It’s funny how quickly things can change — and change again. I wrote this post after a tough weekend. Today, Tuesday, as I’m finally getting around to hitting “publish,” I’m already feeling so much better about everything, at least for now. But I’ll still share this post, because even though today was a good day, and good days are my favorite, I like over-sharing about the tricky ones, too. So here we go.
Remember, I’m a first-time, slightly neurotic, bit of a perfectionist new mom. This is only my experience, as always, and I’m doing my best and sharing the highs in lows in hopes that we can all share and be friends and be kind to one another!
Six weeks and four days.
It took six weeks and four days for me to break.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had plenty of little breakdowns and meltdowns since having Annie. During those first two weeks, I could feel the hormones going completely wild inside me. It was almost like an out-of-body experience. It was intense. I cried a lot. I still do, but it’s less hysterical, and a little more calculated — as in, when I cry now, I tend to know why I’m crying or feeling frustrated. Before, I was just an irreparably leaky faucet.
But this past weekend, I felt like a zombie. I think the sleep deprivation finally hit. The reality that another little life is completely dependent on me sunk in. And I was in rough shape feeling the weight of it.
Sunday was Brian’s birthday. I had grand plans of doing something super special. Something from Annie and Ellie. Something to make sure he’d always remember his first birthday as a human-person dad.
But by the time Sunday rolled around, I had nothing to show for it. Nothing grand, nothing super special. Just a card I’d picked up at Target the day before and signed from Annie and Ellie. I spent Sunday in a fog. I felt so guilty for not doing anything to make Brian’s day special — knowing full well he would’ve made it spectacular if it had been my birthday, because he always does — but didn’t have it in me to rally and pick up my own slack.
Instead, I did what I always do: I sat around, and I pumped every three hours. As soon as I was done pumping, I gathered up my parts (yes, I know the put-them-in-the-refrigerator trick!), put some milk in the freezer, and counted down until it was time to pump again.
And then Ellie got sick. Multiple times. I think I gave her my Crohn’s disease. Poor puppy.
It wasn’t our best day. Finally, around 5 PM, Brian, Annie, and I went to Whole Foods to get stuff for dinner. I’m not much in the kitchen, so the best I could offer was to buy some ground beef and stuff for tacos, and a pack of Hanukkah candles to be used as birthday candles on top of a sad, store-bought cake. (Not quite the Funfetti masterpiece I had imagined. Also pretty sure you are definitely not supposed to blow out Hanukkah candles… Yikes.)
As if to really hammer home the bummer of a day, I decided to sack up and try and breastfeed Annie. I abandoned breastfeeding very early on and have been pumping all of Annie’s meals instead, which I’m grateful I’m able to do. But it’s…laborious. I regret stopping trying to breastfeed so early on, even though it felt like the right move at the time. Part of me hasn’t given up hope. So many people who’ve successfully breastfed their own children have encouraged me to “keep trying,” saying seven weeks isn’t too late to “get her back on.” But I think we’re probably too far gone. Annie digs the bottle and doesn’t quite dig me.
On Sunday night, my pump time and Annie’s hunger struck at the same time. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to try and get her on there — to get the food right from the source.
Needless to say it didn’t work out. She screamed. Wailed. You would’ve thought there were fire swords coming out of my boobs or something. (And she didn’t — wouldn’t — even latch.) I gave up after a few minutes of crying, with both of us in tears. And then I sat there while Brian gave her a bottle and I hooked myself up to a milk machine.
A big — maybe the main — part of my building frustration and stress over the past seven weeks has been the feeding and the pumping. While I know and absolutely believe “fed is best,” it’s hard to navigate this road for myself and for my own baby. I hate pumping every three hours. I hate the time it takes. I hate that I haven’t been able to feed Annie a more direct way. Are we missing out on that “bonding” people who love breastfeeding talk about?
I hate living in very short three-hour increments. (And that’s three hours from the time I start pumping, so it’s really more like two and a half hours, max.) But mostly, I hate how hard it is to do anything else while pumping. I can’t hold Annie, and the main thing she wants if she’s upset is to be held. I try to time pumping with times she’s asleep, but it doesn’t always work out that way. I can’t play with Ellie when I’m pumping, and that puppy sure loves to play! (I know there are some options — I know about the Willow, which is silly expensive and can’t hold as much as I’m pumping out right now, and I know about battery-powered pumps so I could move around more freely. That one wasn’t covered by insurance! But I know. I know. I know there are options. Just doing some venting here for a sec.)
Beyond the actual pumping, I hate that I can’t sleep on my stomach or side, and that I can’t snuggle with Annie on my chest for too long anymore because I end up getting clogged ducts, which, I’ve learned, ouch! And apparently I have this thing called “vapospasm,” which is fun to say, but also, ouch!
At first, I didn’t mind pumping seemingly ’round the clock. Maybe it’s because I was in a newborn daze. Or because pumping, physically, brings wonderful relief. (I actually like how it feels!) But now, as the dust starts to settle, as Brian is back at work full-time and then some, and as Ellie is definitely not getting nearly enough attention or play time, it’s tough.
One of my friends told me “not to give up on my worst day.” It feels selfish to stop because “I want control of my body back.” I want to do what’s best for Annie. But I also know she needs a sane mom. So we’ll see. I’m taking it all one day — one pumping session — at a time.
This post actually wasn’t going to be a pumping rant. But here we are. It always comes back to the boobs!
I just want to make sure I’m enjoying this fleeting time as much as I could. Annie is growing every second and I don’t want to miss a thing, and I don’t want to feel quite so consumed by pumping.
That being said, my supply is great. Actually, I seem to have an over-supply, which seems great in theory, but comes with its own challenges. We are now the [proud?] owners of a deep freezer, which is stocked with breast milk that we will be able to use down the road as well as donate. (At least that’s the plan — I need to do a bit more research because apparently having Crohn’s disease and being on Stelara may make me ineligible to donate.) I feel lucky to have milk to give my child, even if it’s not in the way I envisioned it happening.
Annie is now seven weeks old. Seven weeks! I wish she would be teeny tiny forever, but am also loving every little development. She’s so squeaky, which I adore, and she’s just this total light to me. When I do get stressed or anxious, I look at her, and it helps. She’s my little problem solver without even knowing it!
So if Annie is a pretty good, pretty easy, pretty chill baby…if my Crohn’s disease has finally chilled out…if I’m able to provide food and warmth for Annie and Ellie…why am I still saying this is hard? Why am I anxious? Why do I live in a constant state of “what if?”
I think, to be honest, I’m making it harder than it has to be.
After my crap-tastic weekend, I decided to stop complaining and wallowing and do some problem/solution analysis. Brian is constantly reassuring me that everything is fine and that, perhaps, I need to “chill,” and I fight that, instinctually. I’m constantly rushing around doing. Doing dishes, doing laundry, reading about newborn sleep, reading about pumping and supply and weaning, and trying to give Ellie some love. Brian is content to hold Annie in his arms and nap with her. They both sleep happily and wake up cooing. (Yes, both of them.) I have done that maybe three times since Annie was born. I snuggle her all the time, but I rarely if ever let myself fall asleep with her.
I know I’m doing an OK job. A good job. Annie is happy. She’s fed. She’s overwhelmingly loved. Ellie is doing a great job with the adjustment, but needs more love, more attention, more exercise. I feel that, and it hurts me. And my work is suffering. I just started taking freelance writing assignments again, but my podcast — where my big dreams and goals lie — is also getting more neglected than I’d like.
I’ve preached that I don’t believe in balance. That something has to give sometimes, and that’s OK. That I want to go all-in on what’s most important. Do I practice what I preach? LOL, of course not. But maybe now is the time.
I know the dishes and the laundry are unimportant right now. I think I gravitate toward them because they’re easy. Sitting down to record a podcast, while so rewarding, is harder, logistically, to manage. I can do it. I will do it. It’s just a work in progress, which I’ve never loved. I like to be good at things right away! (At least I can admit that, right?)
As for returning to exercise: I’m trying! I so want to be back in my routine of daily Orangetheory classes, but that’s not quite realistic right now. My body feels great (except no sports bra in the world can contain these boulder boobs), but Brian and I are working on timing. I’ve taken a few 6:15 AM OTF classes, which gets me back home at 7:30 AM. That’s usually around when Annie is waking up, and then we tag-team the morning: I feed and tend to Annie, and he does the same for Ellie. But he usually ends up getting to work way later than anticipated, so we’re navigating that. I’m also doing a trial-run with a potential babysitter this week, so that may help get Brian out the door more seamlessly. Like I said, it’s all a work in progress!
I’m grateful for my team, my people, and my support systems right now. I never thought much about why new parents say “it’s hard.” I never doubted or questioned it, but I didn’t necessarily know what, exactly, specifically, was hard.
For me, I’d say, so far, it’s the complete lifestyle change. The need to be on 24/7. The tiny, growing life depending on me, all day, all night, every moment of her amazing life. It’s not the dishes, it’s not the laundry. It’s certainly not making sure the bed is made every day. It’s just the sheer gravity of it all, and of wanting to do it well.
Oh, and let me tell you how Brian’s birthday ended.
After the breastfeeding fail, I sat and pumped for my requisite 25 minutes. Ellie snoozed, and Brian held Annie and cleaned and I don’t know. Did some other stuff.
When I was done pumping, Brian said, “Annie wants to show you something.”
He led me down the hall and to the bathroom, where there was a hot bath and a bunch of candles waiting for me. He said something along the lines of, “You take care of all of us, so we want you to take care of yourself.” He turned on some “Alexa, play spa music,” then closed the door behind him.
While I sat in the bath, crying for only a little while — but because I was so grateful — Brian made us those tacos.
It was a total birthday fail, but it ended with all four of us getting five uninterrupted hours of sleep together. So it might be hard sometimes, but it’s also pretty great.
Younare doing a great job!
My baby is now 7 months and just reading this (especially the pumping and BF parts) brought me so close to tears. I was in a similar situation to you except with low supply but determined to pump round the clock to give her all the breast milk I could. It was exhausting but honestly I’m glad I did it. The pump went with me to Hawaii, Colorado, California and more. I weaned at 5 months. My goal had been 6 but I just couldn’t do it anymore. After going back to work full time she was getting more and more forumla and doing just perfect.
In hindsight I wish I hadn’t stressed so much but that’s the thing about hindsight, it gives you perspective that you don’t have in the moment.
I just found your podcast and am loving hearing your interviews and more. As a fellow new mom I can relate to so much of what you talk about. Just remember you’re doing an awesome job. Annie is perfect and it does get easier. Now at 7 months I am feeling more like myself. My body, my mind and my spirit are all learning how to be old me and new me (mom) but it’s going a lot smoother!
Ali, you ARE great. Annie is beautiful, you are doing a great job! Now, I have a 1-year-old daughter and we went through an odissey with breastfeeding, including mastitis and a breast abscess that I had to have incised and drained (Christmas in hostpital is no fun). We struggled for almost four months, and then something clicked. I suppose it was just a matter of mouth size. If you want to give another try at the breast, you may use a lactation aid (https://ibconline.ca/information-sheets/lactation-aid/). It is a bit tricky to set up the first time, but for us it was a real life saver. I was able to start nursing again on the operated side after a 1 month long stop thanks to the feeding tube, and after a while I did no longer need it. Also, a friend at the hospidal gave me a tube and I built the lactation aid by myself using a small glass juice bottle. I know I am stubborn 🙂 For a baby nursing is way harder than taking a bottle, a quick flow thanks to the feeding aid helps overcome this problem and keeps the baby longer at the breast (so, in the end, they do nurse). Feel free to ask me anything, I have only my experience to share but I’d be happy to!
It’s so hard. The early months are particularly hard, but I found the whole first year to be challenging. My daughter is 18 months now and I feel much more calm. I know we’re at the early stages of toddler-hood, but dang it is so much easier than the newborn phase! But real talk here for a moment, pumping SUCKS–like literally and figuratively. I HATED my pump with a passion. It got to the point where I’d cry every time I hooked myself up to it. I think for a lot of moms there is this emotional tie to providing breast milk to your child. I would cry and cry at the thought of stopping, even though my baby had been on supplemental formula since day 3. I started gradually dropping pumps around 4 months (hello sleep regression!) and was completely dried up by 5 months. I felt more bonded with my daughter feeding her after stopping. I enjoyed my time with her instead of thinking “Ok, I need to have everything set up so I can be ready to pump in 30 minutes.” Make sure you are getting enough you time. Do things that you used to do in your pre-mom days. And also give yourself some grace. You are doing an amazing job. Babies are hard–they require a lot of attention, care and don’t sleep the best.
Oh boy! Haven’t read here in a while but your post felt like I was reading something I could have written 13 years ago. Let me repeat – 13 years go. IT GOES FAST. Those 3 *really 2.5 hour* windows of life – they will get longer and longer – this I absolutely promise you. It was Incredibly, 100%, completely different with my second child. I didn’t feel as penned-in. I can’t explain why – but it was just easier, lighter, maybe the fact that I made it through one and survived?
This is the hardest part. You’ll adjust and you’ll have your time and your body back. If I could go back to my new-mom self the one thing I would say is – chill the hell out. IT IS FINE. The baby is fine, you will be fine, this is the biggest transition of your life but it is NOT the end of YOU. Because that is what it felt like to me. It’s not, it really isn’t. I have almost 14 and 9 year olds now and they don’t even really need me. The first few months are about survival. The second year is better, the third purely delightful. It gets better every year until it’s just normal and fine and good.
Hang in there!
My daughter was born late July 2013. This is EXACTLY how I felt (from the failed breastfeeding to exclusively pumping) for the first 7 months. I only say 7 months because at 6 months my husband BEGGED me to stop pumping because of the amount of time it took up. Also, I would cry that I didn’t feel like I was bonding with her because he would feed her while I pumped. I also didn’t have the best supply and had to supplement with formula from day 1.
Lastly, before I had my daughter, I wasn’t a typically anxious person but from day one with her, I have had really bad anxiety. It is gotten a little better over the years but I still deal with it a lot.
Have you heard of the Freemie cups on amazon? There like $30 and are little self contained pumping cups you can fit in your bra. Not a perfect solution but they allow you to do more while pumping! Get an extension cord if you don’t have battery and you can at least move a little! You’re doing awesome and Annie is a gorgeous happy little girl!
I did private donation to a lady in my breastfeeding support group. I looked into donating my milk and the rules were insane. Because I took a B vitamin for my own vasospasms and because I had been to Europe when I was 15 for 2 weeks I was ineligible. But there was this sweet girl in my group who just couldn’t produce enough milk and she was set on giving her daughter breastmilk so I gave her my extra! I had an over supply and even though I could nurse my baby I also pumped due to the oversupply and then I enjoyed donating to her. It took me 3 months to actually like nursing, hated it before then. With my 2nd daughter I still wish I had tried formula but then she never took a bottle so I guess that would have been hard!!! She had so many GI issues and a swallowing disorder and a rare condition called FPIES and I never ever thought she would stop crying. I mean literally this kid never stopped, for 2 + years ( except out in public and at daycare, cuz you know she had to prove me wrong). When she was 1, due to her medical issues she struggled to gain weight and I returned to work and I had to pump. Wanna know my main reason for nursing?? We were on a budget and it was cheap.
Oh also I think you should do an Ali on the run episode about racewalking. Draw some attention to the sport!
Exclusively pumping is hard , I started my journey that way and ended it that way as way although for about a short span in between , I was able to get my son to breastfeed , it is really hard , in retrospective I would have done what I could since I had missed out on the bonding with my son for the first year and struggled with feeling myself . If you can do mix go for it to save your sanity , my son is two and we have the closest bond now but I wish I was not hooked to the pump all day during the first year . Annie does not want a “perfect mom” but a “happy one” 🙂
Brian gets to chill with Annie BECAUSE you’re doing all the emotional labor of worrying, planning, reading, and making contingency plans. He gets to know you will always handle the hard parenting stuff. He gets to plan vacations and look like the hero (even if the vacation is just in the bath). Don’t ever forget, YOU are the hero of Annie’s life right now. ♥️
Ali, you are doing a great job! Annie is beautiful, healthy, & happy! I can definitely relate to the sentiment of this post. Being a new parent was hard for me, but not ever in the ways I thought. The hardest part for me was the lifestyle adjustment as well. I grieved (and still sometimes grieve) my old life. And not because I wished away my new reality, but it’s just so different. And that’s ok. It was really hard for me to wrap my head around the first months of my daughter’s life. I loved it, but also missed my old self/life. My daughter is 2 now, and I still have those moments once in a while and that is when I’ll find a sitter and have an evening out with my husband or with friends. I found the “new me”, while not totally neglecting the old me and the things I enjoyed pre-kid. Enjoy the baby snuggles and those sweet moments with Annie!
Oh and as far as not meeting your own expectations, for things like your husband’s birthday…there is always next year, or his half birthday, or a make up day when you’re feeling like surprising him 🙂 You’re a team and in this together! Be easy on yourself. There will be plenty of times for you to celebrate and love on him too. But the bath…he sounds like a great guy and team mate!
Annie is stinking adorable! So happy for you and Brian. It is so very hard, but as you know, so very rewarding. Hang in there on the tough days!
You are amazing! I love following your journey. I’m 3 weeks away from giving birth to my first (a baby girl as well!) and am nervous, excited and overwhelmed. Keeping up with your blog and instagram has been a huge help. You are killin’ it! Keep it up!
I could have written this 3 years ago. But it gets so much better. You take care of you and do what you need for your sanity. My son and I are inseparable and I swapped from painful nursing, to exclusively pumping to formula. However, if you want to nurse find a lactation specialist, they can work miracles. Currently breastfeeding my second and while it isn’t easy, it’s so much better this time around. I don’t know how my husband didn’t get fired for the first year with all the times he was late or came home to save me. He’s an absolute saint. He took over night feedings when I was losing it, let me have all the time in the world when he got home and never complained. As for Ellie, she’ll be ok. We also had a dog who got our full attention pre-baby. He’s now my son’s best friend.
I could have written this 3 years ago. But it gets so much better. You take care of you and do what you need for your sanity. My son and I are inseparable and I swapped from painful nursing, to exclusively pumping to formula. However, if you want to nurse find a lactation specialist, they can work miracles. Currently breastfeeding my second and while it isn’t easy, it’s so much better this time around. I don’t know how my husband didn’t get fired for the first year with all the times he was late or came home to save me. He’s an absolute saint. He took over night feedings when I was losing it, let me have all the time in the world when he got home and never complained. As for Ellie, she’ll be ok. We also had a dog who got our full attention pre-baby. He’s now my son’s best friend. Take time for you and do whatever you need to do for your mental sanity.
You are doing an amazing job!! ❤️ Truly!! Whenever you feel down about how you’re doing try to think of the advice and love you would give to a friend in the same situation and give it yourself. We’re always harder on ourselves without cause.
I HIGHLY recommend getting out of the house every day (provided you feel physically well enough to.) A great default is a walk for everyone so you all get some fresh air and sunshine and a little non stressful physical activity for you and Ellie. If there are new moms groups in the area (usually at local hospitals) or baby story time, mom and baby yoga etc try to get to one or two per week. It’s beyond amazing to hang out with become friends with other mom who are going through the exact same stages you are.
Re pumping – if you have a great supply maybe you could stretch out the time between pumping sessions so you get more of a break. Just a thought. ?
You’re doing an amazing job!!! ❤️
I could have written this with my first. My son never latched well, I had to pump constantly. I felt like an absolute failure and eventual formula fed because I pumped so little. But guess what, he’s 3, and perfect, smart, loved. The first baby is a shock to the system and I had such a hard time adjusting to losing my freedom and my body. I don’t know how my husband didn’t get fired that first year from all the times he had to be late or come home to save me. It’ll get easier, life will normalize. Ellie will adjust too, our dog went from being our number one baby to know being our son’s best friend. Breastfed, exclusively pumping, formula, doesn’t matter. Don’t forget to take care of yourself and take into account your needs. You got this!
Hi Ali! Just wanted to comment to echo everyone’s sentiments here:
1) you are doing amazing!!
2) your honesty about motherhood is also amazing!
3) in time, the fog of sleep deprivation will lift, the weight of the guilt will subside and you will no longer live life in 3-4 hour blocks (this was one of the hardest things about having a newborn for me!)
Keep sharing and venting… we are all here to support you and celebrate the good days along the way!! XO
Thank you so much for sharing!! I went through the same thing!! So appreciate your honesty. You are doing a great job.
Six weeks seems to be the most horrible time for newborns huh. Think it’s a growth spurt or something. In my firstborn’s sixth week of life my husband came home one day to find me having not moved from the couch for about 7 hours, where I had been feeding for almost all of those 7 hours (low supply, but you know, EVERYONE can do it if they just put their minds to it, right? I mean come on you used to run or exercise for hours at one go). I had had a few teary outbursts throughout those seven hours.. And as soon as he heard that it had been 7 hours, he packed me off for a hot shower and he gave that baby some formula and we all went to bed and he did the night feeds with formula. Husbands rock, and i also stopped breastfeeding after that and didnt pump either. You’ll be fine, Annie will be fine, whatever you choose. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling that you want your body back.
Hi Ali, mom of two here who basically could have written this post. Exclusively pumped due to two preemies and hated every second of it. I quit at 5 months with my oldest, and at 9 weeks with my second. I felt SO guilty. But MAN, the freedom that comes with switching to formula doesn’t even hold a candle to the benefit it will have on your mental health. Consider trying formula. I have two super smart, thriving kids. They are both OBSESSED with me (and I with them!) despite neither of them ever successfully nursing. The bond you make is based on the fact that you care for them, not by how you feed them. Trust me – I have been in your shoes. Do not put this burden on yourself. Much love. Email me if you want to chat more with someone who has been there.
I’m not a parent, but I’m nothing short of very impressed with everything you are doing! Please don’t forget to take care of yourself! That being said, ever since I read this article, I’m very wary of people napping with their baby on their chest. I hate to be a fear-mongerer but it might be something good to be aware of, since I had no idea until I saw this: https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/father-cosleeping-instagram-dangerous-picture/
Also, I exclusively pumped and I still ”bonded” with my baby. That whole bond with your baby breastfeeding thing is BS! ?? of course you can bond with your baby even if you don’t BF.
5 months in, all I can say is f pumping (though I did it til recently because a crying baby at the boob is no fun for anyone), and DO WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU. Don’t get caught up in advice and tips. If formula or a babysitter will make your life easier, just do it. In my mom’s words, “Don’t be a martyr.” Momming is so hard! Keep crushing it.
I pumped every three hours (except at night I went 5 hours) for 6 months. The best day was when I stopped. I had so much guilt for stopping but that slowly gave way as I realized how much happier I was not being tied to the pump. My child is 2 and thriving. I started thriving again when I stopped. Formula is great. Seriously. I had the worst clogged ducts nonstop. If you continue try lecithin, a supplement that will help with those pesky clogged ducts. Also save that freezer stash. When you introduce solids you can make her food (if you go the purée route) using frozen BM. Hang in there. It’s gets better and better!
Ali, after I had my baby, I felt crazy. I was devastated, anxious beyond belief, guilty, and stunned because I’d never assumed that it would feel like my life would never be the same and no one would ever be able to help me .
Everyone asked how HAPPY I was and I felt AWFUL because i WASNT.
I wish someone had told me that WHATEVER I was doing was not just good enough, it was perfect,
I quit breastfeeding and that was the start of feeling better again but it took another two years before I realized that I had postpartum anxiety.
Ask for help if you need it and don’t worry if it feels insane . It IS insane. It’s motherhood and however you do it it’s right.
You will survive and thrive.
But it’s okay to struggle and cry.
But if you feel darkness, please tell your doctor, I fervently wish I had. It might have helped me love myself and my baby better!
I just want to let you know that the benefits to breastmilk over formula are trivial in developed countries and there are no differences long e between breastfed and formula fed infants when variables like SES are controlled for. I am happy to provide you with the peer-reviewed lit if you need more reassurance. What’s most important is a healthy and happy mom. Do whatever you need to get you there! You are doing a great job and regardless of what path you choose, it’s going to get sooo much easier.
“differences long term” is what I meant up there 🙂
So glad that you are doing better today! My husband and I both hit a sleep deprivation wall at 6 weeks old with our daughter. It was rough. For us, it got better then worse at 4 months and then better for good! Hang in there!
I have a chronic illness as well and my doctor recommended formula exclusively. We slept better, I loved having my body “back” and it was one less stress. Everyone is different, but if pumping is ruining this special time, give yourself a break. A happy mom is what any baby needs. My 2-year-old is a great eater, tall and crazy smart and had formula. Honestly after kids turn 1 and most move to cow’s milk, the conversation of breast vs pumped vs formula is never had again….
Listen. I don’t know you. I’ve been reading your blog on and off for years. I’m a mom to three kids almost 11 year old twins and a 13 year old. So take this unsolicited advice for what it is:
Pumping is great. It’s a god send for working women who are away from their kids for full days. But if you’re home and tied up with pumping? It sucks, right? I know this because I had to pump for a while while my twins got big enough to nurse. But if nursing is t working for you….save your sanity. Snuggle that baby while you give her a bottle of formula. You said it yourself: fed is best. It will save you from middle of the night pumping and then feeding sessions which take twice as long as only feeding. No wonder you’re exhausted. I’m exhausted for you.
Let Brian take care of you—six weeks of newborn baby is exhausting.
You’ll celebrate his half birthday, when you can keep your eyes open and celebrate properly.
Don’t stress (or try not to)
Oh god. You got me! That last part. I cried. I wasn’t even expecting to cry! I don’t even have kids, have kids on the way, or have crazy hormones coursing through my veins and that last part made me cry. You’re doing great.
It is SO hard, and you’re doing great! My nursing experience with baby #1 was just like yours- and I exclusively pumped. We bonded in other ways (snuggles, peek-a-boo, dancing). Baby #2 nursed for 2 months then demanded bottles. This time around, I also had to chase around a toddler, so I physically couldn’t sit attached to a pump for 20 minutes at a time. The handheld Medela pump from Target was a lifesaver (only $30!). I could walk around the house manually pumping with one hand, and pour cereal/ put away dishes with my other hand. If I had to stop pumping suddenly, no big deal! I could put the whole pump and bottle of expressed milk in the fridge until I was ready to start again (in case I got distracted for a while) No wires and cords to detach since it was manual. Baby #3 was 100% nursed and hated bottles. So, I had 3 totally different experiences and still managed to bond with all of them. You’ll find your groove and be GREAT at it! Annie looks so happy so you’re clearly doing things right.
Hi Ali! Just want to share some of my experience in case it’s helpful for you at all. I never got a good latch with my baby (now 18 months) either and had to exclusively pump. Laborious is exactly the right word. My husband also went back to work after 2 weeks and my biggest struggling was trying to pump while tending to a fussing baby. Over time, I gradually relaxed my pumping schedule (every 4 hours, then 5, then 6…) which gave me a little more flexibility and sanity while still producing most of what my daughter ate. (I also found it to be a useful and relatively pain limited way to wean, slowly.) I know you’ll figure out what’s best for you and Annie.
Thanks for posting this to the blog! Love your updates and am always excited to hear the latest chapter.
I’m not a mom but I might try to become one soon, so I massively appreciate all your honesty as I try to navigate the rosie picture often painted versus the reality I see hiding in many women’s experiences. So thank you for sharing the highs and the lows!!
I’m crying. Because reading this is like looking back to my situation 6 weeks ago. To pump or not to pump because nursing wasn’t cutting it. Sit and stare at my baby and not be able to play with him because i need to pump or transition to formula. Having to plan every single thing i do to make sure the baby eats and I’m on schedule. Having to go sit in a room alone to pump in social situations. Girl, I totally understand everything you said. I have no advice because I still have mom guilt some days. But i can offer you this. Know that whatever you decide, it will be ok. Trust your instincts. Annie is thriving, which means you have a 100% success rate. 🙂
Thank you for writing such an honest post about what it is like to try breastfeeding and wind up unintentionally exclusively pumping. Your breastfeeding story mirrors what i went through with my son born in May. As I always had to supplement, I decided to wean when I went back to work at 12 weeks. You will figure out what works for you. Also it really does keep getting better and better, and even when you encounter new challenges (hello cold season) you figure it out and gain confidence. Good luck and love the name Annie she is adorable.
Man, this sounds tough, but I’m glad you’re feeling better than you were when you wrote it! I *don’t* have a baby, but even I often find that my OT class schedule just doesn’t work for me during busy times with work, etc.; I need more flexibility. Does your building have a gym? It’s not quite the same, but I seem to remember Janae bringing Brooke to her gym and she’d hang out in a pack n play while she ran on the treadmill to avoid the childcare thing. Perhaps you could explore that kind of option while everything is still settling into place? You could even ask one of your OT coaches if they’re able to give you some private sessions 1-2x week at your gym so you get the structure you like without the time restrictions 🙂
Awww, that was such an amazing thing for Brian to do for you. Us moms have always had days like that (and many more better and worse!). You’re doing great. I have to give you Kudos for sticking with pumping. I actually gave up the breast milk idea after my first child didn’t latch on in the hospital and I never tried again! Formula worked just great for both of my kids, and we bonded 🙂
First of all, YOU ARE AN AMAZING MOM AND DOING GREAT!!!! Annie and Ellie are SO lucky to have you and love you so much!
…And all my horrible newborn haze memories are flooding back with this post. (Charlie is 20 mo) I feel like I literally had the exact same experience and man is it hard. Dare I say, it kind of sucks? Sugar coating it with, “but its so rewarding,” isn’t telling the real truth. Its really fucking hard. I wish the mom village wasn’t so judgy and let some off us have these rants without having to play down how absolutely miserable it is some days.
Those first 3-5 months are pure survival. I shed soooo many tears over breastfeeding. I found a breastfeeding OT at my hospital who was a god-send but it still didn’t really work out the way I wanted. She encouraged me at 6 weeks PD to call my Dr about meds because I was absolutely having PPD/A and refused to admit it. I do agree, don’t quit on your worst day. I finally gave up the breast feeding at 8 months and I wish I had done it sooner. He loved formula and I finally started to feel normal again.
I would 100% suggest talking to your Dr just to make sure there isn’t something you could do to boost your mood. Or maybe hiring someone to come clean and do dishes once a week would be worth the $.
However… it does get better and better and better. I am ready to try for #2 knowing what I know and hoping I can chill the F out next time. But I 100% disagree that you can force yourself to chill out the first time around. It will happen with time and sleep.
Sending so much love and lots of hugs where we both cry buckets. Good luck Ali!!!
The transition to motherhood, for me, has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I so appreciate this post. I have a 17 week old and had a HUGE breakdown around 7 weeks. Everything is soooo overwhelming, especially just knowing that your life will never be the same and someone else’s life is completely dependent on you. My husband had to remind me multiple times how unimportant dishes, laundry, cleaning up was in the grand scheme of things. Please try to give yourself permission to do nothing but love your baby! And I echo the other comments… give yourself permission to stop pumping for your sanity.
Yes. I feel all of this so much. I had Lucy at the end of August and went through and continue to go through so much of this. I sometimes tell myself that new motherhood is like running a really trying marathon, like one you’re under prepared for (?). I’m just trying to thoroughly enjoy the good “miles” and power through the tough ones grateful for the opportunity to even be able to “run.” Plenty of tears, plenty of unnnowns and doubts and pain (physical and emotional) but, overall pretty beautiful.
(Writing this as I try to train Lucy to sleep in her crib and fall asleep on her own because as we hit the four month sleep regression, I’ve learned that I did the sleep thing all wrong.)
Not in a position to offer any advice or perspective as I’m still babyless (been working on #1 for two years), but wanted to say that you are doing an awesome job and thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! Annie is so lucky to have you and Brian and Ellie as her family, and we are so lucky to get to follow along. And also, Brian with the bath and candles, are you kidding me?! Making me cry all over the place, almost as bad as with the giraffe rocker!
It’s so hard – my baby is 4 weeks old and it’s just so hard some days! I also spend too much time running around doing dishes and laundry…but it makes me feel productive and the house feel tidier so I’ll probably keep doing it even though it doesn’t really matter.
Also, if you got the spectra 2 I believe you can get a compatible battery to make it portable as I too couldn’t get the portable one on insurance.
I just keep focusing on the fact that tmrw
Is another day if it’s been a bad day or night – and small victories like doing my hair.
Your doing a great job!
I had the spectra and you can definitely get a portable battery adapter for it. I think the Madela works with it. Good luck Mama!!! 4 weeks is still soooo tiny!!!
First of all, all babies are cute, especially my own two, but holy cow is Annie CUTE!!! CUTECUTECUTE CUTE. CUTE. Just like extra cute <3.
Second, I hope you give yourself some extra space and grace. You are only 6 weeks into this with years to go–if pumping sucks for your enjoyment of these years, there's formula! I know, I know, it's not that easy, but I remember with my first wanting to keep breastmilk going and how important it felt and….by my second, I realized I'd just created MORE stress for myself during a time I should've been ENJOYING her. Legit Fed Is Best here. Just sayin'. Or maybe even a mix if that would help – look up "los dos" campaign in latin countries.
Third, same re: exercise, and work, you are but 6-7 weeks into this with miles to go. It will get easier. You will get better! And it can all come together a lot more slowly than you think. Play the long game in all ways for yourself. You've got this. You're doing a great job and I've loved seeing you become a parent (longtime reader here).
This is so honest and so real. Thank you for sharing!
As others have said, what you are going through – trouble breastfeeding, and guilt about it – is very normal. And the guilt isn’t necessary, because you’re doing a great job. Even if everything isn’t as perfect and easy right now as you’d like, that’s okay. You are going to be Annie’s mother for years and years, and what and how you feed her in these early months is going to be just a small part of your journey together.
Some (unsolicited) advice:
– It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It sounds like you have a great supply and maybe you could pump less often and get the same amount of milk, but even if pumping less often means you produce less, maybe that’s okay. Formula is not poison. Annie will still get plenty of benefits from breast milk if you supplement. And if you could gradually reduce your pumping to every 4 or 5 hours, you would have longer stretches of free time and might have Brian around to watch Annie for many of your pumping sessions.
– You might want to take a look at the Haakaa pump. It’s basically a suction cup that you stick on your boob to slowly collect milk. Some people use it to collect from one boob while nursing on the other, or they wear it between pumping sessions to reduce engorgement and store extra milk.
Exclusively pumping is the worst!! I had to exclusively pump beginning at 2 months for my second after she lost weight because she couldn’t nurse properly, and I hated every second. I felt like I never got to spend time with my baby because I was pumping constantly. You may consider pumping less frequently since you have an over supply. You should also give yourself permission to quit! I exclusively pumped for 7 months and was miserable the whole time. It was severely impacting my mental health, and looking back I would have quit much sooner. I had so much guilt around feeding my baby formula, but she’s doing great! You’re dong an amazing job!
I was an EP…and my son is 15 weeks and i pump 3x a day. Much more manageable- i almost weaned until i realized after my supply was established, pumping 3x a day made no difference. Try it out!
No advice, no real comment except to say I’m here with you….I get it. 🙂 celebrating 5 weeks tomorrow and as one friend said “you didn’t kill your baby, you didn’t kill your husband…you survived the first month. You’ve got this”.
Thanks for sharing – always nice to hear someone is going through the same…
Hello. I am a long time reader but first time commenter. I am 48 years old and my kids are 17 and 13. I have the benefit of having what you don’t yet have- perspective. Please put down that big stick you are beating yourself with. Annie will thrive on the bottle and yes even formula (gasp) if that’s what you choose to do. I HATE that I wasted so much time feeling guilty for formula feeding my two very smart, beautiful, healthy kids. Oh, and you know what? I bonded with them even when they sucked down their Similac from the bottle. Trust me, when you drop the guilt and relax a little, Annie will feel it too.
Listen, whoever told you not to quit on a bad day—that is some bullshit. I have 3 kids. I breastfed my oldest for 2 years, my middle for 1 year, and my third NOT AT ALL. Because I needed my damn body back and mama’s sanity is priceless. Formula is amazing. I remember when I was struggling so hard with breastfeeding my first (I had low supply) people would tell me that “don’t quit on a bad day” line and it seriously messed with my head. I should have quit waaaaay sooner. My sanity was worth it, and I should have given myself permission to prioritize myself for one damn thing. It’s hard to give someone perspective who is in the thick of it, but I promise you one day you will look back on this struggle and your future self will wish your currrent self a little grace and peace and permission to take care of yourself.
The every-three-hours boob-emptying is the absolute worst part of new motherhood, and the one that I definitely was not prepared for. They tell you new babies eat at least 8 times/day, but until you live it, you don’t realize the level of time-suck. I have wrestled with wanting to quit breastfeeding/pumping many times, even though I’ve had it relatively easy, and I’m not quite sure why I stuck with it—some combo of guilt that I know is irrational (because I do not judge anyone else for how they feed their babies, AND I was formula fed!) and hormones (I wept for hours when I recently pondered weaning after a particularly brutal mid-feed bite). Exclusive pumping seems so, so hard. Annie will be a star no matter what she drinks as a baby. Be gentle with yourself! <3
This might be a controversial thing to say these days but I will say it anyway: it’s completely ok to quit breastfeeding and pumping. There, I said it.
I felt enormous guilt when my daughter wouldn’t latch. I spent 6 weeks in a misery fog trying to breastfeed and then pumping all my waking and sleeping hours. Finally I quit and the sun came out. She thrived on formula but even 17 years later I grieve for the lost time I had with her. I was miserable and I will never get those first weeks back.
So 4 years later when my son was born I never even put him to the breast. He was born 9 lbs 2oz and hungry! He also thrived on formula. I enjoyed his newborn weeks in a way I couldn’t with my daughter. We bonded. He grew. I refused and refuse to feel guilty. He’s 13 now, healthy and strong. Student of the year for 7th grade, starting center on the basketball team and has his first girlfriend!
No matter how you feed your baby it’s ok. Annie is gorgeous and loved. What else matters?
I’m not a mom, so my comment is based on watching my friends become parents…
You are doing a wonderful job! I have seen my friends go through the same emotions (and we’re basically friends in my mind since you’re really cool and I’d like to think you’d be my pal) and I’ve seen them grow these wonderful tiny humans that I am excited to call my friends, too. Just keep on keepin on.
Also, I have boulder boobs on the reg….Brooks/Moving Comfort Juno is the best sports bra out there for large tatas. <3
Thank you for your post! My son is almost 2 weeks old and I overwhelmed by the realization that this is it – I will be feeding him throughout the day and night for many more months – this is the new normal. It’s a lot to handle. Thanks for being so honest, makes me feel less alone!
Oh Ali, I don’t know you in real life but even still I so badly want to just give you a big hug and tell you in person – YOU ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB. You really, really, really are!
Hopefully this doesn’t sound too “know it all advicey” but after two kids (it’s always easier in retrospect) can I just say… everyone underestimates how vitally important it is for new Moms to take care of themselves both physically and emotionally. It has to be a priority! Even if it’s little things like naps, a babysitter a few hours a week, or a spa like bath. It’s incredible how a few hours can completely reset you!
As for breastfeeding / pumping. With my first we exclusively pumped for 8 weeks (I have wonderful flat nipples, TMI? Ha) and she would not latch. Around the 6 week mark I ran into the same thing and by 8 weeks (coupled with her reflux) we ended that journey. I cried for hours on end for the first two weeks but ultimately EVERYONE IS FINE AND HEALTHY!!! Whereas now my 18 month old son breastfed no problem from the start and will not stop (not fun either!!!) I have to agree with your wise friend – don’t make any decisions on a bad day. Those tend to be the ones we regret. But as a planner there may be things you can start to do that will help?
You mention an oversupply and already a freezer stash. Have you thought to change your pumping schedule to ever 4 hours? Once your supply is established it likely won’t dip. That may give you just a little bit of extra freedom. Also, I have a friend who BF until her baby was a few months then used her feeezer stash which lasted them another few months. Pros and cons to all of these of course and do what is best for you – I just know on my bad days I used to like to think of options to get me to the next good day. 🙂
Be kind to yourself. Also VENT AWAY. While many of us go into solution mode and advice mode it is because we care but sometimes people just need to vent and get it out!!
And finally, after my novel sorry, just a reminder…YOU REALLY ARE doing amazing. 🙂
Due to a complicated delivery, I made no milk for 5 days. My son had no wet or dirty diapers on day 4, and my pediatrician said that he was truly starving, and that I had to use formula. This, needless to say, was a setback to my breastfeeding journey. My milk supply never “caught up” and had to supplement for 6 months until I (my body?) decided to wean and go exclusively to formula. I wish, desperately wish, that I had taken more time to meet with a lactation consultatnt earlier and work toward exclusively breastfeeding. If there is any chance you think you’d want to actively breastfeed again, I would encourage you to keep moving in that direction with the help of an LC!! Breastfeeding successfully is not a cure all for motherhood woes, it probably is no more “bonding” than the overwhelming love you already have for your baby, and breasted babies are certainly not guaranteed to be smarter, healthier, faster, etc., but it is a sweet, once-in-a-lifetime relationship, and if you think you may regret “missing” it, push forward! That said, no matter what you choose, how you feed your infant is just one of 100,000 parenting decisions you will make for Annie in her lifetime!!
I’m a long time reader but first time poster as I just wanted to say I think this post is amazing. Thank you being honest and portraying the true realities of motherhood, it is amazing but so tough. I didn’t have to exclusively pump but my baby breastfed every two hours like clockwork, day and night for months and it almost broke me. It’s hard but your doing an amazing job!!
Oh Ali – it is so hard! And I’m not going to tell you it gets easier (it does!), because that does not help you at the moment. I feel it was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. As far as breastfeeding – I tried. My daughter was over 10 lbs at birth. I tried – she just would not latch. So I switched to formula and she ate like a champ. Then my son was born (even bigger than her!) and he latched a little – but it wasn’t terrific – so I switched to formula and he ate like a champ. She is now 27 and a speech pathologist with her Master’s Degree and an amazing job and life. And he just finished his Master’s in Lake Management and is job searching. They are both just amazing people – in spite of being formula fed! So just follow your mother’s instinct – it’s there – even though you may not believe it sometimes. You are doing an amazing job with your little squeaky! And Ellie will be fine too. Just enjoy your little family and time is going to fly!
Unsolicited advice from an internet stranger- I truly believe that if I had continued trying to breastfeed and Pump, I would have been in a deep postpartum depression. I enjoyed motherhood so much more and felt so much more like myself once I stopped. My daughter has thrived on formula- do what feels right for your family, not what anyone else guilts or pressures you to do.
Ahh Ali, every time I read an update it feels like I could have written the exact thing myself. We’re just a few months apart in momhood and like you mentioned, there’s no real way to know before YOU know. You’re doing great and it is best to take it one day/pump at a time. As I’ve told you before, if you choose to continue, the EP life does get easier and less consuming. Sending you so much love–and I’m here for ALL the pumping/boob rants you need.
Feeding/pumping every 3 hours – that brings back some really not fun memories for me. The lack of autonomy was really hard for me. I know everyone says it but it does get better and easier. Right now my 2.5 year old is watching YouTube while I drink my coffee. So do what you gotta do now to make it through knowing it won’t always feel like survival mode.
Oh my gosh Ali, I so love and appreciate your honesty. It is hard and pumping sucks. Not sure if you already know of this option but check out Freemie cups. They hold 8 oz of milk per side and they are collection cups that go INSIDE your bra. While you’re still chained to the pump, I find it a tiny bit easier to do other stuff with them (like hold my baby!)
You are doing great! Being a mom is so freaking hard.
Being mom to a new baby is hard! You are doing a great job. Your post touched a nerve because I pumped exclusively the first 5 weeks and then I was at my wits’ end (and getting depressed). If my daughter hadn’t taken the breast at that point, I would have gone to formula because those first 5 weeks were HARD. You are a rock star to get as far as you have! It was a labor of love, because nothing about it was good for me but it seemed very important that I do it for her. (Down the road I discovered that after the first year, no one cares or asks how she was fed! Yet that first year it seemed so so important to give her breast milk if at all possible.)
Anyway, my comment is: it is truly ok to stop pumping. Your pediatrician may not come out and say that and lactation consultants typically won’t (because their job is to support nursing!) but you can give yourself permission to stop. A depressed and stressed mom isn’t a good resource for a baby, and that’s where I was headed by week 5 of pumping exclusively. It is damn hard on the mom. You’re doing a great job, and nurturing a baby is about her relationship with you, not whether she gets breast milk or formula.
Also, maybe hire a regular dog walker/player? I’d throw some money at that. It’s a temporary need, and it seems like it’d relieve some pressure on you around meeting everyone’s needs right now.
Awwwww…. I know the breastfeeding/pumping struggle all too well. That’s why God made babies so darn cute, for all they put us through ? IT WILL GET EASIER!
Ali! You are doing a great great job! I have an 18 month old and SO MUCH of what you wrote sounds so similar to my experience from the first couple months right down to trying to plan something for my husband’s birthday at 6 weeks and struggling to do so. I tried breastfeeding as well, had SO much trouble getting a successful latch so switched to pumping.I felt ALL the same things you listed…it is really difficult to be so tied to the pumping schedule and missing out on cuddle time/feeling like your body is not your own. My supply was pretty low so I had to supplement for formula and at 8 weeks made the decision to stop pumping. Honestly I felt very guilty, like a failure and grieved it for quite awhile but it was a BIG benefit to my mental health. ANyway, just wanted to share in case it’s ever something you consider. Breast milk is awesome but formula is great too. My daughter is a healthy happy little gal:) and in hindsight it doesn’t feel like as big of a deal as it did to me then. It didn’t sound like you were considering stopping so more power to you! I just know when I was ‘in it’ I felt like I had no choice but to keep trying to breastfeed or at least pump until I asked a lactation specialist if I had to keep doing this because I was struggling so badly and she told me I could always do what I felt was best for my family- kind of gave me the ‘permission ‘ I felt I needed. Yikes, I sincerely hope this doesn’t come across as unsolicited advice- just wanted to share, I guess because your post brought me right back to that time of life. ANnyways, Annie is beautiful, you’re an incredible mom, you got this!