Home > Family, Learning, Love, Parenting > More to mothering than milk

More to mothering than milk

I spent Monday evening crying while reading posts entitled things like, “I hated breastfeeding.” Reading them helped me feel a little less alone.

I breastfed my eldest for more than two years after a very rocky start. I enjoyed the experience after we’d gotten the hang of it, and fully expected to have the same exultant experience this time around.


OTOH, this isn't so bad, though it does make typing this post challenging!

OTOH, this doesn’t suck, though it does make typing this post challenging!

The pain isn’t so bad. I mean, it’s excruciating on the one side, but also fleeting. I’m not concerned Littler J’s being underfed; he’s pounding out those peed diapers like a pro.

It’s more about time and energy. Most the time right now, I feel like a walking milk dispensary. 98% of my body–including my brain–seems to exist merely to transport the other 2% around for milk transfer. I currently exist in one of two states: feeding, or exhaustedly awaiting the next feeding.

On Tuesday morning, I decided I needed a time out. I warmed up a pumped bottle and let my husband have at.



Oh, noes! every lactation consultant I’ve ever met or read would tell me. You can’t do that until at least 4-6 weeks, when breastfeeding is established!

About that? I don’t care. I don’t care about the rules. I don’t care about anyone else’s expectations based on generalizations.

I care about not being frustrated with my littlest one because breastfeeding feels aggravating, not sweetly bonding.

I care about having energy to bond with my baby in ways that actually feel bonding to me, such as with playing or snuggling or reading together.

I care about having some left over to spend with my four-year-old son who, bless his heart, understands that Mommy isn’t frustrated with him but just very, very tired. (I heard him explaining this to Daddy this morning.)

I care about stepping back enough to bask in seeing my youngest son with his loving dad.

The first time around, I believed my success as a mother was contingent upon my ability to breastfeed–using no bottles, not even of pumped milk–and nothing else.

Four and a half years later, the thought is so preposterous it makes me chuckle. There’s so much more to mothering than that.

This time around, I’m taking a wider view early, affirming the truth as I wrote it in November:

I am not only a good mom, but a joyous mom, for as I look around I see I am in amazing company. We all do it a little differently, but parental success is not a formula. It is a process of seeing the little people we have nurtured, and constantly adapting our own nurturing to fit the people they are, too. It is the satisfaction of seeing those little ones grow ever less little, and ever more strong, confident and loving.

And it is, of course, recognizing that part of the goodness in our kids mirrors the goodness in us.

Boy howdy, do I see that goodness mirrored when my older son sings to the baby and kisses his toes.

Boy howdy, do I see that goodness mirrored when my older son sings to the baby and kisses his toes.

  1. katy
    April 17, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Boy are you correct. It is about SO MUCH MORE than milk. You are absolutely right on and don’t need me to tell you that. However you do it, you do it best for you and your family. Period. You are so stinkin’ awesome.

  2. April 17, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I totally understand and you’re not alone (or wrong). I bf my son for 2 years and my twins for 1 year. At first I was all gung ho about no bottles/no formula. But I was going insane and felt like you. Bf became a chore and I was becoming resentful. So we used bottles and formula and the world didn’t end. Do what’s right for YOU and your son. No book or blog or lactation consultant can determine what works for you. Trust your instincts and be gentle and flexible with yourself. You’re doing an excellent job!

  3. April 17, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Deb, I’ve been sicker than sick for the last 2 weeks (well, Maycee was sick the first and me the second and continuing), but I’ve been thinking of you and love seeing the baby pics!! I couldn’t breast feed. I was so tender in that area I couldn’t stand the thought, and so I bottle fed FORMULA from the beginning to Maycee. I think she’s doing quite well for a “bottle-fed” baby, lol. And, needless to say, my kiddo and I are about as bonded as Super Glue to a shoe! Some women do love breastfeeding, others don’t; there is NOTHING wrong with either feeling or being somewhere in between. Considering that most of us from my generation and older were fed on cow’s milk from a bottle and didn’t grow extra thumbs or suffer nutritionally, I think you are doing more than TTTTTT-rrific! Love you, and wish I could hug you all! XOXO-Kasey

  4. April 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Oh sweetie, you’re so right. Don’t worry about this being all-or-nothing, but do what works for you.

    I went back to work 4 weeks after both girls, but continued to breastfeed part-time for more than a year. They nursed first thing in the morning, then they got formula while I was gone, then nursed right before bed. My body got used to the reduced schedule, they got used to bottles and other people feeding them, and we still had that close, snuggling time.

  5. balmtomysoul
    April 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Beautifully said!! I remember when I came home with my little ones, neither one would breastfeed. In the hospital one nurse made me feel like a lost cause because I couldn’t get either one of them to latch! When I went to my pediatrician, we were still struggling. He called her a “breastfeeding Nazi”. My expectations had to come down a little, I needed to relax a little. Although one of my twins never breastfed, I was able to have enough milk to pump for her for 10 months. After 3 months I finally started enjoying breastfeeding. No one told me it would take that long!! Thanks for a good reminder that we are all good moms – just do things a little differently!

  6. Sunshine
    April 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Good for you for doing what is best for you. I breastfed all 4 of my girls and feeling like a cow was well, feeling like a cow! Sleep is rare when you have hungry babies (my last girl was 8 lbs 6 oz) so know that you are doing good even if taking a night off and whatever so called “experts” say is irrelevant. Congrats to you and Papa! Hugs

  7. April 17, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Hmm, my gut tells me introducing a bottle earlier than 6wks might make it easier in the long run because what if waiting too long means they accept nothing but the breast? The value of bonding with Dad (and a momentary break for Mom) far outweighs the risk of introducing a bottle (again, IMO) especially when you can do it sparingly if you truly are considered about preferences getting established for one or the other to the point of causing problems for the infant (which I don’t see happening).

    In other news, those pictures are amazing and make me so happy, I can only imagine how much joy they bring you. 🙂

  8. April 17, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Looks like you guys are doing just fine not living by the rule book. Why do we have those things anyway? 😉

  9. April 17, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    Great post. All the best to you and your family.

  10. April 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Rules are made to be broken. And your families happiness is very real in every photo. There is a reason so many cultures have used sleep deprivation/exhaustion as a torture. It is.
    And anything you can find to do to ease the load is a winner.

  11. April 17, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Lil’ D knows that baby toes are irresistible! 🙂 Good for you, Deborah! You have to do what works best for you and your family. Being rested and happy to give your littles all of the love and attention that they need is the most important thing. Doesn’t A look totally in love with Littler J in those pictures? They’re just precious and priceless! Hugs to you! ❤

  12. April 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

    You. Are. Amazing. Those are some lucky kids. I’m waving good sleep vibes your way!

  13. April 17, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    We all need to be less hard on ourselves! Whatever gets you and your family through is the right move. It’s important to make these choices with confidence (or fake it well) and it sounds like that’s what you’re doing. Good job! 🙂

  14. April 18, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Beautiful! Happy kids and happy parents with singing and snuggling and toe-kissing thrown in sounds like the perfect formula to me!

  15. April 18, 2014 at 5:21 am

    I am so happy you trust yourself. It is funny to read you and watch my daughter-in-law, you are both doing the very same happiness dance, I find myself wanting to put on music and dance with you. The pictures! Wonderful, marvelous to see brothers together lovingly, daddy bonding time and you not looking like you want to tip over (though I am certain you might want to some of the time).

    I so very much love you!

  16. April 19, 2014 at 4:52 am

    You are such a great mom. If there’s one thing I learned it’s to go with what works best for you (your sanity!) and the baby. You really can’t go wrong.

    I had two very different experiences feeding my kids. My son I breastfed for a month, then switched over to pumping, then formula because he had stomach surgery at 6 weeks old and other issues.

    My daughter I breastfed exclusively for 6 months, no pumping or bottles. I had mastitis, let-down issues and ended up seeing a lactation consultant to get through the excruciating painful moments so I could keep breastfeeding.

    The end result? Now I have two incredibly loving, sweet, brilliant kids that know their mom loves them more than life. I think I did a good job, breastfeeding or not, the bonds are strong.

  17. April 20, 2014 at 6:14 am

    I love breastfeeding, but I have no idea why women are made to feel they must adhere to absurdly lofty standards to be a success. In my opinion (and experience nursing two children), using expressed milk (or even the odd bottle of formula) doesn’t ruin supply or the breastfeeding relationship.
    From what you’ve shared above, I think that having your husband help with a feeding now and then is a means to assist and prolong breastfeeding by reducing your stress load.
    If breastfeeding standards are too rigid and demanding, women will stop nursing earlier. A little flexibility from day-to-day could keep the milk flowing for many more months!

  18. April 20, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    Lactation consultants can suck it lol sorry to say but it’s true. Sometimes you need a break, for your own sanity and also to give yourself some relief. There is nothing wrong with pumping and feeding breastmilk.
    In fact, I did that as soon as we got home from the hospital with my son. Breastfeeding was just really exhausting and painful (I seriously cried during our feeding sessions) that I started pumping twice a day and use bottles at night. It really helped because I knew baby was full and he would sleep longer, and it was a nice way to get some rest. Daddy really enjoyed contributing to the feedings, too. It was great all around.
    Don’t listen to negative people, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! 🙂

  19. April 20, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    It has taken me a lot of months and a lot of perspective, but I, too, can now see that being a good mom goes so far beyond nursing. Your baby is loved, well cared for and nourished. Children need a mother who celebrates her time with them—and if that means that Dad gets a chance to feed them, then hooray!

    I wholly support and high-five your decision to take care of yourself.

  20. April 21, 2014 at 5:49 am

    I think the rules are over-hyped anyway. Best of luck on your breastfeeding journey! I’m sure you remember from last time that they do get more efficient at it, so here’s hoping this one learns that fast!

    (Over from the Space Monkey Twins.)

  21. April 22, 2014 at 11:26 am

    Our lactation specialist actually said it’s fine to introduce the bottle around 2-3 weeks because very few babies actually get nipple confusion. Go figure…. I wish I knew that when I was nursing in agony with mastitis.

  22. April 23, 2014 at 6:15 am

    Our twins were in the NICU for 11 weeks and actually weren’t allowed to come home until they could take all their feeds by a bottle. It’s really convenient because I’m not the only one who can feed them. The grandparents love it and it makes my life so much easier. That said, I sometimes do feel guilty that I don’t breastfeed much. I guess we all do the very best we can!

  23. May 2, 2014 at 10:19 am

    I hope to reply to individual comments in the next couple of weeks, but wanted to say a huge thanks to each of you now for your loving encouragement. Yesterday I decided to move to pumping for some feedings, which felt a lot easier to do thanks to your words of wisdom here. It was a huge load off my shoulders. HUGE. And, wouldn’t you know, huge loads off shoulders makes showing the love a heckuva lot easier. Thanks. ♥

  24. May 2, 2014 at 11:12 am

    I don’t know WTF happened but I missed the new arrival entirely. Congrats and EVERYTHING else you need right now…support,love,encouragement…all of it.

  1. July 9, 2015 at 11:46 am

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