When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out

World Breastfeeding Week was not too long ago. It is a wonderful celebration of women feeding their babies in the most natural and (arguably) the healthiest way possible. However, breastfeeding might not work for all.

When I had my baby, I planned to breastfeed for the first year. While in the hospital, with nurses and lactation specialists readily available, breastfeeding didn’t seem so bad. It wasn’t always easy to get baby T to latch, but overall it was ok. Once we got home and were on our own, things seemed to be fine. T cried, and I would feed her. She cried a lot, and didn’t sleep much, but I didn’t know any better and assumed she was just doing what babies do.

Unfortunately, T’s weight dropped. She lost over a pound in the first week, going from 6 lb 14 oz at birth to 5 lb 13 oz at 5 days. At her one month appointment, she was back up to her birth weight but had not gained. It made no sense– she seemed to be eating constantly. Questions were asked. The one that sticks out in my head is, “how much did your breast size increase during pregnancy?” The answer was “none.” I wore the same bras all through my pregnancy, underwires and all.

That’s when the pediatrician recommended pumping to see how much breastmilk T was actually receiving. At one month, the typical recommendation is 4 ounces of milk every 4 hours. You can’t imagine my devastation when we discovered I was barely pumping HALF an ounce every 4 hours. I had been unintentionally starving my baby! 

So I would pump, and we made up the difference with formula. T instantly began to sleep more and cry less. And within 6 weeks she had gained 3.5 pounds. 

I felt guilty for not being able to do for my baby what women are just naturally supposed to be able to do. I tried everything to get my supply up– I ate lactation cookies (they contain ingredients that are supposed to promote increased supply), I drank Guinness despite hating beer (someone told us that might help), I tried power-pumping (10 minutes of pumping, 10 minutes rest, and repeat for the rest of your life. It’s completely exhausting). Nothing worked. If I got an ounce in a day we were happy. If I somehow managed 2 ounces, there were literal tears of joy.

Eventually, I got over the guilt and realized that were at least fortunate enough to have a supportive network of family, friends, and medical professionals to help us through one of the first hurdles of parenthood. Having a happy, healthy baby was all that really mattered.

My hat goes off to all the moms who are able to breastfeed for as long as they want to. And my heart goes out to those who can’t. Ultimately, as long as your baby is getting the nutrition it needs, that’s what is most important. And please, if you receive formula samples or coupons in the mail and you don’t need them, find a mom who is formula feeding and give them to her! That stuff is not cheap!

Previous article3 Super Simple Crockpot Dinners for When Life Gets Busy
Next articleBeing a Single Mom is Hard, No Questions Asked
Originally from Dauphin Island, AL, I am a stay-at-home mom who likes to do anything other than just stay at home. My husband and I have lived in 5 states together and are in the Atlanta area now for the second time. I have a Master’s degree from GSU in Multiple and Severe Disabilities and was a special education teacher for 8 years before deciding to work with adults with autism and then becoming a SAHM. I now work as a preschool teacher and fitness instructor. I enjoy spending time with my daughter at parks, libraries, and anywhere else that we can explore our world.