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?

questions i can’t answer

Like many 5-year olds, Maya is a really, really inquisitive kid. Like me, she’s also very sensitive and in tune to how others around her are feeling.

And she asks about Rachel a lot.

Sometimes I stumble because I don’t want her to have anxiety about or fear “going to the hospital” simply because she knows that is where Rachel died.

But the questions come — sometimes out of nowhere, sometimes when approaching school (Rachel’s son — who she was in the process of adopting at the time of her death and has since been adopted by her husband–attends the same school as my kids), and every time  she’s been with my mom. In fact, she even told my mom at Thanksgiving that the reason she talks to her about it or asks her questions sometimes is she doesn’t like to make Mommy sad and knows talking about Rachel makes Mommy sad.

Heart. Is. Breaking. Continue reading “questions i can’t answer”

Rushing for Nothing

I’ve blogged ad nauseam about my anxiety issues over the years. It’s no surprise that, while I try — maybe too hard? — to live in the moment, my brain is still always thinking ten steps ahead. In some instances that can be a benefit. But in others, it isn’t so great.

Lately my anxiety has (stupidly) stemmed from Ben not walking. I know, I know … kids walk and talk and all that when they are ready. I know Maya didn’t walk til 13 months (where Ben is now). And I know all kids are different.

But I have been so focused on Ben not walking that I missed some other super-awesome things he can do now. In the past month or two, he waves bye whenever leaving the room (or if someone else does); climbs on furniture; can climb up stairs (and semi-scoots down with assistance); he throws balls with such dexterity that there’s no way he’s my kid; dances — like bops and shakes his head side to side; puts a “phone” to his ear and “talking” when he hears a phone ring on TV or at home; and he blows kisses — to name a few. Continue reading “Rushing for Nothing”

Moms and Swimsuits … what’s the big deal? (If only …)

Anyone who has ever struggled with body image (and who hasn’t?!) knows that the beach is one of the most challenging places to visit on earth. It’s a judgement zone on steroids (or at least, that’s how it feels) and everyone is next to naked … which makes me horribly squeamish.

Even when I was my thinnest (circa 2004-2005), I only liked laying down or walking around with a sarong at the beach/pool. Rationally, I knew that I had a [mostly] flat belly (a gift even when I wasn’t thin) … but I had dimpled thighs, a big bottom and curvy hips — all “flaws. ”

How sad is that? Continue reading “Moms and Swimsuits … what’s the big deal? (If only …)”

dear time: please stand still …

An anxious person by nature, I’m always looking ahead: to the next phone meeting, the next project, the next phone call, the next workout, the next meal, the next event, the next trip, the next milestone … you name it and I’m already ten steps ahead.

It’s just the way my anxious brain works and, as I learned in my first therapy session six years ago (and contrary to popular belief), it’s not such a bad thing to have an anxious mind. The anxious mind can be an asset: yes, it means we’re always “on” … which can be a nuisance to those we are closest to … but it also means we’re usually going to achieve what we set out to do. We’re not likely to stray too far off course.

Because we’re hard-wired like that. Continue reading “dear time: please stand still …”

start, stop, start, stop

Nearly every night after the kids are in bed now I’ve attempted to open my laptop — the very same laptop I spend nine hours a day working on — and tried to hunker down and write: observations, summaries of cool stuff I have seen or read related to fitness, motherhood, pregnancy, body image ….anything to keep my blog a living, breathing ecosystem of sorts.

Every night I start blogging … and then I stop. Continue reading “start, stop, start, stop”

Fake it til you make it

Fake it til you make it.

It’s one of those quotes that’s equally infuriating and powerful at the same time. Infuriating because it’s so hard to act a certain way when you don’t feel a certain way. And it’s powerful because if you can override your feelings and put on an act, you can actually change how you think about a situation. And that is awesome.

Right now — no surprise — I’m feeling this way about body image. Having been at this goat rodeo twice now, three months post-partum seems to be when the “itch” really begins for me. The “itch” to get back into shape.

No doubt having a baby changes your figure–as it should! And after Maya, I still had time to dedicate to the gym, to making my health a priority. Withn four months I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. But now with two kids and being back at work, I just haven’t quite found my groove with respect to food or fitness. Which means I’m carrying the last 7-10 baby weight pounds.

It’s not just the number on the scale that’s bugging me; that really matters far less to me than how my clothes fit (or don’t). And even more than the tag inside my jeans, I just want to feel a little more in control of my health. So that I’m here for the long haul. Continue reading “Fake it til you make it”