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supplementing breastfeeding with formula

Can Breast AND Bottle Be Best?

By Amalah

 Dear Amalah,

Like many other question askers, this one is coming from a long-time reader (even though I’ve only been a mom for 5 months).

So before I had my baby, I had the philosophy that more than anything, a happy mommy was more important than a dysfunctional breastfeeding relationship. That being said, I will also admit that I was also judgy of other women who used formula and wondered if they had really tried hard enough to make breastfeeding work. Boy did I get what was coming to me!

After my wonderful, beautiful, happy, large baby was born we immediately had problems. She would latch on correctly, but then promptly fall asleep, absolutely refusing to work for anything. We had a large weight loss and we needed to supplement with formula and pump after as many feedings as I could manage and still stay sane (my second lactation consultant was much more reasonable than the first, who suggested pumping after every feeding when my baby was eating every hour around the clock our first night home from the hospital).

She rebounded very quickly and we were exclusively breastfeeding and past birth weight within a week and a half.

Things continued to go well until about 2.5 months. I wondered if I was having supply issues but I wasn’t sure until I went back to work two weeks later and she was eating 15 ounces at daycare and I was coming home with 6 pumped ounces. My fears were confirmed when we met with the lactation consultant again and my baby had only put on 5 ounces between 2 and 3 months. I worked SOOOO hard to build up my supply. We supplemented with frozen breastmilk after nursing (until the freezer was empty, then on to formula), I was pumping after as many feedings as I could manage. Again, her weight rebounded very quickly. I got up to a point where I pumped over 9 ounces in a day at work. Still not enough, but much closer. The baby was also sleeping long enough for me to get in a pumping session before I went to bed too. I was taking all sorts of weird herbs, drinking weird smelling tea, drinking gatorade, anything I heard that could help. I was really worn out!

I decided I couldn’t live that way so I took a weekend off of pumping after feeds, we went away another weekend (with the baby, but how do you pump on a plane, or in a hotel room without a working fridge). Then I just wanted to be good to myself to fit with my earlier philosophy of a happy mom. Things went from bad to worse supply-wise. I made it to my revised 5-month goal and I also got to the point where I was pumping under 3 ounces in a day at work. I’m now leaving the pump at home. It’s taking too much time out of my day and not getting me anywhere. I went to talk to someone about my feelings, she helped me see things in a new light. The counselor basically said that it’s ok to be sad, I need to grieve the loss of the nursing relationship I wanted to have. Also, in a year from now, it’s really not going to matter! My baby is happy, healthy, and smart! The counselor also suggested I need to work on separating in my mind being a good mom with breastfeeding.

I’m not looking for advice on how to build up or even maintain my supply. I give up. I need to be happy and I would really like my daughter to remember me without a pump attached to me.

I wonder if you have some suggestions on making both breast and formula work. I would like to continue to breastfeed as long as there is something in there for her. Currently I nurse and then give her a bottle when I am around her, when she is at daycare she gets bottles. I do not want to pump at work anymore.

A good mom who is feeding her baby!

Oh, my goodness, your chosen sign-off name makes me so sad. I mean, I completely agree with it (and understand why you chose it), but I HATE that you even felt the pressure to reiterate that yes, you are a good mom, in spite of “giving up” on the pump and your supply. Because there’s a big difference between just “giving up” and admitting defeat after fighting the good, long fight.

Which is exactly what you did. (DEAR COMMENTERS: PLEASE NO “BUT DID YOU TRY <insert supply tip that yes, I’m guessing she already tried> COMMENTS. THANK YOU MUCHLY.) And man, have I been there, done that.

All of my children got both breastmilk and formula. All of them. It was the most painful compromise with Noah, my first, just as it is for you. You feel like this is your BIG! ONE! CHANCE! to get everything perfect and best-of-intentions and instead the reality that motherhood is All About The Compromises whallops you in the face while you’re still all weepy and postpartum. And it’s really not fair, or easy.

The longest “exclusive” nursing relationship I had was with Ezra, because I was the most successful at pumping with him. At first, anyway. After a few months of pumping like gangbusters, I suddenly couldn’t pump as much per session. Just like that, I went from being perfectly capable of supplying milk for my (limited) time away from him to barely enough for a once-a-month date night. So…what? Was I going to pledge to never, ever leave his side again? To drag him on every business trip or dinner out or hair appointment because he might get hungry? Go back to pumping around the clock in hopes that my meager ounce-or-two output would EVENTUALLY add up to a single eight-ounce bottle, driving myself crazy in the meantime?

No. I was going to keep a freakin’ container of freakin’ formula in the pantry.

So I did. ANDHEWASFINE. We still nursed until almost 11 months. If we were together, he nursed. If we were apart, he got formula. If he was hungry after nursing, he got formula. If he was biting me at every feeding and I felt my sanity drifting somewhere south of normal, I took a break and he got formula. That’s all there was to it.

With Ike, the same thing happened. Pumping started out great, then took a precipitous nosedive RIGHT when I actually needed pumping to work. (Even though I work from home, I work about 30 solid hours a week and use a sitter. I spent about four months working with Ike at my side or strapped to my body, then handed him over to join the sitter and his brother(s).) It wasn’t fair to the older boys to insist that Ike be brought to me to nurse every time — they wanted to go out to playgrounds, zoos, activities. So…Ike got formula while they were out, breastmilk at home, and eventually I got so happy with this arrangement that I, too, pushed the pump under the bed and stopped using it.

We’re still nursing. Only about twice a day, but still. Nursing. Not long after I stopped using the pump, I stopped all of the supply boosters — no more teas or herbs or pills. I just nursed when I could, with as much milk as I had. Morning, night, after he fell or hurt himself and wanted comfort. My supply is pretty low now, but for us, for now, breastfeeding is much more about bonding and closeness than nutrition. And I’m fine with that, too.

Anyway, sorry to make this so long and All About Me (AS USUAL), but point is: You absolutely, positively CAN do both. Breastfeeding doesn’t HAVE to be exclusive to “count.” Or to “matter.” Once breastfeeding is established — even shakily and with supplementation — you don’t really have to worry about things like nipple confusion or sudden, overnight weaning. At least not as much as you might be worrying about those things (says the mother who worried about those things). I’ve left Ike behind on business trips and come back to a completely NOT WEANED baby. Babies CAN move quite easily from breast to bottle and back to breast without drama.

(I think the only hitch we had was that I fell into a routine of breast, then bottle, at bedtime. After a few months he started getting impatient for the bottle and refused to nurse first. I thought that meant we’d completely eliminated the nighttime feeding. But then he turned a year and the bottle went away, and then wouldn’t you know it, he suddenly was a fan of nursing at night again.)

The hardest part about going breast and bottle is probably letting yourself be okay with going breast and bottle. I didn’t reach that point with Noah, which probably played a part in how early we stopped nursing (five months). I had so much disappointment and negative emotions tied up in breastfeeding by that point (low supply, pump trauma, thrush, nursing strikes, conflicted feelings about going back to work, just to name a FEW of the obstacles we faced), that it honestly felt better to just stop fighting it all together and let Noah wean.

With Ezra and Ike, I had a better, healthier perspective on the breastfeeding relationship and what it “meant.” (And what it DIDN’T mean, i.e. whether I was a good mom or not.) So there was not as much sturm und drang over the formula compromise. If I wanted to nurse exclusively, I was going to fail. Probably spectacularly. If I wanted to nurse my babies — my happy, healthy, thriving babies — and be happy and relaxed myself, I was going to need a little help from the Similac people. You probably accept help from people and baby products all the time. Formula can be one of those things.

Your therapist is right: Let yourself mourn the loss of the relationship you had pictured in your head. Then you can learn to accept the relationship you DO have. And then full-on embrace your role as your daughter’s mother (as opposed to just her food source).

That last bit gets easier with time and distance from the early-breastfeeding trenches, when the stakes seem SO HIGH AND TERRIBLE, and your baby doesn’t honestly *do* that much besides eat, sleep and poop. When one of those three things seems to not be going so well, it’s easy to FREAK OUT and think that you’re messing everything up and doing things all wrong. Then your baby starts moving and doing things and talking and learning, and then you blink and you’re in the Target aisle, buying school supplies for FIRST GRADE. Or JUNIOR HIGH. Or COLLEGE. And suddenly the breastfeeding wars seem very, very small and so far away.

Enjoy nursing your baby. And enjoy your freedom from the pump and the guilt and the anxiety. Best of both worlds, if you ask me.

Photo source: Wavebreak Media/ Thinkstock

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Christine

    July 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm


    I just want to say that you’re not a good mom.  You are an AMAZING mom.  You have worked so incredibly hard to do what you think is right for you and your baby, and you know what?  Where you’re at now is really great.  It can be very difficult to breast feed at all, let alone exclusively, and you have really put in a lot of effort.  I’m a pediatrician (I work only in the ICU), and I really, really want you to know that there are so many moms that won’t even try at all.  Let alone go through every thing that you have over the last few months!

    I say that the best option now is whatever works best for you.  If nursing when you are with your daughter and not pumping when you are away from her works, then by all means do that.  And I agree with Amy, the hardest part is letting yourself decide that you’re ok with this.  Because really, you’ve already gone above and beyond what 99% of parents would have gone through in your position.  Your daughter is lucky to have you!

    • Isabel


      July 30, 2012 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks Christine for leaving such thoughtful sentiments for the OP/LW. It made me tear up.

  • Kacie

    July 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    You are doing a great job! A big “pffft!” to anyone who makes you feel inferior for the way you are feeding your baby.

    Motherhood is hard enough as it is — we don’t need women giving moms who are doing their darndest a hard time. 

    I don’t know what to say to your specific question, but it seems like doing a little bit of nursing and a little bit of formula can certainly work! Do whatever works for you and your baby.

  • Jessica

    July 30, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Oh my… I am bawling at work because I am going through the same thing. And I get to quit in 3 weeks! I have not started formula yet but am dancing on the edge and I think this is the advice/experience I needed to hear today. My DD and I too are living bottle to pumped bottle with daycare and work and it sucks staying up late enough to get that “one more ounce so maybe she won’t STARVE” for daycare. I want(ed) so badly to be an exclusive breastfeeder and was also a judgey mom and oh… karma’s a bitch.

    To the LW, thank you for voicing your fears, as they match mine almost perfectly.

    Amy, thank you for reinforcing the “it’s not a good mom vs bad mom issue, it’s a comfort/sanity/non-issue issue”. I need to go home and hug my daughter and just open up that freakin’ can of formula stashed in my pantry. (sniff)

  • Myriam

    July 30, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    I am from Quebec (Canada) amd here we have a 50-week paid maternity leave. We are lucky indeed! I was breasfeeding my daughter and hoping to avoid formula entirely (I’m cheap, what can I say!), but it turned out she was allergic to dairy. So when she started daycare at 10 months, she was put on a special formula and I pumped for about a month until she got used to the new taste. I continued breastfeeding until she was about 14 months old, where I finally cut the night-time feeding. As a side note, know that the amount of milk your daughter can get in a feeding is different than the amount you can pump, which is a lot less with the pump. This means that even though you pump only a few onces, she might be able to get enough to hold her appetite, especially if you start her on solids around 6 months. Good luck, you can do it – it being whatever works!

  • Bonny

    July 30, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Can I just say that you are doing an AMAZING job!!  Kudos to you for seeking help for your feelings, I think that is so important.
    I’m pretty sure I could’ve written 90% of this as my story, and i KNOW how hard it is.  Our supply issues stemmed from an un-diagnosed tongue tie that wasn’t corrected until 4mos when my supply should’ve already been well-established.  Fortunately with his improved suck my supply came back enough that he finally started gaining normally and we are able to nurse regularly, but I really struggled pre-surgery with giving bottles.
    Before his surgery I was resigned to fortifying pumped bottles with formula at every feeding except early morning.  I wasn’t allowed to nurse since he wasn’t gaining while exclusively nursing.  That really killed me for a while.  Especially when my SO made me set a date where if my supply did not improve I was going to quit the pump and just stick to once-a-day nursing.  I know that was for my sanity (and everyone else’s), but coming to the realization that my nursing relationship might never happen was tough.  I had to talk to someone, and after a few sessions, like you, I also learned it was ok to be sad about the possible loss of our nursing relationship.  I was also able to figure out that my baby would love me no matter what.
    In the time before his surgery we tried to find ways to make bottle time feel as special as nursing time.  We would stay skin-to-skin, even used a SnS with formula in it so that baby was getting breast and formula.  The SnS helped me and my feelings the most in regard to our nursing relationship, but even just a little skin to skin with the bottle would make me feel better about having to give a bottle.
    The most important thing to remember is that you are a spectacular mother.  Clearly what matters most to you is that your baby is healthy and happy.  That makes you an amazing woman.  You’ve struggled, and you can’t say you’ve given up.  I would say you’ve persevered, and realized what is best for baby.  Good for you!

  • Kate

    July 30, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    I have been in this exact situation, and it was so hard at first…  especially when other moms give you earfuls about how “exclusive” breast feeding is SO important, blah blah blah.  I even had one mother tell me her baby was going to get fewer colds and illnesses than mine because she was “exclusively” breastfeeding and I was not.

    …and that’s about the point that I got mad (at women like that) and 100% okay with the choice I made to both breastfeed and bottle feed.  Because that’s what my supply was going to be, and that is what worked for me, for my baby, and for my family (who were so happy they could help me feed my daughter). 

    The journey to being ok and even happy with your decision is a tough one. But I’m rooting for you to get there!  Once I got there, I found it was lovely to have the freedom of choice.  And such a relief to not struggle with it anymore. And even a sense of pride that I had figured out what worked for my little family.  Those feelings of relief and satisfaction meant I could focus on my relationship with my daughter – which made me a MUCH better mother than when I was 100% focused on getting breastfeeding to work.

    You’re a GREAT mom making GREAT choices about having a good relationship with your daughter.  Hang in there!  

  • Catherine

    July 30, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    So I went through almost this exact thing — and now having a beautiful, healthy, just turned one year-old daughter, I can tell you that all the angst and tears and frustration and guilt that I experienced when I finally gave up pumping at five months do not matter now in the least.  Everyone tells you “oh, do what works for you”, but I always felt like that came with just a little bit of judgment (or maybe that was just my guilt talking).  But you really REALLY just have to let that go and do what works for you.  You have done so much already, and you love your baby, and honestly, that is all that matters.  Good job, mom!

  • Kat

    July 30, 2012 at 7:03 pm

    OMG, yes. This. THIS exact thing is happening to me. I just went back to work full time, and have put our four month old in daycare….and I can’t pump enough to keep up with what he needs at daycare. We got off to a rocky start with nursing, finally mastered it, and then I had to return to work and just accept that he was going to get formula. And…it doesn’t matter. He’s the same healthy, happy baby boy that he was a few weeks ago. A few ounces of formula did not mean the end of the world for us. I still pump at work, but I don’t tear up when it seems like not nearly enough because…I’m doing what I can. And at some point that might include just nursing while he’s with me, or not at all. The point is that all good mommies just do their best, and this will not be the last time that I just have to settle for what I can control and let go of what I can’t! I needed to read this, thank you for asking and answering!

  • Antje

    July 30, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    Stories like these once again make me so happy to be living in Canada, where we get 50 weeks of paid maternity leave.  You don’t have to take it if you don’t want to, but it’s one more option than most American moms have.  I can’t imagine trying to pump and breastfeed such a young baby while working full-time!

  • Erin

    July 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Listen, OP, you kicked butt!! Do NOT feel bad, please!
    I worked outside the home when I had my first baby and good god how I HATED pumping. So. much. I stuck it out for 9 months until I started pumping less than he needed for daycare and at that point, I stopped pumping and never looked back. I did not take herbs or do power pumping or anything – I was SO GLAD to be done. I am very pro-breastfeeding but also very pro-happy-mom and I loathed every second of pumping. I continued to nurse my son when he was not in daycare until he was 16 months and he gave it up. You can definitely nurse “part time” and keep going for a while. Good luck!

  • Autumn

    July 31, 2012 at 12:24 am

    I hate to admit it, but I was SOOOO close to being you OP!  And I doubt I would have had as much grace with it either.  I was very lucky to be able to have 7 months (very unpaid) maternity leave, and my little girl didn’t start day care until the week she started solids.  I pump at work now and barely manage 7 oz per day, which is a problem when she wants 12 oz.  Freezer stash and weekends of non-stop pumping help, but deep down I know I’m holding on at 11 months is because I had a delayed start on pumping dependence.

    The day after she turns one, the pump is moving to the storage closet, and I know being done with pumping will help make the sobbing my baby is one a little bit better.  Until the following monday when my boobs will probably overfloweth.  

    But overall, you tried!  And succeeded!  Boob isn’t the end all be all of baby feeding, it’s just really portable.  And a part of me is jealous of the formula exclusive moms cause they aren’t rocking the target nursing tanks for 11 months on end:)

  • claire

    July 31, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I have just, this past week, fully weaned my seven month old in anticipation of going back to work. Like everyone else who had commented we had a similar situation here. Struggled to begin with, lost too much weight etc etc. However, I decided to cut of the breast bit out and pumped exclusively, up until he hit bout 4 months, then i hit exhaustion and lost a feeds worth after a spill and had something of a nervous breakdown. So I put the pump away. My little boy was having 4 feeds a day, he had two breastfeeds and 2 formula feeds. Bit, like you, it took me a while to fully be ok with it. But now, yeah, he’s happy, he’s healthy, and I did the best I could for him. Still am, alway will. We’re good mums, we need to let ourselves believe it.

  • Elena

    July 31, 2012 at 11:09 am

    THANK-YOU, Amy! I so needed to read this right now. I’ve finally decided to transition to formula after 11 months because I just HATE pumping at work and not getting enough and trying to squeeze out every last ounce and… yes see I’m still trying to justify this decision because I have SO.MUCH.GUILT. I’m hoping to be able to bottle and boob it for as long as possible because the thought of no longer breast feeding makes me want to cry my eyes out (hormones?). It’s hard to let go of being my baby’s main source of nourishment. I’m also so so so afraid of drying up. The breast to bottle is such a hard transition because you hear of so many moms just drying up… I really hope I can do both but in the back of my mind it’s PANIC!!! DON’T DO IT!!! FEED YOUR BABY!!!! (sorry, really, must be hormones)

  • Meg A.

    July 31, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Yes, yes, yes… been there, done that! I felt like a horrible mom as well and tried everything under the sun to make my supply go up. Broke down one morning and frantically drove to the grocery store to buy formula. Still pump 2x at work and bring home 6-8 oz. b/c hey, some is better than none, right? I also always breastfeed before offering a bottle when we are together. I’m finally okay with it. I EBF for 5 months, then switched to mixed feedings, and now he’s 9 months old and doing phenomenal. If you’ve done everything you can do… you’re a wonderful mom.

  • tasterspoon

    July 31, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Part of my sadness when my breastfeeding relationship ended was the idea that my baby no longer NEEDED me. But you know that’s not true. Your baby is going to need you, and you in particular, for a long, long time. For bathtimes and bedtimes and boo boos, sure, but for stuff that only Mom can provide. When some girl is mean to her in first grade. When she needs understanding guidance in what to wear without looking like a tramp. When she gets her first period. When she has her first breakup. When she has a baby and struggles with breastfeeding!

    Fathers never stress about giving a baby a bottle only because the potential to do something else isn’t there for them. Certainly my husband didn’t, and even though I cherished my “special nursing relationship” with my daughter for as long as it lasted, he’s obviously NEVER breastfed and he’s still her favorite. Evidence that you can be a terrific parent without making your own dairy. But I also know that there are going to be times when only Mom will do, and I guarantee that the duration of breastfeeding is not going to change that.

    Not to mention, if you’re freeing up time and can get more things done at work now, you’ll be in much better shape (and in a better mood) when you get home to give your daughter your enthusiasm and attention, which might be just what your daughter needs!

  • Hi, I'm Natalie

    July 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    The maternity leave situation in the US makes me sad. It’s brutal that women are forced to resort to pumping to continue breastfeeding if they want to keep their jobs. Sigh. You’re a superstar and doing a great job with your baby!

  • mountainmama

    August 1, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    This post came to me at such a good time. I have been heartbroken for 17 weeks over not being able to breastfeed. I had a c-section, my milk took forever to come in, my baby girl had so much trouble latching…After weeks, and months of working with a lacatation consultant, I became a exclusivly pumping mom. Yep, I got my production up to a point where I was more than covering what my girl needed in the early weeks after a major struggle with no milk. I continued to try to get her to breast feed up until just 3 weeks ago. On top of all of this, only 1 of my breasts produce milk so I pump twice as long…averaging about 4 hours a day. I had to go back to work when she was 10 weeks old and I panic each time I have a meeting or a client coming in that I’m not going to be able to pump on time. Now my supply is slowly decreasing and I am struggling to make the move to formula only. Why is this such a hard decision? Pumping has been ruling my life…I can’t even go to dinner with a girlfriend beacuse I have to pump at a certain time. I am ready to be free with my little girl…but I cannot allow myself to give up on her getting mother’s milk. This is not a road I ever thought I’d be on and it is hard to know which way to turn.

    • Claire

      August 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      This was me. I pumped to a set schedule, and if I had to be out in the morning would get up two hours earlier than I needed to cause in the morning I had to pump twice, two hours apart. It’s insane how much my life was ruled by that thing. I share your pain. I have now weaned fully, but the day I put that damn pump away I felt nothing but freedom. But, I did manage to give my son two breastfeeds a day. I hope you can make a decision you’re happy with x

  • Karen

    August 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I did a combo of nursing and bottle for several months after I stopped pumping. We did that until my daughter was 13 months old and could have gone on for much longer. It was fabulous. I am a much more successful pumper with #2, but with #1, I really began to love my nursing relationship as soon as I stopped pumping.

  • cerind

    August 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    I am also a mother of a 5 month old and have experienced something similar.  It was only a week or so ago that I stopped agonizing about if my daughter was getting enough breast milk…b/c she was also not gaining enough weight.  I started giving her formula for a couple feedings a day.  As soon as I accepted the idea…I felt a million times better and am no longer afraid that I am starving my daughter.  Thanks for sharing your story.  You are doing a great job!

  • MR

    August 2, 2012 at 10:04 am

    It is sad to me that women feel ashamed for FEEDING their baby. I am a big proponent of breastfeeding, but pumping is NOT the same, is WAY harder, and simply does not work for everyone. And the women for whom it doesn’t work should never have to apologize for feeding their baby! Because that is what we are talking about. OP, you are FEEDING your baby!! So what if LO gets all breastmilk or some breastmilk and some formula, or all formula? Your baby is getting FED. Would you feel bad if your LO was getting breastmilk and solids? Probably not, because baby would still be getting everything she needed. Just like she is now. It disturbs me that in the breast is best campaign that formula has been vilified to the point where people who genuinely need it feel bad for using it. This is what formula is for. Do not ever apologize for feeding your child, please. You are doing the right thing!

  • Beatrice

    August 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    You are doing great momma! Although it’s hard to see at this juncture, Amy is right that time will heal this wound…as my baby boy approaches his first birthday, my breastfeeding troubles already seem like the distant past.

  • Nicole

    August 5, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    Don’t beat yourself up. Your first instinct of a happy mommy is the best mommy was spot on. With my first had a similar experience. No weight gain, had to supplement, did both for 8 months and then switched to formula. With my second I vowed not to get out the dreaded pump unless necessary. She HATED formula, so if I went out, I pumped. But guess what, she hated pumped breast milk too. That kid would drink the minimum possible to stay alive until I got back. Once it ended up being 8 hours (mommy night out, and she was on solids by then). She would basically only take water out of a normal drinking cup. And oh boy is she more than healthy. We nursed till 11.5 months when I switched her to milk in a sippy cup (and even that was a fight.) So moral of the story: the kid will survive no matter what. A happy mommy is a good mommy.

  • Ellen

    August 7, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I have three sweet boys, and I was able to breastfeed the first two until 14 months without problems. Now, the third is another story. He’s definitely been the smallest all along, but nobody had ever lost weight at the six month checkup before him. I felt horrible about that. We started him on plenty of solids then, and I started offering formula bottles. At this point, I put a big scoop of formula in every bowl of cereal and baby food that he gets, and I give him a bottle of formula after I nurse him in the afternoon. Sometimes your body just won’t produce what they need, and you have to make peace with that. So, yes, nurse as long as your baby will take it and enjoy it, and give formula afterward if that’s what you need to do. I enjoy feeding my baby both ways, and I’m thankful for that. It’s a precious time either way…. 

  • Corinne

    August 7, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    ::hugs:: I have a 15 month old and we were very luck to have exclusive breastfeeding until he was about 14 months old. This was due in very large part to a very flexible job that allows me to work from home sometimes, and does not limit breaks for pumping. If I had a normal full time job with limited breaks, we would have had to use the very expensive broken down protein formula. Then I had to go on an 8 day business trip without the baby. I added extra pumping sessions for 2 months to build up a store of breast milk while I was gone. I brought my pump and got up early and went to bed late and pumped over lunch. By the last day, I was getting 2 oz per session. I packed up all of my milk in a cooler and took it through customs and brought it home, only to find that with travel, I was actually gone for 9 days and I hadn’t left quite enough milk – so my husband went out and got some organic whole milk and everything was fine (he had outgrown his milk protein intolerance by then).

    I hate my pump, and now we’ve decided that I won’t pump anymore, he will nurse if he’s with me at home, and he will get whole milk at daycare and if I’m gone. And yet I feel so guilty. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you’re thinking I’m nuts, because we made it to 14 months! That’s great right? But what about the WHO and 2+ years and all of my SAHM friends who are still exclusively nursing? Basically, I think we all feel guilty about the choices or compromises we make (because how dare we do anything that is best for us rather than making ourselves miserable for our children). You are feeding your baby and that is awesome! I am feeding my baby/toddler (eek!) and that is awesome!

    Sorry this is so long and rambling, but I read your post and go “this could have been me, and it is how I feel right now, even though I’ve accomplished the goal, even that’s not good enough!”

  • Stephanie

    August 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I felt this way when I went back to work after my first daughter was born. Hating to pump, feeling like a failure that I only pumped a measly 7 ounces after pumping twice for thirty minutes. At about 7 months, I decided to stop pumping and just nurse when I was with my baby; eventually, I weaned to twice a day. Stopping pumping was so freeing, but I still had a lot of guilt about doing it.
    This time around, I am much more relaxed. I nurse my baby in the morning, at night, and all weekend long. During the week, I pump twice a day – some days (like yesterday) I pumped 16 oz, other days, I pump 7. Whatever I pump, I’m happy with. And I foresee dumping the pump within the next three months or so. Please don’t beat yourself up!!

  • Kelly

    August 11, 2012 at 5:50 am

    I’m going to be really outrageous here and say that it’s OK for women to feed their babies formula EVEN IF THEY DIDN”T TRY TO BREASTFEED AT ALL.  Long story short: my son was six weeks premature, we had amazing breastfeeding problems for which I sought the help of four different lactation consultants and an occupational therapist, I pumped exclusively for six months, had a nightmare come true when I accidentally unplugged the garage freezer and had to pour my entire stash (I added it all up–over FOUR GALLONS and yes, you read that correctly) down the drain, and was only able to scrape myself out from under my crushing postpartum depression and breastfeeding-focused insanity, and fall in love with my baby when we finally switched to formula.  If I had known then what I know now, I would have had my husband stop for a can of Enfamil on our way home from the hospital.  

    It’s really, really hard to tell yourself you’re good enough and believe it (especially since we’ve got hundreds of years of Western patriarchy and a multibillion dollar beauty industry telling us that women are never, ever, ever good enough), but please, please try.  Any woman who either thinks, implies, or states outright that another woman gave up bfing too soon or didn’t try hard enough, etc., a) didn’t have any actual problems with breastfeeding and doesn’t really know what she’s talking about or b) is a Grade-A a-hole, or both.  Either way, it’s best to ignore those sorts of people!

  • Jen

    August 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm

    When I delivered my triplets 10 weeks early, I was immediately visited by a team of lactation consultants who told me how critical it was that I begin pumping because my colostrum is liquid gold and critical to my premature babies’ health. Considering my children were in critical condition – and I was feeling guilt over my inability to carry them longer – I vowed that I would do WHATEVER IT TOOK to breastfeed them.  So I started pumping and pumping and I pumped for DAYS and actually overdosed on Fenugreek (full body rash) and had a screaming case of mastitis before I saw anything.  All the while, my babies were being supplemented with donor milk and I felt extremely thankful and yet, totally inadequate.

    Long story short, milk did finally appear and soon after my babies came home from the hospital, I ditched the pump. Fortunately, I was able to nurse until they were ~17 months old.  But there was no way I was wiling (nor able) to nurse them exclusively. So I supplemented with formula and while some might say, “OF COURSE YOU DID!” I initially felt guilt (and shame) about having to do so because my babies were so tiny and fragile and I knew fellow triplet mothers that were nursing their babies exclusively. But I soon discovered those moms were going cRaZy because they’d nurse and pump and nurse and pump, round the clock for months. 

    The combo of nursing and formula worked great for us. But what I’ve since come to believe is that it’s not nearly as important what you feed your baby, as how you feed your baby. If you are a stress case because you have this preconceived notion of what you should be doing – and for some reason that doesn’t pan out – I’m certain your baby picks up on it. So however you feed them … just do it with love, love, love.  They grow up way too fast!!!  

  • autumn

    August 12, 2012 at 1:01 am

    An additional comment about pumping volumes:  I don’t know about other moms, but at my fullest (just woke up boobs crazy full look like I have implants etc) I would get 3 to 3.5 oz per non nursed on boob. Kid only eats from one side per feeding.  Seriously, now I know a boob job just won’t really help me that much:).

    But my daughter has never had a bottle with more than 3 oz, because I have never produced more than that.  I hear/read about moms with 6 oz of breast milk per pump, and I wonder what I’m doing wrong. To top it off, my mom is sooo proud of how I never had a bottle at all (I’m 32) so part of me is feeling competitive, part a failure.  But working for me is cheaper than therapy:)  Its all about feeding your baby, that’s what really matters.  

  • allison

    August 13, 2012 at 5:24 am

    I am a soon-to-be mom who fully plans to supplement my breastmilk with formula. Question – how long should I plan to bf exclusively (if I am able to) before introducing the bottle/formula? A few weeks? A month? Thanks for any guidance you can offer.

  • Tara

    August 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    This is almost my same story, except my daughter never did breastfeed successfully, even after many, MANY attempts in every way possible (she’s a little tongue-tied, I’m a little flat, just couldn’t get it together). She’s three months now and I’ve been pumping and supplementing with formula since about day three. On top of that, I got VERY ill about three weeks post partum and had to spend nearly three weeks pumping and dumping because of the antibiotics I was taking. After all that, I did mourn, I WAS sad, but I concluded that there are some things you just can’t help and you can only do your best. It was a huge relief to me when I realized that breast milk wasn’t an all-or-nothing thing! Now she gets some of each, but we’re tapering off on the pumping sessions and working on phasing them out. I agree she’s better off with a mom that can give her attention, not spend all her time hooked up to machinery. Well done, OP!

  • Equo

    March 14, 2013 at 9:20 am

    Does anyone recommend an organic version of formula over conventional?

  • Equo

    March 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Let me add,I gave birth 4 days ago and my milk production is still low but I know that will change.was really apprehensive about using formula but on 2nd day baby had been breast feeding all day and had not had a wet diaper or stool so nurse suggested I supplement. I felt like such a failure and that I had put my kid in danger. I now realize all is not lost! But still interested in a healthy organic option.

  • Kristin

    December 17, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you thank you so much – for the question, for the answer. I read the original post and cried. This person could very well be me. I’m having all of these same difficulties. This is my second child and I SO WANTED breastfeeding to work this time. But after I went back to work, despite pumping like a maniac, I am finding it hard to keep up with what she drinks at day care. I love the answer you gave, and the support you lend just by understanding. I also cried when I read the answer you posted. Thanks for reminding me that however my baby gets fed, it’s OK! Thank you.

  • Lee

    March 6, 2014 at 7:17 am

    I just happen to stumble upon this and I am so happy I did. I exclusively BF my first for 6 months and nursed for another 3 months. But this time around I am not pumping enough at work and have been getting up all hours of the night to pump. I don’t know why but my pumping output plummeted at month 4. Needless to say I am exhausted and frustrated and on the brink of quitting. In my mind it became am all or nothing type thing, when it doesn’t have to be. Thank you for posting this!

  • Kellie

    January 7, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Just found this. Definitely helped me realize that I could still breastfeed even if my very hungry son got formula too. I had so much trouble keeping up with him, taking care of my two other kids and working part time. i love the nonjudgement supportive advice that is given on this website. 

  • Louise

    May 4, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    Oh man. Nursing didn’t even work for me. I have to admit that i am a bit envious, and i’m sorry for that. My bb was born with numerous mouth issues and no matter how hard i tried and still try (at almost six months, i still try), she wont latch for longer than a few seconds. I had to give up pumping at 2 months because i stopped responding after mastitis. I just wouldn’t let down.

    If you can bf at all: do it. I cant express the pain and sorrow i felt when my baby screamed around my breast for the twentieth time and i had to bend over and join her in her tears. I watched videos, saw LCs, had a hospital grade pump and herbs and nothing. Even used a nipple shield and SNS. Really, you are awesome for keeping it up and should bf without feeling pressure to be the sole food source.

    We are so lucky we do not live in an age where breastfeeding is our only option. So many women before us had to watch their babies starve because of the same issues we have. Let’s be proud we have alternative ways to nourish them!!! You are an amazing mom!

  • Kathy Mendez

    June 12, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    The information that turned my head on this issue is that the female body is capable of producing milk without ever having been pregnant. I never knew there was such a term but women can apparently re-lactate if breastfeeding was interrupted for a time. The comfort I took from this is that when I became completely defeated by the pump and could only think of the criticisms when considering to give up partial breastfeeding altogether It really helped to know that it didn’t have to be a final decision kind of thing. If need be, with a little kickstart and a lot of hard work, I could get back on the horse if I so chose. The finality of milk supply drying up loomed large in my head, but once that wasn’t a threat any more I felt free to make quality decisions. Feeding one healthy, happy baby formula plus breast milk (from the source).

  • Marianne

    June 19, 2015 at 4:49 am

    Oh my goodness.. Thank you SO MUCH for this. This is exactly what I’ve been struggling with with my 4 1/2 month old. The original goal was 12 months, but now I am fighting to get to 6. It’s 4am as I type and considering if I should pump right now for another measly couple of ounces while my little one sleeps. It has been a constant battle in my mind for the last month at least and I have tried EVERYTHING I can get my hands on to pump up my supply, but it’s time I accept that I won’t be having the breastfeeding relationship I wanted. I’ve searched for articles everywhere on this issue but haven’t found any hope in anything until I read this post. So thank you. Thank you for the support and the raw emotions that make me and other moms like us feel like we aren’t alone. Thank you.

  • Mayela Barrera

    September 26, 2015 at 1:52 pm

    Oh my goodness! THANK YOU ALL. I’m sitting here nursing my baby reading all these posts and realizing that I am not the only one with this issue. I am currently EBF baby … I HATE pumping because when I do all I get is an ounce maybe two if I’m lucky. It’s like my life revolves around that ugly pump 🙁 It is so frustrating and it makes me nervous every time I have to leave baby because I’m always stressing out about if she’s going to have enough… so I have been thinking about giving baby formula while I’m gone and continuing to nurse when I’m with her yet the thought alone makes me emotional and makes me feel like a failure! Makes me feel so much better reading all your comments about BF and formula. I am so glad I googled hahahahahahaha

  • Brandi

    November 18, 2015 at 2:27 pm

    OMGoodness, YES!!! I stumbled across this site accidentally and I just can’t thank you enough! It is so disheartening to ask for support without getting the “try this” response. And, this…THIS! is spot on to how WE feel, as mothers who choose to do what’s best for us – combination feeding. Just love how you put it into perspective. Must share with a few of my other Mama-friends, fighting the good fight and struggling. Thank you again!

  • Auti

    December 8, 2015 at 1:13 am

    Needed to see someone else in my position. My baby girl is only 5 weeks old and We’ve been supplementing since day 2 of birth as required by the hospital. I didn’t produce colostrum and my milk never eally came in. I never got engorged, i have never leaked, and my breasts never grew during pregnancy or after- if anything they’ve shrunk. It broke my heart every single day. the week after we got home, i tried to exclusively breastfeed and my poor baby was so hungry. she was on my breast pretty much 24/7! then at her dr. appt. she had lost A HALF A POUND! that was after already getting back up to birth weight 🙁
    I started back at work last week. I’m pumping as much as possible and nursing nights and mornings, so now, she gets breast milk when i’m home, if i need a nap or shes shes gumming super hard on bloody or cracked nipples, we do pumped milk… but we usally follow feedings with an ounce or 2 of formula.
    I’m so glad there are other moms out there who have found success in this. My tiny baby using formula broke my heart when I had always planned to nurse exclusively for 6 months. But she is so strong and smart and smiley and healthy… and most importantly, shes not losing weight!

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  • lindsayb

    March 6, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    I am so glad to read this! I know it’s an older article, but still very meaningful to me. I’ve managed to steadily increase my under supply and I’m so tired of going to groups for support or questions and only either being questioned about why I “think” under produce and that it’s supposedly rare and usually the moms fault.. then I get unsolicited advice telling me to do stuff I already do (tie revisions, power pumping, mother’s milk tea, blue gatorade -you name it) only to be told grudgingly that *maybe* I do have an undersupply, but I should only give donor milk from some random facebook chick. It’s disappointing to join a Facebook group that says it’s supplement friendly, but totally isnt. I found this after searching what the average combo fed baby eats a day. I’ve decided at 4 months to not make it a goal to ebf some day. It just isn’t going to happen and I need to learn to be ok with that. I need to learn to be ok that maybe my son will only get half from me long term and there isn’t anything to feel shame over. Wonderful blog!

  • Lisa Mendez

    March 10, 2017 at 5:46 am

    Thank you. I’m laying in bed at 4:30am crying because I don’t think I can “do it” anymore. It’s so hard to drink enough water and eat the right kinds of food and pump every time I should. I currently smell like Italian sausage because I’m trying essential oils… and I know I could do “more.” But I’m just done. My question to google tonight was: if I have practically no milk supply will my baby still nurse? Because I love our precious moments together… it was that first moment nursing that I fell in love with my daughter… she’s nearly 4 months old and I just don’t want to give up this precious experience yet. So thank you. Thank you for giving me hope that I can use the bottle and still have some of my precious moments nursing her. Thank you for giving me permission to “give up.”