This is not a pro-breastfeeding post. Nor is it a pro-formula feeding post. Its a pro-mommy post. A post about finding balance and your own way in motherhood. A post about planning to parent one way, and then discovering that way isn’t going to work for your unique life. It is a post about why I had every intention in the world of breastfeeding my daughter when she was born….and then didn’t.
I have thought about telling you guys this story a dozen times. And a dozen times, I’ve talked myself out of writing it….out of fear. Out of fear of judgement. Out of fear of harsh backlash from people who won’t bother to read this whole post through and understand my unique journey. Out of fear of having to relive that difficult time of being being humbled by the realities of motherhood.
But at least one of you will need to read this. Because I needed to hear about a story like mine back when my daughter was an infant and I was overwhelmed by the transition to motherhood. I needed to know I wasn’t a failure or a bad mother simply because I couldn’t walk the nursing route. And I hope at least one of you finds comfort in not being alone.
I think as a “natural mom” who promotes real food for kids and “keeping life as close to nature as possible”, people just assume that I exclusively breastfeed my only child. And I planned to. Man, did I plan to. I remember purposely passing over the bottle section at Babies ‘R Us when registering for my shower because I had decided I wasn’t going to need them. And when I got a bottle as part of a baby shower gift, I politely thanked my friend and tossed that bottle in the closet….planning to gift it to the next person I knew having a baby. I wasn’t going to need it, after all. I was going to breastfeed my daughter the way nature intended.
And then parenthood did what it does best and humbled the heck out me. Right off the bat.
My labor and delivery didn’t go as planned (at all). My water broke at 39-weeks, but my uterus refused to contract and I ended up needing every intervention that I had planned on refusing. Even with oodles of medication and attempts to get my body into gear to deliver my daughter naturally, I ended up having an emergency c-section after 50 hours (yes, 50) of labor. While it was wildly blissful to (finally) hear my daughter cry for the first time in that cold bright operating room and realize we were both healthy and okay….I was left exhausted and my body traumatized by the experience.
I remember trying to nurse Alice right after she was born, only to struggle in guiding her on how to latch. That first night, I was up every hour, trying to get her to latch and breastfeed without success. The nurses tried to help, but Alice and I both struggled to find our breastfeeding rhythm and they started to express their concerns over our struggles with being remotely successful at nursing.
But still, I pushed forward with my breastfeeding plan.
Now every baby drops a little weight right after they are born. This is normal. It is also normal for a mother and baby to take some time to figure out the whole nursing deal. However, Alice and I couldn’t figure it out. No matter what position I tried to feed her in, nursing was painful and frustrating for the both of us and my milk supply didn’t seem to be enough to keep her satisfied. Alice’s doctors expressed concern over our nursing situation and sent me to see a lactation consultant. She informed me that Alice was tongue-tied and that was impacting her latching abilities. The LC also gave me a list of things to take in order to increase my milk supply.
I started to feel some hope. We had Alice’s tongue tie clipped and I ate oats and nutritional yeast like it was my job. And I felt optimistic that we were headed in the right direction…and that soon nursing was going to be the beautiful bonding bliss that everyone always seemed to gush about.
And it did get better. But only a little. And then life handed me another hurdle.
At the time of Alice’s birth, my husband was actively serving in the U.S. Navy. And 6 weeks after her birth, he deployed for 7 months.
So, there I was, an exhausted new mother. 3000 miles away from her extended family. Husband gone for 7 months. Feeling lost. Stressed. Alone. And like a utter failure every time I tried to nurse my daughter. My supply was deeply impacted by the stress of my husband’s absence and the transition into motherhood. And Alice’s latch was still painful and frustrating for us both. She never got enough to eat and was constantly screaming to be fed. I found myself dreading feeding time more and more….not lovingly bonding with her over the experience. Actually, I hated nursing her.
I felt like such failure at being a good mother. I had been so hellbent on breastfeeding being the “right” thing to do…and here I was, detesting every minute of it. Feeling like a terrible mother. Feeling inadequate and not enough for this precious little person I had been blessed with raising.
And then one day, it hit me. It didn’t have to be this way.
I remember wincing in pain as Alice nursed one day, wishing I could just lovingly gaze into her eyes as she ate. And then I recalled that bottle I had been gifted….forgotten about in the closet. And then I remembered some sample formula that had come in the mail soon after Alice’s birth…also sitting in the closet. I got them out, sanitized the bottle and mixed the formula….butterflies in my stomach….feeling like I was committing some sort of a crime. And then I gave her the bottle….
And for the first time….I got to lovingly gaze at my daughter as she ate. We stared at one another…her little hand reaching for my face. And I felt it. That rush of love and devotion. That beautiful bond that happens between mother and child during a feeding….only there was a bottle between us. And that was okay….
After that first night of giving my daughter a bottle, I felt such relief. Like a dark cloud had been lifted off of me and I started to find the joys in motherhood that had been overshadowed by frustration and self-doubt prior. I realize now, some 6 years later, that I had been slipping into a depression.
Now Alice is almost 6 years old, thriving in all ways…none the worse for her formula-fed days. She eats and loves whole real food and is wildly healthy, bright and imaginative. While my journey with breastfeeding was full of frustration, self-doubt and even some depression, it was also an incredibly humbling experience that taught me a valuable life lesson: to follow your gut…always. But especially when it comes to parenting. Like many things in life, motherhood is not a cookie-cutter deal. There is no one right answer, way or tactic…despite what others might say. It is okay to go against the grain and to do what feels right in your heart. The old saying goes “Children don’t come with owner’s manuals” rings so true….because there is no one “right way” when it comes to raising our children. Only our love and mommy guts to guide us.
Thank you for writing this. I think new moms need to hear this. I had a similar experience and felt so much guilt that I couldn’t exclusively bf my daughter. She is healthy and growing. I wish I would have read this 3.5 years ago and wouldn’t have put my daughter and me through so much pain and anxiety.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It sounds very familiar to mine when I had my first child. My husband finally begged me to stop nursing for the sake of the relationship and bond between my daughter and I. I felt disconnected and depressed and a total failure. The day I decided to give her formula was the best decision I made for us. Now I have 2 healthy girls ages 3 and 5 and both were formula fed. As a mom you have to go with your gut feeling and do what you feel is best for you and your children and not listen to others opinions.
Wow, this was a very moving and sweet article. Thank you so much for sharing it. I completely understand what you went through. I had a similar experience with my son. He’s my first and before he was born, I went to breastfeeding classes and never bought a bottle myself because I knew I wasn’t going to need it. And then he was born and when my milk had not come yet and my son was screaming at night, I had to dust off the bottle and got the sample of formula I got from the hospital and gave to him. I started to pump every 3 hours around the clock for months and months. My milk started coming after the first few days of pumping and I started nursing him but then he started preferring the bottle because he’d get the milk much faster. I basically nursed my son for 6 months but not all the time. Mostly at night and sometimes during the day. After that, I pumped for 20-30min every 3-4 hours for 16 months. I ate oatmeal, lactation cookies, 4 liters of water, mother’s milk tea every day. It’s amazing what mothers do for their babies. We’d do anything. It doesn’t matter how tired we are or how many responsibilities or concerns we have.
Seriously, thank you for sharing. I love your honesty and transparency.
P.S.- I make your flourless peanut butter muffins every week. My son loves them. I sneak spinach or carrots to them. Thank you!
This brought back alllll the feels. My son is 2 now, but we went through some major breastfeeding difficulties as well. I battled recurring mastitis and remember laying in bed in pain with a fever for days, not even being able to care for him, let alone myself and the rest of the family. We nursed for 5 months before I finally did exactly what you did and turned to the formula samples. That was a whole ‘nother process of finding one that didn’t make him miserably gassy. He ended up on soy formula (which I had my reservations and many good cries about) but he survived and is a healthy happy toddler. I remember crying to his doctor about the transition and she told me "he will grow up and go off to college and you will still be worrying about him then". I am now pregnant with my second and struggling with even the thought of breastfeeding again. I hope this time I don’t feel so much guilt if it doesn’t work out. Fed is best, right?! Thanks for sharing <3
My son had a tongue tie as well. It was undiagnosed for 2 weeks and they were the hardest, saddest weeks of my life. As an naturopathic doctor, I also wanted to breastfeed and have a natural birth. I was in labor for 48+ hours and ended up having an emergency csection because my son passed meconium and his heart rate was dropping. After all that, to have a baby that couldn’t breastfeed was devasting. I blamed myself. I exhausted myself trying to make breastfeeding happen. I was pumping around the clock just to maintain my supply. It was so hard. I’m proud that I came out of that season and that I was able to continue to breastfeed. My baby will be one next month! But I also know, feel and hear your pain. We are all doing the best we can <3
💜💜💜 I have had low milk supply with all of my babies and every time it has been a struggle. I’ve has to supplement every time. And I’ve never made it to the "goal" of a year. My third is now 6.5 months and I’m starting to wean her (at least during the day) and once again it is such a tough decision!
I killed myself to breastfeed my first, finally exclusively formula feeding when she was 8 weeks. Then with my second, a doctor diagnosed me with mamary hypoplasia. We exclusively formula fed finally at 4 weeks. The weeks where I was breastfeeding were some of the darkest days of my life. I was not a good mom, I was slipping into a dark place. Feeding my girls formula still gives me a little twinge of regret, but watching them grow into healthy, intelligent women and hearing stories that parallel mine fill me with relief. Thank you.
Beautiful, Taesha. I’m sorry that you struggled, but heartened to hear that you found your path.
Funny enough, when I was born, my mom endured the judgment and harsh glances from others because she chose to breastfeed. Four decades ago, it was decidedly out of fashion.
It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where people didn’t pass judgment on every little parenting detail. But we don’t (yet) and that’s why your post is so powerful and so necessary.
Thanks for sharing.
So beautiful Taesha!
thank you for writing this! i cried the whole way to the store to buy formula when my daughter was a baby! after weeks and months of the same fear and frustration of not being able to breastfeed my daughter the way i hoped i finally got to look at her and relax while i fed my child. you are so right, once i let go of my expectations i could just focus on being in the moment and seeing her full and happy. she’s seven now and it might always sting to think back on it, but it was my first lesson as a mom and there have been plenty since then and plenty more ahead!
I breastfeed my daughter for 18 months…. There are so many times that I wish that I had turn to formula. I was exhausted and broken and could not focus at work. I had the worst rating in my career life and had a demotion. I tried desperately to wean her and she would not. There were trauma and drama if I refused her. finally I could not take it anymore and put cod liver oil on the nipples. We weaned her in one day.
On hind side, I should have just turn to formula….. I had missed so many moments with her just because of breastfeeding. I was hating nursing…. and there are times where I lose my cool and shouted at her….
My story was very similar. I was able to nurse for 3.5 months, but then my milk just disappeared and I had hungry kiddos nursing round the clock. So much guilt for formula. But healthy and happy mommies and babies is 100% better, regardless of how. And as my pastor’s wife told me early on, remember, almost everyone over 40 was formula feed and they are all fine.
I have two girls and both breastfed but with two different experiences. My first almost 4 years old, was a struggle at first but after practice and a lot of breathing excercises we finally figure it out! I breastfed her for almost 4 months until I had to go back to work. While breastfeeding and husband working all the time I was depressed 😓 I lost all my baby weight and much more bc I didn’t want to put something in my body that would cause my baby girl discomfort! I basically lived on rolls and water for the first 4 months. My milk supply was great so I used to freeze the extra. My second daughter latched on the first time I tried, I thought this will be easier ! My milk supply kicked in right away I had more than she needed so I freezed the extra. After few month I had a freezer full of milk. One day my milk was just gone. So I started to defrost. When she finally took the bottle she would spit everything out, it was horrible. After two days of struggle. I read some mom blogs and figure it out that milk fat separates when u freeze it and changes the taste of the milk. I had a sample can of formula hidden somewhere in the closet. I made her the bottle and that was the end of our struggle. Mind you I had a freezer full of milk, all labeled and measured out ready to go. I ended up donating all of that milk to a local mom who’s milk supply never kicked in ! At least all of my hard work and time didn’t go to waste 😊
Thank you so much for writing this. It’s so beautiful, so true, and rings so deeply for me. I’ve had to formula feed both of my babies even though that was never my plan either. You’re someone I really look up to when it comes to "natural living." As crazy as it might sound, reading your experience gave me some of the peace and acceptance that I’ve needed and allowed me to finally let go of some of the guilt I’ve felt about not being able to breastfeed. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing your story.
There is such a silent pressure on moms to breast feed. The whole slogan "breast is best," is not necessarily true for everyone. Pressure like this can leave a new mom feeling defeated. Every mom wants to be able to provide what is best for their baby. There are many additional benefits to breastfeeding, but it is NOT the best for every mom & baby. What I believe is best is the situation that produces the happiest baby and happiest mom. I wish I would have read an article like this when I was a new mom. I was unable to breastfeed with my first, no matter the effort & tears, and then was very surprised when I successfully breastfeed my second for a year. You said it best, no child/ or situation is a cookie cutter. Following your instincts is what’s best!! Great job!
So beautiful! Thank you for sharing. Every baby is so different, what might work for one, mustn’t work for another. We as their mothers have to find out what’s good for them and that means that we have to trust our gut. 🙂
I also tried breastfeeding, but than introduced formula. Now we’re combi-feeding, which works wonderfully. I’m supplementing with European formula from https://organicbaby.la/, because it’s easier on her tummy.
Thank you for sharing this. It takes real courage and I’m in tears right now. My little girl is 6 months old now and I’m still trying to cope with my failure with breastfeeding. Our journeys are so similar and honestly it feels so good to know I’m not alone. ❤️
what was your experience with pumping?
This is such a gift to mothers everywhere who are struggling with the pressures that society these days places on them to breastfeed. Thank you for writing these wise words. My eldest is now 7.5 (of 3 children) and from these years of motherhood, I have come to realize that it’s the big picture that counts. The early days of motherhood is fraught with so many decisions (breastfeed vs. formula, sleep train vs. co-sleep, etc.) but really what’s most important is that you are a present, engaged parent.
Pregnancy, birth and early infancy is never a smooth process for everyone. I rarely have met a women who has had a "normal" pregancy followed by a natural childbirth and then an easy transition to breastfeeding. There seems to be some sort of trauma involved in this stage of life which is so sad. I’m trying to let go of my sadness and appreciate the little miracles we have brought into this world. I feel your post will help other mothers do the same. Thank you Taesha for your mama wisdom!
I just shared your story with a friend of mine who isn’t producing enough, and her daughter is starting to refuse the breast because she prefers the bottle. <3
Wow Taesha! I related so much to this!! The suffering and guilt we put ourselves through when it doesnt turn out how we expected! I couldnt nurse one of my twins. We were alone and isolated in a foreign country and I had no help or knowledge of what I was doing! She would not take my breast and my husband finally convinced me to feed her with the formula sample the hospital had sent home (which I resented so much!) In addition to mourning a traumatic birth, I guilted and stressed myself into PPD. Alone caring for twins. Now they are about to turn 3 and the feedings dont matter one bit! All I remember is darkness looking back on those times and I just wished I had enjoyed my babies more and stressed about unimportant things like that!
Thank you for sharing your story, I had similar struggles breastfeeding my first born. I felt like a failure for not being able to produce enough to satisfy her and put so much unnecessary pressure on myself to continue nursing. I tried and ate everything, and similarly felt a form of depression lurking during the first few months. I ended up supplementing at 4 months after returning to work, and completely stopped after 6 months. Whenever I’m asked about my nursing journey, I’m honest about my stuggles because I feel it’s important for new moms to know they’re not alone if they have similar stuggles. Breastfeeding has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever encountered, and it’s important for us to share our stories.
Yes! All the yes! I wish someone had said this 7 years ago!!
Thanks for sharing this, Taesha. I recently found out that I’m expecting and am very nervous about breastfeeding. I had a cyst removed from one of my breasts as a teen and I don’t know if this will effect my body’s ability to produce milk. I’m hoping for the best but also exploring all options so that I can find a healthy formula if need be. I’m reminding myself to be gentle and to remember that no matter what happens, I’ll be doing the best I can.
I recently started supplementing my breastmilk. Has anyone found a natural/organic formula that they think is the best quality? Right now I’m using Earth’s Best from Whole Foods out of convinence. Has anyone been successful with making their own using raw cow or goat milk?
I had this struggle also. And I was so happy when I found Organic Start. Look into this company for excellent formula options. It saved my lifes. I fought the battle with breastfeeding and giving my daughter the closet option to breast milk. I used HOLLE…which is from Germany. They have strict regulations on formula ingredients. The Organic Start company is excellent!! Superior customer service! https://organicstart.com/
I hope this helps.
Oh my God. Thank you so much for this. This could have been a play by play of what happened me. The waters breaking but no contraction, emergency c section, tongue tie etc. I dont think the pain associated with tongue can underestimated. Tie curling agony is most often quoted. Than you for expressing this so well. I never tried at anything so much but couldn’t get breastfeeding to work. I was devastated and felt I wasn’t doing the best for my son. Such a hard experience but thank God for formulae. Well done you on getting through that though start. I can’t imagine how I would have coped of my partner was away.