Why Breastfeeding Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing

If I could describe my feelings about the upcoming birth of my fourth baby in, oh, four days (I'm being induced due to some medical complications) in one word, it would be this:

Fear. 

It may sound crazy because I've had three other children already, and one would think I would be totally prepared for another little baby, but in a way, having done this three other times, I'm even more scared of what it is to come. The sleepless nights! The weight that won't come off magically when I give birth! The challenges with older children's attention!

But the thing that is causing me the most anxiety?

Breastfeeding

{ MORE: How To Breastfeed From Only One Side }

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Image via j&j brusie photography

I am dreading the thought of breastfeeding again. (Sorry, future baby, if you're reading this, but hopefully you'll understand some day.) I tried to explain my fears to my husband and it came out in a jumbled mess of mommy guilt and tears and me muttering something like, “You can't understand what's it like!”

Like it or not, he can't understand my breastfeeding fears and, in part, that's the biggest issue for me:

It feels like everything is on my shoulders. 

It's stressful to be the sole source of nutrition, comfort, and health for your baby. Not only do you go through the tremendous work and sacrifice of pregnancy, but once the baby is out, the real work begins. There are all kinds of complications with breastfeeding, and sometimes, it's harder for mom to feed one of her babies than it is for another one of her babies, so there's really nothing simple about the “breast is best” argument when you're the one bleeding and crying in the middle of the night, feeling guilty for even feeling like you don't want to breastfeed. 

But what I've come to realize this time around—and what's really getting me through in a good mental state—is realizing that breastfeeding really isn't an all-or-nothing game. 

I can play it by ear, take it day by day, week by week. 

I can breastfeed on one side if mastitis plagues me again. 

I can exclusively pump. 

I can supplement if I want or only feed during the day or do some strange hybrid of whatever works to get us through that particular day. 

That's kind of the beauty of breastfeeding—your body will adapt and make what your baby needs, and it's really a remarkable thing when you think about it. 

So in four days, when the real work begins, I'll be doing my best to stop thinking about how hard it is and learn to listen to my body, let go of the stress of what I think I should be doing as a “good” mom, and go with the flow. 

Even if that means not exclusively breastfeeding. 

{ MORE: New Study Links Antibiotics During Pregnancy To Birth Defects }

Did you do any partial breastfeeding? 

What do you think?

Why Breastfeeding Doesn’t Have to Be All or Nothing

Chaunie Brusie is a coffee mug addict, a labor and delivery nurse turned freelance writer, and a young(ish) mom of four. She is the author of "Tiny Blue Lines: Preparing For Your Baby, Moving Forward In Faith, & Reclaiming Your Life In An Unplanned Pregnancy" and "The Moments That Made You A Mother". She also runs Passion Meets Practicality, a community of tips + inspiration for work-at-home mothers. ... More

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11 comments

  1. Profile photo of Rachel Rachel says:

    Pumping is awesome! If you can’t breastfeeding all the time, it’s understandable to pump or supplement- I’m just trying to say that for the first couple of months, it is most healthy for mom and baby to feed on demand. Cutting night feedings or supplementing with formula can be very detrimental to supply for most moms. Once you have built up your supply, a couple months in, you can try those things. I feel it’s important for new moms to know that breastfeeding isn’t always the easiest thing in the world, and that it can be difficult sometimes. For me, it hurt. Not just physically. There were times where it was almost overwhelming for me to be solely responsible for my child’s food. But new moms who plan to breastfeed also need to be aware of the “booby traps,” and this post is FILLED with them.

  2. Profile photo of Carrie Carrie says:

    It definitely does not have to be all or nothing. After going through hell the first few weeks, I started pumping and bottle feeding during the day and supplementing at night. It worked well for everyone and I was able to have enough breastmilk to get our daughter to 6 months. Each mom has to do what is best for her and the baby. There is no one right way. As long as the baby is healthy is all that matters in the end.

  3. Profile photo of ovation ovation says:

    I agree. New mom’s need to know breastfeeding isn’t this simple no problem deal. I’m glad I had a good friend who breastfeed her 3 kids but she told me honestly what to expect that first month and it’s not always easy. She was also there for me if I needed some support. Breastfeeding is not easy. It does hurt the first couple weeks and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. We need to tell mom’s that it’s ok if breastfeeding doesn’t work out or you need to supplement. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. I’ve seen too many mom’s who have the ability to breastfeed their baby 2 yrs on up be judgmental twds mom who had to supplement or decided to formula feed. Good for you but that doesn’t give you the right to judge others harshly who cant breastfeed. I breastfeed both my boys. The oldest til he was 5 mths and the youngest til he was 3 mths. I have a hard time keeping a decent supply especially as baby needs more. I’ve pumped and taken supplements and been in close contact with wonderful lactation consultants I still ended up losing my supply. It took me awhile to be ok with having to switch my babies to formula. But thanks to my friends support I am proud of the fact that I tried breastfeeding and did breastfeed my boys for the time I could. We need to stop judging one another and support each other as mom’s. We’ve all given birth to these beautiful miracles, children. I’m glad for people like Meghan who can be honest about her struggles.

  4. Profile photo of Meghan Meghan says:

    I learned that just a couple months in, that all-or-nothing wasn’t going to work for either my baby or I. My supply alone stopped being sufficient come month three. In response to Rachel’s comment, everyone’s body is different. My supply has dwindled some since leaning on supplementation but with pumping I have been able to keep it steady. For some, it is incredibly hard to bring it back up and it’s important for first time moms to know that’s a possibility -that they may indeed loose supply but that it is important to also not place excess stress and pressure on the whole thing -breastfeeding is HARD and it is AWFUL in the beginning.

    I will say this though to the writer of this article: Take great comfort in knowing that you have a supportive partner on your side. No, he can’t really understand what it’s like to be a mom and really shoulder so much of that beginning burden, but you should be so lucky to have one who tries at all -as opposed to a guy who complicates things and creates a custody battle while you’re still trying to heal and attend to who really matters. I did it on my own with compounded stress -my cries were more like loud visceral sobs lying down in the shower every couple of days when someone could relieve me so I could take a shower at all.

    There are always so many blessings to count. And even in my emotionally wrecked couple of months, I made sure I counted mine too. Searching far and wide for the silver lining in those first months of recovery and sleep depravity are so important. If the baby is healthy, that’s a gold lining.

  5. Profile photo of Rachel Rachel says:

    Wow. Please don’t tell this to new moms. Yes, when you start, it does have to be all or nothing. Cut out night feelings, supplement with formula, and you’ll see your milk supply dwindle. Once that happens, for most women, it is a LOT of work to get it back up. Please don’t spread misinformation like this!

    • Profile photo of Katie Katie says:

      This article was one thing that made me feel better about having to supplement my son due to medical reasons. It sucked and I cried every time I had to give him a bottle but it was nice to know that other people have had issues with breastfeeding and have had to supplement. My son is both a breast and bottle fed baby and now I’m completely ok with it but it was super hard to except in the beginning And this article was one of the reason I kept at it.

      • Profile photo of Megan KlayEditor Megan Klay says:

        Hi Katie – I’m so glad to hear feeding is going well for you and your son! It’s fantastic that you found the support you needed from this article. Thanks for sharing!

    • Profile photo of Casey Casey says:

      As a first time mom, and someone who is struggling with breastfeeding, I wish someone would have been honest with me and told me that it might not be easy. Its important to be informed in case you do have trouble. If you don’t, then you don’t, and good for those mom’s that have it easy. But if I had known that it could be This difficult, I wouldn’t have felt so guilty along the way. Honesty is best.

    • Profile photo of KristineAD KristineAD says:

      A new mom especially should be told this because of it is too overwhelm for her she might just stop all together. Any amount of breastmilk is better than none. I delt with mastitis for 11 weeks before it turned into an abscess and i finally couldn’t feed on that side anymore and i decided to just fed on one side. The thing is that your body does adjust. I was thinking i would have to pump a lot more to compensate but i didn’t have to at all. There were times i wanted to give up too but I’m pretty stubborn. This wasn’t my first childbut it was my first exclusively breastfed child and i read scared in the beginning also. I wish i would have read this before i had all the troubles.

    • Profile photo of Britney Britney says:

      I think that telling that to a new mom would discourage a lot of them. It’s better to be honest about the difficulties and the possible alternatives if they start to feel overwhelmed.

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