newborn

Milk: the breast and the bottle

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by Kasey

Kasey Fleisher Hickey is a writer, blogger, social media, public relations, and marketing expert. She is the co-founder and publisher of Turntable Kitchen . She lives in San Francisco with her husband and baby daughter.

I cried in the pediatrician’s office and the entire car ride home the day after I brought my baby home from the hospital.

I had arrived at my apartment knowing that I’d need to feed every 2-3 hours but not feeling entirely comfortable with the process. Within hours, my nipples cracked, and my baby was wailing on and off at the top of her lungs from 10:00 pm until 5:00 am.

She was feeding for many more hours than doctors told me she would, but she was never satiated, and I winced and cried through the pain.

I called the pediatrician the day after we brought her home. He instructed me to come in immediately, and then informed me that I needed to give my baby a bottle of formula and take a nap before seeing a lactation consultant to work through our issues.

Why wasn’t I able to feed my baby? Why did a process so “natural” feel so clumsy and so exhaustive? And why was I beating myself up over a bottle of formula?

Even before I became pregnant, I was steadfastly opposed to feeding my child anything other than breast milk. Now I felt ashamed, inadequate and inconsolable, my confidence already at an all-time low.

All of my baby books touted, “breast is best!” and “never introduce a bottle before the baby is two weeks old.” Pages and pages were devoted to reasons why formula feeding your baby is equatable to feeding her steroids or gasoline.

I had always assumed that breastfeeding was natural, and that I’d catch on quickly but I was unprepared for the challenges ahead. Though I had heard of lactation consultants, no one had ever shared with me that they had gone to see one. I felt alone in my struggle.

For four consecutive nights, I cried in bed while my husband assured me that I was doing my best and that we’d get through it together. Those nights felt like the world was crashing around me. I was ready to sacrifice my mind and my body; wasn’t this what motherhood was all about?

newborngrip
Photo by Jason Pratt

Over the course of the next two weeks, I went to endless appointments. In the lactation consultant’s office, it appeared that I was producing the milk, the latch was right, and the baby was nursing. I was told to nurse more frequently and on demand. But soon it became clear that our problems had to do with my milk supply, which simply couldn’t keep up with my baby’s appetite or her needs.

Supplementing with formula turned into more than just a bottle or two, and stimulating my milk production became my job. Our new plan was to put the baby on the breast every 2-3 hours, pump a minimum of 8 times per day, and supplement. I rarely produced more than just shy of an ounce and every droplet felt like gold.

But as I continued to pump and feed, I saw little increase. We were powering through the formula at an alarming rate. At our two week appointment, the baby had regained her birth weight and then some. And where was I? Emotionally and mentally drained.

Those few weeks were the shortest, longest, and hardest of my life. Day in and day out, delirious from lack of sleep, completely unstable, I was obsessed with one thing: getting milk to my baby.

I barely saw anyone. I barely left my house. I nursed and pumped around the clock. The few hours I slept, I dreamt that I was nursing my baby. While I would hold my sweet tiny child in my arms, I would dip my head towards her, listening for rhythmic swallowing sounds that seemed to taper off after only a few seconds. I insisted on feeding in silence so I could ensure she was, in fact, swallowing.

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, but I knew of no other stories that matched my own until I started openly and honestly sharing my experience. Female friends and acquaintances listened and wrote me lengthy and touching accounts of their own struggles. They assured me that being a mother isn’t just about breast milk.

At my daughter’s one month appointment, the pediatrician looked at me with pity and said, “Being a parent is about more than just feeding your baby. You do what you can, and when you can’t sanely do it anymore, you stop, and you enjoy your life with your baby.

My story isn’t finished. In fact, my story as a mother is only just unfolding. Now entering my daughter’s sixth month, I’m here to tell you that there is no shame in feeding your baby however you can, with whatever means you feel comfortable with, for whatever reasons you choose. Being a good mother, I’m learning, is knowing how to take care of yourself and your baby.

What was your experience as a new parent?

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Comments

  1. I’m sorry you struggled so much, but glad you came to peace with hour decision. My baby was bottle-fed due, in part, to a surgery that led to no milk production. I was grateful that I did not have to make the decision. ALL of my friends & family who nursed their babes struggled so much and felt so depressed for the first couple months. My experience as a new mom was awesome, and part of that was that I was not sleep deprived and feeling like I wasn’t measuring up. My husband & I took shifts for night time, so we each got to sleep for a stretch of time. It helped us deal with our new way of life with a little less stress. My baby is now 11 years old, and parenting our children changes a bit each month. There are always new challenges! Have fun with your little one!

  2. Oh Kasey I feel your pain… I had so many issues breastfeeding my 2 kids and felt like a total failure as a mom, especially after my first. I hadn’t heard about difficulties from anyone else and the lactation consultants I saw were pushing so much for breast milk that I felt like I was doing something terrible to my son if i gave him formula. (I know they were just doing their job… but it just added to my feelings of failure). I was so exhausted from everything we tried that I just was not enjoying my baby and that made me feel even worse. I finally made the decision after about 6 weeks to pump milk (my supply was fine) and feed it to him in bottles. It felt like the best compromise. He was still getting breast milk and I was able to pump on a more manageable schedule and enjoy the feeding time instead of dreading it. I did that for 10 months and then gradually transferred him to formula briefly and then homo milk. With my daughter I tried for a few weeks to breastfeed but similar issues arose and then I got infections, so I ended up pumping for her too. I didn’t do it as long (I think 3 or 4 months) before I gave her formula (much harder to pump and feed with a toddler running around!). I don’t regret my choices at all. Breastfeeding is hard work for some people and some babies. You have to do what works for you. That baby needs you to love and protect him or her. How you choose to do that is different for everyone. And it may or may not include breastfeeding. Both my kids turned out just fine… they’re 9 and almost 7 now. But I still remember those feelings like it was yesterday. And I share my story whenever I hear of a mom struggling to breastfeed so that she won’t feel as alone or overwhelmed as I did. We moms feel enough guilt that we’re going to screw up our kids somehow… we don’t need to add breastfeeding guilt on top of that! Thanks for sharing your story here! Keep taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby!

  3. Dear casey,
    I was moved to tears as I read your post, thank you.
    You see this was me seven and a half years ago, with our daughter. Our story is pretty much the same along with a forceps delivery and 3rd degree tear stitches. I was convinced that if breast feeding was so natural and that I had the equipment then I should be able to do it, right?
    She was born early november and over the christmas/new year period
    She put on no weight, I was in agony cracked and sore, she was screaming, as you say, your life revolves around feeding and of course self doubt and guilt!
    A family friend called around one day with formula and bottles and our dear baby drank 4oz bottle then another 3oz straight down poor thing.
    We still have food issues now, but I remember the stress suddenly lifting as she settled and began to gain weight.
    Thanks so much for your post, and hope you both go on to flourish, feeding the best way that you can, big hugs, Jo x

  4. ‘Being a good mother, I’m learning, is knowing how to take care of yourself and your baby.’

    So thankful for you and your daughter that you have learned this. Every time I come across this ‘debate’, my first response is to say and/or think ‘whatever works for mom & baby is ALWAYS what is best’. I’m thankful too, that your husband was so supportive and that your pediatrician was able to gracefully help you.

    *disclaimer* I’ve breastfed/attempted to breastfeed all 5 of my children, and not entirely successfully. Each time was very different. Each baby was different, and it seemed even my body was different each time. So I can only take away from my experience: every baby and every body (even the same darn body) are so very different.

    I would hope for all new moms that everyone could be graceful enough to say, ‘what works for you and your baby is good enough for me.’ And maybe if they can’t bring themselves to actually say the words, they are gracious enough to *not ever* berate or belittle what actually DOES work for so many babies and moms.

    Many blessings to you, your husband, and your little one, Kasey.

  5. avatar
    kpmomma says:

    Now that both of my kids are older, 7 and 10, I can read this and smile. Not out of meanness, but out of total understanding and from a completely different point of view than I had when I was in the throes of what you just described. I’ve been there, done that… twice. I am in full support of women’s right to breastfeed anywhere they want, within reason, and I think it’s sad when I watch a woman struggle with her cover in order to hide the feeding from those around her, but I do get irritated with the BREAST IS BEST! La Leche League Nazis because no, breast isn’t always best, that is a lie. My sister and I were adopted, my mother’s breast wasn’t best, it was dry and I had horrible luck at breastfeeding, my first child hated for her head to be up against anyone like you have to be when breastfeeding and she’d wail for hours when I’d try and get her to feed. Just settling into the crook of my arm sent her into hysterics. To this day she hates kisses and she leans her head away from people when she goes in for one of her signature sideways hugs. My youngest screamed for 4 hours two days after I brought her home from the hospital from trying to latch properly. Just getting a proper feeding with her took at least an hour each time. So, after that 4 hour stint I asked my husband to go get the bottle and formula the nurse sent us home with as I sobbed. My mother was there, remember we were adopted so she’d never had this issue, and when she realized what was going on she came in and interrogated me and made me feel like crap for giving up. Yep, because THAT’S what I needed right then and there! Ugh, so, I smile because you came to your senses and realized that, yes, there is SO much more to life than feeding your baby. The plus side of bottle feeding was that others could take over feedings while I got a little break now and then. Also, since my husband is an insomniac, he always took over the late-night/early morning feedings. Bonus for me!! :) Enjoy your sweet one, they grow up in a flash!

    • kpmomma,

      Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants/babies. This cannot be disputed. And many moms against formula are NOT against formula feeding moms but rather they are against a commercialized industry that makes a product full of chemicals & synthetics not meant for human consumption. They are against these companies that make false claims stating their formula products are “as good as” or “better than breastmilk.

      I too did not have an easy breastfeeding experience. I saw a LC nearly daily for 12 weeks until my postpartum depression pushed me to pump & bottle, then one night when my babe was 4 months he latched and has been breastfeeding since. I am a supporter of breastmilk but I resent being labeled as a “nazi”. First and foremost because its disrespectful to the people that endured the horrific actions from the holocaust but also because I’m just a mom trying to help our society shift back to what is natural, what is best, and what is possible for nearly every baby born. I support breastfeeding fully (including bfing or providing donor milk to adoptive babies). I support it so that what happens to you doesn’t happen to other moms. So that moms get the support they need to meet their BFing goals and because its the very best we can do for our babies. Yes, there are other things that matter in parenting but this is very important to many moms & what they need is support, not an easy way out or to have it implied that its “no big deal”.

      Thank you for sharing your story Kasey.

      • Don’t you see how calling formula “not fit for human consumption” can be hurtful to moms who have no choice but to give it to their babies? For them (myself included), it is the best possible alternative. No matter how much help they get, some mothers really aren’t able to produce enough milk to adequately feed their babies. It is hart breaking and stress-inducing enough for them without being told that they could do it if they were more committed. You couldn’t imagine the lengths to which some low supply moms have to go to even part-time nurse their babies, and still supplement with formula. MOBI International is a good place to start if you’d like to learn more. And an adequate supply of safe donor milk is just not as easy to come by as you make it seem.

        I appreciate what you are trying to advocate for, but in this case and in so many cases, women already know and have heard a thousand times that breast is best. What they need to be told is that they are best mom for their baby, whether or not they are able to breastfeed.

      • Cori, you’re missing the point. First, I’m highly offended by your suggestion that what I am feeding my baby is ‘not fit for human consumption.’ I won’t get into that argument. The shift in society needs to be about being more understanding to individual circumstances and needs of families, not to humiliate and disgrace mothers for just trying to do what’s best for their babies and themselves. I fought for my breast milk, but some moms may choose formula because of demanding careers, and many other circumstances. There are many more valuable things you can offer to your baby than breast milk. NONE of the moms who have commented here took ‘the easy way out’ and plenty of us had more than enough support…sometimes too much, from people like yourself.

        • Please do not misread my comment. You seem to be very offended when it was not directed at you or amy other momma personally. I was commenting to kpmomma for name-calling and no, I’m not missing the point. If you’ll note in my comment I too struggled GREATLY. I too have my own story of a very long, 4 month, journey with breastfeeding struggles that had me with lactation consultants nearly daily for 12+ weeks. I have spoken to groups of 20 yr veteran lactation consultants & lc’s in training about my struggles with breastfeeding. I am right there with all struggling moms so trust me, I get it. When I say that formula is not fit for human consumption that is not meant to hurt mothers. Had I had to use it or if I have to use it some day that fact will not change. I would encourage mothers to seek help to work through any guilt they have about not being able to meet their breastfeeding goals. I sought out counseling for my depression as it was affecting my relationship with my baby. And no, counseling may not erase the guilt of missing out on a breastfeeding relationship but it can help mothers shift their energy away from self blame or feelings of failure to a more realistic & positive acceptance so they aren’t hurt my comments not directed at them regarding this topic. I in no way think a mother who has done everything possible to breastfeed & ends up using formula is a failure. I respect, honor, and support them with a whole heart as I can empathize with their struggle. But by attacking the formula industry I am not attacking mothers. Every mother out there, breastfeeder or formula feeders alike should be damn angry at these companies. If you work your heart out to try to breastfeed & can’t, don’t you deserve the next best option for your baby? I also suggest the 4 Agreements people to help see things from an outside perspective and to learn how to recognize when actions or comments are directed at them personally & when they are not. I was not personally attacking any mother and I’m sorry if that is how my comment read.

        • Also, calling people who support breastfeeding “nazis” is the same as people that name call formula feeding moms. Isn’t the goal for us to all come together on support of one another? Imagine what could happen if mommies stopped this back & forth with one another and actually came together, storming down our government, our medical community, and the formula companies to demand the best! That seems like pretty powerful energy :)

          (Not sure why my last comment isn’t showing.)

          Cori

  6. I am so very grateful that I never ran into people who would judge me on breast or bottle; cloth or disposable; SAHM or WOHM. Because my choices were mine and they worked for my family. I do hope more moms start to write about how whatever your choice, as long as it results in a happy baby and happy mom, it’s the right choice.

    I’m a grandma now. And my job is to spoil my grandchildren. It’s up to their parents to figure out how to do all the rest of that stuff.

    • This world needs millions more grandmas like you! I had my mom, my mother in law, even my childless sister telling me all the things I was doing wrong and how my kids would suffer for them. It was hard to tune it all out, but I somehow managed and did what I thought was best. With most situations there are no right or wrong answers and I really wish more people could see that. So, thank you for letting your grandkid’s parents, “…figure out how to do all the rest of that stuff.” Your comment made me happy. :)

  7. 2 years ago I had my perfect baby boy and I desperately wanted to breastfeed. I had a similar experience to you where my milk was in very short supply. It wasn’t until I was 5 days in and my poor (starving!) baby wasnt sleeping for longer than 10 mins intervals that the nurses finally admitted there was a problem.
    In order to increase my supply they had me pumping every 2 hours for 30 mins – even during the night. I kept this up for four months and in the end I could still only pump a maximum of 15mL at a sitting… But they kept saying “don’t give up, breast is so much better, formula is not good for your baby’s development, just keep it up”. When he was 18 weeks old I gave up and started exclusively formula feeding.
    I loved my little boy with all my heart but they were the worst 18 weeks of my life. I didn’t think it was possible to be so exhausted or miserable.
    I am happy to report that I now have another bub – 9 week old adorable baby girl, my milk has come in amazingly (in fact I have an oversupply) and she has been exclusively breastfeed since the day she was born.
    And guess what… my gorgeous son has grown up healthy and is hitting development milestones early – even though he was formula fed.

    Thank you for writing this :) I too believe that breast is best if you are able… But a calm mother and a formula fed baby is much more preferable and healthy than a poor stressed out mum with a breastfeed bub.

  8. I had hardly any milk, too, and switched to feeding formula after six weeks. Now, one year later, my baby boy is a happy, healthy and lively child.
    I don’t feel guilty for not breastfeeding at all. I only feel sorry that I put him through all the stress and, most important, that he had to go hungry and cry himself to sleep over his empty stomach so many times in these horrible fist six weeks. If I had followed my heart and not listened to the brainwash I could have spared him that much earlier.

  9. My little girl is now 12 weeks old and 3 and 4 weeks were the hardest for me. My little one was feeding so often and constantly latching on and off, which was making me so sore and tired. I can remember nights where feeding was so painful my toes were curling! I kept being told by friends it was a growth spurt and would end in a couple of days – it didn’t! At those times switching to the bottle was so tempting and I finally appreciated why many do. My husband was a great support and came with me to see a lactation consultant and we learned that not only did I have a LOT of milk, I also had a VERY fast flow. This meant she was latching on and off all the time because she just couldn’t keep up! The milk was hitting her tummy so quickly she thought she was full when she wasn’t and then wanted more an hour later. Thankfully through just changing our feeding position things dramatically changed and within a week she was latching on well, feeding every 3 hours and I was no longer sore or exhausted! It was so simple, I just had to completely ignore what they taught me in class! I now realise that the positioning they taught me only works if you have an average supply and average flow of milk and so many of us don’t. I wish I had known more about supply and flow before I started feeding, I would have realised that breastfeeding was not quite as straightforward as I had imagined!

  10. Thank you SO much for sharing this! My experience with my first was identical. I was devastated to be unable to produce enough milk for him, and promised myself the hope that it would work better for my second.

    While I did produce more for my second son, I wasn’t able to keep up with demand. I spent hours of each day feeding and pumping and supplementing for the first three months of his life. Then I decided that the lack of sleep on top of the HOURS I spent feeding were taking a toll on me and my family.

    Both of my boys are thriving and healthy. Both were more satisfied and happier when I decided to make feeding easier. But there are still times that I doubt myself, wondering if maybe there was something else I could have done, feeling envious of the moms I see breastfeeding so easily and carefree in public. I have to remind myself that formula is, in fact, nutritionally balanced food that is helping my baby grow. It’s easier now that we’re approaching six months and about to introduce real food into his diet.

  11. It is stories like this one, as well as my own, that have convinced me that the breastfeeding rallying cry of “hardly any woman has low milk supply” is a total myth. Since the beginning of time woman have supplemented their low milk supply with milk from goats, camels, cows, sheep, as well as handing their babies over to sisters and friends who had more milk, or hiring a wet nurse – apparently it was common historically and I think the complete shame those of us have who can’t solely nurse our babies comes from modern pressure. You were smart in supplementing early – I waited 4 months until my baby girl wasn’t even on the weight charts anymore and my life was a complete misery – she was sleeping approximately ten hours a week in 20 min. intervals and screaming the rest of the time. After deciding to supplement, we still nursed for two years, but the pressure was off me to be her sole food provider and we both began to enjoy each other. It’s reassuring to me to read that so many other women have had the same problem and that I wasn’t a “lazy” or “unwilling” mother in terms of our nursing troubles.

    • I found out my first week of college that my mom had breastfed me AND few of my friends. Apparently, we were all just passed around when it was necessary:) If my mom left me with her friend and I fussed while she was out, that mom would nurse me until I settled down. And my mom would do the same.

      I found out when my mom came to my college and asked me if I knew ________. I was surprised that my mom knew who this girl (a fellow freshman) was. Turns out she had been the daughter of this group of women and…

      Anyway. I also know she gave all four of us kids cows milk well before one year and didn’t bat an eye. You are right- women have supplemented and done whatever works for ages. Formula saved my sanity when my third came along. The pressure to bf exclusively is too much sometimes.

  12. Thank you so much for this post. I relate entirely to what you write, for I went through the same. Only no one told me the baby would make noise swallowing until it was too late and I had no specialist help, apart from the doctors telling me I should keep pumping. Pump I did, day and night, until she was one month old. That’s when it became clear that no milk was ever coming out of my (huge) breasts. One thing I know for a fact: we can raise perfectly healthy babies without a single drop of breast milk. My eldest, who is now seven years old, was fifteen months old when she had a running nose for the first time. No fever, no cold, just a running nose. I have read once an article on the scientific reasons why breast is best and there seems to be really very little evidence that breast is any best at all. My daughters have both been truly health babies and we bonded strongly. With no breast milk.

  13. That was me!!! THREE times over (including an ER visit via ambulance with my first due to undiagnosed mastitis that resulted in a fever of 105 and slipping in and out of consciousness (everything hurt, how was I to know that red bump was any different than the rest of the ‘area’)). I would sit in the Pediatricians office and cry to him (poor awkward guy) and he would reassure me that I’m a great mom and what I was making just wasn’t cutting it. Tried just supplementing but after too long there was less and less breast milk and before I knew It I had formula fed babes. Looking back, those were some of the most miserable weeks of my life. Not because of the pain or lack of sleep but because I sat around beating myself up and feeling like a failure when I should have been enjoying my new babies. I now have three very healthy kidos (7, 5, 2) and I’ve come to the conclusion that you need to do what works for you! Tune out the ‘noise’ and enjoy your kids!

  14. Your pediatrician sounds so wise: do what you can, until you can’t do it sanely anymore? Love it.

    My experience with new motherhood and breastfeeding was bumpy, to put it mildly. Not much felt “natural” about that very natural experience!

  15. avatar
    Melissa says:

    I could have written this myself. I was moved to tears. My children are now 7 and 2 1/2 but I remember clearly the agony of feeling like a failure, crying all the time, and trying everything under the sun to make it work. Your pediatrician is very wise and I wish someone had said that to me. Today, my kids are healthy and happy and I learned that sometimes the you have to let go of your image of what a “good” mom is so that you can be good–to yourself, your partner, and your children. That was a valuable lesson.

  16. avatar
    young c says:

    K, I’m glad that you were able to get help for you and your family. Your story sounds similar, but our issue with our firstborn was that he was tongue tied, which made for painful nursing and frequent nursing. I wasn’t aware of the possibility, so was very anxious for quite a while. I now know, do what’s best for your family regardless of the advice. Thanks for sharing!

  17. I’m so happy you wrote this – and it’s encouraging seeing SO MANY comments of similar stories. I’ve also had an awful experience breastfeeding with all three of my kids. I definitely had low milk supply – and spent most of my day feeding (crying, it hurt so bad), pumping, taking fenugreek and blessed thistle, oatmeal, almonds, mother’s milk tea – just about anything to help me produce more. I could never satisfy any of my kids… so for our third child, I decided that it was okay to bottle feed and this is the first time I have been able to actually enjoy my baby.

  18. avatar
    Tracy Safran says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. As I was reading it so many memories from 7 years ago came flooding back to me. It was my first child and I was determined to breastfeed her. But for several nights she would cry (and I would too). After many visits to the lactation specialist, pumping to get every drop of milk, even trying a drug to help stimulate my milk (this led me to having spasms in my jaw and I almost ended up in the ER), I finally gave in to the fact that I couldn’t produce enough milk for my daughter. It was heartbreaking. She is now a very healthy rising 2nd grader. At the time I felt exhausted and very alone. It is comforting to read others similar stories. I only wish I could have read these stories back then to help comfort me. Again, thank you for sharing.

  19. Very similar to yours. I struggled for four months, but I simply didn’t produce enough milk. I was exhausted and my baby was never satisfied. I finally gave in and began to bottle feed. It was like night and day. I felt like a total failure, but realized that my poor son had been hungry all the time. I wish I had switched to bottles much earlier for his sake.

  20. Your experience is almost identical to mine!!! Never fought so hard for anything in my life like I did to breast feed. Never got to a pkace where I could exclusively feed her. The first month or so, I cried each time I had to deed because I needed to supplement with formula. And every drop of my milk was called “liquid gold” by my husband, stepdaughter and family. I’m grateful for what I was able to give my baby. She has always been fine in spite of my low supply. Moms, hang in there. You are not alone, as this post and all these comments so clearly demonstrate. My obgyn kept telling me to keep it in perspective, “Babies in the neediest and most desperate parts of the world still thrive. They are made to live! Yours will be fine.”

    • Sorry for the typos!! Typing while on the bus…

      Corrected portion reads: “Never got to a place where I could exclusively feed her. The first month or so, I cried each time I had to feed because I needed to supplement with formula.”

  21. avatar
    Lori F. says:

    Thank you for being “real” enough to write this. My sons are 13 and 9 years old and I still remember those early days with my first son. The initial problem was poor positioning. Once I solved that, with the help of the hospital-issued breastfeeding booklet, a new problem arose. My son developed colic. I started doing online research and realized that my diet may be the problem. He couldn’t tolerate the milk and dairy products I was consuming. When he was one month old, I eliminated dairy from my diet and persisted until he was 6 months old. At that time I was able to gradually reintroduce dairy into my diet and my son was able to tolerate the change. I breastfed exclusively until solids were introduced and then started to use some formula. But I can tell you, the first month of his life, I was miserable. Breastfeeding my first child was the most difficult thing I have ever done. Exhausting, frustrating and painful. I persisted, but I lost early bonding time with my son because in my hormonal state, I felt like we were enemies to each other and I just wasn’t cut out to be a mom.
    I also breastfed my second son since I had developed more experience and felt more equipped to handle any issues. The second time was a breeze! No dietary issues and I worked from the beginning to establish good positioning and latch on.
    Life is a journey, not a sprint. Formula feeding is not evil as it has been portrayed. We mothers must give ourselves grace because, as I now see, a heart full of love is the most important thing to offer your little one.

  22. avatar
    Kristin says:

    Your post was perfect!! Thank you for your honesty because I can’t even imagine how many new mommies you have encouraged. Thank you for opening up this discussion! We need to spend more time encouraging new moms in this! No one tells you how hard it just might be. I too struggled with breastfeeding immensely! Because of the drug type I foolishly let them give me for pain in labor, my daughter was kind of lethargic after birth…a nurse sort of showed me how to latch her, but not really. She left the room. It was me and my husband and within seconds of my little one on my breast, she turned a most horrible shade of blue and had stopped breathing. My husband had to run out in the hallway and find someone-they ran in, pinked her up, and casually told me that sometimes babies forget to breathe. From that point on, not only was I not sure at all what I was doing, I was terrified she would stop breathing again. She was born in the evening and there were no lactation consultants working at that time of course. My post partum nurse was more interested in explaining the paperwork we needed to complete before we left than helping me. I struggled all night trying to feed her and by morning, my nipples were horrendously sore. My morning nurse did a little bit better and took a little more time helping me, but by then the damage had already been done and I was miserable. The night we went home, things only got worse…I tried and tried…and I cried and CRIED!! We were up all night. My poor husband and mother tried to console me and told me we should just try some formula, but I too was terrified of all the literature on how bad it was for babies. I called the lactation ladies the next morning and asked if I could just pump ONE bottle so my husband could feed her and I could take a nap…and they said…NO. That I shouldn’t do that. Rather than encouraging me and hearing my tears, they made me feel inadequate and that I wasn’t doing a good enough job…nor did they tell me to come in for any help or instruction. I struggled on. I was miserable. The next night I went to the ER for a very high fever, and rather than focusing on myself and what was wrong with me, I cried and cried to my husband and nurse, that I had to get home and feed my baby…what was she going to do without my breastmilk!? And after yet another night of a screaming baby and horribly painful nipples, I took her to the pediatrician and as reassuringly as can be, he said, “You can give her a bottle of formula…you NEED a break…you NEED a nap. And yes, you can pump!” And I burst into tears in front of this wonderful man. For whatever reason, I could only accept that this was acceptable to do, if it was ok in his eyes…to have him assure me that giving my daughter formula wouldn’t make her less smart or give her autism or make her obese. That a bottle of breastmilk wouldn’t confuse her for life. We went home, she had some formula, I got some sleep and I was then able to finally enjoy my new daughter! And reassure my husband that I hadn’t, in fact, gone insane. I tried my best to pump and nurse and made it to month 6 with much supplementation as well. I had to accept that we, through no fault of our own, had gotten off on the wrong foot. And that my daughter would still love me, even though I had not exclusively fed her breast milk. She is now 6 and smart as can be, and one of the lights of my life…even after formula. :)
    May all of our stories, bless and encourage new mommies!!

  23. avatar
    Tiffany R says:

    I am so glad to hear these stories and know that I am not alone. This was me with my daughter. I tried day and night to breast feed her but she just wasn’t getting enough and she was losing weight rapidly. Countless hours spent at the doctor’s office and with lactation consultants just left me feeling inadequate and frustrated. Once we switched to formula, she gained weight and flourished. It was then that I realized that being a good mom meant doing what was needed for MY child, not just what popular culture told me to do. Thank you so much for your story! And that baby is now 11 years old and has grown bigger than I am!

  24. Our stories are so similar I could have written this myself.

  25. avatar
    Alexandra says:

    Breastfeeding mothers or those attempting to breastfeed should look into ordering a pair of silverettes (nipple covers made of pure silver) because they heal irritated and cracked nipples. They’re available in Europe and are made in Italy and I think they can be delivered from England and possibly amazon. I’m sorry to hear about your experience and of those who shared in the comments. I just wish your message was more inclusive of both breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. This message could scare some moms from even trying to breastfeed and that’s a huge responsibility to have on your shoulders. No mention of LLL or any of the other ways that moms have struggled and succeeded in breastfeeding is a shame in my mind.

    • “This message could scare some moms from even trying to breastfeed and that’s a huge responsibility to have on your shoulders.”

      You think the author is responsible for the choices other people make about what to feed their child by simply telling her story? I’m sorry, but it is precisely this attitude that has silenced so many women to the point where they feel like they’ve failed at breastfeeding when everyone else can do it because no one wants to admit to having to supplement. People have been supplementing breastmilk, without shame, when they needed it, for millenia.

      • I wish that silver nipple shields were the answer to my problems! I’m not a marketing campaign nor a publicist for LLL. Thank you, Terra.

    • I don’t think the intent of this post was to educate mothers about breastfeeding. It was to share the vastly under-served number of mothers who try desperately to breastfeed and are unable to do so for any number of reasons. There are so many resources available to breastfeeding women but not to those who are unable to breastfeed.

      After my first child had lost so much weight that she was on the precipice of failure to thrive, the doctor and lactation consultant gave me formula to supplement. I couldn’t even find information about how much formula a two week old should be drinking because all of the books focused on breastfeeding. THAT is a shame.

      • I struggled to find any information about how much formula to feed my child as well. I remember one of the lactation consultants (and there were many) telling me that I should feed her upright and give her as little formula as possible. She suggested I might be overfeeding my baby. The poor thing had dropped over a pound and this woman was worried about the percentage of breast milk to formula she was getting? Looking back, I realize how absurd her argument was, but at the time, I counted those ounces…I’ve never been better at math.

    • Alexandra- Your comment is EXACTLY the reason why more blog posts like this need to be written! Bottle feeding is NOT something to be ashamed of. Your ignorance, however, is. The point of this post and these comments were to support new mothers in whatever works best for them. Period.

  26. Thank you for writing this and thank God for all of the positive comments. With both of my boys I decided I would try breastfeeding, but honestly it didn’t feel natural to me, at all. It felt strange and weird. My first didn’t ever get a good latch and I pumped all the time, then fed him the bottle of breast milk, for 2 weeks. Then the supply just ran out. With my second, we did get it down, and he fed well, but my supply was low. I also have a rare migraine disorder that requires daily medication. I of course was off of this medication during pregnancy, but the swing of hormones after birth required it within the first two weeks with my second born. I had to stop. I felt like a failure and dealt with disapproving comments from my husband’s family and the nurses at the hospital. It was horrible. My question is why do the nurses in the medical field have to be so rude and uncaring? They were the worst.

  27. My son is almost three years old. The biggest lesson I have learned so far in his short life is to really listen to your gut instinct and try to clear your head of the outside noise. Getting advice from medical professionals, friends and family, etc is not to be discounted. However, there are tons of published material that will tell you what/how to feed your child, how to sleep train, potty train and everything else. Listen to your heart. As a mom with a newborn, we often get overwhelmed (no wonder with all of the hormones out of whack) with usually sleepless nights and then trying to figure out what makes our particular child tick. I certainly don’t have it “figured out”, but I have learned to go with my gut and it is usually what works best!

  28. avatar
    Alexandra says:

    Any breastfeeding mom or mom trying to breastfeed should look into silverettes (nipple caps that are made of pure silver) that heal the nipple and surrounding tissue like nothing else. They helped me heal a huge nipple plug that finally burst (this was at three and a half years of nursing my son) and nothing helped like these silverettes. They’re available in Europe (made in Italy) and can be found on amazon, http://www.family-nation.com/silverette-nursing-cups.html and http://www.breastangels.co.uk/ (among other websites) with international delivery. I also attended La Leche League meetings throughout my breastfeeding experience.
    I am so sorry to hear about all of your heart-wrenching stories but I also encourage the author to be aware that many mothers have struggled with breastfeeding and succeeded and that while I don’t judge the stories shared here, that a positive message could be included about where to get help that works (sharing with other mothers that have had positive experiences, ie through support group meetings like La Leche League) because sometimes pediatricians don’t know that much about breastfeeding and sometimes lactation consultants have never breastfed their own children.

    • I agree ;)

    • Unfortunately, in all my experiences with La Leche League (attending meetings when I was pregnant, reading the book front to back, calling leaders, and scouring the website). I have never encountered any honest discussion for mothers with legitimate low milk supply, only shame for not having “tried hard enough.” I know it feels like you are protecting other new mothers from feeling discouraged, but you are also making mothers who can not breastfeed no matter how hard they try feel like failures.

  29. Thank you for putting this put there. When my oldest was an infant I was an emotional, physical, mental HOT MESS because I was unable to successfully breast feed my son. My mom and husband told me to just give him a bottle so we could all get some sleep and return to some semblance of normal life. I did not agree with them because the “experts” PUSH breast is best and make you feel guilty if you even suggest formula. Eventually I gave in to my mom and husbamd and by golly…we got some sleep and our kids have turned out happy and healthy so far!

  30. avatar
    Pamela R says:

    Wow. As someone who did breastfeed three children and who struggled sometimes quite a lot, it sounds like the community of people (medical people included) didn’t offer you much support. I supported nursing moms for more than 7 years and I would be the first to say that natural doesn’t mean easy. It makes me so sad to think that there are moms out there struggling alone.

    Breastfeeding is sometimes very difficult and can be so different for each child (some moms who felt like it was a breeze for previous children tell this type of story for their third or fourth child and then feel silly for asking for help at that point).

    For anyone reading this article pre-baby, please seek out mama’s who have been there, La Leche League Leaders, lactation consultants, supportive birth staff, as much support as you can. The best support comes from those who have been there and struggled and are willing to share experiences and knowledge, not give canned advice. No one should feel like they have to figure out breastfeeding alone.

    I would also like to second that comments that say parent from the gut. As my children get older, this becomes even more important. There are many ways to parent, but you are the only one who knows what’s right for you and your child.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • I agree that there sounds like a significant lack of support in this situation. Another suggestion for mommas-to-be is to ask your potential pediatricians questions related to breast feeding support when you go in for your interviews. What do they recommend to mothers who are having difficulty and such? This person needs to be a champion of what YOU want, rather than what is going to get the baby up on the growth charts which don’t necessarily match the growth patterns of breastfed babies. Also, make contact with lactation consultants BEFORE you deliver and certainly before you are a hormonal wreck. Ask them the same questions you ask the pediatricians and compare notes. Develop your arsenal when you are thinking a little more clearly and can prepare yourself for the potential bumps ahead. Best of luck to all the mommas out there!

      • I’m sorry that your takeaway from my article was that I lacked a support system. In fact, I had amazing support; from doctors, lactation consultants, and most importantly, friends and family. Sometimes, no matter how much support you have, either before or after you give birth, it just doesn’t work, and that’s ok. I wanted to share my story to help other women let go of the guilt and stop thinking ‘if only I tried harder.’ Of course an 800 word article doesn’t tell the whole story, it was a small slice of the picture.

        • Kasey – THANK YOU for sharing that you did have great support and that sometimes despite that, it still doesn’t work out. What a relief and a huge blessing for me to hear that. I too was given the “you didn’t have enough support” the first time, so months before my second child was born, way before the “hormonal wreck” period started, I lined up my support team, lactation consultant, doula, anybody who could help (limited still by some standards since I live overseas but way MORE than the first time) – however, in the end, even my doula said, she doesn’t know what happened or what reason to give me, about it not working! Sigh…..thank you for allowing us to be OK and guilt free when it doesn’t work and we STILL get credit for it!

  31. I hardley every comment on blogs, but I just had to this time. Thank you for writing this! My story is very similar. One year ago my son was born. I was excited about nursing him. I had read all the books and taken a class. I was ready. Well, he came out with a lip tie and and a tongue tie. Trying to get him to latch was so frustrating. I had 5, yes 5, different lactation consultants in the hospital trying to help me. I went home terrified. What if I couldn’t feed my baby. I tried to nurse every feeding but he had the hardest time latching correctly (because of the ties). I was also pumping 8 to 10 times a day. Finally at 11 days old we had his lip and tongue tie lasered and I was hopeful. We continued trying and supplementing with formula, and I continued my crazy amount of pumping. I was only getting one to one and a half ounces combined at each pump. I tried fenugreek capsules. I tried Mother’s Milk supplements, and I even tried beer (I don’t drink). Nothing worked. I couldn’t get my supply up and I was making myself crazy. I cried for hours on end each day feeling like a failure and crying out to God in frustration. I gave my son what little I collected each day and supplemented with the formula. I kept on wondering how long can I keep this up, but I just couldn’t let it go. Every time I thought of quitting I would beat myself up. Finally, some dear friends stepped in and started texting me and calling me. They told me that they would have given up weeks ago, and that I did all that I could. That I needed to take care of myself so that I could take care of my son. THAT was what was best for him. Then these dear mommy friends gave me ounces upon ounces of milk they had stored in the freezer (their babies wouldn’t take a bottle). So at 9 weeks I stopped nursing. I grieved, but I healed. I realized that taking care of my son with my sanity intact was more important. Thank God for good friends.

  32. I never breastfed my baby. I didn’t even hold him for the first time until he was months old. He didn’t leave the hospital until he was 6 months old weighing less than 5 pounds. Stop worrying about the little stuff and be happy you have a healthy baby. My baby is now 12 years old. He”s smart, athletic and a kind boy. Enjoy the good times. I don’t want to waste my time remembering the 2am calls from the hospital.

  33. I have a friend who waited “25 years” until she was able to have a child. Of course, she anxiously looked forward to nursing this long awaited baby, but it was not to be and she had too many difficulties nursing and had to switch to bottle feeding. He is a healthy, strapping 16 yr old now.

  34. Your story was so much like mine, it brings back those old emotions. I also was determined to nurse, had a great latch but low milk supply. I was devastated. In Canada we have comparidons, a med that can help. It helped a bit but nowhere near to stop supplementing. I stressed myself out by pumping, nursing, bottle feeding. If only I had known, the more I pumped did not help in my cAse. With my second child i was more prepared. I still did both but I didn’t do all that extra pumping. What I discovered, especially when my babies were so starved and we were in public, it was easier to bottle feed. at home, especially when we were relaxed and when they were sleepy, it was easier to nurse. I did both for at least 5-7 months, and when they nursed less, I would just pump a bit to keep up my supply. It was not ideal but at least they received some breast milk. It does not have to be only one or the other. Moms should however do what works as a very stressed, exhausted Mom does not help baby and can lead to depression. It seems so hard at first but down the road other moms will also not be breast feeding anymore and there is so much more to parenting than just nursing. I have a strong bond with my kids, in spite of it all. Stay encouraged mamas! You will be ok!

  35. As a labor and birth nurse, it saddens me to hear so many stories of difficult breastfeeding. We Moms need SO much support in the early weeks! Not only with feeding issues, but simply becoming a mom to a beautiful, but very demanding little person :)
    Motherhood is exhausting and when you add on feeding difficulties it is so hard. ANY amount of breastmilk that you give your baby makes a difference. Truly it does.
    I do have the opinion that in 99% of cases, it is NOT a milk supply issue; rather it is a milk TRANSFER issue. Poor latch, and especially undiagnosed tongue ties and lip ties can make getting your milk to your baby very difficult until it is corrected. If the milk doesn’t get to the baby, then your body continues to make less milk.
    Poor latch=poor emptying of breast-=decreasing milk supply
    My advice is to not be too hard on yourselves when we are new moms. We all make the best decisions we can at the time. Please keep reaching out for help–there are many experts out there who can help.
    I applaud the mom who shared her frozen breast milk with her friend. What a lovely gift. Donor milk should be readily available to help all of us over the humps until we get breastfeeding established.

    • Annie, I am confident that you are trying to encourage but your comment is not helpful in situations like this. As a mother who was absolutely unable to breastfeed after tremendous family and medical support, your comment that in 99% of all cases it’s XYZ is exactly the kind of personal opinion that needs not be shared. You’ve not been in our shoes and you offer no research to support your opinion. When new mothers read comments like yours, it feels like, “gosh, if I just did more it would work.” There are a vast number of reasons that sometimes it just doesn’t work regardless of how hard someone tries.

      • Thank you! This is exactly how I felt when medical professionals and lactation consultants offered their help. They made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough, that my problem was a lack of effort (as if it wasn’t enough to feel like my body was failing me). I was told to take prescription medication. I remember a nurse saying (in retrospect) “I would have just had you drink tons of water…” A waitress overheard me sharing my story with a friend and chimed in, “You should have drank some Guinness!” If my problem is one that only 1% of the population shares, I find it surprising to hear so many stories that match my own.

    • Should-a, Could-a, Would-a… A happy, healthy baby is the goal. I always thought it funny how my friends who breast fed had to give their babies vitamin supplements. Mine didn’t have to take any because their formula provided everything they needed. Makes you think…

      • Kpmomma, PLEASE educate yourself on the ingredients of formula. Most are not meant for human consumption. Please also see my post response above to you.

  36. Amen! I had the exact same issues. I wish I had seen this post when I was having these issues. I’m glad to know I’m not alone here. I had no milk supply – just a couple drops and from only my right side (I don’t even know how that’s possible). I did EVERY thing I could think of: fenugreek, mothers milk, oatmeal, staying super hydrated…nothing worked. I nursed and pumped around the clock and was, at most, able to pump 8ml one time. I would pour that tiny little amount of “liquid gold” into a vile of formula and feed her via SNS (like an iv drip where you tape a tube to your boob and the baby latches but she’s getting the milk from the drip tube/straw and basically is faux nursing). It’s supposed to simulate nursing and stimulate the milk. It was a huge hassle and didn’t even work for me. After several visits with my doctor, lactation consultant and even blood-work they still had no idea why I couldn’t produce milk, I just didn’t. Neither of them had ever seen a mother who’s milk just never came in and I was very upset that I couldn’t even feed my own baby. I felt like I had failed. The lactation consultant finally told me, “you did everything you possibly could, it’s OK to give your baby formula, she needs it, you need it”. I guess I just needed someone to tell me it was OK and that I could stop trying so hard. It made everyone’s life so much better once I started giving her a bottle and I’m so glad. She’s happy, healthy and thriving. I gave myself an “A for effort” and let go of the breast-is-best mentality for my situation.

  37. Amen to your words. Wise pediatrician too! I too have a similar story.

  38. avatar
    Deborah P says:

    I read this post and yesterday’s on Common Grace back-to-back and they struck me as having a common chord. Giving yourself grace and the rest of us giving moms (and dads) grace by assuming that they’re making the best decisions they can given their circumstances (which aren’t always known to us). I think we judge ourselves and others too harshly sometimes. So, in addition to looking for the common grace all around me, I’m reminded to extend grace to myself and others. Thank you for sharing.

  39. Thank you for all of your comments so far – they mean so much! I will do my best to respond individually where I can. To be completely transparent: I also took fenugreek supplements, guzzled water like it was my job, and my daughter has been exclusively bottle fed since she was 1 month old. Her 1 month birthday was the day I decided to forgive myself and move on, but I won’t lie: there have been many occasions where someone will say something or I’ll see something and pangs of guilt spark up again. I also developed mastisis in my right breast on day 2 (thankfully, pumping helped it from developing further and requiring antibiotics but my milk supply in that breast virtually plummeted after that). I am thankful for the support system I had, and for a wise pediatrician but I cannot tell you how many times lactation consultants assured me that ‘putting her back on the breast’ would solve all of my problems.

  40. avatar
    Michelle Blanco says:

    This was my exact same story. It has made me so angry at the lack of knowledge in the medical community of breastfeeding problems and how to diagnose them. Heck, it’s hard to even get them to admit that real problems exist – and I think it’s more than they will admit. I have a condition called Insufficient Glandular Tissue. I’m trying to educate more people about it. Thank you so much for sharing and your honesty.

  41. avatar
    Retro Mod Momma says:

    I luckily produce a ton of milk. Lots and lots. Need to even take some out before I feed. But my babe doesn’t know how to suck. At 6 weeks we are still struggling with latch on and though I’m not bleeding anymore and not crying anymore it still isn’t right. Thank God the pain has lessened. It’s amazing the damage they can do. I didn’t even feel pain on one side and yet he still was throwing up bright red blood all morning from that side. It was terrifying. This is my second and I keep thinking, “I know how to do this what’s wrong with me?” Nothing. Every kid is different and every experience unique. It gets better I know. And it is so good for everyone. The difference this time if I can encourage you at all is that even though I was in more pain I wasn’t as hesitant to feed as I was the first time. I remember feeling the first time that she wanted to eat all the time too and I couldn’t keep up. I was angry, frustrated and just wanted her to sleep and leave me alone. But this too shall pass. Eventually it was a mindless activity Truly. Good luck to you, hang in there and do what’s best for your baby. My notes from the first one was, feed if it’s really what she wants. Even if its less than three hours. It doesn’t happen like that always. Fluctuations are normal and it saves everyone a ton of tears. Something so “natural” doesn’t come naturally. My mother thinks I’m crazy. “Why don’t you just feed with the bottle and make it easy on yourself?” Stand by your choices and your decisions. Because they are yours.

  42. thank you, thank you, thank you! thank you for writing about a topic some of us mothers are so hesitant to talk about. we’re so worried about the judgement, the comments, the honesty of it all.

    as a fellow mother who was told to keep putting my babies back to my breast, that my body would figure it out, that i needed to drink more water, pump more, rest more, etc. none of these suggestions worked for me. and seriously, rest more?! i was feeding my daughter pretty much around the clock and when she wasn’t on the breast, she was screaming. finally one evening about 6 weeks after her birth, my husband told me to go to bed and get some sleep, he was going to give our daughter a bottle. that sweet night i got *hours* of sleep. it was amazing. from that point forward, my daughter was a formula baby. this time around with my son, i was much more forgiving. i had the same issues with him-he was never satiated. i pumped instead of offering him the breast thinking it was the latch or the position. but he would gulp down my entire stock (more than one pumping session) and still scream for more. today he is 3 weeks old and totally formula fed. the guilt that i had with my daughter was immense, very heavy, always on my shoulders. with my son, i know that i am a good mom, that i am doing the best that i can, and have no guilt at all about that.

  43. How wonderful is it to know that there are others out there who struggle with the same issues that we do? Even if we do not know one another, reading their stories makes you feel so much less alone.

    The line ‘your story could be mine’ has been used several times already, but it is very nearly true. My little girl is 20 months old, how crazy is it to think that she’s already almost 2…where has the time gone? Anyway, at the hospital after she was born, they had me pump to stimulate the milk to come in. My production was fine, but my little one wouldn’t latch for more than a few swallows. Once she let go it was nearly impossible to get her latched again and she would scream and cry, and we would keep trying and it just wouldn’t work. I felt horrible, what kind of mother can’t even feed her own daughter? My sister produced tons of milk and successfully breastfed her children, what was wrong with me that I couldn’t? I would cry and stress about it until finally after several weeks my husband gently suggested getting a pump and trying to feed it to her in a bottle. I relented because I didn’t know what else to do. She had gained back her birth weight, but not any more. To my amazement she drank it down just fine. After that it became our ritual. I would pump and store it, when she was hungry we would feed her. It was blessing because at night while I would pump my husband would be the one cuddling her and feeding her and sharing that special time while during the day it was my special mommy time.

    Anyway, the problem came down to my nipples apparently not being ‘large’ enough. I had no idea such a problem even existed. Low production, infections, to fast a flow, all of those I had heard of, but too small of nipples? I hope to try again with our next one, as everyone says your body changes and every child is different. Never feel alone or like you must be the only one that experiences these types of problems. Women have been breastfeeding for millenia and have been experiencing these same issues for millenia. Our society places such a stigma on things and many such topics become taboo, but why? Breastfeeding, child birth, and parenting and the problems associated with each of them are a natural part of our lives, and the lives of our parents, grandparents and other ancestors going back through time. Thank you for having the courage to share your story and to validate the fears and concerns of many others I know struggle this this same issue.

  44. avatar
    Kristen says:

    We brought our son home when he was 9 days old. Although I had read about adoptive mothers and breastfeeding, I chose formula. It was the wisest and best choice for me, for my son, and for our family. We struggled with finding a formula that he could tolerate, acid reflux and his interrupted sleep, and developmental delays. We continue to live the amazingly physical-emotional experience of adoption and being first-time parents to one child. Now our son is 6 years old and starting his second year of kindergarten. He perseveres. He is so lively, observant and thoughtful. Lately we have these conversations where I feel like I can really see the man he is becoming. Will we have another child? Adoption? Pregnancy? I don’t know the answer but I know I don’t need to worry about it any more.

  45. avatar
    Adrianne says:

    My story is also similar. I had a c-section with my daughter and it felt like hours before I got to be with her. It probably was only a couple hours but I still wonder if that didnt help. We struggled for months to nurse. I would nurse and pump and store and feel horrible. My husband was super supportive. I would be upset and worry if I should just stop – everyone else told me I should quit. That there was nothing wrong with giving her a bottle. But I just couldnt wrap my head around it.

    I had to return to work after she was 2 months old and we had some breast milk stored that we supplemented with formula. I pumped at work (sometimes crying as I did so, I also just wanted to be home)

    Eventually we decided to move to Italy when she was 8 months old and by then I felt comfortable enough to drop the formula because she was also eating baby foods (also homemade, yah I was hard on myself lol)

    We did keep nursing. In fact we are doing led weaning ans shes 3.5 and I believe she is working on being done. She forgets to nurse all the time now and when she does its about once a day. Back then I would have never thought I would make it past a year much less 3 plus years. I still worried about whether or not she was getting enough however I cant complain that this hasnt been an incredible experience.

    Do it in the way that gives you the most peace. I know that when we decide to have another kid if we have to do both nurse and supplement its okay. To you and all the mamas – sounda like you are doing everything for your baby and when it comes down to it thats all you can do.

  46. Wow it is so nice to know that other people have struggled as well. I did breast feed but, it was not easy or pretty. At first I had a “short nipple” or basically my daughter could not get my nipple on one side into her little mouth. So I had to have a silicone cone or whatever put over it so I would nurse regular on one side and put that cone on the other. It worked until it finally popped out enough that I no longer needed to use it.
    I also struggled with nursing and just getting sleep or even time to myself for even five minutes. It was not easy just hang in there and do the best that you can. That is all anyone can do as a parent.
    Good luck.

  47. Wow it is nice to hear that someone else struggles as well. You will get through it.
    I struggled as well because one of my nipples was not out as far as it needed to be so I had to go to a lactation consultant and they gave me a silicone cone to put over my nipple so that way when my daughter sucked it could be drawn out more. So for one side she had the cone and the other none. It worked for awhile and I was very thankful that she did not get confused with me using it.
    I struggled with lack of sleep, being half crazy, and nursing. Honestly would not trade that time or struggles for anything. We made it through although at the time it was not easy.
    Good luck

  48. Your story is my story. My daughter is now 3.5 years old and she is happy and intelligent. I was able to nurse my second child exclusively for 3 months but then I had to switch to formula for his main source of nourishment. And none of it matters now – he is 1.5 years old and he is also happy and intelligent. As my lactation consultant said, “None of us are in the business of starving babies.”. Both you and your baby need to be nourished and loved.

  49. avatar
    Katelyn says:

    I firmly believe that you do what works for you and your family. This applies to all parenting topics – sleep, nursing, childcare. People need to understand and accept that one person’s decisions for their family are not a judgement on someone else’s differing decisions for their different family.

    I produced a ton of milk (so much that his latch readjustments to accommodate the heavy flow had me very sore at first) and after the first few awkward weeks (and a thrush diagnosis I had to fight for at 4 weeks) my son and I settled comfortably into our nursing relationship. My story is very different from yours but even with a very positive breastfeeding story, you cannot please everyone. There’s always going to be something that someone else doesn’t like.

    - People didn’t like that I chose not to pump and never used a bottle with my son. Grandparents felt I was somehow taking something away from them because I wouldn’t hand him off to them with a bottle for several hours.
    - People didn’t like that I was fine with my son waking to nurse at night after he turned 4 months old. They kept suggesting ways to sleep train him. He was one of those babies who woke when going to the bathroom and didn’t start sleeping “through the night” until after potty training at 2.5 years.
    - People didn’t like that I wore my son in a sling or baby carrier past the tiny baby, infant stage. “Put that baby in a stroller. He’s too big to carry.” were phrases I heard multiple times. It didn’t seem to matter that he was happy to be in the carrier and I never complained about his heaviness.
    - People seemed baffled that it wasn’t a big deal to me when my son didn’t take immediately to eating table foods. He refused purees and then gummed and spit out larger pieces until well over a year old.
    - Some people didn’t like that we chose for me to be a stay at home mom. “Don’t expect me to do that, ” my sister in law said to her husband.

    My son turned 3 yesterday. He’s happy and healthy and a sweet imaginative child. Our nursing relationship lasted 35 months. However, what really matters is that regardless of individual decisions, I work hard to have a positive parent-child relationship with him because that will last a lifetime.

  50. yes, i had the same problems breastfeeding. we supplemented with a friend’s expressed milk until i produced enough myself by pumping after each feeding. i must say my husband’s support was instrumental because i told him i wanted to do this, so he was committed as well. i feel for you.

  51. Kasey,

    Thank you SO much for sharing your story. I was able to breast feed/pump for SOME (a very little) of my son’s nutrition until he was about 6 months old. We had to supplement with formula from the first weeks of his life and then switch exclusively to a bottle after a while. Even with great lactation consultants in my corner (available right in the birthing center in North Adams, MA) and my husband’s supportive attitude, I couldn’t keep on any more than that. I tried supplemental nursing, fenugreek, tea and herbal treatments, pumping, diet changes, just about everything they threw at me, I tried. My son had a tongue tie issue that we had a simple surgery performed to correct to improve his latch (thank heavens for good health insurance at the time). Despite all that, I never produced more than a few ounces at a time for him.

    I remember feeling completely incompetent as a mother and so very frustrated. I’m not glad that you had to go through that, but I’m thankful to you for sharing your story.

    Keep your chin up – my son will turn 2 in August. He’s scary smart, totally healthy, and a little ball of energy. I think it’s important to do the best for our kids with whatever resources God gives us…whether those resources come from our own diet and bodies or from someone or somewhere else.

    Thank you again for sharing your story. I hope that you will be blessed in so many ways as you continue on this journey of motherhood!!!

    Peace,
    Kate

  52. Wow. Thank you for sharing your story and opening a forum on this. My baby is now 16 weeks and we struggled to get to our current okay feeding routine. It was so hard! The first weeks to month two were so challenging. I kept thinking “I’m very smart, I should be able to solve this”. But as you all know, it’s not that simple at all. Thankfully I had friends who shared their stories (like the one who directed me to this page, Thanks Mama!) and I was reassured, they all have wonderfully healthy happy babies! The mantra became “Do what you have to do to feed the baby” with also caring for myself too.
    So helpful to hear from other mothers on this difficult topic
    Thank You!

  53. THANK YOU for writing this. Your story is almost identical to mine right down to the advice given to you. My lactation consultant (at the pediatrician’s office) said to me, “Nursing your baby isn’t exclusive to breastfeeding. It’s taking care of your child and providing nourishment.”

    I look back to that time six years ago and realize how very sad it was that what should have been such an amazing, joyful time was instead filled with tears and sadness. Every ad that said “Breast milk is best!” scratched the scab off that wound.

    Breast milk is best…when you can produce enough to sustain your child, when it lets down properly, when your baby isn’t in NICU…there are a lot of times that breast milk isn’t best. And that’s okay.

  54. I am sorry you went through this. My heart goes out to you having to go through this, i have heard a lot of these stories. However, mine was not the same. Yes it was tough in the beginning the first 2 weeks especially. But once we both got a hang of it, i was producing more milk than my little one could handle. I ended up pupping a supply for 6 months. I had heard from so many that BF was so hard, so i did my research before, i ate tons of oatmeal, drank more than 60 oz during my pregnancy all the time and just ate the key things people told me to eat and it all worked out. Not only was it the food, but people told me to wear your little one 24/7. So that is what i did. She was next to my chest for the first 2 weeks until we have it figure out.
    Yes, we had latching issues, and yes i didn’t understand why it was so hard, but you have to remember it is a learning process for both of you. I just did not give up and it all worked out. I exclusively BF until she was 6 months and then i started solids. But i am still BF at 15months and plan to do so until she is 2. The benefits are just too large to not to do it.
    Also you didn’t mention to readers that are other alternatives before formula. And since i have heard so many people have BF issues i had planned ahead, and i recommend people to do this. I had lactation consultant visit me at the hospital 2 hours after delivery, i had lactation consultant on my speed dial on the phone, i had BF mom meeting groups in my calendar etc. etc. I also had the contact info to get donor milk. I think people forget there is donor milk available, there are other moms out there to help, and it might help you while you figure things out.
    Also if you do end up doing formula please do ORGANIC formula. With all the chemicals and GMO you should never feed your kid non organic formula with the studies done of the ingredients that are in there.
    Glad to hear things turned out well, it was hard reading your story.

    • Hi, Delishhhh. Good for you for sticking with what works for you and your baby. My post was intended to share my personal experience. For the record, I tried organic formula and my baby had terrible gas when she was on it. We switched to Gerber Gentle and she has been doing great ever since. She’s now onto trying her first solid foods (pureed organic vegetables that I have been making myself). I am not here to defend my decisions but to let other women who have been in my shoes, or may find themselves in a similar situation know that there is nothing wrong with doing what feels right to them. Breast milk or no breast milk, formula (organic or not), breast banks or not, pumping or not. The day I returned my rental pump to the hospital was one of the best of my life, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I fought for that breast milk harder than I have fought for anything, and to hear people suggest that I did not fight ‘hard enough’ is heart-wrenching. But, I chose to put myself out there and to encourage others to know when it’s time to stop fighting and start living. My daughter is happy, thriving, and so very loved.

      • Oh no i didn’t mean to sound harsh, i am so sorry if i did. And i am so sorry about your experience you are not alone. Since you have tons of readers i just wanted to make sure you were giving all the options out there. Again, so sorry if it sounded harsh that was not the intent.

    • Organic formula is great, but please be more considerate of each baby’s individual tolerance levels. My dear sweet girl was horrendously constipated on the organic formal that we introduced at 9 months. She was so miserable and I hated seeing her in so much pain. After trying all sorts of remedies and dietary adjustments, we switched the formula to “normal” and she was a completely different person. I got over the guilt, until I read this post, where there is implied judgment and lack of sensitivity to each unique baby’s needs and tolerances. So I felt I had to share my two-cents to hopefully instill a greater sense of sympathy, compassion, and trust that each mommy (and daddy) knows her or his child’s needs best. Thank you.

      • As you said every baby is so different. But there are 10-20 different organic formula’s out there, all made with different things, and you can even make your own. Again, my intent was not to try to be harsh if i was i am sorry.

  55. Very similar story with me & both times trying to nurse my boys. Although I also was given the shield to try which when nursing isn’t working & you feel flustered & tired anyways adding in a plastic tool to the mix is not so helpful. Don’t you wish more spoke about the possibility of it not working & that if it doesn’t that is a.o.k?! Thankfully we live in a time when there is formula & pumps & bottles, etc that allow all babies to thrive. Mama guilt not needed. Especially when it is pilled on to us from other mamas or pediatricians. Not cool. Thanks for speaking out about this & you just keep being the mom God intended you to be for your baby!

    • Hi Theresa,

      I, too, was given the nipple shield. It helped me heal, but it did not help my supply. I remember fumbling with it in a park, when I was trying to prove to myself that I could still do it. I wanted to die then and there. Medical professionals and other mothers need to be supportive, not judgmental. I completely agree. Thank you for your kind words!

  56. avatar
    Kristen says:

    I was right there. With my first child, I assumed breast feeding would come naturally. But I couldn’t produce. With my second I was determined to make my body supply enough. And after two months of sheer exhaustion – both physically and emotionally – I realized I just couldn’t make enough to keep up with her needs. You hit the nail on the head and THANK YOU for writing this post.

  57. avatar
    Lindsay K. says:

    Thank you! I had problems getting started breastfeeding too. The lactation consultants made it seem like I was starving my baby, yet giving her formula would be like poisoning her. I wish more women knew that it’s not so black or white…you can do a combination of both. Supplementing with formula took some of the pressure off & enabled me to keep breastfeeding! Eventually we didn’t need to supplement anymore. Your body will figure out what your baby needs. They make it seem like your milk will dry up or your baby will reject the breast if they get even one bottle. Not true! Also, I was made to feel like I was doing something wrong because breastfeeding hurt. A lot. The lactation consultant kept saying, “It shouldn’t hurt, try again.” I would like all women to know it can hurt, especially if you’re fair skinned. Even if you’re doing everything right. It hurt, bad, for about 2 weeks. And then I was fine. I’m all for breastfeeding, but I’d love to see a more balanced approach from the medical community. It makes me so mad sometimes to think back on our early days, but we figured it out. My doctor said something similar to yours & it really comforted me “When it’s the middle of the night & everybody’s crying, you just feed that baby any way you can.”

  58. I exclusively pump for my four month old. After three months of trying to breastfeed my lactation consultant looked at me one day and said that this journey was over and it was time to enjoy motehrhood. Pumping is hard work but it makes me happy to give him breastmilk. I still struggle emotionally about not being able to breastfeed but she was right, we are happier as a family and I enjoy spending time with my baby much more now that I am not trying to get him to latch or stressing about breastfeeding. Do I feel like a failure as a mother? Absolutely even though I logically know thats not true. It will take time to get over that.

  59. avatar
    emery lou says:

    thank you oh so much for writing this blog post…I have three children, and all 3 were unfortunately NOT good nursing experiences, despite me doing all the research, and trying my hardest, the longest I ever was able to nurse for was 3 mos. and it’s wasn’t exclusive, always needed to supplement. I would see my friends all breastfeeding and how easy and naturally it came to them, how they had “so much milk!” and how they would “never feed their baby formula, cause it was SO bad for them” and it brought me down and down and down…it was so hard. And still is when I look back on it. With my 3rd child, I actually would hide away when in public during feedings because I couldn’t bare anyone else to make a comment on that fact that I was bottle feeding and not breastfeeding. I felt like a complete failure. And I felt so embarrassed in front of my own friends, knowing how they would judge me in their minds if they knew I wasn’t nursing. And then I would see all of these Mom’s posting “breast is best” articles and videos, on how THEY were discriminated against for nursing in public, and I would cringe, knowing the truth was that the bottle feeders were the ones being discriminated against. After tears and struggles and prayers, when my youngest was 5 weeks old my midwife looked right at me and said “you need to do what’s best for MOM and whats going to make MOM happy, and healthy, because all this stress is not worth it and not good for you or your baby” that was it, I stopped nursing that night, I bottle fed and felt SO much more free to enjoy my sweet baby and not stress out the both of us anymore. I did still hide away while feeding for the first 6 or 7 months, so no one would see that I bottle feed. I felt ashamed, and I don’t know if I will ever get over that feeling. I wish more Mom’s would be more compassionate about those who wish to breastfeed but just physically cant.

  60. Having the internet available to gather information, such as “problems with breastfeeding” is priceless. To come upon stories such as yours must be such a relief for young moms in the same boat. When I had my first 28 years ago, there was no such resource. My birthing group was led by a vehement naturalist: no drugs, no formula. If you do it right, it will happen.

    As you know from your beautiful story, that is not how it goes. I had tremendous difficulty, too, though not quite as tough as yours. It took my MIL giving me permission to just let go, that it wasn’t the end of the world not to use formula. I told my story here: http://www.toodarnhappy.com/2012/04/12/is-your-supermom-cape-taking-you-to-the-breaking-point/

    Thanks from a mom whose been that guilt-ridden road. I pray your words help other moms!

  61. avatar
    Whitney says:

    Wow – so many comments!

    This is a great point of view, and one that I feel is underrepresented. I have one son who was born with severe cleft. It meant he literally could not suck anything for nearly three years. So of course, breastfeeding was impossible.

    I pumped for six weeks and it.was.torture. I cannot say that enough. I had had a rough labor, a baby with special needs, and now I was tied to a machine for an hour every couple of hours. Pumping, of course, was different than feeding my son, so it more than doubled my work. It was so cold and mechanical. I couldn’t do anything other than pump and keep us both alive, it felt like. I also wasn’t getting enough from the beginning, so I had to supplement, even after trying to increase the amount.

    About a month after his birth, we went to a family wedding a couple of hours away. I think I had enough at that point. I spent most of the weekend in a hotel room, pumping. One family member (kindly) encouraged me in my efforts, but I just wanted to cry. I made it two more weeks and then weaned. I was able to enjoy taking care of my son SO much more.

    I realize mine is a unique experience – most people don’t deal with a birth defect. But, I think it’s valid to say, “Hey! Blanket statements are hurtful.” My first experience with a lactation consultant was NOT pleasant. She walked into my hospital room, didn’t say a word to me, grabbed my breast, determined to see if my son could latch. I was too tired to be upset, but it was so incredibly inappropriate. I have met several consultants who helped me since, but even now, I often hear: “Well, you could have done this and this and this.” I just smile and change the subject. He’s five now and parenting is SO MUCH MORE than milk.

    We live our life the best we can, using the best we have been given. To strive for perfection (and to criticize others who don’t achieve it) is a weak argument of the incredibly privileged. We are blessed to have options and I’m glad I chose the one I did.

    • This is so well-written, Whitney. I had a very similar experience with lactation consultants in the hospital. Let it be said that more medical professionals and ‘help’ doesn’t equal a better experience. It’s nice to see the light and look back knowing that choice is a powerful thing in life.

  62. This brought me to tears. My experience was so close to exactly the same, especially with my first baby. It was horrible and it made being a brand new parent so much harder than it had to be. That baby is now an amazingly healthy 8 year old, and I just shake my head in wonder that I ever had to worry about her weight, or that it was such a huge deal what I was feeding her. I hope the same for you, down the road. Thank you for sharing your story.

  63. being a new mom comes with so much emotion and responsibility. please just take it easy and know that the world is full of parents and has been for all of our time. take comfort in that fact that things will work out or we all wouldn’t be here.

    that said, i think it might be your nerves and if it’s not that’s okay too. there is no shame in bottle feeding but statistics show that in cultures where it’s just accepted moms will nurse, they often do, without issue. that makes me feel like it’s cultural and that you’re not getting the support you need. try again and if it doesn’t work focus on mindfully feeding your baby a bottle. touch little hands and little face, bond this way. nurturing is all that matters. you’re going to have a lot of opportunities to give your child your best. your love and attention are all that matters. =)

  64. THANK YOU FOR THIS!! My experience was ages ago but I had to stop breastfeeding my daughter because she was diagnosed with heart condition where it wasn’t safe for me to take anti-depressants and breastfeed. I had unbelievable postpartum depression. After two months of trying talk therapy, gentle exercise (I was postpartum after all), diet changes, I still just wanted to curl up and waste away. I finally decided to switch her to formula and take the medication and it changed my life. Mothers who didn’t know my situation definitely gave me feedback on how it would help me lose weight, it was better for the baby, and that it really wasn’t that hard after the first two weeks so I shouldn’t “give up”. At a time in my life when I already felt vulnerable, isolated, and scared the last thing I wanted was to feel judged as a bad mother for giving my child formula. We need to remember that the decision to breastfed (or not) is a personal one and should be respected.

  65. I could have written this post myself. With my first, he had latching issues so he ate off one side and I pumped the other, but my supply dropped so much when I went back to work after a month that it was all downhill from there. We made it four miserable months.

    My second was born 18 months later. The stress of two babies and the initial pain that comes with starting breast feeding was too much. I figured I could either stress out every time he wanted to eat, turn into a bawling mess every few hours, and re-trigger my post-parting depression from the first, or he could eat bottles and we could bond. We lasted two weeks.

    I’m now going strong at almost three months with my third. We ended up having to go to lactation three times to get her bilirubin levels checked for jaundice, and they helped me adjust things that had been off the first two times. If I hadn’t been so stubborn and asked for help the first two times, it may have been different, but I’m at peace with the decisions I made, because they were right at the time.

  66. Hang in there, and thanks for sharing. My experience with both my girls was never as easy as I had been led to believe. I most certainly had HUGE moments of doubt/guilt/despair. Your pediatrician gave you sound advice. There is way too much judgment in the world of parenting. Too many people let their opinions become convictions. Every baby and every mommy is different. Do the best you can, and never hesitate to ask for help :)

  67. Thank you for this. Like others, I could have written this story: same experience with both my babies. I still love breast-feeding. I still applaud and cheer on my friends who are able to do it. But the biggest thing I’ve learned from looking back on that humiliating, devastating (to me, not to anyone else) experience was to give myself a huge break and a dose of perspective.

    The issue of facing my limitations, of trying so hard to do something but not being able to, of needing simply to let go and accept who I am, has arisen again and again in my six short years of motherhood, and I truly believe being forced to face these things has brought me freedom.

    I’m learning that all of us moms are deeply insecure in some area, we all long to be affirmed, we all long for community and a sympathetic ear rather than quick-spoken, well-meaning advice. We long to be told, “You’re doing a great job, but being a mom is way more than what you do; it’s who you are. Now go out and enjoy it.” More than ever, my experience makes me want to be that kind of friend for others.

  68. So glad to see that I’m not alone as I read this post and so many of the comments. I have 3 children and have unsuccessfully not been able to breastfeed them although I tried everything – pumping around the clock, nursing on demand, medicine, herbs, lactation consultants. I too felt like a failure when I had to formula feed and especially so in public. I did some research because not only was my milk supply non-existent, even though my 3rd baby latched correctly, my breasts never got full and during pregnancy they never got bigger. I think I have what is called breast hydroplasia. For some of you who have struggled with milk supply issues, look it up.

    We hope to have another baby and if so, I plan to formula feed from the start with no guilt! My oldest child (6) has been on an antibiotic once, my second child has never had an antibiotic (4), and my third child has had one antibiotic for an ear infection at one year. Formula fed babies aren’t ruined for life!

  69. avatar
    Leigh Ann says:

    This was similar to my experience with my first child. I told my husband it was ok to call CPS to take our baby because I would rather her be healthy than starve with me trying to breastfeed. We went to the bottle and she is fine. One thing that helped me was to think of all the amazing, successful people I know, and realize that I have no idea whether they were bottle or breastfed. And, either way it works out for your baby will be just fine, too.

    • Oh, this breaks my heart that you thought CPS taking your baby away was better than you giving up on breastfeeding. I’m SO sorry that you felt that way!!!

      • BTW, My sister and I, both adopted, were bottle fed, as were both of my kids. We’re all happy, healthy, and thriving. :)

  70. avatar
    Stephanie P. says:

    I felt like I was reading my own story 4 and a half years ago with my son. You literally took the words out of my mouth. I could feel the aching in each sentence but love what your doctor told you and wish someone had told me something like that. I felt like such a failure. Breastfeeding was supposed to be so natural and every woman in my family had done it and no one could tell me why I didn’t have milk; I’m not even sure if they really believed that I was doing everything I could. Anyway, I did move on and learn to enjoy being a mother and 2 years later when I had my daughter, my milk flowed in abundance. I didn’t expect it to and yet, there it was and more than I even needed. :) Great post.

  71. That’s so tough! My daughter had trouble latching at first and could not gain weight the first few days. It was horrible! She wouldn’t take the bottle, either.

    The lack of sleep didn’t help the situation. My only solace was turning the vacuum cleaner on to get her to sleep.

    Finally, when I met with a lactation consultant and she recommended using a breast shield, which finally helped and my daughter could eat! Even though I was sore and it was tough to deal with all the changes, just the fact that she was eating made me feel much better.

    Congratulations on your new motherhood! And, just know, it gets better. Sometimes, in every stage of early motherhood, that’s all you need to hear just to get by sometimes.

    • Thank you! I actually had a breakthrough when I started using a nipple shield. My wounds healed and I thought we were on our way, but unfortunately, the milk supply never seemed to pick up. I found comfort in a ceiling fan.

  72. avatar
    Anonymous Momma says:

    Thank you for this article. Your struggle is nearly identical to mine. Eventually, my obstetrician had the same words of wisdom. Let it go. Unfortunately, a large number of people in this country have put breastfeeding on par with sainthood. A great many mothers (particularly those in the blog world) use their ability to breastfeed to make themselves appear superior to mothers who can’t (or won’t) breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding, ultimately, is one very, very small part of parenthood.

    • I would agree that breastfeeding, like natural birth, is a battle wound for some mothers. I think you bring up an interesting point: what about women who choose not to breastfeed for no other reason than because they don’t want to, or it’s incompatible with their careers, health, etc.? That is a whole other debate…

  73. Wonderfully honest. Finally someone I can relate to! I have three daughters, all were breastfed well past the point of excruciating pain (and all with plenty of help, and a ‘perfect latch’), and all three were switched to formula because I wanted them to know their mother as a loving and nurturing woman, and not the screaming and sobbing mess they were seeing. THANK YOU for posting your story.

  74. You were fortunate to have an understanding pediatrician. When my twins were born 5 weeks early, I was experiencing toxemia, seizures, hemorrhaging, crazy weight loss, (7 pounds lighter than BEFORE I was pregnant!–which didn’t last long!), and a very annoying pregnancy rash. My son, from being a breech birth, had severe bruising from the waist down and thus experienced digestion problems. The pediatrician in the NICU was convinced that my breast milk would solve all of his problems and laid the guilt on each time I was wheeled into the nursery to visit. I tried so incredibly hard, praying each time I used that hospital pump for just a few drops. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. My breasts never even changed size throughout the entire pregnancy. Evidently, according to MY doctor, I had lost too much blood and the hormones that make breast milk along with it. So, my babies were formula fed. I have been waiting for their heads to spin around and for them to grow a horn in the middle of their heads, but so far all I have gotten is attitude and smart mouths which seem to affect both babies of the breast and of the bottle. The pediatrician really should have warned me about THAT.

    • What a shame. I was lucky to have amazing medical professionals encourage me every step of the way (though, I will not say that for the post-partum nurses and hospital lactation consultant who frankly, I believe, contributed to my disability to breastfeed). I wish I could give your pediatrician a piece of my mind!

  75. My story is different, though with my first it was failure to thrive at six weeks and onto formula. I tried to pimp, but I produced next to nothing the entire time.

    When I found out I was pregnant with my second. I researched. I studied everything I could find about breast feeding and was certain this time I would make it work. I knew what I was doing.

    Due to peculiarities of my anatomy that I don’t feel like getting into, I can’t deliver vaginally, so K was my second c-section. She latched well and everything seemed fine. And then it wasn’t.

    Three days later, I woke up in the ICU on a ventilator. I remember very little about what happened to me, but I remember being told straight up I would have to pump and dump for the foreseeable future.

    And then we found blood in the milk I was dumping. The blood thinners, we think, or the entire unit of blood that had infiltrated while they were racing to save my life. Who knows.

    I cried all over the poor lactation consultant and she told me something I still cling to almost 5 years later, “You are a warrior. Most women die from what happened to you. You fought back. You fought your way off that vent, and you are alive. Never let anyone shame you for using formula. They have no idea where you’ve been or what you’ve done.”

    And still I got all the well-meant comments about trying when I was better (my daughter will be 5, and I still have muscle weakness in the arm that was infiltrated). I’ve also been told I didn’t respect my daughter enough to do what was best for her, that a mother sacrifices, even her life. For her child and that’s what I should have done.

    So yeah, difficulties breast feeding. I totally get you and think anyone coming here to criticize for not advocating for breast feeding needs to step off. They don’t know where we’ve been and they have no right to dictate where or how we share our. Stories,

  76. Thank you for your honest and heartfelt disclosure about your personal struggle with breastfeeding and the shame that accompanies not being able to do this for your baby. A good mother is exactly what you so eloquently said, ” Being a good mother, I’m learning, is knowing how to take care of yourself and your baby.” By sharing these stories of pain, shame, and guilt, we can hopefully learn to support each mother in her own personal challenges with breastfeeding and reduce the societal message of “failing” at motherhood if breastfeeding doesn’t work out. The judgmental glances and comments from professionals to strangers perpetuates the cycle of feeling inferior and inadequate. When I took my son to the emergency room for RSV, the ER doctor basically told me my son would have been protected by this through the passive immunity in my breastmilk if I were breastfeeding him instead of bottle-feeding. Well, he wasn’t in my bedroom with me wiping away my tears after days and nights of me writhing in pain with bloody nipples! So, thank you again for the positive message you have cast out into society. Everyone needs to be aware of the unique challenges each baby brings with them into this world, accompanied by all the joy, but nevertheless still challenging.

  77. Here’s my experience. I breastfed my first son until he was two. It was amazing, wonderful, everything I imagined and hoped it would be. Then I had my second son this past April. I’d heard nursing experiences could be different between children, but I brushed those thoughts aside…I did it once, there should be no reason it wouldn’t work the second time around. If anything, it should be easier, right? And right I was. It was great the second time around…easier even. But that’s not the whole story. The rest of the story is that since the day of his birth, my son has had abnormal blood cell counts in all lineages. He also started having blood in his stool at 3 weeks. He’s had one platelet transfusion, ultrasounds, countless blood draws, genetic testing, GI scoping, and bone marrow testing. The root of his problems is still undiagnosed. I have gone on an elimination diet to rule out allergies with no improvement and no answers. We are working with our pediatrician, a lactation specialist, and various specialists at a renowned children’s hospital in our state. My son continues to have abnormal blood cell counts and blood in his stool…and with everything going on it has gotten to the point where my son can not afford to lose any more blood and we had to put him on prescription formula a week ago. I cannot tell you how many tears I’ve cried over this, how agonizing it is to not be able to nurse my sweet boy (especially when everything was going SO perfectly well), how painful and time consuming it is to pump in the meantime (in hopes that his gut will heal, and that his cell counts will improve, and that someday we will go back to being able to nurse again)…and did I mention I have a three year old to run after in addition to caring for my three month old with severe and undiagnosed medical issues? I understand that my story is so, so different from your own, but I want to share my story to let people know that when you see a mother bottle feeding and you turn up your nose, or you imply that the mother didn’t seek out every possible breastfeeding resource, you do NOT know the whole story. Let’s give each and every mother a little more grace…whether they are breastfeeding or mixing up a bottle of formula to nourish their child…we do not know the whole story or what battles they might be facing.

    PS – If you’re interested in learning more about my son’s medical journey, you can read from the beginning here: http://meettheparkersoregon.blogspot.com/p/meet-ezra.html

  78. Kasey, thanks for sharing your story. I think we all know that takes courage, but when it’s a highly emotional issue where many have strong opinions, well … thank you for being brave. :)

    Becoming a mother was a very stressful thing as I experienced preeclampsia, had to be induced early, and had a small baby who struggled with oxygenation and jaundice. He had trouble nursing and I, like you, had not considered NOT breastfeeding my baby. However, I then developed a deep postpartum depression and chose to give up the attempt to breastfeed, as I just needed one thing (feeding my baby) to feel easy (anyone who has experienced PPD knows exactly what I’m talking about). I still remember (4 years later) that conversation with my lactation consultant when she confirmed what I had slowly become convinced of – that my baby needed my presence more than my milk. YES. I was not doing well and needed to get to a better place; and THAT was the best thing for my baby (and for all involved).

    Thanks again for sharing and for giving others the courage to tell their similar stories!

    • Beautiful words. I am so glad I was able to share my story in a public forum and be met with so much support, encouragement, and positivity. I feel like this is an underrepresented view and given the number of comments, clearly an issue that needs to be talked about.

  79. Kasey,

    I’m in the Bay Area too.

    You aren’t alone. I was adamant about breastfeeding when I was pregnant. However, once my daughter was born, I was way too tired and we couldn’t get the latch right. I pumped and gave her formula. Ironically, after seeing a lactation consultant, my daughter could no longer have my breast milk as she was getting terrible gas, where she would stay up ALL NIGHT, crying in pain for 2 days in a row. I wanted to sleep again, not go crazy, and not see my daughter in that kind of pain again so I put her on formula 100% and never looked back. I felt guilty and depressed at the time. But 2 years later, she is thriving and growing well. She is 90% in height.

  80. Here’s something else that doesn’t usually get acknowledged…. It’s OK to feel sad that breast feeding didn’t work out as you’d hoped. I never thought I’d do anything but breast feed my first baby; I’d had plenty of experience of breast feeding babies on my family, I’d read the drill on frequent feeding and initial problems, and the thought of formula never crossed my mind. For five long, long weeks I breastfed, opening up the scabs on my nipples each agonising feed, through five bouts of mastitis, leaving the tv on on silent all night so I had a distraction when she woke every 45 minutes to feed, feeling dread every time she stirred because I knew feeding would follow… until green pus began leaking from one breast and I was admitted to hospital for 4 days of IV antibiotics to treat the MRSA breast abscess that had ruptured, and my daughter went home with my husband to a bottle of formula.

    I wasn’t unsupported, I wasn’t let down, I wasn’t bullied or pressured either way; I had a bunch of people try their best to help me and it didn’t work out. And I don’t feel guilty. I think I made the best decisions I could at the time and I don’t think switching to formula was the wrong decision from where I was. But oh, I feel so so sad for us both for the lovely, long breast feeding relationship we didn’t have, that my younger three children did get to experience (not without their own individual struggles, but not to the same extent).

    • So true! I actually had a TON of support; from family, my husband, friends and even acquaintances. Even a friend who breastfed her baby for nearly two years encouraged me to switch to formula 100% sooner. Everyone told me to give it up and move on, but no matter what everyone said, I was sad. I told myself, “but I am GOOD at things…why am I not GOOD at this?” Such a good reminder that sometimes in life, it is perfectly normal to be sad, no matter what anyone tells you.

  81. this article really struck a cord with me–like so many women have said, i too had a similar experience. I wrote a blog post about it here:
    http://www.reneeemerson.com/2013/07/perspective.html

  82. First, I 100% think you did the right thing! Please don’t think me unsupportive. My experience was different (no low supply) but similar enough with the pain and exhaustion. What helped me was going to La Leche league meetings before birth and reading message boards in the midst of it. It was so incredibly helpful to hear others say how hard it was. When my second baby was born, it was actually even worse, I totally dreaded every feeding and they happened so often! But I had enough experience with my body to know it was temporary. I think it’s great to tell your story for other mom’s wondering–is this normal?

  83. Thank you for your post. I spent most of my time in hospital pumping and feeding every 2 hours… similar to what a lot of people have described… I found it hard to imagine where sleep was going to fit in!

    When we got home I decided to go back to what my husband and I had decided before our daughter was born (and what we’d forgotten in the overwhelming new experiences at the hospital). When she was about a week old I laid down and put her on my stomach… then let her fumble around for a bit until she found my breast on her own… It felt a bit strange and I did guide her a little, but it was amazing to see what happened once she landed on a breast! She literally rocked from one breast to the other for an hour and a half, feeding as much as she wanted from one side before moving to the other… my milk supply seemed to explode in response!

    From then on I slept with her lying next to me and usually carried her in my arms or a sling during the day (even when she was sleeping). She fed lots, but not having to pick her up and put her down meant I didn’t notice too much… She’s now 18 months and still feeding.

    With our next little one I plan to follow the advice of a midwife friend who worked in Africa… The women she worked with would lie down with their bubs for three days straight after birth. The babies have constant access to the breasts and three days to work out for themselves what to do. She didn’t meet a single mum who couldn’t breastfeed.

    I completely agree that breastfeeding is best if you can… I think so many of us end up not being able to breastfeed not because our bodies can’t but because most medical professionals, and others who genuinely want to try to help us, have ideas about breastfeeding that often don’t actually help… like timing breastfeeding (at least in the first couple of weeks), trying to ‘put’ the baby on the breast and sitting up can all make it so much harder…

  84. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. My experience was about 98% the same as yours and I have held guilt in my heart about it for almost two years. Knowing I am not alone has brought peace to a part of me I wasn’t sure would ever feel it.

    • Jessie, I am so glad that you read the post and I am so moved to know that you have let go of the guilt. It has taken me a long time to get there, too, and I have never felt more empowered. Feeling the support of all these women and stories is an incredibly uplifting thing.

  85. I am so sorry to hear that you went through such a difficult time and felt like you had no support. I think what got me through breastfeeding the first time is the support system that I had. I am now attempting breastfeeding again with my now 2 week old infant. Even I breastfed last time for a year I still have times of doubt and uncertainty. Every kid and mom is different. All the best to you and thanks for sharing your story.

  86. I wish more moms would share their breastfeeding struggles. I had problems with both my babies latching on, and the lactation consultants with my first child were a mixture of good and bad. I also supplemented and felt like a failure. But I met moms in a playgroup who had to switch to bottle early on and were okay with it. While I did manage to breast feed full time later, it was a struggle of pumping and feeding over and over. My second child, I figured I had it all figured out but, no. That consultant taught me the RAM method–Rapid Arm Movement–or basically, ram the baby on, and it worked! Each child is different, but even a bit of breast milk is wonderful, and the formulas today are so well-made. But these stories do need to be shared so that new moms know they are not alone. And is sounds like you have a WONDERFUL pediatrician! Blessings to you!

  87. Oh, and I wish more books would also say, along with their “breast is best’ message, that if it hurts or it’s not working, you’re not doing anything wrong! Yes, breastfeeding is one of the most natural things, but it doesn’t always come naturally! In tribes where you see National Geographic photos of women with babies clinging to women, those women have groups of women who have done it before and help them out; we are so determined to be Supermom (even if we don’t mean to) that we don’t have those groups, by and large. :)

  88. I came across your link through the Facebook page Exclusively Pumping Breastmilk and was really surprised that my experience was exactly the same as yours. I used a supplemental tubing to breast feed my baby every 3h, pumped for 10min after every breast feeding session. We stayed home most of the time so that I could concentrate on my breast feeding and pumping session, those days were horrible. At about 5mths, I changed to exclusively pumping because sometimes she would wrestle my breasts, making the tubes fly everywhere and breast feeding sessions were sometimes taking up to an hour or more each time. It really took a toil on me. When I exclusively pumped, my peak was only about 12oz a day, which was about half if what she needed. The lactation consultant said I had insufficient milk ducts so I would never make enough. Just like you, before giving birth, I always thought breast feeding was the most natural thing to do. Unfortunately the circumstances are what they are, and we just had to make do. I continued to pump after I returned to work at six months, but stopped at nine because my milk supply was drying up. Now at 17 months and looking back, it still feels a little sad but I gave breast feeding my best shot so theres nothing else I can do. But if someone asked me why I never breastfed fully, I am always ready with an answer that is “Don’t judge!!”.

  89. Kasey, thank you so much for this blog! I have a one month old baby and I was devastated when I couldn’t breastfeed her! She was feeding fine at the hospital, but when we got home, she was MISERABLE and was crying for hours! We ended up giving her formula and she gulped it down and went straight to sleep! Turns out that I wasn’t producing enough to sustain her either…I can only get 2-3 oz every time I pump (every few hours), but she’s now having 3-4 oz every 3 hours. Pumping every 3 hours, trying to nurse, washing/sterilizing bottles, etc, was just SOOO exhausting…I ended up just thinking to myself, I *need* the few hours of sleep that I can get for my own sanity, so I stopped pumping throughout the night. I felt so much better and finally really started to enjoy my time with my little one!

  90. I so wish I had these words back in 2005 when I had my first baby! I had pre-eclampsia and had to be induced. Labor was 18 hours. I was still pretty sick and bed-ridden for the next two days and she was fed with a bottle; I could barely hold her. I could not get out of bed to go to the bathroom. When we finally got home, I still had terrible swelling (I lost 40 lbs in the week after she was born) and pain from that, we had a kitchen fire that night, and the next day or so I was diagnosed with a monster case of PPD and put on anti-depressants immediately. And I was completely unsure of myself and totally exhausted. I felt like such a complete failure for not breastfeeding and felt the need to explain to everyone why I was formula-feeding. Those free Mommy magazines at the OB’s office were not helping. Thank God for my husband, who seemed to be the only person at the time telling me that I was doing okay and that being well-rested and recovering *was* being a good mom for my baby!

  91. Kasey, I’m so glad you shared your moving story here and that it has resonated with so many mothers. Early motherhood is incredibly hard, and we all face so many types of struggles in those days. I just wanted to chime in and say how much I agree with all those saying that we never know the whole story with the mothers we see. I’m resolving to do more to support the new mothers in my life whatever their struggles might be.

  92. We had major latch troubles at the beginning and I was terrified of giving a bottle–even of my pumped milk!–because of all hype about artificial nipples.

    The dr said to me “breast may be best, but eating is non-negotiable.”

    I was like, DUH! That helped take pressure off me. And even though my baby had bottles in the first two weeks we still–gasp!–managed to get it and breastfeed into toddlerhood.

    Extremes are never accurate. Every mom feeds her baby the best she knows how. You did good, mama!!!

    • So true! When I began thinking about it logically, all of the people who suggested that breast milk was more important than just FEEDING MY BABY sounded absurd.

  93. Thanks for sharing your story. I honestly felt like I could have written it myself with my son, except it took 4 months of breastfeeding, pumping, and supplementing, two bouts of thrush and one bout of mastitis before I found a sane medical professional to tell me it was okay to stop torturing myself and let the breastfeeding go. I wish that someone had give me the confidence to stop the misery sooner because I might have been able to enjoy my newborn more. Looking back on that time all I remember is pain, sadness and depression over not being able to breastfeed ‘properly’. I am now on my 11 month of breastfeeding my daughter. It took us a few weeks to get into a groove, but it was no where near the difficulty of the first time around, so I am grateful for the experience, but my new advice is for women on breastfeeding is to be kind to YOURSELF too. Try, if it doesn’t work out…then stop and let go of the guilt!

  94. Like many of the beautiful commenters above, I had a similar experience. I had nipple issues on one breast and the nurses encouraged me to use a nipple shield. Of course baby got used to it so I had to use one on the other side as well. That I didn’t mind because it prevented nipple cracking which I was terrified of. But before figuring that out, breastfeeding was a horrible hassle and I came to dread it! Once I figured that out, I enjoyed it a bit more. But then as she grew, my milk production wasn’t!! I felt shame and confusion. Being a woman with a bit of a larger chest I was humiliated thinking of COURSE I should be able to produce more than enough milk!
    Eventually around 3-4 months of age, I weaned Baby Girl onto a bottle and it was one of the better decisions I ever made.
    As new moms we make a huge deal out of breast or bottle…..but in reality?? Do you remember whether you had breast or bottle? Are you only friends with other people who had the same upbringing?? Even by 2 years of age, it doesn’t really matter what your choice was! You have a healthy happy baby either way and that IS ALL that matters!
    Thanks so much for sharing!!

  95. Wow, thank you thank you for sharing this “underrepresented view” like you mentioned. I’m now guilty of spending too much time reading all the comments! I truly wish I had people like you around me (who understood) when trying to breastfeed my 2. To this day I don’t know what exactly the problem was, but all I can say was it didn’t work no matter how hard I tried, how many things I tried, how many people I asked…..but NO one (except my wonderful husband) acknowledged that sometimes the supply is low for whatever reason – and that really did hurt emotionally. Because everyone tried to “rescue” the situation and give suggestions, I felt that if someone could at least acknowledge that low supply does happen, then it would have been easier :) My question to you and perhaps others with similar experiences is, how can we communicate or share our feelings with others (friends especially), about this issue, without accidentally communicating “you’re an unsupportive friend?” Maybe share this article with them to read, haha! Seriously, I think not being understood by others hurts almost as much as not being able to exclusively breastfeed my kids. I continued to pump till my second was 10 months, but looking back, I could have stopped sooner because it was taking away time from the kids. I would love to have a third, but this issue gets me hung up and though I know intellectually that being a mom is way more than just feeding, the thought of those first few months make me tremble a bit :( I love my amazing husband, who often brings back perspective, one funny thing he said to me was (in an effort to comfort me), can you tell which of your adult friends were breastfed or formula fed? Point taken, I love him!

  96. Kasey-
    Congratulations on your now 6 month old baby. I was just as convinced as you about breast feeding and we made it 4 months, my boy and I before the doctor told me that formula was what my babe needed due to his (still) insatiable appetite. Happy to tell you that all the things I worried about giving up breast feeding never happened. He has NEVER had an earache or major illness, loves to eat all kinds of healthy food and most importantly, is thriving. After giving up the exhausting quest to strictly breastfeed, I was able to enjoy my precious boy to the fullest.
    Love is the most important thing!

  97. Wonderful post. Thank you so much for writing this. When my daughter was born 2 years ago, I went through a similar situation so I know that this article will make a lot of women who have gone through this or are going through this not feel so alone. Thank you for that.

  98. Thank you for this! So often I feel like the world of parenting is so filled with comparisons, judgment and shame that it makes me afraid to go out! I have two girls, and they were both breast and bottle fed( mainly pumped), and the comments I have had from ( mostly) complete strangers are ridiculous and completely irrelevant to my situation. I will never understand why formula feeding is so so terrible, but being rude and judgemental is ok. I’ve had to stop breastfeeding my nine month old and even then I’ve had rude comments. Breastfeeding is only a part of parenting. A small part- keep loving your baby, and growing in grace and understanding- your child will have everything they need!

  99. O thank you for sharing this. I struggled with aaalllll of the same stuff with my son. He was full-term but in the NICU for three weeks, which obviously made things challenging, too. I felt so guilty and like such a failure for so long. He’s 11 months now and we just had our last nursing a few weeks ago. For some reason, it took stopping for me to finally feel at peace with the way things were. I think the most damaging thing for so many moms is that people don’t talk about it, or even insist that low milk supply doesn’t exist. So again, thank you for sharing your story!!!

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