Breastfeeding ROI

If my breasts were a business, any financial analyst would have recommended I close shop a long time ago. My ROI (return on investment) sucks.

You see, I pump all day long … including four sessions at work … and make 10-12 oz. of milk for Maya. Basically, two bottles of the five she drinks in a day.

And it’s exhausting.

While our little munchkin has been sleeping through the night since she was eleven weeks old, I am still waking up to pump most mornings around 2 or 3 AM. I’d love to just skip that pump, but it’s an issue of supply and demand: my supply sucks as it is, and I don’t want to make it any worse by not pumping.

On top of that nightly annoyance, I’m sick of lugging my Medela Pump in Style Advanced bag and gear to work with me every day and I’m sick of leaving my desk four times a day to pump at the office and I’m sick of being tethered to tubes while we watch TV or I blog at night.

But yet I keep on keeping on.

Because while one little angel on my shoulder whispers, “Breast is best” and encourages me that any little bit I can give her is better than none  and reminds me of all the health benefits of it … the other little angel on my shoulder says, “You’ve given it your all. Maya has gotten a great start. Be kind to yourself; it’s OK to stop.” (Notice they are BOTH angels; there is no “right” and “wrong” here, only what’s “right” for me  — and what is right for me seems to change day to day).

I don’t say all this to sound like a martyr, but rather to share the struggles I’ve had with respect to breastfeeding — especially because I know my challenges are not unique.

I never had any grandiose ideas about breastfeeding, but at the very least, hoped I’d be able to do it for at least a little while. After taking a Breastfeeding Basics class at my local hospital while I was pregnant, I decided not to set any expectations or define any time-lines but, rather, see what happened once Maya was born. I didn’t want to put any added pressure on myself and worried I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Early on, we realized I had supply issues when, at two weeks of age, Maya was still losing weight instead of gaining.  So my pediatrician recommended supplementing formula in addition to nursing and pumping. I hated the idea because I knew the problem wasn’t Maya; it was me. I wasn’t making enough to meet her demand … and when you have a small baby to begin with, you need to do what you need to do to make her gain weight. Which meant I needed to supplement with formula — something I wasn’t keen on, but something I needed to come to grips with.

And I did.

In fact, after a while, I stopped nursing entirely and exclusively pumped and gave her formula. But then two months ago, hoping to boost my supply, I began nursing again on occasion and I discovered how much I enjoyed it. To be honest, it hasn’t helped my supply (I need to drink more water, drink mother’s tea, eat more oatmeal, etc.), but it is much less uncomfortable than pumping and I love how close it makes me feel to Maya. I love knowing I can soothe her and nourish her with a simple suck. It’s so primal and beautiful … yet for as lovely as it is, the bottom line is this: I am not able to fully sustain her on my own.

And I’ve come to terms with it; it’s OK.

The ROI for breastfeeding, for me, isn’t found in how many ounces of milk I produce each day but rather in how I *feel* about what I’m doing.

When I think of that, I want to keep at it for the full year, since, in spite of my supply issues, I do feel good about it (most of the time). But I’m also not going to put any unnecessary pressure on myself; that will only make the situation harder. If it starts making me crazy (the way exclusively nursing was in the beginning) then I’ll stop. I have to remember I’m in the fortunate position to be able to make the choice … and no matter what I decide, I can feel good about the effort I’ve given and the start I’ve given my daughter.

I wish all women could feel the way I am learning to feel … that whatever they did or tried … was enough/will be enough. The sad truth is, we live in a judgmental society where women are criticized for their decisions: to work or stay at home; to breastfeed or formula feed; daycare or a nanny; to vaccinate or not to vaccinate; sleep train or go with the (potentially sleepless) flow. It’s unfortunate and all of these issues are so highly emotionally-charged … if we could just be a little gentler on ourselves, maybe motherhood would be a little less daunting?

As mothers, we have our children’s best interests at heart, but ultimately we need to remember that the only person we truly answer to is ourselves.

I hope to keep this in mind when the day comes that I do turn off the pump and put the nursing bras away … sometime in the next six months.

How about you? How did you decide to start or stop breastfeeding? Did you feel guilty about your decision?

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16 thoughts on “Breastfeeding ROI

  1. Oh.Yes. I believe you know but six weeks was our stopping point. And, it was a mixture of a bad nurser and my terrilbe, awful, no-good supply. It was six weeks of torture including infections and exclusive pumping and I got to the point where I decided I was beating myself up and he wasn’t one bit unhappy getting formula. In fact, he thrived on it. So, I quit.

    It was a very difficult decision but ultimately, it was a learning experience. I’m glad I tried. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t be easy for me anyway, and yet, I did get to share that bond with him albeit short.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your approach. I’m sick of society dictating how we care for our children with the right vs. wrong mindset. Kudos for continuing on!

    1. Thanks, Stac! I do remember your situation and think so many of us are in that boat but few discuss it. It’s such a taboo topic and shouldn’t be … nor should we be made to feel like “bad moms” if we can’t do what “nature intended” … I hate hearing that from the lactivist community. We give it our best shot and do what we can for the overall sanity and happiness of our families.

  2. I wish I could have read this seven years ago! Unfortunately, I didn’t take any breastfeeding classes or even know anyone who breastfed, so I think I gave up much too soon. I figured they just weren’t working right, but apparently, there are other women out there (!) who just don’t have a lot of output either. I feel better equipped – emotionally anyway – this time around to try it again. Thumbs up to you for sticking with it and sharing your experiences so frankly, and wish me luck in a few months! 🙂

    1. I totally recommend the free classes at the hospital, Kristen–and just know you have tons of support here. Lord knows there are plenty of us in the same boat! Glad you feel better about things this go around and I hope it works for you!!!

  3. Oh man, being a mom is hard. I admire your tenacity with breastfeeding. It is true that every bit helps.

    We were fortunate early on to have a very smooth go but now that I’m back to work full time my freezer stash is dwindling. My guy is insatiable. When I’m with him all day we have no problem but I am a not great pumper and also have to do 4 sessions during the work day. Thank God I have a flexible job, supportive family and coworkers, and an office door.

    We also recently decided to go ahead with rice cereal after feeding him around the clock every 2 hours for a week. He stopped sleeping his usual 4-5 hour stretch from 9-1 and was pretty much hungry all the time. I had to come to terms with breaking the guidelines (he’ll be 4 months this week so it’s a tad early) but in the end, no one knows him better than us. And I think it’s what is best for him right now.

    Nursing is also one of my greatest joys. It makes me enjoy our time together that much more.

    1. Isn’t it so hard being back at work and nursing/pumping?! UGH. It feels like such a time suck (literally!). In fact, I’m pumping at work as I write this! I, too, feel lucky to have a flexible job, supportive family and coworkers, and a nice mother’s room at work. But it’s still hard and a commitment for sure.

      Good for you! Maya’s been on rice cereal since 2 mths (just a little in her bottle at her last feeding and then at 4 mths via spoon). We need to do what’s best for US!!!

      🙂 Yay, Mandy! Your little one is such a cutie!

  4. I also want to meet just ONE person who lost weight easily and had no supply issues as a result. That whole “breastfeeding helps you lose weight” myth is ridiculous. I had dreams of nursing and getting down to a buck ten without trying – HAHAHA.

    I’ve lost all my pregnancy weight but I was overweight to begin with and losing that extra is proving to be HARD.

    1. LOL. I totally agree. I am in the same boat–all the preggo weight is gone but I’m still left with some poundage I’d like to lose, which nursing is NOT going to help me lose. I know what will, and what I need to do, though … ut it is hard.

  5. Grandmothers who did not nurse have to be so careful and empathetic when talking to their daughters who feel like the blogger does. I love my daughter so much I hate to see her struggling. But she is doing so for HER daughter. Wow…Thanks for the lovely article, it helps me understand.!

  6. ahhh pumping at work, what a PITA! I went back to work when my son was 3 months old (he is now 2) and for 3 months after that I pumped 7 times a day and nursed 3 times on top of that and we still had to supplement. I WAS MISERABLE! I really wanted to nurse for a full year, but I was just miserable and tired of pumping taking over my life. Tired of washing, cleaning, the pump attachments and drawing the blinds at work so I can stick a pump to my boob behind closed doors and still “work.” I am very glad I nursed/pumped for 6 months, but even when I made the decision to quit, I beat myself up about it for a very long time. I LOVED nursing, but the sad truth was that I wasn’t nursing, I was pumping, and they are not the same. In the end, stopping pumping was the best decision for our family. I was happier in the long run, and could focus more on my baby and my family, and that’s the point, isn’t it?

    GL with everything. It’s tough and you’re not alone.

  7. I too had supply problems so I sympathize with you. It’s hard. I can’t even imagine dealing with pumping and going to work (in Canada we have a year of mat leave).

    My first son was always supplemented and I found that some friends implied that supply issues are a myth (so I must be doing something wrong) and my Mom constantly pressured me to give up breastfeeding (which of course spurred me on).

    With my second son, BF improved slightly since they put me on domperidone in the hospital due to my previous supply problems. I managed one week and a half of all BF and no supplementing. Then we moved when he was 7 weeks old and the stress completely diminished my supply.

    It was hard to when I finally stopped BF, but did so when I was ready (7 months for my first son and 9 for my second). I knew that I did everything possible to give my boys the best start, but I still felt a little guilty and sad. However, those feelings quickly dissapated when I was no longer pumping for hours on end.

    Whatever works for you is best for your baby…

  8. I too supplement with formula. I feel your pain and struggle with pumping/nursing. I felt compelled to post this for all of the ladies pumping out there.

    Ounce by Ounce

    It’s time again.
    The whooshing is but a background noise
    compared to the life that fills the container.
    Drop by drop,
    they are my specks of gold
    and it carries on with him.
    For growth.
    For well-being.
    It doesn’t matter how much.
    An ounce will do.
    At the end of the day
    I think,
    this is my best work yet.

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