Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Problem: Breastfeeding Sucks

I mentioned earlier that I had some breastfeeding issues after Nathaniel was born. I just wanted to write a little bit about that here just in case some poor woman is crying and searching the web at 2:30 AM looking for someone who understands what she's going through.

For the first ten days of his life, my baby wasn't getting enough to eat. Not nearly enough...meaning about 1/2 ounce per feeding when he should have been getting two to three ounces. We went in for a weight check and the poor kid had only gained 1/2 an ounce in nearly a week. He should have been gaining that much, minimum, per day.

Obviously, this isn't something that we knew on day one, but something that required much pain and turmoil (for all of us) to learn. We read stuff online. We consulted with pediatricians, a nurse, and a lactation consultant. I started taking fenugreek. I tried a more powerful hospital grade breast pump. We tried a horrific feeding routine that included feed on the right breast for 10 minutes, feed on the left breast for 10 minutes, supplement with two ounces of formula, and pump both breasts for 15 minutes. This entire process took nearly an hour to finish, then had to be repeated again about an hour following its completion. Between the hormones and the sleep deprivation, I was only able to keep this up for about four days without going completely insane. But I came really close. 

I cried a lot. I hated my life. I talked to a couple of friends. One of them recommended MOBI Motherhood International, which seemed like a good resource. In the end, breastfeeding didn't work out for us. My milk supply wasn't changing at all and the toll it was taking on my sanity and our lives didn't warrant trying for longer just to see if it would potentially change. Note: My pediatrician said that it most likely would not. In 1996 I had a needle biopsy of my left breast (which was my worst milk producer), and the lactation consultant mentioned that it's possible that some of my milk ducts were damaged during the procedure. She encouraged me to keep up the jump-off-a-bridge inducing feeding routine for a couple of more weeks to see if there was any change, but I just couldn't do it. I also read about women who continued to partially breastfeed their babies even when their bodies didn't produce enough milk, but I didn't feel like that was the right option for us.

Even though I couldn't physically produce nearly enough milk to feed my baby and I'd given it a decent try, I still felt guilty. It seems like there's a lot of pressure to breastfeed, no matter the cost. But I can understand that. Breastfeeding is better for your baby than formula. Yes, even the organic formula that we decided to go with. I'd been planning to breastfeed Nathaniel for at least six months with a stretch goal of one year. Now, he'd only be getting two weeks worth of the good immune boosting stuff I could pass on to him, and I felt horrible about it.

Plus, I was sad that I was going to miss out on the bonding that comes with breastfeeding. Sure, most of the time I was doing it with him I would have rather had someone give me 500 paper cuts then drench me with a flesh burning substance, but I'm thinking about the idyllic relationship we could have had without the problems. I'm really sad that I'm not going to get to experience it that way.

We've been solely formula feeding for almost two weeks now and I have to say that life has been easier. My husband and I can switch off on feedings and get a relatively good amount of sleep each night. And the biggie...our son is gaining weight and he is healthy. And that's what is most important. If you're a mother who is going through something like this and experiencing similar feelings, just remind yourself of that and surround yourself with people who'll do the same. It helps.


  1. Found your blog on BlogHer and wanted to stop by to say hello! Your little boy is adorable and sorry to hear that you've been having breastfeeding issues. I'm pretty well-versed in BFing and posted a lot about it when my son was first born. You can check out the earlier posts on my blog or just stop by.

    One tip for you: Mother's Milk Tea! Works wonders, tastes great, and can be bought online at Traditional Medicinals! I had a 6 month storage of breast milk in my freezer. Trust me.

    Oh, and pump after every feeding no matter how tired or how little you think you're getting. It's all about supply and demand. You demand it, your body will produce it!! Good Luck!

  2. Hi Chocolate Mom. Thanks for the link and information, but as my post said, I'm no longer breastfeeding. We're formula feeding full time now and it has worked much better for our family.

  3. I went through the exact same thing with my daughter (who's now 11 months). I wanted so badly to breastfeed, but no matter what, it just didn't work for us. I STILL feel guilty about it, because of all of the pressure to breastfeed, which is crazy. Know that you're not alone! You just have to do what works for you and your little man. :)