As I prepared for Taylor's birth, I was DETERMINED to be a breastfeeding mama. I convinced my husband that we needed to purchase a deep freezer because I was going to pump so much milk, we'd be set for the first year of Taylor's life. When he arrived, I pumped as often as I could (tip: use a Haaka on one side while you breastfeed on the other!) and actually found myself with a pretty healthy stash when I returned to work after 3 months. I thought "OK, I can do this - pump twice a day at work and as often as possible on the weekends and we can maintain this supply".
There's no sugar-coating it, pumping at work sucks. I'm one of the lucky ones who's office has a pretty great set up, but even so, scheduling out an hour and a half+ of time throughout the day when your job basically consists of back-to-back meetings is tough. Its awkward asking people to move meetings or telling them that you'll be late because you need to pump and forget trying to call in while pumping - every time I've done this while on the phone, it was a pretty dead giveaway. On top of the stress of finding time to pump, week after week I was devastated as I watched my supply drop and I'd struggle to do the math on whether or not I'd have enough to make it through the week. My home supply was quickly clearing out and I just couldn't keep up no matter how hard I tried. I blamed myself for not being able to maintain my supply and I blamed work (and basically the corporate system) for forcing me back to work too early - a whole discussion topic on its own. I wanted to feed my baby exclusively breast milk for one year and I couldn't because of my job. The first few months back at work were really difficult - I consistently found myself feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and desperate for a way out so that I could focus on my son. A lot of this anxiety was driven by my desire to feed my baby the way I wanted and the blame I placed on my job for not allowing me to do so.
The first three times my husband and I went to the grocery store to purchase formula, I couldn't get myself to grab it off the shelf. I felt like purchasing it was like giving up and giving in; I didn't want to fail. But after weeks of coming home devastated that I had only pumped a few oz all day and as my milk supply was becoming desperately low, we had no other choice. The first week we gave Taylor one bottle a day, and over time, we increased it to 3 bottles a day. I decided that if I'm going to formula feed him, I was going to find a strategy that I could feel good about. I think this is a big part of accepting the transition from breast milk to formula - find a way to make yourself feel good about the choices you're forced to make for your child and understanding that there is no wrong way to feed your baby, so long as they are fed and happy. We decided that we'd only give him formula before naps and bedtime, that way, we might also improve his sleep habits, as we could ensure he'd have a full tummy. Lucky for us, that seemed to to the trick!
I've now been back to work for almost 4 months now and while I still sometimes find myself crying in the bathroom on a rough day, its getting easier. I'm no longer struggling to keep up because we've found a balance that works and in fact, every so often, I have a week where I feel STRONG for being an amazing mother, while still maintaining my full-time job. I'm doing the best that I can and I am proud of that. It's tough mamas, but we've got this.