Breastfeeding my boys has been a privilege and a burden. To be able to breastfeed and pump has both saved money and taken a lot of time and energy. I’ve had Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex with every baby I’ve nursed. D-MER is a little-known, physiological side effect of lactating that causes an intense emotional response.
Every time my milk comes in, I am overcome with intense sadness. On top of that, all of my children have been lactose intolerant while nursing. And I’ve always juggled some combination of in-office and at-home work obligations. To say the least, it’s been a journey. For each infant, at every nursing stage, I’ve had to evaluate my ability to continue. Here are the biggest questions I’ve had to answer:
How can I alleviate some of the breastfeeding “burden”? Having your body be the sole provider of nutrition for your little one is an amazing feat and something to be proud of! But don’t let breastfeeding become a limitation. Each of my three sons had a bottle of breast milk by the time he was 6 weeks old. It’s certainly not easy — pumping while caring for children is a bit like putting yourself on a leash. But the flexibility it provides for other adults to care for your baby is well worth the effort. Give that pump a try so you can give yourself some space. For me, incorporating pumping for the baby during naptime for toddlers was key.
How can I take better care of myself while breastfeeding? I have found D-MER and my metabolism to be the biggest obstacles in my breastfeeding journey. So protecting my emotional wellbeing and getting enough calories are non-negotiable for me. This means I’m meal prepping food the night before a full day of caretaking or loading the kids in the car five minutes in advance so I can have a few spare seconds of peace and quiet before the next activity. “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others” should be every mother’s motto, because self-care is the bedrock of good caretaking. Find the little habits that bring you peace and practice them daily.
Am I struggling to nurse because of stress, sleep or nutrition? Being the sole nutritional provider for an infant can take it out of you if you don’t have enough rest. Although it kills me some nights to turn off the TV or put my phone down when I haven’t had a second to myself all day, going to bed earlier has been a saving grace. Environment and habits can collude with hormones to boost or hurt your milk production and wear your body down. Taking these factors into account is crucial as you plan for long-term breastfeeding.
What are my goals? Breastfeeding is not the be-all and end-all for my boys. All of them have had dairy-free formula at some point. One child was on formula full-time by six months, another was weaned entirely by 11 months, and my last little guy is hanging on to breast milk like it’s his full-time job. My goal is to feed my kids in the least expensive way possible without wearing me down to the bone. Defining your breastfeeding goals can be helpful as you consider how best to feed your child.
At the end of the day, “fed is best.” Breast milk is great, but formula can be, too. However you can ensure your child’s health and your own wellbeing is key.
- Tongue-tie expert says condition can cause problems beyond feeding
- Modern Milk owner shares common breastfeeding hurdles, plus tips
- Sponsored directory: 2020 Pregnancy, birth and babies resources