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Grieving the Breastfeeding Relationship That Never Was

Grieving the Breastfeeding Relationship That Never Was

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I’m a long time reader of your blog, and when I found out I was pregnant last year I started reading your pregnancy calendar and Advice Smackdown. Reading your calendar every week was one of the things that kept me sane while dealing with insomnia, back pain, and seven months of nausea. It helped me appreciate the crazy things going on in my body and helped me laugh at myself a little, so thank you!

When my husband and I decided to start a family, I immediately knew that I wanted to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months. Being successful at it was something I worried about my entire pregnancy. My mother breastfed me (but not my two older sisters) until I was two and didn’t have any difficulties. But both of my sisters struggled with their daughters. My oldest sister had a daughter four years ago and was never able to get a good supply. Her experience was terrible and she always made BF sound like a horrible marathon of crappiness. She switched to formula only when my niece was three weeks old. Because of their experiences, I really worried that I would have a similar one.

I had my son in March and at first things went well. But when we went for his second well visit, he had dropped a pound and his pediatrician had me start supplementing. My little one (LO) gave me a hard time latching on in the early weeks — he would go from zero to starving in two seconds flat and would be so hungry he refused to latch on. I started a system where I would give him just a little formula to take his hungry edge off and then bring him to the breast. It was working really well. In a week, he was thriving again and I was pumping enough to start building a stock of breast milk.

Then, when my LO was just over two weeks old, he had a temperature of 102. We took him to the ER immediately. You know it’s a scary situation when the ER waiting room is full, but you are taken right in without waiting :-\ Because it’s unusual for an infant that young to have such a high fever, they had to run a slew of tests on him. The worst was a spinal tap to test for meningitis. It was the scariest experience of my life. I was able to breastfeed him without any problems the first day, but that night he started to leave the breast hungry. We were admitted and stayed for three nights and by the time we left, he was getting more formula than my milk. The stress of the situation made my supply plummet. Thankfully, the fever was due to an UTI (we were there for so long waiting for test results and so that he could be given antibiotics through an IV). After seeing his pedi and urologist, we had to have another test done and found out that he has a mild urinary reflux. It was an all around awful experience, but we’re just happy it wasn’t anything more serious.

After my supply dropped so drastically, I started seeing my lactation consultant more regularly. I did everything she suggested: took copious amounts of fenugreek, always offered the breast before giving the bottle, and pumped every time he ate for at least 15 minutes. My day consisted of sleep, breastfeeding for 20 minutes, bottle feeding, pumping for 15 minutes, changing his diaper, rinse, and repeat. I even got a prescription from my OB for domperidone, which isn’t FDA approved (which means it isn’t covered by insurance…). I was spending over $150 a month on supplements trying to help my supply and it seemed like my whole life centered around the liquid gold that is breast milk.

Now, my son is 4 and a half months old and he’s almost exclusively bottle fed. We do one recreational breastfeeding session in the morning that is hit or miss (sometimes he’s just too distracted to drink) and I’m lucky to pump a half an ounce a day. The problem is, I just can’t seem to stop mourning the breastfeeding relationship that I won’t have with my son. This week being breastfeeding week, it’s shining a light on something that feels like a personal failure. It feels like my body is betraying me. And every article that Huffington Post publishes about the benefits of beast milk or fighting for the right to nurse in public, my heart breaks a little. When friends in my mom’s group complain about cracked nipples or mastitis, I’m just jealous. Logically, I know I’ve done everything I can to be successful at this. But emotionally, I feel like I’ve failed at my first job of being a mother. I just can’t seem to let go of the dream. I keep hoping that tomorrow my supply will magically kick in. At this point, I know it’s doing more harm than good to keep trying this hard. But I also feel like the instant I decide that enough is enough and put away the pump, it’ll just feel like giving up my son and myself.

I’m really hoping you can lay some advice on me that will help me get past this hurdle. I’d like to be able to focus on enjoying my son rather than feeling guilty about how I’m feeding him. Thank you so much!

Hugs, lady. You’ve done great. You’re DOING great.

I won’t blather on with the details I’ve probably shared a million times before, but yeah. I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding my first baby, and ended up right where you are, around five and a half months. He would nurse in the morning, kinda. If I was lucky, again after daycare, but again only kinda. I pumped whenever I could at work but the output was so paltry it wasn’t even worth dragging an ice pack back and forth. One morning, he was extra distracted and didn’t latch on when I offered, and I remember staring at the ceiling and finally thinking, “Okay. We’re done.”

It was a complicated acceptance. Like being in a leaky boat already lost at sea, and letting the oars slip out of your hands and into the water.

On the one hand, yes, it felt good to finally STOP FIGHTING. STOP OBSESSING. To just accept what we’d been dealt, breastfeeding-wise and move on. We tried. We really, really tried. I was grateful for all the brief interludes where nursing actually happened and went smoothly. He was healthy and thriving. I loved him immeasurably. These were the things that mattered, rinse and repeat, over and over.

On the other hand, I am not going to BS you and tell you that I didn’t continue to feel pretty damn sad about it for awhile. That the well-meaning breastfeeding PSAs didn’t feel like a personal insult, that I never had to deal with some obnoxious know-it-all who couldn’t comprehend that breastfeeding can be hard and not work out sometimes. “But did you just try ?” That I never felt irrationally jealous when breastfeeding worked out for someone else.

Time helps. Time brings perspective on what a tiny little blip breastfeeding is in a human’s life, and how it pales in importance to the motherly duties ahead. Time means feeding your baby real food and moving on from formula and putting regular milk from the grocery store in a regular cup. I found deep meaning and joy in making homemade baby food, and then in cooking and baking for my family — healthy, wonderful, delicious food that makes them happy while nourishing them as best as I know how. (With the occasional batch of insane chocolate brownies, of course.) Having more children helped, and getting a do-over on nursing, and being generally more successful at it — while also reinforcing that I didn’t “fail” my firstborn in any way because I “only” nursed him for a few months and never exclusively.

Of course, I look back and still wish things had worked out differently — not necessarily for my son’s sake though, but because I feel sorry for my poor first-time-mom self who wouldn’t stop stressing out over it. For her sake, I wish nursing had not been so fraught.

So give yourself time. It’s okay to feel sad and grieve. It’s okay to be a bit wistful and say you wish things had turned out differently. It’s also okay to hurl your pumping supplies out the window and give HuffPo articles the finger and declare Boob Emancipation and enjoy the prospect of just…being with and enjoying your baby instead of nursing nursing what else should I try what else can I do oh God oh no oh God.

You fought an amazing fight. You did amazing work and I commend you so highly for sticking it out as long as you did.

Above all, you fed your baby. Brava, Mama.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Kate

    August 22, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    I know exactly how you feel. I have insufficient glandular tissue and never made more than 180ml in a day despite trying everything to increase my supply. I got a lot of support through a Facebook group for women with low supply and IGT. Also talking to a psychologist really really helped me come to terma with it all. You are not alone. And it does get easier. My girl is three and a half now and I don’t blame myself anymore for what happened.

  • Elizabeth

    August 22, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    I feel your pain. I had the exact experience except my daughter eventually screamed at the sight of my breast…insult to injury. ;( It was one of the hardest things, and so many tears when it should have been a happy time. My daughter is now 2, but breast feeding week still stings. However! I am now completely at peace with how it all went down. I could never pump more than 2-3 oz in a whole day, and my baby was starving!! Bottles gave me a freedom, but still allowed me to bond with my baby. People who say bottle feeding isn’t bonding are IDIOTS. Sorry. It’s a bunch of malarkey! 🙂 The best thing I did was make the decision to exclusively formula feed. The limbo was killing me, and every nursing session was heartbreaking. I finally found healing and peace after I made that choice. Also, talk about it. I found several friends who had had similar experiences, and I had NO idea. I felt like I wasn’t alone. You are NOT alone. And above all, if you need some therapy to work through, DO it. Time really heals, and the bond with your little guy will grow no matter how he gets fed.

  • friend

    August 22, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Please don’t be so hard on yourself. Time will heal this hurt.

    Also, please think about discontinuing the domperidone. There are good reasons its not FDA approved. Seizures can be a side-effect. My SIL, in a similar situation to yours, took it for increased milk production and ended-up having a seizure and a hospital stay. Its not worth it.

  • Ashley

    August 22, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Oh yes, this. I feel so bad for women that have to deal with this. I’ve had my own struggles, but we managed to power through and sometimes I still wonder if it was worth all the stress and agony. You did great! Even though my baby is breast fed, I still want to give the finger to the HuffPo articles and punch all the smug bf-ing mothers that act as though the women that have to stop just didn’t try ‘hard enough’. Of course I’m pro bf, but it is such a small thing in the big picture. I think we should all save the guilt for later. You know, for when we actually screw something up that our kids care about/remember. Chin up, honey. You have nothing to feel guilty about. 

  • Katie

    August 22, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Another IGT diagnosis here. It’s awful, and I still feel a twinge when I see other moms nursing happily. But formula isn’t poison–it’s actually pretty amazing stuff, when you think about it. And the freedom to just enjoy your baby? Is amazing.

    You are a good mom. Definitely a “good enough” mom. Like Amy says, breast feeding is a blip in the grand scheme of time. And in the meantime, buy the formula proudly 🙂

  • Cypress

    August 22, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Thank you! I went through something similar, although I was the one who got an infection.  My c-section did not go as planned, and extra surgery was required.  I was able to breast feed for nine days, and then I was re-admitted to the hospital.  I pumped through my first stay (one week) and then breast fed when I returned home for four days.  When I was re-admitted because of further complications it was just too much to pump.  My nutrition levels had dropped too low.  I have to say that I felt horribly selfish and depressed about it.  2 1/2 months later I still have moments of sadness.
    I do not feel less connected to my son, and there are some major pluses:
    1) hubby can do more of his feedings
    2) baby sleeps through the night – no having to get up every few hours
    3) I can drink wine and not worry about the “pump and dump!”  Did I mention wine?!?
    Hang in there. It will get better!

  • Julia

    August 22, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    check out the Fearless Formula Feeder’s blog and FB page, lots of support for combo feeding and FF moms there.  Suzanne Barston’s book Bottled Up was also so helpful for me

  • SarahB

    August 22, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Can I just say how impressive it is that you tried so hard in the face of such obstacles? Really, truly impressive. You can say with a good heart that you tried everything, that the early hospitalization threw a wrench in the works, and pay yourself on the back.

    Right now, let me also say that your hormones are probably not doing you any favors. A few weeks after I breastfed my son for the last time, it felt like my head cleared out of nowhere. Like I’d been in a bit of a fog and didn’t even know it. The couple of months of supply dwindling and barely pumping anything and oh hai Aunt Flo….awful emotionally. I know folks respond differently to hormonal changes, but don’t discount that could be a big part of it!

  • Shannon

    August 22, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    You are a rock star for all your efforts so far! I had a similar issue with my first child – undiagnosed tongue tie, poor latch, low supply – which led to me exclusively pumping. I had to keep adding formula until I finally gave up around 5.5 months. It was so hard to make that decision. BUT! Once I made it, I felt free! My baby was happy, healthy & bottle fed. She’s now almost 5 & strong/healthy/awesome and we are still totally bonded.

    Things went much smoother with my second child. In fact, she is almost 2 yrs old & will prob never wean!

    The most important thing is feed your baby & don’t beat yourself up mama!

  • S

    August 22, 2014 at 5:50 pm

    I’m sorry it’s hard – trying is hard, feeling that way is hard. This is also a ridiculously common experience. I have twins, so I’ve experienced everything bad about breastfeeding, the pain oh god the pain, the supply issues (hello! 70 oz!) It felt so unfair to only breastfeed one kid, I mean, who does that to twins?! But the benefit of dealing with two newborns at the same time (amongst alllll the bad – don’t do that – and mastitis a dozen times is asssss), was that I was made fully aware that it wasn’t me, it was the kid who just couldn’t breastfeed. At some point, there isn’t some amount of trying harder and doing the “right” things that’s going to fix it all. You hoped it would all work out perfect. And sometimes it does! But when it doesn’t, and all those damn people for whom it did keep talking like “oh woe is me, one time my kid bit my boob and it was so hard, WAH!” It sucks. (And i get that they don’t get it – my other kid nursed to 2, it was so easy.) So I’m sorry. Here’s what my lactation consultant told me: we are so lucky there are great formulas to feed our babies. We are so lucky. Pick a time, on your terms, and stop. I stopped trying to breastfeed with the kid that couldn’t do it at 14 weeks. I had seen the lactation consultant twelve times. I pumped much, much longer, but that was another story, I’d have liked to stop earlier. People are going to keep breastfeeding their own kids, they might ask you about it, or maybe you’ll feel judged when no one is judging. It might be silly, but you can make up canned excuses so your responses aren’t emotional. “We did breastfeed, but LO had some early medical scares that I’d rather not talk about, so breastfeeding wasn’t our priority. We’re so glad he’s better!”

  • leslie

    August 22, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Oh my gosh. I just had to comment on the fact that the SAME EXACT THING happened with my daughter at 8 days old. Unexplained fever, trip to the ER, tons of horrible tests, hospital admission….all for what turned out to be a UTI. I don’t think I have ever cried so hard as I did when they did a spinal tap on my poor, helpless little girl. I know that wasn’t the purpose of your letter, but it was just uncanny to read about your situation, b/c they kept going on at the hospital about how rare UTIs are in babies that little and how surprised they were. Solidarity, sister.

    Having said all that, I also want to tell you that I think you are an absolutely amazing mama. 99% of women would have thrown in the towel LONG before you did. It’s 100% ok to mourn the loss of something you worked so hard to achieve and something that means so much to you. We all know your son will be just fine with 100% formula.
    But that doesn’t make it any easier to finally give in. Big hugs to you, mama. You fought the good fight. It’s ok to be sad. And it’s also ok to let go. Hope you can find peace with it soon.

  • Zarya

    August 22, 2014 at 5:54 pm

    I have just one question for you and your sister: were your children thoroughly evaluated for lip and tongue ties?

    • C

      August 22, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      I’m not trying to start a flame war or anything, but… this mom is grieving a part of motherhood she desperately wanted. And which I also had to accept the loss of and give up at around 4 months. This question, while legitimate, isn’t much more helpful to her than what Amalah said about “But did you just try ?” 

      Right now OP needs to know she’s not alone, that its ok, that the guilt/pain does lessen. She doesn’t need more questions making her feel that she just didn’t try or isnt… ENOUGH, not matter how well intentioned.

  • IrishCream

    August 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    Not an exact parallel, but I had a lot of regret and grief over having two C-sections, instead of the birth experiences I’d hoped for and are held up
    culturally as the ideal.

    Time helped. The further I’ve gotten as a parent and the more amazing experiences I’ve had with both of my kids, the less my regrets bug me. Right now you’re in a phase when feeding is such a Big Thing, but when your son is two or three, no one will be talking about nursing or formula-feeding. It’s taking up a lot of your emotional energy now, quite naturally, but it won’t be that way forever. You may always have those “what if/if only” feelings, but they will be blunted by time and all of the happy memories you will have, I promise! But in the meantime, big hugs to you, and congrats on your baby!

  • Elle

    August 22, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    I was almost exactly where you are about six months ago…the domperidone, the pumping (Gah! SO MUCH PUMPING!), the teas and herbs, the baby pulling off my breast and screaming in hunger, the sense of frustration and failure, and the supplementation growing as my supply waned. We ended up salvaging our nursing relationship by the time my son was about 5.5 months, but it was so much work and stress that I sometimes regret pushing through.

    I can’t get back all the times I couldn’t pick up my son to comfort him while he cried because I was hooked up to a breast pump. I’ll never get back the months where I was afraid to leave the house because nursing was such a hit-or-miss ordeal, but I was too ashamed to feed him a bottle in public. All told, Being part of a broken nursing relationship was seriously the most isolating, depressing part of my entire pregnancy/postpartum period. And I still grieve the days we did not spend blissfully nursing.

    I think my kiddo starting to take solids is what finally made our nursing relationship ok in the end. He has eaten solid food like a champ since 6 months old and was almost immediately less interested in nursing. But ironically, it was also around 6 months where nursing naturally became so much less of a part of our relationship.

    My son is now a tiny, adventurous person who likes things with wheels, blowing raspberries, and throwing toys out of the bathtub and watching us fetch them. Hungry/not hungry are no longer his two main emotions. Honestly, I have no idea whether most of his friends are still nursing or not, because there are just so many other things that older babies are into.

    You are not alone and you are NOT A FAILURE. Someone already mentioned Fearless Formula Feeder, which was a huge source of support for me. I would also like to add the Magda Gerber/R.I.E. approach of being completely present during feedings and giving your baby undivided attention no matter how you feed him. It really helped me feel more present and connected while I was bottle-feeding my son.

  • Zarya

    August 22, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I’m sorry if my comment was misinterpreted, and I’m truly sorry for your loss of breastfeeding the way you had imagined and hoped and dreamed. I, too, suffered a great deal for the first 4 months of breastfeeding and was told to quit many times. I was in agony, she couldn’t latch, nothing worked, pumping, teas, different positions. I dreaded feeding her and sobbed most days and nights for the first month of her life. It was horrendous and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Then I discovered she was lip and tongue tied. We saw a pediatric ENT and we are now over a year of breastfeeding. Such a simple diagnosis with quick and easy treatment, but most physicians and many lactation consultants are not familiar with the diagnosis and moms and babies suffer in silence. Because the condition can cause all sorts of issues from speech to eating solids to reflux, dental issues and more, it’s worth having your baby evaluated. Further, there is a strong genetic component so if you have another child, you may be able to prevent this and have the breadtfeeding relationship you always wanted. Knowledge is power.

  • Tiffany

    August 22, 2014 at 11:37 pm

    I had been so good at keeping my expectations about how motherhood would go loose… but breastfeeding was the one thing I just expected would happen. HAH, since children pretty much exist to laugh at our expectations, guess who pretty much never got to breastfeed successfully, like, at all?

    I was sad about it for a while, and sensitive, and sighed internally every time I heard another mom talking about nursing. And yeah, the constant, well-meaning but irritating and irrelevant advice from everyone who had ever successfully breastfed an infant was just insult to injury. (PSA: Successful use of your own boobs does not make you an expert on everyone else’s.)

    And I hated feeding formula simply because… I don’t feed myself from a box, so I hated feeding my baby that way. (Plus the money… oh god, the money.) But you know… we’ve had SO much fun with solids. I get to put a lot of love into that aspect of feeding now. He’s nearly eleven months old now, so we’re staring down our last month of formula (we hope). And with every day, that disappointment and sadness seems a little more distant.

    Let yourself feel what you’re feeling, but I PROMISE you that eventually, maybe even soon, this is just not going to feel like the big heartache that it does right now. 

  • Caroline

    August 23, 2014 at 5:34 am

    hello, you sound so down, I’m so sorry for your awful experience after so much effort. I had a terrible first baby feeding experience too, but a VERY wise midwife (and I was in the UK where they are militant about breastfeeding!) took my hand and said ”you have made every effort. It’s a two-way street and your little boy is completely happy and thriving. Aren’t you pleased you really exhausted the possibility and that you have other options?” Then she advised me to have a large glass of wine! Seriously though, your next baby might be 100% different. I have 3 boys, the experience each time was different and they are ALL very healthy and thriving. Your boy will be too! It’s a complicated emotional thing, but I wonder if a trip to see your OB might be in order? It’s just that at 4.5 months post-partum, to be feeling so down might be a sign that a bit of depression is trying to take root. I’m not specialist, obviously, but it might be worth running it past someone who is. Best of luck and all happiness in raising your little man xx

  • Jenny

    August 24, 2014 at 12:30 am

    I have to chime in that I also ended up in the hospital with my 8 week old who was running a fever and he ended up having a UTI as well. He has an ongoing problem with his urethra. It was so crazy to read about another baby UTI.

  • liz

    August 24, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    My little guy (now 12 years old!) hated breastfeeding. He wanted to face OUT and see the world. He hated being worn unless he was facing out, too. 

    I pumped forever. FOREVER. 9 months, never really enough to sustain him, and supplemented with formula and I just finally had. enough. But I still feel sad about it.

  • Albi

    August 24, 2014 at 10:49 pm

    I have IGT as well…I spent my whole pregnancy memorising books on breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding for me was like going to a final exam on material I knew inside and out…and failing because I didn’t bring a pencil. I took an unholy host of herbs, breastfed and pumped around the clock, was prescribed Reglan.  My baby could suck, wasn’t tongue-tied….and the worst moment was when we took her to pediatrician the day after we were discharged and she had lost a whole pound.  I was starving my baby! I’m not much of a crier, but I just sobbed.  For three months I could only give her a single bottle of pumped milk per day, and even that started to dwindle. When I went back to work – it was over, and she exclusively formula-fed from then on.
    It’s been 7 months – and I still wish it could have been different – but there was absolutely nothing else I could have done. What I do see now, though – is an incredibly happy, healthy, beautiful baby girl (who slept through the night starting at 4 months).  It’s OK..more than OK – it’s completely natural to mourn the breastfeeding relationship you wish you would have had…but don’t ever think you didn’t do your job as a Mamma – you did what you needed to do to care for your baby. 

  • Yet another Amy

    August 25, 2014 at 11:42 am

    Oh, how this letter brings back memories.  I had a terrible time nursing my first daughter.  She was very sick when she was born, was in the NICU for 8 days, and we just never got the nursing thing down, despite many, many visits with many different lactation consultants.   It was so devastating, and such a hard decision to just give up.    Because it feels like such a failure. OP, I totally feel you.       I was able to nurse my younger daughter for about 6 months, but I never really had a great supply, and eventually she just stopped, and we went to formula for her too.  That decision was so much easier because I had already been through it once.  

    And now the perspective:   My daughters are healthy and thriving 7- and 5- year olds.  They are both completely normal on the growth chart.  We have had minimal ear infections.  No one has food allergies.   They are both smart and do well in school.   So much for all of the terrible fates that will befall children if they are not breastfed!  

    OP, please, please give yourself a break.  You have done your best.  Your son will be fine because you love him.

  • Amy

    August 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I echo Amy’s sentiments above – (I am another Amy too:) – it never occurred to me that breast-feeding would be a challenge I couldn’t overcome easily – and I was devastated. I did alot of searching online, lactation consults, trying remedies, pumping until it interfered with time with my daughter and leading a healthy life for both of us. Pumping is a great option and can take you a long way – formula also works for all of the above reasons. My daughter is healthy and happy and I am proud of where we got to but as time goes on I realize that being a happy and good mom meant making sure she was fed – however that ended up happening. Everyone’s mom experience is different – but take strength and confidence from all of us here who have been through the struggle and emerged realizing that our love is the best “food” we can and will provide.

  • April

    August 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Off topic a tiny bit, but my daughter has urinary reflux. We did a hospital stint like yours at 6 months. It was hell. She was exclusively breastfed and had never had solids. They were giving her sugar and babyfood in the ER and I just felt so out of control and upset. The spinal tap was hands down the worst experience of my life. I still feel traumatized by all of it. If she had gone off breastfeeding after that it would have been truly difficult. She is almost weaned now at 2 but my hormones went nuts when we first cut back. Doubling up on ER PTSD and weaning roller coasters is a lot. Be gentle with yourself!

  • Kim too

    August 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    I guarantee you that when you walk into a pre-school class, you will not be able to tell the difference between who was breastfed and who wasn’t.  Same goes for natural childbirth, crying it out, and all those other “crucial” decisions that we think are black and white and oh so important. They just …aren’t. Humans are complex critters, and there are lot s of ways to be a good mother.
    None of which is meant to deny your feelings, because those are real and deserve respect. But a full, happy baby you can cuddle instead of pumping is pretty huge, too.

  • Anne

    August 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm

    It’s a thing you have to mourn and no one can tell you how. When my not one year old have up the boob for food I cried for a whole day. Then I was depressed for a month, it was like the PPD all over again and then the sun came out and it was all okay again. Mourn it and then move on.

  • Blackmarigold

    August 26, 2014 at 11:50 pm

    My darling girl. I am so very sorry. I suspect you are sad over the loss of the breastfeeding relationship more than even the milk. I want to tell you that you can still have a breastfeeding relationship and feed formula. There is a product from Medela called an SNS. It is a bottle that hangs around your neck and has a tiny tubes that you tape to your nipple. While your son is nursing he will get milk, even if it is not all yours. No more pumping. Just cuddles and love and milk.

  • Melissa

    August 27, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I’m so very sorry this happened and yes, please grieve for what you wanted so much.  However, you DO have a nursing relationship even if it’s modified from what you had yearned for.  You are doing great.  You are a GREAT mom.  

  • Anna

    August 27, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    I had expected to hate breastfeeding, and actually in-a-way hoped it didn’t really work for me so I could just bottle feed. Then I had my daughter and realized I loved breastfeeding! Unfortunately at 3 1/2 months old, she quit latching on me completely and we moved to bottles. It made me so sad!

    However, one thing I did that I am so grateful for was having some professional photos done of me breastfeeding her during her 3-month photo shoot. The photos are beautiful and make me so happy. I did the best I could. She did the best she could. Nothing more, nothing less. And I have those beautiful pictures to prove it. 🙂 I strongly suggest you get some photos – professional or otherwise – to remind yourself of how great you guys did with breastfeeding! Good luck mama and I hope you feel better about your situation soon!

  • Katy

    August 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    It’s okay to feel sad about not being able to BF your baby. It’s also okay to feed him formula. You went through a really difficult situation, and you are a good mom for making sure your son got the treatment he needed. You’ll be out of this tunnel-vision soon, and you may even feel relief if you do just “give up”. He is almost ready for solid food, so that will be another great way to bond with him and introduce him to all the healthy foods you love!

    My daughter was a super aggressive nurser–done in five minutes each breast, from the get-go. At first, i was glad that it didnt’ take too long to feed her–my son was 20 min per side. But then it became very painful, and I would want to rip her off my breast when I fed her. Then we got thrush that just wouldn’t go away. I am very sure that this experience partially led to PPD that I was diagnosed with. So on top of those other things, now I had medication to take that was recommended not to feed her with milk that was produced at a certain interval during the day. Trying to pump at work, not feed her “contaminated” breast milk, and the pain I still was experiencing was too much and I gave up at 10 weeks. I felt like a failure, too, in more ways than one, but it really was the best thing I could have done for myself and my family, because they needed me to be happy and healthy more than they needed my milk.

  • Victoria

    August 29, 2014 at 12:26 am

    Oh my goodness, I empathize with you! My first daughter was no champion nurser, but basically the whole thing didn’t go as planned… breach baby meant c-sec, she was distracted and disinterested, always hungry, tried EVERYTHING short of the prescriptions.. We lasted until 6 month.

    Cue baby #2… an emergency placental abruption (when it starts separating for no reason) led to a preemie birth, she weighed just 3 lbs. Couldn’t latch onto me (even small, I was too big for her mouth), so I pumped like crazy and she had that for 5 months (2 of which were in the hospital, fed through a tube, ugh.).

    Nursing though? She liked the bottle and would just scream and scream with me, not getting enough. The stress of almost dying (both of us), being apart from her for months… it was too much. I quit spending all day hooked up to a machine (with a 3 yr old begging for some attention all the while) and switched to formula. I still mourn the loss of what I wanted twice and got zero times, but I forgive myself and you should do the same for you! WE TRIED OUR BEST. The babies will thrive if we do this for them. Always. Hang in there.

  • LAM

    August 29, 2014 at 3:19 am

    First, your baby is so lucky to have a mom who clearly would do anything for him.

    My son will be two this fall and Breastfeeding Week me for a loop, but not as much as last year. I spent 9 months with the same stressful feeding centered routine you described. I thought I wasn’t a good mom if I couldn’t do this one thing–oh the guilt. Even though there were TWO of us involved. So mourn–it’s hard. And after a reasonable mourning period, if you’re still making yourself miserable about it, please talk to someone. PPD and feeling like a breastfeeding failure can go hand in hand (for me they did).

    I’m not a bad mom–and neither are you– for not achieving the gold standard of breastfeeding, any more than I’m a champ because my kid sat still at the dinner table for once (though it feels like it!). So for now hang onto the love that is so evident in your letter. Before you know it you’ll have a toddler throwing food at you and laughing. Because it is apparently very funny.

  • Martha

    September 4, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    I’m in the throes of this right now, and let me just echo what’s already been said: it. is. rough.

    Our pregnancy didn’t go the way I expected. Expectation: This is going to be great! I’m going to do yoga every day! I’m going to be hiking at 8 months pregnant! We’re going to take all the right classes! I’m going to have a natural childbirth! This is going to be a magical time!
    Reality: Incompetent cervix, 10 weeks of bedrest, and our baby born 8 weeks premature by emergency caesarean. 5 weeks in the NICU.

    With the all-important exception of an ultimately healthy baby, pretty much every single expectation that I’d had about pregnancy and childbirth was ripped out from under me.
    I feel so much like breast feeding is the only thing I have left that I can have go MY WAY.

    With that said, it’s been such an immense difficulty.
    Our daughter was so small that I couldn’t even put her to breast under she was a week old. I pumped the whole time we were in the hospital, and was reassured repeatedly that lots of moms take their preemies home and find themselves in successful breastfeeding relationships.

    That’s not what happened for us.
    Like you, I needed Domperidone to help keep any sort of supply going. My daughter latches, but loses interest long before she’s had anything close to a full feeding. I feel as if I spend half of my life in front of this everloving breast pump, and I’m barely pumping half of what she needs.

    I get neurotic about the numbers.
    I beat my head against the wall trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong.
    I’ve decided that if I can make it to 6 months, I’ll feel like I was successful.

    But on the other side of it, I know that if I were to decide that it wasn’t right to keep clutching to this one thing just because I want it to go my way, that I’d still have been successful. That I still would have done everything I possibly could have for my little one. That she would still be fed, and that being fed formula wouldn’t be the end of the world.

    I guess the lesson, for me, is to detach from my expectations. Clearly, parenting isn’t conducive to clinging desperately to my desire to have things to go a certain way.

    And with that…I’m off to go pump. *sigh*

  • Sangita

    March 14, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    My heart goes out to you! I am exactly in the same boat. Just cannot seem to let go. I too keep hoping that something magical will happen and it will just work. I have spent first 3.5 months of my son’s life obsessing over this and not enjoying anything. I have been dragging that hospital grade pump everywhere as that will get marginally better output. 

    I am not sure how and if I will ever get over this failure. All the media around how your baby is doomed if you do not BF does not help! 

    I keep looking at my sweet baby and fear that he is going to have million ear infections and other awful things because I failed!