FFF Friday: “It’s always the mother’s fault, isn’t it?”

One of my most vivid memories from FC’s first months is of standing in front of our refrigerator, staring at the bottles of hard-earned, dairy/soy/wheat/green leafy veggie-free breastmilk. After 24 hours on hypoallergenic formula, I knew it was about as healthy as toilet bowl cleaner for my son. Still… the voices in my head, the ones that had yelled at me every time I thought about quitting (come to think of it, those voices weren’t just in my head; they were also at the doctor’s office, in my circle of friends, and in my house, coming from my brainwashed husband), protected those tiny vials of liquid (fool’s) gold. 

So yes, Nicole- I hear you. I hear you, and I am sorry. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,



Nicole’s Story

I have over 400 ounces of breastmilk in my basement freezer.  My daughter is nearly 7 months old and she will never be able to drink any of it.  Much of it is dairy and soy free, and she will still likely become ill if I feed it to her.  I cannot bear to get rid of it, or donate it to some mother who believes that formula will hurt her child when it is the thing my daughter has lived on for the last 4 months.  I also cannot bear to throw it away because I wanted nothing more than to breastfeed my children.  And I cannot move on from feeling like I am less than other mothers because I failed, twice.

After 6 weeks of unbearable, head splitting pain, I stopped breastfeeding my son.  We struggled through latch issues, jaundice, over supply and a frenectomy.  I could only nurse my son flat on my back for that 6 weeks, and even then, it took him nearly an hour to nurse, every two hours.  He lost 12% of his body weight and required us to finger feed him with a tube every two hours until his weight gain improved.  Even once he started gaining, he was never able to nurse without constant unlatching and relatching.  I saw a lactation consultant too many times to count and spent far more money on those services than I would have on a year’s worth of formula.  My insurance did not pay for any of it.  I had such an abundance of milk supply that I would never be able to nurse my son outside of our home. I struggled with constant plugged ducts.  I nursed him flat on my back with burp cloths tucked into my bra, and still I was drenched.  After 6 weeks of pain and countless tears, I stopped.  I formula fed my son until he was a year old.  I struggled with endless guilt.  I struggled with a comment made in my house to my sister-in-law, by her sister-in-law, “You’re going to breastfeed your kids, right?”  It was said while I was out of the room, but it epitomized the judgment cast upon me for not breastfeeding.  I was “less than” because I did not continue, I did not try hard enough.

Two years later I was blessed with my daughter.  I wanted to breastfeed her.  I did not want her to be the “redemption baby” but I prepared nonetheless.  I took a breastfeeding class and met with the lactation consultant before she was born.  I prayed for it to work.  I said I was going to know my limits this time.  My daughter was born remarkably quickly, after just 10 minutes of pushing.  She was born screaming.  It was a beautiful, wonderful scream, except it didn’t stop.  She screamed for most of her waking hours for months on end.  She nursed non-stop from the moment she was born, for hours on end.  She would not settle unless the nurses took her out of the room.  As soon as she came back, she wanted to nurse again.  Unlike my son, who slept through his first weeks of life, she did not sleep AT ALL!  After labor and delivery, and then being up all night nursing, I cried.  I cried because I was sure it was already falling apart.  I cried because the nurses questioned me about whether I had smoked, used some medications or drugs while pregnant that would cause my daughter to be so restless.  It’s always the mother’s fault, isn’t it?  Except it wasn’t my fault.  I did none of those things.


Despite the pain and discomfort, I continued.  I saw the lactation consultant again.  We got past the blisters and I healed enough to continue.  I was assured that she wasn’t tongue tied like my son.  But she screamed and cried and never latched well. After 6 weeks, the lactation consultant diagnosed her with a tongue tie and reflux.  She went on medication and we braved rush hour NYC traffic to have her tongue and lip tie corrected.   She still screamed and would only sleep if I held her.   She broke out in a rash all over her face.  Eventually, I cut out dairy, then all things soy.  Because I had to hold my daughter 24/7, I could not cook and could rarely grocery shop.  I started losing weight so quickly, I had to try to consume high calorie foods to keep weight on.  I was losing about a pound a day.  Meanwhile, my daughter was not improving.  In fact, she was screaming more and nursing less.  She nursed for just 3 minutes at a time.  She would go hours without eating, just screaming and crying.  I brought her to the pediatrician and the lactation consultant, who both felt she was just an “efficient nurser”.  But I knew something was wrong, so I waited for the scale to show what I knew was happening – she was not eating enough.  And soon, the scale showed that her weight gain was less than it should be.  She developed an intense aversion to eating and was referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist.  He identified mucous and traces of blood in her stool.  The lactation consultants encouraged me to continue.  At one point, I was encouraged to bed share because I was “missing feeding cues” that might be contributing to her weight gain issues.   I knew I was not missing feeding cues and that my daughter simply didn’t want to eat because she was in constant discomfort, and likely, pain.  Yet, I cried because I allowed this woman to blame me for my daughter’s feeding issues. At this point, I was no longer eating dairy, soy, nuts, or peanuts.  I weighed less than I did before I got pregnant at about 9 weeks postpartum, despite gaining nearly 30 pounds during my pregnancy.  When people complimented my weight loss, all I could think of was the constant distress we were experiencing.  I wasn’t trying to lose weight, I was trying to get my daughter to gain weight.

I was feeding my daughter every 3 hours in her sleep overnight because she would nurse in her sleep, but would refuse when awake.  The lactation consultants told me formula would make her reflux worse and that maybe I should give up eggs or wheat too.  Meanwhile, the pediatric GI told me to stop nursing and put her on hypoallergenic formula because we might never figure out what food proteins she was reacting to.  Initially, my daughter refused to drink Elecare.  She was refusing to eat much at all at that point and the foul tasting formula was not appealing.  I cried endlessly and worried she would be on a feeding tube if she did not start improving.  I truly did not know how we would survive another day of screaming and not sleeping.  We were finally able to get her to drink Alimentum mixed with breastmilk if we fed her in the bouncy seat and distracted her with toys.  Slowly, we weaned her to all Alimentum.  Then, even more slowly, she began to eat.  At 12 weeks, my mom convinced me to leave her home with her and go out with my son and husband.  When I came home, she told me that my daughter had cried for a bottle.  My daughter had not cried out of hunger for weeks.  I was so relieved.

I know that I had to stop nursing my daughter for her health.  I know that I did what was best for both of my children and that they are healthy and happy.  Finally, at 4 months, my daughter stopped crying.  She still has some issues with feeding but she is such a happy girl.  I don’t think she is in pain anymore.  And yet, I still hear the voice of that woman in my head, “You’re going to nurse your children, right?”  And I still feel “less than” other mothers.  I allow the judgment of others to force me to question my decisions.  I still have over 400 ounces of breastmilk in my freezer and it haunts me everyday.

I am writing this because I hope to have closure one day.  I want to be able to shrug off the judgment of others as I am so much more easily able to do in other areas of my life.  I want other mothers to stop believing they know it all and to accept that most of us are just doing the best we can.  I want to forgive myself and let go of the pain, the guilt, the jealousy of other mothers who succeeded where I failed.  I want the breastmilk in my freezer to disappear along with the pain I have been carrying for so long.

I don’t think any woman should feel bad for not going to the lengths I went to.  I hope nobody reads my story and things, “I didn’t try that hard so i didn’t try hard enough.”  I feel the need to justify my actions and I won’t let myself “off the hook” for not going to greater and greater lengths to succeed.  I know this is incredibly irrational and unhealthy; I would not want anybody to read this account and feel bad.  As mothers need to know when to make a change for the greater good and stop feeling the need to live as martyrs to prove ourselves to one another.


Feel like sharing your story? Email it to me at formulafeeders@gmail.com. Please note, it can take up to a year for stories to appear on the blog!

FFF Friday: “Sometimes, it takes more than loving an idea to make it work.”

One of the most frustrating misconceptions I see is that someone who chooses not to breastfeed must be anti-breastfeeding. That’s about as logical as someone implying that I’m not a professional actress because I’m anti-acting. Hell, I love acting. I spent most of my life studying it, and I was actually pretty good at it. But ultimately, the life of a professional actress wasn’t a good fit for me. I made a choice, and I feel very confident in that choice. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it. It doesn’t mean I don’t love watching my old drama school friends succeed. Sure, sometimes I get a twinge, missing what it felt like to be on stage or on a set, but I know I made the right choice. 

Your “right” doesn’t need to be my “right” for us to mutually respect and support each other. My choice isn’t a condemnation of yours. And I love how Tif’s story illustrates this. It’s everything I believe in; everything #ISupportYou stands for.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,



Tiff’s Story

I love the idea of breastfeeding. The thought of my body providing the sole nourishment for my child, the closeness of the bond. The idea, I love. But sometimes, it takes more than loving an idea to make it work.

With my first child, I had full intentions of breastfeeding. I was young, still in college, and naively believed that nursing would come naturally, that our little girl would take to it immediately, and that we would have a long-term nursing relationship. At the hospital, I should have known something was wrong when she continuously pushed against the breast, refusing to feed, even as the nurses tried to show me correct positioning before eventually giving up and essentially leaving me to my own devices.

A week into breastfeeding, I gave up. I was sleep deprived (as all new mothers are), crying at each nursing session because my child would not stay awake long enough to get a significant amount of milk. We tried everything: stripping her down to her diaper, wiping her down with a cool washcloth, tickling the bottom of her feet. She would not nurse for more than a couple of minutes without drifting off. Nursing was also intensely painful because she would not open her mouth wide enough to get a good latch. This was not only frustrating, but worrying. When we returned to the hospital for her checkup, she had lost more weight, her jaundice had gotten worse, and the nurses hounded me about my breastfeeding habits, insinuating that I was doing it wrong, that I wasn’t trying hard enough.


So I gave up. The guilt ate at me for weeks, for months. Even as I began my senior year in college and knew that the busyness of classwork would have made nursing difficult at best anyway, I felt like a failure, like I didn’t try hard enough to give the best to my child. Eventually, though, the guilt faded to a dull ache and by the time she was walking and talking, had vanished completely.

When I found out I was pregnant with baby number two, breastfeeding was a priority. I would be prepared this time. I read every book I could get my hands on. I bought a nursing pillow, bras, and did not purchase bottles for fear that it would make me likely to give up. Little One’s little brother was born, placed immediately on my chest, and given an hour of skin-to-skin contact before he was taken to the nursery. During this time, I tried to nurse him, hoping that the searing pain I’d experienced with my first would not be present. But it was. And I hoped, as they took him to get checked out, that it was just due to the newness of the experience.

This time, the staff at the hospital was a bit more helpful with my breastfeeding attempts but the lactation consultant seemed hurried each time I saw her. She would come into the room and ask me if I was doing okay. I expressed my concerns to her, but since Little Guy was asleep each time she came, she said she would come back later when he was awake. She never did. I left the hospital with cracks and black bruises and once again, a baby that would fall asleep at the breast without consuming enough because he could not get his mouth wide enough.

By the third day at home, Little Guy had only produced two wet diapers in a 24-hour period. He was increasingly more yellow and lethargic. I cruised internet forums and groups, looked at pictures, and realized that it seemed he had an upper lip tie that prevented him from opening his jaw wide enough to get a good latch. That night, I broke down, drove to the grocery store and purchased a bottle and a can of formula. He took to it immediately, wide-eyed, and seemed satisfied for the first time since he’d been born.

I could have tried harder to nurse. I could have taken him to specialists and gotten his lip-tie clipped, and worried for days or weeks or months that he was getting enough while pushing through the stinging pain of feeding. But I didn’t. And as I gave him that first bottle, I did not feel the shame or guilt that I did with my first, whom I’ve since checked and realized also has a significant upper-lip tie. I did not feel like I had failed my son. Instead, I felt immense relief that he was getting nutrients and for the first time, saw him as my child, this tiny human I had brought into the world, rather than an obstacle to overcome.

I love when breastfeeding works out. I love when mothers nurse in public and always try to give an encouraging smile when I see one doing so. I love when children nurse to two and three and four years, unabashedly. I love the benefits that nursing provides mother and child. In theory, I loved breastfeeding. And then, I didn’t.

I am writing this, not because anyone has questioned my choice. My family has been beyond supportive, had told me that sometimes, what’s best for one is not best for all. And I am not writing this because I feel guilt or shame, because I don’t. And for that, I am so grateful. I am writing this for me. To remind myself that I tried. But it didn’t work out. That the decision I have made is okay. That it would have been okay if I had chosen not to nurse at all or nursed until my children started school. I am writing this because parenting cannot be condensed to one decision.

I am writing this as, miraculously, both children are napping, and I can take this moment to reflect on the past two years I have spent with my smart and funny and amazing daughter. And I am writing this so that I may look back weeks or months or years from now to remind myself that her little brother began his life just as she did: warmly welcomed by friends and family, by loving parents who have a desire to do what is best for him just as I believe we have done for his sister. And I am writing this, most of all, as a reminder of what is really important.

They are happy. They are healthy. We are content.


Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com. It can take up to a year for stories to be published, so don’t panic if you don’t hear back for awhile!

FFF Friday: “Feeling upset over not breastfeeding turned out to be a huge waste of time.”

I was showed FC my piece in the Mothering Through the Darkness anthology , and he very wisely pointed out that I have mentioned him (by name) quite a bit in my published work… but Fearlette? Not so much. “She’s gonna be upset, Mom,” he said. “You better write a book about her.”

This got me thinking. I should write something for Fearlette. Not to share with the world, necessarily, but to share with her, when she gets older. How amazing would it be to have letters or essays from your parents about you as a small child; about them as young parents? 

That’s why I love Lisa Young’s beautiful letter, which she has so graciously offered to share as this week’s FFF Friday. I hope it inspires some of you to write letters to your own children. They probably won’t ask or care about how they were fed as infants, until they have children of their own – but that might be the perfect time to show them these letters, so that they won’t feel lost with all the muddled, weighty decisions new parents must go through. That’s nice to imagine, isn’t it?

 Happy Friday, fearless ones,




Letter to D

By Lisa Young

To my darling D, an explanation of how I fed you as a baby…….

I write this in case you one day want an explanation of your feeding regime as an infant. I also write it for myself and any other women present and future for whom early feeding hasn’t gone smoothly for. Given I doubt you will give a toss how you were fed when old enough to understand, I feel the purpose of this is far more about the latter two things! But anyway….

Before you came along I couldn’t wait to have you with us and was so excited to meet you. I was however petrified of the idea of childbirth. Therefore all my energy went into trying to keep myself relaxed and calm so I could bring you into the world safely. Breastfeeding, so I thought would be a breeze in comparison, it was birth that I needed to focus on. I did no research about how to breastfeed or what could go wrong. I went along to a couple of classes which highlighted how easy it would be where there was no mention of any issues that could occur, or more importantly what could be done about them. I thought it would just happen and gave it no further thought.

Bringing you into the world could not have been more straight forward, after all my worry, you came so easily, on time and without any problems or delays. I was elated, relieved and more than anything, so happy to have you with us safely. I was relaxed on the presumption I would be able to breastfeed you soon, only this changed a little when the midwife spotted you were tongue tied and said it may impair your ability to feed. This stuck in the back of my mind but I proceeded to enjoy our first hours of skin to skin and presumed it would work itself out.

When it came to our first feed it went seemingly well, you latched on and managed to take some milk, I thought we had it sorted. Sadly that was one of the few successful latches we could form and things took a bit of a turn for the worse. Your tongue inhibited you and my breasts got more and more bruised from incorrect latching because I didn’t really know what I was doing or how to feed a baby with a tongue tie. The number of staff who could latch you to me decreased as you became more hungry and frustrated, and aside from a very inundated and infrequently available breastfeeding consultant I didn’t know who else could make this happen for us.

Late in the evening of your first night, you had got hungrier and the breastfeeding consultant was long gone for the day. You cried and I sobbed – I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t latch you to me but I had also been told in one of my classes that formula was indigestible. I didn’t want to cause you indigestion but I couldn’t bare to hear you cry. A staff member who had tried to help us looked quite relieved when in desperation I said I would try formula.

You drank it with such relief and she turned to me softly and told me I was sensible and doing the right thing for you. It helped to hear this but the guilt I felt blocked my ability to believe her fully.

The days that followed saw me express milk relentlessly and use top ups of formula. Many staff were very supportive of this regime, one or two however, less so. It pains me to write out all the negative things we were told about formula but there were a number of them and each time I fed it to you, I cringed and felt like a bad mother. Your tongue was soon snipped but by this point you were so used to bottle feeding that asking you to change was too much. Once again the hospital staff member who performed your snip could not latch you to me. Along with slagging off formula, she gave us advice on how to breastfeed, which on reflection was so unhelpful. We left the hospital stuck and alone. Despite your procedure, I was no closer to breastfeeding you and despite her kindness and efforts, not even our local breastfeeding counselor’s guidance seemed to help us form a latch.quotescover-JPG-10

I finally found a nipple shield and thought we’d hit the jackpot. The first day I exclusively fed you with it I felt on cloud nine and got to feel I was making a good choice for you. I continued to feed you exclusively by breast but my feelings of excitement were short lived, as within days the agony the nipple shield caused became unbearable and even more distressing was your dissatisfaction with feeding this way. Your frequent  distress unless on my breast implied you weren’t getting enough milk and were feeling continually hungry.  I winced in pain each time I fed you and was soon forced to stop when I came down with mastitis and was bed bound. It took all the energy I had to keep expressing milk, the rest of the time, I just slept.

When I recovered I just couldn’t face going back to using the nipple shield that had caused us both so much difficulty, so I expressed around the clock and continued to try latching you. Never did we get there with that elusive latch and the expressing got more and more of a chore. I wanted to do it for you because I didn’t want to give up on my supply and my vision of eventually breastfeeding you, I also wanted you to have breast milk after being told it was better for you. The only thing is, every time I expressed milk it took me away from you; from cuddling you, enjoying you and just watching what a miracle you are. The resentment and tiredness from doing it only increased and when your daddy went back to work, it was clear I wasn’t going to have enough time to continue. My body and heart together decided it was time to let go and put the pump away. My supply decreased and eventually dried and the pump went back in its box.

For a while I mourned the breastfeeding I never got to do but at the same time I got a whole new lease of life. This was the beginning point of a new relationship for us, I hung out with you, watched you, hugged you even more and didn’t need to be anywhere other than right there with you, enjoying you. I really started to delight in this pressure free mummy hood! I think you enjoyed it too, you just seemed to get happier and happier over the weeks and months that followed.

As I’ve recovered from the anxiety and exhaustion I felt in your earlier months, I don’t regret stopping my attempts to give you breast milk, if anything perhaps I should have done it a little sooner. The reason I put all that pressure on myself was because I had listened so hard to the breast is best agenda. For a while I felt failure like I had not felt in years. But with time it became clear that the use of formula to feed you was perfect, because you were and are perfect. Perfectly gaining weight, perfectly developing, perfectly happy, a perfect, content baby. Whereas there are said to be natural benefits to breast milk (for example anti bodies) that formula may not be able to replicate, I now feel assured it is a great alternative choice. It has been very nourishing for you and you’ve demonstrated that it certainly is digestible! I also know too many intelligent, healthy adults who were bottle fed and who prove there isn’t a drastic difference between boob and bottle. I know you are going to be fine!.. More than fine.

What I do regret is being so heavily influenced by the negativity about formula and the hype around breastfeeding. By believing such, I let our feeding regime define my perceived ability as a mother. I have since been learning a very valuable lesson from this; that a mother’s instinct and happiness are far more powerful that the loud voices, opinions and agendas of others. It pays not to be so easily influenced and to listen to ourselves as much as or even more so than others. The day I listened to myself instead of all the hype was the day I put myself back in the driving seat of motherhood and I have been continually gaining confidence since. Feeling upset over not breast feeding you turned out to be a huge waste of valuable time which we will never get back and for this reason I hope that feeding agendas change in support of encouraging the best feeding method for each individual mother – whatever it is. Instead of all the comparisons between breast milk and formula we should just celebrate that we have different ways to feed our babies and the resources to make a choice that is best for our family.

My network of local mummy friends have been amazingly supportive and non judgemental of my feeding journey and I am so grateful to them. I am also so thankful to your daddy and our family who have stuck by all my choices without question. Most of all though, I am so thankful to you, my darling little bundle of joy who loves me, smiles at me and hugs me every day, completely unconditionally and regardless of how I feed you. Every time I watch you explore your world, enjoy your food, learn to crawl and engage so lovingly and positively with everyone around you, it is a reminder that you are not negatively affected by how you were fed and are the most content, happy little boy. If we are ever lucky enough to give you a brother or sister your amazing development and total contentment are plentiful reassurance that they too will be fine – however they are fed.


Love you forever………

Mummy xxxx


Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com

FFF Friday: “The point is, I didn’t fail.”

We’ve been discussing hospital breastfeeding initiatives over on the Facebook page this week, and the consensus seems to be that the policies aren’t the problem, but rather the implementation of the policies. As you’ll see in Liz’s story, women are often treated as something sub-human after they give birth; a vessel and a food source, and nothing more. Our needs are completely dismissed, and our bodies are manhandled. 

There is a way to protect and promote breastfeeding, and also protect mothers and promote respect. It really isn’t that hard, which almost makes it worse. Because if we cared even a little about the well-being of mothers, these stories wouldn’t have to happen.

Anyway – Liz’s story is smart and funny, and it washed the bad taste of the week out of my mouth. I hope it does for you as well. 

Happy Friday, fearless ones,



Liz’s Story

Last winter, unable to hold in our secret any longer, I got on my computer and excitedly announced to my 600-something Facebook friends that my partner, Cody, and I were expecting a baby that summer. My heart felt full as congratulatory messages began pouring in. I don’t think I had the post up for an hour when a message from an acquaintance of mine, someone I knew professionally but hardly on a personal level, arrived in my inbox. The message was about the length of a short novel and in it the sender explained she wanted to come visit me and take me to lunch (she lives nearly three hours away) to talk about mommy stuff and, specifically, how I planned to feed my baby.

“Obviously breastfeeding is the best option!” she wrote.

I was confused. I went onto her page and saw she had taken a job as the head of a local breastfeeding task force. I responded that I would be happy to meet her and that I planned on breastfeeding (why not, right?) She sent me back another lengthy message in which she droned on about the evil formula companies, “baby-friendly” hospitals and breastfeeding acceptance in the workplace. All I could think about at that point in my pregnancy was how to make it through each day without vomiting at my desk. Why was this woman jumping down my throat about how I planned to feed my baby? (Thankfully, she never followed through on the lunch offer.)

I live in a secluded mountain town out west that’s as crunchy granola as it gets. Several months later, when I was just a couple weeks away from my due date, my friend and I were having a conversation over text talking about how stressful our professional lives had become. “We deserve a drink. I’ll take you for one in three years, when you stop breastfeeding,” he said. Three years?

I planned on breastfeeding (though not for that long.) Of course I planned on breastfeeding! Why on earth wouldn’t I?

Fast forward to early August of this year, I’m lying in my hospital bed and my daughter, not even 24 hours old, is exploding into fits of the most shrill, agonizing screams I’ve ever heard. It’s 1 a.m., my partner and I have slept maybe four hours during the past three days, and the nurse is pulling at and stretching out my nipple, struggling to get our little Estrella (AKA Essie) to latch on to me. It hurts like hell, but what’s even more painful is hearing that teeny baby suffer the way I knew she was. I could hear the frustration in her voice, as she tried time and again to suck nutrients out of me to feed her famished little body, but to no avail.

Exhausted, and wanting nothing more than to give my baby what she so desperately wanted – nourishment – I suggest the nurse feed her an ounce of formula. “That’s your decision. But babies need that colostrum. It’s packed with nutrients. I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding, especially this early.”

She spoke in a judgmental, almost mean tone. The next day, a different nurse came in and read my chart. “It says here you plan to breast AND bottle feed? That can’t be right. You don’t plan to bottle feed, do you?”

I did. I knew I wasn’t above giving the baby a formula bottle to give dad a turn at feeding and mom a break.

“Um. Only as a last resort!” Liar.

And a pacifier? Forget it. The hospital had just received its “baby friendly” designation, meaning new policies were in place to encourage breastfeeding, and binkies apparently “go against breastfeeding.” Since when? I was breastfed and, according to my mother, sucking on a binkie from day one.

That afternoon the doctor came in and said the baby had lost almost 10 percent of her weight. She couldn’t afford to lose any more, so they planned to give her some formula to keep her weight up. But that didn’t mean mom was getting off easy. They were going to put the formula in a syringe, put a nipple shield on me and push the formula out through the syringe and into the nipple shield so the baby could suck it out that way. It was a three person job, and apparently the whole operation was meant to keep baby looking to the breast for nourishment. quotescover-JPG-39

As my Cody, the lactation consultant and a nurse surrounded me, I looked at this complicated business and began to weep. What was wrong with me? I was incapable of providing my baby with nourishment and she had suffered and was rapidly shedding ounces because I was inadequate. I took no comfort in the nurses reassuring me that most moms experience breastfeeding roadblocks at first. I was hormonal, and the nurses, who I figured would be sensitive to that, had breastfeeding tunnel vision. I felt like they saw me as little more than a baby-feeding machine, and continued to abuse my nipples, yanking at them, hooking them up to a machine and adorning them with shields to filter formula through them with little to no concern about what I had to say about it.

My milk came in after a few days, and while I had sort of figured out the mechanics of breastfeeding, no matter how many times I had Essie latch, and re-latch, and re-latch, it still hurt like HELL. It was, hands down, worse than labor pains. The lactation consultant examined Essie’s latch at the pediatrician’s office a few days after I left the hospital and said it was perfect. In the same breath she told me that “pain is not a normal part of breastfeeding.” Tell that to my bloody nipples and so-called “perfect” latch.

After a few weeks, breastfeeding still hurt as much as the day I started. I began associating my baby’s face with torture and would sit there weeping as she fed off of me. People kept telling me I would get used to it but it just wasn’t happening for me, and I decided I’d had enough. I started pumping and supplementing with formula. Pumping took two-three hours a day, and since Cody was at work all day, it meant scrambling to put all the parts together and plug in the pump the second the baby went down for a nap.

At the grocery store I ran into one of the nurses who helped in my delivery. The first words she said to me were “Are you still breastfeeding?” Evidently the breastfeeding warriors are never off the clock, and this one has no sense of what’s appropriate.

After six weeks of being a slave to the pump, my milk supply dropped from an already pathetic 10-12 ounces a day to a measly 1-2 ounces a day. I spent about a week working to get the supply back up, but my efforts were futile. Screw it, I thought. Breastfeeding was over for me.

For a while I avoided taking Essie anywhere for fear that she would become hungry and I’d have to whip out a bottle and admit to the world that I failed at breastfeeding. I’d heard stories of holier-than-thou mothers approaching strangers bottle feeding their babies and demanding to know why they weren’t breastfeeding. I wouldn’t be able to deal with something like that, at least not without ending up on the evening news.

But the point is I didn’t fail. I did what was best for me, my daughter and our situation and don’t regret a thing. At this point, I proudly bottle feed my baby in public and if anyone feels the need to say something (which has yet to happen) it says everything about them and nothing about me.

I do wish someone had told me before I gave birth how hard breastfeeding can be. I was so unprepared to deal with any difficulties that when they came up I immediately assumed there was something wrong with me. And the pushy, judgmental nurses? I had no clue about them either, and was in no way prepared to stick up for myself the way I should have.

Labor and delivery nurses: it’s time to rethink your approach to breastfeeding. I’m not sure who’s training you all to act like assholes, but stop. It’s counterproductive.

If we ever go for baby No. 2, I’ll try again and do my best to work through whatever breastfeeding challenges that pop up along the way. And maybe the second time around I’ll have better luck. Maybe I won’t. It has nothing to do with my abilities as a mother either way.

And if the baby needs to take formula, I’ll insist he feeds from a bottle. What, no binkies? That’s ok, I brought my own. And hands off my nipples.


Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.


FFF Friday: “I gladly packed up the Medela and never looked back.”

I’m currently on a family trip, and have about 5 minutes to post – so all I will say about this week’s submission is that I adore it’s simplicity, and the unabashed self-awareness of the author. Knowing your limits….what a concept. One that too many of us are afraid of, I imagine.

Happy Friday, fearless ones,



Suzannah’s Story

I have 2 children – one 14 and another who is 4.  I have a 10 year gap because of hyperemesis gravidarum with my first and it took me that long to get the courage to have another.  I had it with my second, too.

My first was born at 5 lbs,1 oz, most likely because of the hyperemesis (I couldn’t take my prenatals, drink plain water, and there was a 2 week period where I ate nothing but chicken broth.  I once threw up 48 times in one day and had to be rehydrated in the ER).  When I tried to breast feed her, my sister commented, “Your boob is bigger than her head and your nipple is bigger than her mouth!”  My baby could barely latch on and when she did, was practically completely covered by my gargantuan boob, which I kept having to pull back to keep from smothering her!   I also found that I was just not producing milk.  I had a complete lack of appetite when I first had her and my friend said I wasn’t eating and drinking enough to make the milk.  After trying nutrition supplements, drinking water, making sure I ate well for a few weeks, and even rubbing my breasts in the shower to stimulate milk production (while sobbing because I felt like an inadequate mother who couldn’t provide for her child),  I still produced barely an ounce every time I pumped.  And my baby clearly wasn’t getting enough breast milk when I tried nursing.


I went to the pediatrician (I was pretty much bottle-feeding and supplementing with breast milk – what little I had) and he said to me, “She’s tiny, she needs to eat, don’t make her struggle for it.  Give her formula all the time.  Forget the nursing and pumping.”  I was absolutely shattered. I felt completely inadequate and that I was a terrible mother.  I kept thinking, “Everyone nurses! It’s natural! Why can’t I do it!?”  But I bottle-fed her from that day on.


For my second child, I decided, since I was older and wiser, to do lactation consulting, etc., and I found I produced a little bit more (while I was filling barely up to the 2 oz mark on the bottles, I had friends who were filling up to 4 oz plus, and had stock in the freezer!).  When I could get my son to latch on, I admit it was a great experience.  It was wonderful knowing I was able to nurse him, but those moments were few and far between.  When I couldn’t nurse him, I pumped, and I found pumping to be depressing.  I told my husband that must be what it felt like being in prison, chained to that damn pump all the time (I also had latching problems with my son because he was only 5 lb, 13 oz), and the actual nursing sessions were short and it was just an overall miserable experience.  My son’s lack of sleeping during the day pretty much killed any hopes I had of exclusively nursing.  I got my lactation consultant, took the Fenugreek, got up every two hours at night to feed my son, and cried when I realized the vicious cycle was going to repeat day after day and night after night.  I would never get more than 2 hours of sleep at night, and none in the daytime since my son never, EVER napped, and I couldn’t handle it.  I felt I would be a better mother by recognizing my limits.


This time, though, I was proud of myself for making the decision to stop nursing and pumping.  I missed the times when I could nurse my son, but I didn’t beat myself up the way I did with my daughter and I was confident I was making the best choice for me and my baby.  Better to be a rested parent than a crazed, sleep-deprived lunatic, who barely produced a drop of milk anyway!   I gladly packed up the Medela and never looked back.  Both of my children are happy and healthy.


Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com. 

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