Working Mommy Madness: Why I Quit Breastfeeding

My boobs hate me.

You see, I just had a baby. It went well, considering I pushed an 8-pound infant out of my vajay-jay without any pain medication. I planned for a natural birth and I had one, proving that I am indeed tougher than I thought. It was a truly amazing experience.

You might think that, having lived through natural childbirth, breastfeeding would seem like a walk in the park. I guess for some women, it is. Since I have big boobs I mistakenly thought it would come naturally, but no … it doesn’t work that way. I managed to breastfeed my first child for only about a week before having a gigantic meltdown and switching to formula, so I had high hopes that I would last longer with my second.

It was going really well at first. I was tired as hell and hated my husband, but we were all still alive, so that counted for something. I was hanging in there, coping with the hour-and-a-half breaks I got between feedings. My girlfriends who managed to successfully breastfeed their kids assured me it would get easier. If they could do it, so could I. And so I pressed on.

I liked the bonding aspect. I thought to myself, “I can tough this out. It’s what is best for the baby. I can put myself aside for a few more months. I mean … I don’t HAVE to shower … or sleep … or take care of my older child … or feed and clothe myself.”

But then, on Day Five, something happened.

I was feeding the baby at our usual time. My husband, always supportive, brought me a snack.  It was an UNOPENED package of graham crackers, and a bowl of peanut butter and honey mixed together with a spoon stuck in it.

Let’s take a minute here to discuss. Has anyone else tried to open graham crackers with one hand? Let alone smear them with peanut butter and honey?!? I am here to tell you, it ain’t easy. I got crumbs all over the baby’s head.

This was the beginning of the downward spiral.

Since I was exhausted and in need of quiet, I sent my husband and three-year-old out with a long list of errands to run. I planned to nap while they were away. Unfortunately, the baby had other plans. He ate. And ate. And ate. An hour passed. Then two.

I maneuvered downstairs with him still attached—no easy feat—and got on the internet. I Googled my situation, which turned up nothing useful. I sat on my living room couch and shouted into the air, “HOW DO PEOPLE DO THIS?!?!?!?” And then I did the most sensible thing I could think of, which was to get on Facebook.

My Facebook friends told me it would get better, not to give up. Everything I read sounded like he was going through his 10-day growth spurt, but it wasn’t time yet. He was only five days old. I was at my wit’s end. If I detached him, he screamed. I tried everything I could think of, but it was obvious that he was just hungry, and nothing but boob would do. I was locked in mammary purgatory.

Three hours passed. I texted my husband that he needed to come home immediately, because I was about to LOSE it. I started eyeing the can of formula that was in the pantry.

Hour four. My boobs were absolutely killing me. Sharp pains were shooting from my armpits. I physically could not handle any more. I looked at the baby and politely informed him that I wouldn’t be doing this again, cracked open that can of formula, and fed him an ounce. He sucked it down and promptly fell asleep.

I promptly popped pain medication. And then I wondered how “the girls” could possibly still be intact after that harrowing experience. I promised them that they would see better days from here on out.

When my husband came home, I told him I never, ever want to breastfeed again. Ever. I know it is best for the baby, but I have limits. Some women might be able to push through days like that, but not me. Does that make me a bad mother? I don’t think so. I honestly don’t know how women manage to breastfeed with other children around. It totally stressed me out to be worried about what my older child was getting into (the kitchen knives? My makeup bag? Permanent markers?) while I was tied down. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t give it enough time, or learn how to run around the house properly whilst breastfeeding. Frankly, just thinking about THAT causes me physical pain.

Natural childbirth, I can do. Exclusive breastfeeding, not so much. And as selfish as this may sound, I like having my body back to myself. It helps me cope with the stresses of motherhood to feel … normal. Yes, it’s a battered, lumpy, stretched-out version of “normal” – but I can sleep for several hours in a row, and as a result, feel relatively sane.

Kudos to all of you moms out there who have managed to breastfeed successfully! I don’t know how you’ve done it. You should pat yourselves on the back and treat yourselves to something nice, like a fancy new bra. I’m sure the girls would appreciate you thinking of them.

About Harmony:

Harmony blew into Birmingham after Hurricane Katrina and is a self-proclaimed “never home maker” striving for a balance between her career and family life. Visit her blog Working Mommy Madness to read more!

22 thoughts on “Working Mommy Madness: Why I Quit Breastfeeding

    1. We would love to have an article on the opposing side! We are always up for getting both sides out there to our readers, we just go by what our writers submit… If you know of a writer send them our way!

      1. Angie, I am the opposing side! I have successfully breastfed 2 children and am currently breastfeeding my 3rd all while working full-time. I’d love to submit an article for you! I provided my email address for my comment. Email me and I’ll send you a guest post I submitted for another site!

  1. Angie, I am the opposing side! I have successfully breastfed 2 children and am currently breastfeeding my 3rd all while working full-time. I’d love to submit an article for you! I provided my email address for my comment. Email me and I’ll send you a guest post I submitted for another site!

  2. I just read the article that was posted about Breastfeeding. While I understand that everyone is allowed to have their own opinion, I think there needs to be an article in SUPPORT of breastfeeding. The anti-breastfeeding article gives negative hope to anyone who is thinking about or struggling with breastfeeding. I, myself, am a HUGE advocate for breastfeeding. Between my mom, sister, sister in laws, cousins, grandmother we ALL have breast fed. I had AMAZING support system and think it is very vitally important to have. I am from Madison and the hospital I delivered at (Crestwood) was so supportive of Breastfeeding also.
    I believe breastfeeding comes naturally. Having said that, you need the POSITIVE support from friends, families and doctors. Believe me, I had family members tell me- “You’ll never stick with it” but THAT just made me that much more determined to make it work. And believe me, it has made those naysayers believers!

    When my baby was 5 weeks old, I found out that I was going to have to have an emergency gallbladder surgery. As much pain as I was in, I told the surgeon that I had to wait until I had enough milk pumped before I would have my surgery Even the surgeon was impressed! I was in agony for almost a week before I was able to pump enough milk to even have my surgery. (Not to mention I continued to breastfeed while having HORRIBLE gallbladder attacks). The gallbladder pain was worse than labor and it came in waves multiple times a day. But, I continued to stick it out and was able to pump enough breast milk to have my surgery. It was a comforting to know my baby was having my milk even though I wasn’t able to feed him then.

    I have heard the argument that “I am too tied down”, which I think is INSANE because I ALWAYS have milk that is the PERFECT temperature, I never have to sterilize a bottle, and can ALWAYS find a place to feed my baby without OFFENDING anyone.
    Formula will NEVER, EVER be the perfect food like BREAST MILK is. Just ask the experts. Especially your pediatrician.

    My baby is now 5 months, weighs over 18 pounds, and yes, has teeth! Yes, I have been bitten,haha, but NOTHING will ever stop me from breastfeeding and giving my baby the best thing I possibly can. And the first act of giving to my child after his amazing birth was giving him the best food on earth. My milk.

  3. Thank you so much for your honesty. So many moms feel like breast-feeding is the only way to take care of your baby. After being unsuccessful at breast feeding my first child and suffering severe post-partum depression because of it, I decided to only bottle-feed my second child. Both children are healthy, intelligent, and most importantly, loved. What is best for the children is having a mother who can cope with the “new normal” of having an infant added to the family. My husband, OB, and pediatrician all supported my decision, and I have no doubt that it was the best decision for our family.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Rebecca! I know that this is a controversial topic and a lot of women can’t understand where I’m coming from. I am just being honest about my situation. It’s a very personal decision … my goal is just to do the best I can every day and move forward from there! ALL mothers need support! We are doing the hardest job there is!

  4. I’m sorry you’ve gave up. I know it isn’t easy. I’m currently bfing my 4 month old and typing. I love to bf, but I do pump and have DH feed him if I need a mommy time out. Thankfully those needs are few and far between. I had a moment like yours where my nipples were so cracked and bleeding that I wanted to give up. I remember feeling like my baby was a “leech” and felt instantly guilty for thinking that way. So I know how it feels like when your body is not your own. That night I cried on my husbands shoulder and felt like a failure. He went to Walmart at 4 am to buy bottles so he could feed our son while I got a good nights rest. The next day I approached breastfeeding as a new day. We started over with DH giving one bottle a day and me bfing the rest of the time and eventually weaned DS to just the breast all day and night again. Like I said DS is 4 months and we are still going strong. I don’t see us stopping anytime soon. Sometimes you just have to take a breather and come back refreshed and ready to start over. It did help that I have a wonderful husband who is very supportive. Those first few weeks I didn’t do anything but sit and breastfeed and change diapers. Now, Dh and I take turns doing housework and taking care of our DD who is 9 yrs old. So I really don’t have to chase after her.

  5. As a mama to 5 grown kids and grandmama to 7 more—each one of my children and grandchildren have been breastfed. When I started nursing my first child , I was the ONLY ONE on the whole nursery floor who was breastfeeding and was looked down upon as if I had leprosy! NONE of my friends were supporting and the only one who did support me was my mother. If it weren’t for La Leche League,and the support of a few, it would’ve been much harder. So I applaud support systems and sheer determination!!! By the time I had my last child, things were so different and so many more had joined the accolades that “breast was best”. I think one of the best things I have ever done for my children was nursing them and then, encouraging my daughters/daughters-in-law to do so as well. Let’s just think about it—those breasts are there for one main reason,to nurture and feed a child. I’m sure there are medical reasons why people cannot nurse and I understand that ,but for those who wimp out talk about missing “ME” time, give that lame excuse up! It’s not about ME anymore when you have a child, it’s about the baby you wanted and have responsibility to for the next 21 or so years. And that begins with the best food there is! YOURS!!! And save the “me” time for manicure days or vacations– but those newborn days are, and should be, giving that baby the best start for his/her life. (and I say that is mommy milk)!

  6. I think this is a very controversial topic, and I completely believe that each woman is entitled to do as she feels is best for her and her child….however, I had delivered one child, and found I was pregnant again shortly thereafter. I breastfed my daughter while I was pregnant with my son, then breastfed my son after he was born. Between the two of them it was almost two years straight. Now, one thing, I did not work. However, I did attend college.
    If you have adequate support, it is the best option for feeding for many different reasons. I have much education and working knowledge in this field, so I can answer questions. Anyway, just my opinion. I am sure that no child suffers that is adequately nourished, but I was determined to do this, and I did. Again, I am NOT trying to offend or degrade anyone for their choice. This was just the best thing for me.

  7. I am definitely an advocate of breastfeeding but appreciate Harmony sharing her experience so honestly. In my reading of the article, she seemed to be very encouraging of women who do/did breastfeed – just that it didn’t work out for her.

  8. It deeply saddens me that you didn’t get the support you needed. There are local breastfeeding support groups available to any mother who wants to succeed in her breastfeeding goals. With so many barriers to breastfeeding out there, I worry that this type of article will indorse giving up. I understand that many children grow up “fine” who were formula fed as infants, but the problem is that we will never know what their potential truly was. Study after study has shown that children that were breastfed are much healthier and have higher IQs than their peers among many other health benefits. Mothering has never been and never will be a matter of convenience. Making the choice to formula feed can have damaging consequences for your child later on, even in to adulthood.
    I would love to write more, but I need to get dinner on the table. Oh, but you can easily open a pack of crackers with one hand and your teeth. Crumbs on a baby aren’t linked to childhood leukemia and low IQ scores, but formula is.

  9. Harmony, thank you for your story. I myself struggled with breastfeeding. And it may be natural for some, but it was not natural for me. I was at the lactation office at the hospital every other day. My child was spitting up my blood at 4 am. I was so depressed because I felt like such a failure. I had to have a c-section which already made me feel like a failure. So finally, like you, I decided I needed control over something. My child is healthy, well-adjusted and incredibly smart.

    I think that breastfeeding is an amazing option, and I wish that I had had a better experience with it. But I do not regret turning to formula because I know that I became a more loving, well-adjusted mother because of the decision that I made. And in the end it is about what decision works for you. So I applaud the moms that breastfeed and I applaud the moms that formula feed. And I would gladly match my parenting skills with anyone.

  10. It’s a fact that motherhood is one of the toughest jobs there is. We all need to cut each other a LOT of slack. There are bad parents out there, but switching to formula after struggling with breast feeding does not a bad parent make. I speak as someone who birthed a very, very difficult nurser and ended up pumping exclusively for a full year (after months of struggling to nurse, including hours with a lactation consultant, for those tempted to think I didn’t try hard enough). But I can tell you that I would not be able to do all of that again while caring for a toddler. I believe that breast feeding is best, if at all possible. I think we should do everything we can as a society to support breast feeding. But I also think we should not lose sight of my initial point: motherhood is hard, and we all need to go easy on each other. Another person’s different choice is not an indictment of yours. Let’s support and encourage breast feeding, but let’s ease up on the judgement, folks.

    1. I have to agree with Jolene. ‘Another person’s choice is not an indictment of yours’. AMEN. I am so sick & tired of this is ‘what’s best for the baby’ & ‘this is what’s healthiest’. It starts at how you choose to deliver your baby & continues on to breastfeeding & when to potty train & then when to have your next child & then when to start your child in preschool or whether to be a stay at home mom or working mom & goes on & on & on. PLEASE! Why are we so hard on each other? Why are we so judgemental & mean? These are such PERSONAL (yet loaded) decisions. The most insecure women/mothers tell you what is ‘right’ & how it ‘should’ be. Keep that in mind–there is NO right answer. It’s what’s right for YOU. Motherhood gets easier when you have confidence in yourself/your decisions & can laugh at some of these situations. My OB said it best: A happy mom = a happy child. No one can understand until they’ve been in your shoes. Keep strong, Harmony. Even though my experience may have been different, I still enjoy hearing another side & trying to understand what that might have been like….I appreciate anyone that is honest & open about the challenges of motherhood.

      1. I could not agree more!

        Also, why is there an “opposing side” to this? Are nursing mothers and formula feeding mothers in a war? What impact does my formula/breastfeeding have on your breastfeeding/formula?

      2. I agree. Motherhood is tough, do what you’ve got to do. Your kids need a healthy, functioning Mom. As long as you’re giving them breastmilk or formula you’re doing the right thing.

        I breastfeed my baby (who’s now almost 11 months old), despite repeated thrush, mastitis, cracks etc. It took me almost 4 months for all that to go away and it was awful. I still get painful blocked ducts. Also, she’s a violent feeder (kicking me in the throat, scratching, biting and punching) so I’ve never had that warm cosy relationship they show in the breastfeeding posters.

        My point is, breastfeeding is hard for me and I do it anyway, but I still think that you made the right decision – breastfeeding is intimate, challenging and your own personal decision. Thank you for sharing your story.

        Breastfeeding/formula isn’t a measure of how much we love our children. Ignore all the judgemental and mean people! (in all facets of motherhood).

  11. I did not breastfeed my son. I did not have the opportunity to. I had tumors removed from my breast 15 years before which made me unable to produce milk. I knew this going into it and did not feel the need to explain my situation to everyone. The grief that I got from so many, at baby showers, at the hospital, everywhere, that could not believe I was not going to breastfeed. It is a personal choice. Some choose formula because of necessity, some because of ease of use. What really matters is not what our baby is eating, but how our baby is loved.
    Thank you for speaking out for us.

    1. YES! What matters most is how our children are loved. And I can tell you, mine ARE LOVED. I feel no need to apologize for my mothering choices. I am simply here to state the facts as I experience them! Thank you for reading!

  12. On day 5? Crumbs on the babies head? I am saddened by this. On day 5 with my first baby I had no idea what I was doing either. But I kept going because I knew that my baby deserved it. Now, having nursed 4 children (and currently nursing still), I can do just about anything while nursing. I can not imagine giving up on something so important (please read the long list of breastfeeding and formula RISKS-YES, RISKS)so quickly.

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