On Breastfeeding & Closeness

Here's what I have to say:

I tried breastfeeding Max and Maggie. I really did. In the hours after they were born, I was so disappointed that I couldn't nurse them right away, but I understood that that's what happens when your babes are born seven weeks early and then get rushed off to the NICU before you can even get a good look at them. I was also excited and happy to provide them with breast milk, and proud when what I pumped nourished their tiny bodies so well.

We tried breastfeeding in the two weeks they stayed in the hospital, but our opportunities for nursing were scarce, and I wasn't brave enough to ask the nurses to help me often. My little babes were oh so fragile, and I was still cautious when I held them.

After we brought them home, we tried again. We visited a lactation consultant and made a plan for how to wean them off bottles. But nursing hurt like fire, like nothing I had ever experienced, and I cried and cried until I couldn't take it anymore and I pulled my babies away from me. I worried about not knowing exactly how much food they were getting. When we were so concerned with every little bit of weight gain, not being able to measure their intake was troublesome. And I was so tired. I felt like I couldn't try to do any more than I was doing. I could only survive.

Eventually we switched to formula. Christian said it was my decision, and I prayed to know what was right. What was best for us, as a family. I felt that I received the answer: formula is a good choice.

After hearing all that, you may not believe me when I say that I have strong feelings about breastfeeding. My mother taught me that breastfeeding is important, that breast milk is best for babies. I never doubted her; I had an incredibly hard time overcoming the guilt that came with my decision to give Max and Maggie formula. I knew that when the next baby came, we would try breastfeeding again.

When Lucy was born, she was fat. She was healthy, strong, and eager to eat. So much about her birth, the normalcy of her arrival and the sweet plumpness of her existence, healed the pain that was left in my heart after the experience of Max and Maggie's birth. She excelled at nursing instantly. The lactation consultants who visited our hospital room exclaimed over how well she did. I was happy. It was easy. We snuggled together in our hospital room and I smelled her fuzzy head when she slept on me.

I feel so lucky, so blessed that breastfeeding has been almost effortless for Lucy and me. It was painful at first {after one 40-minute feeding she left me bleeding}, and we're still working on discreet public nursing, but trying to breastfeed Max and Maggie felt like trying to run with my ankles tied together. Breastfeeding Lucy feels like flying.

So here it is, what I really want to say:

When we visited the lactation consultant for help with Max and Maggie, she gave us all kinds of literature. One pamphlet I remember was printed on yellow paper; it advocated the benefits of breastfeeding. I remember that pamphlet specifically because certain parts of it haunted me as I tried to make my decision about how to feed my first two children.

There was a quote in that pamphlet from a woman who said that she had breastfed some of her children and bottle-fed others. Because of the bonding that occurs during breastfeeding, she claimed she felt closer to the breastfed children than to the bottle-fed children.

Maybe you can understand why that would upset me, as a new mother. One who is trying to do what's best for her children and exhausting herself with the effort. I felt like I had failed. I was worried that I had permanently damaged my relationship with my Max and Maggie. I was worried that if I had more children, I would love them more.

But now I know for myself. I have breastfed a child and I have bottle-fed children and I can tell you because I know, I know that how you choose to feed your baby does not determine your relationship with them. I know because I look at Max and Maggie, my wonderful darling one-year-olds, and the love that I feel for them is unrestrained. After what the three of us have been through together, nothing could diminish our relationship.

Breastfeeding has brought Lucy and me closer, I know that, too. I'm grateful for that blessing.

But I think of that pamphlet now, and it seriously pisses me off.


  1. This is so refreshing! And how true. Bonds can be formed in all types of ways and for your twins, it was right for you, it made sense but the love in their eyes in undeniable, for Lucy, your one sweet little baby, that is how you bond. There is no wrong that can be done with you and your babies. I pray you love yourself through this and remember that you are the best mom's those three sweet babies could have.

  2. I can imagine that you would be pissed at that yellow pamphlet. Thank you for writing this, Mary. I am certain it will be encouraging to many mamas. It encouraged me & I'm not even a mama yet. You should write your own pamphlet to replace that old one.

  3. It pisses me off as well. I think every mother needs to do what is best for her and her infant, and although breastmilk is the "best" nutrition for babies that doesn't make it the best choice for each mother and each baby. I hate the guilt that gets heaped on if you don't breastfeed or if you want to quit, and I hate the stigma you get when you breastfeed (covered) anywhere less private than your home (if the baby is hungry, it's better for all involved if I discreetly nurse as opposed to letting baby scream).

    Whew, now that that is off my chest, I'm so happy Lucy is nursing well. Life is just a little bit nicer when nursing is easy and every mama deserves that.

  4. Amen, amen. I think it's ridiculous how much emphasis can be put on how you feed your baby. I felt like if I chose to breastfeed, I was automatically a good mother. There is so much more to motherhood than feeding.

  5. I cried a lot after Preslee was born. Nursing wasn't easy and having a c-section devastated me. I read all I could on nursing and it still took months to catch on. Your post gives me hope that next time it will be better. A better delivery. A better start to nursing.

    I remember a co-worker who declared she was bottle feeding her baby. She said she tried to breastfeed in the hospital and with a disgusted face she said it just didn't work out for her. How sad for her that she never gets to experience that! I think you trying with M&M made a world of difference. I'm glad things have worked with Lucy but just like another baby doesn't replace your love for your other children a different experience isn't superior.

  6. Having never done either....
    I can't stand when people say one is better than the other. And I can't stand when people infer that bottles and formulas are only good after failed breast feeding attempts.
    Feeding your child something that will help them grow healthy and strong is never a failure. Feeding your child is always good. Unless it's arsenic...then it's bad.

  7. Thank you thank you thank you. Charlie and I never got in a breastfeeding groove... it was SO painful, so uncomfortable, so frustrating. So I've been pumping since about 3 weeks and up until he was 6.5 months old he got only breastmilk! Now I supplement with formula and will probably be done pumping within a month. I'm proud of the fact that I've pumped for so long (he'll be 9 months when I'm done), but I still feel guilty. I wish we had that "bond". He's not a cuddler and I can't help but wonder if it's because I didn't breastfeed, or if breastfeeding was hard because he's not a cuddler. Regardless, my biggest hope is to breastfeed my next little one. I yearn for that! So, thank you for giving me hope! <3

  8. I just found your blog. I love it. Thanks for this post. I tried and tried and cried and cried when I was breastfeeding. Hired lactation consultants, went to free clinics and was miserable and so in pain I couldn't shower or wear clothes. I can't say there was much bonding in those times because I cried so much but the guilt I felt for stopping almost sent me over the edge. If the baby is crying and the mom is crying, I'm not convinced it's better than feeding your baby. I went through IVF as well and felt that people would think because I didn't nurse, I really wasn't meant to have a baby. People told me they were so proud of me for sticking with it and then stopped supporting me when I stopped. It was hard and I resent that time I'll never get back. I hope I get a second chance and it's easier but my little guy is turning 1 in 2 weeks and he's thriving. You do give me hope that it can be easier the second time around.

  9. i love this post! i tried breastfeeding our gemma and it was the most physically painful experience of my life so far. i was not prepared for that much pain! we eventually switched and i nursed for comfort until she was 6 months old. oh the guilt! i have recovered from that guilt and know that we made the right decision because she was so hungry. i will try again with our next one and i have thought a lot about what to do differently next time. and you should be pissed at that pamphlet! rude!

  10. That pisses me off too. I bled after every. single. feeding. It was exhausting. All I could think about when I wasn't feeding my newborn son was that in 3 hrs, 2hr, 1hr, 30 min I'd have to feed him again and I would bleed. I would cry. I would shake from the pain. I have numerous midwife's and lactation consultants come over and try and help me. I wouldn't stop bleeding. My nipple was hanging off.

    It got to the point after about a week that I was started to fear my son and his feedings. It was that bad. Finally my mother took me by the shoulders and told me I needed to make a change. It felt like the cavalry had come home. When we started using formula that is when I started bonding with my son. He wasn't hurting me any longer. I could enjoy him knowing I wasn't fearful of being in pain.

    I have strong views on breastfeeding and still know it to be best. I hope to breastfeed my future children. But, I'm glad I made the choice to switch to formula. It was so seriously painful{and I gave natural childbirth!}

  11. I would be SERIOUSLY pissed off too.
    I decided not to breastfeed. Like, I didnt even try. For whatever reason the idea of it made me anxious and unhappy and I made the choice early on in my pregnancy that I wouldn't be doing it. I felt comfortable with that (and I still do). It made me happy, and my baby is fat and happy too. That being said I read some seriously shitty things about non breast feeding Mama's while I made my choice.
    I remember posters in my hospital room saying that breast is best and that essentially my baby will suffer if I don't BF him.
    I had people telling me that once I gave birth and saw my baby my love for him would change my mind about it all. Meaning that what, if I didn't change my mind I must love him less then all the other Mom's.
    I so wish that parents could just make choices depending on what is RIGHT for them.. in their guts. And be supported and comforted for whatever they choose. Instead of fending off the Mom police at every turn.

  12. Thank you so much for writing this. I just stumbled on your blog and now have so much respect for you for saying this. My milk never came in so I was not able to breastfeed and people always look at you like you are a bad mother. I love my baby more than anything in this world and we have an amazing relationship. I still snuggle him with the bottle and we are both okay with that and THAT is all that matters! Love comes in all forms, not just from the breast.