Care and Feeding

When Can I Give Up Breastfeeding?

It’s not going well, but I’m worried what everyone will think of me.

A sad woman breastfeeding her baby.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Thinkstock.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m a new mom, and breastfeeding is not going well. I’ve been putting the baby to the breast constantly, my IBCLC lactation consultant thinks my latch is good, we’ve had him checked for lip and tongue ties … I can pump about a half-ounce a day and am having to heavily supplement with formula and it just has me so stressed trying to balance the two feeding methods. He’s about 2 months old now. I just don’t know what to do. I want to stop breastfeeding and pumping and switch to formula but I worry people will think I didn’t try hard enough, and that I’m shortchanging my baby.

–Is Breast Best?

Dear IBB,

[Screeches in on dirt bike!!]

I am so thrilled to give you official permission to stop breastfeeding and pumping! Your baby is 2 months old, he’s already gotten lots of wonderful immunities from your colostrum and early milk, and formula is the most tightly regulated food product in the United States. If you have access to clean water (sadly not a given, even here), then you can safely give your baby formula and know he’s getting exactly what he needs to thrive. You’re a great mom, and you’re feeding your baby, and you do not have to justify what you’ve tried and not tried to anyone, unless it makes you feel better to do so.

Something I recommend to friends (and myself) when breastfeeding doesn’t work out is to try to really embrace the upside: Your partner can take a few night feedings so you can have an evening or two to sleep more than three hours at a stretch. Do some drugs! (Don’t do some drugs, but you could.)

For many people, another marvelous side effect of switching to formula is discovering just how distracted and stressed by breastfeeding and pumping and supplementing you’ve become. Once you’re done, that energy can be redirected into bonding and just enjoying your baby. You may find you’re both a lot happier.

We are all rooting for you. Oh, and one more piece of advice, which can help a bit with the costs of formula: Buy the very cheapest one at the store because they are all required to have identical nutrients, and there is no meaningful difference as the price goes up (unless your baby has a digestive issue and needs a soy formula, etc.).

Best of luck! You’re doing a great job.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I am the mom to a 12-year-old girl with ADHD (predominantly inattentive). My daughter, like most 12-year-olds, is interested in makeup and fashion. Yet she needs constant reminders to brush her teeth, and it’s a battle every time she needs a shower. Is this a normal tween thing or is it common with ADHD? Do we keep nagging her, or just let it go until she finally gets smelly enough she gets the hint?

–My Kid Stinks

Dear MKS,

It is both a normal tween thing and common with ADHD! Especially on the front end of puberty, lots of kids (who, of course, tend not to be able to smell themselves) get pretty ripe. In seventh grade, our teachers brought in a literal crate of deodorant to pass out to the room, which was sufficiently exciting to us feral beasts to do the trick. Just keep nagging her about showering and brushing her teeth until she pulls a real teenager act and starts spending all her time in the bathroom running your hot water whether you want her to or not. Check with your pediatrician for ADHD-specific tips, but being the parent of a tween just naturally involves a lot of “go back and brush your teeth” and “get in the shower if you want me to drive you to Denny’s.”

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Dear Care and Feeding,

Over Easter weekend, we stayed at my brother’s house in New Jersey. My 2- and 4-year-old boys have unsurprisingly boundless energy. While I was in the bathroom and the hubs was changing a poopy diaper, our 4-year-old took a pencil from God knows where and wrote multiple large Xs on the back of a chaise longue. My brother, in his late 40s, was furious, and so was my sister-in-law. (Neither of them have any interaction with children, generally.) We were packing up to leave on a tight schedule, and I offered to pay for cleaning. On a visit last year, a bread plate was broken and they sent us a bill. This time they sent me a work order from the vendor and I called to discover it is $590. Now, when I have guests over to my house, I wouldn’t dream of charging anyone if something broke or was damaged. Is this normal?!

–My Son, the Expensive Artist

Dear MStEA,

Oh, my dear. I regret to inform you that if your kid breaks something in someone else’s home, especially when you are there to supervise them, you need to pay for it. You can certainly try to find a better price on chaise longue cleaning ($590 sounds steep to me), but at the end of the day, you’ll be writing a check. I don’t think it’s out of the question to ask if you can split the cost of cleaning; the worst-case scenario is a “no.”

It’s certainly your prerogative to cheerfully forgive breakage in your own home, but it’s not standard policy, and your brother and his wife are not doing anything outrageous by seeking reimbursement. It is not particularly relevant that they do not have children themselves: What they do have is a chaise longue with drawing all over it.

If you think they’re too precious with their things and fail to enjoy the giddiness of youthful hijinks, by all means, stop bringing more kids to their house than you can actively supervise at a time. They can come to your place going forward; it’s no great tragedy. I’m surprised that you ran this risk a second time after paying for that bread plate! (A single piece of crockery is not something most people would ask to be reimbursed for, but there you have it.)

Kids are little money pits! what a timeless lesson to have acquired so early in their expensive lives.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 16-month-old has a variety of stuffed toys, but he hasn’t, like, developed an attachment to any one in particular. He will cuddle and play with a new one, or if I make one of them talk he will get excited about it, but no lasting connection. He also doesn’t have a blanket or other comfort object. Is this unusual?

–Where’s His Teddy?

Dear Teddy,

YOU ARE THE LUCKIEST OF PARENTS. Please immediately kiss and hug your child. I lugged the head of a hairless doll everywhere I went until I was practically a teenager, and my parents would have given thanks on their knees for me to have no strong attachments to an individual toy.

It’s common to have what’s referred to as a “transitional object” (teddy bear, blanket, etc.) at this age, but there’s certainly nothing uncommon about its absence. Please enjoy not having to drive 30 miles back to the La Quinta to retrieve Binky-Bear.