Saturday, January 5, 2013

My breasts, my nemeses

I am currently down for the count with my third bout of mastitis in Magpie's short two months of life. My left breast looks angry, the skin hot to the touch and reddened, extending up under my arm. I am achy and febrile. I am on antibiotics again (I will have taken more than 30 days of antibiotics for mastitis by the end of this round). Caring for Magpie at the moment is out of the question. Thank goodness for Will.

I never realized how debilitating these infections were prior to having Magpie. They last approximately two to three days, and I spike a high fever (~103-104) and have severe pain in the affected breast. It makes it very difficult to pump (but of course stopping in the midst of it is not an option because I would become engorged and only make the blockage situation worse). The intensity of symptoms means that I have had to ask for or hire help to care for Magpie each time. I don't know if I am particularly vulnerable to this type of infection for some anatomical reason, but it stinks.

The multiple episodes of mastitis (not to mention the multiple blocked ducts a week that I manage to clear prior to their developing into an infection) are just some of the many aspects of trying to give Magpie breast milk that have been a challenge. She has major problems with sucking, either from my breast or from a bottle, and so ours is, at least for now, an exclusive pumping relationship, and not an easy one.

Not how I thought it would be. And yet, so far at least, I can't give up on it. It seems so important to try to give her breast milk. Beyond the basic research on the subject (which on my more cynical days I might call almost propaganda), my personal reasons include my and my family's cancer history, my gestational diabetes history while carrying Magpie, and perhaps the fact that I and my siblings were not breastfed and have had some significant medical issues along the way (which of course we might have had anyway...who knows). I have the hope that I can offer Magpie some protections against these things by breastfeeding. Also that it will help me not develop type II diabetes (which after the GD I am at risk for) or breast cancer, which I am also at higher than usual risk for.

Not sure if this is supposed to be encouraging or admonishing

I tell myself that at least while I am on maternity leave, feeding and nurturing Magpie is my sole responsibility, and so it doesn't matter how hard it is. I tell myself that I went to great lengths to have her and that I want to give her "the best," no matter what. That perhaps to go an easier route would signify a lack of gratitude for her (some version of the "you made your bed, now lie in it" adage).

It boils down to another case of Mo's ridiculous persistence when all evidence points to stopping something (which of course has been reinforced in the past...most notably with the creation of Magpie herself). Or framed another way, it boils down to my intense focus on regret management. No matter the amount of acute suffering in the moment with the efforts to extract the milk from my breasts and get it into my beautiful daughter's body, I worry that if I stop "prematurely," I will look back later in her life and regret it. And what would constitute stopping prematurely for me? Prior to three months? Prior to six months? Prior to one year? I'm not sure, and honestly, I try not to think about it, because imagining going through this for any of those lengths of time feels undoable. So I don't look ahead, I just get through the next day of pumping and feeding. We're a one day at a time pumping and feeding family.

I also feel so aware of and grateful that I've been able to produce enough milk for Magpie to drink. So many of my friends and fellow bloggers have struggled mightily with this, having to supplement due to PCOS or insufficient glandular tissue or bad advice at the beginning of their attempts to breastfeed. That I am actually making what Magpie needs to eat (and some), is huge, particularly given the fact that she has never been able to latch on and that I didn't get started pumping until she was about 10 days old because of poor advice from the lactation consultants in the hospital after her birth. It feels selfish to squander this gift of milk we've been given when one of my dear friends pumped every three hours around the clock for nine long months to give her son 3 ounces of breast milk daily and the rest formula. She's a neuropsychologist (and knows her research) and felt it was that important to try to give him even a small amount of breast milk. I, on the other hand, am able to pump 3 ounces for each feeding, sometimes significantly more during the overnight hours. To just quit after working so hard  - and being so lucky - to get to this point feels foolish.

And yet...

This is tough, folks. Capital T Tough. And no one seems to talk about it. Instead, I read that breastfeeding is normal and natural and easier than formula feeding. I read Dr. Spock's advice that most women can successfully breastfeed if they give it a fair trial (i.e., if they just try hard enough). Well. Huh. I guess I'm not trying hard enough, because despite consultations with numerous professionals and 11 weeks of daily attempts, we are not breastfeeding and I am struggling mightily with exclusively pumping.

At the moment, I hate my breasts. I feel I am a prisoner to them. I am also extremely grateful for the milk they are producing. But who knew it would be so hard!

I'm sure when my fever passes, things won't seem as overwhelming.  But this is where things stand today.

Off to pump again and then rest. Hoping this fever clears soon.


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  1. Please do not read any more Dr Sears. Seriously.

    You have gone way beyond what most of us would do. Hang in there. You'd be more than justified to stop.

  2. If you don't want to give up, consider giving Magpie ongoing opportunities to nurse. Once my son started nursing (at ~8 weeks), the mastitis and plugged ducts cleared up immediately. I so hear you about not wanting to quit.

  3. Well obviously I can't give real advice about this, seeing as how I never made it to breastfeeding, ha! But here's my two cents: please don't feel like not breastfeeding somehow reflects a lack of gratitude for Magpie. That's simply not true.

    I wasn't breastfeed and have been very healthy.

    My two kids had everything they should have had denied to them their first few months of life--a fourth trimester, breastmilk, and enough formula to keep their bellies full--and yet here they are, healthier than most of the toddlers their age that I know (and not just compared to the ones in daycare).

    Just be easy on yourself. Regret management is one thing, but ENJOYING this precious time with Magpie is another thing, and if you're hurting and sick and feverish, well, I can't imagine that makes it that easy to enjoy just being her mother. Plus, all those antibiotics--blech!

  4. Before I really comment, know that I am not in anyway telling you to stop. I just want to share my experience. Before I had my son, I had nothing but romantic ideals towards BFing. Then he was here and I learned very quickly that even with a good latcher, there wasn't much that was easy about it. BFing is one of the hardest things you can ever do. When I went back to work, my son started rejecting the breast for the bottle and I became an exclusive pumper. It was stressful and awful and being busy at work made it impossible to keep up with his demand. I had to supplement with formula which initially really upset me. But then a funny thing I happened. I started to relax. All the stress and time consumption was gone and I found I was much happier when my mind and time wasn't consumed by EPing and I could just bask in the glory of my boy, like my DH did all along. Know that however long you stick with it, YOU ARE AN AMAZING MOTHER. And Magpie is so ridiculously lucky to have you! Best wishes for easier feeding ahead!

  5. I am sure that, if I were in your shoes, I would feel EXACTLY as you do. I don't know what I would do, either.

    Thoughts are with you!

  6. Ugh. I am so sorry for all this that you're going through.

    You are--whether or not you end up breastfeeding Magpie for 2 more days, or 3 months more, 6 months, 9 months or well into her preschool years--an AMAZING mother. It has nothing to do with where she gets her food. I understand the regret management, believe me, I do. I just hate to see you going through this kind of agony!

    Thinking of you both & hoping this gets easier soon!

  7. Oh, gosh I am so sorry you are having such trouble. I had different struggles (most notably low milk production no matter what I did and I did the every 3 hours round he clock pumping for a LONG time.) I so hear you that nobody talks about frustrating everything you read and everywhere you go they talk about how much easier breastfeeding is vs bottles and if you just try hard enough it's no problem. I do think there is a lot of propaganda out there surrounding this issue.
    All that said, I don't know if this helps but I breastfed for 9 months, am just a few weeks out from stopping and I'm glad I made the effort. So much of those first 9 months was all about breast-feeding...but I'm so glad I made the effort. I think your one day at a time strategy is great.
    Good luck and hope you feel better soon!
    PS I didn't know breastfeeding helped with T2DM prevention after GD...good to know...

  8. As someone who was never able to get her daughter to latch, I exclusively pumped for 7 months. It sucked. Dealing with mastitis was like dealing with pumping fire through my nipple. Came out of no where and nearly killed me, I swear. I began wearing hand warmers in my bras at all times to prevent blockages and repeat episodes of nipple rings of fire. In the end, it was worth it. Knowing I was able to provide my daughter with breast milk for the first 10 months of her life made it worth the sacrifice.

    You are doing an amazing job for Magpie. It's not easy and dealing with all the complications makes it even more challenging. I'm so sorry you're having to deal with this. Hoping you feel better soon!

  9. Keep up the good work mama! I had ivf twins who were too little to latch properly. I have pumped exclusively and also nursed with a nipple shield (I would recommend giving that a try! It worked really well until they could latch). I had four cases of mastitis and was hospitalized for 5 days with one of them. Around 12 weeks my milk supply leveled out and I wasn't overrproducing and the mastitis stopped. I would pump almost exclusively and attempt nursing once a day. Around 4 months I tried nursing without the nipple shield and it just clicked. I'm glad I hung in there. I still pump most of the time since I am a working mother but nursing has gotten so much easier. I promise it gets better. You are doing a great thing for your baby! Also- I had supply drops at 4 months and 6 months. I took reglan and it worked well! Good luck!

  10. Try probiotics.

    This isn't new-age stuff, it's real science:

    A few months ago Dr. Rodriguez and his team were still doing microbial cultures of your breastmilk if you sent a sample. They would tell you whether mastitis is present and which bacteria were causing it. They would also provide their probiotics, all free of charge, of course. I do not know if this is still the case, or if this works outside Spain, but you might want to try to contact them:

    Dr. J. M. Rodriguez

    The research team's website:

    If you can't get hold of those experimental probiotics (or if you want to do something right now), try Lactobacillus reuteri. It does work. It is simply amazing.

    Also, if you need antibiotics, try to avoid amoxicillin, amoxicillin plus clavulanic acid and cloxacillin, as most mastitis-related bacteria are resistant, and go for ciprofloxacin.

    Feel free to contact me (more info on this, help with your Spanish etc.)

    Good luck!

  11. Sorry Mo. It sounds incredibly hard and you are not the drama queen type in any way so I can only imagine!!! Big hugs to you.

  12. Ah, Mo. I'm a major advocate of breastfeeding. Still going with Tiny Boy at 14 mo and would have kept going with LG, had it not been for allergies.

    And I know I can't talk you out of "regret management" but honestly this sounds like an untenable situation for the two of you. Sounds like you've spent almost half of her life on antibiotics...

    Maybe a question to ask is how might your life (and Magpie's) change *positively* if you started formula feeding (or even using donated breastmilk)? Just a thought. Not really trying to talk you out of anything but if I were in your shoes, I'd want someone to tell me it was okay, more than okay, to stop pumping.

  13. When I had DD I was hell bent on breastfeeding. I don't know what came over me but I was on a crusade. The first few months were kind of hellish. I never had mastitis but I had thrush that just wouldn't go away. In retrospect I think I was so determined because of infertility but not so much for showing gratitude that I had a baby but to show my body could do it. That I could do what my super fertile family members failed so horribly at and where my body had failed so horribly at getting pregnant I would be able to feed my baby like nobody's business. It is much more petty then your reasons for continuing I guess but that's what I can figure happened with me. I also very much remember feeling like a prisoner to my boobs. Due to lack of good advice and an undiagnosed tongue tie (which was corrected at 9 weeks) I gave myself an oversupply problem that resulted in 11 gallons of milk in the freezer which ultimately was divided up between local families and the milk bank. Part of that was my pumping all the time due to paranoia about mastitis so I have to hand it to you dealing with that three times!

    So my advice if it is worth anything at all... try that probiotic mentioned previously. It has help me greatly to not get thrush on the second go around of breastfeeding. If you can find some support then do it but be careful who you listen to (a woman at LLL had me all freaked out for no reason). Be careful reading BF books written by men! What the hell do they know about BF?!?!

  14. Just wanted to lend you some support by sending you a big non-painful virtual hug.

    I'm so sorry that this has all been so difficult. I feel like if there is anyone out there that should have been given the easy-pass for breast feeding it hands down should have been you.

    You are a fighter in every sense of the word.

    Wishing you peace as you sort through your next steps with breast feeding. Either way, your choice will be the right one.

  15. This is what makes me so cross.

    BFing is not natural and easy and whatnot.

    I had almost nothing after pumping for 28 days (til K came out of the NICU) and a lactation specialist said to me, it really is okay to stop. Your babies will thrive regardless of how they get their food.

    That freed me, I stopped, the whole twin thing was still crazy but at least I didn't have one more thing to feel guilty about.

    big hugs to you

    PS i'm persistent but I would have stopped ages ago if I were you :)

  16. You're a great mama. Not many would be as persistent as you to give their little ones -not the best- but simply standard nutrition that nature intends. No one would blame you for giving up after being through hell. I so hope it gets easier for you

  17. I'm so sorry that you're having a hard time. Have you tried lecithin? It's a supplement that can help you avoid the clogged ducts in the first place.

  18. Ant and I had breastfeeding issues early on. I pumped and fed exclusively for the first month of his life due weight gain/lazy nursing issues. I was prone to blocked ducts and had mastitis twice. What I found helped me was soy lecithin. The recommended dosage is 3,600 – 4,800mg/day. Soy lecithin is a fatty acid which acts as an emulsifier. My lactation consultant told me it thins the milk a little bit so it is less sticky.

    After a month of just pumping I found my amazing lactation consultant and she help us SLOWlY transition to the breast. At around 6 months Ant was exclusively breastfed. It was a long road but worth it. Now he is almost 3 and still nurses twice a day. I am so grateful I toughed it out. Wishing you and Magpie the best!

  19. Wow, Mo, you are my hero. So impressed with your dedication.

  20. They never tell you that too much milk can be as big of a problem as too little, do thery? This is what I encountered too - overengorged, trouble with actual BFing (poor girl was chocking on the fast flow!), and the dreaded mastitis.

    Everything you read is all roses and butterflies, and it is not, plain and simple. BFing was the hardest thing about having my daughter, and I ended up really hating it, which makes me sad.

    But I will say I was happiest when I supplemented - I trained my boobs to only produce milk enough for 3 feeds/day, and the rest was formula. After the initial pain of training them, my boobs relaxed, I stopped getting painfully overfull, the mastitis resolved, it just seemed like a better fit. Just a thought for you to consider.

    And I will also say, you are doing great by Miss Magpie. She has already injested the first month + of BM, and that is the crucial part. And many many never-BF kids of our generation are perfectly healthy. Don't succumb to the propaganda :)

    Feel better soon!!

  21. This post, and all the emotion in it, hits extremely close to home for me. Suffice it to say that I have a long and sordid history of trying to breastfeed my three kids and never having been succesful. My first experience was remarkably similar to yours, but I didn't stick it out as long as you have. I even have the GD worry hanging over my head.
    It may be worth it to remember that most of the health risks/benefits that you cited are studies of correlation, not causation. So for me, it came down to the fact that, at some point, the physical and emotional stress, the inability to take care of my kids (from repeated mastitis), the inability to even get on a schedule or enjoy the baby...was NOT outweighed by the potential, but not guaranteed, benefits of breastfeeding. There are hundreds of other things that you can do to improve the health of you and your baby.
    I understand the feelings of regret, but honestly, I don't regret giving them formula. My regret stems from frustration and jealousy that I have not been able to do this one thing that so many of my friends and family have had no problems with. Over three babies I've learned that I am mentally better off not discussing BFing with moms who have never had the difficulties I have had. I'll be facing this again come May, and to be honest, not much raises my anxiety level like the thought of trying to breastfeed again.
    Good luck no matter which road you take. Having been there, I just hope you find the solution that gives you some sanity and peace.

  22. Just sending you hugs. I have nursed 2 children (currently still nursing my son) and no part of it is easy. I had mastitis multiple times with my first and thought I was septic with one of the episodes--so so awful, I'm so sorry you're feeling so bad. What you said is so good about one feeding at a time, one day at a time, one night at a time. Great, great job and sending you hugs, Erin11

  23. Oh, this just sounds so miserable for you. Of course you should do whatever you feel you need to, but please know that no one would judge you for stopping. You have given it super-human effort. I can't imagine going through mastitis and the issues with latching on top of all of the other challenges of parenting a newborn (sleep deprivation being a huge one). Just remember that a happy, healthy, sane Mama is also important.

    And I hear you on the "breastfeeding is easy and natural" bull. I struggled mightily in the beginning and had it not been for the fabulous lactation consultant I saw, I probably wouldn't have lasted more than a couple of weeks!

    Sending tons of good wishes your way. You have already shown what a selfless and incredible parent you are and will be to Magpie!

  24. My breastfed child (one out of three) was my least healthy child.

    I had the most wicked case of mastitis when I decided NOT to breastfeed #2 and they gave me the meds to dry up my milk (which they had determined was a bad idea by the time I had my third child).

    I think women who breastfeed are amazing warrior women and I regret not having been more committed to it as a young mother... but I was young and uneducated on the subject and didn't have the luxury of an extended maternity leave.

    I say all of that to say - go with your gut. It's gotten you this far!

  25. I really think my sickest time in my entire life is when I had my three bouts of mastitis. Had them at 6 weeks and 10 weeks pp, as well as multiple clogged ducts. It hits so fast, and leaves you so incredibly wasted, I really feel for you. You are doing an unbelievable job hanging in there. All the above commenters give really good advice. I would say, if you are going to hang in there, aim for the 3 month mark. I have heard and experienced that at that 12-15 week point, the milk supply seems to settle down and all improves. It really did take till 4 months with me before the clogged ducts tapered down....did not vanish mind you but did improved and thank goodness no mastitis besides a brief episode at 6 months. And with my second, no mastitis or clogged ducts. I found it amazing. It's like bf boot camp those first 3 months!
    Again, you are doing so well. In the end, Magpie needs a healthy mama and mastitis certainly can make you very sick. Hang in there, but you are equally, if not MORE important than the breastfeeding issue. She needs her healthy happy mama! I'd say give yourself a break if by 12-15 weeks things aren't improving.

  26. I felt exactly the same as you and went through great trials in different ways feeding my two. My first was only partially breastfed for nine months due to severe lactose intolerance and low milk supply. I was more clued up on pumping constantly to boost supply at the outset with my second so he was exclusively bf-ed for 5 mths and partially for 9. I was fortunate enough to have 15 month maternity leaves for both. My firstborn is definitely healthier than my second born so who knows if it helped but I understand where you are coming from.

  27. Hi Mo:

    With as many comments as you get, I'm not even sure you'll get this message, but still I felt like I had to reach out!

    As some people have already suggested, I would get yourself onto a strong probiotic ASAP. All those antibiotics from mastitis, plus the fact that you were GBS+ and probably given antibiotics during labor, have probably wiped out your gut flora and maybe, you've been getting the same, reoccurring bout of mastitis again and again (meaning the first never really went away!).

    Regardless, You are an amazing mother and I cannot commend you enough for all your doing for your girl. Breastfeeding is hard work even when it's easy, so to have as many struggles have you had means it's even harder. And I'm sorry it's not what you envisioned, but you are getting breastmilk to her and she is going to be an amazing person regardless of how she's nourished these early days :) Hang in there! Please consider hiring a postpartum doula... she might also provide a ton of insight and help for you. We tend to "mother the mother" more than partners :)

  28. Ashley - I read every comment. Thanks for yours. I've been on probiotics since the beginning of the third trimester. there is data that taking them daily in third tri and first six months of babies' life reduces the incidence of eczema. I briefly hired a postpartum doula ( for one day) but couldn't afford someone ongoing (they cost $45/hour in NYC). maybe will rethink this...

  29. Excellent job on trying to make it work. I've nursed 3 children for 11-12 months and while my first 2 were good nursers I went to hell and back to nurse number 3. She wasn't gaining wt so we were pumping and BF 10 times and day and finally around 11 weeks she was strong enough to nurse and gain Wt . Once she was nursing full time I never got mastitis again and it was pretty smooth sailing. I had set small goals for my self and evaluated it as I went and I think if it hadn't gotten better by 12 weeks I might have given up or gone to a mix of formula/BM .
    Olive oil had an antibacterial property and my Laction consultant recommended it with the mastitis and the pumping to make it more comfortable. Also I use to boil the cones every night and replace them when I got mastitis - warm heat and pumping helped to empty the beast better for me and drinking warm liquids when I pumped gave me an ounce or two of more milk. If your in the NYC area call Dr Mona Gabay - she's the best

    Good luck - your doing an amazing job and maggiepie is lucky to have such a wonderful mother :)

  30. perhaps start building up a frozen stash so that you have the option to stop without stopping? (i'm assuming exclusive bfing isn't nearly as important to you as giving her some breast milk).

  31. Mo! You are a warrior mama! Every step of the way with that gorgeous baby girl. So sorry you're in so much pain and feeling so crappy. I don't know, it's interesting to read the comments from mamas who had a terrible time and had it turn around at 3 or 4 months, but still... Look, just my opinion, but I breastfed for 54 weeks, and had a child who was in daycare from 13 weeks, but didn't get her first cold until 5 months, and it was a mild one. Yet I believe the studies touting the benefits of breastmilk to be propaganda. There's no way to do a blind study, and no real way to account for all the different circumstances that affect outcomes. As Marti said, correlation does not necessarily indicate causation. Yes, regret management is a good thing, but I would hate for you to regret missing out on some of the joy of Magpie's infancy.

    Wish I was around the corner so I could pop over to lend a hand. Please feel free to call, email, text if you're alone with Magpie and need to vent, cry, bitch, etc. You've got my number, girlfriend. Big hug. (Gently, against your poor, tender chest.)

  32. Also, Gwinne has a good point. Food for thought. xo

  33. I started to type a reply eighty million times and nothing sounds right, it all sounds know it all-y or like I'm telling you what to do, when I am absolutely in no position to do so.

    When all I want to say is, I'm sorry this is all such a struggle. I'm sorry you're in pain and it's not going well. I hope it gets easier soon, no matter what you decide. We all deserve to enjoy our babies, but you struggled so hard and for so long to have Magpie, you REALLY have earned some smooth sailing at this point.

  34. What helped my was using heatpad before breastfeeding (pumping), and then cool down the breast (gel/ice etc) after each feeding/pumping... while the breastes were sore.. felt like there was some "blockage" starting... (advice from lactation consultant)

    Then the thing about the bra... try not to wear anything that restrains the breast (contributes to blockage), some bra´s were worse than others for me, and nights were expecially bad, just wear a T-shirt for the nights...

    When I did this all my blockage/infection problems went away.

    But then again, you have probably done more than your best and re-peated infections/sick mom is not the best thing for you´re baby.

  35. Oh Mo, I feel for you. I think I've told you before about my bouts with mastitis, but just in case...I too had three rounds of mastitis and then my final fourth round landed me in the hospital for three days. Mastitis for me felt like I was run over by a mack truck since I had fevers, chills, body aches, and breast pain. In the four months I breastfed, it seemed like the majority of that time was spent developing, enduring and recovering from mastitis. I felt like it was a biological imperative to nurture my child with breast milk! So I get where you are coming from... I hope you feel better and avoid the guilt! You are doing a great job in focusing on each day. :) <3

  36. I'm so sorry you are having such a hard time of it. I completely understand you feeling like you need to stick it out and suffer for the good of little Magpie, but know also that if you decide to stop, that's OK too.

    In the meantime, have you tried wool breast pads? I know it sounds crazy, but they are super soft, not itchy like you might think, and they feel great -- warm and dry instead of the cold, wet, clamminess of disposables or cotton pads. Also, the Danish swear they help protect against mastitis, which may or may not be true, but it couldn't hurt to try, right? Even if they don't help with the infections, they're like little cashmere sweaters for your breasts!!!

    They're super expensive, but you only need one or two pairs due to the properties of wool, so it might be worth trying them out.

    I hope things get better for you soon. You certainly deserve for SOMETHING to be easy (or at least no SO bloody hard!).

  37. Yes, wool breast pads rock.

    Can't say whether or not they actually help, but I've never had mastitis and rarely a blocked duct...

  38. I am sorry you are having such a difficult time. I hope that feedings start getting better soon and that you feel better soon. You are an amazing mother, whether you feed Magpie formula or breast milk. Don't beat yourself up, if you decide to stop giving breast milk. Wishing you the best.

  39. I breastfed my first for 5 weeks before I was hospitalized for early stage sepsis from mastitis that each progressive level of antibiotics could not stop but I was determined to continue until hospitalization b/c my son had reflux. I had to be put on vancomycin, IV antibiotics, and was separated from him for 4 nights as a result and another 30 days of antibiotics that left me with ulcers. I have had 7 m/c and 5 IVFs and know now that I have zero IgA in my body and each time he latched, I got a fresh infusion of bacteria and I did not have the antibodies to combat the infections. At 7 yo, he is healthier than me and clearly inherited his Dad's immune system, plus he is a fabulous eater of healthful foods. My second child, I did not breastfeed at all given the risk ... she is healthy and happy, and I have been able to care for her and bond much more easily. The guilt is still there but I believe that the healthful, diverse foods that come in a few short months that help lead to a lifetime of good eating habits are actually much more important in the long road, so I could focus on that at 6 months. Every body is different and I could pump 8 oz easily, but even pumping was considered too risky, but I do wonder if all those antibiotics that went through the breastmilk in the early weeks caused my son more harm with his reflux.

    I suspect that your body is not like the "typical" woman given the m/cs. The guilt will still be there no matter which way you go, sadly. I hope this is the last mastitis but perhaps you and Will can determine what is the stopping point together. 4 times? 5? Going to 3 months no matter what? Just like IVFs, everyone has their own personal limit and there is no set answer that is right for all.

  40. I EPed for 12 months. Every memory of the first year of my first son's life somehow involves a breast pump. Its tough. Huge hugs to you Mama. You're doing amazing!! Have you tried Lecithin? That was amazing and wonderful stuff for me that cleared blocked ducts within hours, which I think helped me avoid mastitis. Hope things get better for you. As others have said, there's nothing wrong with stopping. But regret management pushed me to continue for a year. After my m/c's and infertility I just needed my body to succeed at something. To prove to me it could do something right. It could make milk, enough for my son with extra to donate. I've been where you are wondering when I would feel like I'd done enough and it would be ok to supplement or stop pumping. It is hard in the moment. Wishing you peace and success in whatever your decision. You deserve to enjoy this time.

  41. Been there! Mastitis is AWFUL! I ended up with it 5 x while nursing my girls, as well as countless clogged I feel you. I have had many fewer issues feeding my son this time, thank God, but man do I remember that, and I too couldn't believe how debilitating it was.
    As for formula...I think what you are doing is noble...but long term? Oye vey! I wonder if you wouldn't cherish your time with Magpie (and what tiny bit of maternity leave you may have left) if you were to supplement with formula, or even switch to formula. I supplemented formula with my girls, and honestly, I can only see the benefit of my doing it at this point. My girls slept through the night starting at 10 weeks. They were happy. They gained weight well. And I wasn't as stressed. I too was married to my pump (I would attempt to nurse both girls and then pump after every single feed and feed them what I had pumped out of a bottle), and that helped me not worry about supply or feeding issues right before bed.
    Point being, it worked for us. You need to find what works for you. And it is OKAY to formula feed or supplement, if that is what you choose to do. Totally 100% okay. And if anyone judged you for that I would tell them to kick rocks, seriously. You are doing an amazing job with Magpie, and she is going to love you the same regardless of whether she gets breastmilk in her bottle or formula =).
    Hang in there momma!

  42. Mo,

    I so feel for you. Have you considered starting to stockpile some of the EP'd milk so that you can cut down sooner rather than later? According to my Pdiatrician and the Materials I've read, no one has really studied the health benefits of partial BF'ing and the proposition that exclusively breast feeding is not well supported. Point is, maybe there is a way to manage your regret and your boobs to the point where Magoie is getting "enough" BM and you are getting more rest and fewer infections?? There has got to be a happy medium.

    Good luck getting over the infection aand through the next few weeks. You are doing a great job!

  43. I exclusively pumped for my son's first year. And now that he's eight, I look back and wonder why I did it. I wish I had spend the time and mental energy on being with my baby, not freaking about breast milk. I have a strong family history of breast cancer, so that played into it for me, too, but who knows how much difference it makes. Breast is best? Sure, but formula is a damn good second place.

  44. I have no advice. I too struggled, but with inadequate supply. It is really hard and I never managed to exclusively BF, though I did persist and it did for me get easy -- but that in the context of accepting it as a part, not the whole, of DS's diet (and without the mastitis).

    I am reminded again of the scholar Sarah Blaffer Hrdy's take on formula which is that rather than curse/criticize it, we should thank our lucky stars every day that for the first time in history, we have (in some parts of the world) a safe alternative to BFing. And I do, but I know that doesn't really address your problems or concerns ... certainly you have options (and that is good), but what tradeoffs are worth making is still a difficult and personal choice.

    I hope you can reach a place where you and Magpie are both comfortable and well and well cared for.

  45. I am so sorry breastfeeding has been difficult. I get plugged ducts everytime I pump, which is not very often. I dealt with oversupply issues, which I guess is better than the alternative, but does seem to contribute to mastitis. Mastitis made me feel so hopeless and overwhelmed. I hope the antibiotics kick in quickly and you are feeling much better now. Magpie is so lucky to have you as a mama and pray the breastfeeding/pumping gets easier.

  46. Hi Mo,
    By now you've heard many breastfeeding stories so I won't add mine in detail. I'll just say that it didn't work for me due to several factors and I'll focus on the regret that I felt. With my first child, a son, I had such high hopes and strong beliefs on breastfeeding. When it didn't work out, I was devastated. Oh I'm sure having the baby blues only made it 10 times worse, but looking back I can truly say it was one of the darkest times in my life. I felt extreme guilt, and such severe inadequacy. Billions of women breastfeed their kids, why couldn't I? How could I be a good mother if I couldn't even supply my own baby with the nutrition that God intended? Etc. etc. It was damaging thoughts like these that tortured me for months. Meanwhile, my little boy was absolutely thriving on formula. Big, healthy, strong, happy. Perfect. And today he six years old and is still all of those things. I still don't like thinking about how I felt in those early days, but it's easy for me to shake off b/c I see him and his sister (who I also didn't nurse - due to all the same factors as before PLUS she was a non-latcher) and they are so smart and healthy and I can't imagine my breast milk making them any more amazing than they are.

    I truly admire your tenacity and that of all the other women who had such a hard time nursing and still managed to power through. It's incredibly difficult and no matter what, we are ALL good mothers b/c we love our children, worry about their well-being and do the best we can for them. Magpie is going to be great no matter what b/c you and Will are going to love her to bits and provide her with everything she needs to thrive. Regardless of whether it comes from breast or a bottle!

    My greatest regret now is that I was so hard on myself. I was so sad and guilty that I look back at my son's infancy and I remember those emotions more than the utter joy and amazement he brought me. Trust me, whatever you choose to do will be ok and if you decide to quit breastfeeding / pumping you aren't still going to be thinking about it years down the road. I forget about my own situation 99.9% of the time until I come across something like your blog and see another mother struggling with her decisions. Go easy on yourself and do what's best for you. Magpie really will be ok.

    P.S. I was formula fed myself and have never had one health issue. Ever.

  47. oh woman, pumping is HARD. it's tedious and uncomfortable (painful with an infection), and a royal pain to clean including bottles, etc.

    take care of yourself, mo. do what you need to do. you need to be well to take care of your little girl. she will get what she needs, regardless. pump only for as long as you can handle it, and don't regret for a minute once you stop. you've done everything and then some, above and beyond.

    don't let anyone -- including professionals or friends or whoever -- make you feel guilty. and try not to regret it when it's time to let go. just know you've gotten your daughter off to a wonderful start. she'll be fine!

  48. I share your tendency for ridiculous persistence. I exclusively pumped for 6.5 months to produce a couple of ounces of milk a day, divided by two babies. I refused to stop even when my husband, doctors, LCs told me that I could and even should stop. I appeased those around me by saying that I wanted to keep going just a little while longer -- until this new drug to increase supply took effect, until after an airplane flight that would expose the babies to germs, at least one more day...

    To add some confusion to your regret management, as proud as I am that I was able to stick it out that long, I also have some regrets that I didn't move on sooner. But if I had it to do over again? I'd certainly change some actions (bad LCs at my hospital too!) at the beginning that maybe could have helped my supply, though probably not, but assuming the same comically low supply I don't know if I would rather have quit sooner. Maybe. Maybe not.

    Whenever you do find that you're thinking about stopping, perhaps consider giving Magpie formula some of the time and stockpiling that amount of milk in the freezer. If let's say that you give her half formula for a month, then you can give her half breastmilk for a month after you stop pumping, or 1/4 breastmilk for 2 months, etc. It seemed to me that length of time was more important than quantity, or at least that's what I told myself anyway.

    Regardless of how long you continue, you are a fierce warrior and a selfless mother.

    Feel better!!

  49. I hated breastfeeding my son. Found it easier with my daughter - 11 weeks she has had all that she needs in terms of nutritional and immunity benefits (despite what the nipple nazi's say). If it is making you unhappy you cannot focus on enjoying this time with your baby which is fleeting and something you never get back. As a mom of two, my advice is ditch the breastfeeding. I had mastitis with my second one, swore if i got it again I would stop. It is terrible, terrible. Don't torture yourself - like the birth there are no medals here: the only thing that matters is your and your daughter's happiness. Happy baby = happy mom.

  50. Hi Mo,
    I am a long time reader and always want to comment, but feel like I have nothing to say beyond the hundreds of comments you already receive. But its a new year...

    First off I want to say congratulations! You ARE a wonderful mother, and what a blessing it is to have Magpie here 'very alive.' I read every post, and tear up almost EVERY time. I thought that was going to end once Magpie was here and all was supposed to be well, right?

    The 'hard realities' post really hit home for me, and despite the sadness I feel for you that it is still an uphill climb, it was very cathartic for me to read. I had premature twins following infertility and all the the feelings you describe are mine. After reading that post, I was able to look at my situation a bit differently, letting go of some of the guilt and healing some of my pain regarding the NICU and the beginning of my life with my girls. So THANK YOU.

    As for your current situation: I started out EPing with babies in the NICU. It was emotionally and physically draining. A friend told me she EPed for her twins for 7 months, and I thought she was nuts! Once the girls got home, we started trying BFing and it was laborious to nurse, then bottle feed for sufficient intake, then pump what was leftover (I also pump while feeding to save time). So I continued to curse the pump, but depended upon it. I have had 50 plus days of blocked ducts, but fortunately only one episode of mastitis. Every time I had a plugged duct, my supply would diminish and I was get so stressed about it.

    I told myself the same day at a time, then when I could I set my sites on a week at a time. I had many conversations with friends/family, and felt that no one could influence my decision, even though I didn't know when my decision about when to quit would come. I am a perfectionist thru and thru and harbored guilt about the girls early arrival (never thought of it as regret management, but that is precisely what it was!), so the provision of breast milk was what I focused on to assuage these feelings.

    I can't say when my girls 'got it,' but think it may have been around 4 months when they could get a full meal via breast--but they don't always. And the type A me needs to KNOW how much they eat, and so now we do both, bottle during the day and breast at night. It has been 7 months and I am still pumping (I must be nuts!). It does get easier, and the blocked ducts mostly resolved for me when the girls started breast feeding--now when I feel one coming on, I stick a girl on it, and it resolves in one feeding. So if in fact you are nuts too, and keep at it, hopefully Magpie will 'get it' and the blocked ducts will be a thing of the past.

    Lastly, are you receiving any intervention for her post surgical tongue-tie? I am a speech pathologist (and my training is with adult/seniors, so have no wisdom on this) but there must be a highly qualified peds speech therapist who can help in addition.

    Thank you for this blog, Mo. You are healing people!

  51. Mo, I am so sorry that you're going through this. I've had mastitis and it's awful, plain and simple. I hate that you've had it 3 times already. I have no better suggestions than those above, but just the same echo that your health and happiness are also important to factor into this equation. There are benefits to breastfeeding, but you are so right, it can be godawful hard, and even when people told me that before I had my girls, I didn't always really listen (perhaps thinking snidely in my head, well, they didn't try hard enough, ect. garbage at nauseaum) but basically just because it's biological (like childbirth) doesn't mean that it's easy, and my heart is with you. If you need to hear from the world that you've gone above and beyond, I echo that. Magpie is going to be wonderful, EBF, partially BF or formula fed-- you and Will assure that by being lovely parents who will help her grow strong. Hugs (of the gentle and soothing sort) from here.

  52. Gross suggestion that helped me get through the blocked ducts in months 0-3.5 when we nursed with the horrid shield and I had mastitis twice that I remember: recruit Will to nurse (and spit, apparently really horrid flavor) if you're having trouble with blocked ducts. Fix you right up, although it might take more than one "latch position" to fix them all. I did stick with nursing until 13 months, but I'm not sure I want to do it again, and I'm due in 9 weeks. Feel free to give it up if the benefits are greater to be sane and enjoying formula rather than hoping things get better. That said, probably they will get better by 4 months if they will get better at all (and it got better for us at 4 months as others have said).

  53. Well, my kids are 20 and 17, both healthy, well adjusted, extremely smart, beautiful kids. (I'm not partial....) But, suffice to say, they were bottle fed and are normal. I tried with my first, but gave up. With my second I didn't even bother. I'm telling you, don't fret about it, bottle feed and it'll do you and magpie good. Happy Momma's are so important. :)

  54. Also, my favorite blog is a little pregnant. Go here and please read her posts on breast feeding, particularly the 4/5/2005 entry. She hits it right on the head.

  55. I exclusively pumped for 28 months and my son is now 10, and the healthiest of all my 3 children. Buy a hands free pumping bra and you can pump while you are typing your blog. It worked great for me. I have no regrets. I miss pumping to this day. hang in there!

  56. I breastfed 4 children,I worried insanely with my first daughter until i gave her a bottle of formula at ten weeks and saw the light.
    With my other children I relaxed immediately knowing that I could supplement with formula- the secret to successful b/f is to relax!
    It is really hard so well done. Do not be so hard on yourself,enjoy your daughter. Love from Ireland

  57. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  58. It is so freaking hard, isnt it Mo?

    Happy belated.

  59. You know what I regret? The hours I spent away from my daughter struggling with blocked ducts and the stupid breast pump. So there can be regrets on both sides. If you read the science, breastfeeding seems to keep away an average of one episode of GI distress in a child's first year. Total. That's the entirety of the benefit for which there is scientific evidence. Yes, breast is best, but not if you're losing hours or days with your child because of complications.

  60. Jenny F. Scientist who blogs at has been dealing with similar breast feeding difficulties. Her blog might have some hope, advice, encouragement, options for you in this regard.

  61. I'll offer you my experience, first daughter...for lots of reasons I 'failed' to breastfeed more than 6 weeks. I felt very emotional and useless. 2nd daughter I fought to put right mistakes I had made and felt hugely 'successful' in breastfeeding for a year. God did it matter at the time, both times. Daughter no1 is 18, no 2 is 16 and I'm incredibly proud, I judge I have been a good mom, 2 beautiful, well adjusted daughters I adore. So many reasons to be proud, do I look back and say breastfeeding was such a biggie? No truthfully it isnt a bit, it just is at the time. Enjoy your daughter and have confidence in your ability to parent, all will be fine whether you breastfeed for months or not.

  62. Ah, breastfeeding. Such a hard subject and so emotional for us mothers. When I found out I was having triplets, I was determined not to let that stop me from breastfeeding them. They came and I was lucky to produce most of what they needed, but two of them struggled.So we would start out at the breast and "top off" with pumped breast milk. And after all three ate, I'd pump (which was like feeding a fourth). Except I had nipples that swelled when I pumped so I was bleeding and raw because there was no good flange fit for me. They had to eat every 3 hours and and the feeding process took 2 hours. I was tired. I was in pain. And I refused to quit because I couldn't live with myself if I didn't do "the right thing". I cut back on pumping to three times a day, and we supplemented a little with formula (about 20%). Then my husband went back to work and I had to do it all by myself. And it was exhausting. But I made myself do it for 4.5 months. And then I let myself quit. And a week later, I was hysterical, trying to get my milk back on track, trying to get them to take it from the breast again, and kicking myself. And now, I still have guilt about it. I tell myself that I didn't try hard enough,that I should have ignored the exhaustion and just done it. But the reality is, it was a lot to ask of myself. I have to remind myself that they got 4.5 months of breast milk, and that's a lot. And, that I had to take care of me as well.

    I guess, in a nutshell, what I'm saying have to do what's right for you as well as for the baby. Will you have regrets if you quit? I think most of us do. But it isn't likely that you are going to be lying on your death bed many years from now beating yourself up over it, nor should you. Is breast best? Yes, it is. Are you a bad mother if you switch to formula? No. Not in the least. That's why formula exists. Because sometimes something has to give. I'm not saying give up, but I'm saying give yourself permission to give it up when it feels right. Or at least, when you can swallow the idea a little more easily.


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