Sep 6, 2011  •  In Aerin, Claire, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal

The Boob Juice Dilemma

I do not consider myself a breastfeeding failure. Yes, I struggled tremendously with breastfeeding. Yes, it is true that I was “only” able to provide my firstborn three months of breastmilk. And yes, Claire has been exclusively formula-fed ever since I decided to quit.

But I do not consider myself a failure. Claire has never gone hungry. She has never been sick — not even common baby rashes like eczema or a diaper rash — nor does she suffer from any allergies. She is smart as a whip and she is, simply put, thriving.

What more can you ask for in an 11-month-old?

But with all this being said, I do want to give breastfeeding another go with BebeDeux. J remembers the hardship we endured with Claire, and tells me that it is entirely up to me, that he will support whichever decision I make. And as I recall the horrendous physical pain (I had recurring mastitis and thrush infections), the endless hours I spent pumping when I could’ve been bonding with my little girl, as well as the dietary restrictions put on nursing women and the elimination diet I endured when we suspected Claire was having adverse reactions to my breastmilk, I am tempted to go straight to formula with BebeDeux.

But I do not want to fall into the trap of not providing for your second (and subsequent) child the same — or at least as similar as possible — attention, effort, and conditions as your first.

…And I confess that a small part of me wants to successfully breastfeed this time around because I could not with the first.

Looking back, I now realize that there were four main obstacles standing in the way of a successful breastfeeding relationship with Claire:


1.) She had, and continues to have, a weak suck.

I did not know this at the time because I did not have other babies to compare her to, but even when I look at newborns now, I am amazed at how strong their sucking reflexes are compared to my daughter’s.

Only recently have I come to read about a physical condition called abnormal attachment of the maxillary labial frenum (via Fearless Formula Feeder) which may lead to difficulty in nursing…and Claire definitely has this “bump” in the middle of her top gumline.

(image source)

We will definitely be bringing this up at Claire’s next pediatrician appointment, and will be checking BebeDeux for this condition as well.


2.) My in-laws were around all the time.

And while I was — and continue to remain — grateful for their help, I am a very private person who is uncomfortable exposing my bare chest in front of my own mother. This time around, I will not be afraid to speak up if I feel suffocated…I may even ask them to leave at times!


3.) I was tied to the pump.

Like, for the majority of my waking hours.

And while I knew that I had to pump if I wanted to nourish my daughter with breastmilk, I only now realize that this severely interfered with precious mother-child bonding time in addition to making me miserable because I literally felt like a milking machine.

(image source)

If BebeDeux turns out to hate drinking from the breast as much as Claire did, I will not be afraid to supplement with formula, and only pump enough to give her half-breastmilk.


4.) I just did not like breastfeeding.

There. I said it.

Even on the times that Claire was sucking on the boob, I never felt the rush of endorphins other moms describe. I never felt like it bonded us more than when I was bottle-feeding her. In fact, I actually liked bottle-feeding better, because I could look directly into both of her eyes.

I hated how my boobs leaked all the time, how horribly large and unwieldy they were (they were an E-cup when I was breastfeeding…not very proportionate on a 5’1″ girl whose breasts normally hover between a B and a C), and how my back and shoulder constantly hurt from my oversized, swollen breasts.

And because I hated breastfeeding, I felt even more like something was horribly wrong with me. Which added to the stress, which lowered my immune system more, which continued to contribute to my recurring infections. (And I am sure that this also got in the way of my bonding with Claire.)

I am not sure if I will feel the same way about breastfeeding when BebeDeux comes along. They say that breastfeeding gets better past the newborn stage, but I also know that breastfeeding is not for everyone. I guess we’ll just have to see on this one…and if I end up hating it as much as I did with Claire, I will stop after 3 months, just as I did with Claire.


I am now 32 weeks pregnant with BebeDeux. And despite my weekend puking marathon (I am feeling much better now), she remains as strong and active as ever. It’s incredibly scary and exciting to know that in as little as two months, we will have two babies in our household.

26 Responses to “The Boob Juice Dilemma”

  1. I’m glad you posted this. From day one we hear Breast is Best and so on and so forth. But it isn’t for everybody. I don’t say that because some women can’t. I say that because not every woman wants to. Not every woman wants the dairy feeling with a pump (stage I’m in right now) either. And it would be nice not worrying if I’m going to leak all the time. And for girls that already have a large chest, getting bigger just isn’t a comfortable option. For those that can and do breastfeed, great! I’m happy for you. But for us that don’t, don’t judge us. Don’t reprimand us. And do NOT think that it makes us bad mothers. Because we don’t love our children any less.

    • I think you would really like the website I linked to in the body of the post, Fearless Formula Feeder ( Contrary to what people might think, it’s NOT an anti-breastfeeding site (and they openly admit that in most cases, breast is best!). Rather, it’s one that supports infant feeding CHOICES. Reading through the archives has helped me tremendously and I hope you like it too. :-)

  2. There’s no harm in trying again with BebeDeux. Breastfeeding is a 2 person endeavor. It could go much more smoothly the second time around.

    My cousin was able to nurse her first child with little trouble. Her second would not breastfeed. Even though my cousin was an experienced breastfeeder, it just didn’t work.

    Every kid is different. Don’t psych yourself out of trying. You can try and if it’s not working, you can decide how long/hard you want to try before getting on with your life!

    I wrote a post of breastfeeding recently (* and included the disclaimer: While it was easy for me and my daughter, I know that other moms and babies don’t have it that easy. I know nursing is not for everyone. I commend moms who try hard. I commend moms who won’t give up, no matter what. I also commend moms who know when to give it up and get on with the business of mothering, refusing to let breastfeeding rule their lives and prevent them from enjoying their children.

    And as for nursing in front of your in-laws- I’m like you in terms of not flashing my boobs around. I had a Hooter Hider and really liked it. Made me much more comfortable.

  3. I was totally not interested in breast feeding before my daughter came. But once she got here (and my milk came in) she had such a strong rooting instinct, and really took to the breast. Plus my milk came in with a vengeance, so I just decided to give it a go. I think you’re right, that it just depends on the mom, the baby, the pregnancy, all of it is so variable. We’re happy to be saving the cash we’d be spending on formula, but even now I’m not sure how long I plan to stick to it. I also feel odd as the “milk cow”, but I do whip it out willy-nilly at home. I feel like it’s where I live, so if you don’t wanna see my boobies, you can hit the door, friend! Haha

  4. MrsW:

    I hope it goes more successfully for you this time. I had it “easy” with my first and I’m concerned that maybe with my (hypothetical) second child it would be more difficult. I have a question though, is how do you know that the milk you’re producing for your baby isn’t enough, before you give them a bottle? I remember my baby nursing what seemed like every 15 minutes in the really early days but it never occurred to me to think that maybe I needed to supplement to go longer between feedings. This is not meant to question you personally, just something I don’t understand about supplementation.

    • I’ve read that just as long as your baby keeps regularly wetting diapers, and is consistently gaining weight, he/she is getting enough. I know it’s not a satisfactory answer (especially since you need to wait to see about these things), but that’s what they tell me.

  5. Eek565:

    I was in awe of how hard to tried to nurse Claire. I even remember the purple milk! In my experience the first few months of nursing were definitely the hardest. For me it became much more enjoyable after my milk settled down and I wasn’t squirting everyone. I can relate to the in-laws as well. Some people just stopped coming over because I was nursing all the time. It can be a stressful time. I’ll be praying for you!

  6. I’m due about a week ahead of you with my first baby, and I’m hoping to breastfeed. Posts like yours and Marisa’s over at Parenthetical Me are really keeping me calm about the whole enterprise. I have a La Leche League-obsessed relative who has essentially told me that mothers who don’t exclusively breastfeed (and who don’t continue to BF for TWO FULL YEARS) are failures. That stresses me out and makes it sound like it’s some kind of weird test. Will I pass, or FAIL?

    So thanks for sharing your experience. Just going in to it knowing that supplementing is A-OK, and some aspects of breastfeeding are not so fun is keeping my stress levels down. And you’re right, Claire is a thriving little girl. Seeing that definitely helps, too. :-)

    Glad you’re feeling better!

  7. I EBF for eight months (with solids introduced at 6), and now we’re doing half nursing sessions, half formula bottles. Part of me feels like a failure for not doing 100% breastmilk for her entire first year, and the other (wiser) part of me is like, “Look – your baby is happy, healthy, and thriving! Give everyone a break here!”

    A pediatrician in the hospital said to me, “It doesn’t matter how you feed your baby. It’s only important that you DO it.”

    Do what works for you. I’ve been tied to the pump for phases of these last 10 months and it SUCKS. Don’t bust your boobs to pump at the expense of time with your two LO’s, absolutely not.

    Here’s an article I love – It’s a little old but I keep sending the link to other moms who are agonizing over whether or not to keep BF’ing and I think it’s definitely worth the read.

    But, while I am all for moms doing what works for them, I have to say it’s been a really enjoyable experience – in the end – nursing my daughter for as long as I have. There is just nothing like the early morning nursing session with the two of us, eyes closed, in bed. We had a relatively easy time of it in the beginning, but truly didn’t hit our stride until 4-6 weeks. And it just kept getting easier and easier. If you can, give it a go and stick it out for the first few weeks.

    But if you can’t – who cares?

  8. I’m trying the same thing with number 2, but I’m nervous already so I don’t know if it will work out. *sigh* I think it’s going to be even harder because we’ll have the other baby to worry about/entertain all the time too. But man it would save money for sure and time spent washing bottles and worrying about keeping them cold/warm, what to do if you’re out and about and run out of formula, etc.

  9. I’m assuming you probably read the post I did about my decision to FF my own baby #2, so I won’t rehash too much of it here. (Just in case, here is the link: I relate to SO MUCH of what you went through, and what you are feeling, and all the conflict… gahh. It all just sucks.

    In my case, what (sort of) worked for me was NOT making a decision. I just went in to my daughter’s birth with an open mind, or as open a mind as I could have, given the circumstances. This was more a survival tactic than a well thought out plan.I felt like I had some weird form of breastfeeding PTSD, quite frankly, and every time I started thinking about what I should do I would start sweating and crying and getting all crazy in the coconut. So instead, I just ignored the inevitable, and decided I would figure it out when the time came.

    Although I didn’t end up nursing my daughter, I had the most blissful few days of breastfeeding her in the hospital, and I treasured that time. It made me understand why people can and do love breastfeeding. But I also knew that my road wouldn’t be an easy one, and would require pumping, and pain, and debates about depression meds… not to mention she had a fairly high chance of being dairy intolerant too. (She isn’t, but she has severe GERD and gastroparesis which is even less fun than a dairy allergy and I’m sure in hindsight would have made me a nutcase trying to figure out what in my diet was provoking projectile vomiting, in lieu of my breastfeeding “PTSD”!!)So I chose to go with something that assured a calmer, happier postpartum period, b/c that was incredibly important to me, for my child’s benefit and my family’s welfare.

    That said, I honestly did love BFing this time around, even if it was for a short time. My advice is always this: if you are on the fence, there’s no harm in trying- especially if you go in with the knowledge that deciding to stop doesn’t mean you failed, it just means another option proved better for your individual situation. But if even the thought of attempting it is making you feel horrible, then there is no doubt in my mind that it’s better to leave well enough alone. It all comes down to what’s in your heart – ambivalence is one thing, abject terror is another… you know?

    Regardless, please know the entire FFF community is behind you every step of the way. I’m here if you need me, and feel free to email me anytime.

  10. JMeg:

    A thought: ask if the hospital provides (or has on staff) lactation consultants. While you’re in the hospital they can come “help” get each baby (because they are all different) suckling. I only mention this because I bet they would have caught lip thing at day 1. (They realized my son’s tongue was short and attached at the bottom because of his suck, then we were able to let the pediatrician know.) They can be invaluable.

    I BF all my kids — #1 for a year #2 for 9 months, and #3 for 6. The year was my cap, but the two youngest didn’t want much to do with me once there was actual food around.

    Good luck. You’re right to not put pressure on yourself. Your babies will be fine either way, because you love them!

    • Our hospital does, and we did see one after Claire was born. :-) Claire actually didn’t seem to have any problems breastfeeding while we were there — it was only after the 2nd week of her life that she started to resist it. And each lactation consultant we saw afterwards did not even check the maxillary labial frenum (I have read that it has only recently started to become well-known as a physical impediment to nursing successfully, and that many LCs still don’t check for it). At least now we know that there is something else to look for!

  11. I think it’s great that you’re going to give breast feeding another go, and now you have some things to look for to help you along the way. And, you also have the knowledge that Claire is a perfect baby girl if you decide that formula is the better way to go.

  12. Anna:

    My advice is to just keep nursing from the first minute on! Let the baby root around as soon as she is born–she’ll do it! I probably spent at least 5 or 6 hours naked, with my naked baby on my chest, under the covers, right after birth. She slept for a lot of that time, but I think smelling each other and getting acquainted with each other in this way really helped us form a successful breastfeeding relationship.

    That being said, breastfeeding is a right brain activity, and so I think it is much easier to learn by watching others and nursing with others. I attended La Leche League a few weeks before giving birth and it was tremendously empowering. I still go–it’s a great (free) resource and a way to meet other mamas.

    • I almost feel like Claire tried hard at first, then gave up, because she seemed to be nursing fine (and was gaining weight) for the first couple of weeks, and only after that did she start to resist. We were also not able to go to LLL meetings (although we did have an LC come) because of the Asian tradition of “sitting the month” — my MIL was adamant about this and although my own mother was more relaxed, she still couldn’t understand why we even had to go to the pediatrician. And on a personal note, I myself am a bit uncomfortable with unnecessarily exposing a newborn to other infants and mothers so soon after birth — it’s nothing personal, but more cultural. I hope you understand.

  13. I’m so glad you wrote this. Breastfeeding is something I’m very nervous about and I too hear all the time that breast feeding is the way to go and blah blah. I feel like it is implied that if you don’t breast feed you are a bad parent. I say to do what is best for you and your baby, whatever that may be!

  14. Wendy:

    i am still nursing my 9 month old daughter and honestly, i really did not like breastfeeding at all until about 3 months in. your reason #3 resonated with me. it made me remember nights when i would just cry everytime my little girl wanted to be fed. i resented how much time bf-ing took, my daughter’s poor latch, and i still struggle with the size of my breasts. at three months though, something happened. her schedule became more reasonable and i felt like i had the energy to bond with her when i did feed her.

    i feel you on #2. i’m chinese myself and my in laws who live nearby would come over to help. i would just feed her in our bedroom with the door closed. once though my mil decided to come in to deliver some food to me. while she was there, she snuck a look at my baby girl and my huge boob that was in her face. i was mortified! after that, i told my husband to tell his parents not to come over anymore. i was grateful but oh so embarrassed!

  15. My unsolicited advice: BF is going to be harder with a toddler running around even if the second baby does better at nursing. I found it really useful to have a “nursing kit” for my older child with fun book and treats specially for nursing time so that they’re entertained and you’ll be able to focus more.

  16. m @

    love this post. when you mention the strict breastfeeding diet, can you share a list or a link? the best i can ever find is “limited to no alcohol”, “nothing spicy or sour” and sometimes, “eliminate dairy”… thanks :)

    • I think you’ll find that it varies where you look. Kellymom, probably the most popular breastfeeding site, advises that most women do not need to cut anything from their diets aside from the obvious (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, etc). BUT Eastern medicine is so closely tied to foods…and while I do not usually strictly follow Eastern medical advice, because I was having so much trouble I was desperate to try the advice that my mother and MIL doled out for healthy breastmilk and good supply. The list of “good” foods and “bad” foods varies with each person and their specific needs, but for me this included a lot of bland traditional Chinese soups consisting of chicken and pork, Korean seaweed soup, and various veggies. The foods that I usually like — spicy dishes, shellfish, dairy, citrusy fruits — were discouraged.

  17. Lady Rose:

    First off, no judgement about formula feeding. I personally think that moms should take their best shot at breastfeeding but I was certainly on the cusp of giving up myself.

    I just wanted to share my experience in case it helps at all. I had tons of problems with breast feeding at first with my little girl and we eventually were referred to a special breastfeeding clinic that saved us.

    I was pumping all the time at first (for 6 weeks) because we couldn’t get latch but I needed to keep my supply up and ultimately wanted her to be getting breast milk even if it wasn’t from the boob. I rented a hospital grade pump (I don’t know where you are but here I rented it from my local drugstore). This thing was genius. It had a double pump attachment so I never had to pump for more than 10 minutes at each feeding. This was the recommendation of the clinic doctors, no more than 10 minutes of pumping each feeding session (for each boob, which makes the double pump attachment a life saver). 10 minutes 10 times a day is still a ton but Dad would do the diaper change, etc while I was pumping so I felt like I still got to spend time with the baby.

    My boobs were also huge at first, but they settled down at around 4 months. Now they’re back to almost regular size (we’re at 6 months now). I think it’s normal for some people to take 3 or 4 months for the engorgement to relent.

    Oh, and I would also suggest trying to feed in the football hold. I had to have a c-section so this was the only option for me at first as having the baby across my body was very painful. But even now I totally prefer football hold because I can look down at her, and she could gaze up at me.

    Of course, now it’s been 6 months so she’s usually looking around for whatever awesome thing she’s going to do after the feeding and I’m reading a book, but, you know, there was lots of opportunity for gazing at first. :)

    I hope things go more smoothly for you this time!

  18. Hey there- I read all of your posts and the difficulties of pumping for Claire, and I have to agree with what you wrote on here, which is that at 11 months old, she’s a happy, well-fed baby. You have done a great job. Three months of exclusive pumping is HARD. People who haven’t breastfed, had a baby, or pumped have no idea the amount of commitment something like that requires.

    I’ve had a lot of trouble nursing starting from like 3 weeks on. It’s been one thing after another with us. There’s been a lot of times I’ve considered going to exclusive pumping because I wasn’t enjoying any sort of bonding experience. Somehow I powered through (this was my choice, because nursing was important to me, I’m not saying it’s important to everyone) and now at almost 9 months, I’m FINALLY seeing the bonding experience that everyone talks about. The beginning was like a ravenous animal and as he got older and at one point developed a bottle preference, it was more like constant rejection and anger towards me.

    I can tell you my son cried for the majority of his first 3-4 months of life and everyone suggested I cut this or that out of my diet. I completely ignored most of it because I really didn’t see how anyone could possibly know that an infant is crying due to a stomach ache anymore than they know the infant doesn’t have a headache. And my diet is the same as it was then, if not worse, and there is no more crying. I will never know what caused my son to cry except that a pacifier seemed to make him better.

    Anyways, my point is, if you decide you want to give it a second shot with bebe deux, I can promise you two things. The first is that if you stick with it, eventually you will probably find some sort of rhythm or happiness or bonding experience. The second is just that honestly, it sucks in the first few months, no bones about it.

    If you decide to just give bebe deux formula because that’s what you’re familiar with and it’s no stress, then you should be proud of your decision. As you said, you’re not a failure in any way. You’re a wonderful mom and I love reading your blog and all that you accomplish. Being a good mom doesn’t revolve around breastfeeding or birthing experiences. It revolves around being confident in your decisions and having a happy family. Clearly, you’ve accomplished this well. Kudos to you!

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