The ROI of Breastfeeding

Disclaimer: This post is part of the Honest feeding stories project. It is not a paid or sponsored post — it’s a reflection of my own feelings on feeding during the early years, and the wisdom I’ve gained since.

If my breasts had been a business, any financial analyst would have recommended I closed shop months before I actually did with my daughter, Maya. My ROI (return on investment) was awful.

Though I nursed her in the morning and evening, I pumped all day long – four agonizing sessions at work – only yielding 10-12 oz. of milk. Basically, that amounted to two bottles of the five she drank in a day, which meant I still had to supplement formula for her other bottles.

And it was exhausting.

While our munchkin had been sleeping through the night since she was eleven weeks old, I was still waking up to pump most mornings around 2 or 3 AM. I desperately wanted to just skip that pump, but it was the issue of supply and demand: my supply was terrible as it was, and I didn’t want to make it any worse by not pumping. It was making my anxiety go into overdrive.

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

Yet I kept on keeping on, because while one little angel on my shoulder whispered, “Breast is best” and encouraged me that any little bit I can give her is better than none and reminded me of all the health benefits of breast milk … the other little angel on my shoulder said, “You’ve given it your all. She has gotten such  a great start. Be kind to yourself; it’s OK to stop.”

What I came to realize is that there was no “right” and “wrong” here, only what was “right” for me  — which seemed to change by the day. And therein lied the problem.

Though I never had any grandiose ideas about breastfeeding, at the very least, I had hoped to try. After taking a Breastfeeding Basics class at my local hospital while I was pregnant, I decided not to set any expectations or define any timelines 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, period.

Early on, we realized I had supply issues when, at two weeks of age, Maya was still losing weight instead of gaining. Our pediatrician gently recommended supplementing formula in addition to nursing and pumping. I hated the idea not because I was against formula, but 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.

I still loved nursing more than pumping; it was much easier than pumping and loved how close it made me feel to her. I loved knowing I could soothe her and nourish her with a simple suck. Breastfeeding was so primal and beautiful … but for as lovely as it was, the bottom line was that I wasn’t able to fully sustain her on my own, and it was time to accept this fact.

The ROI for breastfeeding, for me, was no longer found in how many ounces of milk I produced each day but rather in how I *felt* about what I was doing. And most days, it didn’t feel so good. I knew this meant it was time to call it quits.

I had given her a great start, and I’d given breastfeeding my all. And so sometime during month nine, she was completely weaned. I missed the closeness of nursing, but we created new special rituals for bedtime: we didn’t rush through baths, we spent more time reading books, and that’s when we started “Eskimo kisses,” something we still do now (she’s six).

By the time I had my son Ben, I was no longer a newbie mom and had nearly three years of parenting wisdom behind me. He was much bigger than his sister and demanded more milk, and I simply couldn’t keep up with his hearty appetite. So once again, we supplemented nursing and pumping with formula — and by the time he hit seven months, we weaned. This time I felt no guilt whatsoever. I knew he needed more than I could provide—and I saw my daughter thriving and growing and knew my son would, too.

Though I didn’t think I’d need to supplement as much as I did with each child, I don’t regret my decision to stop nursing and exclusively formula-feed for the remainder of their first year; it was the right choice for our family. If you’re in a similar situation and you’re wondering which formula to choose for your baby, there are some wonderful, healthy options on the market today, such as Honest’s healthy feeding options. Today’s formulas are modeled after breast milk —  and we moms should feel comfort in that.

Time gives us perspective, and looking back on my own struggles, I wish all moms could get to the place I got; where they realize that whatever they did or tried was enough and will be enough. The sad truth is we live in an uber-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.

Though my breastfeeding ROI each time may not have been something to write home about, I learned to trust myself – and my own judgment. And I learned this: 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. Our children will be better off when we, moms, are comfortable in our decisions. They will thrive.

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

the space between

Sometimes inspiration to write can come in the strangest of places, like watching an episode of This Is Us. Here’s my latest post over at Kveller.com: What I Would Tell Myself Before I Became a Mom.

Curious if any of you moms out there can remember “the space between” motherhood (being pregnant/about to bring an adopted baby home) and then becoming a mom … it’s an insanely awesome and terrifying time!!

G-d, grant me the serenity …

Disclaimer: I don’t normally get political here, but when politics are inextricably tied to my anxiety, it’d be doing a disservice to my readers who struggle with anxiety themselves if I didn’t bring it up. So here we are.

I didn’t realize just how much the election cycle and the reality of President-Elect Trump were both instrumental to my increasing anxiety levels lately until the past week or so, when I shared with my mom how I’d been feeling and it began a broader discussion about election and post-election anxiety. Apparently, I’m not the only one suffering from this condition; as early as last March, it was becoming a “thing.” (Source: Washington Post).  And to help ease many of our collective shock/despair at the outcome, post-election, The Atlantic doled out some sound advice. Continue reading “G-d, grant me the serenity …”

Accountability

As a follow-up to my last post, I decided to give another try and rejoined WW. Sad to see where I was last year when I rejoined … but it’s OK. It’s a start. Call me a January Joiner — I’m here for the long haul 🙂 And the best part is, I rejoined with a dear friend I met in 2004 via the WW chat rooms — a friend I adore and relate to on a million levels as moms, as wives, as women — a friend in real life nowadays, given our geographic proximity.

She convinced me it’s worth the shot again–it worked for us both before–and I believe she’s right.

So … I’m back on the WW wagon!

Tipping of the Scale

I’ve only seen the number 1-7-5 four times in my life: the day I joined Weight Watchers in 2004, pregnant with Maya in 2010, pregnant with Ben in 2013, and this morning, January 3, 2017. Not pregnant.

Now, without growing a tiny human, I have somehow managed to get the scale to creep up to a number that — for me — is not OK. You may be wondering, why am I placing so much emphasis on a number? Because that number is my PRE-WW WEIGHT. And that is why it’s “unacceptable” to me; I cannot stay here.

While I know several things: it’s just a number, it doesn’t dictate who I am, it doesn’t make me a bad person, weight doesn’t determine health, etc. — I am not OK with gaining almost 15 pounds in a year. I’m just not. It isn’t healthy, plain and simple.
Continue reading “Tipping of the Scale”

Wrapping Up the Year With a Bang

Hello, readers. Can you believe it’s already 2017 tomorrow?! Insane, I know.

Maya turned SIX two weeks ago (I will do a post soon!) and between her birthday, her bday party, Hanukkah, Christmas and family time, I’ve been trying to just soak up the downtime – spending time at home, being cozy with the kids, a date day with Luis, friend time, organizing everything, cleaning, writing, running/walking … it’s been a wonderful break in so many ways. ❤

And speaking of wonderful … I feel truly honored that my blog has been featured in the Best 40 Eating Disorder Survivor Blogs 2016!
Continue reading “Wrapping Up the Year With a Bang”

Fall into Winter

Not sure if I even have any readers left these days, but this fall has been incredibly busy and stressful — between Maya starting both school and Hebrew school, soccer for both kids, gymnastics, my inactivity which has led to weight gain — ugh —  a busy social life for our little family, and election depression … I don’t know where the time has gone. Writing and working out — my sources of “me time” — have both fallen to the wayside — and my mind and body both feel it. So do my jeans. :-/. And, unlike in previous periods of my life where I’ve been OK with a gain because I was happy and feeling carefree … this time, none of the above is true. Basically, I am NOT happy with this gain in spite of all the good in my life … And practically-speaking … I can’t afford a new wardrobe.

So I know what to do and will do it. It will just take time. Time, time, time.

Continue reading “Fall into Winter”