Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

9 Confessions Of A Breastfeeding "Failure"

Ad failed to load

In our culture's effort to promote exclusive breastfeeding, we seem to have forgotten that it's not easy, or even possible, for many people to do it. We tell moms-to-be all about the benefits of breastfeeding, but little to nothing about what to do if it doesn't work out. So, when you hit road blocks you end up blaming yourself and feeling like you've failed. This has to stop. In fact, I think it's time I reveal some confessions of a breastfeeding failure. I want other moms to know they aren't alone, and that not being able to successfully breastfeed doesn't mean you've failed at motherhood. It just means you're normal and breastfeeding is freaking hard.

When I had my first baby and didn't make enough breast milk, I blamed myself. I struggled with depression and self-hatred because of what was and wasn't, coming out of my breasts. I had one job — feed the baby — and I totally sucked at it. It never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to produce enough breast milk to feed my babies. Literally everything I read about breastfeeding said that undersupply was super rare and not something most new moms have to worry about. It turns out that undersupply is far more common than I was told, and lots of moms aren't able to breastfeed exclusively, even if they want to. Besides, breastfeeding "success" involves a lot more than the physical ability to lactate. As a nursing mom you need a baby who's able to latch, parental leave, a supportive partner, mental and physical health, energy, time, nutrition, hydration, and guidance.

If you set the bar at "exclusive breastfeeding," most moms are going to "fail." But if you let new moms define their own version of success, based on their abilities, goals, and desires (which might totally change once they are actually, you know, breastfeeding), everyone will have their own version of infant-feeding success. And that, according to this breastfeeding "failure," is a beautiful thought.

Ad failed to load

I Tried Really Hard To Breastfeed


In our culture we often talk about breastfeeding as something all moms should "at least try." There are so many problems with this message. For one, so many people, like me, feel pressured to try, and then to continue even when it's not working, not good for our mental health, or when our babies aren't thriving. Plus, no one should be forced to use their body to feed their baby.

Breastfeeding Didn't Come "Naturally" To Me

Handing an exhausted, clueless new mom a hungry newborn and expecting her to breastfeed effectively is like a game of roulette. Breastfeeding did not come naturally to me. At all. I took classes, read articles, and had help from multiple lactation professionals, but it was weird, difficult, and wasn't how I expected it to be. It pretty much made me feel like something was wrong with me.

My Desire To Breastfeed Overrode Everything Else

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

When my daughter was 5 days old, we discovered that she had lost 20 percent of her birth weight and needed supplemental formula to thrive. I was devastated. I'd read that supplementing with formula would hurt my breast milk supply, and I believed it. So many people — friends, nurses, a lactation consultant, and a La Leche League leader — told me to just keep nursing and my milk would come in. But it didn't, and the pressure to succeed at breastfeeding made me fail her.

Ad failed to load

The Pressure To Breastfeed Was Intense

I felt so much pressure to not only breastfeed, but breastfeed exclusively. When it didn't work out, it broke me. I became suicidal and thought that failing to breastfeed meant I had failed as a mother. The resulting guilt was intense and is only starting to fade, years later.

At Times Breastfeeding Really Sucked


Breastfeeding wasn't always magical. Sure, I loved the snuggles, but in so many ways breastfeeding sucked (figuratively and literally). There were times when I was so touched out or tired that even the thought of sitting through one more session was too much to handle. There were times when mastitis and thrush caused pain that was worse than childbirth. It wasn't always pleasant and certainly wasn't the bonding experience I imagined.

Breastfeeding Wasn't "Free"

People who say that breastfeeding is free are clearly coming from a place of privilege. While breastfeeding might be free for someone who has the privilege to stay home and wants to spend their time breastfeeding, it's not free for everyone. Breastfeeding is only free if you don't value a woman's time and the opportunity cost of spending that time breastfeeding. I personally spent thousands of dollars to breastfeed on lactation consultants, supplements, medications, pumps, nursing bras, clothes, and other supplies.

Honestly, I wish I had just spent that money on formula, baby clothes, or Starbucks.

Ad failed to load

Calling Me A Failure Is Really Offensive


It's hard to not feel like a failure when people call you one behind your back (and even to your face). We really need to stop this kind of mom-on-mom bullying. Someone's ability as a mother has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to produce and dispense breast milk. Plus, it's ableist. Do we call people who need glasses failures for not being able to see perfectly, or diabetic people failures for not being able to produce insulin? How about people who can't get pregnant? Are they failures? Of course not. We have got to stop referring to moms who can't breastfeed as failures. It's freaking offensive.

I Changed My Definition Of Breastfeeding Success

When my son was born, I was able to change my perspective of what breastfeeding success looked like. I got help, ditched unrealistic advice, discovered what did work for me and my baby, and redefined my breastfeeding goals. I found that combo-feeding was our version of success, and I totally loved it.

"Failing" At Breastfeeding Ended Up Being A Good Thing


After my daughter was born, my life became centered around breastfeeding. I felt so guilty and wanted to increase my supply, so I pumped 12 times a day and tried to spend each day focused on feeding her. Most days I barely slept or ate, and I constantly cried while I fed her. I honestly didn't start enjoying motherhood and feeling like a person again until I stopped breastfeeding my daughter.

Now, after feeding three babies, and watching them grow and thrive, I realize that infant-feeding success looks different for every mom and every baby. A fed baby and a healthy mom are totally more important than achieving someone else's version of breastfeeding success. #fedisbest

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

7 Things A Mom Really Means When She Says She Doesn't Want Anything On Mother's Day

Every year my family asks me what I want for Mother's Day, and every single year I tell them the same thing: Nothing. So, by now, they know that when I say "nothing" I absolutely do not mean "nothing." In fact, there are more than a few things a mom …
By Candace Ganger

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills