Courtesy of Caroline Hand

I Am Proof That We Ask Way Too Much Of Women Who Can’t Breastfeed

By
Share
Ad failed to load

In the hours after my daughter was born, as I was recovering from a traumatic birth involving severe preeclampsia, a nurse at the hospital asked me if I planned to breastfeed. Duh, I thought. Of course. Breast is best and all that, right? “Yes,” I murmured, in post-delivery stupor, not sure what she was getting at. “Her sugars are low; we might have to give her formula while you’re in the recovery room.” I told her that was fine. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but I also wasn’t going to be nuts about it. If the baby needs formula, sure, give her some. Anything to keep her healthy.

I tried to feed the baby whatever I could produce, but she didn’t seem interested. I have lots of cute pictures of her using my boobs as a pillow at the hospital.

Little did I know my breastfeeding adventure was just getting started. During the next two days at the hospital, the nurses tried to stimulate my colostrum; and by that, I mean they pushed, kneaded and pounded on my boobs so hard that I got bruises all over them. The nurses seemed surprised at the very little amount they could cajole out of my uncooperative breasts. Then they brought out the big guns, the hospital-grade breast pump, instructing me to pump every two hours. In the meantime, I tried to feed the baby whatever I could produce, but she didn’t seem interested. I have lots of cute pictures of her using my boobs as a pillow at the hospital. So we supplemented with formula that the hospital provided and gave her the microscopic amount of colostrum that the nurses were able to squeeze out of me every so often.

Ad failed to load

By the time I left the hospital, I was eagerly awaiting that boobs-getting-as-hard-as-rocks feeling that so many friends had told me about. The days passed and nothing happened. No milk, no engorgement, no hard-as-rocks feeling. We continued to give the baby formula but you better believe my precious angel was still going to breastfeed. It’s the healthy way; no, it’s the only way. So I waited for my milk to come in because I just knew that when that happened, everything would be all right and my baby would start breastfeeding like a champ, and I could toss all those sample boxes of formula and nipples and bottles with drop-ins and sterilization bags. I was going to breastfeed, people! There was no other option.

Finally, finally, finally my milk came in on day 8 of my daughter’s life and I was thrilled. Now we could start the breastfeeding in earnest. Except guess what? She still wasn’t having it. All of my breastfeeding attempts resulted in her taking a lovely snooze on my no doubt very comfortable ta-tas. I took to walking around our apartment topless, ready to breastfeed at a moment’s notice, should my baby be interested. She never was. So we continued to use formula and I kicked the pumping up a notch by renting a hospital-grade pump from a pharmacy. This will do it, I thought. This is what we need.

Ad failed to load

Our postpartum doula told me to take something called fenugreek to stimulate milk production. I was told to you can buy a special tea that will make milk just start erupting out of your breasts. We spent a ridiculous amount of money to have a lactation consultant come to the apartment. Lo and behold, with her two hands holding the baby and my two hands pumping my boobs to stimulate milk flow, the baby was actually able to get some milk. It was a miracle! Until I realized that the lactation consultant’s two hands weren’t going to be there for every feeding and whoamIkiddingthisisanightmare! The lactation consultant said to just wait a little longer, that the baby will get the hang of it, don’t worry! So I kept trying.

Every two hours I attempted to breastfeed the baby (usually with poor results), then gave her a bit of formula, to um, keep her alive and then pumped to get whatever tiny amount of breastmilk out that I could.

I bought a contraption called a Supplemental Nursing System that was supposed to trick your baby into thinking it was drinking milk from your breast, when actually it was formula from a little tube (attached to a bottle) that you had snaked down your neck, taped to your breast and inserted into the baby’s mouth along with your nipple. Going to all these lengths was kind of insane, in hindsight, but "breast is best," and I had to try every last option before I was going to give up on breastfeeding.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Caroline Hand

Every two hours I attempted to breastfeed the baby (usually with poor results), then gave her a bit of formula, to um, keep her alive and then pumped to get whatever tiny amount of breastmilk out that I could. It was usually an ounce, occasionally two, and I knew that wasn’t enough. What was wrong with my boobs? What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do this very natural thing that everyone in the world does? It was a dark time. Many tears were shed (by me, not the baby, who seemed perfectly content).

In the 45 minutes that I had been feeding her, she’d gained an ounce. One measly ounce.
Ad failed to load

The cycle of attempted breastfeeding, formula feeding and pumping went on for about two weeks until I was at my wit’s end. As a last-ditch effort, I went to a clinic at my pediatrician’s office wherein a lactation consultant would be there to give advice and to weigh your baby pre- and post- breastfeeding to see how many ounces she’d gained. This would in turn let you know how much milk you were producing. I sat there for about 45 minutes with my mom, trying to breastfeed the baby and lamenting the difficulties of breastfeeding (which no one ever tells you about, by the way) with the other women there.

Courtesy of Caroline Hand

Finally, it was time for my daughter to be weighed. In the 45 minutes that I had been feeding her, she’d gained an ounce. One measly ounce. “You need to pump,” the LC told me. I told her I was pumping religiously. “You need a hospital grade pump,” she told me. I told her I already had one. She seemed stumped by this. “Well, just keep at it,” she said, and walked over to the next mom. And that was the moment I knew I was done with breastfeeding. I couldn’t “keep at it” any longer. It was taking over my life to the point that I wasn’t even enjoying my new baby, just constantly stressing about the fact that I couldn’t breastfeed.

Ad failed to load

When I stopped, I felt a huge sense of relief. No more desperate attempts at breastfeeding an uninterested baby. No more two-hour feeding cycles. And for the love of god, no more pumping. I was liberated, but I was also devastated. I had so wanted to breastfeed and I had failed. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as not being able to breastfeed; no lactation consultant, nurse or doula ever told me.

Not being able to breastfeed almost broke me, but please don’t let it break you. The weeks of anxiety I experienced over this were simply not worth it. My daughter is now a healthy 6-year-old who rarely gets so much as a cold and hasn’t ever had to take antibiotics. She is awesome and she is thriving and as much as I would have loved to breastfeed her, the bottom line is that I couldn’t, despite my best efforts. So while breast may be best, sometimes it’s just not an option. Don’t nearly lose your mind over it like I did.

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

Ad failed to load

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

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack