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?

Circadian Rhythms

Happy New Year!! I hope you had a wonderful time last night and look forward to posting regularly here at least three times a week … starting … now!

When I lived in El Salvador, I had the world’s best work schedule.

I had just finished grad school at my alma mater (American University) and I didn’t have a job lined up. Luis and I had been dating long-distance international for over a year and wanted to experience living together for a bit, so I moved to El Salvador for eight months and taught English at a private language academy where I made $3/hour and was worked to.the.core.

That said, the schedule — while grueling — was the best because it gave me a ton of freedom and let me capitalize on my own energy levels … something I find myself longing for a lot these days. Continue reading “Circadian Rhythms”

Four

1489231_10152452774492361_5051443392990440074_nBefore becoming a mom, I used to laugh when “they” — you know, People With Kids (“PWK”) — would say time just flies so much faster with kids. I mean … we all get the same 24 hours in a day!! How could their 24 hours fly by any quicker than my own?!

I heard them (my mom, family, friends, colleagues — wise women who came before me) … it just didn’t resonate.

Then I became a mom, and I’ve come to see that they were spot on right: my 24 hours are not the same BK (Before Kids) and AK (After Kids).

And they are totally flying by. Continue reading “Four”

Tiny Dancer

Before class ... looking in
Before class … looking in

About two months ago I contacted a well-known, local dance studio to see about enrolling Maya in formal ballet / tap classes. She is very theatrical and into pretend play, loves music and dance right now, and I thought it would be good prep for kindergarten in a couple years: unlike school or the activities we’ve done with her friends, she wouldn’t know anyone (teachers or students).

Also, she’s at the prime age to give it a shot: I had started dance at age 3 and danced til Varsity cheerleading conflicted sophomore year of high school — starting young was a huge benefit in terms of learning discipline, building confidence, making new friends, and of course, the physical aspects of dance. Continue reading “Tiny Dancer”

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”

Precious Jewels

Motherhood can be messy. Frightening. Demoralizing. Stressful. Challenging. Complicated.

Sometimes you wonder (or maybe it’s just me?), how can you love someone soooo much and yet at the same time, find yourself screaming like a totally irrational tot at her (the actual tot) … only to cry after she’s asleep because you realize that showing your true colors to a 3-year-old is as useless as wearing snow pants in July and really, at the heart of it, you were just PMSing and “fwus-ta-wated” [frustrated in toddler-speak] at the pile of dishes in the sink from the night before that neither of you could get to, the work project still on hold for the third day in a row with the unmoving deadline, the jeans that aren’t fitting as well as you’d like (because you’ve been avoiding the gym like the plague) … and she just happened to push your buttons on a day when you were already late for a morning meeting.

You snapped. And it isn’t right … but it happens.

Yea. Sometimes motherhood is really, really hard. Continue reading “Precious Jewels”

little girl, big hurts

Found this post in my drafts from March 2014! Posting now because, well, I suck at creating compelling content lately and don’t want my blog to die a slow and painful death 😉 Have some other gems too — not sure why I hadn’t hit publish on all these!?! But here’s one for now — still relevant, now that Maya is nearing four.

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I’m one of those people who says I’m sorry when someone else bumps into me in the grocery store.  If I walk into someone’s office, I tend to apologize for “interrupting them,” even though I’ve asked if they have a few minutes ahead of time. And as a kid, I used to punish myself for the most minor of transgressions. Continue reading “little girl, big hurts”