Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Inadequacy revisited

So in the beginning, when I wasn't producing enough milk, I felt totally inadequate.

I couldn't feed my baby. He'd dropped a pound in the hospital. As soon as we got out, the pediatrician made us return three times in a week for weigh-ins.

And every time he nursed, I'd get all clenchy. Sometimes I'd cry. Or just think hateful thoughts.

As you may imagine, this helped a great deal. And was super fun.

But a couple things were going on. One, with the PPD, I felt so trapped. And then I'd be physically stuck in the chair or bed. I felt like I was suffocating every time.

And then, then he'd nurse and still be hungry. Which made me feel like a huge loser. And made me so resentful. I'm doing my best. You're sucking the life out of me. And it's still not enough.

I dreaded feeding him. I dreaded everything, really.

I just wanted to walk out the door, lock it behind me, get in my car and just keep driving. After I had a huge nap. And a stiff drink or five.

Yes, I realize I'd have gotten pulled over for drunk driving. I didn't really think it through - particularly since I'd have been drinking and driving on top of Vicodin.

But I didn't flee, drink, or drive.

And then Mr. Zoloft made things better, fast.

So things got better, and then they even got good. More than good. Wonderful.

But at the point where they were wonderful, and he was entirely on breast milk, and I was really liking having him nurse, I went back to work.

And no matter how much I visualize while pumping, I just can't make enough. I sit there all, "I make huge glasses of milk!" I imagine a tall, cool glass of milk overflowing.

This helps. But not enough.

I also read blogs during the pumping. And sometimes a totally random post will make my milk just gush. Weird, I know. I can't explain it.

So he is back on formula. Which is fine.


Except that whenever I read anything about breastfeeding, I feel like crap. My kid should be exclusively breastfed. Exclusively. For the first six months. You're practically poisoning your kid, plus being a bad mom, if you supplement.

The more I read, the worse I feel.

I know this is stupid. He's well fed, he's healthy, and he's happy. But I still feel inadequate.

I'm doing my best, and it's not enough. I can't feed my kid.


  1. Hi hon, I am so sorry you are feeling this way. I know i am already feeling intimidated by the "breastfeed or die" type propaganda and my little guy hasn't even arrived yet! The truth is that there is NO shame in supplementing with formula or even using formula straight up. I thought all moms before us did tons of breastfeeding hands free with their eyes closed and i recently found out from both my mom and mom in law that NEITHER lasted more than 3 months (mostly no more than 1 month!) with ANY of their kids. And we're all fine and i guaranty you the formulas available now are better than what was available back then.

    So no shame, no feeling of inadequacy. You've done very well by Big J and he is a happy healthy baby and thriving.

    Society puts so much pressure and emphasis on breastfeeding as if there is no alternative. I say F*ck that, we all do the best we can. You love your boy more than life and that is all he really needs.

  2. Oh Lisa Sweety, dont punish yourself so. I know how hard it is I couldnt feed and went through what your are going through. Many tears and a good growling from my mum later (she told me off for feeling inadequate) I realised that yes I am a good mum and by recognising that you need to supplement you are doing the right thing. Sometimes it just doesnt work the way we want it to but that doesnt mean we are inadequate.
    You are a great mum and Jordan wont suffer because of this. Ben is 16 now and we have a fantastically close relationship. It will be ok. :)

  3. oh and remember...you are a little dot of a thing and Jordan is gigantor son.......he has a huge appetite cause he's going to be like his dad. All tall and gorgeous.

  4. You're on Zoloft and you're breastfeeding? What you feed you, you feed him. So, maybe there's a connection with him being happier, too? Anyway, a little formula won't hurt him at all. I promise. *pinky swear*

  5. Alisa - Thank you. You are SO right - there is so much "breastfeed or die" propaganda. And the ridiculous thing is, I think it's fine to use formula from the get-go - so why did/does it make me feel so bad??? It is a huge amount of pressure.

    Go-Betty - Thank you very much for these kind words and the reassurance. And thank you for making me laugh - I'm "a little dot of a thing". :)

    lacochran - I dunno, but if that's the case, I recommend it. He's a joy. They say very very little gets through, and Zoloft is the preferred drug.

  6. You are a wonderful mother. Ultimately you are providing him with exactly what he needs, and it doesn't matter if it is from the boob or formula.

  7. Ok, coming from a non-parent, I would think if you are still feeding him breastmilk, but supplementing with formula, it's kind of like school. You can monitor how healthy your kids eat at home, but if they get a candy bar from a friend at school, or drink a soda with lunch, well...it just happens. And it won't stunt their growth or impair them. It's just a little extra snack.

  8. I was not breastfed at all and I did not die. So. Jordan will be just fine. You are doing the best you can - what more can you do? You rock, lady. Don't forget it!

  9. Don't fall into the trap!! I was feeling the exact same way you were in the beginning, but instead of getting zoloft, I got off breastfeeding. Wish I would have done both b/c that depression really blows!

    Of course I started to compare myself to everyone in the world I did and didn't know who was breastfeeding. And the whole, "If they can do it, why can't I. Oh, b/c I suck and I don't love my baby as much as they do." crap. Once I got over myself and realized I just have to do what makes me happy and therefore makes me a better mom, I was at peace. It was definitely the best decision I could make for my baby and myself.

    Try to block-out outside sources and do what you know is best for you and your little man! And, remember this is only for a little bit - he will be eating real food before you know it!

  10. My son is 4 months and his bottles are all 1/2 breast milk and 1/2 formula. I really stressed about it, but my doctor said "ALL breastmilk is perfect, but ANY breastmilk at each feeding is really close"

    We have to do what we can. The guilt is a part of motherhood, I think.

    I went back to work and all of a sudden the 25 bags of frozen milk are now a dozen bags of frozen milk. Eeeek. But I know I can only do what I can.

  11. Aaaaghhh! I swear, there are entirely too many people with entirely too many opinions about things that are none of their business.

    He's happy and healthy and wonderful, and supplementing is a pretty normal thing. I'm sending you photos of some pretty cute kids I know whose feedings were very much supplemented. Big J will be just fine.

  12. There's so much about this motherhood gig that seems to be made to make us feel like we're not trying/doing/being ENOUGH. And that's kind of crap. You love your kid, you feed your kid, you do your best by your kid. Don't let other people (especially the breastfeeding propaganda) make you feel like you're not.

    One lactation consultant I adored said "give him what he can get, and other than that don't worry--they all grow up and are fabulous whether they eat breastmilk or formula." I know that doesn't change how you feel, but maybe if you hear it enough you'll start to believe it a little.

  13. Please please don't beat yourself over breastfeeding. I swear, while breastfeeding is obviously good for baby, the La Leche nazis seem to have gotten a stranglehold on women's psyches to the point that they think that they are harming their child by giving them formula. This is complete and utter bullshit. There have been enormous advances in formula, to the point that it comes incredibly close to duplicating the benefits of breastmilk. I wasn't able to breastfeed, and both of my children are perfectly healthy. Big J will be fine. You're a terrific mother, and you're doing absolutely right by him.

  14. Hi Lisa,
    My sister-in-law is nursing nowadays. This is what she does:

    Drink a lot of liquids, especially milk and juices. Immediately before you nurse or pump milk drink milk or some other liquid. You can also drink water, milk, or juices while you pump or nurse. Also eat a healthy amount of food, you can worry about losing the baby weight later.

    Hope this helps.

  15. i know i'm not a mom so my words don't hold much weight in this arena but i can tell you that i wasn't breastfed and i'm fine (at least i think so : )
    and my sister couldn't breastfeed her second child becuase it caused such acid problems with her first. she wanted to do it but it was actually better for the child not to.
    my point here is that the doctors wouldn't tell you to do this if it was any harm for your child. and your son will be just as wonderful, cute, and bubbling as my non-BFed niece! just be happy that you're doing what you can, that's all he needs : )

  16. First, stop beating yourself up. You have done a wonderful job. Jordan will be FINE. Better than fine. He'll be amazing.

    And just coz everyone else is doing it, here are my breastfeeding stories. My grandmother didn't produce enough milk. My mom, aunt and uncles were fed with condensed milk, cut with water and vitamin powder added. Neither my brother or I were breastfed because my mother didn't want to. [And don't get her started on the breast feed or die people. . . ] We're both productive members of society. Graduated college even!

    Jess was not breast fed because (like you) I had horrible PPD that made me want to run away. Unlike you, I didn't realize it for a LONG time. I stopped BFing at 1 week. Jessica is now a smart, bubbly 4 year old.

    Let Jordan enjoy his formula from grandma and don't spend any more time or energy worrying about it. Believe me, as moms, we all have enough to worry about!!!! HUGS.

  17. *hugs*

    The first thing you need to do is to stop reading breastfeeding blogs. Anyone who writes so dogmatically (everyone must breastfeed - formula is evil... or the other way around) is wrong and silly.

    You do what is right for you. Big J and your pediatrician will help you decide what is right for you... but you decide what is right for you.


  18. Neither I nor my sisters were breastfed and we are, if I may say so, LOVELY women who don't have any medical or smartness issues. So at least my 3 sisters and I are proof that that whole "your formula fed baby will be comparatively dumber and more sickly as adult" theory is crap!

  19. Lisa,

    Don't let this bring you down. you're doing amazing. and there will always be something you feel guilty about. you have to accept that you're always doing your best and that you are the best mom you can be. otherwise, it'll be a viscious cycle.

    if it makes you feel better, i didn't even try to breast feed. not one bit. it's not for me.

    and my mother in law never let me forget it. if my kid coughed she gave me the "you know, bf and immunity" eyes.

    life is hard, being a mom is beyond hard. give yourself a break and the credit you deserve for all that you do for Jordan, Betty, Nick, your friends, etc.. and don't forget to take care of you - physically and mentally. you need it and everyone need you.


  20. You are doing great, and I totally feel you on the shitty pumping. I was able to get about 4 oz on a good day, and when I finally stopped pumping every nursing session was like "this may be the last, my milk will probably dry up now"- but it's been almost 6 months since I stopped pumping and she nurses once a day (morning so she doesn't get frustrated and bite) and I love it.
    Do I wish I could still be breastfeeding exclusively? Absolutely, but I try to remind myself of how many mothers I know couldn't do it at all and TRY (mostly) to be grateful.
    I keep thinking that this once a day thing is redic, but I can't not do it.

  21. Ah man, so sorry you're feeling like this. It's a bloody minefield, this motherhood business. I think we must be programmed to feel like we're not doing right by our kids, even when logically we know we are. Two fingers to all the smug breastfeeding propaganda people. If you can't you can't, it's not as if you don't want to. Not as if you've decided not to breastfeed coz you don't want saggy boobs or anything! He is adorable and looks to be doing just fine. Don't stress it (how easy that is to say!). Hope you feel better soon.

  22. Just saw this and thought of Big J:


  23. my boy came 2 1/2 weeks early. via c-section, general anesthaesia. horrible. i was not prepared for his birth, was shocked actually when he arrived "so early", could not produce milk. my midwife said it's because my body was surprised he was here, also because he was in a different ward than me for 10 days (!) because of a newborn infection, plus they supplemented from day one in order for him to be able to absorb the medication he was getting for his infection.

    no milk. and i have huuuuge breasts :-) people did not believe me when i said this. so bottles for the boy. only. nothing else. and i felt like shit because i did not have any of the bonding after birth, while nursing him, none of that. be grateful you have these moments with him!

    on a side note: my kid is much less sick than his little friends who were nursed. don't know why. he is happy, healthy, fine. formula these days is much better than it was in the 70s when we were nursed, and then only about 3 weeks, 6 at most! and then fed with formula. you also have to keep in mind that right now, there is a nursing-boom and it's the "better" thing to do in the eye of the public, but in the 70s, it was "modern" and the "better" thing to do to give the bottle.

    don't let yourself get scared or intimidated, you are doing the best you can. think of all the moms who can't nurse because they are sick, because they simply can't, it's horrbile for them to be told they are harming their child when they are doing THE BEST THEY CAN for their kid!! and it's getting food, one way or the other. harming the kid is not giving him enough food. it does not matter where it comes from.

    don't worry. little big J will be fine, even if you don't produce tall overflowing glasses of milk each time you pump or nurse him.

    Also: my kid is and was much more in touch with his dad because he was able to help with bottles and I was not the only one providing the food. and: I was able to sleep more and rest because we took turns feeding him during the night.

    there is always pros and cons, don't get frustrated and don't feel inadequate. you are a GOOD MOM!


  24. I am sorry that you are feeling this way! But do NOT let the things you read on the internet or other things scare you! Seriously - your babe is going to be just fine! If he were sickly or something like that, then it would be a different story. But he's healthy, right?

    I stopped breastfeeding at 6 weeks. I was having trouble producing and he just wasn't getting enough to eat. It was stressful and more often than not, we both just ended up crying. I decided that having a relaxing feeding time that allowed us to bond was way more important than breastfeeding. Because we weren't relaxing. So I stopped the boob cafe and he started on formula. It took me a few weeks to feel completely OK about it but once the milk finally completely stopped, I knew I had made the right decision. And, now, a year later I know I made the right decision. Because I did what was best for him and for me and not what society deemed appropriate.

    Anyway, to finish, you can feed your kid. Sure, not via the method you were hoping, but whether it's from a boob or a bottle, it's feeding your kid.

    I hope things start feeling better!

  25. I know there's not much I can say that will make you feel better, but I thought I would mention that my mom never breastfed me or my older brother. She worked and went to school and supported my dad for chunks of the year when he didn't work, so really didn't have the time or energy. Both my brother and I are very healthy (rarely sick, knock on wood), very happy, very well-adjusted people. We had good childhoods. I know dealing with your situation can be rough, but please don't beat yourself up about it. You're doing a fantastic job of being a mother!

  26. hi Lisa, here's something to read about breastfeeding that might make you feel less like crap. It argues that breastfeeding has become - dare I say it? - a bit of a sacred cow. And since you know all about sacred cows...


    Love the blog btw!


  27. THANK YOU for the "Case Against Breastfeeding" article!! I guess I'm not TOTALLY over my semi-failure feeling b/c this article totally made my day. Maybe we new mommy's just need to be reassured sometimes - even if it's from a magazine article!

  28. Oh, I am sorry. It's so much more emotional than you'd think, this breastfeeding thing. I have some distance from it now and can see that the things that caused me so much angst weren't so horrible in the end. But no one- NO ONE- could have told me that when I was in the thick of it.

    (the Atlantic article also resonated with me when I first read it. When my son weaned himself a couple months later, I read it again. So very liberating!)

  29. Lisa - first of all, formula is not rat poison. Jordan is getting the benefits of both your milk and formula, so be happy!

    Secondly, you're not alone. I can pump maybe 7 oz total a day at work (pumping once in the morning, once in the afternoon). The only reason it works for us is that my boy doesn't like the bottle, and waits for me to get home to marathon feed. I felt horrible the first few weeks back at work when he'd go 10 hours eating just 2-4 ounces all day. He's up to maybe 6 oz per day while I'm gone, which seems to be doing the trick. But still, would you rather have a baby that starves himself, or one with a healthy appetite? Be glad that he's eating and that he's getting good nutrition, whether from you or from formula.

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