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After 18 Children, Breastfeeding For Michelle Duggar Continues To Be A Learning Experience

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by Mary Jessica Hammes
March 30, 2009

When Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar welcomed their 18th child last December, I idly wondered whether Michelle might be breastfeeding. Then I wondered: has she breastfed her other children? What about all of them? And then I realized: wow, that’d be nearly two decades of breastfeeding!

Chances are that you know about the Duggars already, at least if you’ve seen their show on The Learning Channel, “18 Kids and Counting.” The show follows the adventures of Michelle, Jim Bob and their children—Joshua, 20 (who is also a newlywed), twins Jana and John-David, 19, Jill, 17, Jessa, 16, Jinger, 15, Joseph, 14, Josiah, 12, Joy-Anna, 11, twins Jeremiah and Jedidiah, 10, Jason, 8, James, 7, Justin, 6, Jackson, 4, Johannah Faith, 3, Jennifer, 1, and Jordyn-Grace Makiya, born Dec. 18.

Michelle, 42, and Jim Bob, 43, are remarkably laid-back as they lead their well-mannered brood through daily life (and prayer—the family are devout evangelical Christians). On the show, Michelle’s voice is nearly hypnotically soft and sweet, and it’s that way on the phone, too. I was so pleased when I learned that Michelle would be happy to talk about her breastfeeding experiences. As I chatted to my friends before the interview, we theorized that at this point, after all of those years of practice, surely breastfeeding for Michelle was smooth sailing. It turned out that while she has indeed breastfed all of her children, we were quite wrong—but that Michelle has an ample supply of determination when it comes to breastfeeding. Not only that, she was very candid in discussing the many difficulties she faced.

(A word of caution for moms-to-be, please note: it’s quite rare for someone to have so many breastfeeding issues at once; more on that a bit later.)

“I’ve always had struggles along the way and have managed to work through my struggles and continue to breastfeed,” Michelle said in a recent phone interview from her home in Tontitown, Arkansas.

She knew she wanted to breastfeed her first son, Josh, because she had learned about both the health benefits of breastfeeding as well as the bonding it allows. But she wasn’t prepared for the pain she felt when she tried. Fortunately, she found relief with the support of her local chapter of La Leche League.

“I think initially I connected with the La Leche League because they have great resources for nursing moms,” she said. “They helped me tremendously with my first baby, Josh.

“I had excruciating pain and I was dealing with probably just learning how the baby had to latch on,” she continued. “Later I found out that I had either flat nipples, or one might be inverted. I probably had greater challenges (than most mothers).”

She’s worn breast shields, she has spent weeks “toughening” her nipples, and she’s battled what she calls “very dry skin.” While lanolin reportedly saves her nipples from discomfort, it also gives her another hurdle: a moist environment ripe for growing Candida (yeast).

(Another note for readers: strategies for toughening nipples like pulling, stretching or tugging often do more harm than good—be sure to speak with an internationally board certified lactation consultant before undertaking any of these methods.)

“When you’re nursing, you definitely do not want that,” she said.

At the first sign of yeast, she reaches for a natural remedy, gentian violet (although she also uses Nystatin ointment). Gentian violet is famously vivid and stains “The baby’s mouth and the mother’s breasts purple—you have to be careful!” she laughed.

(Readers: if you ever use Gentian violet, be sure to use it sparingly, applying a 1 percent aqueous solution once a day, no more than three days, and discuss it with your child’s doctor—too much can irritate your baby’s mouth. For more information see Breastfeeding, A Parent’s Guide.)

Duggar has also struggled with the amount of time she’s been able to breastfeed each child. Her first set of twins were born via emergency C-section (Duggar has had three Cesarean births; the rest were all-natural vaginal births, 13 of them VBACs,) and she was able to breastfeed them for two weeks. “But I ended up getting mastitis (a breast infection),” she recalled. “The overall responsibility of having twins and having a toddler—I was so sick and I just didn’t continue breastfeeding after I got mastitis.”

Those early days, before she gathered the tools and knowledge to manage her breastfeeding issues, were especially tough. Michelle says that Jim Bob was always supportive of her decision to breastfeed, but it was hard for him to see her in such pain, even when she was so determined to make it work.

“Initially when I really had challenges with breastfeeding, I remember crying, tears streaming down my face and trying to breastfeed the baby and Jim Bob was saying, ‘Honey, it’s OK, you don’t have to do this,’” she said with a little laugh. “I’d say, ‘You don’t understand, I have to!’”

Despite her many obstacles, she wanted to keep breastfeeding, and so she did. Her children have all nursed for varying amounts of time, but her supply drastically decreases whenever she becomes pregnant, which has obviously been quite often.

“The longest I’ve been able to breastfeed is nine months, and I’m thrilled about that,” she said. “I’m designed in such a way that I start my cycle six weeks after the baby is born—and that’s with no paci, no water, just breastfeeding—to the T!” she said, referring to the fact that exclusive breastfeeding—and in particular, a practice called lactational amenorrhea method (LAM)—can be a form of natural birth control if certain conditions are in place.

It’s like clockwork, she says: though she’s likely not ovulating with the first menstrual cycle that returns, her cycles are regular from that moment on. “At eight months (after the previous baby was born), I usually conceive, and when I do get pregnant, then my milk seems to dry up. So by nine months, my baby is fussing when I’m nursing…that’s when I have to supplement.”

Michelle says that, given her own struggles and triumphs, she feels for other women with breastfeeding problems.

“I deal with a lot of pain and issues,” she says. “It’s not this wonderful, pleasant, relaxing experience that makes me want to fall asleep. It’s more of an endurance thing…There’s a lot of pain for some women and honestly, getting past that is hard, especially when they’re little and breastfeeding every 2–3 hours. It is a real challenge for some women.”

If you are planning to breastfeed for the first time and are reading this article, you might be wincing at this point. You might even be thinking, “Breastfeeding is for the birds! Birds who like pain!” Don’t fret. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Truly inverted nipples are rare.
  • If your nipples are flat or inverted, you can use a breast pump to gently pull them out before nursing.
  • Some women with flat or inverted nipples report pain at the start of a feeding, but in most cases, the pain only lasts a few seconds and goes away after a few days or weeks.
  • If you do develop mastitis, keep breastfeeding—stopping suddenly might exacerbate the condition.

Even if you do encounter difficulties, you can take heart in the fact that despite every trial, Duggar wholeheartedly endorses breastfeeding—after all, she wouldn’t keep at it for so long if she didn’t think it was worth it. For her, she says, the bonding she experiences through breastfeeding far outweighs the physical issues she often faces.

“I honestly can say I don’t have a warm, fuzzy feeling about nursing itself, the physical aspect of it,” she admitted. “I know some women really enjoy curling up and nursing. But I love the bonding process I have with my baby. It is so precious.”

Michelle shared a few tools and tips that she’s found helpful:

  • A breastfeeding pillow. Her favorite is the My Brest Friend, a model that wraps around your body like a platform, allowing you to walk around while nursing. Since all of her children are home-schooled, “Life doesn’t stop because I’m feeding the baby,” she says. “I am now mobile when I breastfeed if I need to be. Nine times out of 10, with my schedule, it’s more convenient for me to walk around.” (In fact, she was using it during our interview: “Right now I’ve got my pillow wrapped around me,” she said. “It’s the greatest tool. It ranks right up there with lanolin for me.”)
  • Using different nursing positions other than the standard cradle position. She prefers the football hold.
  • Constant access to drinking water and lanolin.
  • A breast pump. During painful periods, a pump allowed Duggar to continue to produce milk and extend breastfeeding.
  • A support system, like La Leche League or a similar breastfeeding group. She recommended connecting with such a group before the baby is born so that you can feel prepared and know a little of what to expect.

Does she have any other advice for expectant or new mothers when it comes to breastfeeding?

“You can do it,” she said. “There may be hurdles and obstacles you’ll face. Don’t give up! Keep trying.”

Mary Jessica Hammes is an Athens, Georgia-based writer, trapeze instructor, knitter, gardener, comic book enthusiast, and hula hooper. She is mom to Tommy.

 

 

  • http://haleysuzanne.wordpress.com Haley W.

    I love this – it’s such an honest portrayal of breastfeeding. Just out of curiosity, where would you find Gentian Violet? Is it easy to source, or best left to ordering online?

  • http://www.babygooroo.com Amy Spangler

    Gentian violet can usually be found at compounding pharmacies located in or near birthing hospitals. While gentian violet has a long history of effectiveness, it needs to be used correctly. While it may be available without a prescription, you might want to talk with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) before you initiate use. Together you can decide if gentian violet is the best treatment for you and your baby.

  • http://www.babyclark2008.blogspot.com Cameron Clark

    Um, now I feel bad about contemplating NOT having a second baby. One is overwhelming to me, much less, 18. How does one transport that many children? Not simultaneously, I assume. :) Very interesting article about a woman’s struggle and perseverance to breastfeed.

  • Heather RN

    I am a huge fan of Michelle Duggar, and especially now that I have a 10 week old infant. When I’m struggling with nursing her at 3 am, I often think, “what would Michelle do?”! It’s good to read about her struggles, and the tools she’s used to get through them too. I’m always pausing my TiVo to see how she walks around and nurses at the same time- now I know it’s because of the My Breast Friend pillow, which I will go buy. I would love to be able to walk around and get things done instead of being stuck on the sofa for endless hours each day! The M.B.F. website does state however that you should not stand up while using their pillow and nursing. I guess Michelle has that balance down perfectly so baby won’t slide off.

    Thanks so much for this article!!

  • Pam

    She says breastfeeding is such a bonding experience yet she also states she is able to walk around and do other things/chores while using the pillow. How can it be a bonding experience if your attention is off the baby and on other things?

  • Mary Jessica Hammes

    Dear Pam,

    Thanks for your comment. I can only speak as myself, but as a nursing mother, I can assure you that the bond is there, and very strong, and sort of transcends the minutia of daily life happening around you during the act itself. I sometimes feel as though I have an “other self” that is taking care of business while nursing, but my whole attention is, without a doubt, centered on my child. (Wow, far out.)

    Of course, now that my son is a toddler and I nurse in the morning and at night, I’m too zonked out to do anything else at the same time and wouldn’t event try!

  • http://pacificbirthcare.com/ Kris, CPM, LM

    Wow, kudos to her for her perseverance! What stands out more than anything to me is Michelle had THIRTEEN VBACS! WOW!

  • Tara

    I have breast feed all three of my children, and yes walking around while they are nursing is bonding for them and mom. I carried my last baby in a sling so she could be close to me and nurse when she wanted too. Better than propping a bottle to get things done.

  • Amy

    What a great article! Thank you so much for conducting this telephone interview with Michelle and asking the questions I have been so curious about! I am a young mom and a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor for WIC in Texas, and what a great example to give to my moms who think “breastfeeding is so hard” and “not worth it” after a few days or even when the baby is still in utero! If Michelle Duggar, with 18 soon to be 19 children can power through painful struggles and still promote breastfeeding as a sweet, “bonding” time even after the numerous struggles she’s faced, anybody can! I also love the quote about making it to 9 months exclusively breastfeeding and then starting to supplement. Way to go, Michelle!

    I have been extremely blessed to only have temporary and marginal issues breastfeeding my first baby, and of course I will always support and promote breastfeeding. But how wonderful to hear an opinion supportive of breastfeeding from someone who has gone through multiple and painful struggles with nursing!

    “What would Michelle do” LOL. Too funny, and so true!

  • Nikki

    Thank you for this! I LOVE the Duggars, and it’s so pleasing to see all these rumors about forced weaning in order to get pregnant put to rest. I think she’s a inspiration to breastfeeding women. For such a modest person to come out and talk so bluntly about her experiences, and triumphs is wonderful.

    Again, many thanks for this!

  • Julie M

    Breastfeeding is WONDERFUL. I fed both of my children. My son for 9 months and my daughter for 18 months. It certainly brings a mother and her child close. I honestly believe that God put breasts on women for that purpose. I loved not having to get up in the middle of the night and go warm a bottle up. It is always the right temperature and the best for yur babies. I too would modestly walk around in my home or Walmart and feed my children. I don’t think most people ever even knew what I was doing. Michelle thank you for your open example of breastfeeding.
    It is the best way.

  • Jennifer

    As soon as I saw that Michelle Duggar breastfed I had a million questions for her. I am very happy I found this article. I am struggling with one thing right now, and I hope someone has advice for me on it. My baby is 14 weeks old I had one period three weeks after my baby was born and now nothing. I have had two negative home pregnancy tests. I want another baby and had thought I would get pregnant again right away. I recently read that breastfeeding can delay the return of the menstral cycle, I heard as long as 12 months. I am beside myself. I don’t want to stop breastfeeding but I do want to have another baby. Is there any hope my cycle will return? Should I consider supplementing my baby? Does anyone have any advice?

  • Amy Spangler

    Exclusive breastfeeding is one of the most effective strategies for spacing children. When breastfeeding is used to achieve a safe interval between births, it is referred to as LAM, the lactational amenorrhea method. It is only effective for the first six months after birth (the period of exclusive breastfeeding) and like all methods of child spacing it requires a level of compliance. For LAM to be effective, babies must be less than 6 months of age, exclusively breastfed (no juice, cereal, water etc. or pacifiers), and sleeping no longer than 4-6 hours at a time. In addition, mothers must not have resumed menstruation (monthly periods).

    The menstrual cycle you experienced three weeks after your baby was born may not have been an actual cycle but simply a result of your uterus returning to its non-pregnant state, since you have had no evidence of bleeding since then.

    I understand your desire to get pregnant, but the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for you and your baby should be your first priority. Delaying a subsequent pregnancy will allow your body to heal and will minimize the risks associated with pregnancies spaced one right after another.

    Once you introduce solid foods, for most babies this occurs around six months, your menstrual cycle will likely return. Some mothers ovulate (release an egg) and become pregnant right away, so you could become pregnant and not experience a return of your menstrual cycle.

    Until then, enjoy your time together. Babies are little such a short time.

  • Lauren

    Thank you for this honest portrayal of BF, and from the Mother of 18. It’s fantastic to hear that we aren’t truly alone.

  • Wanda

    To Jennifer who wants to have a second baby: I understand the desire to have a second child so soon after having the first. I had it too. But it’s better for your health to let your body recover from pregnancy by waiting until your cylces come back naturally.

    Also, I had no clue how much work it is to have two children until I had them both. Mine are 3 years apart. I know several people who have two children who are 12-18 months apart. They have said that it was really hard having two young children that close in age. Both kids still really need you. When they are spaced more, it is easier. It’s just something to consider.

    Finally, I wouldn’t supplement. If your child is growing well and getting the nourishment he/she needs, why add formula that is expensive and could be tainted with toxins. I wouldn’t chance it. Mother’s milk is perfectly made for baby by nature. No formula can compare.

    Good luck.

  • Jesika

    Thank you so much for the article. I have been looking everywhere for the pillow that I have seen Michelle use on the show to breastfeed while standing and walking around. I am going to buy this pillow right away! I have been breastfeeding for 6 months now and don’t have any plans to stop anytime soon. I also have had many problems along the way. I had inverted nipples and had to use a nipple shield for over a month before my daughter would latch on without it. Then was hospitalized with a case of mastitis and continued to pump throughout the 2 days I spent at the hospital. When I returned home i continued to breastfeed although it was very difficult. Then I actually got mastitis again in the same breast. However although at first it was extremely painful (the skin actually was coming off) Lanolin did help and I just continued to breastfeed and now me and my daughter are both happy!

  • Carrie

    I am so pleased someone FINALLY interviewed Michelle on this topic. Several of my friends are convinced that she weans her children prematurely so that she can get pregnant again and insist that she’s admitted that somewhere but I’ve searched high and low and I’m sure this is her first interview on breastfeeding. I’ve always felt that the Duggars were unfairly criticized and it’s heartening to know that Michelle not only allows her children to nurse as long as they are able, but that she’s persevered through so many breastfeeding difficulties.

    • MJ LC

      Sleep training will often lead to early weaning and premature return of fertility. Some women DO sleep train, and intentionally allow their babies to go more than 2 or 3 hours during the night, not only to “get more sleep” but so that their menses WILL return sooner.

      As someone else said, most mothers decide to concentrate on the baby they have on the breast as he or she needs you the most. Many mothers do not “sleep train” or prematurely wean, and don’t really care about breaking baby birthing records enough to do these things. Some mothers….. do sleep train with the intention of premature return of fertility.

    • MJ LC

      Sleep training will often lead to early weaning and premature return of fertility. Some women DO sleep train, and intentionally allow their babies to go more than 2 or 3 hours during the night, not only to “get more sleep” but so that their menses WILL return sooner.

      As someone else said, most mothers decide to concentrate on the baby they have on the breast as he or she needs you the most. Many mothers do not “sleep train” or prematurely wean, and don’t really care about breaking baby birthing records enough to do these things. Some mothers….. do sleep train with the intention of premature return of fertility.

    • MJ LC

      Sleep training will often lead to early weaning and premature return of fertility. Some women DO sleep train, and intentionally allow their babies to go more than 2 or 3 hours during the night, not only to “get more sleep” but so that their menses WILL return sooner.

      As someone else said, most mothers decide to concentrate on the baby they have on the breast as he or she needs you the most. Many mothers do not “sleep train” or prematurely wean, and don’t really care about breaking baby birthing records enough to do these things. Some mothers….. do sleep train with the intention of premature return of fertility.

    • guest233

      Carrie..i too am a fan of the duggars and I did read several places where Michelle stated she weaned her babies at 6 mo. so as to get pregnant.

  • Bjean

    I definitely recommend breastfeeding. I nursed all 6 of mine, from 10 months to 18 months. I did not supplement with anything else. It seemed to me that my cycles started whenever the baby started sleeping more than 4-5 hours at night, regardless of their age or weight. It seemed that when you are first nursing (which is ‘on demand’ and could be as much as every 2 hrs), that your body is ‘in sync’ with the newborn’s cycle of sleeping and feeding.

    I would also add that the earliest I became pg again was when the baby was 7 months old, and the latest was when the baby was 14 months old. Also that I was a very thin woman, not busty at all, and my babies were 8 lb 8 oz. to 9 lb 8 oz. The most trouble I ever had was when I had a breast infection (with my first, I probably was trying to feed ‘on schedule’ not ‘on demand’) and the Dr’s advice was to stop…luckily I had La Leche to call as that was the WORST advice. There is no way the baby was ‘infected’ (if so, the germ would be there before it became apparent to the nursing mother), and only the baby’s nursing helped clear the breast ducts. I had no luck pumping, but as I was a stay-at-home mom, it really didn’t matter. My advice: forget the house, get rest, drink fluids, and enjoy this ALL TOO SHORT time with your baby!

  • Bjean

    ps-Also breastfeeding is so easy, besides it is FREE (if you need an additional incentive). We camped and it was the ONLY way we could do so with a newborn. Consider this: if cavewomen could do it, WHY not you? Don’t overthink it. The human race would most certainly have become extinct if nursing was so difficult.

  • Jamie

    BJEAN…I had the same problem and my DR told me the same thing. I knew he was nuts and luckily I didn’t follow his advice. Most of the time you have to use your gut instinct.

    I love the Duggar family, thank you for this article. I am pregnant with my fourth child and I truly look forward to nursing. I only nursed my third child, I wasn’t interested with my first two. I had minor problems in the beginning but I was so determined to make it work that the problems didn’t bother me. I perservered and I am so glad I did. I nursed her for 18 months and the only reason I stopped is because I had to take a medication that was not good for her.

  • sallie

    We discovered the Duggars at 17 kids and have been fans ever since. We TIVO the series.

    I appreciate Michelle’s honesty , especially on something so intimate as breastfeeding.
    The bonding with your baby is wonderful, but not always comfortable!!
    It is good to hear what Michelle has to say about children and life in general.

  • Tina

    Wow – I feel very bad for assuming that Michelle didn’t breastfeed, I am still breastfeeding my almost 2 year old, and didn’t get my period until she was 18 months, so I just figured there was no way she could have that many children and breastfeed. It just goes to show how different each woman is! Good job Michelle! You are an inspiration to the rest of us that are dealing with 1 or 2 children at once :)

  • Kathy

    Hi,

    I am also a huge fan of the Duggars. Michelle wrote briefly about her breastfeeding experiences in their book.

    Does anyone know where I can buy the modesty cover Michelle uses? I already have the My Brest Friend pillow but need the cover as I’m also into modesty and have 5 other children at home who are homeschooled, so not much chance of finding a quiet secret place to feed, nor do I have the time to be away from the other children (nor the desire to).

    I can buy covers here in Australia, but they’re only basically a blanket with a strap around your neck. Nothing covers the sides or back. I like the poncho type one Michelle uses as everything is covered. I could buy just a poncho, but here they’re all woollen and it’s summer now. I’d bake myself and bubs!

    I’m due in 3 weeks with number 6, so not much time to buy online, so if anyone can help quickly, I’d really appreciate it.

    Thanks,
    Kathy

  • Candace

    My heart goes out to Michelle. I have had all of those problems and situations including mastitis twice, a MRSA infection in my breast, flat nipples, extreme pain, ect and my one and only baby is just 4 months old! It gives me inspiration to keep going!

  • Tracy

    Why does breastfeeding “modestly” mean covering yourself and baby under a blanket or cape of some sort? None of my babies would tolerate being covered up while nursing (would you want to eat hiding under a blanket?). Does that mean I am immodest when I nurse my babies? I resent the idea that nursing mothers and their children need to hide under blankets to be considered modest. There is nothing immodest about nursing a child! It’s why we have BREASTS!

    • Lauramarie27

      I resent the idea of covering up, too. Very much. But unfortunately there are people around us who see the breasts as primarily sexual. I can’t keep a guy from being turned on from my open breastfeeding. But I can prevent it.
      I SHOULD be able to feed my baby openly, but we live in a messed up world. So I cover up because I don’t want someone lusting from seeing my exposed breast.

  • Mary Jessica Hammes

    You’re right, Tracy, there is nothing immodest about breastfeeding a baby. If all women had your level of confidence, there would be no need to cover up. Hopefully as more women choose to breastfeed and breastfeeding becomes more visible, it will once again be perceived as normal. In the meantime, it’s important for all of us to advocate and educate, being careful not to alienate those who may not share our enthusiasm for breastfeeding anywhere, anytime.

  • Guest

    Although I tried breastfeeding with my first child, he was a large baby with a voracious appetite! I gave up in the hospital as he made my nipples bleed. It was too traumatic for me to go on. With my second child…he was born 4 weeks early and in the NICU. The nurses all encouraged me greatly to pump as often I could and bring them what I had so we could feed it to him. I was very discouraged at what I produced, which was little to nothing. Although they told me that was normal, and tried to be very supportive, it was still very discouraging and I once again felt like I had failed my baby. By the time my 3rd son was born, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in which one of the problems you can have is the inablility to produce breastmilk. I no longer felt like a failure! I had a pure reason for my inability to supply my child’s food and was ok with that. (This was very reassuring since my 3rd son was 10# at birth…another hearty appetite!)

    I went on to have 3 more children, for a total of 6. 4 boys then ended with twin girls. Although I truly desired to be able to breastfeed for the bonding aspect, I at least was able to come to terms with my inablility to do so. Once the twins came, it made it a lot easier for the rest of the family to pitch in with feedings as well!

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though many women can and do overcome their breastfeeding problems, you shouldn’t feel like a failure if you can’t. There may be medical reasons that you cannot supply your baby’s food.

    • Sarah Loraine

      I am especially frustrated by the writer’s statement, “Despite her many obstacles, she wanted to keep breastfeeding, and so she did.” The reason it worked for Michelle is because her obstacles were surmountable. There are so many women who, no matter HOW hard they try, it doesn’t work for reasons BEYOND their control. Perhaps this article assumes we all understand this, but considering this is an article about challenges, I wish the writer had done MORE to give credit to women that struggle through challenges and have to give up because the baby is just not getting enough. Sometimes we don’t ever know the real reason it isn’t working. If I personally had not given up after 3 weeks, 3 lactaction consultants and $300 in LC fees, my baby would have died of starvation. She had a high palate (which is actually not that uncommon but not very well understood) and her mouth shape could not efficiently extract milk. If I had never given up, it would have been like beating my head against the wall. Let us not give prospective moms an unrealistic view of the challenges that precludes the situation when hard work and persistence and toughness does NOT solve all the problems. Let us let them know that if that happens, they should be proud of themselves for trying, and that their children will turn out just fine! :)

      • http://babygooroo.com baby gooroo

        I hope the baby gooroo article by Pauline Campos [http://babygooroo.com/2008/05/why-i-don’t-feel-guilty-about-formula-feeding-anymore/] will let you see that you are not alone. There are many women, like Pauline and yourself, who despite their best efforts are unable to breastfeed and therefore make the decision to bottle-feed, not by choice, but because they know it is the best option for their child. I admire your persistence and your courage.

  • Angela

    Breastfeeding is one of the most wonderful experiences you will have in life. Be sure to educate yourself about breastfeeding before your baby is born. Read books, join a support group, meet with nursing moms long before your due date. Yes, the going is tough at the beginning, but if you can stick with it and get the help you need, you will find feeding your baby a snap anytime anywhere. Yes, I did the cracking and bleeding at the beginning and the threat of mastitis happened more than once, but I had the support of experienced nursing mothers. I nursed two sons and one daughter a total of about 30 months.

  • Daniella

    Hello all! We are somewhat fans of the Duggars.. we don’t watch every show but enjoy them. Anyway I breastfed my now 19 month old until he was just over 16 months old. He seemed ready to stop and started to just not ask for it.:) The begining was hard, as is for many women. I think we should stop over thinking this natural way of feeding our babies and stop trying to be perfect.. well that was my case at least (I do realize its not everyone’s). I was so for breastfeeding I researched it for hours at a time but weirdly never related to anything enough for it to stick with me in my time of need. ok.. just to try to be helpful for anyone in need…..

    * RELAX! Sometimes over thinking or getting upset can make the pain or difficulty worst.
    * Have someone to support you, my husband was my best support.. tears, attitude, and all he would sit up with me and say you don’t have to do this but I know you can. Oddly he knew more about breastfeeding then I do (large family)
    – La Leche Luegue~ Is a good resource also..they can connect you with local moms.
    -Do not be affaid of WIC, sometimes I hear in some cities they get the name of the free
    formula people, but for us they HELPED me!! We went there because I could not afford $300 for a consultant (w/insurance) so I went there ready to give in!! Yep I was ready to go buy formula that day! Then the WIC consultant said I want you to reach your goal! So I told her the problem and even pulled out my breast tried to latch on baby and she quickly saw my problem ( other then my cracked/bleeding nipples) I was forming a “lipstick nipple” (slanted) becasue I was not aiming my nipple towards the roof of his mouth.
    *ALSO I was not feeding him often enough.. I was told every 2-3 hours, yes true but FROM THE START of the last feeding. My baby boy would nurse long, I would time the next feeding to the end of the last one. WRONG haha. So he was so hungry by the time I started feeding him he would go wild and suck sooo hard and move his head a lot which would make him release my nipple and crazily latch on but latch wrong and cause pain… So feed baby often.. my new motto was baby led feeding (and weaning) makes life easier to not look at a clock or calender. :)

    I am so happy to read this interview and know other people are reading too. Good Luck to all you mothers and try your best with breastfeeding and do what feels right for you and your family! :)

  • Rennee121

    I too have PCOS, it was a miracle I had my sweet girl, and had many difficulties breastfeeding. It took two months for my milk to come in and we had to supplement with formula, a tube, and syringe so my girl could get enough to eat. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through but it was so worth it. She is now six months old and still bfing like a champ. I would go through all the pain, tears, and frustration again to know that I was giving her the best. The most important thing I learned is to not give up. It is extremely rare for a woman to have the odd medical condition that won’t allow her to make milk, and I figured if women could relactate years after nursing then dang it I would nurse my baby! And I did and do!

  • MJ LC

    I’m a lactation consultant and nursed all of my children for long periods of time and have seen that moms who practice “baby training methods” to make the babies wait between feedings or “sleep through the night” at a randomly chosen age WILL have the same issues Michelle did. (With the exception of the flat nipples, but after even one child breastfeeding full time, even inverted nipples will work themselves out.)

    I have heard, through a friend who knows the Duggars that she does practice “baby sleep training” and this is why she has never “been able” to nurse a baby for the full year or more that the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests.

    If she truely does menstruate 6 wks after each birth (and in 20 years of lactation, plus 5 years of training, I have never seen a women who menstruates that early UNLESS they are using supplements or “making the baby wait” to try to sleep train them)) then using a barrier method to prevent pregnancy so she can at least get a full year of breastfeeding in would certainly benefit her babies greatly.

    Sleep training is very detrimental to breastfeeding and I am pretty sure that is what is going on here.

    • CS

      Umm…. I have never practiced sleep training, rather, we cosleep. I used NO supplements, baby would not even take a pacifier…I exclusively breastfed around the clock, baby would nurse every 1-2 hrs thru the night… And I STILL had my cycles return at 6 weeks. For both of my babies. Don’t make judgemental assumptions about others. It can and does happen to some women.

      • MJ LC

        It is FAR from “judgement” CS. I am a Lactation Consultant, I have worked with and consulted with thousands of women. I have seen a lot, and learned a lot.

        When you menstruated at 6 weeks (something I have not seen with actual menstruation in 26 years of Lactation work) did you then menstruate every 28 days, every month? A lot of women (myself included) had some breakthrough bleeding in the first 3 months, but unless you are very young (under 22) or very heavy, (both of which cause a HUGE amount of circulating estrogen, thus earlier) it’s very very rare to menstruate with true ovulation, and ability to allow implantation that early with Ecological Breastfeeding.

        It’s possible, but very very rare. CS, Did you get pregnant and lose your milk? Or were you thinking of the baby who needed your milk and somehow avoid a premature conception?

        My point was, Michelle Duggar INTENTIONALLY Sleep Trains her babies, menstruates in ORDER TO get pregnant again. Most responsible mothers would space their children (by natural or even artificial means) to make sure the baby at the breast gets what he or she needs for at least the first year.

        • Dot

          MJ, I breastfed BOTH of my kids exclusively and started my cycles back up with BOTH of them around 6-8 weeks. Regular periods every month. I never sleep trained either of my kids, they nursed on demand.

          I don’t think you know as much as you think you know……

          And it sure sounds like you are casting judgement to me. Maybe you need to re-read your postings.

        • set

          MJ, I exclusively breastfeed my two boys and I am now Tandem nursing. I nurse the new baby on demand and I nurse the toddler a few times a day, we do not use pacis, nor sleep train and I started my regular cycle 6 weeks after I delivered my second…
          MJ, there is no way you can have all of the answers to everyone…

    • Schinel_no_5

      I use “sleep training” methods as you describe and never menstruate while breastfeeding and don’t have a decrease in milk supply…it has been beneficial to both baby and me imo….each mom needs to make the right choices for her and baby…whether that is attachment parenting or otherwise..there is always more then one way to do something!

    • Danielle V.

      To add to what others said, you want her and her husband to go against their conscience and use a barrier method to extend how long they breastfeed? That’s rude and inappropriate. Seems like they do the best they can for their children.

    • Michele Denise

      I do not believe Michelle does use sleep training. I however did artfully teach all of mine to sleep through the night (don’t worry the baby has no idea what you are doing, they are just happy – literally) within their first few weeks, we were having to wake the youngest up to feed at night to pacify his ped, we finally woke up and said “that’s crazy” and let him sleep. He slept though the night at about 9 or 10 days. Thats 8 hours of sleep. He refused all bottles, never had formula, was eating very little solid food at 1 year and weaned himself at 16 months.

    • nicole

      Yes! I know several woman who tried putting their babies on feeding schedules and it caused their milk to dry up. The feeding schedules are bad bad bad!

  • Becky

    I have been breastfeeding for the past 3 1/2 yrs and have nursed 2 babies at a time for 2 of those years. I do not regret a day of it, problems or no problems :) .

  • http://twitter.com/steppedonalego Kari H

    I had mastitis 6 times in my 7 months of nursing. Horrendous, but I enjoyed nursing, so I stuck with it as long as possible. 7 months and my 6th infection and I knew it was ‘time’ to wean.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001958364672 Bernadette Keane

    I believe that breast feeding is a special private time between mother and baby but mothers today in Britain feel they can feed anywhere and this often causes offense. I wonder what you, Michelle, think of this.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1376134532 Sara Candell Gann

      I find it amusing that in almost any country, blatant nudity can be considered as exceptional, but let a mother use her breasts as they were intended and all of a sudden so many take offense to it.

    • nicole

      A baby needs to eat and a mother shouldn’t have to pause her life to find “a special” place to feed her child. Especially a mother with other children out and about doing errands. Mother should be able to feed her child anywhere, it’s what boobs were made for. Breast aren’t for men and their sexual needs, they are for feeding your children.

  • Jessica

    Hello, Michelle. I am also a devote Christian. I breastfed my first daughter for 18 months and am currently breastfeeding my 19 1/2 month old. She still breastfeeds 10-12 x/ day and yes trying at times as nursing can be the incredible bond that develops is amazing. You gave wonderful advice to new mamas to be as well as experienced mamas whom may encounter nursing struggles. I watch the show all the time. And my how Jesus has blessed you with a fruitful womb. Xoxox- love in Christ

  • Angi Long

    My first 2 children are 16.5 months apart. You do NOT have to stop breastfeeding just because you become pregnant again! Even if your milk dries up. I was pretty dry through my pregnancy with #2, but #1 continued to nurse for comfort, and then continued to nurse after #2 was born. At that point the baby was taking what she needed and then #1 was taking all the rest I could make, and they took the extra weight off me like crazy! It was really a wonderful time, nursing both of them, and I wish I’d known people who nursed for longer at the time, as I would have had the courage to continue nursing them both a lot longer. As it is, my first 3 were all weaned by age 2, but my #4 nursed to age 5.5.

  • Abigail Westward

    It’s true you can have your regular cycles return very early, between 6-8 weeks post-birth whilst breastfeeding. I had all my periods, a regular 28 day cycle, return by 6 weeks whilst breastfeeding exclusively, even through the night 2-3 hourly. I have never trained my babies to sleep or made them wait for feeds. I never used pacis and I have fed and comfort fed, until 18 months and also fed during pregnancies. Conception also is possible while feeding as I have babies as close as 13 months apart. It does not seem to affect milk supply, but some of my first indications of a new baby coming along was the obvious taste difference in the milk, as the baby usually around 4-8 months old would pull faces and poke their tongue out until they very quickly got used to the new taste of their now pregnant mommy.What a wonderful way to find out that you are pregnant again!
    I hope that helps clear up some misconceptions over breastfeeding delaying period return, or preventing pregnancy.

  • Dianne Schuch

    I breastfed all my children, the last one for 18 months (I know, I know…)
    Each time I got mastitis, which made my mother stop with my oldest brother and make her decide against it for the rest.

    I was 19 and it was 1972 when I had my first case. My baby was only a week old and my fever was close to 104. By the time I got to the hospital, it was 105 and freaked everyone out. They threw me on an ice bed which made me scream. I was in the hospital for 3 days on various antibiotics and I pumped to keep the milkflow even tho the doctors told me NO MORE BREASTFEEDING.
    After I got out, I went back to breastfeeding and my baby was fed this way for 9 months.
    My second child had interference from the grandparents. My in-laws felt they were not able to bond and they were constantly taking him for extended period (their first grandchild). I got mastitis more often and even got my period! The only way to keep mastitis at bay, keep your period at bay and generate quality milk is to breastfeed at least every four hours or more.
    So regrettable I stopped after three months.

    When I did get mastitis the doctors made me stop breatfeeding and put me on antibiotics.

    That is the WORST thing you can do.

    Six years later when I was 30 things were more informative for breastfeeding moms, I had my first daughter and again, got mastitis. But this time I had a female doctor who had the same issues.

    She said to continue to feed the baby on the side that was the most painful. The mastitis is caused by the milk ducts getting clogged and the breastfeeding frees it. Instead of being ill for days and not being able to hold my baby due to pain, I was only sick a few hours.

    All this information here and not one person telling us how to alleviate the problem.

    There are so many reasons to breast feed, here are the most superficial:
    It is the cheapest way
    You lose weight quickly
    No getting up at night and preparing a bottle
    I brought my baby to bed with me and never ever ever lost any sleep.
    Less to have to worry about in the diaper bag.

    The less superficial:
    No colic
    SOOOO good for the baby.
    Brain power increases

    Of my three kids, the oldest and the youngest had no school problems. The middle child only breastfed for 3 months didn’t like school.
    The youngest sailed through school skipping grades and being put in a top tier program, graduating with honors and a full ride to Drake University

    None of my kids had ADD or any kind of childhood issues.

    (I also made ALL my babyfood and used cloth diapers. Cheaper to feed them not to mention better for them. Easier to potty train, better for their future environment.)

    Whatever we were eating the baby ate. I used a blender and pureed everything. Put them in an ice tray and popped it out to microwave when necessary.

    I know what I have written is controversial, but it worked for me and made my baby raising days so much fun and loving.