mind dump: guilt, motherhood, pumping, and gold stars

December 20, 2012

i’m in a bit of a mood tonight.  i shouldn’t be:  i arrived home to a sparkling home [that i didn’t clean] and a slow cooker wafting nice smells into the kitchen.

sooo convenient! 

i already completed a solid run [6 miles] in the AM.  annabel was super-tired and ready for an early bedtime, which was a little sad, but hey — more me-time!  plus, i had plenty of time with miss a this morning when she got up at 4:30 am — for good.

so, theoretically i should be happy and relaxed.  yet for some reason, i’m just feeling a little uneasy.  and oddly guilty and down on myself, although i can’t even figure out why.  career satisfaction at my current juncture may have something to do with it — i think i’m just ready to move on from fellowship and especially lab research.  [especially especially that.]  i am not feeling as fulfilled at work as i would like, and it makes me sad to be spending time away from annabel but not feeling totally engaged in what i’m doing.  during clinic and in the hospital, this is never the case, but i’m in the lab most day until february.

and fine — i’ll admit it — i’m also feeling angst surrounding my previous decision to stop pumping in january.  the very idea sounds SO nice in many ways, but i can’t help but feel like it may not be the right decision for me.  as it stands now, annabel gets ~ 3-6 oz formula daily, and the rest is b-milk.  in general, i still really like breastfeeding and it works well for us, EXCEPT for the nagging worry i often get that i don’t have quiiiiite as much as she would like.   and that’s sort of silly, since she can always get a random bottle on the weekends.  and clearly, she’s not failing to thrive.  you’ve seen her!

pumping has become less stressful now that i have her on some formula supplementation.  so now i don’t dread it as much!  but it’s still very inconvenient and as much as i hate to admit it, i feel like the time i spend attached to the pump-in-style at work DOES take away from my ability to get the most out of my job.  hooking myself up before bedtime every night does not help me get enough sleep, and i miss being able to just go to bed when i’m tired.

annabel will be 9 months on 1/5/13, and i thought the new year would be a good time to transition to bottles at day care and nursing in the AM and PM [for as long as i can get that to work!].  but then today, her day care teacher mentioned that some nasty viruses are going around the day care room — it sounds like both RSV and flu A.  ugh!  and of course, she remarked that perhaps the reason annabel has been so healthy is because of breastfeeding.

and obviously i am now feeling completely conflicted about everything.

pros to stopping the pump:

i could go to bed without that last torturous hook-up!
 i wouldn’t have to plan the weekends [ie, when i run/go to work when on call/etc] around breastfeeding sessions
 i could have more time at work to do reading and to get stuff done in lab [though i hate benchwork with a fiery passion, i really DO need to get it done.]
 i wouldn’t have to be anxious about ‘not having enough’ at certain times on weekends
 if she was still getting up for an early feeding, i wouldn’t always have to be the one to do it
 no more prepping all of the pump parts/lugging the PISA around
 i could theoretically still get to nurse her at least 2x/day [anyone have experience with this?]
 it might be nice to have a somewhat ‘normal’ hormonal balance back.  [although i fear that my ‘normal’ — especially while running — will continue to be abnormal.  but at least i’ll know.]
 most of the physiologic benefits of breastfeeding apply to the 1st 6 months, and annabel has already gotten many oz of breast milk over the past 8.5.
 i would have a little bit more time and probably be more rested.

cons to stopping:

✘ i don’t HAVE to stop.  i have enough time at work to continue what i’ve been doing.  and therefore, i would feel extra guilty because it would be MY choice and not entirely out of necessity

✘ she might get sick with the flu/RSV/etc, and even though i’d never know if she would have gotten sick anyway . . . i would feel guilty.

✘ no more conveniently going [mostly] bottle-free on weekends.  although i would argue that actually bottles are pretty convenient, really.  and obviously i’m already knee deep in bottles/pump parts/etc for the week, anyway.

✘ i will have to admit ‘defeat’, and therefore feel kind of like a quitter.  and guilty.  and not worthy of the super-fantabulous-motherhood-gold stars that come with 12 full months of pumping [though i’ve already been downgraded to silver — at best — for burning through my meager freezer stash and having to supplement.]

✘ my supply might completely go away and i would miss it if i couldn’t nurse her at all.

hmmm.  the theme is that there are many reasons to stop and one HUGE reason not to . . .and it starts with a g.

still not sure what i am going to do, but it helped to get this out.  would love to hear from those of you who have been there.


  • Reply stephyalice March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I’m fully breastfeeding my 9 1/2 month old and she’s been sick a lot in the past few months and she’s not even in daycare (although we socialise with a lot of babies who are) – so breastfeeding benefits in that regard I think are slight.

    My daughter’s never really taken to a bottle and I have never managed to pump much at all, so I haven’t really been able to leave her for more than a couple of hours since she was born and she still feeds a lot. I’ve got a wedding I’d like to go to over the christmas period (and to be honest would really love a break!) and considering whether to try and introduce some formula in a sippy cup but like you are feeling conflicted about it as the reasons for giving some formula would be for me rather than for her.

    I think you’ve done an amazing job pumping as long as you have and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about stopping at all!

  • Reply erind425 March 10, 2019 at 7:41 pm

    I’m not a mother or a doctor, so this is my uneducated, unexperienced opinion; I don’t know the first thing about the logistics of breastfeeding or weaning. However — you are doing a great job as a mother! Don’t let some arbitrary timeline make you feel guilty. I can’t even imagine how to balance all of the things you do — research, clinic time, running, cooking, spending time with friends/family/husband, caring for a baby! You honestly make it look easy, but I know that it’s not. Don’t waste your time or add to your burdens by feeling guilty over this. Your daughter is healthy, happy, and thriving — enjoy the extra time with her (or to yourself! or sleeping) and take this additional stress off your plate if that’s what you want.

  • Reply christi March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    You are doing such a great job with a, and with balancing your work/life needs – I want to cast away that terrible g-word! And from what I understand (not a doctor), a baby who gets even a little bit of breastmilk is a breastfed baby – and she will be that for as long as you want her to be. Pumping is a pain in the neck and you have been a trooper.

  • Reply Seattlegirl March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I get it– after last Friday, I think we’re all looking for things in our lives we can control. It’s scary being a parent and letting your little one out into the world. But seriously, at this stage in your daughter’s life, breast milk is not going to offer any significant health benefits for her.

    Maybe changing the way you look at being in the lab could help. Instead of dreading the next 2 months, maybe look at it as a stepping stone or an opportunity to get into the job of your dreams. Whenever I have to do something I dread, I think of it as a chance to show my daughter (who’s 2 years old) how to approach challenges with grace and courage.

  • Reply Rucky March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Do you still have a freezer stockpile? If so, use it now. As she transitions to more solids, the composition of your milk will naturally shift to meet her current needs….so the old stuff will be different. Is she up to 3x solids/day now? F&H are 10mo +1wk and I am counting down the time to pump-ditchage! As you know, I BF one and the other gets mostly formula + whatever extra….hence the inability (guilt) about cutting back pumping. I did, however, cut back to one session at work recently and get only 2oz less. I also stopped my before bed pump, unless he only does a quick nurse. I feel good about this, I really do. I used to count my output and whatnot…totally dont do that anymore. Anyway, I pump 2x now and nurse am/pm. I am planning on ditching the pump at the yr marker and hopefully just BF before bed for a few weeks in transition to full wean. Right now, I am having them practice with sippy cup so I dont have to do reg milk in a bottle.

    PS I doubt that she will avoid RSV if she gets 100%, 50%, or 0% breast milk at this age…

    You are doing a great job! We working moms have a lot on our plates…and have to weigh pros/cons all the time. Cut yourself some slack.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      no more stash 🙂 i used the last of it about a month ago! that is wonderful that you are 2x/day and doing well with it. i think maybe that would be a logical next step, though i am still torn about maybe ditching the pump altogether.

  • Reply Lou March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I’m only four and a half (almost five) months into breastfeeding, and I’m starting to have a real beef with it. I think this year goal that "they" recommend is unrealistic for most moms, especially working moms. Six months seems far more reasonable. At this point, it’s just making me mad that the "experts" have set many of us up to feel like failures.

    Secondly, I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and I have to agree with one of the above commenters: You need to lay off all the guilt. I made a decision before my babe was born to not feel guilty over every little thing. Breastfeeding is a hard one, I’ll admit that. But, you are who you are–a hard working mom who loves her baby so much that she make huge sacrifices for her! And remember, ultimately, what is best for your sanity and quality of life, is what’s best for A.

  • Reply Angela March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I think mother is synonymous with guilt…. Most decisions have some sort of guilt involved for mefrom cutting her hair, giving a pacifier at nap and bedtime to a 2 yr old, what foods I feed her, where I take her, etc.. I think most mothers in your situation feel very similar, but do what is best for you and your family on all levels — physical and mental–

  • Reply caitlinhtp March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I could’ve written this post, S. I’m going to quit pumping soon and I feel a little conflicted about it too for all the reasons you describe. But I feel like once I stop, I will be SO GLAD that I did. I just have to do it, you know?

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      if it makes you feel any better, annabel has horrendous gastro right now despite all of my hours pumping . . . so it definitely did not save her (nor did the rota vaccine – though perhaps it will help keep her illness in the moderate range and not get out of hand).

      i cannot IMAGINE exclusive pumping. i actually think that sounds fARRRR worse than working and pumping for part of the day. then again, each pump session takes me 30 minutes.

      i think i am leaning towards stopping in jan or at least going down to 1-2x/day if i am not comfortable going cold turkey.

  • Reply Nico March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I gave myself super mommy gold stars for giving my kids SOME breastmilk until a year. I stopped pumping around the 8-9 month mark because pumping for 20 min for just a couple of ounces was just not worth it. I continued nursing am and pm for a while, then just pm until a year (actually with T I stopped about a week shy of a year and used frozen milk to make it to the one year mark). They both got formula starting at about 8 months, and not even organic formula at that. We’ve just started some formula for C as well because my supply is not keeping up anymore. You definitely get super-fantabulous-motherhood-gold stars for making it this far, I really think that anything more is gravy!! xo

  • Reply gasem March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Breast feeding seems so political. Why is "12 months" even a consideration? It’s just an arbitrary number. Presuming your kid is getting enough calories and protein and has the ability to get them sans breast milk, it seems to me if you don’t challenge the immune system it won’t grow into its necessary robust and protective functionality and will remain immature.

    Ask this question: At age 9 months, If my breast milk were necessarily deleted from my healthy normal born at full term kid’s diet would they really suffer in any measurable permanent way?

    I learned the most amazing thing in my time in the pediatric ICU. Even kids on death’s doorstep want to get old enough to reproduce. They are incredibly robust and nearly indestructible. Don’t sweat it.

  • Reply Anne March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I read a lot of food/mom blog, and I read a lot of "guilt demonstrations", like a lot. How to balance me time, sports, house, couple, bf, etc. As a reader, I sometimes feel like if it’s a rollercoaster of emotions that change all the times…It’s normal of course, but honestly, I will say it, it’s not necessarily interesting on a "blog dynamic" point of view…

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      your’e so right. trust me, i’m tired of HAVING the guilt. admittedly, these posts probably help ME more than provide as entertainment for others. HOWEVER, i know that it does help me when i read another mom’s post with similar feelings, or when i read the amazing comments on this post that help me realize that others have been there.

      so, i totally agree with you! i will say that i hope that overall i have painted a positive picture of motherhood. it’s just human nature (or at least my nature . . .) to nitpick on every little aspect. you are right that it is something — at least with respect to parenting — that probably needs to change.

  • Reply jenny March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    No guilt. You love her so much. What ever you do, pump or not pump, it won’t matter in the long run.

    Much more to say but sick, crying baby. Must run. Totally know about maternal guilt! 😉

  • Reply sweetbabydiary March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Sarah, a little tough love (I promise, it comes from a good place): stop all this guilt stuff already. You spend way too much energy on feeling guilty and not enough on feeling happy that you have a healthy baby who has a very good amount of milk at daycare. We all obsess about ounces and bottles and pumping when we BFeed, everyone I know did or does, but feeling guilty so much is frankly very unproductive. So, count your blessings and a) immediately forgive yourself for "failing" to produce extra 3-6oz per day b) forgive yourself for not wanting to pump beyond December. I indulge in a fair share of useless guilt myself, and it is the pep talk I use on myself when I become to sound a little ridiculous. Sorry. Stopping pumping and eventually stopping breastfeeding is not a traumatic event if you view it as a natural progression, a developmental step in your relationship. I am probably going to be in a minority here, but I found that stopping breastfeeding after 11.5 months was not at all emotional, it just happened naturally and it was fine with both of us. I stopped pumping, then I stopped night feeding, that my baby lost interest in the morning feeding session and it all happened over 2.5 weeks. I promise, I am a normal person and fairly emotional, but sometimes I just do not understand why stopping breastfeeding and weaning is such a big emotional issue… it is an individual decision, it is no one’s business and it happens when you feel it is time. If you feel it is you time to stop to pump and start the weaning, then it is. If you feel that you want to continue a little longer because you enjoy it, do it. There is no wrong answer and certainly no judgement. Do not be hard on yourself, you are an amazing mother. Amazing. The best one for A.

  • Reply Cara March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    All I can contribute, Sarah, is that my floor service has been one RSV bronchiolitis after another this month, and just as many of the kids have been breast fed as formula fed. Do what works best for you and try not to second guess yourself!

  • Reply oldmdgirl March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    A reader on my blog several months ago told me that I could protect my baby from measles by breastfeeding her. She was just about as FoS as your daycare lady. Look Sarah, Annabel is most likely going to get RSV, if not this year, certainly next year. And most likely she will be fine. This is not something breastmilk will protect her from.

    I cut back from 4 pumping sessions to 3, and it made life so much easier. I was able to have lunch with friends again, chat with colleagues after meetings without having to worry about whether I was going to be late to pump, I didn’t have to deal with the lady who controls the pump room in my building as often. It was so much better! All of this is to say that if you’re having guilt, you could consider dropping a session, and see how you do with your supply. It’s taken two months for my yields to decrease from 18oz per day to about 12oz. Try it, see how you feel, and then drop another session. And then voila! Annabel will be 12 months old and you can quit completely.

    On the weekends, I started feeding Dylan a snack to replace breastfeeding session #3. She certainly doesn’t go hungry. If there’s not "enough" milk during a particular meal, she’ll eat more food at the next meal. She also drinks water from her cup. These transitions will be going on anyway as you transition her to table foods. Soon she’ll be eating what you eat if she’s not already.

    I’m pretty sure what your other commenter said about IgA is true.

  • Reply Sophia March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    How do you get a run in the AM when A is already awake?

    As for me, I ditched the pump (was exclusively pumping) at 9.5 months and it felt great. I had a massive stockpile of frozen milk that we used at home and sent formula to day care (100x easier than milk!). My son quickly decided he prefers formula to frozen milk and started refusing the frozen stuff. We switched him over to 100% formula at 10ish months and everyone is happier. As a bonus, we got to donate the frozen stuff. We have fewer dishes to do, I have more time to hang out with my son and husband, more time to do my work and I don’t have to spend all my time thinking about my boobs. My pre-pregnancy shirts and bras actually fit so I look better in my clothes. I thought I’d feel more conflicted but I was completely happy to stop and the decision was incredibly freeing.

    My son is just over a year old now and he hasn’t been sick more the last few months than he was when I was still pumping. My guess is that A may get sick a little more just because it’s cold/flu season in January. Seriously, her stomach is acidified (she’s eating solids!) so any IgAs in your breast milk are getting denatured. If you want to stop just DO IT. Enjoy the extra hours in your life and don’t waste time feeling guilty.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      she woke up at 4:30 but then ‘napped’ 6:30 – 7:15 so i jumped on the treadmill. i wasn’t totally done with the mileage so we did 1.5 miles outside with the stroller. not ideal 🙂

      and hmm i didn’t know that about the IgA but that really helps!! thank you for your experiences — it really helps me to hear this. no one seems to ever talk about it in real life!!

  • Reply Holly March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I honestly think that is terrible what the daycare teacher said to you. It seems to come from a very judgmental place (and an incorrectly attributing place–is there any medical research that shows that??).

    I think the question it boils down to: would you be continuing to pump for you, or would you be continuing to pump for A? If you are doing it for Annabel (like you certainly were for the first 6 months), then I’d say continue if it works for your schedule. But if you are only doing it for your own peace of mind/to say you did it…then stop. It isn’t worth it.

    Breast feeding is a choice, not a mandate. You fought the good fight and made it through the "important" period (though there are PLENTY of healthy babies that aren’t even breast fed at all, and the benefits are slight, not drastic). Whatever you do, you’re doing a great job–don’t second guess your decisions and beat yourself up!

  • Reply Carolyn March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    Hi there,
    This is totally random, but I have a freezer full of breast milk that I can’t use since my girl won’t take a bottle. I was going to find a way to donate it, but I found this post before I got a chance to do it. Plus, I part of me doesn’t want to part with it since I’ve spent 3 months building this supply. I’m a vegan who had a very healthy pregnancy (managed to go a 9lb 6oz baby and birth her naturally) who has had maybe 3 glasses of wine since I’ve given birth. Feel free to say, no, creepy, you are an internet stranger. But if you want lots of milk (200oz maybe), well we could figure out a way to ship it.

    On another note, how many oz of milk does your girl drink a day?

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      carolyn, that is so sweet. seriously. i couldn’t take it because for some reason [and I’m not even sure what that reason is!] i just wouldn’t feel right about it. plus, there is probably some young preemie twin out there who could use it waaaay more! but that is so nice of you — thank you.

      annabel gets 15 oz/day at day care (9-12 breast milk, 3-6 formula) plus — total guess here — 10-12 oz from breastfeeding. she breastfeeds 2-3 times at home [usually 3 — like one at 4-5 am, one at 7 am, and one at 7 pm right before she goes to sleep]. i actually wonder if maybe she needs less at day care than we give right now but 15 seemed reasonable. thoughts?

  • Reply Carolyn March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    No worries, I’ll figure out how to get it to a donation bank. I want to cry to depart with it, but it is only taking up space right now.

    I have no clue how much my girl eats, so I’m always curious to know how much people need if they pump and put the milk in bottles.

  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I feel like I could have written this post myself! I’ve been pretty relaxed with the way things have been recently, giving G one bottle of formula a day. I don’t *think* he’s any hungrier on the weekends. In fact, we gave him a formula bottle on Saturday evening (instead of nursing) when we went on a date, and he only took 2.5 oz, so who knows?

    I completely understand about pumping taking away reading and lab work time. I feel like I could conceivably go home 30 minutes earlier (or run during my lunch break!) if I weren’t pumping, which would give me more family time and more job satisfaction (pumping is so disruptive, I get really distracted and it’s hard for me to return to what I’m working on).

    Just keep doing what makes you happy. A is a happy and healthy baby, you are doing a great job!

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