When breastfeeding fails – what people don’t tell you

When I was pregnant, and even before I got pregnant I was set on breastfeeding our little guy. Or rather, breast pumping.

The breastfeeding battle begins…

The reason why I decided on pumping was a choice of both my husband and I. Our reason, because Geoff wanted to have the connection of being able to feed our baby too. Also, he felt that he couldn’t be as much help or as involved with Peyton if I was exclusively breastfeeding. This is a totally valid feeling for any dad. We strongly believe parents-to-be should have this conversation. Obviously our talk was more in-depth than that, but that’s the gist of it.

Now, I’m not in any way against breastfeeding, trust me, I’m all for the boob. Like I said, pumping was what we agreed on. If you choose to breastfeed, that’s the choice you are making. No way of feeding our babies, regardless of formula, expressed milk or straight from the boob is wrong. They need nourishment, bottom line. Every mom-to-be makes a choice at some point of what they want to do. You’ll see later on why breastfeeding was not a possibility for me.

For months and months I researched, I looked up recipes for lactation cookies and smoothies, buying milk freezer bags, and got my pump.You should see how much I have on my Breastfeeding/Pumping Pinterest board, I was obsessed! We were all set. Or so I thought.

First we tried breastfeeding…

When Peyton was born, and we were in the hospital with him, the nurses were little to no help to us. We told them that our plan was to breastfeed to get my milk to come in, which it did, so that later on I would be able to pump. While we were in the hospital the main concern is feeding the baby, obviously. My expectation was that they would at least properly show me, being a new mom, with no family around, how. No. That didn’t happen. They also did not give me access to a lactation specialist. Even though it was something that we were told about on our hospital tour. Didn’t happen. The extent of our nurses visits were them coming in, checking my blood pressure, checking Peyton out and asking if he was feeding.

Peyton had very bad jaundice. This means that he had a buildup of bilirubin in his blood and that he would need photo-therapy. The fastest way to get the bilirubin out of their system is by feeding them so they can flush it out. Babies with jaundice are also very hard to wake up, so to feed them, is very difficult. So needless to say, having to feed a baby that wouldn’t wake up for feedings, was emotionally hard. On day two, after being told we wouldn’t be leaving the hospital, they started photo-therapy on a biliblanket.

Let me get really honest and a bit graphic with you now. Since we were having breastfeeding issues, by the end of day two, one of the midwives asked if I would like a breast pump. The reason she said was because she noticed I had flat nipples, huh? Flat nipples, they seemed normal to me, but okay. Not all nipples are the same ladies! The pump would at least factor out the latching issue and he would still be getting colostrum. Finally. Thank you midwives! So the hospital pump came in, I started pumping, great! We ended up doing half formula, half breast milk at the midwives/doctor/nurse suggested course of action and this helped.

Then we started pumping…

By the end of day two in the hospital his bilirubin levels were still not where they should be so he went into the incubator. After 3 and a half days we were finally able to leave the hospital but we still had not been given any breastfeeding help to go home with. My milk was coming in just fine however, so we assumed exclusively pumping would be the answer.

When we got home I was pumping, which was working out. I had a good supply going, had bags of milk in the freezer. Things were going good. For a short time. Remember how I mentioned Peyton had jaundice? Well when we had left the hospital it wasn’t all gone, it had declined enough to leave, but he wasn’t quite out of the woods.

For the first week and a half after we were discharged from the hospital we had appointments at our midwives every day. The commute there and back was about an hour and a half round trip, to find out he still wasn’t gaining weight. This didn’t include being sent to the lab daily for blood work for him, waiting there, and also being told that his bilirubin levels weren’t improving. We were being told that we may need to go back to the hospital for further photo-therapy.

Remember how I said that I was unable to breastfeed because anatomically my nipples weren’t agreeing? This meant that when we were out for hours on end per day, that a) I was unable to pump b) he was only getting formula c) we had not yet learned that the formula he was getting, wasn’t agreeing with him and he was still not gaining weight. Needless to say, the first week and a half of being parents we felt like the biggest failures in the world. There was a lot of crying, little conversation between Geoff and I, and the let down day after day of our little guy not getting better.

Supplementing formula…

After two weeks we finally had the all clear, this was after our midwives switched us from Good Start to Enfamil. Our little trooper went from not gaining anything in a week and a half to gaining 90g overnight! By the way, they expect your baby to gain a minimum of 20g per day when they are young. We had been chasing that golden 20 for so long with no results and then finally after switching to Enfamil, he porked right up. While he was only receiving Enfamil I was still pumping. Once he was gaining weight regularly we started doing half formula, half expressed milk and he was still gaining and doing great.

When I say he was doing great, I mean amazing. We were so happy, our little guy was getting normal coloring, was awake and alert and it was a huge turnaround for our little family’s morale. One downfall was about to come our way though on the pumping front, little did we know…

When Breastfeeding Doesn't Work - What they don't tell you - Wine and Mommy Time

Why wasn’t it working?

You know when you read all of the posts about breastfeeding and pumping, they make it seem like it’s all going to be fine, like everything will work out and that your plan will work. Well what I never saw was cases like ours. Cases where the mom had to exclusively pump but had no lactation support. Cases where a baby required to be out of the house so frequently. Especially in the initial weeks, the most important ones where your milk production is at the utmost importance, we could not keep a pumping schedule. I did not see any of these circumstances and was not prepared.

By the time I was able to create and maintain a pumping schedule, Peyton was about 2.5 weeks old. If you have breastfed, or pumped, you would know that it is very hard to get your supply back when you have had inconsistent stimulation.

I was doing everything, taking fenugreek, baking lactation cookies, not drinking coffee though I needed it desperately, pumping for longer at those peak nighttime hours, doing pumping bootcamps, and so on. Nothing was working, I was getting so upset. I did some more research. Get a new pump. This would be the answer! So I found the Spectra. The Spectra was incredible, It felt so much better than the Medela, it was able to pump more in less time, I loved it. If only I had, had that pump in the beginning I don’t think you would be reading this post right now.

Then came formula…

Unfortunately, my supply did not improve, after weeks and weeks of trying everything and of doing everything I could. It was just gone. To say I was upset, to say I felt like less of a mom and a person, was an understatement. The overwhelming feeling of feeling like I was letting my baby down was creeping back, I was going back to the helpless feeling I had when we were between appointments on a daily basis. It wasn’t good. So I talked to my ever so supportive husband and we both agreed that I wouldn’t keep trying because it just wasn’t working and frankly all I was doing was making myself more and more upset.

We switched to formula permanently after that conversation and he has been formula exclusive since we ran out of frozen breastmilk. He is no longer on Enfamil because it made him colic, it can be a pretty big gas-producing formula for many babies. We also learned that he has a bit of an intolerance to lactose, so that was a learning curve! But we are on the right track now with a sensitive-to-lactose formula and things are great.

My advice to you…

The moral of this is not to make you feel bad for me. The point of this is for me to open up to other mom’s, mom’s to be, and tell them/you that if you can’t give your baby breastmilk, it’s okay. You’re not defective, there is nothing wrong with you. Remember these words, fed is best.

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The most important thing as a parent, mom, or dad, is that your baby receives nourishment and love. With that said, you need to love yourself and not beat yourself up (easier said than done, I know). Formula is not poison. Do I wish I could breastfeed my baby and give him the most natural nutrition I can, yes, absolutely. However, now that he is older and I am making him food, I have control back. I make all of Peyton’s food from scratch and love that I can do that for him.

It does get better…

Our little ones are babies for such a short amount of time and we need to savor that. They won’t breastfeed or have formula forever, this is such a small part of their big lives. Don’t let any doctor, mom, family member, spouse or friend make you feel bad for not giving them the boob. Every circumstance is different. Every mom is different. Be strong, you are not alone.

I know that typically my posts are pretty light hearted, or sarcastic but I know that there are other mom’s or mom’s-to-be out there who are struggling. Post-partum depression can sneak in at any given moment and I can honestly say I had it. We don’t talk about our failures enough. But with our failures we learn.

If you are going through this struggle, or know someone who is, please talk to people. If you have no one who understands, heck, email me. I’m here for you.

Thanks for reading my story and please share this experience with other moms-to-be or anyone who you think it may help.


Why We Had to Use Formula - Wine and Mommy Time

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