I didn’t want to rock the boat too much. Like most things, we are our own harshest critics. I’m sure my co-workers weren’t obsessing about my pumping habits. Ha! Anyway, it’s a great suggestion and I will take it to heart.

  10. I chose to breastfeed because it’s just what people in my peer group (lawyers) do – I can’t think of a single woman who had a baby within the last 3 years that didn’t at least attempt to breastfeed, save one who has a medical condition that requires a medication that is inconsistent with breastfeeding. Formula feeding wasn’t even a consideration, not because I had strong feelings about it vs. breastfeeding but because I literally didn’t know anyone who had done it.

    Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure I’d breastfeed again, at least not for as long – my baby is almost a year old now, and we’re down to just once in the morning and once at bedtime, no more workplace pumping. He gets formula at daycare.

    I hated pumping. I have to travel for work, and I’m in court 3 to 4 days a week – it was incredibly inconvenient to haul my pump everywhere and to wear a specialty ‘pumping’ outfit so I could pump in the car and change whenever I got to where I was going – I hated having to explain to strangers in offices / clients / judges why I would require 20-30 minute breaks every 3 hours – I didn’t like losing ownership of my body, or the interference that breastfeeding had on my intimate life – and I’m not convinced that my kiddo would be any less healthy than if I’d only breastfed for the 3 months I was home with him.

    I did lose a ton of weight, more than was healthy, but I’m not sure if that was due to breastfeeding or not. I gained 45 lbs in the pregnancy and had lost 60 lbs by 2 months postpartum. I am just now getting back up to my pre-pregnancy weight. Skeletal is a bad look for me, particularly with 34G nursing boobs. I looked like a cartoon.

  11. I’m not sure I really qualify as a true type A, but I’m close. I wanted to do the full 12 months of breast feeding. I had latch issues, all kinds of bleeding n1pples, shooting pain through my entire body, etc. for the first 2 weeks. Then things got better (even though I had to pump the entire time to feed the baby). Then the baby developed what we thought/think was a milk–and soy– intolerance. So I gave up anything with any kind of trace of EITHER milk OR soy. Then I had to go back to work and since I travel a lot, I had to schlep coolers of [email protected] milk through airports every week, pump in bathrooms, etc. That was great.

    My supply dwindled, her interest in nursing dwindled, and we stopped around 9 months (right around when seh started biting). it came to a point where both of us had to work so hard…and neither of us enjoyed it. We wrapped it up and have been happy campers ever since.

    • My story is very similar. I don’t know if I’m a true Type A (I guess so, but I’m very laid back!), but I had planned to breastfeed. My mom had told me how wonderful nursing was and it was just what I assumed you do when you have a baby. Then I had terrible latch issues, pumping, formula supplementing, feeling like I was a failure of a mom because I couldn’t even feed my baby (although, intellectually, I knew that was crazy). I ended up with a good nursing relationship with both babies through at least 5 months. I nursed until 7 with my first and through 5 months with my second, due to some medication that I had to then take and could not nurse.

      My “goal” had been 6 months for each, but I felt fine about supplementing with formula when necessary. I was always an overproducer and so if I wasn’t pumping every four hours on the dot, I was in extreme physical pain and my shirt would be soaking wet. After 6 months each time, I was ready to have my body back to myself and to not live on a continual countdown.

      I agree above – breastfeeding is easy when the baby is with you, and horrible when he’s not.

  12. All the responses so far are so interesting to me. I’m still pregnant with my first, but I have found pregnancy to be an odd antidote to much of my Type A tendencies because SO MUCH is outside my control and there is nothing I can do about it. (So, maybe I am not truly Type A.) The ability to breastfeed “successfully” for any period of time seems like a total [email protected] based on the experiences of people I know (which, in turn, also varies by socioeconomic status). I dunno. I am just grateful we live in an age where your child can thrive irrespective of whether it’s breastmilk or formula.

    That said, I do feel there is pressure among my peer group to try – like one of the posters above, I can only think of a couple women in my peer group (which skews highly educated, generally well paid, etc) who formula fed, and it was for medical reasons. Have now bookmarked the Atlantic article to read…

    • MomAnon says:

      This. Easy to be Type A at work… different to be Type A as a Mom.

    • Katarina says:

      I am much more laid back as a parent than at work or in other aspects of my life, because it is impossible to control everything.

  13. EP-er says:

    I ended up exclusively pumping for both of my kiddos. I always thought I was going to BF: bonding, economics, practicality. My first was born so early and in the NICU forever, it seemed like the only thing that I could do to help him. And he couldn’t eat anything for weeks, so I had a nice freezer stash built up. We had to carefully monitor his food intake, so by the time he came home, the bottle was it — there was no latching happening. For me, EPing was a form of control over a situation I couldn’t do anything about. Pumping every 2 hours in the beginning, then every 4, for a year was exhausting but I’m not sure I would change it. I took an 8 month maternity leave and started reducing my pumps when I returned to work.

    With my second, I had all sorts of dreams about how much better things were going to be. And then she ended up arriving early (but not AS early!) and in the NICU (but not for AS long!) We tried a couple nursing sessions, but I was already in the pumping mode…so another year. We had a nickname for my pump and made the best of the situation….

    I wasn’t anti-formula feeding, but I guess I thought that this is the one thing that I supposed to be able to do for my kids. I certainly am not good at incubation, so I have to do this. The whole mommy-guilt hit me hard, and I wasn’t even back to work yet!

  14. Honestly, reading this board over the years and listening to other women complain about b-feeding made me not even consider it. Oh, so all that hassle and sleep deprivation for only marginal health benefits? Um, no thanks. And the two big things you always hear associated with b-feeding are obesity risk and IQ. Ok, we’ll encourage exercise and healthy eating. IQ is IQ…I mean…is b-feeding going to make my kid score a couple points higher on the SAT? I kid, but it seems like a lot of those things that we’re supposedly accomplishing with b-feeding are influenced by other child-rearing decisions. Also, those 2 things speak to my insecurities about upper middle class women having to feel perfect all the time.

    And you know what else is great for pregnancy weight-loss? Weigh Watchers and not eating like a pregnant lady anymore. We stress way too much about the weight loss–b-feeding isn’t a magic bullet, and all the weight loss advice out there works too. It comes off, you just have to be patient.

    • Anonymous says:

      There are other benefits to breastfeeding, I think. I think the baby gets the mother’s antibodies. Also, there’s the bonding issue. There’s something so amazingly special about a happily breastfeeding baby. For me, that’s the true reward right there. Seeing my little one happily nursing away makes all of the hassle of pumping while at work worth it. Nursing soothes her in a way that I can’t imagine a bottle doing. If she is hurt or fussy or tired, all I have to do is nurse her and she’s instantly happy.

      • anne-on says:

        Agreed with the comments above, nursing was awesome when I was with my son, pumping sucked. But yes, it was so soothing for him, and really, was one of the few ways I could calm him for very fussy times/sickness/teething.

  15. I had grand plans to exclusively nurse/pump for a year before baby girl was born. But even though we don’t really have any major issues with nursing or pumping, I’m now aiming for about six-seven months.

    I enjoyed BF for the first 6 weeks – two months, then it just seemed to be harder. I want my body back, pumping sucks, and she doesn’t nurse in public well, so I I have to take bottles of pumped milk with me anyway. I read the Atlantic article mentioned above and agreed a lot with it. So, I think once flu and cold season is over and baby girl is over six months old, I’ll be going to a combo of formula when we’re apart and nursing when home.

    Logically, I know this is not damaging my baby, but there is lingering mom guilt. And probably more than guilt, my ego is getting in the way — part of me wants to be able to say I b**stfed for a year. That’s where my type A personality gets in the way.

    Also, cost wise, I’ve probably spent more on pump parts and pump rentals that I would have on formula, so there’s that. I lost most of my pregnancy weight (still lumpy), but would like to lose about 10 lbs more, but know I can’t even think about dieting without my supply tanking and I’m so freaking HUNGRY all the time that I don’t think I could diet regardless.

  16. Lauren says:

    I’m very type A and it came out very clearly when it came to breastfeeding. My son was born 10 weeks early and I pumped 10 times a day until he came home 6 weeks later. I had insane amounts of frozen milk that all went bad because of some stupid enzyme in my milk. I also had the supply of a mother of 2 month old twins and a baby with the hunger of a 2 week old. So I ended up having to wean from the pump then get him back on the breast. Then, IDK, I just got a little irrational and competitive about it. I admit to crying tears over how much I could pump, etc. But I was determined to provide him breastmilk until he was 1 adjusted and I did. I think mostly because he was born so early, I felt like it was all I could do for him. But looking back, it made me so anxious. I wish I just said to hell with it and gave him formula. I just felt like if I could do it, I should–and also live in a community with people who put pressure on women to breastfeed. I was proud that I accomplished my goal but wish I had been easier on myself about it. There’s no way I could sustain that if I had a second child!

    • pockets says:

      I think your story illuminates a lot of my problems with the pro-breastfeeding movement. I am a huge fan of you do you: if breastfeeding is easier, or more convenient, or whatever for you, then great and I’m happy that it’s working out for you. But the attempts to support those women (or have more women be those women) (which in itself is not a bad thing – women who want to breastfeed should be supported!) ends up putting so much pressure on women and results in so many women breastfeeding out of guilt or feeling like they “need” to do it for whatever reason.

      I don’t know if I’m putting this in the right words. Women who want to breastfeed should be supported, I just wish there was a way to do it without putting so much pressure and guilt on moms who get all worked up and anxious over breastfeeding, but can’t stop breastfeeding because of the pressure and guilt.

      • I totally agree. I think sometimes ‘supporting’ women really means ‘presenting evidence-based information and then backing off while she makes her decisions.’

        When I was pregnant with my first, I had to sort through so much opinion and anecdote about breastfeeding (‘It’s best for baby!’ ‘I felt such an emotional connection’ etc etc) to glean any actual facts about the pros and cons of bf vs formula. It took me months to finally find actual facts (KellyMom, the Baby411 book) and I never did hear any nonjudgemental personal accounts from experienced moms like the ones the in the thread above.

        To me that’s what ‘supporting moms’ really means: give us facts and judgement-free personal accounts, and then back off, because having a child doesn’t make you a child.

    • I wrote a similar story above about exclusively pumping for a NICU baby and totally relate with the weird competitiveness that took over. Completely irrational, but something I (felt as if) I had some amount of control over.

  17. Nonny says:

    I BF’d exclusively while I was on maternity leave (7 months). My main goal was simply to try BFing and see how long I could make it. I tend to be of the school of thought that natural is better, where possible and reasonable, but still, I think I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. I kind of felt like BFing was the first marker of being a good mother, a hurdle that I had to achieve (such a Type A school of thought). BFing was a struggle at first due to latch problems, but once we got it figured out, it worked just fine. I didn’t have the big emotional reaction to BFing that the La Leche League folks go on and on about, but it worked and was convenient. I never even considered the weight loss aspect of it. In terms of convenience, during my mat leave I was very rarely away from my baby anyway. I just pumped when I knew I had to go somewhere without her, but it wasn’t that often and it wasn’t that big a deal.

    Once I went back to work, I pumped three times per day. But I had trouble pumping enough to supply my baby’s needs, so we started supplementing with formula by about 9 months. I had huge guilt over that, although looking back I know I shouldn’t have. I was pretty hard on myself. I hated pumping but managed to do it until about 11 1/2 months, although near the end I was only able to pump a few ounces each day. I ended up resenting the time that pumping took away from my already-shortened work day. Near the end I just wanted to be able to tell myself I made it a year. Again, silly and putting needless pressure on myself.

    Now, thankfully, there is no more pumping. We are strictly formula during the day (even on weekends), and I nurse in the morning and at night. I feel so much more relaxed. My little girl, who is now a year old, enjoys nursing and I like that I am able to satisfy that need, so I’m happy to continue to do it for a while yet.

  18. anonymom says:

    I am a type A who had my child during law school. I nursed her out of mommy guilt and fear that if I didn’t, she wouldn’t end up reaching her full intellectual potential. At that time and in our social/educational bracket, formula feeding was considered tantamount to child neglect. There was an incredible amount of pressure from health care providers as well.

    My goal was to nurse for a full year because that was the “rule.” I was incredibly relieved when, at 10 months, the baby decided she was done and preferred a sippy cup of formula. If I had to do it all over again, I would have continued pumping exclusively, which I did for the first few weeks due to problems establishing nursing. It was a huge pain, but not as much of a pain as nursing AND pumping. I am convinced that nursing was the cause of an enormous amount of unnecessary stress, lost sleep, excessive weight loss, and general misery. I think it actually interfered with bonding. And it is one of the reasons we only have one child.

  19. Lorelai Gilmore says:

    This still hits a sore point for me. I had planned to breastfeed exclusively for a year. Then I had my baby and breastfeeding just wasn’t working because I couldn’t produce enough milk. I have never cried as much as I did the first two weeks of my daughter’s life, when it became clear that she was losing weight and I would have to supplement. So then I tackled the low supply with all of that Type A energy. I pumped all the time. I took herbs and medications that were imported from New Zealand. I saw a lactation doctor, multiple lactation specialists, a craniosacral therapist (for me and the baby!), and an ENT who did a frenulectomy for the baby. I ate oatmeal and fenugreek, swore off soy, and read “Making More Milk” front to back at least three times. And despite all of that, it still never really worked – we never got to the point where I didn’t have to supplement with formula, or where I had a “freezer stash.” I once was at my SIL’s house during that time; she was also nursing, and had literally gallons of milk in the fridge and freezer. I remember saving my tiny ounce of milk which I’d pumped so much to get, and just bursting into tears.

    So all of that Type A energy really worked against me. I felt like such a failure – like my body had failed to do this thing it was designed to do. All of the working and trying and pumping and goal-making and chart-having did nothing but make me feel like a failure and a bad mom. Even now, five years later, I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes thinking about how hard I tried and how much it wasn’t working. I kept nursing and pumping as much as I could until I had to go back to work, at which point my supply fell off a cliff and we weaned.

    At the end of the day, I really wish I hadn’t approached breastfeeding with such determination and commitment. I wish I could have been kinder to myself, and readier to roll with the punches. I wish I could take that Type A self, five years ago, and tell her that you can’t control this process, so you have to be okay with any number of outcomes. And I wish I could tell her that breastfeeding is not the most important thing in mothering – it’s not even on the top ten list. And that formula is a wonderful blessing.

    But I will say that having gone through that experience, I am much more relaxed about parenting in general than many of my friends. I think that early, heartbreaking experience where nothing goes as planned gave me an early introduction to the inherent unpredictability of parenting. You cannot control everything. Better to know when to let go. I’m not very Type A as a parent, and I think it’s at least partly because of that early breastfeeding experience.

    • I could have written this, it made me tear up just reading it! Switching to formula was incredibly hard emotionally, but such a giant relief. The whole family was happier and my baby is doing wonderfully! It took me a few weeks to get over the disappointment and to convince myself that it wasn’t going to affect her future – really, I graduated at the top of my law school class and I literally had thoughts that formula would make her obese and affect her academic ability. It’s just not true. I hope these posts help moms who haven’t been through this yet know that bf is great but not the only way to nourish or bond with your baby.

  20. NewMomAnon says:

    I wanted to try nursing, and my kiddo loved nursing immediately. It came easy for us, and things with husband were really rocky postpartum….so nursing felt like a way to put a bubble around myself and the baby for some period of time.

    And then I started getting pressure to stop nursing around 6-7 months – from family, friends, my husband. And that’s where the stubborn Type A personality kicked in. If they wanted me to stop, by god, I was not going to. I still enjoyed the time with my kiddo (and frankly, I enjoyed the pumping breaks at work too), but I think if the pressure hadn’t been there, I would have supplemented. And when my husband moved out at the 9 month mark, and kiddo wasn’t sleeping, it was just so much easier to nurse her back to sleep than it was to address the sleeping problems or prepare a bottle.

    Now she sleeps, and we are nearing the 1 year mark, and I’ve tried to be more thoughtful about whether and why I’m continuing to nurse – I am giving up pumping because I need to re-focus on my career, and it’s hard to do when you are taking an hour of pumping breaks each day. I’d like to continue nursing first thing in the morning and before bed because I do love the togetherness and the feeling of providing for my baby, but I will give whole milk when we are out and about because I hate nursing in public or at other people’s houses.

    And I agree that the benefits of breastfeeding are probably overstated, but I like to think that there is some benefit as long as nursing makes both mom and baby happy. For me, there at least has been a stress reduction benefit as things have been crazy in my personal life and difficult at work; it gave me an excuse to opt out of difficult situations for a while, whereas formula feeding would have allowed others to “help” and taken away that easy excuse for little mental breaks.

  21. Coming late to the conversation, but this is such an interesting discussion and you ladies raise great points. I’d never thought about the benefits of breastfeeding being more correlation than causation, but that makes a lot of sense to me.

    We’re still working through this since my son (our first) is just 7 wks now. So far we’re exclusively BFing and I’m starting to pump to build up my stash. Totally agree with everyone above that it’s convenient when I’m with the baby, totally inconvenient when I’m not. For me, I feel like I “should” be BFing since 1) I can (no medical issues and nursing is going ok) and 2) I’m on maternity leave so I’m supposed to be taking care of the baby. Not logical, I realize, since babies can be taken care of just fine without breastfeeding. I haven’t really enjoyed breastfeeding, although it is slowly getting better.

    For now, the plan is to BF until I go back to work, and then try pumping, but I’m just going to see how it goes. I feel very fortunate to have a private office, so i have a place to pump for as long as I decide to stick with it. OTOH, it seems like an ideal situation to nurse twice a day and let him do formula at daycare so I don’t have to pump. But I don’t how that will work out with my supply, so we’ll have to see.

    • If you have a private office, pumping at work is really not difficult. Sure, there are things to work around (figuring out how much they eat when you’re gone, maintaining/increasing supply, occasionally pumping at home to make up the difference, etc.)

    • And congrats on the new baby and your BF journey thus far. No matter what route you go, you’re doing great!

  22. Maddie Ross says:

    I think I had the opposite sort of preconceived notion about b-feeding — I wasn’t into it pre-pregnancy or during pregnancy, wasn’t b-feed myself as my mom was a career woman in the late 70s and was told she couldn’t do it if she went back to work, and honestly felt a bit squicky about the entire endeavor. I registered for and bought a variety of bottles and didn’t do anything to prepare to b-feed except buy a couple of bras (which I would have needed anyway post-partum). When my daughter was born, I kinda just went for it in delivery room at the nurse’s urging and it worked. And I kept it up in the hospital. And by the time I got home, it seemed pretty normal. As was said above, b-feeding on maternity leave was easy. Way easier than bottles. Pumping is not. I hated that part of it.

  23. The main reason I breastfed until nearly a year, despite working 80 hours a week as a resident physician was that it alleviated a lot of mama guilt from being a working mom. When I came home from a 14 hour (or 24 hour) day away from my baby, I loved nursing him. I could put my feet up, snuggle my baby, and relax for 20 minutes before starting the nightly scramble. And I was the only one who could do that for him, even though I was depending on caregivers to take care of him for the many hours we were apart. I still had one thing that was mine alone, as his mother!

    I also found it incredibly convenient when we were together – on weekends, in the middle of the night, on vacation – all I needed to do was open my bra and I could feed him without bottles, mixing formula, or even getting out of bed. True, pumping and dealing with my milk stash was not convenient at all, but I thought on balance it was very convenient.

    I am certainly Type A and kept very detailed notes about pumping, obsessing over it, and setting mini-goals for myself. With time and perspective – including my lactation consultant friend telling me it was ok to stop pumping – I have a much more relaxed attitude about it now. I think it will be less stressful with my second. I’ll give myself a break about starting formula when pumping is no longer enough, and stop pumping when I get sick of it. After much trial and error, I know the only thing that makes me produce more milk is to pump more, so I gave up all the teas and supplements and home remedies.

    My best discovery was that at 9 months, I was able to stop pumping yet still nurse just before and after work for 2 months more before I chose to wean. I got all the benefits I loved from nursing, but giving up pumping was marvelous for my sanity and I may do it sooner next time!

  24. Katherine K says:

    I am a pretty strongly “Type A” person, and an attorney. I nursed my first boy (now 2.5) for a year, and am just now starting the weaning process with my 11-month-old. I nurse in the evenings and on weekends, and pump during the day when I’m at work.

    When I was pregnant, I thought I’d try breastfeeding for the health benefits to baby and mother (I have a family history of breast cancer), and also because of the weight loss component :) But, I approached breastfeeding the same way I approached labor and delivery: “Hmmm, I’ve never done this before, let’s see what happens!”

    It is a HUGE commitment, though, and basically turns into your only hobby until you wean. Although it’s been difficult to feel “tied to my pump or my baby” for months on end, I think I’ve stuck with it primarily to give me cuddle time at nights and on weekends. It’s definitely convenient while you’re with your baby – just whip the boob out and you’re done! Also, with #2, for m it’s been easier to just keep doing what I know, rather than “re-learn” how to formula feed. Like I said, I’m Type A!!

    The OB who delivered my son (whose wife is also an OB) told me that “nursing is an enormous commitment for professional woman”, echoing Hanna Rosin’s comment that “nursing is only free if a woman’s time isn’t worth anything.” I don’t think I understood what that meant until I went back to work, and that black Medela pump bag is my new life partner.

    But, I can’t complain – I have a flexible job where I set my own schedule, and an office to myself with a door I can shut. Although it’s a pain to pump in the car, in the bathroom of the courthouse, during breaks in depositions, etc., I’ve always been pretty aggressively comfortable with asking judges, clients and opposing counsel for 20-30 minute breaks to pump. I figure, if I don’t normalize it, who will? The lack of systematic support and accommodation for new parents in the US is appalling, and pumping is a pale substitute to being at home with your kid, but normalizing it is a start.

    As the child of medical researchers with a (pre-law school) background in medical research, I’m a pretty strong proponent of research-based medicine. I don’t find Hanna Rosin’s article particularly compelling in terms of disproving the MEDICAL justification for not breastfeeding, but I applaud it for the other aspects. I think it should be encouraged (for the medical benefits) and supported, but the pressure, shaming and guilt heaped on women who can’t nurse, or choose not to for whatever reason, is completely misplaced and inappropriate.

    Feeding your child, in whatever manner you choose, needs to be a universal source of pleasure and comfort for both mom and baby …. until they turn into a toddler, of course: “Mama! I want more grapes! Grapes! Graaaaaaaaaaaaaaapes! No, not that one!” *dissolves into angry tears when he receives grapes* :)

  25. Momata says:

    First time commenter here. Like a lot of the commenters last week, I set mini-goals: “I’ll just try it and see how it goes.” When it went swimmingly – like, zero problems at all -, i set the goal of EBF through maternity leave. I did not have the emotional aspect of it that many women do, but I found it very convenient and economical.

    My next goal was 6 months, and I pumped 3x daily. I have a pumping-friendly setup, the resources to get a great pump and multiple parts, and a husband who washed everything, so that went well, too. By around 9 months, I just pooped out and went down to 2x a day. No real reason other than being tired of it. I hoped my kid wouldn’t need the third bottle with the solid food she was eating, but she still did. So I kept pumping 2x a day and supplemented with formula. This was extremely hard on me. I eat extremely “cleanly” and cook “clean” meals for husband and I, and I felt terribly giving my daughter what seemed to me like artificial food – but I just couldn’t bear that third pumping session any more. Daycare had a tough time doing some bm and some formula, so after a few weeks I stopped pumping and only nursed at night and in the morning. I had hoped to continue this for longer, but at around 11 months my kid started biting and really losing interest. I tried working through that but was not successful. So, knowing she could start on cows milk at a year, I weaned her, did a few weeks of formula, then switched her to cows milk with no issues.

    I remain surprised that I gave up pumping so readily when it was so easy for me and I had an aversion to formula. But my number one goal, set before my daughter was born, was to be kind to myself, and I just was. So. Tired. Of. Being. Naked. At. Work. I am proud I achieved the 6 month goal and the kindness goal – the kindness goal was hard for my Type A personality. It’s something I hope to continue.

  26. With my first, I planned to definitely breastfeed and pump when I was in law school. After maybe 10-12 weeks of (at various times) mastitis, multiple yeast infections, and poor latching I decided, you know what, formula supplementation is OK too! I stopped pumping at 4 months and went to formula exclusively. I felt a little guilty at the time, but it was in all honesty a huge relief, made co-parenting a million times easier, and I got more sleep.

    With my second I plan to breastfeed through maternity leave as long as it works. If it works longer than that with pumping at work, great. But when it stops working for me — formula is OK too! No guilt this time.

  27. mascot says:

    I was a BFAR mom (breast feeding after a reduction). I was prepared, I thought, for the possibility that breast feeding wouldn’t work at all. Things started rocky, we supplemented from the beginning and really struggled to even get 1-2 successful nursing sessions a day those first few weeks . Latching was painful even though it was technically correct. Pumping was an absolute waste of time. I could only produce at best a couple of ounces in a session. Slowly we got more efficient and I could provide more of his feedings. Somehow we made it combo feeding for 14 weeks. I weaned shortly after going back to work. Mostly, I was just so darn tired of the struggle. If I had to do it again, I would have been proud of every feeding I gave my child. I would have accepted my body’s limitations and been grateful for quality formula options instead of beating myself up that I couldn’t supply every ounce of his nutrition.

  28. Spirograph says:

    First, can I just say that this thread is everything I love about this s1te? — I haven’t seen such a civil conversation on this topic anywhere else on the internets.

    Fittingly, I’ve been checking periodically while nursing all day, but held off on responding until I two hands and a computer instead of my phone. Anyway, I planned to exclusively BF my son with no formula for a year until he could switch to cow milk. I did nurse/pump for a year, but we ended up supplementing with formula beginning around 8 months after my supply dwindled following a 10 day work trip. The trip was kind of an epiphany moment for me. It was totally voluntary, but to a country I’d always wanted to visit. I had a decent freezer stash of milk, but knew it wouldn’t last the duration. Once I came to the (immediate) conclusion that it was a no-brainer to go and let baby drink formula, I realized that should have been my approach all along: breastfeeding is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with anything else “more important.” And my “more important” bar is pretty low — I was just very lucky that was the first time my work, sanity, fun, etc had been run into serious conflict with nursing. That’s not to say I didn’t curse pumping on a regular basis or occasionally hate feeling like a milk cow, but it was doable. I liked the breaks from work and since I was able to get 10+ oz in about 15 minutes, I could pump 2x per day without a huge impact on my work. I also was lucky that (until the trip) my supply didn’t seem to be impacted by my inability to keep a super consistent schedule. I liked nursing, and I didn’t really have any good reason not to do it.

    This time around, I still plan to nurse for a year, but I’m way more relaxed about it, and if we end up supplementing with formula, so much the better as long as my daughter is healthy. I was worried about “nipple confusion” with my son, so I refused to pump or let my husband give him a bottle for at least a month… it wouldn’t have been a huge issue, but I was taking a class at night and actually left my 2 week old baby home with my husband one night when we were doing field work (I brought son along to lectures). I think they both cried for at least a half hour when son was hungry and husband couldn’t feed him. This time, I realize that is stupid and we’ve already tried a couple times to get new baby to take a bottle because as much as I like snuggling my daughter, I would really like the option to sleep and let someone else feed her in the middle of the night occasionally. She’s not super cooperative, but I have somewhere to be for a few hours in the evening next week and I’m assuming if she’s hungry enough she’ll get over it Either way, I have milk in the freezer ready for my husband to try.

  29. Burgher says:

    I decided to breastfeed initially because it’s “best for baby”. Luckily, it came pretty easily, though I did struggle with the typical pain issues early on and supply issues later. In hindsight, I wish I wouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself to give my baby 100% breastmilk until age 1, and will definitely be so much more laid back the 2nd time around (in a few days, eek!). The few times that childcare absolutely had to supplement when I didn’t have enough milk for him to make it through the day, was no big deal whatsoever. However, at the time, I literally cried over any spilled drop and I almost had a nervous breakdown when 6 oz of milk got lost in transport to childcare and was spoiled. I wish there was much more of am emphasis on letting moms know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but with Type A personalities, maybe that’s something that can’t be helped!

  30. Attornista says:

    Such a fascinating thread. I see myself in many of the comments. I just wanted to add for me that I was shocked how tough nursing was, and how truly aggressive with myself I became over it. The type-A-ness kicked right in, and, in a strange way really allowed me to focus on that nursing goal to the exclusion of all else. And boy was there “else”. It was grueling – no sleep and so, so much pressure, both before and after return to work that I wouldn’t have enough for baby. I spent more than 90+ minutes pumping at work each day, so virtually everything else that was non-essential to that task was out. I don’t think I went out to lunch more than once or twice in a year, whereas I used to do it multiple times a week. I also avoided all conferences, non-essential meetings, and certainly overnight trips like the plague. When anything seemed to be looming, it caused me substantial anxiety, until I would work it through and figure out how to avoid or deal.

    Nursing changed my life in so many unexpected ways. There was a board I had always been very active with, but the meetings were just incompatible with nursing, so I had to give those up for almost a year. The division of labor was also a huge problem. My husband also works and I never quite had the heart to figure out one of those nighttime arrangements where he does all the helping (change diaper, etc.) and just brings the baby to me to nurse, so I could maximize sleep. We tried it once or twice, but he was just so loud through the whole process, it just seemed useless and I took over. That is why today, at 16 months, I am still the only one getting up at night. BIG downside.

    On the other hand, I love the closeness so much and am actually really nervous to end nursing. We are at 16 months now and I still nurse morning (unless he is really sleeping late) and night. My son is super active and I know that without nursing there is no earthly way he would slow down and just cuddle in my arms each morning and night. I feel that the whole process gives him so much support and stability. And, let’s be honest, there is a part of me that loves being irreplaceable. That said, I could do without the inevitable stress I am still dealing with of what to do when I need to be gone one evening. It’s all a trade-off, and overall, I am happy and proud of how things turned out.

  31. I approached it like a competition/project where I set up mini goals, created a Google doc sheet, and quietly celebrated my milestones. This was all personal, however, I have no opinion on whether or not someone breast feeds or formula feeds and I would say with the exception of my husband, my mom, and maybe one friend, no one knows I exclusively breast fed. It started with a class where the LC (not a crazy lady, by the way, she only said this to illustrate possibility, I think) said she had 2 kids and none of them ever received a drop of formula. That’s when it became my goal. I struggled hard core with my first — his latch sucked and so I was exclusively pumping until about 10 weeks when he was finally big enough and seemed to get it down. I went back to work at 3 months and pumped 3 times a day for a year. That was my goal. For my second, it was so much easier. She latched right away and it was effortless for her (and me). I built up a stash and continued to pump at work just like I did for my first. I will say that breastfeeding had some serious up sides for me– I was at my lowest adult weight ever around 9-12 months and unless I’m nursing I can’t achieve that same weight through diet and exercise. And, the oxytocin let down does something serious to my brain — a calming euphoria that was very welcome when I was pumping at a job I hated.

    For me, breastfeeding was super hard. I also run marathons and can compare it to that — it can take some serious grit and doing something when you don’t always feel up to it. Kind of like parenting in general. I will say that under supply was never an issue for me and I know it’s a serious problem for several women so in some cases it just can’t be done.

  32. There is some really fascinating research on breast milk in this article – worth a read if you have some time. (The article is more generally about germs but touches on this subject, and the value of breast milk, in a totally different context.) I’ve copied an except below.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=general&src=me

    The study of babies and their specialized diet has yielded key insights into how the colonization of the gut unfolds and why it matters so much to our health. One of the earliest clues to the complexity of the microbiome came from an unexpected corner: the effort to solve a mystery about milk. For years, nutrition scientists were confounded by the presence in human breast milk of certain complex carbohydrates, called oligosaccharides, which the human infant lacks the enzymes necessary to digest. Evolutionary theory argues that every component of mother’s milk should have some value to the developing baby or natural selection would have long ago discarded it as a waste of the mother’s precious resources.

    It turns out the oligosaccharides are there to nourish not the baby but one particular gut bacterium called Bifidobacterium infantis, which is uniquely well-suited to break down and make use of the specific oligosaccharides present in mother’s milk. When all goes well, the bifidobacteria proliferate and dominate, helping to keep the infant healthy by crowding out less savory microbial characters before they can become established and, perhaps most important, by nurturing the integrity of the epithelium — the lining of the intestines, which plays a critical role in protecting us from infection and inflammation.

    “Mother’s milk, being the only mammalian food shaped by natural selection, is the Rosetta stone for all food,” says Bruce German, a food scientist at the University of California, Davis, who researches milk. “And what it’s telling us is that when natural selection creates a food, it is concerned not just with feeding the child but the child’s gut bugs too.”

    Where do these all-important bifidobacteria come from and what does it mean if, like me, you were never breast-fed? Mother’s milk is not, as once was thought, sterile: it is both a “prebiotic” — a food for microbes — and a “probiotic,” a population of beneficial microbes introduced into the body. Some of them may find their way from the mother’s colon to her milk ducts and from there into the baby’s gut with its first feeding. Because designers of infant formula did not, at least until recently, take account of these findings, including neither prebiotic oligosaccharides or probiotic bacteria in their formula, the guts of bottle-fed babies are not optimally colonized.

  33. Julia S says:

    I was very pro-breastfeeding [and type A overachiever] long before I had kids. My mom breastfed all of us when it was popular to formula feed on schedule. Sadly, she died when I was young so I had no help when I had my sons. My MIL didn’t understand why I bothered, and so we just didn’t talk about it.

    I had read the studies, and between the health benefits for baby & mom, the weight loss [and yes, it did help me especially with baby #2], lower risk of certain cancers, lower risk of cardiovascular disease which runs in my husband’s family… and the environmental benefits, cost, and general laziness. It was an easy decision. I worked mostly afternoon/evenings as a university instructor at the time, and I’d pump during classroom breaks, often in the ladies’ room. I found it easiest to use a manual pump on the road – less fuss & mess.

    That said, I had problems with latch with my oldest and had to supplement for a few days. I had had an emergency c-section after pushing for 4.5 hours [not just labor – PUSHING] because he got “stuck.” We later found out he had a short cord. I had preeclampsia, a lot of pain from the c-sec, and my preeclampsia worsened after birth so I spent my first week home on strict bedrest. I finally begged my OBGYN to let me go to the lactation consultant at my pediatrician’s office, and in 10 minutes, she fixed the latch issue, and we never had another problem except a minor case of thrush. With my second, I also had preeclampsia, and was blessed to have a “surprise” VBAC. He also had a short cord, but because they let him slowly descend [“passive descent”] he was born happy and healthy. No latch or other issues with him except a little jaundice.

    My first self-weaned when I was 5 mo pregnant with my second, so it was right before his second birthday. My youngest self-weaned at 2 1/2. But after one year, we “renegotiated” nursing and dropped a few because they were on solid food. Toward the end, it was just nursing at bedtime and nap time, and during morning “lovies.” I remember looking down at my son nursing and I couldn’t tell where he ended and I began. I have no doubt that it made me feel more connected to my sons, especially since I had postpartum depression with #2. I felt amazing that my body could do this – that I could nurture these babies in the womb for nine months, and then that I could feed them, exclusively, afterward. It gave me an appreciation for my body that I never had before and still struggle with today.

    Each mom should do what she feels is best for her and her baby, but I feel strongly that every woman should just try it for a month, because nothing anyone can write or say can explain how it feels.

  34. Stephanie says:

    This has been a fascinating thread to follow. I’m very thankful to see a civilized discussion about nursing, and I’m very happy to see nursing discussed from the perspective of career-minded individuals. I have a 7 mo old who has only had formula a handful of times (once during a long road trip, and when he first started at daycare since I did not have a freezer stash accumulated). I am very fortunate to work from home, so I can pump from the privacy of my own home office. However, it is still a very time consuming endeavor, and I’m looking for the light at the end of the tunnel – or, more accurately, determining where the end of the tunnel is. I doubt I would still be pumping if I worked in a typical office, though – even with telework, I have quite a few meetings, and it can be hard to plan to pump around that schedule. (I know some people pump during teleconferences, but it’s just too awkward for me.)

  35. Reading this as I pump right now. I had never thought about whether my Type-A personality may be a factor on my fixation with breastfeeding until my baby’s first birthday. Perhaps that has something to do with it. I don’t love breastfeeding, but I don’t dislike it either. Oddly, I feel fairly neutral. I do dislike pumping, but not enough to stop. I am thankful that I have experienced a breastfeeding relationship with my baby, and at times have found it pretty amazing how in sync our bodies can be. I am thankful to have a supportive husband, who contributes by washing and packing my pumping supplies daily, as well as preparing and cleaning the baby’s bottles for daycare. (When she was younger and I was on maternity leave, he would give her a bottle daily. This was how he participated in her feeding then, and allowed me to pump and build up a freezer stash.) I also am extremely thankful to have a manager and colleagues who support my decision to breastfeed (beyond what is legally required). I am provided the space and time to pump, and they respected my request to not travel until the baby is one (when I plan to wean). Perhaps this is due to the fact that a solid 50% of my coworkers are women, as is my manager.

  36. anotherlawyermama says:

    My philosophy is that I’ll breastfeed as long as both of us still want to. I went in with the idea of breastfeeding for at least a year, but my son is 14 months old now, and neither one of us is close to calling it quits. My son has been a very frequent nurser since the beginning and is still nursing frequently now. I thought I would stop pumping at a year, but since my son still nurses so much (and demands the same amount of milk at day care, even though he is eating plenty of solids now) and is on the small side, I’m just going to keep going. Pumping isn’t my favorite activity, but, honestly, I really don’t mind it as much as others seem to, and I feel good about continuing to give him breastmilk (and having control over what goes into my body) instead of cow’s milk, which I can’t control. I guess that’s the Type-A part of me coming through an otherwise go-with-the-flow attitude toward breastfeeding. I don’t think breastfeeding is providing any weight-loss benefits to me, but I do enjoy the closeness and connection with my baby and just don’t feel the desire for independence that others do (and that I thought I might feel at this point).

  37. AnotherLawyerMomofThree says:

    I breastfed my first two children until they were three. Now my son is between one and two and we are still at it. Never used any formula for any of them. I’m fulltime in big law so sure the pumping is a bit inconvenient (pumping in airport bathrooms in LAX! Eww!), but we have a really awesome pumping room at work so how could I say no to that? I love lots of things about breastfeeding, including how much the babies just love it which is so sweet and pure, but I think the main thing for me is how it makes me and the baby have a special bond that no one else can have. If I’ve had a hectic day at work, and I come home and the baby starts jumping up and down because he wants to nurse (as he does), I know all is well with us.

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