Breast milk: a labor of love

“You produce a lot of milk,” our nanny said one morning, as she watched me measure out freshly pumped breast milk for the baby’s second morning bottle.

She was trying to compliment me and be kind. But when she said that, it made me think about how long it took me to get to this level of output. “It’s definitely a lot more than it was before, but it’s still not enough,” I responded. “That’s why she has at least one formula bottle per day. She’s a hungry little hippo!”

I told her that I did not always produce this much milk; in fact, if you asked our first night nurse a few months ago what my milk output was, she would not have had a positive response like this. She told me that the ratio of breast milk to formula our baby was getting was in reverse to what her son’s wife was able to produce for her grandson when he was a baby. He’s now just over 2 years old. She said she barely produced a few ounces of breast milk per day. Well, I can relate to that; once upon a time, I was in her painful shoes.

She exclusively breast fed her first child, a son. But with her second child, a daughter, she refused to eat from her breast; and when she pumped milk, she just wouldn’t take it, so she ended up having to be fully formula fed. “Breastfeeding is so, so much work,” she lamented. “Nursing directly or pumping; it’s just so hard. People just don’t understand unless they’ve done it themselves.”

It was funny we were talking about this as there is a nationwide formula shortage. Lots of people on social media are blaming moms who choose not to breastfeed, saying that “breast milk is free” but we choose not to use it. It’s sad because those accusations are rooted in ignorance. Hell, I’ve even made that ignorant statement myself once upon a time. Not all of us can breastfeed, and those of us who do, like myself, just don’t produce enough for our babies to eat, so that’s why we use formula. Then, there are situations like our nanny’s daughter who just refused breast milk. What do you do in those cases – let your baby starve and die?

But her comments just go to show how relative the amount of breastmilk we produce is, whether it’s a lot or a little. I really should stop focusing on the negative, as in, “I do not produce enough,” and rather focus on the fact that my baby is growing and thriving with a majority diet of the milk my body is producing. I have come a long way and should give credit where it is due. I feel very thankful for this.

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