Crying over spilled breast milk: the decision to exclusively breastfeed my baby

Guest post by Jennifer
Crying over spilled breast milk, and other emotions about the decision to exclusively breastfeed my baby
Boobivore onesie from
Lincoln Treasures

Early on in my pregnancy, I decided that I would like to try to exclusively breastfeed my baby. I took some breastfeeding classes. I ordered a good breast pump and a huge pack of special freezer bags. Two weeks after my daughter was born, we met with a lactation consultant to make sure breastfeeding was going okay. (It was, and still is, and it’s working out just fine.)

What I didn’t expect was for breastfeeding to be a full time job (in addition to my first full time job of raising a child, and my other part-time job that pays the bills.) I also didn’t understand how much of an emotional roller coaster breastfeeding would be. My daughter is six months old now and, as she grows, I have been reflecting on the number times I have cried about my breast milk. My husband jokes that I need one of those signs that resets itself when I cry. It’s currently been 0 Days since I last cried. The sign would only ever get to three days.

I cried because I thought my daughter wasn’t getting enough to eat. (She was.)

I cried about sore nipples.

I cried about having enough of a milk supply in the freezer to go back to work after eight weeks.

I got the flu and cried as I was throwing up in a bucket over my nursing daughter.

After a very successful pumping session at 3 a.m., in a dazed stupor, I accidentally dropped the bottle and spilled all the contents on my copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I laughed at the irony. But then I cried. A lot.

I cried when my mom poured 3 oz. of my breast milk down the drain after leaving a bottle out all night. I cried about my dad telling me that he was not sure I was feeding her enough. (I am.)

I have cried about eating enough calories in any given day without worrying about my weight.

I managed to hold it together the first time I had to pump in the storage closet at work during my lunch break. But then I cried on my way home that same day about being stuck in traffic with engorged breasts.

I cried coming home early from the first date night with my husband in four months because I actually thought my breasts were going to explode.

I have cried many times because I don’t want to be touched by my husband after my daughter has been latched on most of the day and, for the love of all things holy, I just need some physical space.

… about a sink full of dirty dishes and no place to wash the 20 different pump parts.

… about choosing to feed my daughter some donor milk.

… about the constant worry of “drying up.”

… about leaking at awkward times.

… about how much time I spend glued to the couch watching mindless TV.

… about not being able to enjoy a gin and tonic, a cup of coffee, or sauerkraut without worrying about the effect it could have for my daughter.

“It’s currently been 0 Days since I last cried.” The sign would only ever get to three days.

I cry because I am jealous of moms with an oversupply, even though I know that’s also problematic.

I cry thinking about how some moms desperately want to breastfeed but can’t.

I have cried about how much I actually enjoy breastfeeding. I know I will miss it when my daughter doesn’t need me in this way anymore.

I cry because my wonderful husband will never be able to understand what I’m going through. Even though he tries his absolute hardest and has supported me in every single way possible.

I don’t know if I ever could have been prepared for how emotional breastfeeding would be. Nobody could have possibly warned me. When other moms ask me about breastfeeding I often joke that I will never tell my daughter not to cry over spilled milk, because I certainly have.

Comments on Crying over spilled breast milk: the decision to exclusively breastfeed my baby

  1. Yes!! I did not expect my mood to be so entirely dependent on one aspect of my life but it truly is. My daughter is only 4 months and I’m proud to have made it this far – but I’m also grateful for the immense amount of support that I’ve had from coworkers and friends and family. I could not have made it this far without them.

  2. Haven’t breast fed for over twenty years, I still miss that period in my life. You are doing a great job. I don’t remember crying that much, but then I didn’t try and go out to work. How are you feeling the rest of the time? Do you have any other feelings that might indicate post natal depression, it just seems like a whole lot of crying. Talk to your doctor. best wishes Martine

    • I cried a lot before my daughter was born. I definitely have been screened for postpartum depression, and have been seeing a therapist for a few years. Some of this is definitely hormonal, and some of it is just the process of adjusting. I’m trying to remind myself that it’s ok to cry!

  3. Breastfeeding is hard work! My baby latched well and fed pretty much round the clock. My milk came in quick and plentiful. My baby got nice and chubby, and I’m in Canada, so I didn’t have to go back to work for a year. It was still hard work! I was worried that if I pumped and gave her a bottle, she’d have a harder time nursing, so I didn’t give her a bottle for months… and then she wouldn’t take one. It is a huge lifestyle shift, pumping or not, to find yourself tethered to a little human all the time.

  4. Yes to all of this! I just finished nursing my baby girl after almost 18 months of nursing. I exclusively breastfed for the first 5 months or so until her doctors recommended I start introducing solids. I cried all the time and that’s okay. I cried when I was in the hospital and I was tired, hormonal, and breastfeeding HURT. I cried and I worried she wasn’t getting enough. I cried when I went back to work and had to spend time in the pumping room at work instead of with my little girl. And I cried every single time I spilled my breastmilk… even if I only spilled a drop. And I was a puddle in my husband’s arms this past week when it hit home that I would never nurse my daughter again.

    Nothing could have prepared me for how tough breastfeeding would be or how much I would love it. I’m looking forward to doing it all again when the hubby and I decide to have more kids.

  5. I’d like to add that if for some reason a switch from breast milk to formula is advised in the future, cry if it helps, but please don’t beat yourself up. Lots of babies grow up on formula (either partially or exclusively) and they do just fine. Sometimes plans change, and that’s OK. You will still be a good mom!

    Just remember, whatever comes to pass, and wherever he may be, Mister Rogers likes you just the way you are! (I hope that made you smile a little)

    Much love to you and your family Jennifer. Wishing you all the best with your breastfeeding! 🙂

    P.S.: if you’re sick of mindless TV, find one of the BBC’s “Farm” documentary series on YouTube (it comes in flavors like Tudor, Victorian, Edwardian, and Wartime). They’re fun and upbeat, they go down easy (especially if you’re not in the best of moods), they don’t rot your brain…and Ruth Goodman and her gang are pissers!

      • And a train-related “Full Steam Ahead” series!

        I’m hoping that someday they do a Norman Farm. Or a Celtic Farm. Heck, I’d even watch a Cold War Era Farm!

        Ruth & Co. rock! 😀

  6. Man breastfeeding is in fact a weird roller coaster. I will admit a lot of my choice to breastfeed was financial and based off of ethical choices of veganism. (technically no formula is strictly “vegan”) I felt a lot of resentment the first few months that it was a one person job to nurse. It made things hard because sure my husband could wake up in the middle of the night to try and lay our baby back to sleep, but if he was hungry, I would have to get up anyways. I did still give my baby some formula mostly because I couldn’t stand the idea that I didn’t pump enough and he wouldn’t have enough to eat until I came home. My son self weaned, at 15 months one day he just didn’t want to nurse. And he did that for a few days in a row, and I was kind-of happy. But there are times when it makes me a little sad, like right now he has his first ear infection, and it would of been nice and soothing to nurse him. And a way for me to know that he was getting some food in his tummy.

    And congrats for making it to 6 months! The hard part is over! I think the only reason why I nursed longer than a year was because I only would nurse morning and nights (and down to just mornings) after a certain point. And I can relate being worried about “eating enough” because my milk supply took awhile to come in, and we had to make an extra doctors appointment because my sons weight dipped too low. I remember the first time I had my milk let down, my god did it hurt, which made me freak out if I had an infection or if it would always feel that way (it didn’t) Although my son is 80%tile for height his weight is a little lower, so he was always “skinny” so I couldn’t ever shake the thought that I always needed to feed him more. I think it is something all moms kind-of struggle with.

  7. I just wonder if on an emotional and psychological level it wouldn’t
    be better to just switch to at least partial bottle feeding. I understand that there’s no getting away from the emotional rollercoaster all together, but at some point I think for my own sanity I’d make things easier on myself. I’d have to weigh the benefit of breastfeeding over my mental wellbeing.

  8. I was like this with my first. Pumping at work was painful and stressful, even though my co-workers were super helpful and understanding. In the middle of the day, I’d bring the bottle to day care so my little one would get a dose of breast milk between doses of formula. Every time they told me he hadn’t drank everything, how I would cry! Or how sad would I be when the breast pads were filled with milk and getting thrown to the garbage can! And it was so hard to have the baby be so dependent, I sometimes only wished for a bit of a grown up moment!
    I’m now breastfeeding my second. Unless there’s an accident, my last. My last baby ever. No more babies in my life. I think this made me change a lot my perspective. Yes, he’s completely dependent on me. I’m there at his beck and call. There are days he feeds once per hour. But he’s the last… I will breastfeed as long as possible. Pads get milk, milk comes off in the shower or during sex. But now I feel there’s enough to go around. I used to watch stuff on tv or my cell phone to deal with the boredom of breastfeeding, now I look at my baby and try to absorb every moment, every second, because I will never do this again…

  9. I wanted so much to exclusively breastfeed, but my milk supply was never enough. I have all sorts of theories as to why – basically, early unexpected delivery with no labor but major complications. I remember sitting at La Leche League meetings, nursing my daughter for 90 minutes straight while the leaders told me I was doing everything right, then listening to her scream with hunger all the way home until I gave her a bottle of formula. I would pump for 30 minutes at a time, seven times a day, even after I went back to work full-time, and only pumped enough for 1.5 bottles a day. I gave up pumping in April, once she hit six months old, and it was such a relief to stop trying to increase my supply. I have so much admiration for women who breastfeed. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a fraud: I don’t know what a contraction feels like, and I didn’t feed my daughter the way nature intended, and I imagine that others are as disappointed in me as I am. But then I see how she’s thriving, and remember that there are so many ways to be a mother, and that none of the paths are without their challenges.

  10. Thanks for all the kind words and support, everyone! It always means a lot to have this community. Just being able to share my story has been incredibly helpful! My daughter is nursing, and looking up at this screen while I type one-handed. Hopefully she will be a badass OBH contributor someday.

  11. Oh man this is accurate. I never had a supply problem in that I was never concerned that my baby wasn’t getting enough directly from the breast, but I went back to work at 12 weeks and I was not a good producer for the pump and had to add extra pumping sessions even on weekends to try to keep up.
    I cried when I was too busy at work to squeeze in the second pump session and then had to come home from work and pump while my husband played with our daughter, because I needed the milk for tomorrow’s bottles but was missing time with my baby. I cried when my coworker got 8 oz in 20 mins and I got half that after pumping for 30 mins.
    I cried when a hurricane was coming and I was worried the power would go out and my tiny milk stash would go bad, knowing I’d never build it back up. I cried when our neighbor said they had a generator and if we lost power they could help and my husband immediately said that we’d like to put my breast milk in their freezer if that happened. (What a guy!)
    My daughter is 13 months now and we’re down to just nursing mornings and before bed and no pumping, which is really great. I’m simultaneously relieved to be done with the pump and sad thinking that our journey is almost over. Sometimes I cry about that, too.

  12. THIS ALL OF THIS OMG. Thank you for sharing this. I’ve been breastfeeding for a little over seven months, and on paper everything has gone smoothly- even though my baby was premature, my milk still came in after a few days, I’ve had a fairly generous supply the whole time, he eats from both breast and bottle, and I’ve had no clogged ducts, mastitis, or bleeding nipples. Everything has been “easy.” And even with things going pretty smoothly, IT’S STILL SO MUCH WORK. Just having to keep track of the timing of feeding and pumping, making sure the supply stays on track and also that I’m not pumping too close to feeding time, scheduling work meetings in a way that allows for pumping time…it’s just SO MUCH.

    You are doing great. All of you, you’re doing great. Breastfeeding, formula feeding, whatever you are doing, IT IS HARD AND YOU ARE DOING GREAT.

  13. I guess it dépends of the baby but I did eat sauerkraut during breastfeeding for my girl and it didn’t cause any trouble to her ( I had sauerkraut cravings during the pregnancy, even in full summer, so I guess she was alreday used to that taste). The best is to listen to yourself and the baby, even if it means crying! It’s always better out that kept inside.

  14. It’s a lot of work! I’ve been breastfeeding for almost 14 weeks and my least favorite is pumping at work. The place they gave me doing it is hot and up a bunch of stairs, they legally don’t have to pay for pump breaks so I’m losing a bunch of time. From clock out to clock in each break takes about 25 minutes. I frantically eat my lunch while pumping every day to consolidate my time. I’m exhausted.

    The drive home is the worst, full of milk and hoping the baby is awake and hungry when I get home. Hoping that if I got in a bad car accident I would be able to tell them to grab my bag with the milk I pumped that day so it didn’t get towed away with the car.

    But I do love it. It’s worth it for us.

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