This is Max’s blog, but it has also been a diary of my pregnancy, and now, of my life as a Mom. Sometimes you’ll arrive on this site and see adorable pictures of Max splashing in the bath tub. Sometimes you’ll read some rants and raves about life as a 30-something first-time Mom. This journey is (most of the time) thrilling and delightful, and (every so often) frustratingly insane.

This is one of those posts.

I am not able to breastfeed our son the way that I had hoped to. And I never thought that it would upset me so much. Nursing is supposed to be natural. It’s supposed to be instinctive. It’s supposed to work. I mean really, that’s why god made boobs, right? He sure didn’t make them to bring shitloads of money to the porn industry….I mean, that wasn’t his intent.

I knew the lies about nursing before I even tried. I knew that it hurt like hell at first. I knew that it actually wasn’t instinctive or easy. I knew that I would need things that I had never heard of before, like nipple cream and nursing bras and pads that protected my clothing if my boobs sprung a leak. I’m a shopper, people. I didn’t mind. I dutifully went out and found some pink tank tops with cute little clips that opened up the front of the tank so that Max could nurse. I made sure that I had a Boppy AND a My Brest Friend so that I didn’t get a back-ache while I nursed. Sean and I went to our $40 Breast Feeding class and learned “The Football Hold” and “The Crossover Hold”. I proselytized to anyone who would listen about how nursing promotes attachment, wrote it in my birth plan that I wanted him brought to me as soon as possible to start nursing, and scoffed at my hairdresser when she said that she was CHOOSING not to nurse.

And then my body didn’t work the way that it was supposed to. Things started to go wrong and those things toppled over one after another like dominoes. We went to two different lactation consultants, sometimes as often as every 2 or 3 days. We rented a hospital grade pump. Bought all of the accessories, and learned everything about storing and using expressed milk.

I pumped as often as I could. I nursed as often as I could. And I prayed and wished and hoped as often as I could that all of this would work.

I supplemented Max with bottles of formula. Every time I pumped I got some milk. Enough to give him a bottle or two of breastmilk each day, in addition to his formula. For the first month of his life.

Every time I went to the lactation consultant she said that it COULD get better. That I should take Fenugreek pills. I did. That I should use warm compresses. I did. That I should do a triple-feed (nurse, formula bottle, pump). I did. That I should use a supplemental nursing system tube that attached to my boob and gave him formula while I was nursing him. The formula tube squirted everywhere and it took four hands to hook the damn thing up, but I did. That I should KEEP. TRYING.


And then finally, after four weeks, Sean and I sat down and took an honest look at where we were. The point of pumping was to at some point be able to nurse exclusively. I was nowhere near that. If I wasn’t producing at this point, then I probably wouldn’t ever. I had missed the window of opportunity because of a comedy of errors that occurred in the hospital. I had tried and tried and tried. I was not a quitter. But at this point, we weren’t serving Max by being exhausted from the nurse/bottle/pump process. I was spending hours hooked up to a machine, when that was time that I could have been spending with him.

So I slowly stopped. And I cried huge tears over it. I felt like a failure. I was mad at the lactation consultants. I was mad at the hospital. I was mad at my doctor and mad at my c-section. I was mad at my body.

One afternoon I went and turned in my breast pump at the place that I had rented it from. I half expected them to ask me if it had worked. But there was no ceremony. No judgmental looks. As I fed Max his bottle that night I whispered in his ear that I had done the best I could. That I would have done anything, forever, if I thought that it would have worked. It was one of my first full-blown mommy guilt experiences.
Now, a few weeks later, I still look longingly at the mommies who can pull out a boob and feed their baby wherever they are. I curse at the bottles when the formula clumps and I can’t shake them enough. I get a pang of sadness when I get out of a warm shower and see a tiny white drop of milk coming out that somehow stuck around. I think “what if” and “maybe” and start to feel sad all over again.

BUT, when I am feeding a bottle to my beautiful son, and he is looking straight into my eyes with those big blue eyes of his, and his gaze is locked with mine, I know that however I am feeding him, it doesn’t matter. When he grabs my finger with his little hand as I’m holding the bottle. When I burp him on my shoulder and he nuzzles into my neck and his little lips move like a baby bird’s. It doesn’t matter how I feed him. He is my boy, and I am his mom, and I whisper in his ear that I will always love him, and always take care of him, and that I will always feed him.

Now everyone knows that I am not a drinker, by any means. So I honestly am not fazed by the fact that I haven’t been able to drink. In fact, I missed it about as much as I would have missed a sharp sliver in my finger. But when looking to find the positives in the breastfeeding debacle, I thought I’d toast to having tried my best. So here I am, having my first drink in 10 plus months. Oh…and it was during dinner with Jason and Rick, so I am also modeling my new shades for them.

And the bottle picture up top? That was taken by my dear friend Tori, who has an amazing eye for photography, and took some beautiful shots of Max just being himself.


17 Replies to “How I Really Feel”

  1. I mean how many of your blogs can bring a tear to my eye, a smile to my heart, and a laugh from my belly? So glad I found your site tonight. I also struggled with breastfeeding. Which led to my first 3 weeks with my son being really unhappy. And they shouldn’t have been. Thanks for being a sharer. 🙂

    1. Amber, I’m glad we found each other! Thanks so much for stopping by here, and for sharing some of your story, too. This mothering business is so much easier when we’re among friends 🙂

  2. Wow! This is my story! I was unable to breastfeed Luke 5 years ago and was heartbroken about it. Even after all the pumping, nursing, and meeting with three different lactation consultants, I just couldn’t ever make enough milk. Knowing what I know now, I blame it on having been induced 3 weeks early, the swelling associated with preeclampsia and, like you said, a similar comedy of errors in the hospital. But get this: Luke had a dentist checkup with a new dentist last week and she told me he is tongue tied. She asked if anybody had ever told me that. NO!! I mentioned our breastfeeding struggles 5 years ago, and she said it’s probably why he couldn’t latch. I was blown away to learn this. In the end, I was finally able to breastfeed Sam (he’s almost 1) but it was extremely difficult at first. I definitely think this being your second baby will work to your advantage. I think it did for me with Sam!

  3. Thank you! I struggled with breastfeeding also. Your story is so similar to mine it brought a tear to my eye. After 10 days of the same nurse/formula feed and express and the extra complication of high blood pressure and chronic fatigue from those meds and no energy from meds for milk production that also treats nausea (no milk) I made the decision to stop. Within a few days, my little boy got to see his mummy happy and engaged with him. For a while I would cry at the sight of other mothers breastfeeding so easily, but now after 4 months I know that it was the right decision for us. Thank you.

  4. I want to thank you too. Your blog has me bawling at the moment. I think its finally a release of the emotion I’ve kept bottled up (no pun intended… ok maybe a little) these past 5 months. I too have a similar story, except take the sensitive stomach down a notch on the baby and on the mommy add in a C-section infection complete with a 5-day hospital stay 2 weeks after birth. Even before the infection set in though, I had struggled with breastfeeding… but I too was determined. I tried breastfeeding with formula supplementation. I took herbal supplements. I rented a hospital-grade pump and consulted with a lactation specialist. I pumped 12+ times a day to “stimulate my flow”. I had a baby with the “perfect latch” and yet we struggled. I struggled. After the medical issues set in, I had to spend a week dumping every drop I was pumping, crying as i watched it go down the drain. And yet, I kept trying to maintain SOME kind of flow. A few frustrating and exhausting weeks later, I made the heartbreaking decision to stop breastfeeding. I had a long road of healing ahead (which eventually included IV antibiotics, home nurses, an infection specialist, a wound doctor, surgery and a wound vac) and I truly believed the stress of breastfeeding was becoming a roadblock in the healing process. I cried and cried as we packed up the pump and drove it back to the rental store. I had to tell myself over and over “A healthy non-breastfeeding mom is better than no mom at all” when all that was popping into my brain was “I’m a failure as a woman. I couldn’t have a traditional birth and now I can’t even feed my baby” And as if that wasn’t hard enough, there was all the judging for not “trying harder” to breastfeed. I just wanted to shout “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WE’VE BEEN THROUGH! THIS WAS NOT A DECISION LIGHTLY MADE!!” Thank goodness for an amazing husband who supported every decision I made and for a baby who didn’t give a damn how he got his food, as long as got it from someone who loved him and was willing to cuddle with him afterward 🙂

  5. I want to pipe in a little “thank you” as well. It’s amazing how helpful it is to see that I’m not alone. We’re in our 7th month of formula feeding now, and I’m slowly getting over the loss of breastfeeding and the guilt about always wondering if maybe I just “didn’t try hard enough,” as everyone says. I only wish I had found this community sooner!

  6. SO wish I would have found you on my thousands of web searches when I was going through this EXACT same thing, right down to the c-section. I was pretty sure my life had ended when I stopped breastfeeding, failure didn’t even begin to encompass how I felt about it. My husband and I sat down and had the same conversation – coming to the conclusion that pumping, measuring formula vs breast milk, calculating every drop, freaking out about spilling droplets of liquid gold, etc – was sucking the life out of us. Right now I just breathed a sigh of relief knowing that others have been through a verbatim struggle. Just found your blog so I don’t know the whole story, I’m sure you’re not able to reply to everyone – but were you ever able breastfeed any of your children successfully? Just looking for hope with future babies 😉

    1. You are definitely not alone! Thank you for commenting here, and thank you for sharing your story! The moms that have commented here are all so brave, as are you! For me, letting go of the hope that I would be able to nurse Max was one of the hardest parts. I so badly wanted to try again to nurse my next child, and now, over four years later, I finally have my chance. I am still surprised (shocked!) that I am able to nurse Ben (our now 9 month old). We got off to a bit of a rocky start in the hospital, but once we got home, I WAS able to exclusively breastfeed him. The learning curve was steep, and I needed a TON of support and help for the first month or two. I had an amazing team of doulas/postpartum doulas who literally sat behind me as I was in the recovery room (c-section) and held Ben to my breast to teach him (and me!) how to latch. They helped so much in the first few weeks, and I had great support from a local lactation consultant, and online support groups as well. It IS possible….every baby is different, and depending on the new circumstances, each mothering experience is different too. He’s now 9 months old, and we’re still going strong! I wish you so much luck and peace, and please do reach out if you need to chat!

  7. I’m so grateful for amazing people like you. My daughter is turing one next week and my breastfeeding journey ended around her third month. In the beginning it was surprisingly easy (minus some latching issues), but then reflux, painful, horrible reflux kicked in at week 4 and totally rocked all of my breastfeeding dreams. I had a hard time coping with a screaming baby and having doctor after doctor do nothing but hand me papers on colic. I struggled with my decision to quit so badly since I decided to throw in the towel, but seeing her completely miserable was enough justification at the time to do just that…if that makes any sense. Guilt seems to haunt me from time to time, but I have to constantly remind myself how much happier mama and baby were when those reflux issues were finally straightened out. Luckily we found a great pediatrician who took one look her and wrote us a prescription for Prevacid. I felt like I could sleep for days within the first hour of giving her that first dosage. My body was suffering from mental and physical exhaustion and stress all while trying to heal and recover from a really rough delivery. She is still on Prevacid and the dosage constantly has to increased due to weight gain, but she is perfectly content, beautiful and most important, HEALTHY! Thank you for this!! I need this when those feelings of guilt and wonder creep back into my brain to remind me I did what I needed to do!

  8. Thank you so much for this. I stopped breastfeeding at 3 weeks because baby just wasn’t getting enoough. I tried the feed, formula, pump thing but it was exhausting, I took pills of all sorts and I even tried to relactate at 5 weeks because I have bad breastfeeding envy. Every day I try so hard not to let it bother me, but deep down I have a lot of hate towards the nurses at the hospital. I didn’t have a csection so I got skin to skin right away and the first nurse came in tried to help me, babe didn’t latch right away so she said hes not hungry and walked out. Same with my next nurses told me he didn’t need to nurse for the first few hours. My mistake was listening to them. I don’t know if I will ever be ok with my decision to formula feed when I feel I could have pushed through but I try my best not to feel guilty. So again thank you for this. It really helps when I can read other experiences and know I’m not alone.

  9. Thank you. My little man is 7 weeks now and I have had a very similar experience. I’m not ready to take back the hospital grade pump or cut back on pumping sessions. My “never quit” mentality may very well be a neuroses. I never thought I would go to such great lengths to breast feed, or ever have to, for that matter. It’s unfortunate that there is so much shame surrounding formula feeding today. I’m not sure I will ever be able to overcome the guilt of not being able to provide my son with the “very best” of what is such a basic need from the start. What a terrible feeling and I’m so thankful that other moms are willing to speak out about their struggles.

  10. Thank you for this. Your story is almost exactly what I have been going through the past 6 weeks. We have decided to start weaning my son and making the switch to formula, and it breaks my heart. I had to return my hospital pump to my lactation group today, and it was so hard to watch all the mothers happily nursing, complaining about their “fire hose” milk flow. Right now my husband is on night duty to give my son his first bottle without me trying to nurse him first or pumping. I should be luxuriating in the long sleep I can now get, but I am wide awake, surrounded by a mountain of snotty tissues. It is encouraging to hear that you had success with your second. I also take comfort in remembering that mothers feed with love, not just milk.

  11. I love your perspective. It’s very refreshing amidst my back and forth guilt trip I’m currently on. My son is 3.5 months old and we’ve never had a successful breastfeeding relationship. I was a breastfed baby and so I always thought I would breastfeed my child. Formula just didn’t seem like an option in my mind. However, the first time I tried to nurse him he refused to latch…and so it began. I had lactation consultants in the hospital who put guilty thoughts in my head that still ring in my ears. He nursed a few times in the hospital for about 10-15 minutes at a time but that was it. The last day we were at the hospital, the LC was not there and none of the nurses were helpful. When we got home, getting him to latch became absolutely impossible. So I began pumping and putting it in a bottle every time and it was exhausting. A week later I bought a nipple shield, which worked great until I was forced to return to work at 6 weeks, and he slowly decided he didn’t want to nurse anymore and it absolutely broke my heart. We spent weeks with him screaming because I didn’t want to give up. Finally and very reluctantly I decided to try exclusively pumping with one nursing session in the morning. A couple days ago, he stopped nursing all together. Because I sometimes don’t respond that well to a pump, he has 2-3 formula bottles a day. I still don’t want to give up, but constantly pumping is exhausting and I have to give up time with my baby to spend pumping. I mourn my loss of time with my son. We’re considering switching completely to formula but I just can’t escape the guilt. I keep feeling like if I had only tried harder or had a different experience his first week it would be better and I could exclusively nurse. It’s killing me. Any advice/encouragement?

  12. So, this is almost seven years later, but – YES to all of this. Thank you for sharing your story and your struggle. This was me one year ago. Unexpected cesarean, difficulty latching, and crazy-fussy-baby issues prompted me to give my baby that first bottle of formula at 4 weeks, too. And I leaned down and cried and my tears fell on his face, and I also whispered that I had did my best. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with formula (even though I never had a problem with it), despite being momentarily heartbroken about not breastfeeding (even though I had never cared about it before).

    I wish moms didn’t feel so much guilt over using formula. I just don’t understand why guilt is necessary. I was surprised by how guilty I felt, and not even because of any outside pressure to breastfeed. Just plain old rising-from-within guilt. (I blame the hormones.)

    Anyway. Thank you, again. What a wonderful community you have created here.

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