Guest post: When breast isn’t best

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Freda McFadden is the co-author of Baby City, a book detailing the life of a resident working on Labor and Delivery in a busy hospital. Dr. Amy provided her advice on a difficult homebirth scene in this novel, and in her honor, 25% of profits will go to the Fistula Foundation.

That’s right, I said it. Breastmilk isn’t always best.

I always considered myself to have a very healthy attitude about breastfeeding. I set a goal for myself to do it for a year, but was willing to occasionally supplement with formula. And when women tell me they want to breastfeed, I try to offer practical tips, including telling them not to stress if it doesn’t work out.

But when I was breast-feeding my younger daughter, I realized that my attitude about breastfeeding was far from healthy.

Ways you know you have an unhealthy breastmilk obsession:

–You have passed up a chance to do something actually enjoyable in order to pump

–Your baby is 6+ months and you are still pumping

–Even though it means you leave work later and see your baby less

–Your freezer contains more milk than food

–You have fed your baby breastmilk that might have been going stale so it wouldn’t get “wasted”

–You make breastmilk bottles for day care with less milk than you think your baby will drink so none of it will get “wasted”

–You feel sad/angry when the baby doesn’t drink all the milk in a bottle because it is “wasted”

–You have given up sleep to pump

–You have given up sleep to keep your baby from getting a single bottle of formula

–You think formula smells bad

–When your baby does get formula, you feel guilty

–Even though you pretend not to, you secretly judge other women who don’t breastfeed for at least a full year

–You find mold on your pumping equipment, but instead of throwing away your frozen stored breastmilk, you continue to feed your baby potentially moldy milk, even though your infant is 10 months old and you still have plenty of fresh breast milk for her. Just hypothetically speaking…

Women are taught to chant “breast is best” in our sleep. (What sleep, right?) But I’d like to think that we women have brains and are not automatons who must breastfeed no matter what, even if it’s not in our best interest.

That’s why my favorite mantra is not “Breast is best,” but rather, “Happy mama, happy baby.”

A version of this article was originally posted in Mothers in Medicine.

  • deafgimp

    I just read this story of a woman who took off because CPS visited her since her breastfed baby was underweight. She and her partner went bonkers and instead of oh, supplementing they decided running for the hills was a better response.

  • anon

    Breast feeding should be something you GET to do, not something you HAVE to do at the expense of everything else that is good in your life. If I ever have another child, I vow to combination feed, and if that doesn’t work, exclusive formula.

  • me

    The only ones that I don’t particularly agree with:

    “Your baby is 6+ months and you are still pumping”

    Over a year? Sure, stop pumping – the child can have cow’s milk (or some other “milk”). And while pumping becomes less important after 6 months (the child can have solids to tide her over until you return), the only suitable alternative to breastmilk between 6 mos and 1 year is formula. So you either pump, or supplement with formula, if you are going to be away from baby for more than a couple hours. Either is a valid option, but suggesting that mothers who opt to continue to pump means they have an “unhealthy bfing obsession” isn’t exactly logical…. maybe they’d just rather use expressed milk than formula.

    “You feel sad/angry when the baby doesn’t drink all the milk in a bottle because it is “wasted””

    Really, this applies to all the comments about breastmilk getting “wasted” – I never formula fed, but I think I’d be unhappy about having to throw away unused formula too. Waste is waste. It sucks. You paid for that (be it out of your checking acct, or with your time). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be upset at wasted food. Now… that said, there is sad/angry and *irrationally* sad/angry. It also pains me to throw away perfectly good dinner that my 2 year old didn’t eat, but I don’t try to make her finish, or save it for later and refuse to give her anything else until she has eaten it or whatever… it’s more a passing ‘there are starving children in this world who would love to have this’ thought. Blame my parents for drilling that into my head at an early age 😉

    “You think formula smells bad”

    Meh. I also think pampers smell bad (that’s why I use huggies, lol). That said, in an emergency, if all that is available is pampers (or formula) I’d still use it. But people’s olfactory preferences really have no bearing on the conversation.
    Beyond that, yeah, the rest of what she said makes sense in terms of an unhealthy obsession with bfing.

    • Ardea

      I get around the concept of waste like this: all the atoms that make up the earth have been here since the earth began (plus what comes in as space dust), and, once it’s here, it’s not going anywhere, but will be continually recycled. The atoms that are me and that became my breastmilk or the broccoli in the garden/refrigerator/compost heap are just on temporary loan before moving on to something else.

  • wookie130

    I absolutely hated pumping. HATED IT. I would rather have had my newborn sprout an immediate full set of teeth, and attempt to bite my breast clear off than pump another day.

    • Wren

      In that case, don’t do it.

  • momofone

    I’ve been thinking about this, and here are my thoughts (for what they’re worth): breast (including pumping) is not best when it’s not what you want to do, or when it impedes your ability to enjoy your life and/or your baby, or when you find something that works better for your family. All the rest is just detail.

  • KeeperOfTheBooks

    On a slightly random if also slightly related note, “Baby City” is currently free on Kindle if you have their Unlimited subscription, which I do. I read it last night. Fast, easy, light medical read, if anyone’s looking for a couple of hours of entertainment. I enjoyed it; thought maybe some here would, too. 🙂

    • Do you think it would be appropriate for a Kindle-owning friend who is
      currently on modified bed rest with her first child due in the next
      week?

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Depends entirely on the friend. It is set in Labor and Delivery, so there are a couple of baby deaths in the 15-20 births that are described in detail from the general background L&D hum. That’s a disproportionate number, of course, because it’s a novel–you aren’t going to write about 98 births before you write about a uterine rupture, for example.
        When I was pregnant, I wasn’t especially bothered by bad outcome stories because I figured either a) it wouldn’t happen to me because I wasn’t taking certain risks (if I’m giving birth in a hospital, a grossly incompetent CPM at a homebirth isn’t going to be an issue) or b) could happen, but beyond taking reasonable precautions there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so why worry? However, a lot of women don’t like reading about bad pregnancy outcomes while pregnant, and you know your friend better than I. 😉 If she doesn’t mind that sort of thing, it could be a great way to pass an afternoon!

  • Sue

    I like Bofa’s rule: “Breast is best, ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL.”

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      And all other things are never equal. 😉

  • theadequatemother

    I relate. I went back part time at 4 months, full time at 6. I used to pump between operativecases in one of the call rooms. I had to hands free pump because between cases I would have time to pump or to eat but not both so I had to learn to multitask. Made for a hectic work day. i finally stopped because it was ridiculous and eking out 10-15 min between cases and being engorged at work was just bad for patient safety. As an independent contractor I didn’t qualify for parental leave and I am fortunate that my short staffed clinical group could spare me as long as they did. Looking back I probably shouldn’t have pumped at all.

  • Jessica

    I’ll agree with the others that pumping falls into the YMMV category. I never really minded pumping, and having a private office meant I had the flexibility to work and pump at the same time. Ultimately, I enjoyed breastfeeding a lot, and pumping was the way in which I was able to continue that despite being a full-time working mom. I quit pumping when my son turned one, but continued to nurse him first thing in the morning and just before bed until he was 19 months old. Those sweet, sleepy, relaxed nursing sessions were lovely ways to connect with my son, with lots of smiles and giggles and pats and I’m glad it worked for us both. Had I quit pumping at six months because someone told me it was a sign of being obsessed, I would not have been able to continue doing something I find enjoyable. However, if pumping makes you or your baby miserable, by all means quit!

  • Laura

    My son just refused to breastfeed at 6 months so I switched to formula so I wouldn’t go crazy. My daughter would not get off the boob, she only took at bottle when she was 1 day old. I was not happy about that because it meant I couldn’t go to dinner/movie with my husband until she was over a year old. I don’t get this craziness with breastfeeding, when it didn’t work out for my sister in law I told her that is ok and there are benefits to formula and after they are a year old it doesn’t matter.

  • MaineJen

    Making pathetically small bottles to bring to daycare so none of the milk will be ‘wasted…’ yup. Pumping was such a ridiculous hassle at work. I kept it up for way longer than was practical, looking back now.

    • momofone

      I did too. Looking back, I would’ve supplemented and kept on trucking.

    • Megan

      Actually I do this with formula too since you’re supposed to pitch it after 2 hours and DD is a nibbler. I’d easily waste lots of formula if I didn’t do it this way. I hate to waste anything!!

  • Michele

    –Your freezer contains more milk than food
    *hides freezer*
    I have oversupply and a reluctance to throw out perfectly good food. I had to put it somewhere until I get through my milk bank donor qualification. I’m not ok anymore with donating to randos from the internet.
    I will admit to being a little annoyed if excessive amounts of breast milk are wasted. But no more so than when other food is wasted – like the bowl of cheerios my 3 year old helped himself to last night spilling twice as many on the floor as he got into the bowl, then he only ate about a third of the bowl. All I can do is sigh, clean it up, and move on. There’s another box of cereal in the cupboard, another bag of breastmilk in the freezer, and if those run out the grocery store has cereal or formula.

  • Megan

    This was my experience too. And at 5 months I finally looked at my baby crying while I pumped and could not console her (she had a tongue tie and couldn’t nurse well so I ended up mostly pumping round the clock), I finally said enough already. I was losing sleep, time with my baby and my sanity. I finally made the decision I wasn’t going to continue measuring my self worth in ounces. I think I’m a much better mother now and by daughter is thriving (we had weight issues prior). So I can understand where the author is coming from though I don’t think pumping past 6 months is necessarily indicative of obsession. It may be the best solution for some working moms. I just had to work too hard to maintain a supply of only 10-11 oz a day that it wasn’t worth it.

  • OttawaAlison

    I think pumping is a way of torture, but power to you if you’d like to. What I got from the author was that she kept pumping *because* she was afraid of giving her baby formula even though she hated pumping and it was causing her to lose sleep and miss out on time with her child, not to mention to make some choices she’s now cringing at.
    She wasn’t happy and yes that is a problem.

  • OttawaAlison

    I love cooking fish and roasting cauliflower (sometimes at the same time). My house is stinky after that, but man oh man they taste good and are good for me and my family!

    • Guest

      Salmon, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts! Stinks, but oh so yummy!!!

    • SporkParade

      I discovered recently that duck, like lamb, is not meant to be cooked indoors.

  • Fallow

    I suspect that some of these signs of an unhealthy obsession are particular to individual women’s situations. Everyone’s already pointed out that there are plenty of reasonable people who pump past 6 months, for instance. But I bet there are some women for whom extended pumping is destroying their happiness, but who keep doing it anyway due to this obsession. Or to external pressure from other mothers.

    I DO think there’s something going wrong with your thinking, if you’re willing to feed your child possibly moldy milk, or if you give up spending time with your child in favor of pumping a bit at work, or if you’re extremely emotionally distressed at your baby “wasting” breastmilk. And people really give their children less pumped milk at daycare than they think they’ll eat, just so it’s not “wasted”? These thoughts are emblematic of someone who truly values their performance more than they value their baby’s needs. If women are really doing this stuff, then they’re very much putting the baby’s needs second to their identity issues about breastfeeding.

    I also think I get what the author means, about people complaining that formula smells bad. I agree that it can be damned stinky. But you guys may have met people who blow the smell of formula way out of proportion, in their campaign to demonize it. In those cases, the issue is less the fact that formula doesn’t smell great, and more that anti-formula people sometimes act like formula smells like raw sewage or something.

    • momofone

      If I understand correctly, it’s not that they give them less than they think they’ll eat; it’s that they generally put less milk in each bottle in order to cut down on wastage. (As in, 8 2-ounce bottles, so they can always add another bottle, rather than 4 4-oz bottles.)

      I don’t think formula smells great, but it wouldn’t be a reason I wouldn’t use it; brussels sprouts smell pretty bad too, but I hope my son will eat them eventually. 🙂

      • CharlotteB

        As I understand it, daycare shave rules about when they have to throw out unfinished bottles. I can totally understand sending many bottles with small amounts of milk, but that goes for both formula and breastmilk.

        What I have issues with is alllll the stuff I’ve read about making sure that your child care provider doesn’t “overfeed” the Breast-fed baby. Nursing on demand, 24 hours a day? That’s fine. A babysitter giving the baby more than you *think* baby needs, or telling you baby needs more milk during the day? Obviously they need to be educated about breastmilk.

        • Mattie

          It’s interesting as in the UK the guidelines on formula are that bottles need to be made up at the time, not before-hand and stored, so I imagine daycare places no longer store bottles and then heat them. Wonder why the advice is different for breastmilk, unless they store it frozen =/

          • SporkParade

            The claim is that breastmilk doesn’t spoil as quickly as formula. According to the Fearless Formula Feeder’s website, there isn’t really any research on whether or not this is true.

          • Cobalt

            That’s kinda scary. I’ve got one of those little cards for the refrigerator that tells you how long to store breastmilk under various conditions, and I really hope it’s not just made up.

          • SporkParade

            Just to clarify, it’s the formula storage recommendations that are made up. I’m not sure what the breastmilk recommendations are based on.

          • Cobalt

            That’s a little less scary, the formula storage recommendations are very conservative. An err on the side of caution is fine.

          • Mattie

            Interesting, I wonder if there was an increase in people getting a bit ‘lax’ with hygiene when preparing feeds and that’s why the guidelines changed…or it was just a way to get more women to breastfeed by making formula just a bit more inconvenient, either is possible in UK maternity care.

          • Wren

            I seem to remember a few stories about lax hygiene with formula around the time the changes were made, but whether those are related or not I couldn’t say.

      • Fallow

        That interpretation makes more sense than the way I read it. But without the context of knowing how daycares work, I’m not sure that I COULD have properly interpreted it, in that case. There’s a lot about daycare that I have no idea about, because we can’t afford it.

        Maybe my weak sense of smell is why I’ve always liked brussels sprouts and don’t think they even smell bad, ha!

    • Anne

      My sister-in-law (a natural birth nut) told me before I had my baby that formula makes babies smell like salami. At least she had the self-awareness to stop saying this in front of me after I switched to formula.

      • demodocus

        People do joke about wanting to eat the baby up. 😉

      • Bugsy

        There could be an entertaining reference to circumcision hiding in her statement…unfortunately in my pregnancy-induced brain, I can’t quite come up with it myself…

  • Wren

    I think some of these are indicative of a problem, but most really aren’t.

    I still think formula smells. Sorry. I’m years past breastfeeding and did use formula for one of mine, but it does smell.

    • Are you nuts

      Formula totally smells!! Plenty of good foods smell… broccoli, brussels sprouts, cheese… not a reason not to consume them. But make no mistake – formula smells!!!

      • Daleth

        Holle doesn’t. Don’t know why, but it smells fine–just like milk.

        • Megan

          Yeah that’s what we use and I agree it smells fine. I think it’s more of an issue with soy and very hydrolyzed formulas.

          • Mattie

            soy formula smells vile, but partly because I associate it with working at a nursery and getting a sick bug while there, the smell made me vomit 🙁

    • Korra

      Agreed. I’ve worked in childcare for years and practically raised my sisters. I’ve hated the smell of formula since before I ever even thought of having children.

      Additionally, waking up in the middle of the night to pump is a very normal part of life for many women.

      • lawyer jane

        I don’ think there’s anything normal about ANYTHING that increases sleep deprivation for new mothers! I guess if you have a baby that slept through the night a 4 weeks, more power to you. But more commonly I hear about working mothers who are exhausted by pumping 3x at work and then getting up in the middle of the night to pump too. It’s hard for me to think of anything that justifies losing sleep to pump.

        • Mattie

          if you’re trying to keep up milk, then you need to pump or feed at least once overnight, at least that’s what we were taught about in breastfeeding A&P…something to do with more hormones produced at night, correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Gatita

            So if you don’t pump, will you not be able to keep up the day feedings? I’m confused on that point. I figured milk production will fall if you stop pumping but not dry up altogether if you’re still BF regularly for part of the day.

          • Wren

            This seems, from my own anecdotal experience and that of my friends and family, to vary from woman to woman. Some need to pump or feed overnight to keep up their supply, at least in the early months, while others do not.

            Personally, I could not sleep through the night without one or the other in the first 7 months or so without waking from painful, engorged breasts.

          • FEDUP MD

            I had a huge milk storage capacity so had no issues going overnight. By overnight, I mean that I would generally pump right before my bedtime (after the baby’s) and right when I woke up in the AM, after I fed the baby from the other side. So about 8 hours. But I could easily pump 6-8 ounces from either side at a time for months.

          • Mattie

            Probably it will just fall, but I think it depends on the age of your baby, I can’t really remember =/ might try and find the literature 🙂

          • Cobalt

            For an average lactater, going overnight isn’t a big deal once it’s routine. Supply should match demand, once baby starts regular solids meals and is sleeping through, supply will drop a bit to match the reduced demand. That’s totally ok.

            The trick is that is for AVERAGE. Individuals will have mixed results, and might need to mechanically manipulate demand to maintain supply. At that point, it may or may not be worthwhile to keep up production.

          • SporkParade

            I don’t know about for the total population, but my supply is always much better if I’ve had a good night’s sleep. However, I suppose it’s possible that my bad supply in the evenings is due to baby sleeping through the night early, and that, had I wanted to bf exclusively as opposed to just giving a bottle for the last feed, I would have needed to wake up in the middle of the night.

          • Mattie

            I’d imagine that sleep helps milk, as it’s just a question of being healthy and looking after yourself, I’d imagine that much like any other function milk production is put to one side if the mother doesn’t have ‘enough’ resources to support herself and a baby (our bodies sort of judge that more harshly than our minds would)

        • Mariana Baca

          why don’t they just feed the baby in the middle of the night? (childless person here, don’t babies eat through the night? — if they don’t need to anymore, it is normal for milk to dry up, isn’t it?)

    • Guest

      Formula reeks. And formula poo reeks. Breastmilk poo always smells like popcorn to me (and to my spouse). And solid food poo reeks. Man, I am NOT looking forward to introducing solids next month… To paraphrase Bill Cosby, “then God put odor in the poopoo”.

      It makes cloth diapering go from ok to just disgusting… But that’s another topic entirely.

      • Sue

        You’re right – BM vs formula poo differences pale into insignificance when the child starts solids – especially meat!

        • An Actual Attorney

          I thought bm poo smelled much worse than solids poo. It made me gag every time.

      • Guest

        Like popcorn? Wow your baby poo don’t stank then because mine sure didn’t smell like popcorn! Actually I found my expressed breastmilk smelt weirder than formula, kind of….plantlike. Strange. Baby loved it though,

        • Jessica

          I also thought my son’s breastmilk poop had a butter popcorn smell. I’ve heard a lot of people say the same thing. Solids is another matter altogether. Even my son gags when I change or rinse his diapers now, lol.

        • Hiro

          I was squicked out by my breast milk! It smelled so citrusy to me, and I usually like citrus, but this was like butter milk or kefir, something weirdly tangy that freaked me out a little. Also, when she spit up my breast milk I was doubly grossed out.

    • Sarah

      You’ll probably find the smell has improved quite a lot in recent years.

      • Wren

        I regularly looked after a little one who just turned 3, and still hated the smell 2 years ago. I’ve got a fairly sensitive nose though.

        • Sarah

          Mine isn’t the best, but I find a huge difference between the smell of modern formulas and the ones some of the younger children of my generation of the family were on in the 90s.

    • Yaz

      If it smells but baby is happy with it and healthy then what!?
      My sis in low used to say this about formula again and again (her baby is BF and mine FF) and she doesn’t want to give him formula for that smell. When I told her about some goat milk brands that smell good she switched to saying that of course is because of the unnatural additives!

      • Wren

        Then use it if that is what works for mum and baby.

        I never said it was a reason not to use it, just that I think it smells. Thinking formula smells was listed as a sign of an unhealthy breastmilk obsession. I disagree. Thinking it smells means nothing more or less than thinking it smells.

  • Are you nuts

    I think a lot of these are not indicators of an unhealthy breastmilk obsession, but just realities of nursing, especially if you have to/want to/get to go back to work. Pumping after 6 months is hardly a radical thing to do. And it’s natural to be bummed when you have to pour out three ounces because your baby only drank half her bottle.

    I hope what the post is trying to get at is, if you’re waking up at 3 am to pump to add to your already abundant freezer supply, it’s time to take a chill pill. Of course, if you’re feeding your baby moldy or spoiled breastmilk, it may be time to take two chill pills.

    • lawyer jane

      Actually, I think pumping after 6 months is a pretty unhealthy standard that now most upperclass women buy into completely. I know I did, and it really make my return to work and coping those first months much much more difficult, for very little benefit!

    • Guest

      My sister breastfed twins (and was a SAHM). When they began sleeping through the night around 6mo, her supply tanked. She used to get up 1-2x/night to pump (and just dumped it down the sink!!!) to keep her supply up until she weaned them at 14-15mo. She never pumped otherwise since she stayed home with them full time. I thought she was crazy (she barely functioned their first year). They never did get formula, though. For her, it was a priority. But not a choice I would have made.

      • Amy M

        I tried to exclusively pump for my twins, but stopped after one month, when it was clear I was wasting my time. I had always intended to combo-feed/supplement, so I wasn’t upset by not breastfeeding/pumping sufficient breastmilk. My boys are fine. They are bright and healthy and just learned how to fake-burp. I’m pretty sure all 6yr old boys do that, even the breastfed ones.

        • momofone

          Your boys may actually be ahead of the game–my eight-year-old son still can’t fake-burp, but not for lack of trying. (And he was breastfed.)

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            My DH is currently coaching our combo-fed-for-four-months, FF-after-that 14-month-old to burp on command and to giggle whenever someone else does. Whether or not this seeming like a good idea is because of his FF past is up for debate. So far, she has the giggling bit down, but has managed to produce on only one occasion (no doubt this slowness is due to her lack of breastmilk after those first few months), though you’d think she potty trained herself from the celebration that happened…
            *sighs deeply* Bonding, right? Yeah, this is them bonding. And surely she won’t be doing this at 15…

          • momofone

            My husband facilitated potty training by teaching my son to pee on a shrub while I was out of town. For a couple of years I worried that we would be at someone’s house for dinner and my son would water their shrubbery.

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

            Yeah, my 2 boy cousins were 3 and 4 whenwe all first went camping..sometimes they could not make it to the camp bathroom so their mom would let them go behind a tree…breaking them of doing that in their suburban neighborhood after a week in the woods was fun. They thought it was hilarious(everythings hilarious when you are 3)

          • D/

            That was a skill my youngest *very* reluctantly learned on a camping trip just before she was 3. She kept intermittently announcing “I peed in the woods!” after we were home. Didn’t figure out for days she was in fact using the newly installed central heat/air unit’s in-floor return air grate with every one of those peed-in-the-woods announcements at home … and we’d congratulated her with “you sure did!” every time.

            Evidently duct cleaning guys have a three year old’s sense of humor … Ours thought it was totally hilarious too 😉

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            I can so see DH doing that…

  • Cobalt

    I would like to add that although hydrolysed protein formulas do, in fact, smell bad, you get over it. Because that bad smell means your baby can eat, and live, and thrive, even though they have a digestion issue that could easily have been fatal in the past.

    And Amen to cutting off the pump!

    • SporkParade

      Happy days: Our pediatrician told us to switch to second-stage hydrolyzed formula, which is less stinky and supposedly tastier!

  • Guest

    I have to disagree about the still pumping at 6 months. If you work, how exactly is your baby going to be fed unless you pump? If you are breastfeeding and wish to continue to do so, pumping at work is what happens. If you want to do combo feeding, you can breastfeed when with your baby and formula when s/he is with others. But my boobs fricken HURT if I go more than 5 hours without either feeding or pumping. With my older two, I stopped pumping about 11 months and weaned about 14-15 months. My youngest is 5mo, but I’ve been working FT since 8wks, so the pump and I are well acquainted.

    I’m far from boob obsessed. I’ll drink while breastfeeding, I don’t wake at night to pump, I could care less how others feed their own kids. Breastfeeding works well for me and my kids, so I do it. But unless I plan to wean completely to formula by 7-8 months, that pump has to stay around.

    • Cobalt

      I switched to formula at daycare, breastfeeding at home with mine around then. I tapered off the daytime pumping and my boobs adjusted to the new schedule. Everyone’s different, but most women can adjust to a long daytime or nighttime (or both!) stretch without too much trouble.

      • Guest

        Except I work shift. So if I work 10p to 8a, I can go for days where I only see my baby from 5:30p to 8p (bedtime). Which means I’d be going 20 hours without pumping or feeding. Or working 3p to midnight means feeding once in the morning before daycare. Same deal. My career is such that my choice is pump or wean/formula. I choose pump because I can make a shit-ton of milk and it works out. But that’s because it works well for us. Once cow’s milk is introduced at 12mo, I’m going to go all Office Space on my pumps. But please don’t assume (the OB/Gyn resident) that I’m breast obsessed or a breast nazi. It works for US. MY choice is breast. I don’t care what your choice is as long as mom, baby, family are happy and healthy.

      • Wren

        I know it’s possible not to, but pumping at 6 months or later is hardly a sign of an unhealthy breast milk obsession.

        • momofone

          Exactly. Families’ situations are different, and what doesn’t work for one doesn’t translate to unhealthy obsession for another.

        • Kelly

          This is one sign in a list of many that she listed. Past six months may be ridiculous if you have a really low supply. I had an oversupply and I pumped for nine months the first time. It was not healthy for many of the reasons listed in the article. I was a high school teacher and so I could only pump during my planning period. It took up too much time for me. I look back and should have done more formula. I was stressed out and was not able to accomplish everything I needed to do at work. I think people need to look at this list for if they see themselves in a lot of the points. If they do, they may need to reevaluate their reasons behind nursing or pumping.

      • Megan

        Personally, if I went more than 6 hours routinely, my supply suffered.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          But so what if it did “suffer”? By six months, it’s not like you have to have a massive supply. There are women who nurse once a day (at night, for example). Otherwise, they supplement. And that’s perfectly fine, too.

          These comments are all predicated on the premise that “breast is best, and it’s less desirable if we aren’t breastfeeding.”

          Step away from that assumption and the house of cards fall. I think that is the whole point of this post.

          If “breast is best” even beyond 6 mos is a premise, then these arguments work. However, if you don’t accept that premise, it doesn’t work.

          • momofone

            Of course it’s fine if people are supplementing, or never breastfeed, or whatever works for them. When I stopped pumping (around 10 months) I continued nursing just when I was home and all affected parties were fine. None of the options is a wrong one as long as the baby is fed.

            I guess to me it’s no different from people who choose to make all their own baby food (if they use baby food) instead of buying it; if they want to do it, what skin is it off my back, you know?

          • Guest

            Heh! I make my own baby food, too! Guess I’m puréed obsessed! All kidding aside, for the 2-3 months I need puréed foods, I can make it all in one weekend and freeze down in ice cube trays. But that is only because I’m hella-cheap and can’t fathom paying 50c/jar for puréed carrots when I can steam and purée a $1 bag of frozen into a dozen servings. Plus, I gave a deep freezer. My oldest is all excited because she gets to help me do everything next weekend…

          • momofone

            We made some of ours too, and I enjoyed it. Partly I’m sure it was because he was so long-awaited that it was a joy to get to finally do those things. It was fun–I can’t imagine how much fun it would be to get to do it with help from an older sibling. 🙂

          • Dinolindor

            You know, it could be a question of how much someone likes routines vs. indoctrination that breast is best. I know I like to gradually transition to different routines as my kids get older. Dropping out a time intensive task is almost harder than the task itself sometimes.

          • Somewhereinthemiddle

            I think you are ignoring what could be an emotional aspect. Part of a mom is left with a baby if she is pumping and leaving her baby food. Outside of that, I have no idea what point you are trying to make. Just like women don’t need to justify their reason for wanting to formula feed, they don’t need to justify their reason for wanting to pump/ breastfeed.

          • Megan

            I continued for as long as I did because I wanted to continue to nurse the few times a day we did. That was an emotional connection with my baby I was loathe to lose and I worried that she would self wean if my supply fell too much. And truthfully, now that Ive stopped pumping she won’t really nurse during the day because the tiny quantity of milk isnt worth it. But she still nurses for comfort at night and I enjoy it. Breastfeeding is t about just feeding and milk. I switched to mostly formula because pumping no longer worked for us but I was scared to cut back (and did it very slowly) because I like nursing my baby and I knew that could be threatened by a decrease in supply.

        • Cobalt

          Suffered how? There’s a difference between going below whatever minimum stimulation is required to keep production on, and “turning the volume down” because you’re switching some ounces to formula instead.

          If you have to express (random numbers used for this example) 10 ounces a day or you’ll dry up, then you have to do it or you’ll have to wean. But if your personal minimum is 5 ounces, then only expressing 7 will reduce your supply to 7, but you’re filling in the rest with formula and can continue that amount for however long is needed. Your supply going down to match what you’re actually needing is a good thing.

          And again, everyone’s different, and what works FOR YOU is what’s best.

          • Megan

            I only made 10-11 oz a day at best and once I went to pumping 4-5 times a day to 2-3 times a day, I only ever got 4-5 oz. if you have no leeway in your supply (eg low storage capacity) then you cannot stretch out the time intervals without a resultant loss in volume. If I were to make milk faster perhaps this wouldn’t have been. Problem but I figured I only made about a half ounce an hour. And there was no way I could continue pumping 5-6 times a day. It just wasn’t practical. My baby was becoming more mobile and she cried every time I had to pump and couldnt attend to her.

            I do agree that every woman should do what is right for her. For me, pumping that much for so little wasn’t worth it.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      If you work, how exactly is your baby going to be fed unless you pump?

      I think this is the point. If you can’t think of how to feed your baby without pumping at 6 mos, perhaps you are overly obsessed with breastfeeding? Assuming we are talking about places with clean drinking water, you can supplement with formula or introduce solid food.

      • Wren

        What’s wrong with pumping instead of formula though? If that works well for mum and baby?

        I was at home, so it wasn’t an issue for me, but my sister went back to work at 6 weeks and pumped steadily for at least the first year. Her job had a nice place to do it, gave her time to do it and everyone was happy with it.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa

          What’s wrong with pumping instead of formula though?

          But why do it? At 6 mos, it isn’t necessary to pump to feed the baby. There is no reason to do it.

          You bringing up 6 weeks is a red herring.

          • momofone

            It isn’t necessary, but that doesn’t equal there not being a reason to do it, if the reason is that the mother wants or chooses to. That is as valid a reason as any.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            But WHY does she choose to? Because she loves pumping? Doubtful.

            Because by doing so she is doing better for her baby? Not really, no. By that point, those benefits just aren’t there.

          • momofone

            I did it because I wanted to. I didn’t love pumping, but it was important to me, and it worked well with my family’s situation. I could certainly have decided not to, but what we were doing worked and we were happy with it. It’s definitely not the only option, or for lots of people the desired one, but it’s not an inherently incorrect one either.

          • lawyer jane

            But what was it “important to you”? I hear this formulation from a lot of women. I think it really stands for societal pressure to pump.

          • momofone

            I had the opposite of societal pressure to pump. Breastfeeding is not common where I live, and even nurses at the pediatrician’s office asked why I kept doing it (and pumping). It was important to me because I believed it was important for him; he was healthy and happy and it was kind of a matter of not fixing what isn’t broken.

          • dbistola

            Here is a reason to pump even if it doesn’t necessarily offer benefits baby-Mom wants to. Why does mom want to? BECAUSE IT BURNS CALORIES! This was the most effective weight loss I have ever experienced.

          • Are you nuts

            Yes. I can eat whatever I want and still lose a bit or at least maintain weight. I know that doesn’t work for everyone but I’ll take it!

          • Megan

            Unfortunately I have the exact opposite experience. I cannot lose and even gain while breastfeeding and I’m not the only one. I hate that this myth gets perpetuated that breastfeeding is like weight watchers. It’s not. It’s just another way to shame moms into breastfeeding.

          • Megan

            Oh and food for thought here, there’s no scientific consensus that breastfeeding does make you lose weight. The studies are quite mixed. Here’s one that states the opposite:
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/10378204/?i=6&from=/24851615/related

          • Wren

            I honestly think it’s one of those things that varies from woman to woman. I gained weight while breastfeeding, but barely gained at all when pregnant (under 15 lbs the first time and only about 5 lbs the second). My sister dropped weight like crazy, as in 70 lbs in the first 9 months of breastfeeding.

            If it works, I can see women continuing for that reason alone.

          • dbistola

            I wouldn’t call this a myth. For lots of women, it’s a fact. It was a fact for me. However, I do agree that there are lots of women who do not experience this.

          • Mac Sherbert

            …it did not work for me. I gained weight. I was thinner after I had my baby than I was 18 months later when I weaned. Some of it was just that the demands of breastfeeding left me little time to myself for exercise and eating right. I was in survivor mode. Now looking back I wish I had weaned earlier and left the baby with a sitter and went to the gym! 😉

          • laura

            the same thing happened to me but my thyroid levels were also low and my hormones are off. I am pretty sure that is why I can not loose a weight. I have done diets exercise boot camp and nothing worked.

          • Kelly

            I lost weight and lost my love handles when I pumped. I do tell people that it depends on person. I enjoyed that but I gained it all back and then some more. I won’t pump this time and so I am wondering how my body is going to react. People needs to know that they won’t know until they go through it. It is the worst part about pregnancy and nursing is that your body is so different and so you can’t do much planning ahead of time.

          • Michele

            7 months here and still pumping for exactly this reason. 20 lbs under my pre-pregnancy weight without having to watch what I eat. I’m still obese but the freedom of being able to eat without having to obsess over my diet is worth having to hook myself up to the pump twice a day at work. I know it won’t last forever but for now the freedom is glorious!

          • E

            Funny. I didn’t lose the weight until AFTER I quit breastfeeding. Seemed that as long as I was nursing, I was holding onto the last ten pounds. The first month after I quit, I lost the ten pounds and then I lost another fifteen over the following two months. Ended up being 15 pounds lighter than I was before I got pregnant.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Interestingly, that was pretty much what my OB said was his experience with breastfeeding moms: your body will hang onto that last ten pounds because it wants to make sure that if a famine happens, kiddo will still get something for a while, but after weaning, they’ll often drop the last weight.

          • Jessica

            I had a similar experience. I only gained 12 pounds while pregnant, and in the first six weeks postpartum lost 36 pounds. I was obese, but still felt like I was melting away. When my period returned at 7.5 mos postpartum, however, my milk supply regulated and I began to have a harder time keeping off weight. Once I weaned completely it was game over – I quickly returned to my pre-pregnancy weight.

          • Alannah

            Not necessarily. For many women breastfeeding takes up so much time it keeps them from exercising, while making them so ravenously hungry they put more calories into their mouths than come out their breasts. Net result: weight gain.
            Breastfeeding may be a great weight loss method for some but certainly not for all women.

          • Inmara

            Cost reduction may be common reason – if there is no problem with milk supply (and thus no need for supplements etc.), then it’s truly for free, whereas formula is not.

          • Bugsy

            It’s an interesting point you raise. On the one hand, I agree with you that breastfeeding appears cheaper than purchasing formula. However, my appetite easily doubled while I was breastfeeding…the amount we paid for my food bills negated any savings we had from not purchasing formula.

          • Wren

            I was hungry, and actually gained weight while doing it, but it was still cheaper than formula in our case, as demonstrated when my eldest dropped nursing suddenly and we had to switch to formula because I couldn’t manage to pump enough with a very active 9 month old and no pumping since he was 4 months old.

          • Korra

            That happened to me with my first but not with my second. It’s not a universal truth.

          • Bugsy

            That’s great to hear, hopefully w/ #2 I’ll be less hungry. 🙂

          • Daleth

            It’s only free if you don’t count the 500+ calories of extra food per day, per baby (i.e. 1000+ for twins), that mama has to eat in order to nurse.

          • Cobalt

            That only counts if you actually eat more to make up for it. Some women don’t, with mixed results. And my feeling was those extra calories are worth twice as much because they eaten twice.

          • Daleth

            Sure, they’re worth twice as much, but they’re still not free.

            I also question the idea that you only need about 500 calories per baby per day. Maybe that’s just the average and it’s less when they’re little, more when they’re bigger. There are about 160-180 calories in each bottle my babies drink, so they are each definitely getting more than 500 calories a day.

          • NoLongerCrunching

            You don’t need 500-1000 for as long as you nurse; your body gets more efficient over time.

          • Daleth

            Your body can’t make calories, protein etc. out of nothing. If you want to make nourishing breastmilk you need to take in the calories, protein etc. needed to create it. Or else you have to provide it out of the matter of your own body, and waste away in the process. Although many women are big enough to have plenty to spare, so they wouldn’t waste away.

          • NoLongerCrunching

            Yes, but during the beginning of nursling most mothers are making more than their baby needs, and their supply adjusts over time to what the baby usually takes out.

          • Sarah

            It’s free if you think the time of the person doing the breastfeeding is without value.

          • Daleth

            You’re so right, Sarah.

          • Are you nuts

            You must be eating cleaner than I do. My 500 extra calories a day aren’t from eating additional spinach and chicken breast… it’s more like spring for the chicken salad on croissant rather than the dry turkey on wheat! It probably costs me more to eat 1200 calories a day than 1700, because I’m eating cleaner/leaner at 1200 cal/day than 1700.

          • SporkParade

            Why are you eating only 1200 calories a day?

          • fiftyfifty1

            Is chicken salad unclean? Or is it the croissant that is unclean?

          • Wren

            I actually enjoyed breastfeeding, especially after the first 6 weeks or so. I know for me my supply would likely have been negatively affected by regular use of formula and that likely would have led to stopping earlier. Since I enjoyed it, why not continue?

            My sister felt the same way, and viewed her pumping breaks at work as a positive thing. In her case, the time made no difference to the hours she was at work and she had a nice place to do it.

          • NoLongerCrunching

            Switching from breastmilk to formula would probably be like switching from Similac to Isomil; most moms/babies don’t like swiching formulas for no reason, so if she wants to keep feeding the same food and doesn’t mind pumping, who cares?

          • FormerPhysicist

            I *did* love pumping. I had an oversupply and the ability of the pump to keep going until I was empty was a godsend. Sometimes I would feed the baby in the middle of the night, tuck her back to bed and then pump until empty. I tried not to do it too often, because I didn’t want to BOOST supply, but it was so nice to occasionally be empty.

            And pumping at work wasn’t difficult, and ensured my office door stayed closed for a break. And I was into the routine by 6 months, and the routine was fine, and there was no reason to change it up, stop pumping and feed formula before infant was on 100% solid food.

            I threw out a ton of breastmilk, and I don’t think I was breastmilk-obsessed.

          • lawyer jane

            YES – this. I pumped because I thought “that’s just what good moms do.” It SUCKED. To outsiders it might have looked like “it’s working for mama and baby.” But that’s not what it felt like when I was actually doing it.

            Perhaps there are some women for whom it is truly a breeze, and I can also see that you might physically need to pump at first because of engorgement. But I think it’s REALLY important to correct the view that you MUST pump.

          • SF Mom & Psychololgist

            You may still choose to pump after your baby is eating solids to preserve the option to breastfeed when you are with your baby (e.g. weekends!). Pumping once or twice a day (not crazy to do for many women) may preserve enough of a supply that you can breastfeed at bedtime, during the night if necessary, on weekends, etc. It’s not about fearing formula – my kids both got a lot of formula and I was fine with it. But I wanted to be able to nurse them at other times because it was mutually enjoyable and comforting, and stopping pumping would have meant no nursing.

          • Wren

            I should have read a little further before replying with my last comment.

          • Gatita

            So if you didn’t pump your supply would completely dry up? You wouldn’t continue making milk but at a lower volume? I get the weekend thing but if you’re bf twice a day can’t your body adjust without pumping?

          • TT

            This sounds like the supply/demand myth (or oversimplification). In fact, very often dropping below a certain threshold of number/duration of feedings signals to your body to shut down production completely, so, yes, supply will dry up. I dropped one feeding and also got mastitis – in a couple of weeks my periods returned and my breasts shut down (my daughter was six months old). I was never able to get my supply back. I realise this is how my body works, and I now know it is not that uncommon.

          • Wren

            If you work 5 days a week and don’t pump you could well have your supply diminish too much to fully breastfeed during the weekend, or your body could respond to the extra demand over the weekend by increasing production the next work week to the point that it is uncomfortable not to pump. Engorgement and leaking are not fun any time, and probably less so while trying to work.

          • Wren

            I asked my sister. She said a major factor for her was not wanting to deal with carrying around formula on the weekends. Pumping during the week at work meant she still had a full supply on the weekends and they could go on outings without worrying about carrying formula.

            I remember starting my son on formula at 9 months and finding it to be a pain to deal with after breastfeeding up to that point, so that totally makes sense to me. Of course, if I’d started with formula then by 9 months making sure we brought it would be as second nature as making sure we had diapers, but I hadn’t had to do it before since being with me meant his milk supply was there too.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “But WHY does she choose to? Because she loves pumping?”

            No, because she likes or loves breastfeeding, and it works well for her and her family. Breastfeeding worked well for me and my second child. But as I wrote above, I would not have been able to continue if I had not been able to pump once in the middle of my 10+ hour days. In the short term, it would have been very physically uncomfortable, and the end result would have been my supply drying up. So I was willing to pump in the middle of the work day. I didn’t love pumping, but felt it was a reasonable trade off to continue breastfeeding.

          • Ash

            Some parents don’t transition to 100% food at the 6 mo mark.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            Some parents don’t transition to 100% food at the 6 mo mark.

            But you don’t have to be 100%. Presumably you would only be pumping when away from the baby and nursing when you are there. Why bother with the pumping? You aren’t doing it for the good bonding experience, clearly, and you don’t need to do it for the nutrition. So why bother?

          • Wren

            Honestly Bofa, as long as babies are getting fed and it works for mum and baby, why does it make a difference? Plenty of women are fine with pumping, or reversing when babies eat so they have more at night and little in the daytime (a close friend did this with hers) instead of using formula, and that has nothing to do with demonising formula for them.

          • Are you nuts

            Why NOT do it if it works for you? I pump twice a day, once at work and once at home in front of the TV. It’s not a hardship so I’ll keep doing it until I don’t want to anymore.

          • Wren

            6 weeks is not intended as a red herring, just giving some context. By 6 months, she was well established in a routine that included pumping and had no issue with continuing it.

            I know not all women enjoy breastfeeding, but some do. For some women, continuing to pump allows the breastfeeding relationship to continue as well.

        • Alexicographer

          I also pumped for about a year (including at work — I work full-time, but resumed part-time work at 2 months and went back to full-time at 4), and it wasn’t a big deal for me — I had a private office, time to do it, and wanted to be at my office anyway. But many women don’t have those things or are trading off unpaid time-at-the-workplace for time they could be (and want to be) with their kids, in order to pump. And that does seem like a problem.

      • Guest

        Hi BOFA – At 6 months, most babies are taking solids. But for liquids, it’s either breastmilk or formula. So, regardless of solids intake, a decision regarding liquid intake must be made. Breastmilk, formula, or a combination of both. Cow’s milk is not supposed to be introduced until 12 months. For mothers who work, pumping helps maintain supply (if desired) or provide the entire supply (if desired). Pumping is a necessary annoyance, but more desirable to me than purchasing (and otherwise dealing with) formula.

      • Chem Mom

        I have a 7 month old and I exclusively pump for her because for me it was the path of least resistance. I started off nursing and although I didn’t like nursing that much, it was going so well, I didn’t mind it, and I am a SAHM so we continued. Somewhere around 3-4 months I realized that I preferred bottle feeding to nursing, but baby started a major bottle resistance at that point and nursing wasn’t that bad and I was a SAHM so it seemed like too much of a hassle to push the bottle. Between 5 and 6 months she started taking the bottle more readily again, but I felt that my picky daughter might resist a full switch to formula. Also she still preferred the breast. So I decided to switch to 100% bottles first before adding in formula. My intention was to slowly drop pumps and supplement a little more formula as my supply dropped below her intake. I actually found pumping to be easier than I thought it would be and I still enjoy being able to provide for her in this way. A month later I’m down to 3 pumps per day and still making enough. So there you go, pumping after 6 months and not obsessed. As for the argument that I’m not saving any money because I still need more calories, that’s true. But at least I get to eat more yummy food!

      • Mattie

        I can kind of agree, but formula isn’t free…and some women will choose to pump for cost reasons, not just because they’re obsessed with breastfeeding. In fact, many women who choose to go back to work earlier do so for financial reasons (and some because they want to, that’s more the case at 6 months I guess) but still, if pumping is fine for you or you just don’t want to buy formula when you have enough milk to feed the baby fine for ‘free’ (cost of pump, bottles, storage etc.. not included) then pumping after 6 months is totally normal. Also, 6 months is the youngest solids should be introduced, so it’s not like babies will be fine on just solids at 6 months.

    • fiftyfifty1

      “unless I plan to wean completely to formula by 7-8 months, that pump has to stay around.”

      This is true for me too. It would hurt too much to go the 10+ hours that I was away from the baby. Sure it could have been done, but it would have been a physically painful transition, and the end result would have been my milk drying up. I suppose one could argue that caring about your milk drying up at 6 months is foolish, because formula is just as good. But then why not argue the same thing at 6 weeks or 6 days? Why make an arbitrary 6 month cutoff?

  • Amy M

    Great post! Another thing, said frequently, but true: you can’t tell the difference between a person that was breastfed and a person that was formula fed. No matter what the extremists say—you just can’t tell.

    In the fog of sleep deprivation its easy to miss the logic, that if formula were really poison, babies in Western countries would be dying left and right. Hell, formula has improved significantly in the last 40yrs, and American babies were mostly formula fed in the 40s-70s. The baby boomers and their children are still with us, and thanks to progress in every medical field, healthier than ever.

    It seems like some women, upon internalizing the breast is best mantra, think that formula is only poison for their babies or for babies who have no medical necessity for formula. They say something like: “Well, its fine if your baby needs formula because he was born with a cleft palate, but breast is best for me and my baby, and I don’t want that artificial stuff anywhere near him.” (and of course, there are plenty who do think its poison for any baby) Its a stunning display of cognitive dissonance.