feeding expectations

Throughout my pregnancy with Hudson, many women would ask if I planned to breastfeed. I’m not exactly sure why that is a common topic for small talk (I’d rather talk about the weather, to be honest), but it was a common question. And I always told the women who asked that I planned to try to breastfeed.

Hudson took to it like a champ. But he was a hungry little booger and weighed almost 10 pounds at birth, and I couldn’t keep up with his demands. He lost a good bit of weight before we left the hospital. His bilirubin levels were elevated and he had to have some phototherapy at home. We had weight checks daily for the first three weeks of his life, until he finally got back to his birth weight.

After countless visits with the lactation consultant, it was determined that we had to supplement with formula for Hudson’s sake. So we did. And he started gaining weight again. I did the nursing/supplementing combination for six weeks before we went straight to formula because I stopped producing milk completely.

When Hayes was born, I was even more determined to make breastfeeding work. I’m not sure why I set myself up for it again, but we experienced the exact same thing: a large baby who lost a lot of weight because I couldn’t make enough milk for him.

When the nurse at the hospital told me that Hayes really needed to get some formula before he lost any more weight, I fell apart in the middle of the hospital hallway. I had just gone on my “mandatory lap” around the hall as part of my c-section recovery. I was tired. I was stressed because I knew that nursing wasn’t going all that well with Hayes. And I knew that my milk hadn’t come in yet and I had a very hungry baby who, in my mind, was being starved by his mother!

By the time my milk came in, things changed a little bit. I was making enough for him, but Hayes was a “lazy eater” and wasn’t doing the work to get the milk. I started pumping so I could give him a bottle and he’d stop falling asleep during feedings. This time I was only able to do the pumping/bottle feeding/supplementing combination for three weeks before the demands of all of it caught up with me.

I know now that I was being too hard on myself. But isn’t so much of motherhood filled with moments where we’re too hard on ourselves? Both of my boys are healthy and I only occasionally get sad that breastfeeding didn’t work out with them. But I am so thankful that formula was an option. They’re growing, they’re strong, and I think they’re pretty wonderful!

Finding my way to figuring out what was going to work for my kids, keep them happy, and keep their bellies full took a while. But we did find a solution that worked for us. What surprises did you face when feeding your baby? Did nursing come easily for you? Did you struggle with the decision to use formula?

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  1. In the hospital, I had help with the lactation consultant each time I fed my son. Things were going great! So I thought. When I got home that is when it started to hurt. That is when my nipples started to bleed. That is when I never experience a “let down”. I tried pumping but nothing was really coming out. I bawled my eyes out. It wasn’t working. My nipple was hanging off and I couldn’t stop getting pink milk out. In the middle of the night I was crying and my mother said,”Your baby is starving. You need to feed him. Go get some formula.” I couldn’t stop crying. I was hurting my little guy. Then she said,”This is part of being a good Mom. Do what it takes to feed him.” So I did.

    When we started giving him formula it was like the Calvary had come. The pain stopped and my son and I started to bond. I would have loved to breast feed but it just didn’t work out. Maybe I should have tried harder? I don’t know? I just did what I knew how to do. Feed my son. I’m so grateful formula is an option.

  2. Breastfeeding is hard and the fact that you gave it a try with both boys is wonderful. I’ve been lucky enough be able to breastfeed Landon with no issues and he will be 1 on Sunday. He was 9lbs 10oz at birth, and we did supplement with formula during our 2-day hospital stay because my milk hadn’t come in yet and he was so big.

    Pumping sucks and I guarantee you that if I had to do it that way, I would have stopped breastfeeding. It’s one thing to constantly have a child on you, it’s quite another to be hooked up to a pump when you could be spending that time with your babies.

    Formula is fine and there were many times I wanted to switch over to it. I didn’t because there really was no reason to, but thank goodness it’s an option!

  3. Formula is THE BOMB. I have a healthy, beautiful girl because of it. (Who has never been sick a day in her life, for what it’s worth.) I nursed her exclusively for a month before my post-partum depression was so devastating, that I knew something needed to change.

    We made her a bottle of formula, I bawled my eyes out, and then after crying a while, I realized how WONDERFUL it was. I was FREE. My husband could help feed the baby, I could go and do as I pleased. And most importantly, I could do what I needed to do to get MYSELF healthy and be the best momma I could be.

  4. Feeding babies is such a hard issue. When I was pregnant my Mom told me that breastfeeding me was more painful than giving birth to me, and she had an unmedicated natural delivery. I thought she was crazy. I was determined to breast feed and that it wouldn’t be painful. HA! I was living in la la land. I thought if I read the books I wouldn’t have any problems. I couldn’t have been more wrong. While I have been able to breast feed my daughter, who is now 6 months old, it has been the hardest and most painful thing I have done. And, I have to say, that in my case, my Mom was right. I had an unmedicated birth and I would also say that breast feeding was more painful than birth. I don’t know why I stuck with it. I think most if it was the expectations and guilt I put on myself. My daughter was born 4 weeks early, had a low birth weight, jaundice and what the nurse later called a barracuda suck. I so clearly remember being home from the hospital with my husband and mother in law completely in tears at 11pm because my nipples were bleeding, we couldn’t get Margot to say latched and I was in horrible pain. Once we finally worked out the latch issues I got yeast in my nipples which spread into my milk ducts causing horrible pain. Breastfeeding remained painful for me until she was 4 months old (mostly due to yeast).

    Now nursing is easy, inexpensive and convienent. However, when I look back at what I put myself through I don’t know that it was worth it. I certainly wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone. I’m not sure why society places such extreme expectations on Mothers. I very clearly felt that I would be a failure as a mother if I didn’t nurse and I shouldnt’ have felt that way.

  5. Thank you for such an honest post about breastfeeding. I was not able to nurse either one of boys due to allergies, a NICU stay and total lack of milk production on my part. I went through several years of feeling very inadequate compared to other moms who were able to nurse without any problems. Then one day it just hit me that my boys are perfectly healthy and we are perfectly bonded without nursing. My job as their mommy is to take care of them, nourish them and protect them in every way I can and for us, that meant bottle feeding. I always love hearing of other mothers who were in my same position and have happy, healthy babies.

  6. I do not have children of my own yet, but I have no plans to breastfeed my children. There is nothing in this world that says formula is going to harm a baby, so I don’t know why so many women are against it. The point is to feed your baby, not be selfish and do what you think society expects you to do. So kudos to you! You have beautiful boys!!

  7. amanda says:

    I think women ask b/c it is such an awesome and special and huge topic (anything “new” baby I think :) )- a new mom topic, a woman’s topic and a chance to bond or share stories – thats my take…:) I have 3 kids and my first baby that I tried to nurse I had an awful time, even w/ a lactation consultant , it hurt, i hated it, he hated it and I quit altogether after a few weeks. The other two, I was determined and it was still hard but I just kept at it, at first it felt like they were permanately attched to me…just trying to get used to it and build supply, keep them full, etc…then it was so easy – no messes, no money spent, no bottle making, etc…and I learned to love it! (It also made me sooo sleepy so it was always great to get a quick cuddle/nap in too :) ) and I can honestly say it is one of my greatest achievements to date! In the end its all about what works, a healthy baby and a healthy, happy Mom! :) Good for you for trying!

  8. angie says:

    I had a very hard time w/ it the first time around. I didn’t feel like my son was getting anything b/c he was screaming and i had a hard time getting him to stay latched on. I did try my best and when I got home…after going nearly 4 days w/ no sleep, and a screaming baby…I just went to formula…and I didn’t regret it for another second!!!

    We (moms) have to do what’s best for us and our children first…and shouldn’t worry about what others expectations are.

  9. Samantha says:

    Thank you for posting this! This could not have come at a better time! Grace is only 13 days old, was born small 5#10oz. She lost 9% of her birth weight before leaving the hospital. The nurses made me supplement once in the hospital so we could try and make her gain something and my milk wasn’t in yet. Since being home she has had quite a few growth spurt feedings at night that have made me want to quit altogether. Saw a lactation consultant yesterday and we now have a new schedule where I feed her every 2-3 hours then give her an ounce of formula. She is a lazy water an falls asleep at the breast frequently. So she is not taking enough of my milk to gain weight and has not met birth weight yet. I now pump after each feeding too. I feel like all I do is feed her and am constantly attached to her.
    I freaked oUt when they told me to use formula too. Wasn’t this natures way of feeding babies? Isn’t this healthiest for babies!? Why was my body working against me on this?!

    Then I realized what’s best for baby is that she eats. She gains weight and gets healthy. My job is to feed her, even if that means all day, and regardless of if it is formula or bottle. Thankfully formula is an option and she will take the bottle. So far she takes boob and bottle without confusion!!!

  10. Erin, I’m already putting pressure on myself to breastfeed this baby and I don’t know why. I cannot imagine trying to fulfill a hungry baby’s needs with breastmilk alone. Carsyn was a tiny baby with a small appetite and I was “lucky.” Thanks to you and other bloggy buddies I’m prepared for this boy to be a different story and am more knowledgable about the different demands of different babies. As always thanks for your sweet honesty :)

    I’m a little weepy reading your hospital scene. (darn hormones) I know how that post-c lap feels and I definitely know the feeling after being told your baby really needs to gain weight. You could have called me up for a pep talk ;)

  11. I loved your post. I did the samething with my two. My first was small but man could he eat. We had to start supplementing him in the hospital and they all said it was because my milk had not come in. After a few weeks the dr suggested I pumped to make sure I was making enough. I was, just not enough for him. I last 2.5 months of pump/feed/bottle feed. UGH!! My daughter was the same, but with another kid at home the the pump/feed/supplement got to be to much. I felt like after 5 weeks I was missing so much.

    It does still bother me when I here moms say, it was the hardest thing I ever did but I made it. It makes me feel like a failure. Did I not try hard enough? Did I do something wrong? I try not dwell but caution to those who say it. It probably was the hardest thing you ever had to do, and one of the hardest I did was decide to give up that part and be the mom I need to be. We are all equal and doing the best for our families.

  12. Jenna says:

    I looked so forward to breastfeeding before my baby was born. I actually had several of the most vivid dreams about feeding and bonding with my baby, and I couldn’t wait for her to get here so I could experience it. I felt so prepared, read the books, took the classes, etc, but it was a nightmare once she was born. Brestfeeding was so painful and as previous poster said, more so than birth even. I dreaded feeding her and would cry as I tried to latch her. Everyone kept telling me it would get better after a couple weeks, but it took much longer. I was so determined to stick with it, my husband finally bought me a Medela pump and insisted that I try it for a while. I was hesitant but once I did, we were all happier. She was about 5 weeks old when I first pumped and gave her a bottle and she wouldn’t nurse anymore. I was so disappointed, but I just decided to pump exclusively. (I am stubborn and wouldn’t give up on her getting breast milk :) ) I pumped until she was 10 months old with no problems, I had a great supply and she was a happy, healthy baby! I tell everyone breastfeeding is a committment and not for the faint of heart, but I was happy to be able to do it. I do hope that the next time around it will be easier. It’s great to read other women’s stories!

  13. Seriously Erin, I wish you had done this post 6 months ago. Oliver was 10 lbs 4 oz at birth and I experienced the exact same thing you’ve described above. The nurse on the second night told me my baby was dehydrated and I needed to supplement. I’m a first time mom and cried the entire night because I was such a failure. Then we came home and he’d fall asleep during every single feeding. I’ll tell anyone who will listen now that breastfeeding is NOT for everyone. I wish I hadn’t been bullied into thinking it was.

  14. LMC1971 says:

    Like you, I didn’t produce enough milk and he was a “lazy eater” too…so my little guy lost weight over the first few weeks. I did the pump route etc but found it so disagreeable. I started supplementing with formula at week 2 and that is what we stayed with. I would have loved to have breastfeed successfully but it didn’t happen for us. I have never second guessed my decision to bottle-feed and it’s too bad that a lot of people criticize parents for the choices they make if it’s not the way they think it should be done. My son just turned 4 and he’s 44 inches/41 lbs….he’s a very very healthy and happy boy.

  15. My milk did not come in for 7 days after labor. It was terrible. My daughter lost 2.4lbs. I thought I was a failure. Our pediatrician gave us supplemental formula at our first visit and I had a nervous breakdown. My husband and Mother gave the baby formula by syringe so that I could still be associated with breastfeeding.The supplementation was awesome and the baby gained weight as I hung out in limbo hoping my milk would come in. I kept up with attempting to nurse and once my milk came in I was able to nurse exclusively. Thank goodness for formula!

    I have felt both sides, the failure at not feeding, the guilt of giving formula as well as the guilt that I have had no problems since then. While some people feel pressured to nurse, I feel like I am criticized for breastfeeding. My daughter is almost 5 months old and my new mantra is “whatever it takes”! I am glad that formula works as does breastfeeding! Whatever it takes to keep Mom and baby happy and healthy!

  16. I wish more people would speak up about how hard it can be. Mine was tough. Between severe food sensitivities and a weak latch. I was not eating anything but bread and chicken. I was either pumping, trying to nurse, feeding expressed milk, or cleaning the pump my entire day. About six weeks in I called my doctor crying, asking if I could quit nursing. He told me to give up pumping for a few days and just nurse her and see how she does. That next day she figured it out. However, nursing every thirty minutes for the first six weeks (even at night), a few painful infections, and not being able to eat anything for nine months still made it very tough. I wanted to quit many times but didn’t out of guilt and cause she wouldn’t take a bottle. She is now fifteen months and still nursing. People have said I wish I could nurse like that, it is easy for you. It is now but it was very hard the first year. If I had to do it again, I am not sure I would stick with it.

  17. Jennifer says:

    Erin~ thank you so much for this post! I was literaly crying at the end. With my first son I pumped for eight months and fed him by bottle because he never was able to latch on. And like you, I was SO determined with my second one that I was going to make it work. The day before I delievered my second son I fell and broke my ankle. The stress of a newborn, broken ankle and having to depend on someone to help me constantly I stopped pumping after just two weeks. I felt like the worst mother on the planet and that I was letting Jaxon down. I’m sure know what I mean. I eventually had to tell myself that I have to do what’s best for me and my family. And formula was my option.

    So from the bottom of my heart thank you for this wonderful post.

  18. I think that so often the hardest part of any part of being a mom is our expectations. Either our own personal expectations or the expectations of others. With my first boy, I had NO idea that breastfeeding wasn’t easy as pie, no work needed. And due to a number of factors, after 3 months of the pump/supplement/breastfeed cycle, we switched to all formula and it was absolutely the best decision. Now with my second boy, we are still breastfeeding only and he is now 4 months. We will continue as long as it’s right for us. With both situations I cried the ugly cry because it is so hard to let go of any expectations or control I thought I had and just do what was best for us. And in both situations I cried tears of complete joy because both choices has given me two healthy boys who I love to pieces. I just try to encourage new mamas to go with your gut, don’t strangle yourself with expectations, and just love and enjoy your baby.

  19. Katie says:

    Thank you for posting this! I am due with our first baby any day now and have made the decision not to breast feed, and constantly feel judged by others – both friends and strangers. I also don’t understand why people feel it’s their place to ask and/or comment on your decision.

  20. Becky says:

    I nursed all 4 of my boys – the first two for about 7 months and the last two for 10 months and 12 months, respectively – and what bothered me the most was people (my MIL, in particular) who would go on and on about what a “bonding” experience it was and that if I didn’t feel that way, there was something wrong with me and I was doing it for the wrong reasons. So it wasn’t enough that I did it for my weight loss, or for the $aving$, or the convenience…..NO! I was LESS of a mother, in her eyes, if I wasn’t doing it exclusively for the baby’s benefit.

    So I learned an important lesson there that has stayed with me – do what YOU feel is right and tell everyone else to just stay out of it!

  21. I think most moms are disappointed with some aspect of the peripartum period. Nursing wasn’t so bad for me, and I know I’m very lucky. But I was SO disappointed that I ended up with a c-section. I STILL get sad thinking about it. We are just so hard on ourselves :(

  22. When my daughter was born, I began breast feeding. She was a lazy eater, and by the 2nd day she was jaundiced and also had to go on a heart monitor. They had me pumping and supplementing every 3 hours all why trying to get my crazy- high blood pressure under control. The hospital couldn’t rent me a pump so they sent me home with a hand pump. Ha! After much debate we went right to formula at home. I felt really guilty for awhile, and more so because I also felt relieved. Whie pregnant with our son, I decided I would try nursing again. After being placed on bed rest at 30 weeks for high blood pressure, my husband and I decided we would do formula so that I could get back to normal after delivery, especially with our daughter. I had a few moments of guilt but knew without a doubt I was doing what was best for our whole family. It makes me so angry that some hardcore people have started a war over the ways women choose to feed their babies.

  23. Lord, Lord. Easily the most agonizing guilt-filled aspect of mothering I’ve faced so far. I tried so hard. I wanted it so much. And I failed, twice. Pain, sleepy, lazy, hungry babies, and seriously unholy levels of pain sent me sobbing into the “breastmilk is better!”-stamped arms of Enfamil. In my heart I know that formula is right for us, but I get sick to my stomach any time I think of how other people perceive me for it. No justification is “enough” for some women and I just hate that. I sure am thankful for you, these commenters, and other women like you who know what it’s like and have no judgment for how mamas feed their babies.

  24. I am in the mist of breastfeeding my 3rd son. He will be 3 months old on Friday. I have BF all three of my boys with only the 1st having formula. I’m very proud of the fact that my second son had no formual and hope the same for my 3rd. It just became a personal objective for me. I thought if I could produce what my children need then why shouldn’t I? Heck, it’s free. Ha! …and truthfully, that was a major part of it. Formula is expensive. BUT, saying all that I would in no way judge another mom that can’t, won’t or just makes the choice to not breastfeed. I remember when feeding time came with my first child if we were out I would mix up a bottle or go to the car to nurse him. When my second came along, I said forget that…. I nursed him where ever we were. I am and also will be respectful of others and don’t anyone to be uncomfortable but I don’t want to “hide” in my car either. To each his own is my thoughts!! What’s it to me how you decide to feed your child?

  25. Nicole says:

    This is such an emotion charged decision for so many mothers and there really is a push to breastfeed no matter what the situation is. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I really wanted to breastfeed her. I wanted the whole mommy experience and really looked forward to that bonding experience, unfortunately life often doesn’t work out the way we want. Early on I was diagnosed with placenta previa and at first it didn’t cause any issues, but at week 28 I started having complications and was put on bed rest. I spent 4 of the next 6 weeks in the hospital. During that time they determined I actually had vasa previa, which meant that they would have to deliver my daughter by c-section at 34 weeks. Since she was six weeks early, her lungs were not fully developed, so she spent her first week in the NICU on a ventilator. We were barely allowed to touch her and I could not hold her until she was a week old. With all the complications and the early c-section, my body was not ready to breastfeed. I tried pumping and the lactation nurses really pushed breastfeeding. They kept saying that skin-to-skin touching would help, but since I could not hold her I could not do that and with pumping alone my milk would not come in. They finally put me on some medication to try to force my milk to come in, but the medication made me so tired and made my vision blurry, so I couldn’t drive to the NICU to see her and I finally just stopped the medication and pumped what I could and supplemented the rest with formula. She was in the NICU for 3 weeks. Once I got her home I tried to pump and supplement with formula, but I got so little that I finally had to accept that it just wasn’t going to work. At 5 weeks I stopped pumping and it was such a relief. I was so tired and stressed and all I wanted to do was feed my baby and enjoy my time with her. Formula was the right decision for us and it was frustrating that the hospital really pushed breastfeeding in a situation where it just was not working. I felt really guilty at first, but finally realized that making sure she was fed was the most important thing and how didn’t really matter. Now she is 14 months old and is a happy healthy little girl!

  26. Breastfeeding is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And being a working mom who has to pump….. hard. I usually nurse 5 times a day and pump 5 times a day just to keep a good supply. I pump late at night and early in the morning so with both kids – the first time I had a 7 hour stretch of sleep was after they turned 1 year old and I weaned them. Many times I think the reason I keep going is because of the enormous guilt that comes with being a working mom. I can’t stay home with them, but at least I can give them this. But breastfeeding has been a huge blessing as well. I feel so very lucky that it has worked for me with both children. Each time I had challenges – but they weren’t insurmountable. My kids didn’t lose a whole lot of weight – they were not overly demanding. My kids both latched on easily. I didn’t have to use a shield. I was able to nurse and not pump until I went back to work. I feel very lucky. I’m so proud of any mom who gives it a shot. You really have no idea how hard it is until you’ve tried it.

  27. I’m so glad you wrote this post because I went through much of the same. I think as women we want to “do it all” as we’re “supposed” to whatever that may be when we go into motherhood and then once we get into it, we realize that there is not ONE single way to parent/feed/raise our child and that everyone is different.

    I’m glad you spoke up about this because I’m sure there are many new moms out there struggling with these exact issues!

  28. Jessica R. says:

    OK, I just want to say – GOOD FOR YOU FOR DOING WHAT WAS BEST FOR YOUR BOYS AND YOUR FAMILY! People can be so judgmental and nasty when it comes to breastfeeding. I chose not to breastfeed because — I know this is shocking — I didn’t want to. The reality is that there is scant evidence that breastfeeding has almost any effect on a baby’s health. (See http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/04/the-case-against-breast-feeding/7311/ ) Yet women make themselves crazy to prove that they’re a “good mom” by breastfeeding. The fact is that formulas are excellent sources of nutrition for babies — they’ve come a long way in the last fifty years. Plus formula feeding allows Dad be involved in feeding, and for mom to take a break once in a while away from the baby (which God knows I really needed once in a while those first few months). My daughter was completely formula fed and she couldn’t be happier or healthier. (In fact, she gained weight WHILE in the hospital!) So feel good about your choice, Erin. Don’t let the judgmental mommies get you down — breast is not always best — what’s best is to have happy healthy kids and happy healthy moms!

  29. Jessica R. says:

    @ Katie. I was totally where you were 16 months ago. I chose not to breastfeed because I didn’t want to — and that is OK. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty or less than because of your choice. No matter how many well-intentioned people try to convince you that you “can” do it, it is a completely valid choice if you don’t want to do it. Formula is a totally healthy choice, and your baby deserves a happy mom as well!

  30. Danielle says:

    So I’m definitely a lurker of your blog…I read all the time, but never comment (sorry!) but then today I was on msnbc and this story was featured: http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/04/12034767-why-many-breast-feeding-moms-quit-earlier-than-planned?lite

    I knew I recognized your from somewhere! How awesome! I’m not a momma yet but wanted to say that I think you’re a great mom and it’s awesome that you’re telling your story :)

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