What I Learned by Failing to Breastfeed

What I Learned by Failing to Breastfeed. Wow! This is such an emotional story for any new mom. You have to read this before your due date - regardless of whether you are planning to breastfeed your baby or not.What I Learned by Failing to Breastfeed

I was a self-proclaimed breastfeeding expert even before my baby was born.  I knew how healthy it was for him and for me.  I was knowledgeable about nipple confusion and feeding schedules, and I even knew a ton of different ways to get your baby to latch just right.   I was so determined to get it right that I read an entire book about breastfeeding–yet, I still failed at breastfeeding.  Not only did I fail, but I spent a considerable amount of money failing at something that was supposed to be free.

My breastfeeding troubles started at the hospital.

After my baby was born, I put him on the breast as soon as possible.  I had the normal new mommy fears that a lot of women have—is he getting enough?  Is it even coming out? Has he latched? I requested that a lactation consultant come to my recovery room to help me out, and she told me that I was doing just fine and that he had a great latch.   That was the first (and last) free lactation consultant I ever saw, and she was dead wrong.

When we got home, things got worse.

Breastfeeding isn’t pain-free for anyone, but for me it was excruciating. The baby was never satisfied, even though I fed him constantly. This couldn’t be normal!

My little angel wasn’t satisfied because he wasn’t latching well—and he wasn’t getting very much food.  It was so painful to feed him that I had to give myself a little pep talk  before every feeding session–I had to talk myself into the torture.

I started noticing that I was not only cut open and chapped, but I was bleeding as well.  You could literally see the blood in his bottle when I pumped, and it was covering my nursing pads.  I would do everything I could to stop the bleeding, but every time I fed the baby or pumped, the wounds would re-open.  This is when the spending spree began…  I bought everything to try to fix my problem—creams, cooling gel pads, and I even tried the lettuce leaf trick—but nothing worked.

I was so desperate to breastfeed, I sought professional help.

I needed a lactation consultant, even though the only one covered by my insurance was the one at the hospital—a one-time freebie.  So, bracing myself for the expense (but desperate for relief), I went to another consultant.  After seeing the state of my nipples and watching my baby latch, she simply told me “I am so sorry, I have never seen anything this bad, but all I can tell you is to keep trying.”  I paid over $100 for that advice.

I tried everything.

I watched every “flipple” video, every “sandwich” method demonstration, and looked up every bit of info I could get my hands on.  Then I tried, and I tried, and I tried.  I saw three more lactation consultants, and each of them gave me some kind of printout with the same information about latching that I found on the web for free, along with the same methods I had been trying unsuccessfully for two months.

Turns out, there was a bigger problem going on.

My little baby wasn’t gaining weight like he should, and it wasn’t until we saw our midwife that we found out what was really wrong—our baby had a tongue tie and two lip ties.  It affected his latch—making it almost impossible–and if we did not get it corrected, he was likely to have a speech impediment and orthodontic problems—not to mention being unable to breastfeed.

We paid for the surgery to fix his ties, and I was counting on the procedure to turn breastfeeding around for the better—but it didn’t.  He had learned to bite instead of suck, and even though we went to yet another specialist ($$$) to help him with this (and bought very expensive special bottles), he never got out of the habit.

I had to quit breastfeeding. 

I was at my wit’s end, struggling with postpartum depression, and I was blaming this poor little baby for not being able to latch.  I was so angry and sad and confused.  I wanted to breastfeed so badly, I had tried everything and spent so much money, and yet he just would not do it.  I felt like I had failed at motherhood.

The day I stopped breastfeeding was filled with more tears than I like to admit.  Even though I had nothing left in me—quite literally—I did not want to let go even though I knew it was the best thing for both of us.  That was the day that changed my relationship with my baby forever.  I no longer had to endure feeding him, I could rejoice in his smiles and actually enjoy being with him!   I finally felt like I loved him for the first time, and I felt happier than I had been in months.

Looking back now, I have slowly started to accept that I did not fail to breastfeed.  I failed to be flexible, and it was expensive. I spent money on books, creams, and consultants.  And I spent so much of the most valuable resource for a new mom—sanity—because I was stubborn and determined.

I still believe that breastmilk is the best food for a newborn baby–but your happiness and peace of mind will make you a better mother, even if your baby drinks formula.  At the end of the day, your baby will benefit the most when you are the best mom you can be, and sometimes that means being flexible and letting go of anything that holds you back.


  1. “But your happiness and peace of mind will make you a better mother, even if your baby drinks formula.” Such great advice for new moms, Nicole. I too ‘failed at breastfeeding’ and for years felt guilty over it. Even though back then it wasn’t even really “the thing”. (I’m a grandmother now.) I had similar problems, not that the baby had any problems, but I had become severly anemic, due to a prior miscarriage and such severe vomitting during the pregnancies – forget morning sickness – it was 24 hour 9 month flu! My breasts too broke open, were bleeding, and pus was coming out. The doctor made me stop, fearing the baby would get infection. But my kids grew fine anyway, we all survived. And nothing is worth our peace of mind! Great advice!

    • Thank you, Sheila. I cannot imagine what you went through with a miscarriage and being constantly sick through a pregnancy – you are a fighter! I really thought I was somehow “broken” when my breasts broke open, like I alone had a body that just wouldn’t work, but it is comforting to know that other women have had similar experiences. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Brittany

    You didn’t fail. The consultants failed to do their jobs. Your baby failed to latch (through not fault of his own). You did the best you could and then made the best decision you could with the situation you were given. You did not drop the ball. You did not fail. You’re doing just fine, momma 🙂

  3. Yohana

    Thank you for your advice at the end if the post. I was pumping too soon and i think my one month baby got nipple confusion and loves his bottle more than my nipple. Sometime i cursed the day i started to feed him from bottle. He could cry for hours just because he wants his bottle but I forced to breatfeefing him. Hearing his crying made me stress and it did bad to my milk production. It’s getting less and less. But i read your post and it did wake me. I just need to make peace about it than forcing breastfeeding him. I could be an exclusive pumper. Again Nicole thank you…

  4. Shari

    What a great read! Breast Feeding did not work for me as my milk never fully came in! I had a tramatic birth and an unolannned c section after findibg out I had an infection in my uterus!! After a rigorous feeding schedule feeding my boy/girl twins, bottle feeding then pumping for 10 days, working with the best lactation consultant in the state, my husband and I decided to stop. We had also spent $400 on donor breast milk to get us by till my milk fully came in! I was so sure it would and I wanted to do it sooo bad!! The night we decided to stop, after talking with my LT and she said 10 days is long but I’ve seen gals go 14 days before milk comes in, I cried so muchI couldn’t see straight! But, I released it and moved on. My babies are formula only babes and doing wonderful!! They are 17 & 19 pounds and will be 5 months on June 5th. They started at 8.1 and 6.13!! 🙂 I love what you said about being flexible!! That is soo true! Sometimes things don’t work out even after you’ve tried so hard to make them too!! It’s wisdom to just let go!! We were not prepared to use formula and had no idea where to start! So thankfil for friends who helped us out. Thanks for sharing your story and the great reminder!!

  5. Tiffany

    My daughter had an upper and lower tongue tie when she was born. She did not latch but I was able to pump milk for her and still feed her ebm. I just had my 4th baby and I am older and wiser. I have nursed him using a breast shield since day one (he’s 5 weeks old). Keeps your nipples in fantastic shape and helps with a proper latch (in my situation).

  6. Breast feeding was the bigger challenge of my life! I had an induction that resulted in a c section after three days. My milk never came no matter what I did. The pain I felt for failing to breast feed was awful! I pumped and tried to nurse her for a full month before I decided that, like you said, my sanity was more important for her than the breast milk that I was barely getting. The day I quit I cried so hard too, I kept thinking what else haven’t I tried. We’ve stopped for a week now and I can honestly say I am a better Mom for it. Thank you for sharing your story! It helps people like me not feel alone! In all the classes they make it seem like it is a fool proof plan but that isn’t reality.

    • Thanks! I am so glad that people relate to my story…I felt so alone when I was going through all of this, so I am grateful to be able to help other moms not to feel that way. You are so right about the classes (and even books) make it seem like it is fool proof…it sets us up to be so discouraged at a very important time. You are doing great, mama!

  7. Jo.c

    I breast fed my first baby girl. She had was tongue tie and had to have a small procedure to solve the latching on issue. It took me 3 months of painful breast feeding and tears until I established a routine. I feel guilty because I dreaded every feed as it was so painful I would be tense and grit my teeth all the time and this impacted on me bonding and enjoying this precious time with my baby. I was afraid of failing as a mother so continued to breast feed until she was 7 months. What really struck a cord with me was your comment on being flexible. Part of me wishes that I had bottle fed earlier and spent that precious time bonding and enjoying the moments that pass so quickly. Breast or bottle it doesn’t matter, what is important is that you and your baby are happy and enjoying every special moment together whilst it last. Thank you for sharing your story.

    • If I could go back and do it again, I would focus more on enjoying the moment instead of stressing about what wasn’t working. I can completely relate to breastfeeding being so painful you tense up and grit your teeth. That was me, too. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your experience!

  8. Vanessa

    I had my son last year and I was so determined to breast feed. I had heard all the tricks in the book and I was ready. In the hospital the nurses hurt my nipples so badly that I had to buy nipple shields to make the pain bearable. By 5 weeks, the dr told me my baby had lost too much weight and I had to stop trying and start bottle feeding. By then I had tried pumping, I had tried supplementing his feeds with formula, I had tried medication. When I got home from the hospital my boobs were so engorged that I had to have a shower to try to relieve the pressure. I only ever had that once and I never felt “let down”. I had milk but not enough and none of the supplements helped. My baby boy is now 16 months, was bottle fed and is very bright. I don’t believe that not being able to breastfeed is a failure. Hey, the child is alive and well, how is that failure!? I believed that I had failed at the time, but not anymore.

  9. Bhavisha

    Hi Nicole,

    I loved reading this article. It’s really similar to what I went through recently with my daughter. I was determined to breastfeed as well. I wasn’t willing to give up which affected my daughters health as she started loosing a lot of weight and had to be admitted to the hospital. Sometimes we beat ourselves too much for little things. At the end of the day what matters is your sanity and a healthy baby.

  10. I definitely understand the pain & frustration, my little girl had bad reflux & bad latch & I was forced to stop but I tried & that’s what counts. My baby is almost 3 and healthy and that is what matters. You didn’t fail! You did more than most can & will!
    Regina recently posted…5 Ways to Study the BibleMy Profile

  11. Christine

    Wonderful article that all soon to be first moms should read. I too determined to breast feed with my son (now five). I believed that breast milk was best and it really established an incredible bond. Unfortunately, my son was not on the same page. He would not latch. I had plenty of milk, but he just wouldn’t take to my breast for no other reason that he was not a “breast man”. I was subborn and determined to do what I read was best for my child. After my son lost too much weight, my doctor suggested supplementing with a bottle. I reluctantly accepted fearing “nipple confusion”. When I let go, I learned, by boy loved my milk, in a bottle. I still pumped to provide milk (oh the sore, dry nipples). But I never felt I missed out on “bonding” with my child. In fact, pimping allowed my husband to feed my boy… we shared the bond. There is not right or wrong with choices about breastfeeding as long as the best interest of the child is put first. Thank you for sharing your story… most of us already know that the breastfeeding process isn’t as smooth as society depicts, but new moms need to know that it isn’t always easy and it isn’t always possible. There are so many alternative options available.

  12. Lisa Cabello

    I breastfed my children the first one for two years the second one for three months. I bought into the hype about breastfeeding and thought I’d be a horrible mother if I didn’t. The pain of my uterus while breast feeding was horrific. I was exhausted all the time. My children were colicky and never slept but I continued. I couldn’t eat very many foods because of the way it bothered my children digestive system. It was torture. My son preferred the formula and he was probably the better for it. My daughter developed sever ear infections and had constant croup. I n longer believe breast is best. I believe in whatever works for the child after all it is about the child not just about the Moms.

  13. Sarah

    Thank you for writing this.. I feel for you. I was determined to breastfeed my baby boy and once I got home from the hospital I too started to bleed and I just found myself sobbing from the pain. Finally my husband looked at me and said “we are going to buy formula” he couldn’t stand to see me suffer.. I was so grateful to him for making me feel like it was ok. As long as our baby boy had a full belly we were successful parents. Thank you again for sharing your struggles.

  14. We struggled with low supply for 6 months, and then chose to wean for many different reasons, including my own mental health. Just like you, I tried everything. My experience with lactation consultations were similarly disappointing. The best advice I got from another mother in this situation was that my baby needed me more than he needed my milk. And he is thriving, off the growth charts in height and weight and hitting milestones like a champ. He is doing awesome, and formula hasn’t hurt him one bit :). You rock, thanks for sharing your story!
    Hailey recently posted…Your Self-Worth Can’t Be Measured on a Scale (Your Weight Doesn’t Determine Your Value)My Profile

  15. Catherine

    Thank you for sharing your story! I had a very similar experience. Met with Lactation consultants again and again, bought every cream and ointment, got the tongue and lip tie fixed but nothing helped! It was the most discouraging thing ever and I felt like a failure when I decided to stop at 10 weeks (husband wasn’t super supportive of my decision). I am now pumping and giving him milk and although it is a lot of work and dishes I am so much happier not being in constant pain!

  16. Sally

    The most important in breastfeeding is good preparation! I had so many questions about breastfeeding when my son was born. I was lost and depressed because somehow it was very difficult for me. I felt that I won’t handle it. I was searching the net and I have found an awesome ebook HOW TO MAKE BREASTFEEDING PLEASANT AND EASY from this website http://www.parental-love.com It made me stronger and I knew I could deal with all these problems I had. I am sooo happy to say that I made it! I was breastfeeding my boy for 18 months! I wouldn’t do it without this guide! I only regret I didn’t know about it and read it before my son was born

    • That is great! I need to check out that book, as I am now breastfeeding with a little bit of formula supplementation for my second child. I’d love to go to 100% breastmilk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge