Let me just start by saying that I’m a proponent of fed is best. Breast milk, formula, you do you, momma.
I personally prefer to breastfeed exclusively, but it’s typically been a bit of a roller coaster. I long for the day I can fill two bottles at once and worry about them overflowing.
I’ve never been able to produce a freezer full of milk, and I’m honestly jealous of those who can.
For some reason, even after experiencing breastfeeding as a working mother twice before, I had the mistaken impression that this time around I’d suddenly produce more milk and things would be much easier.
Instead, it feels like my “milk machine” works about as well as the ice cream machine at McDonald’s…
With my first-born, I struggled to stay ahead of her, much less keep up. It was a daily battle of pumping, drinking insane amounts of water, taking herbal supplements and squeezing out every last drop that I could. I became consumed with worry that I’d have to give her formula. Stress over breastmilk got the best of me for nearly a year.
My second daughter was a champ at nursing. I felt more confident going back to work and pumping for her and I didn’t have to go overboard in my efforts to produce right away. But as she got a few months older, I realized I definitely wasn’t keeping up with her and had to start supplementing with formula. After six months, I was done breastfeeding altogether.
I am currently nursing my third baby who thinks of me as a 24/7 Breastaurant.
She latched on right after she was born and has amazed me at how quickly we hit our stride together. We’ve had to feed her formula sparingly because I can’t produce much extra milk for when I’m away from her. That quickly forced me to come to grips with the reality that she wouldn’t be fed 100% breast milk.
Now that I’m back at work, I’m incredibly lucky to have access to a private Mother’s Room in order to pump. There is a small fridge in that room and I wish I could boast full bags or bottles of milk in there after a day’s efforts. But that just isn’t the case.
I actually conceal my breast milk in the fridge because the tiny amount I pump embarrasses me.
This time around I tried drinking coconut water and eating lactation cookies and brownies in the first few weeks. I think it helped me keep up with my baby’s cluster feedings, but long-term, that gets expensive and I don’t particularly enjoy coconut water.
I’m well aware that any breast milk at all is beneficial for my daughter, of course! Still, I worry that supplementing might cause her to have tummy aches and wonder whether I’ve chosen the best formula for her. I do recognize that it’s ridiculous to compare myself (and my boobs) to other moms because we’re all different.
I think I have this envy because it feels like my body isn’t excelling at what it was designed to do. However, I’m grateful that formula exists so that my baby can be fed if/when my breast milk isn’t available.
Besides, I have no doubt that my baby is getting enough to eat. Her chubby thighs and round cheeks remind me how healthy she is and that she’s growing wonderfully. Eventually, our breastfeeding adventure will come to an end and I’ll always be grateful for it. I appreciate that I’ve been able to provide any milk for her at all as well as the comfort and closeness that nursing creates.
How Have I Coped With My Envy?
I’ve worked with lactation consultants, doctors and nurses. I follow all the advice but the end result is the same.
I enjoy following lactation groups and specialists on social media. It helps to feel the camaraderie of other mothers along with humor, plus I get useful advice for common struggles with breastfeeding or pumping. I’ve also attended lactation support groups and encountered so many others who have felt the same about their production volume.
My husband and family have been tremendously supportive and encouraging of however the baby is fed, which takes the pressure off of me. My employer and colleagues are also understanding so I can keep doing the best I can personally and professionally.
I’ve been able to normalize breastfeeding for my daughters so that it isn’t a taboo subject for them to discuss. They’ve learned that the baby needs to be fed and we do everything we can, breastmilk or formula, to be sure that their sister’s needs are met.
I’m proud of that – even if I’m not thrilled that my bags of breast milk are on the smaller size, my girls have the knowledge and confidence that if/when they have children of their own, they have options and know they can come to me for support.
No matter what they choose.
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