on trying to nurse, for the third time.

A few months ago, I had almost officially resolved to not even give nursing a go. I had come to terms with the idea that with the challenges I've faced in the past, and less time/energy/ability to put into nursing than ever before (with three kids now, not two, or one, like in times past), nursing likely wouldn't work at all, so why bother. And I sincerely thought I would bottle feed formula from the delivery room.

Now, before I go any further, I NEED to emphasize that nursing and parenting are very personal things and there is great potential for guilt and emotions to influence both. I don't support women who look down on other women for the way they feed their child. Breast, Pumped, Bottle, Formula - I don't care as long as you're taking care of your baby and filling their tummy with nutrients. I choose to believe that each mama is trying her best and doing what she can, and that looks different in every situation, in every family, and for every mom and child. So if you breastfeed til your kids are old enough to walk over and ask for it - cool. If you bottle feed formula in the delivery room for reasons that are all your own - great. It's your call, and judgements are unfair and unnecessary in an already difficult gig like parenting. That's my stance on the feeding issue, and I hope other people (especially moms) will give me the same curtsey, regardless of how I end up feeding my baby in the end.

SO ANYWAY. I was perfectly content, and almost excited about the thought of not entering the painful, emotional, exhausting world of nursing with my third child. Brad wasn't as happy about me not wanting to try it at all, but in the end he prayed about it and said he wanted me to make the call and he'd submit to my decision and support it. GOOD MAN. And we left it at that for many months.

But recently, I've been reevaluating my goals for nursing: what they were in the past and what might make them healthier should I nurse again. See, the guilt when my supply was low and I wasn't able to feed my babies exclusively on breast milk was partly from other people  - I received such horrible comments from La Leche League representatives, read hurtful things on blogs and facebook statuses, and felt condemned by many moms who couldn't understand why I was having trouble - but it was also from myself.

I went into motherhood the first time vowing to never use formula and to nurse for at least 6 months, hopefully a year. I looked down on those who didn't breastfeed (and there was no reason good enough in my books to stop breastfeeding). When my supply dwindled early on, I was crushed. I was embarrassed. I felt I'd failed my child and myself. It was obvious breastfeeding was an idol because when I couldn't live up to it my self worth was diminished.

Going into motherhood the second time, I thought I had my head on straight. I thought I was approaching the nursing thing in a healthy way. I told others I was going to try and hope for the best, but deep down I didn't believe it. I believed that the first time was a fluke and that this time would be different! And the first few weeks my supply was actually greater than with Lily! It was working!! YES! I was succeeding! And then it, too, dwindled, plus Oli's latch didn't improve even with lactation consultants helping me. And just like that, all the same guilt and feelings of failure were back. If I couldn't do it I wanted to quit as soon as possible because it was too exhausting and painful to only do a few times a day, if that.

I hope and pray that I've learned enough and that the idol of breastfeeding has lost it's power over me, because I find myself wanting to try nursing for the first time in over a year. I know it's because of a drastic change in expectations, and I hope that makes it realistic and less emotional this third time.

My goal? Just to nurse. Period. To offer and provide my baby breastmilk, for as long as it's there (though likely not after age 1). In my experience it likely won't be longer than 4 months, and it will be served with a healthy side dose of formula, but my goal is to still breastfeed sometimes, as much as I can.

See, in the past my goal and hope and ultimate worth was that I'd nurse exclusively and for a long time, and when that didn't happen I felt like a failure. I spent hours on the pump trying to increase supply, I changed my diet and schedule too. Nothing helped, and quitting only made me feel worse. This time, I'm hoping that going in with low expectations and healthy goals will make it easier. If I can nurse at all (and history tells me I absolutely can), thank God! If I have any milk at all (and history tells me I more than likely will), I'll offer it to baby #3 and be thankful. And at any sign of lowering supply, instead of spending all my free time and energy at the pump or taking supplements, I'll offer formula, guilt-free, and enjoy my other two children while doing so.

Brad and I are both very comfortable using formula, since our first two beautiful children drank a whole lot of it in infancy. But we both agree that breast milk is ideal, when possible. So the plan is to try, to do what I can, to not take extraordinary time-consuming measures (read: no crazy pumping sessions unless it's so I can go on a hot date with my man, not to increase supply!), to nurse for as long as there's milk (instead of quitting from discouragement when my supply is low), and to be content with what God has allowed.

I may end up nursing for as few as 1-3 feeds per day by the end, and using formula the rest of the time, but that will be OK based on my new goals and hopes. That will actually be GREAT! I hope to nurse for much longer than the 8 weeks I nursed Oli, but I'm assuming that will only be possible if I am content with not exclusively breastfeeding.

So, I've been collecting nursing bras from mom friends (I was all too happy to be rid of mine when I was done with Oli!), and plan to buy some nursing tanks, and am dusting off my nursing pump (for date nights, only!), because I do plan to try to nurse this third time around. It's actually both liberating and terrifying to admit that publicly. Nursing was not a lovely experience for me as it is for many moms, and I didn't miss it when I was done. I feel like I more or less survived the nursing season, and came out worse for wear. But, here's to the third attempt! Hoping for the best :)


  1. I 100% support your decision. The most important thing is that your child is being fed and if you are able to give them even a little breast milk then you have succeeded.

    My goal was to nurse my son as long as he wanted to but because of various issues we faced, I had to adjust my goals to just nurse him for as long as there is enough milk to sustain him.

    It is really sad that as mothers we feel so much pressure when it comes to breastfeeding. I felt like a failure so many times when I noticed my supply was not dwindling. I think for the 1st few months of my sons life I lived in constant stress wondering if he would have enough to eat because the idea was that formula was bad and if I gave it to him I had failed him in some way. The truth is your children will flourish as long as you are giving them enough to eat.

  2. Anonymous17.4.13

    I totally agree with you and appreciate your honesty and vulnerability on this topic. I wish I had this post to read when I was going through exactly what you were with my first baby. Praying that this post makes a positive difference in the lives of many post pardum moms struggling with breastfeeding and the guilt that often comes when it doesn't go well.