Breastfeeding without the milk (using the Supplemental Nursing System)

Guest post by Trista
Breastfeeding my son, Cade.
Breastfeeding my son, Cade.

It seems that how you’re going to feed your baby is one of those “hot topics” of pregnancy. I planned to breastfeed, and had done a lot of reading about pregnancy, birthing, and breastfeeding in general. I wasn’t scared of labour or birth — I was looking forward to it. I was amazed that my body was going to take over, with the aid of my brain and my baby, and we were going to do something miraculous, yet totally normal and happens all the time.

I waited for my breasts to change the nine(ish) months I was pregnant — to grow or change in some way. I knew that they didn’t always get larger during pregnancy, but I never really experienced anything at all in the way of breast changes. The only time I remember any breast-related pregnancy symptom was having tender nipples once or twice — it was uncomfortable, but secretly I was cheering on the inside because I was worried about the lack of changes. On more than one occasion I did wonder out loud if I would have milk production issues since my breasts were not showing any indication that they would be up to the task.

Our son, Cade, was born on November 3 at 8:08pm. It was the most beautiful and transformative experience of my life — Cade was born as a human and I was born as a mother, just like that. He was immediately placed on my chest for me to introduce myself (though he had known me all along) and love all up. I was in a state of complete bliss, and perhaps a slight amount of shock, but most of all, I was ecstatic and beside myself. I was over the moon for this little being!

I remember the nurse that was helping me, bless her heart, said “Look, wow, he knows exactly how to do this, he is a pro.”

It wasn’t until we were up on post-partum, after I had showered and cleaned up, and Cade had been wrapped in blankets, warmed right up, and had a bath, that we attempted breastfeeding. He knew exactly what to do. I remember the nurse that was helping me, bless her heart, said “Look, wow, he knows exactly how to do this, he is a pro.” I believed her and we went on with our night, as rough as it was. Cade cried most of the night, despite frequent attempted feedings, cuddles, and skin-to-skin.

The next day I remember being a bit calmer. I would frequently breastfeed Cade, and I felt that things were going well. I was in a sleep-deprivation induced haze, but was over the moon and in love with everything. The tears poured out of my eyes over any and everything. I was tired, so I cried. I was in love with Kyle as a father, and so I cried again. I remember the nurses in the hospital telling me to rest up that day, as baby’s second night of life was usually chaotic and they wanted to be up eating all the time. I felt somewhat prepared, but that didn’t really happen.

Upon returning home the thought of using formula never crossed my mind. I thought things were going quite well… until that night. The sun went down and the evening reared its ugly head. Cade turned into a nightmare, and in turn, so did his mama. I must say, thank goodness for the best father ever, because he really was our rock at this time. I’m sure there were times where he wondered who he should comfort first, though obviously that answer is pretty clear-cut. Cade screamed. All. Bloody. Night.

He lost his mind the next night too. He screamed. He screamed some more. He cried, he yelled, he wailed. I cried. Kyle rocked and swaddled and patted and rocked and cuddled. I think it was about 8am that Cade finally crashed for a couple hours. Kyle and I were absolutely zonked. I knew in my heart that something wasn’t right, and I called the Healthy & Home nurses and demanded that they come for a home visit that day.

I was in tears on the phone with the nurse. They sensed my urgency and they came over within an hour and a half. They weighed my poor, sad, hungry little boy, and he had lost a pound of his body weight, which is a major red flag. He hadn’t pooped in a couple days, and I really don’t remember his wet diaper count, but it wasn’t good.

She understood my deep desire, my need, to breastfeed my son, and she understood my need to nurture him, with love and with nutrition.

The nurses with Healthy & Home are lactation consultants as well, and (our nurse) Cindy was a kind, compassionate soul. She understood my deep desire, my need, to breastfeed my son, and she understood my need to nurture him, with love and with nutrition. She also understood that he HAD TO EAT. This was not an option, and I was not producing enough for my son. When we came to this conclusion, I was heartbroken.

Cindy basically demanded that we had to get some calories into this boy ASAP. She asked if we had formula on hand, and sure enough, we did. I remember thinking when I got the formula samples “Oh, well, I’ll never need these, in the closet they go.” I showed her the only bottle we had on hand (also a free sample), and she encouraged us to try the Supplemental Nursing System.

Basically, we would fill a syringe with formula, attach a tiny sterile tube to the syringe, and then place the tube alongside my nipple as Cade latched on. We were still trying to perfect the latch, so adding an extra step in caused much grief, but we did it. For nearly four weeks, every feed, we would use this tiny little tube and place it as Cade latched, so that he would still nurse and hopefully stimulate my breasts to provide milk and increase my supply, but that he would still get substantial calories as well.

After going in to the breastfeeding clinic to meet with a lactation consultant there, Cade’s suck was evaluated and determined to be great. At one point, I was breastfeeding Cade, and the lactation consultant was doing hardcore breast compressions to attempt to get the milk flowing — and it still didn’t flow. The plan was to rent an electric hospital grade pump and attempt to pump after every feed for approximately ten minutes per side (or all at once if using a double pump).

I attempted to take Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle, two supposed galactagogues, but the only thing they did was give my body a sweet and spicy odour. I took these in combination with Domperidone, a prescribed medication used to treat stomach issues with the sometimes fortunate side effect of inducing lactation. Eventually, I returned the pump. I held onto it for a very long time, because I couldn’t bring myself to take it back for fear that it was signalling I had given up. I hadn’t used it in days, and it was sitting there, taking up space. I returned it, and I felt a twinge of sadness, until I realized why I was returning it.

It took me a long time to realize what our feeding routine was doing to my son and to myself. I was completely worn out, I was stressed, and I was depressed. When I realized that I did everything I could, and when I realized that it was worth it for our feeding routine to change, I felt a complete let-go of the stress that had been bogging me down. I felt this within myself, and I noticed a change in my son at feeding. He took to the bottle like a champ, and he took to the breast like a champ. There were no issues with him going from breast to bottle and back. He truly thrived when I was happy, and I didn’t realize that in the moment until we had decided to change our routine.

I had many moments where I felt extreme amounts of guilt, but then I learned that breastfeeding did not equal perfection — nor did it equal motherhood. In the end, I was doing for my son what I needed to do for him. We learned along the way. I’m hoping with future children that breastfeeding will work out, and that I will be able to use the tools that Cade taught me in order to be “successful.” But that’s for another time, and for now, this is where we’re at.

Comments on Breastfeeding without the milk (using the Supplemental Nursing System)

  1. This is a well-timed post! I’m pregnant with my first, and because I have PCOS, my doctors have warned me that I may have trouble with my milk supply (stupid hormones). I’ve also noticed that my breasts really haven’t changed at all, so I’m reassured to hear that I’m not just being paranoid. My doctor mentioned putting me on Metformin (a diabetes drug which helps sensitize one’s body to insulin) which could help with milk production. I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I’m happy to learn more about supplementing and formula feeding. Hopefully if it doesn’t work out, I won’t feel too guilty. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Hi Kristen!
      Thank you for commenting.
      Please try not to stress about it and just go with your body. I have heard good things about metformin helping with PCOS + milk supply. In fact, a midwife commented on my post and recommended this link: as well as checking out Lisa Marasco’s work on PCOS and breastfeeding!
      I will be thinking about you and wish you all the best on the rest of your pregnancy journey and bf’ing journey. 🙂 Remember me if you are needing to supplement and have any questions! xo

    • Kristen, I know this is late, but THANK YOU so much for this post! My partner and I have spoken to my doctor many times about trying to conceive and my intent to breastfeed, and NO ONE has mentioned to me that my PCOS may interfere with that!

      • And now I’m super late in responding! I’m glad to help, but honestly, don’t be too angry with your doctors. Very few of them, including OB’s and even endocrinologists, are aware of or would guess that PCOS can interfere with breastfeeding. There has been almost zero research, and because obstetrics is such a litigious practice these days, protocol regarding medications is very slow to change. In fact, the only people who were actually supportive of the theory were lactation consultants and my dieticians/counselors for my gestational diabetes.

        I had my baby in January of this year, and went on a combination of Metformin (1000mg 2x per day), Fenugreek tablets, and 90 mg per day of domperidone (aka Motilium). It seems to have done the trick (although we do still supplement with formula from time to time), but I doubt I would have been successful if I hadn’t doggedly pursued all my options and been aware of the possibility for supply issues BEFORE I had the baby. Best of luck!

  2. I’m so glad you posted this. Too many women face this and feel guilt. Thank you for writing about your experience. It really hit home for me. Ladies – We are not perfect! But we are Super Women! We only need our babies to be happy, healthy and loved.
    I also have PCOS and was not able to supply enough milk for my baby. It tore me up inside to switch to formula, but I was also secretly relieved! I still feel guilty…but less so hearing about other women’s experience.

    • I just started giving my daughter formula while I’m at work, to relieve the burden of pumping all the time. God, it is such a RELIEF! You’re definitely not alone in that feeling!

    • Guilt can be such an awful emotion to feel, because it often lingers and hangs over your head like the darkest cloud! But I’ve been there and felt it, and you know what? I think it sorta helped me to grieve. thank you so much for your words. you’re a fabulous mama. xo!

  3. Have you heard the term “insufficient glandular tissue?” It’s the cause of my low milk supply, and your story sounds so much like mine. I’m currently nursing my third child with the help of an SNS (We started out supplementing with bottles, but around 3 months old, she began to refuse all bottles, so we gave them up in favor of the SNS). I had hoped for a full milk supply, being that she’s my third child, but, alas, it didn’t happen. I nursed my second child for ten months using breast and bottle, and, like your baby, she was a champ about both.
    I’m so glad you’ve found what works for you! It’s taken me 3 children to begin to make peace with my situation.
    Have you heard of the book “The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk?” It has some suggestions on what you can do between pregnancies, and during pregnancy to possibly build more glandular tissue.
    I don’t mean to pimp-i-fy my blog, but I’ve been writing about my experience as a nursing mom with IGT. I’ve found a lot of healing in reading about others’ struggles with low milk supply.
    It’s nice to know you’re not alone in your stuggles. Would you mind if I posted a link to this post on my blog?

    • Hi there!
      Thanks so much for your words, and for starters, you can absolutely link to this post. I have the full version of my story (this is the condensed version, understandably so) at
      I will have to check out that book – I have heard of it but haven’t read that one yet.
      In terms of IGT, I’ve heard about it and looked at pictures as well as had so many LC’s evaluate our feeding, etc, and no one really mentioned it. I don’t THINK I have it but I’m not too sure. I will do more research. 🙂
      I will most definitely check out your blog!!! I am excited to read about your adventures – I too find it healing to find a sense of community in this. xo

      • It took me until my third child to get an LC to even think of IGT, and it wasn’t until I said, “I think I have this” at that. It’s not something they see every day. Basically, it’s a self-diagnosis. We have a support group on facebook, if you’d like to join. It’s quite active. It’s a closed group, though, so you’d have to add me as a friend so I could add you to it. (Nyssa Retter. Pretty sure there’s only one!) I also have a list of IGT resources on my blog (to the right of the posts.)
        Thanks again for sharing your story! <3

  4. This really hit home with me too. Olive started on formula since the first few times we tried to latch it was SO painful for me that I assumed I/we weren’t doing it right. I didn’t know that it’s often really painful…doesn’t help that I’m really sensitive and that Olive likes to clamp down. I felt and am still feeling an enormous amount of guilt over not being able to breastfeed for over a week. I feel like I should have tried harder, even though at the time I thought I was doing everything we could.

    24 hours after she was born, the lactation specialist at the hospital told us that she really needed to eat, and that although it was a sensitive issue with me, the most important thing was to get nutrition into our baby girl. She took to the bottle with no problem. She was pretty much on almost all formula for the first week or so…I had that same experience where I ended up being glad that I didn’t throw away the freebie formula that we were sent in the mail!

    On our first visit with our pediatrician, she stressed that emotions aside, the most important thing was to keep our baby girl gaining weight and growing. The office lactation consultant came in helped me work out the latch–with the huge help of a nipple shield. We also saw a private consultant who really helped me as well (if anyone in the bay area needs a referral to someone, let me know!) and helped me understand that breastfeeding is NOT easy for most women and that formula is there for a reason.

    These days, I am able to breastfeed with some formula supplementation, although I am noticing that my supply isn’t always able to keep up with her growing appetite. I continue to use the nipple shield and acknowledge that I may have to use it for the full time we breastfeed, even if it’s inconvenient for me. I’m still not sure if she will be able to transition to the bare nipple. I constantly remind myself that I am doing as much as I can for my little girl, but I also constantly fight off the guilt and the “am I doing enough for my child?” feelings. Olive is only five weeks old and is thriving, but the post-partum blues still do a number on me regularly.

    Sorry for this long post…point is that we all have to make choices for what’s best for our child, even if it breaks our hearts. What a hard lesson to learn right off the bat! But there you have it. Kudos to you for listening to your baby boy and much luck to him and you!

    • I used the nipple shield for a month or so as well, but eventually decided I wanted to stop using it for reasons of convenience (nursing in public was a ridiculous hassle, for one thing). With the help of a lactation consultant, I was able to wean her off it. I’m definitely not saying that’s what you should do if the shield is working for you, just that it may be possible if you ever get fed up with the shield.

      • Yeah, it IS a hassle for sure, even though it has totally saved my breastfeeding experience! I think I’ll start trying to wean her as soon as tomorrow…I imagine the sooner the better. I’ll need to pick a time when she’s not super hungry and I can sit and just keep trying it. Glad to hear it worked for you and that you were able to stop using it…I know Olive doesn’t mind it but it’d be one less step in the process for mama 🙂

        • Yeah, I really feel that I would not still be breastfeeding if I hadn’t started on the shield. I was originally discouraged about my ability to wean her off it, but working with a consultant really helped. Good luck to you! 🙂

    • Thank you soo very much for sharing your story with me as well as with all of the other individuals in this community. It’s not always easy to, but it is healing!
      One important thing I have to remind myself and tell myself (and others!) is that just because one family might have to supplement does not mean that breastfeeding wasn’t successful. 🙂

    • My son clamped down on my nipples making it excruciatingly painful to breastfeed. I would tense my whole body and clench my teeth just to get through it. I didn’t want to give up and fortunately between 5-9 weeks he gradually stopped. Now at 16 weeks breastfeeding is an enjoyable part of our relationship that I’m thankful for.

      I heard that breastfeeding was hard, but I didn’t know how hard it can be and how many things can get in your way (under/over supply, poor latch, clampdown…) Honestly I thought that it was always as simple as “baby sucks on nipples and it’s all good”. Seeing my friend deal with twins AND low supply, and dealing with oversupply, terribly cracked nipples and clampdown reflex myself really brought home the message “do what works for your family” more than anything else. At first I judged my friend harshly for using formula, believing that she just wasn’t giving the babies a chance to increase her supply, but now I see that accepting the need for major formula supplementation is lowering her stress level and allowing her to focus on being a mother to her two girls.

  5. I struggled so much when I wasn’t able to breastfeed the way I wanted. I literally was in tears for weeks over it, and still feel guilty for not being able to provide for my daughter in that way. A place that really helped me was – not because it celebrates feeding formula, but because it celebrates feeding your child – however you get that accomplished. I spent many sleepless nights (first attached to my daughter, and when that didn’t work, attached to the pump) reading the stories on that blog, and learning, slowly learning, that we all do the best we can with what we have, and that has to be good enough.
    I know that I’m doing what works for my family. It might not be what I wanted, but my daughter is such a joy to me in so many other ways, and I am so much more than just my breasts.
    (It took me a long time to feel not guilty for not breastfeeding! Some days, I still struggle with it.)

    • I STILL sometimes have feelings of guilt, but I feel like I have grieved the process and most of all, I have allowed myself to heal. I have given myself the space in order to do so, because I had to! Breastfeeding is such an emotional journey, I really did not realize that until we were full swing into it.
      I really found that website helpful as well and spent many a night reading that, crying, wiping my tears, and reading some more.
      You are a wonderful mama, and I do believe that the guilt will subside and you can continue to heal! 🙂

  6. It makes me so sad that women feel so pressured to make decisions in motherhood. You are terrible if you don’t breastfeed. You are gross if you do. Why can’t we just accept that what works for some people doesn’t work for others? Why is it so much harder to do in motherhood?

    • I don’t know why there’s so much pressure. I think for me I did a LOT of Google’ing and reading online about experiences, and came across a LOT of really hardcore ‘lactivists’ and a lot of really hardcore people against formula, and with that, comes a lot of generalizations about people who use formula, don’t breastfeed, etc. Combine that with post-partum hormones and I’m spent! I do think we need to do what works for us and our families. I really wanted breastfeeding to work out, but what I really had to do was define success and figure out what that meant to me and to my family.xo

  7. It’s like we lived the same life for a while. I can say without a doubt, the guilt was hell but it was so nice to finally realize that I did the best I could and that it was time to move on to plan B. Hopefully the next time around it will work out better for the both of us – enjoy mommyhood!

  8. YES YES YES!!!! This post. IS AWESOME!! My son and I went through the same thing. Accept the problem was the he wasn’t sucking, just chomping (lucky me!) I agree with the stress and pressure. I took him to a few breast feeding support groups and knew I would never fit in there because I had to supplement with formula. My son never sucked well enough to make my milk supply go bonkers so pumping never worked for me.

    Did I still nurse my son? You bet!! We figured out what worked for us. A few ounces from the bottle to help him relax and then switch to the breast for some nursing. Then back to the bottle for a final filling up. Or nurse to sleep, or just a bottle! He could never relax enough to nurse in public which was great if I felt self conscious but often I would just feel more self conscious in my hippie town that I was bottling my baby. But my son never cared and soon I didn’t either.

    The statement of your baby “had to eat” is what hit home the most for me. When we went to the lactation consultant it took us two hour to figure out why he had lost over a pound and went from being happy mellow guy to screaming nightmare. I cried with relief when the lactation nurse looked me in the eye and said “He needs calories, are you comfortable with formula?” YES!! YES!! Please let me just feed my baby!

    Now he’s a HUGE almost one year old. To quote Ariel “he hit the genetic jackpot!” In some ways I am thankful he took both the bottle and breast. He father rejoiced in feeding him and they have an awesome bond. I was free to go about being myself sooner. Would I have nursed my son solely if I could have? Absolutely. But do I feel bad about the way things turned out? NO! I feel blessed to have a healthy happy boy.

    Thank you for writing this, it touched me. I am so glad things worked out for you and your family. Life is so intense in the beginning…

    • Isn’t it funny how sometimes we just need someone to tell us it’s okay to do something? Like you with the lactation consultant, once my midwife basically said it was okay to have a c-section, it was a such a huge weight lifted.

    • aw, thank you so much for your words and for sharing your experiences. you’re right and that is the central key part here – finding out what WORKS. and for us, it was breastfeeding and bottlefeeding, and it worked. it really did! for 8 months until my boy just got way too busy and into everything else besides breastfeeding.
      I wish you well in your parenthood journey and really appreciate your words!

  9. I appreciated the perspective in this article. As much as I am a fan of breastfeeding, I do think that it’s important that mothers realize it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t work out. One reason I feel strongly about this is that I have several adopted siblings. Breastfeeding was not an options for them. Did that mean they were off to a disadvantage in life? I don’t think so. In fact, I think taking turns giving them the bottle (after awhile; it’s usually recommended that the adoptive mother be the one to feed them for awhile to form that relationship) was a bonding experience for everyone in the family. They’re all happy and healthy enough now — in fact, they enjoyed better health as young children than those of us who were biological and breastfed. (Not that I’m trying to draw that conclusion, either– just pointing out that not breastfeeding is NOT dooming your kid!)

    On the flip side, I have seen mothers become overly invested in breasfeeding. As a daycare provider, I have watched mothers deny their children food which they obviously needed, because mom wanted to breastfeed exclusively, or longer, etc. I think it’s important to realize that parents need to do what is in the child’s best interest — sometimes that’s breastfeeding, sometimes it’s not; sometimes it’s letting the child grow up and move on. (I know some toddlers continue to be interested — but actually forcing them to continue and denying them food until they breastfeed seems rather extreme.)

    • absolutely – we need to do what works best for our little ones. we need to keep them going, keep them surviving, and keep them thriving most of all. thank you so much for your comment, I appreciate it so very much. the responses to this post have been extremely overwhelming and I feel blessed to hear from so many women!

    • This really hit home for me:

      “I have watched mothers deny their children food which they obviously needed, because mom wanted to breastfeed exclusively, or longer, etc. I think it’s important to realize that parents need to do what is in the child’s best interest — sometimes that’s breastfeeding, sometimes it’s not…”

      About 3 weeks into breastfeeding, my poor little boy suddenly couldn’t feed properly to save his life, and my partner and I, after hours of online researching, put it down to reflux.

      He was loosing weight, had dry nappies and poo became a rarity, plus he was always crying and screaming… and we were total wrecks.

      We had lactation consultants and nurses all telling us to ‘just keep breastfeeding’ and that there ‘was nothing wrong with him, he’s just being fussy.’ So I kept struggling along believing that it was the ‘right’ thing to do.

      Of course, I became stressed and depressed and hated myself, my milk started drying up, the baby cried more, I was told to take herbal formulas and pump and ‘breastfeed breastfeed breastfeed’ and you know what?

      I put my baby onto anti-reflux formula and within 12 hours the world was calm again. He had soaking nappies, poos of plenty, started packing on the weight and no longer screamed.

      I am so glad I just went with my instincts and realised that while breast IS best, sometimes nature really screws it up and we have to make do with the next best thing. 🙂

  10. Thank you for sharing your story! I have been on a similar path with my daughter. After having breast reduction surgery 10 years ago, I didn’t know if I’d be able to breastfeed at all, but was happy to find that we were able to make it 3 months exclusively breastfeeding (with lots of pain, latch problems, and other difficulties, but that’s another story). However, when my daughter was 3 months old, we found out that she hadn’t gained any weight in an entire month–NOT at all cool at that stage.

    I too worked with a great lactation consultant who made it clear that I would need to supplement. My milk supply basically topped out at 2 months, and couldn’t increase any more to meet her rising demand. In order to help maintain the supply I DO have, I opted to use a Lact-Aid supplemental nursing system. Yes, it is a huge pain in the ass to fill the bags and sterilize the tubing every single day, but maintaining my ability to nurse my daughter and give her whatever milk I’m able to make is worth it.

    I also wanted to mention that I have been lucky enough to be able to supplement using donor milk from a friend who had a baby right around the same time as me. Thanks to her, we were able to make it nearly 5 months on breast milk alone (though I did introduce some formula when I went back to work at 4 1/2 months). For any other women who find themselves having to supplement, you should totally look into milksharing–check out an organization like Human Milk for Human Babies to get more info. (And to any lucky moms with abundant milk supply–PLEASE consider donating some of your milk to a mom and baby in need! You have no idea what it means to us, and how much it can help assuage the feelings of guilt and inadequacy that unfortunately tend to accompany persistent milk supply issues.)

    Sorry for the novel, but this has been one of my biggest parenting struggles so far and I am grateful to see this being discussed on OBM!

    • I love that you were able to use donor milk!
      Next baby, if I can breastfeed fully, I really really want to be able to pump and save up milk for another mama that may be struggling. That is one of my goals, but as I learned with my little guy this time, plans don’t ALWAYS work out. but I would love to be able to do that for another family. that is awesome that you were able to. and good for you for using the Lact-Aid – it can be a bit of a pain and a struggle, but you just fit it into your routine. wow. thank you for sharing your experiences and for the words! xo

      • this is what people should do if they are soo hard core about the idea that breastmilk is best. Haha ya right. People love to judge but often won’t do anything to help. You are awesome and this is an awesome idea.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I used the SNS because my son was born with a cleft lip and palate. It is a huge commitment! I eventually ended up exclusively pumping and feeding him with a bottle. It definitely opened my eyes to different ways of feeding and nursing (not just through breast feeding) your baby!

    • Way to go for exclusively pumping, mama! It is NOT an easy thing to do, and there is very little support for it. My daughter wouldn’t latch properly and I had a Navy pediatrician tell me I didn’t make enough milk–that 3 days postpartum I should be pumping at least 8oz at a time. I started pumping, and tried formula. The formula didn’t work–she vomited it like crazy, whatever kinds we tried–and so I felt like I had no choice. Everyone kept telling me I was crazy and I needed to give up. I felt guilty for bottle feeding and felt like I could see everyone’s judgment of me (and comments were made too) and guilty for not managing to do it “the right way”. It took me a long time to get past that, and I finally gave up pumping after a year. It was so nice to be able to give up the Domperidone, Mother’s Milk tea (tasted awful!), and fenugreek capsules. And I felt guilty for feeling relieved lol. It’s taken me 3 years to let go of the guilt. I’m pregnant again and this time, what will be will be. (Though I’m still crossing my fingers that breastfeeding works!)

      • @Dani Reid – Sorry to hear you had so much pressure from your doctor! I wonder why they told you that you should be pumping 8 oz each session at 3 days post-partum? It really depends how often you are pumping and your body’s ability to produce. I definitely wasn’t producing 8 oz each pump session at 3 days out. And even now pumping for a nearly 7 month old at 4x per day I usually get 8-10 oz each time, which is exactly how much he needs.

        And despite that negative information you still made it to a year! Congrats, that is a real accomplishment and I hope I can make that goal as well. I know I will feel relieved when I’m finished! lol

  12. Yes!! Thank you for writing this. My daughter started off on the SNS because I lost so much blood during her birth that she wasn’t getting enough food. It never occurred to me before her birth that we might need to give her formula, but once we used the SNS I realized it was no big deal. Exclusive breastfeeding is nice and all, but it’s not the be all and end all of motherhood. Today I breastfeed her as much as I can, but now that I’m back to work full time, she gets some formula too. And the world keeps spinning… 🙂

    • the world DOES keep spinning. when you’re in the midst of bf’ing issues and post-partum hormonal craziness, it sometimes feels like that world just ain’t gonna keep going, unless such and such! 🙂 thanks for your words!

  13. I’m so glad that you shared this! While I was pregnant with my son Brody I KNEW that I would breastfeed him. I read every piece of breastfeeding literature I could get my hands on. The first two days at the hospital went great and he latched like a champ. Soon after bringing him home things took a turn for the worse and he became very irritable, never letting me put him down and nursing what seemed like constantly. He had wet and poopy diapers but they were always green and never the right consistency. We both had meltdowns and after nearly a month of being in denial and struggling I took him to the Dr. and found that he had only gained two ounces since his first appointment. I was overcome with guilt at the thought that my precious little baby had been trying to tell me he was hungry but I was too inexperienced and hell bent on “doing the right thing” to realize that I was really doing the wrong thing for him. We began supplementing with formula that day and he has gained weight steadily and is doing fantastic. I sometimes still feel like I failed him in so many ways and some days are harder than others but when he is eating his bottle and he looks up at me and smiles, I know we are doing the right thing.

    • thanks so much for sharing your experiences!
      you’re so spot on too – is it more important that we breastfeed, and completely burn out and are unhappy and our babes aren’t thriving and we are not being the parents we want to be, or is it more important that the feeding/bonding time with our babes is happy, calm and relaxing? hearts!

  14. I really want to respond more appropriately and reply to each and every one of you who has so bravely chosen to share your story with me, however, my boy is sleeping, and so we all know that we’ve got to catch those winks when we can!

    I just wanted to say, my full breastfeeding journey (this is a bit of a condensed version, understandably!) is at:

    Also, I talked about a particular Lactation Consultant (Cindy) whom was incredibly helpful and whom we felt very blessed to have in our lives. I ended up calling her to let her know exactly this, which I have detailed at:

    But until I can comment further, I really just want to say that I truly feel so honoured and blessed to be able to share in this community, exchange stories, and support each other. I think it is fabulous.

    Much love, hugs, support (and sleep!) to you all. xo!

  15. I had low milk with my 1st who is now 21 months. I did everything you named as well. I have had zero problems with babygirl who is 4 months old. Also I had unexpected csections with both and my 4 month old didn’t get brought to me until 2 hours after she was born. Have faith mamas, it is possible 🙂

  16. I am a lactation nurse, and a mom with a story almost identical to yours. I wanted to breastfeed so bad, and as a professional felt added pressure to do so. We struggled on for 6 months, before I switched to formula feeding and we were both so much happier. There really is too much pressure to breastfeed. In a perfect world every mom would successfully breastfeed, but this is not a perfect world and mom’s, doctors and nurses need to be more supportive of mother’s choices, and baby needs to come first. There is nothing wrong with supplementation. And unfortunately, the breastfeeding professionals (I’ve heard some people call us breastfeeding nazi’s) tend to put on the most pressure, when our role is really to support, help, advise. Best of luck to you and your little one!

  17. I think you did a great job! Reading your story made me think how fortunate we are in many ways to have the understanding of how our bodies work, and we have some options for feeding babies if something goes awry. Formula and bottles might not be your first choice, but how wonderful that they were there when you and your son needed them. Good work, mama!

    • it is SO true. it’s amazing we have more than one option, otherwise, my little guy would have died (if he didn’t have access to formula, clean water and bottles, or donor milk, another mom to nurse him, etc). that thought REALLY scares me. he is thriving now, and I really believe we WERE successful, it just might be a different definition. : )

  18. I had to use a supplemental breastfeeding system with my eldest daughter. I was never able to get enough milk for exclusive breastfeeding, but was able to get 50/50. With my second daughter, it had been so long since I had my first (9 years between the two) that the system didn’t even occur to me. The first night in the hospital I literally spent straight trying to nurse. My nipples were sore, cracked and bleeding, and my daughter was extremely unhappy. Then, she ended up losing so much weight she was back in the hospital two days later for dehydration. My milk came in, but I never had a chance to heal, so the first month was miserable. A month in and emergency surgery on my gallbladder and I had no milk left.

    With my son it looked like I was going to have the same problem. Then, by the third day after he was born, suddenly I was full. It took my third child to be able to exclusively breastfeed, and he insists on attempting to bite my nipples off any chance he gets. I’ve done it all, and realized that it doesn’t matter how they’re fed as long as they are fed and have you to look up at. I get joy from staring into my baby’s eyes more than the method to which I’m feeding him/her. 🙂

    • thanks SO much for sharing! it is awesome to hear from the perspective of a 3-child mama who has nursed and bottle-fed. thank you thank you, super appreciate it and feel really honoured to be able to hear and share in all of these wonderful experiences with even more wonderful mamas xoxo!

  19. Thank you for writing this…it’s basically exactly what happened to my daughter and I. I have tried everything for the past 6+ weeks…seen doctors/lactation specialists…crazy feeding regiments from breast/bottle/breast with breast compressions followed by hand expressions 20 min and 45 min later to sns systems…taken so much fenugreek i don’t even smell like maple syrup anymore and I just can’t take anymore. The final straw for me was today in a breastfeeding support group a woman told me I was lazy for not breastfeeding my daughter. I know I shouldn’t have let her get to me, but I seriously broke down and cried. I am very thankful for your post…I was feeling like I was the only woman anywhere who couldn’t get her milk started following the doctors “tried and true” methods for success…

    • Someone said that to you? That’s like telling someone battling infertility that she’s selfish for not having children. I really wish people would think of the “what if” before they speak. You know, the “What if there is more to this story than I realize?”

      I would have yelled at her. Full blown, in public, screaming. I hope that she was overcome with guilt when you started crying and will hopefully think before she speaks in the future.

    • That is awful! I want to say try not to let the comment bother you, but I have let those comments get to me too. Researching/online communities can really be a beautiful thing, but when they’re not moderated, then sometimes people can get nasty. Really nasty. And throw into that mix post-partum hormones, and wow.. nasty again.
      I hope you are feeling better. I always feel like people that say those awful things have not experienced struggles, and so have no basis for understanding them either. xoxoxo! Thinking about you.

      • Thanks for responding…I am not usually one to let it get to me nor am I typically a crier but this one really hit home. im just grateful that you wrote your experience down; reading such a similar story really helped. My daughter is 6 weeks 5 days today and I think Im deciding to be done with all of the insanity, Its a hopeless cause to try and increase production. Ive managed a slight increase over the past month but 5x nothing is still nothing. I almost feel a guilty relief packing up the sns…

      • I had a good friend tell me “i’m sure if you tried harder you could have breastfed” I don’t know why people care what you do. It’s like they think you “happened” to your child. They are the best mother for everyones baby. pfffft. try having my kid. you would let her cry it out too. oh yeah that’s another one everyone hates letting your kids cry it out. as i said try having my kid. lol. I wish mine was like yours and techniques in hippy books worked. 🙂 actually nah, I like my kiddo the way she is, she has taught me so much, mostly idealism is for the birds. 🙂

  20. so.. i have a confession. My son is 6 months and I have had normal to no issues breastfeeding but… god i want to stop. i just want to be free. I know a lot of this is more about the other things going on in my life but still, when??????

  21. As someone who was adopted and never breastfed, I appreciate reading articles like this. I don’t know what nature will bring to me when my husband and I have kids but it’s nice to see more support for moms who can’t solely breastfeed for whatever reason.

  22. Thank you. I especially appreciate this:

    “He truly thrived when I was happy, and I didn’t realize that in the moment until we had decided to change our routine.

    I had many moments where I felt extreme amounts of guilt, but then I learned that breastfeeding did not equal perfection — nor did it equal motherhood.”

    I think this sentiment can apply to lots of aspects of parenting. My current struggle is sleep (or lack thereof) and the guilt and doubt associated with sleep training.

    Thank you for your story.

  23. Thank you so much for this post. It so hard to find resources on breastfeeding complications, and it really helped me to read this and the comments. My son was born August 29, and our experience was almost exactly like yours. I actually hemorrhaged during childbirth, and the severe anemia is what affected my supply. But like you, I had few breast changes during pregnancy and suspect my supply may have been low regardless of health complications. I tried all the things you did and went through all the stress and guilt, on top of mild postpartum depression. I finally let go of the shame and hurt when at an appointment with my midwife, she said, “I give you permission to stop trying to breastfeed.” I really needed to hear that before I could give myself permission and just focus on my baby and the joy of being with him. Now he’s primarily formula fed by bottle with supplemental breastfeeding, and we’re much a happier household for it.

    • Hi Sarah, thanks so much for reading this and for sharing your experiences with me. Isn’t it funny how we feel so much pressure and sometimes just need someone to say, “IT’S OK! I GIVE YOU PERMISSION!” So glad things worked out for you xo

  24. I have waned to write about this because I didn’t breastfeed. People ussually assume I did, then they get uncomfortable when they find out I didn’t breastfeed. You are soppuse to prove to everyone how hard you tried. or explain what went wrong. i probably didn’t try hard enough, only three weeks, and I remember the moment I decided to give up! It was so relieving. I dont plan on having any more children but now I couldn’t imagine breastfeeding! It was so nice having the freedom of going out or sharing nighttime feedings with my husband. All those studies that make you feel guilty are so flawed!

    you really cant tell if a baby is breastfed or not. My three year old daughter and I had no trouble bonding. She knows that some babies have boobie milk and she had milk from a bottlle. she thinks it is so funny that she drinks milk that comes from “cow boobs”

    don’t feel guilty ladies, there is so much to mothering. Your babies are not missing out on anything. I know it’s hard after being inundated with info on why you should breastfeed, my birth center didn’t really want you to think formula feeding could even be an option.

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