The Death of Exclusive Breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding is out the window.

It started with my recent work trips.  With traveling overseas, pumping during the workweek just wasn’t possible. While America doesn’t have the greatest family-supporting laws, one thing it does do is support the ability for mothers to pump in the workplace. Not so in Europe. (Of course, Europe always supports mothers to stay home longer with their babies so the need isn’t as prevalent.) I would have to wean myself.

I had stocked the freezer with tons of milk, knowing I’d eventually have to travel. With my last trip, I was able to bring home milk and replenish. This time, I wouldn’t be able to bring milk home due to the crazy itinerary we had planned. And as I counted out the milk I had saved in the freezer, I realized I was short. I wouldn’t  be able to keep Keira on 100% breastmilk and would be introducing formula at 7 months old.

In the days leading up to my trip, I weaned partially with sadness.

I  was unsure if this would kill my supply completely. Would our breastfeeding relationship be damaged completely? I felt guilty for having to introduce formula after all my hard work of trying to keep her exclusively breastfed. While I congratulated my supplementing friends for giving their babies even just a little breastmilk, I was simultaneously chastising myself that I should have done more, pumped more, not traveled, etc, etc, etc.  In my mind, somehow I had equated the introduction of formula to be my failure as a mom.

As I returned home, I found my supply had indeed been damaged. And so had our breastfeeding relationship. Where we used to have effortless nursing sessions, now Keira would scream and hit me and pull away from me when trying to nurse her. I tried pumping more. Drinking beer. Oatmeal. But it wasn’t enough to support her completely. Supplementation with formula continued.

After a couple days of this fighting, I initially resigned myself in melancholy that I wouldn’t get back what was lost. There were ways to get back the supply but the time effort needed was more than I could do with three kids and a demanding job on top of the Christmas stress. And at the age of 7 months, I told myself, there were only a few more months left until formula would even be needed. I reasoned that I was being selfish for forcing the nursing relationship on Keira when she was ready to move on.

What I found, though, was that Keira would not give up the morning nursing session. Now I find peace in knowing that it’s the one time of the day where her and I can spend that moment together. While we may have moved on from exclusive breastfeeding, I’m still providing her at least partially with the antibodies she needs through the morning feedings and pumping through the day. The antibodies may come in the form of a bottle mixed with formula but breastfeeding is not completely over.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sara
    Jan 03, 2011 @ 10:30:54


    You are an amazing mama, and what you feed your baby is totally inconsequential. You know this, but I know it’s different when it happens to you, so I’ll repeat it. I’m happy for you that you and Keira have that special morning time together. That bonding is what’s important – breast or bottle.


  2. Donita
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 11:29:02

    Adriana wasn’t thriving on breastmilk alone because she had a hard time eating from both breasts. At 9 months (I was now back at work full time after the summer) I had to introduce formula for 2 of her feedings. It killed me, but like you, I knew there weren’t that many months left where she would need it. She kept her night nursings because my mornings were so rushed I just pumped instead. You are doing an amazing thing with at least trying to continue. Being a mom, and a working mom at that, it’s hard. I’ve done it now with 2 children and trying to nurse and work and have a life is hard. I am very proud of you cousin. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! ::hugs::


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