FFF Friday: “Breastfeeding was not working for me from the get-go”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

Happy Friday,

I’ve never heard about fibrous tissue creating lactation problems, but of course every woman is different, and this was apparently one hurdle that today’s FFF Friday contributor, Elizabeth, faced. Just one more issue that probably could have been avoided if handled correctly by medical and lactation professionals… doesn’t it seem like an inability to admit that things can go wrong with breastfeeding is the biggest booby trap of all? Regardless, I’m glad that Elizabeth feels confident with her decision, and is getting so much (deserved) enjoyment from feeding times!

As a new mom, breastfeeding was not working from me from the get-go. I was so determined to be all about the breast and bonding and nutrition; my husband was ready to help out in any way possible, from the lactation specialists to using pumped milk during the night feedings.
After my daughter’s birth she wouldn’t latch – nothing, nada, zippo. Enter consults and random nurses grabbing my nipples and squeezing so hard I cried. Then came the classes, the one-on-one, and finally the addition of nipple shields and pumping so hard I was in excruciating pain and still nothing was coming out. Meanwhile my baby is screaming for food and sucking as hard as she could on the nipple shield and still nothing to satisfy her.
I finally just decided to formula feed her, and she ate and ate and ate. I was so relieved that she ate, but then filled with such utter and total guilt about not being able to feed her myself. Friends and family were of no help because of course breast was best and I was a terrible mother for giving up so soon. Once home from the hospital I did try again, but she was so content with the bottle that she had no interest in my breast.
It was only after the first trip to the pediatrician that he informed me that she was super tongue tied and not able to latch because of it. On top of that I had my nipples pieced 10 years ago and when I took them out the holes not only closed, but created scar tissue and fibroids that the milk had to travel through before she could extract it, thus causing me all the pain. You’d think the lactation consultants have seen this before, but apparently not.
Formula feeding actually has made her bond more now with both my husband and I, and my parents. My mom eventually got over the fact that I couldn’t physically breastfeed and actually looks forward to feeding her whenever she comes to visit. Now at 3 months she’s sleeping through the night 6.5 -7 hours straight. She has also never spit up nor vomited after an eating which is amazing because she can stay in one outfit and entire day! I can’t wait for her 4 month check up to see just how great she’s growing. I feel that she’s healthy too, and she has an amazing personality.

While I still have the guilt about not breast feeding and wonder if I’ve missed out on some amazing bond that comes with it, I can’t help but feel satisfied with the formula feeding and the happiness I get as she’s sucking away and then dozing off into a thousand sleepy smiles dreamland.


Short on stories again, people, so start typing! Once you’ve got ’em, send ’em… formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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11 thoughts on “FFF Friday: “Breastfeeding was not working for me from the get-go”

  1. Thanks for your story. I think many of us here on this blog had some of the same feelings you did. Being that formula feeding actual helped our bond while breastfeeding was ruining it. I know this is contrary to popular belief, but really when something just isn't working out it's just a huge burden at that point. I can tell you as a mom who has breastfed two different babies it is so different when it works out and when it doesn't in regards to bonding. With my first daughter I had one breastfeeding problem after another and she got to the point she was screaming for food. I never felt more better than just pack up the breast pump and put it away, bring out the formula and quit. She also didn't miss it. With my 2nd daughter who is 2 months old breastfeeding is going better this time. I can say for myself at least the bond is the same. I never really get that ooh bonding experience from breastfeeding though, perhaps carrying the baby for 9 months and going through hyperemesis hell is enough for me to know “wow we've come a long way baby” 🙂

  2. (Friendly hospital LC here….) I have definitely run into moms with fibrous nipples (and sometimes they are wide diameter) and it is sometimes VERY challenging to obtain latch. Even impossible with a newborn at times. Sometimes the formerly pierced have extra holes instead of scarring.
    Having a tongue tie on top of this would make things especially difficult.

    And having cared for my bottle fed niece for her first nine months a couple of years ago, I had no trouble feeling bonded to this special girl while feeding her! 🙂

  3. It kind of baffles me how frequently I hear about tongue tie not being caught. My LC specifically said that my son wasn't tongue tied when I asked her. Never mind that his tongue looks just like every picture of a tied tongue and his latch was shallow and very painful (he would clamp down with his gums). I've read other stories about either no one noticing the tongue tie or no one willing to correct it, even though it's a pretty simple procedure. It seems like it's common enough and easy enough to correct that most LCs should be looking for it for any baby that can't latch well or any time that mom complains of nipple pain, but apparently not.

  4. Here's how it goes in my location: Trying to get a pediatrician to order a consult with an ENT to get it clipped in a timely manner can be a bit of a power struggle …. sometimes. We cannot “diagnose” since LCs are not docs, even though it may look quite obvious. Some peds do not have an issue with us telling moms that baby might have a tongue tie, some peds are annoyed that we mention it at all. There are many studies out describing how tongue-tie can impact breastfeeding, though. We encourage a mom to keep pushing for it as the patient who it is impacting.
    Granted – some tongue ties do not impact moms – since there may be enough elasticity in that child, but if a mom is in pain – that should be the tipping point for clipping.
    I have seen some babies clipped – it takes seconds – and they seem to cry primarily from being restrained. Many moms feel an immediate difference. Sometimes it takes a while for the baby to change a sucking pattern.

    I am not as familiar with the 'posterior tongue tie' so an ENT would be a good place to investigate an issue.
    My youngest had no problem breastfeeding but ended up getting clipped at age 4 since the dentist thought it was impacting her speech. I do not remember her looking very tongue-tied, though. (before I would have known about any of this)
    In a mom with flatter nipples, a tongue-tie can make latching quite difficult – especially through engorgement. It affects weight gain, and has a mom in pain.

    I've heard that historically, midwives used to keep a fingernail long and use it to routinely sweep under the baby's tongue and release the frenulum.

  5. Add an upper lip tie to the list of things that impacted me and didn't get noticed until I brought my daughter to the dentist when she was 3…this is the stuff advocates need to be focusing thier engergies on instead of formula!

  6. Valerie, I wish someone had told me what you wrote here. Because I really didn't put it all together until much later that the combination of fibrous inverted nipples and an undiagnosed tongue tie was probably responsible for almost all of our problems. Looking back, I'm not sure whether clipping his frenulum or doing anything differently would have fixed things. Maybe we still would have switched to just formula exactly when we did. But I think I would have felt a lot better about the whole situation if someone would have said, “oh, I can tell you exactly what the problem is” even if they couldn't fix it.

    Every time you post, I'm very impressed with your knowledge and your approach to problem-solving with your patients. I'm so glad that they have you.

  7. My son had a missed tongue-tie but it did not go that way for long. He was having breathing issues and got transferred to a hospital with a NICU. While the NICU doc was there assessing him for transport he saw my son crying and pointed it out to me. That same doc clipped him but only after his stay was done and by then my nipples were shot and he would not latch any way.

    Later I talked to my ped about it and he told me he does not recommend getting it clipped until they were two and it was interfering with talking. I was shocked! Why wait so long? I would rather having it be a simple procedure that is no more painful than circumcision at a time when they won't remember it and they are easy to restrain. I could not imagine being able to hold down a two year old and letting someone at him with a sharp object, you would have to give them some sort of drugs to knock them out which further complicates things and makes it more complicated than it has to be.

  8. In my case, it was the IBCLC we consulted who diagnosed my son's posterior tongue tie. The midwife and pediatrician had not caught it. The IBCLC told us that most professionals are uneducated about posterior tongue ties and thus don't know what to look for. *Very* frustrating. We were able to have it clipped at 10 days old but there was only one ENT practice in the metro area that would do it… shocking if you ask me.

  9. Yep, same here. My daughter has an upper lip tie and I had no idea it was even a thing until I read about it online when she was 9 months old.

  10. Pretty much the same here. I've got a lovely 16-week-old daughter who refused to latch although she was alert and crying straight after she was born. The MWs didn't seemed concerned at all, they said there's no rush. She ended up latching after 24 hours and 2-3 feeds of EBM, but she always fell asleep within 10 minutes. On day 4, again she fought the breast and could spend hours and hours without feeding. My partner decided that we couldn't starve her like that just to please the anti formula police, so we offered her a bottle but it was too little, too late: at her first weigh-in she had lost 15% of her birth weight, so off we were back to the hospital to have her examined. Luckily she wasn't jaundiced or very dehydrated so was not readmitted. On day 10, the health visitor gave her first visit and was the first to notice that my daughter was tongue-tied, hence the bfing didn't work well.
    Now, I have no regret whatsoever for formula feeding her and will not apologise to any one, because I have nothing to feel sorry for

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