To Boob or Not to Boob- That is the Question

I am coming to a cross roads with Chick’s feeding.

Because he was born early, we were sent home with formula to add an additional 24 calories. Instructions were to add it to every feeding, include breast milk. This has meant that I have been chain to my breast pump as Prometheus was to his rock. (Yes, I do view pumping as torture akin to having one’s liver eaten out. Why do you ask?) I breast feed him twice a day, but only for limited time so he doesn’t tire out. After 20 minutes per boob, I’m supposed to pull him off and feed him formula or breast milk plus.

When we do breast feed, Chick is pretty good. His latch is great. By comparison to pumping, it feels like a goddamn massage for my nipples. He does get a little too comfortable and falls asleep, but I know he is taking in food because a) he gets it on his face and b) he bottle feed intake after being at breast is always lower, which leads me to believe he is filling up whilst on boob.

Through pumping, I have had mixed results. I’m currently producing about 2/3 of his intake, but I’m fairly convinced that is because my body rejects pumping. How do I know this? I don’t. But I have heard from other folks that pumping isn’t necessarily indicative of supply, and I’m hanging my hat on that.



I have been itching to integrate breast feeding. I looooooathe pumping. It’s the most dehumanizing experience I’ve every had. I’m attaching vacuums to my nipples, which are now sore all the time. There is no way around that sad and painful truth. When I’m done with my pump, I fully intend to take a baseball bat to it ala Office Space.

It’s exhausting, and depending on when it lines up with Chick’s feeding, impossible to juggle. If, for example, his late night feeding lines up with my pump session, I am up for 1.5 to 2 hours in the middle of the night. I have to feed him, then pump, put him back down, then wash up all the pumping equipment. Even though Chick is a great sleeper, I don’t see the benefits of it. If it doesn’t line up, I won’t sleep for more than an hour and a half at a time because these blocks of sleep are interrupted by motherfucking pumping.

The other night Mr. O was feeding Chick. Afterwards, Chick was sleeping on his chest. I walked into the room and thought, I totally envy him. Mr. O, that is. I envy Mr. O because he gets to bond and hold Chick after a feeding. I’m in a mad hurry to put him down because my boobs are usually about to explode and I need to get my pump on. I’m not bonding with him because the pump keeps getting in the way.

When I went in for his one month earlier, I was all set to lay down the law. Either the formula goes or I do. I can’t keep this up. But with his new found milk allergy, the NP didn’t want to change up too much in his diet. So I’m stuck with this stupid scenario for at least another week. In the meantime, I have some thinking to do…

If I honestly ask myself why I haven’t given up already, if has nothing to do with breast milk. I know this is terribly unfashionable, but I don’t believe that breast milk will give Chick super powers. There are some perks, sure. But for every La Leche League devotee, there are other researchers that say benefits are inconclusive. I’m not really interested in a debate on this– we all do what we think is best for our child, and that’s that.

I keep holding on to breast feeding because I love the feeding part. I can’t tell you how much I love the connection between me and Chick when I’m breast feeding. It almost doesn’t matter how much food he gets– that 40 minutes twice a day is the best part of my day. It doesn’t really matter to me if he needs a bottle to top it off with afterwards.

What I’d really like to do it isn’t to wean Chick from formula onto breast milk, but to wean me from pumping.

Any thoughts or ideas on how to do this rationally and sans baseball bat?



  1. AndiePants · August 17, 2015

    I have no idea how it works with premies, but it seems that by this point, if he’s gaining well, you should be able to start dropping pumps and replacing them with nursing? If his latch is good, you just need to help him stay awake, which you can do with a wet washcloth on his belly or lightly scratching his head. I HATE pumping as well, and I only have to do it at work. I cannot imagine doing it more than that. But I also love nursing, so I keep going. The only other tip I have is that you can actually put your pump parts in the fridge between pumps and then just wash once a day to save some time. Cover them with a large ziplock and stick the whole set up in there – this is what I do at work and it’s super helpful!

    • Molly · August 17, 2015

      I second the refrigerator thing!

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      There were two issues that shackled us to formula- 1) weight gain which can be an issue for low birth weight/premies, and 2) he was so small he had a hard time pulling the nipple back into his mouth. I’ve been using a nipple shield which has helped a lot and he has gotten a lot stronger.

      Thanks for the suggestion on plopping those in the refrigerator! Makes so much sense, I wonder why no body told me this when I was up pumping every two hours! Damn it!

  2. g2the4thpower · August 17, 2015

    How premie? Mine was not a super early premie (31 days) but we were exclusively breastfeeding (I f’n hate pumping too) after the first week or two. In case I missed that part, is there a reason why you’re only boobing twice per day?

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      He was 6 weeks. Really tiny. He was on a feeding tube for most of his stay in the hospital, and had to be off for 48 hours before they would release him. So that meant he was bottle feed most of the time (I was not one for camping out in the NICU.) The goal at that point was to get him home as soon as possible. Also, they wanted to add extra calories, even to his breast milk, so I was pumping like a maniac even once he got home.

      I was only breast feeding twice a day because his doctors were concerned that a) those sessions don’t include the extra calories and b) he would get too tired and stop eating. Hence the pumping and the slow deterioration of my sanity.

      • g2the4thpower · August 27, 2015

        No kidding that must have been exhausting and stressful! Did he stay in nicu for long?

      • thecommonostrich · August 28, 2015

        20 days. 😐 I pretty much held it together for the first 10, but the last 10 were not too pretty.

      • g2the4thpower · August 28, 2015

        Holy moly!!! We only had to deal with nicu for 4 days and those were hell. I can only imagine!

  3. Jenny F. Scientist, PhD · August 17, 2015

    Haaaaate pumping. Never pumping again. Just nursing is so much easier and more pleasant (when it works).

    But are you planning to still pump once you go back to work?
    It sounds like the middle of the night feeding/pumping is the worst. I’d get a waterproof sheet and some bra pads and just stop pumping at night to start. He’ll wake up and eat when he’s hungry, sometimes your boobs will overflow or you’ll wake up (and wake him up) because you need him to eat, and you’ll do a little more laundry. And after that of course you could cut out one pumping session a day, and then after that drop your top off feeds one at a time? (I’m assuming the top off is formula.). That will give your body time to ramp up the milk production a little at a time, you time to make sure he’s getting enough to eat, and will free you from the pump without causing disastrous engorgement/nursing all night/ whatever. He may sleep less well though if you’re not fortifying any more. Of course, baby sleep comes and goes, so… Kind of whatever.

    I’m sure you’ve already thought of all this, naturally. (Is this the NP who thinks there may be casein in beef????)

    • Jenny F. Scientist, PhD · August 18, 2015

      P.S. don’t all babies fall asleep while nursing? Especially when they’re little? Like, every time. Bug would nurse in his sleep for HOURS. Sweetpea is nursing in her sleep right now. And she’s 7.5 months old!

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      I was planning to pump once I got back to work, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. I’m really not producing a ton, so it seems like a lot of fuss for what? Whatever, I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

      At his appointment this week, we got the go ahead to breast feed all the time (topping off with formula) and then move to only pumping twice a day. It’s sooooo much better. Perhaps I’m being optimistic, but I think he is getting much better at boob time. I don’t think he’ll ever be exclusively breast fed, but I’m okay with this. Nothing about his conception or birth went according to plan, so why would this be any different?

      And yes, all the above guidance was given to me by my dotty NP.

  4. thebarrenlibrarian · August 17, 2015

    Honestly I just pump twice a day to put some back. We BF exclusively, but we had to get the blessing of the doctor. Dehumanizing was the EXACT word I used when I was EPing. It was awful. If I couldn’t have gotten away from it she would have been on formula long ago. So I totally get it, and I support you no matter what you choose.

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      I’ve tried all sorts of things to make pumping less miserable. I’ve listened to podcasts, watched TV, read actual books (!) but nothing makes okay. Perhaps just varying degrees of less bad.

      Thankfully, I’ve been given the okay to just pump twice a day, which is so much better. Not quite at the point where I’m banking it, but then again I don’t know if we’ll ever get there. And I’ve fine with not exclusively BF-ing, especially if it gives me some of my sanity back.

      • thebarrenlibrarian · August 27, 2015

        Yeah-I couldn’t become ok with it until I was able to back down. The morning one still isn’t my favorite because C usually fusses. We’ve just gotten up and started having fun and then mom has to pump. Bummer. I do almost look forward to the evening one because chief and Charlie are in bed and it’s my “me” time.

  5. c. from indeterminatewait · August 17, 2015

    I’m 100% with you on Breast Is… Fine. And so is formula. We gave kiddo formula on day 1 because it was a sure fire way to get the wet diaper we needed to get an “early” discharge from the hospital, and then more for the first few days-couple weeks until my milk came in and my nipples recovered from some pretty severe damage. I didn’t and don’t sweat it. I feel like the intensity of the the breast is best movement is actually pretty damaging to women/mothers, but that’s a whole other conversation. I’m 2 of 3 pumps into my first day back at work and already getting less than my son eats/I can pump at home, and very glad there’s a can of Similac sitting in my kitchen cabinet, because I have no plans to cry and tear my hair out over feeding my babe, I just want to enjoy him.

    My point here is, I’d say to mostly nurse and only pump in the day time, when it’s convenient (aka not horribly INconvenient) and then top him off with any breast milk you might still have or formula. Try it for a week and take him in for a weight check; as long as he’s gaining, even slowly, you’ll know he’s getting enough calories. The more he nurses, the more efficient he’ll get, the more it will build your supply and the less formula he’ll take per feed. But if he still needs some formula, who cares? Once he’s done with it, he can fall asleep on your chest; I think THAT is what’s “best”.

    Good luck!

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      Totally- there is this very strong judgey-ness to using formula. I’m all for breast feeding and support any of my friends who do it, but come on… Especially with all the crap I had to go through to get pregnant in the first place, now let’s add a whole other layer of shame over what my body can and can’t do! YAY! But most people don’t think about it that way, and end up being douchey.

      We were giving the go ahead to only use formula as supplemental this week, which is so much better. He is still taking about half of each meal from formula, but that’s fine by me. If I never get to exclusively breast feeding, whatever. No puppies or kittens will die.

  6. lucy50 · August 17, 2015

    Ugh. Pumping. I do it at work. I hate it. But I’ve had breastfeeding struggles too. My motivation is that it’s free. But she’ll start solids soon and then all bets are off. You do what you need to do. If it’s formula, then it’s formula. No one posts pump pictures on World Breastfeeding Day.

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      HA! I totally wish I had thought of that. I would have taken a picture of my pump equipment and told every one to suck it (pun sort of intended.)

      The Free factor was my biggest motivator too, but then I was surprised by how much I enjoy breast feeding. Formula is expensive, and now that we have to get this fancy dairy free kind? This kid was spendy to begin with, and now this. I’m surprised he didn’t come out of the womb demanding Prada.

  7. Molly · August 17, 2015

    I’m pumping because of supply issues, but I feel you. Having to juggle middle of the night pumping plus middle of the night baby is the worst. No sleep for us. I would give my left arm to be able to ditch the pump and just breastfeed her. I’ve reached the point where I would seriously consider going formula all the way, except that she LOVES nursing, and I love that time with her.

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      ME TOO. I love that time together, which is the only reason I’ve held on for so long. (Almost two months now.) Especially with supply issues, I’ve debated what is the point of all the manic pumping. But then again, no one says that feeding has to be an all or nothing proposition. It’s like if you don’t exclusively breast feed, you should just pack it all in? That seems idiotic…

      Thankfully, I’ve been given the go-ahead to breast feed him at every feeding, and only pump twice a day to keep my supply steady. I’m now down to only an hour up in the middle of the night, which is much much better!

  8. Tiggy B · August 17, 2015

    My daughter was born early at 32 weeks, and had IUGR so she was the size of a 28 weeker. She was on fortifier as long as she was fed expressed breast milk through her nasal gastric tube. As soon as she could handle breast feeding for 48 hours with no tube-fed top ups, she was off the fortifier and we got to go home. When we left the hospital she weighed just under 5lbs and I did not have to give her any fortifier at all. She is 3 months old now, and while she doesn’t gain weight as fast as she did when she was on the fortifier, she is still gaining steadily- over 6lbs now and we have been home from the hospital for 6 weeks! So…how we did it: She was fed every 3 hours in the NICU, and we offered her the breast each time. If we felt she had enough to eat (wet and dirty nappies, happily sleeping baby, etc), then we did no top ups and if I felt still too full in the boobs I pumped or hand expressed for comfort. If she was still hungry or hadn’t eaten for long or refused to breast feed, she got a top up or a whole feed through the NG tube and I pumped. So, as she breast fed more and more, I only pumped when I was uncomfortable, which started out as several times a day and a short time after coming home I stopped doing it altogether. Also, try hand expressing if you hate the pump- it is pretty easy, though a bit messy. If she fell asleep while feeding, I would tickle under her chin or along her jaw. Other NICU mom’s would strip off some of their baby’s clothing or change their nappy mid feed to wake them again, but I didn’t have to do that. Now if she falls asleep I just burp her, or put her in the bassinet which is guaranteed to wake her!! Hope this is helpful.

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      Sounds like you had a plan from the start! I was such a basket case in the NICU, it never occurred to me to do all that. It was “what gets him home fastest” which meant formula and bottle feeds. Luckily, he hasn’t had trouble transitioning to breast feeding- I just think his doctors were extra cautious about his weight gain. Hence the fortifying.

      Thankfully, I was given the all-clear to stop fortifying. He has been gaining weight well, I can produce milk (albeit not gallons of it.) So this week marks our first foray into more breast feeding and less pumping (though I top off each feed with formula if he is still hungry.) He definitely slows down after the first 5 minutes of each boob, so I have to wake him up a few times. Even then, I know he isn’t eating until he is full- I think he is just still getting used to the act of breast feeding.

      Maybe he’ll get better over the weeks. Maybe this is where we’re at. And I’ve decided it is all fine, as long as I can spend as little time on the pump as possible.

  9. bionicbrooklynite · August 17, 2015

    Well, that’s a hell of a lot better than my reasons for continuing to breastfeed. (Actually, that’s my reason for continuing to breastfeed right now — I do find it cuddly with Jackalope, though I secretly suspect it is part of the reason my mental health is so very much in the shitter at present — but with the Bean, it was all about internalized guilt.)

    That said, what if you just…stopped pumping? If Chick is nursing at least once in a while, keep doing that or do more of it; give him greater volume of formula. The worst thing I see happening is a total end of your supply, but if he’s on the boob several times a day, that frankly seems unlikely to me. Even if it did happen, assuming he was getting his calorie needs met by formula, he could still comfort nurse, which is very much a thing.

    Re: the above, there was a time when I was working through a bunch of stuff about Jackalope’s impending birth that a friend asked me why I didn’t consider just scheduling a c-section and skipping the PTSD stuff. My reaction — HELL NO — was really helpful in terms of figuring out what I was and wasn’t willing to deal with. Please take my suggestion in that spirit, as a thought experiment, not a prescription.

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      You know… that’s pretty much where I ended up. We got the go ahead to stop fortifying and breast feed at every meal. I follow up with a bottle once he stops feeding (which is about 15 minutes per boob.) Maybe it just gets too hard then? I don’t know. Regardless, it seems to be working.

      If there has been any benefit to this whole formula stupidity, it has been that he sleeps like a dream. He’ll go between 3-5 hours between feedings, so I get so great naps in, have time to take a shower, make lunch. The thing is, I know I could try to exclusively breast feed, but um… how to say this without sounding like a monster… he would probably wake up more often, and I like my autonomy. Ah, the moral dilemmas of parenting…

  10. JD · August 22, 2015

    Our son had no interest in latching after he was born (long story short, L&D was a bit of a mess and he wound up being intubated to suction the amniotic fluid from his lungs then put on prophylactic antibiotics…so he had a sore throat and had no hunger/thirst to speak of). I had to pump in my supply, and he rejected the breast for several weeks before finally (FINALLY) latching with the use of a nipple shield. For a while, we had a pattern where “mealtime” also meant “get rejected by the baby” followed by “pump time” for me. I stuck with it (held onto it doggedly is more like it) because I wanted just. one. thing. to work the way it’s “supposed to”. As lovely as our nursing relationship became, those weeks had a very high cost.

    Once he started latching, I stepped down the pumping by nursing him on one side while simultaneously pumping the other side at each feeding (which we could then use to “top off” in a bottle if needed, or freeze if not). As he got stronger he would nurse both sides and I would only pump any excess so that I would be comfortable – if I sensed that would happen I often pumped before feeding him so that he would get more hind milk. I also had to learn to make pumping more productive by massaging/compressing areas of my breasts where I *knew* there was milk to encourage let down.

    However you ultimately feed Chick, he’s going to get what he needs. You’re doing great good stuff in these hazy crazy first few months.

    • thecommonostrich · August 27, 2015

      Yup. I think that’s why I’ve stuck with this. I want just ONE THING to go right. One thing, Universe! *shakes tiny fists at the sky*

      I’m starting to do a bit of what you’ve suggested. He eats on both sides per feeding, until my boobs are comfortable. I know there is more milk in there, but whatever. Then I’ll top off with a bottle, and pump twice I day. I don’t get a ton, but enough so that he ends up with two meals a day of just breast milk (he eats about 5-6 times a day.)

      Honestly, this is fine. It works for me. If we do get to a point where we exclusively breast feed, sweet. If not, I’m not spending more time on this. It occurred to me that my maternity leave is such a short period of time, I might as well enjoy it rather than spend my time shackled to my pump.

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