Breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone, and moms who want to but can't are heartbroken! Regardless of the reasons you're unable to breastfeed, you must deal with the guilt and understand that it's okay, and you aren't a failure.
I wanted - desperately - to breastfeed both of my children.
Grace never latched on to my breast. Though I tried just after she was born, she refused. She would occassionally open her mouth for my breast, but wouldn't suck.
I've talked about Grace's refusal to latch before. She never successfully breastfed.
I didn't know what else to do, so when the pediatrician and lactation consultant told me to give her formula, I did.
Though I deeply regretted my failure to breastfeed Grace, I came to appreciate the formula. Formula made my baby gain weight. She quickly became healthy and strong.
The sting of failure lingered for years.
But this time!
Allie was rooting from the moment I first saw her. She was hungry!
As soon as she was cleaned and wrapped in a blanket, Allie was latched on and happily breastfeeding. My spirits were uplifted; she wanted to eat!
Every time Allie showed signs of hunger, I put her to my breast. She ate.
Every hour or so.
All day and all night.
The nurses and their aides joked gently with me about cluster feeding, assuring me that it would slow down when my milk came in.
My milk came in the second day I was in the hospital. Milk leaked from my breasts throughout the day.
For seven days, Allie nursed almost constantly, around the clock. Grace was ignored and felt unloved. Joe felt inept and disconnected. I was a sleep deprived zombie who cried all the time.
My friends who breastfed their children called and emailed and Tweeted encouraging messages. It will get better. Breastfeeding is hard to learn. You're going to get the hang of it soon. Breastfeeding is a struggle, but it will become a lot easier soon. It will get better. It will get better.
Despite being latched on to my breast for hours a day, Allie didn't gain any weight. She was an ounce smaller at her one-week well baby appointment than she had been at hospital discharge. The jaundice that developed in the hospital had gotten worse.
I consulted the hospital's lactation consultant and left the appointment feeling refreshed and hopeful. I'd supplement Allie at each feeding with a little formula or pumped breast milk via a supplemental nursing system. She would surely gain weight.
I allowed Allie to breastfeed every time she showed signs of hunger. With the supplement, it was about every two hours. After she finished nursing, I pumped for forty-five minutes so that I could give her supplemental breast milk at the next feeding.
Grace felt more ignored than ever.
Because she was.
Out of every two hours, 120 minutes, I spent at least 90 feeding and pumping. Then I cleaned the pump parts and the supplemental nursing system parts. If I had time, I used the bathroom and got myself a drink and took care of Grace's basic bodily needs, like food.
And then it was time to feed the baby again.
This went on for another week. Allie still wasn't gaining weight, and I was sinking deeper and deeper into the mire of depression.
Doctors and nurses called to check on me. The pediatrician questioned whether we had heat in our home. She questioned whether I was eating. She sat and talked to me about my constant crying.
Just before leaving the exam room, she patted my knee and said, "You know, there is nothing wrong with giving your baby formula. It's a good resource."
I cried. I didn't want to fail at breastfeeding again.
After another consultation with the lactation consultant, it was decided that I needed to supplement more formula at each feeding.
I continued to go through the motions of my life. I continued to wake every couple of hours through the night to nurse the baby. I continued to supplement and breastfeed around the clock.
I found a hands-free pumping bra on Amazon that allowed me to play with Grace while I pumped, giving her some valuable time and attention. A little time and attention went a long way at first, but then Grace wanted needed more.
Allie gained three ounces at her next appointment, a huge success.
But then the feedings started getting closer together again. Allie wanted to nurse every two hours, then every ninety minutes, then every hour.
My friends continued to call and email and send Twitter messages. It will get better. This is a growth spurt; it will only last a day or two. Stick with it. It will get easier.
It wasn't getting easier. It was getting harder.
Just when I thought I was getting better, my tears started flowing again. Allie began to refuse the supplemental feeding tube, screaming until I offered just my nipple.
I knew that the formula was what nourished her, what made her gain weight. How could she refuse it?
Melancholy surged. Tears and frustration returned. I felt detached from everything and from everyone.
As I drove home on Monday night, the third Monday of Allie's life, God spoke to me.
I know it was God because the words brought me incredible peace as soon as they passed through my brain.
You've really worked hard. You've done everything you could do.
It's time to give up.
Buy some bottles.
I cried but they were good tears. They were tears of relief, of hope.
The struggle was over.
I gave myself permission to give up, and I felt good.
That very night, Joe fed Allie formula from a bottle, and she slept for three hours straight. He took care of all of the feedings that first night so that I could sleep.
I needed to sleep.
The next day, Allie drank a bottle about every three hours. She napped in between, and she slept soundly enough that I could put her down.
For the first time in her life, I could lay her in the bassinet, in the bouncy seat, or in the swing. She didn't mind not being held all day.
I played with Grace. We colored. We played princesses and dinosaurs and doll house. We watched movies together; Grace sitting in my lap. We read books together.
I took a shower, my third shower in three weeks.
Allie has been drinking formula from a bottle for a little over a week now, and I couldn't be happier.
I know that the female body was designed to breastfeed. I know that breastfeeding has incredible advantages for both baby and momma.
And I know that it didn't work for us.
In the end, I'm glad I tried. I needed to try. But I do wish I'd given up a little earlier. I wish I'd been easier on myself.
I want other new mothers to know that they don't have to run themselves into the ground, into depression, and into emotional detachment to feed their babies.
Formula is not the enemy.
It's okay to feed your baby formula.
Really, really amazing post! Thank you so much for sharing this! My child thankfully latched on well from the beginning, but I didn't produce enough milk, so we had to supplement formula. I breastfed as much as I could, even pumping milk at work, until my daughter was 8 1/2 months old. I kept reading all these articles to keep me going... it's best for your child... less likelihood of obesity... your child will be sick less often. Well let me just say that the idea that your child will be sick less often is totally UNTRUE. My kid gets sick with a cold all the time! She's sick so much more often then other kids we know, including formula fed kids. I think the message you're sending is really important. It's important to know that you're not a failure. What if my second child (due in a couple months) doesn't latch on? What if I'm so frickin exhausted and missing my daughter so much that I just don't want to do it anymore? Shaking up a bottle of formula is a heck of a lot easier and quicker. It's ok to give up. In the end, you know you did what was best for your child and your family and you're a good mom for doing that. And if I'm in the same situation, I hope that I'll be able to tell myself, "it's ok, I'm not a failure, I'm a good mom."
First off, good for you for giving it your best shot. Secondly, good for you for recognizing when it was time to let it go.
I had a similar experience with my first child, but her problem was latching on. And I had a c-section with her so it was very hard to get comfortable to nurse. When we finally decided to let breastfeeding go, for the sake of all our good, peace filled the home and we could really enjoy our new life with a new baby.
I realize having a baby isn't all rainbows and sunshine (trust me, I've had 5 now, lol), but it shouldn't be so dreadful and depressing that life is a drag. Not to mention, we need to do what is best for our babies...nourishment is best. Formula is great as an option when breastfeeding just doesn't work, which was our case. 🙂 *Hugs*
Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting says
Sweetheart, I weep for you, with you. And love you. I am so sorry it didn't work out, but God love you, you tried and fought like hell and weren't going down without a fight, honey. <3
Katie L. says
Oh my goodness, I can't even tell you how comforting it was to read this! Thank you for writing about your experience! Both of my babies were born prematurely and had trouble sucking but I wanted to breastfeed so badly. I wore myself out breastfeeding my first baby around the clock, every two hours, 45 minutes each feeding plus pumping. Everyone told me it was cluster feeding, or just how newborns are, but at 2 months she'd barely gained weight and had spent a week in the hospital with severe jaundice. My lactation consultant finally handed me a bottle of formula and said, "Sometimes it just doesn't work out." I sat and cried as she hungrily sucked down that first bottle of formula because I felt like such a huge failure. My second was even more premature and spent weeks in the NICU. I felt like I was more prepared the second time around and starting pumping right away, but at two months I was having the exact same issues and, as you talked about, my older child felt severely neglected. Now, almost a year later, I can see what a blessing it is to live somewhere with clean water and readily available formula. But I still feel moments of extreme guilt and failure. Thank you again for the reminder that other mothers have shared the same struggle!
Tara Ziegmont says
Thank you for commenting. I'm sorry that was your experience, but you are DEFINITELY not alone. I hope your moments of guilt and failure are fewer as time goes by. You have nothing at all to feel guilty about!
i just wanted to say that this is SOOOO close to my own personal story! So close it's crazy - my second baby is now a month old, we are actually combination feeding (when she's grumpy etc I breast feed and I am able to express a little bit but as I still worry about my first daughter's weight at 2.5yo we are mostly formula feeding) and I was recently told off for not enjoying my family more and realised a few days later that I had my first day of not crying the whole time!
Must return to this blog! 😉 XXX
For something so natural it sure doesn't always come easy or work for everyone. I'm sorry for the issues you had!
I hesitated to write this because I don't want to imply that you should have done anything different or that you made wrong decisions or that this even applies to you at all, but I just feel like if sharing this information can make a difference for just ONE mama out there then it needs to be shared. I hope it's ok with you that I am sharing it here.
Posterior tongue tie is one thing that can cause tons of breastfeeding issues, from plugged ducts to mastitis to failure to thrive to baby wanting to nurse 24/7. It can also, but not always, cause painful latch.
My fourth baby, the first I struggled to breastfeed, had an upper lip tie and a posterior tongue tie. She made a clicking noise when nursing, slipped off and struggled to maintain suction, couldn't keep a pacifier in, bit the bottles to get the milk out because she couldn't lift her tongue in the backÃ¢â‚¬¦and three lactation consultants missed it despite me specifically, repeatedly asking about her tongue and lip. It just really isn't well known at all as an issue. 🙁 Fortunately for us I did come across information online and I knew that it can be genetic and that our family is predisposed to tongue ties, so I was able to find an experienced, educated provider four hours away and take my three month old there to have a five minute laser freeing of her tongue and lip ties. No anesthesia was needed. It made an immediate improvement.
If somebody is struggling and thinks that tongue or lip tie may be possibly the reason, I encourage joining the Tongue Tie Babies Support Group on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/tonguetiebabies
There is a providers list of professionals skilled in identifying posterior tongue ties (which are not always visible at first glance). There also is a wealth of information in the files! Dr. Larry Kotlow's website, kidsteeth.com is also a good resource. And the Advocates for Tongue Tie Education twitter account is here: https://twitter.com/AdvocatesforTTE
Tara Ziegmont says
Thank you for sharing. I'm all for knowledge and supporting moms wherever they find themselves.
I'm not sure I've ever shared this in public before, but my first daughter was tongue tied as well. After trying so hard to breastfeed for the three days we were in the hospital, we realized there was an issue and took her to a surgeon. Her issue required a very minor surgery on her third day of life - but by then, she completely refused to latch on at all. She would scream and scream and scream and she never latched on again. It was very painful (emotionally painful) for me, but in a completely different way than it was this time.
The problem with my second baby (and perhaps part of my first daughter's problem, too - we'll never know) is that I made very, very little milk. I never experienced that letdown feeling or flood of milk. Even after weeks of breastfeeding and pumping constantly around the clock, there was no difference between Allie's pre-feed weight and post-feed weights. Sometimes, she weighed less after she ate. 🙁 I would get an ounce or two of milk after pumping for 30-45 minutes, and those small amounts just weren't enough to sustain her. I think there might have been other issues going on for Allie (dairy intolerance perhaps, as we had to switch her to soy formula within 2 weeks of starting formula and she really thrived on that), but the bottom line is that I physically can't breastfeed, and there are many more moms like me who need support and encouragement.
I may be a bit late..... I agree, Tara, that moms like you and I need more support. It wasn’t until my fifth and last baby that I found out it was a problem with my output than with the baby. I tried all five times, thinking the fifth was the charm. My experience with him was the same as you described above. He nursed nonstop and wasn’t gaining weight. I cried each time I switched to formula because breastfeeding was something I desperately wanted to do. It wasn’t until after that I found out my maternal fathers mother couldn’t breastfeed any of her eight due to the same issue. I do cherish those few cumulative months of breastfeeding though.