Monday, January 23, 2012

the breastfeeding truth

My goal when writing posts about motherhood has been, from post #1, to be honest and not paint this mom picture in an overly cheesy and "everything is perfect" light. The main reason being my own jaded idea of what being a new parent was going to be like based on other peoples depiction of this time. Yes, motherhood and having a newborn is amazing and people should share all the special moments but I wanted to share those special ones and the not so special ones to give it some perspective.

So in keeping with this goal I wanted to write this post about breastfeeding. And I hope that I don't get too harshly reprimanded for my story.

Before I was pregnant I didn't have strong feelings about breastfeeding or not. Then when I got pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed but that was the extent of it. And I definitely didn't connect with the "magic" that other Moms would talk about. I didn't get caught up in the breastfeeding mantra. I wanted to breastfeed and I was going to until I didn't. As my pregnancy went on, and I read more, my desire to breastfeed became a little stronger and I made the goal of wanting to breastfeed for at least 1 year. I still kind of cringed at the idea of nursing in public and making my decision so public. Those women that just whipped out their boobs and started nursing no matter where were a little too radical for me.

Unfortunately I read nothing about how hard breastfeeding actually is. I thought my baby would just naturally latch on and that was that. I had not come across any stories about how trying and exhausting and difficult it could be. Because of this I decided not to take a class on breastfeeding or research more than the tiny chapter in my baby book. I did read though that a natural unmedicated vaginal delivery made breastfeeding easier. My plan was to have Molly put on my chest right away and breastfeed almost immediately. That should set us up for success.

The reality...not so smooth.

My labor and delivery was great. Everything was as planned or better. I was in labor (extremely intense labor) for just 3 hours and it only took me 2 good pushes to bring Molly into this world. She was placed immediately on my chest and we spent a good 20 minutes together before she was taken away to clean, weigh and wrap up. As soon as that was done she was back in my arms ready to make our first attempt at nursing. It was a short attempt, she was sleepy and not really latching on and in the midst of all the excitement we quickly moved on when she didn't seem all that interested. I think that was the first mistake we made in our breastfeeding journey.

The next few days in the hospital we continued our attempts at breastfeeding, we met with the hospital lactation consultants several times a day, we used a nipple shield, we did skin to skin time etc. She wasn't quite getting it.

We took her home and continued our efforts. She was still not really latching well. We didn't give up. We had a breakdown around day 4 or 5. And then we had a breakthrough. She latched! And she latched well. Success! For the next 5 days or so our nursing sessions were amazing. She was latching and drinking and swallowing. It was wonderful. And then it wasn't. For some reason she just stopped latching. And for some reason I wasn't producing. It was a catch 22. She didn't latch on for long because not enough milk was coming out and I wasn't producing enough because she wasn't draining me. It was heartbreaking because she was hungry, really hungry. She was crying and screaming because she wanted to eat. And despite my best efforts my body wasn't giving her what she needed. So we decided to supplement. This was a very hard decision and one that my husband and I made together after a lot of discussion. Our final deciding factor, our baby is hungry and she needs to eat.

The plan of action was to breastfeed as much as she would tolerate then supplement with formula until she was full (she never got the milk drunk full from exclusively breastfeeding). Then I would pump as much as I could to try and get my milk supply up. As the days wore on she got worse and worse at latching and would just scream when I tried to get her to nurse. It was killing me. All I wanted to do was feed my child naturally. To be able to whip out a boob and bond as my baby nursed from me. But it wasn't happening.

The next step, call a lactation consultant. She came out to our house, spent a couple hours with us and assessed the situation. In the end, the only real hope was to get my supply up with the idea that Molly would start to latch again once plenty of milk was offered. The problem, to get your supply up you have to pump around 10 times a day. 10 times! I tried my best and felt like I was pumping around the clock but I was only able to get in about 5 or 6 pump sessions (Molly liked to be held around the clock and would cry if not). More supplementing was being done and at this point she was now about 60% formula and 40% breast milk. As the days wore on my supply was not getting any better. I got on a prescription medication that was supposed to help along with lots of herbs and vitamins. No change. My body was failing me.

Over the next 6 weeks I continued to try. I would breastfeed her for her first feeding because that is when I was the most full. And I continued to pump during the day and bottle feed what I was producing. As the weeks wore on she latched on less and less in the morning feeding and my body was shutting down production.

The hardest most painful decision I have ever made came next. Breastfeeding was over. We moved to 100% formula.

I felt like a complete failure of a mother. The most basic of needs I was unable to provide. I cried and cried everyday. And not a day goes by still that I don't tear up thinking about it.

I want to be that Mom that pulls out her boob in doctors office waiting room. I want to be that Mom that has a freezer full of breast milk supply. I want to gush about the magic that is breastfeeding and the incredible bond I have with my baby during feedings. And I get insanely jealous when I see other Moms enjoying these things. Its not fair. Why not me? Why did my body fail me?

I wanted to write this post for all the Moms that have tried, with the best intentions, and it didn't work out. Because those Moms don't get support. We get too harshly criticized and ostracized by women who haven't had these obstacles and don't know what its like.

I want the very best for my child. And I tried, boy did I try. But it didn't work out. And I am doing my very best to move on and move past it. But its hard to admit failure and feel okay about it. Especially when it comes to your baby. But here I am, sharing. Sharing in hopes that this post might help someone else. Might pull someone else out of the darkness that takes over when you let yourself down.

In the end all you can do is your very best. And I know that Molly will be just as healthy and thriving on formula. I did what I could and I have to take solace in that.


UPDATE: Thanks to my amazing readers this blog post is now being featured in an eBook from Babble. You can find more information here:


  1. What a nice share. I know there are a lot of moms out there who don't even want to admit this to the world, and that's too bad. They need to know they are not alone and there is no shame. As you know, I, too, had the same issues with my and your brother turned out perfect in spite of it. And Molly is perfect, too.

  2. Bravo. That is a very brave post. You should feel 100% satisfied because you tried your very best... and then some. It is true - formula feeding moms (like myself) do get the evil eye and the whispers behind the back - or sometimes judged right to our faces. People don't know a mom's back-story and there should be no judgement on anyone. It's hard enough just to be a great mother. Great post, Hallie

    1. Thanks Sheri, I appreciate it. The breast feeding journey was a very hard time and something that I still struggle with internally. But we are making strides everyday.

  3. I was one of the lucky moms who did not have these challenges. I know all the reasons I chose to nurse and I am sure they are the reasons you wanted to as well. Who is to say if I would have worked as hard as you if I ran into obstacles? We will never know. But what I do know is that no one is served by criticism and judgement. We love our children and would do all in our power to give them our all. That all may not look the same in each household. But those bright eyes in that last picture? Those eyes are not in want of anything! She is a doll!

  4. Thank you May. I appreciate the kind words and compliments of our Molly. You are right, it doesn't look the same in every household but we do our best to raise a happy, healthy little girl.

  5. she is so cute!

    It sounds like you did everything you could and beyond. You're doing what's best for her, and that's the best you can do. Maybe with another child, should you have one, it will be easier and you'll get to be that mom with the freezer stash.

  6. Thanks RhodeyGirl! She is definitely a cutie.

    And yes, definitely hoping we can get it down for the next baby we have (years from now!) and maybe we will have that freezer stash! : )

  7. After your tweet last night, I came to your blog to find if you had written anything about it. It does sound VERY familiar. Unfortunately, Cora hasn't latched without a shield --- EVER. Did she latch with a nipple shield? Cora does, but she gets lazy and quits sucking with it. I hope the day will come when she just latches without it (I read stories like this). I'm lucky in that Chad is home iwht me now and I get about 8-9 pumping sessions a day. However, I'm just not seeing much of an increase. It's only been a week though. I'm producing about 22 ounces a day --- hope to someday get that up to 30. Anyways, we do what we can. 

  8. So sorry to hear you guys are having such a difficult time. Molly didn't latch at all in the hospital, even with a nipple shield. We got her to latch with a nipple shield at home, and then for 4 or 5 amazing days she latched like a champ w/no shield. We thought we were all set...and then she just stopped latching. We couldn't get her to latch with a shield either. I would put her at my breast constantly to see if she would get used to it but it just got worse and worse. Hours and hours of her screaming and me sobbing. I was pumping as much as I could and taking all sorts of supplements but the most I ever pumped in an entire day was 8oz. It was horrible. Finally we just had to throw in the towel so our daughter could eat. We also ended up battling with reflux and a dairy intolerance.

    It was the most trying time of my life and I still have moment of guilt for not trying longer but in the end we did what was best for Molly and our family.

    Hope it gets easier for you guys!

  9. Well, kudos to you for doing all you can. I can't imagine continuing to pump when all you got was 8 ounces a day. That would be so hard (mentally especially). You jumped through hoops for her and for that you should be applauded. 

    How old was she when she went to 100 percent formula? What kind of formula did you use? 

  10. I think she was 8 weeks old when she went to 100%. We used Earths Best organic formula for awhile until finding out she had a sensitivity to dairy so we tried Soy and then had to use Nutramagin (which turned her into a different baby -- so happy!).

  11. I just found your blog and I have been enjoying getting to know your family! Your daughter is beautiful! I just had a baby (2 1/2 months ago) and my breastfeeding story is very similar..nipple shield, poor latch, low milk supply, tears, tears, and more tears... my son is eating about 90% formula...I am still able to pump a small amount that we add to his bottles...but my milk is drying up more and more each day...thank you for sharing your story..I felt like I was the only one who is/was formula feeding my baby! You absolutely did everything you could and there is no shame in formula feeding... esp if your sweet little girl is thriving and healthy and happy! I look forward to reading more!

  12. Thank you Amy! And congratulations on your new baby! I am sorry to hear you are having the same breastfeeding troubles, I wouldn't wish that on anyone! I hope you are able to move past any guilt quickly as there is nothing wrong with you as a Mom if you can't breastfeed (that's how I felt for a long time). Thanks for reading!