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What To Do When You Can’t Breastfeed

What To Do When You Can’t Breastfeed

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What To Do When You Can't Breastfeed

Our son was born a natural eater. He is 50% Navajo and they are known to be bigger sized babies. Further, my side of the family have all been chunky-good-eating babies as well. As a result, our son was a GREAT eater. When I would breastfeed him he would eat for 45 minutes to an hour at a time! Yes truly, he would eat about 30 minutes each side!

It was pretty intense. Especially considering that he had a really really strong suck and a bad latch. I worked with lactation consultants and once I started using this nipple shield it did help but I was still in A LOT of pain (cracked nipples and all). Further, it was emotionally painful for me as a mom, when around 6 PM he would start screaming for more milk but I was empty.

Despite ALL the tricks in the book, it seemed that I just couldn’t supply enough milk for his demand. I drank TONS of water, took the supplements (Fenugreek and others), ate the milk-producing foods, etc. Doing everything I could, my milk supply did slowly increase but not quick enough for my growing son.

Then just over one month postpartum, I started having  intensely painful gallbladder attacks. Interesting Fact: Gallstones/gall bladder attacks occur to a high percentage of women after giving labor. I figure that since my son was kicking my gall bladder for months while he was in the womb he didn’t help my chances either.

The pain eventually got so bad we had to rush to the emergency room. They put me on Morphine and Zofran. Despite this, I still couldn’t hold anything down (I threw up over 40 times in the space of a few days). Thus, I had no choice but to get surgery.

After the surgery, I couldn’t hold my son or breastfeed for a week (those were sad days). I pumped during this time. And although they said it was okay for my 2 month old to drink my milk (despite me being on narcotics) I only did it for half a day because he slept for hours longer than normal and it just made me nervous. Thus, I started exclusively formula feeding him and pumping and dumping my breast milk during my recovery.

And it was like my son was in heaven. He no longer was screaming for food and was sleeping better. He loved the bottle because it didn’t have an inconsistent flow like my breasts had. Once he started drinking out of the bottle it was like he was a different baby.

What To Do When You Can't Breastfeed

After I had recovered and was no longer on pain medication, I tried to breast feed him again. He had HORRIBLE nipple confusion. He would scream bloody murder when he was held to my breast. I tried multiple things but ultimately after lots of tries, my son’s dad and I gave up. I felt horrible. Nothing is worse than seeing a hungry baby scream for milk and not being able to get them to drink it. So we went back to the bottle which he took just fine.

I began pumping and continued feeding him mainly breast milk (through the bottle) and supplementing what I couldn’t supply for him over the next 3 months. By the way, I really respect mothers who exclusively pump. It’s twice the work! I would pump while he was asleep then feed him with the bottle while he was awake. I wasn’t getting much sleep because I had to pump at least 2 or 3 times at night and then hold him to feed him when he needed to eat. I had very little time for much else. I also had a lot of pump parts and bottles to clean and sterilize everyday.

Eventually the sleep deprivation and pumping became too much. I looked into feeding him goats milk but after doing a lot of research I found that it lacked the vital ingredients that are found in breast milk and formula. So after I weaned my son off of my breastmilk (at about 5 months) he went to formula exclusively.

What To Do When You Can't Breastfeed

I’m a total supporter of breast feeding. But for mothers who can’t (and please understand that there are situations when moms can’t-article on pros and cons here) exclusively formula feeding is wonderful as well. My son is super healthy. He has outgrown his baby weight, has THE longest eyelashes of anyone I’ve seen and is smart and healthy. Interesting Fact: Formula is tightly regulated and is a great alternative to breast milk.

Anyway, I didn’t think I would write about my inability to breastfeed because it’s a little tough on the ego to admit. But, I wanted to write this for any other mom who faces something similar (you’re not alone!).  Do you have any stories of difficulty or inability to breastfed? I’d love to hear them so I don’t feel alone as well.

UPDATE: After having my second (a daughter) and being in intense pain, I have gone to a doctor, consulted with multiple lactation consultants, and saw a specialist. My daughter’s pediatrician actually had Raynaud’s Phenomenon and suggested I go to a dermatologist. My dermatologist who has it too (she is currently breastfeeding) confirmed that I do have it.

Raynaud’s phenomenon is where your nipple doesn’t receive any blood to it while the baby is latched on. Without blood flow it turns white and is extremely painful both having the baby come on and off…even at random times it may flare up. When the nipples turn white they are shockingly painful especially as the blood flows back in and they turn to red and deep red.

LLC says this about Raynauds:

“Raynaud’s affects about 20 percent of women. It is a benign condition often characterized by sensitivity to cold in the hands and feet. Hands and feet turn white or purple when exposed to cold and may tingle, hurt, or become numb. These sensations go away with heat. Although vasospasms are most common in hands and feet, they can occur in the vascular systems of the breast and nipple. The resulting pain is intense and could easily cause someone to stop breastfeeding”. More info here.

There is a medication I began to take to make it less painful… but it does have side effects. It allows blood to flow more freely through my body. As a result, my skin is flushed and looks like I’m sun burned, I’m more puffy, and I had a migraine and bad headaches until I found out that I should take it at night to prevent headaches. It doesn’t kill the pain 100% (at least not yet), but it is very helpful. If I can’t get the pain all the way down, or the side effects of the medication under control, I’ll be switching my baby (3 1/2 months old) to formula again.

I also found out that my daughter has lip tie. It isn’t severe but it is enough to make things a lot more uncomfortable for me. She has mild tongue tie too. Overall, the main aggravator of pain for me is Raynaud’s.

Many children I know who were not breastfed are very healthy. What is most important is that mom and baby are both healthy. Do what you can to make that happen and don’t feel guilt or resentment if someone doesn’t choose your same path.

So what should you do if you can’t breastfeed? Guiltlessly switch to formula and don’t let the judgements of others bring you down.


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[…] on correctly, but there may be a larger issue at hand. My good friend, Anita, wrote a post about what to do when you can’t breastfeed, including her experience with Raynaud’s Phenomenon (which I will explain more […]


Wednesday 4th of March 2015

I just found your post via Pinterest. I want to thank you for mentioning Raynaud's. I had this problem (I still think I do, too) after having my first. Now, pregnant with my second, I'm terrified of BF. The pain was horrific. I will attempt to BF again, with 6 weeks as my goal, but I was the happiest mommy to finally accept formula for my baby. I was able to be present at the feedings, focusing on my baby and not pain.

Anita Fowler

Friday 6th of March 2015

Carley- Thanks so much for commenting! I'm so sorry you have had to go through this tortuous pain. It's been very difficult for me both times breastfeeding my kids... but my dermatologist did say that it can come and go and sometimes with some children it doesn't manifest itself at all! So there may be hope for you this time around. Also, the medication I'm on does help and not everyone responds with side effects like I am experiencing. I have to try a much lower dose because I simply can't sleep with it. Also, its causing other issues like headaches, swelling, redness, flushness, and indigestion.But like I said, that isn't everyone. Also, apparently using heat helps some quite a bit (like putting handwarmers in your shirt... but I can't really do that all the time because my baby snacks). These are just suggestions IF you are wanting to get to week 6 like you said your goal is. Also, if you do get it again, I'd see a dermatologist and see if you can get something to help it.