Failure to Breastfed - My story

by Lisa

I run a support group for parents who are unable to breastfeed called Bottle Babies. Here is the link:!/, Please come and join us, share your stories and receive support. Here is mine my story:

“Hi my name is Lisa, and I am a formula feeder.”

For a long time, I felt like I should be standing up and saying those words in front of a crowd like ‘Formula Feeders Anonymous,’ a group of mothers who were ashamed of their burden on society for not providing what was ‘best’ for their children. My shame in not being able to breastfeed and feelings of being less of a mother came from many sources: From midwives, lactation consultants, posters on the wall in the birthing room, strangers on the street and the whole of society who seemed to know ‘breast is best’ and had no problems in reminding me of that every time I pulled out a bottle. But the person who made me feel like a failure and who judged me the most was none other than myself.

Don't you know "BREAST IS BEST!!!!"

From the time I was a little girl, I was told by my mother how she was 'a cow' and not only breastfed both my brother and I till we were over 12 months, but also had enough supply to contribute to the milk bank at the hospital.

When we were shopping together if she saw a sound sleeping baby in its pram, she would say "that baby must be breastfed - it is so content."

So when I feel pregnant, I imagined myself sitting in my rocking chair, breastfeeding my happy, healthy and content breastfeed baby.

After 15 hours in labor and labeled as ‘Failure to Progress’ at 9cm dilated, with baby starting to go into distress, I went under the knife and my beautiful baby boy was born at 8 am.

His daddy took him to meet the family while I was in recovery, but because of complications with the epidural, I was there for a long time and by the time I came down to the ward I was exhausted. After everyone left in the late afternoon, my new little boy and I fell soundly asleep.

It wasn't til the next morning that a midwife asked me how many feeds he had and I responded with "umm I haven't feed him????" She of cause looked a little panicked but promptly whipped out one of my boobs, grabbed the baby and put his face next to my nipple. He looked at it and went back to sleep.

Over the next day in the hospital, I was given 100 instructions on how to do it, why to do it and I had my nipples gabbed by more people then I had ever had in my life, all trying to get my little boy interested. He wasn’t. Every time they tried, he would have a few sucks, scream and fall asleep, so every couple of hours I would try putting him on for about 45 minutes until we were both exhausted, then hand expressed colostrum into a little bottle and give it to him with a syringe. Sitting in the hospital room watching all the other mothers breastfeeding while I feed my baby with a syringe made me depressed – not only had I ‘Failed to Progress’ I had also ‘Failed to Breastfeed.’

Some of the midwives were lovely, but some were frustrated with me, more then I was at myself, and one, in particular, was determined to make it work. She told me to strip him down to only his nappy and ‘helped’he stayed awake by placing a cold were wet cloth on him everytime he got a bit sleepy. But instead of attaching and sucking, this just made him scream. I felt like taking him, wrapping him up and running away but she stood over me for an hour doing this, with me crying while she exclaimed: “he has to do this, he has to eat, everyone can do this if they try hard enough.”

After that, just two days after a dramatic birth, a c-section, baby blues and baby who wasn’t eating, I asked to be discharged, and the hospital was just fine with that as they were very busy and I guess I was taking up space.

At home I went through the motions of trying to get him on for 45 minutes, followed by hand express for 45 minutes, feed with a small bottle, cry for an hour, time for another feed.

I saw lactation consultants who told me to keep trying, and we would ‘get it,’ I spoke on the phone to helplines who told me to keep trying, and we would ‘get it,’ and I spoke to doctors who told me to keep trying and we would ‘get it.’

The hand expressing lasted 1 week on my determination that one day we would ‘get it’, but with the support of my husband, who basically told me that it was unhealthy for baby and me to continue with this, I gave up on the idea that I would get him to latch on and I bought a breast pump. I expressed for the next two months, which was a little easier but still a long drawn out process. After two months my milk dried up.

In despair, I stood in the formula aisle of the supermarket and cried. I had no idea which formula to choose, I knew no one who formula fed and I couldn’t deal with the pressure from any health professionals if I was to call them and ask ‘which formula do I get him” I was much too embarrassed that I had failed at something that seemed so easy and natural for every mum I knew and that I hadn’t kept trying.

Through the tears, I read some of the information on the tins and bought the one in the gold tin, the most expensive, to help my conscience just a little.

When I got home and made up the formula, I cried again, and as I fed him... the tears kept falling.

He gulped down the lot and then slept for 5 hours. No tears from him at all and for the first time I saw content look on his face.

As the days past, I watched him get happier and more alert and even though I still grieved that he was not getting the ‘best’ I was starting to feel better too. My husband fed him a lot, and it left me free to do other things instead of spending 3 hours in a feeding process. I could brush my hair and teeth and take a shower!!!

Feeding him the formula in the privacy of our own home was fine – I only judged myself, but out in the world it seemed like everyone judged me.

When shopping, I would make up the bottle of formula around the corner before entering the mothers’ room in the hope that the other mothers’ breastfeeding their babies might think that it was expressed milk. One time in a mothers room I was sitting in a booth and a mother walked up to me and asked me to move cause she wanted to use the booth, I was only bottle feeding, and I shouldn’t even be in the mother’s room. I went home and cried and didn’t go out for two weeks.

As my fat little healthy baby grew I began to realize that maybe the formula wasn’t that bad, it was keeping him alive, he was thriving, we were both happy and healthy, and I was a good mum.

After doing a lot of research about formula and discovering how many mums have similar feeding issues, I started to feel like I wasn’t alone.

As my confidence grew, I began to see that the way I fed my baby was my business and no one else’s. When people asked me why I wasn’t breastfeeding, I told them “It wasn’t the right choice for us” I didn’t try and explain my whole story and try and excuse myself for failure...... because I didn’t feel like a failure anymore. This beautiful little boy loved me, and our bond was so close – it didn’t matter how he was fed as long as he was fed.

When I had my second baby we did everything right, and still he wouldn’t breastfeed, but this time at the hospital I had a midwife who wasn’t just fixated on making it work no matter what and we discovered that my milk ducts weren’t working as they should and the chance of me breastfeeding was slim. I still expressed for a few weeks for my new little boy, but when it was too much, I had no hesitation in putting him on formula.

Every time I sit in my rocking chair, hold him close, feeding him his bottle and watch him drift off to sleep, I think to myself how grateful I am to have such a healthy, happy and content baby.

To all those mums out there who couldn’t breastfeed – remember this – no matter how you feed your baby – breast or bottle, the only person opinion who matters is your baby, and if he or she is loved and nurtured and as long as you are doing the best you can, whatever your circumstances, then you are a perfect mother to your baby.

Comments for Failure to Breastfed - My story

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Sep 02, 2012
My Failure to Breast-Feed Story
by: Jennifer

The story I just read sounds so much like mine.

I am always looking at these type sites trying to find out that I am not the only one who couldn't feel better.

I also after 7cm had to have a C-section bc of failure to progress bc my son "sunny-side-up" and wouldn't come down. I then also fell asleep, and no one came to my room to tell me how to breastfeed until 1 pm the next day! (first baby)

I have been beating myself up for 19 months now bc I couldn't have a vaginal birth and wonder if I ever will but also bc I couldn't get breastfeeding to work either.

I of all people should have been able to, and I am frustrated! I wanted to have that time with my son but no matter how hard I tried I have inverted nipples, and they wouldn't stay out. I tried the shield, but it was painful/collapses. Thanks so much!

Sep 03, 2012
Hi Jen
by: Lisa

I wrote this a long time ago, and since writing this, the Bottle Babies support group has grown to become a nonprofit organization with nearly 2000 members on our facebook page. Please know you are not alone and please drop by our facebook page: and our website:
Love and good parenting don't come from breasts or bottles or how you give birth - that comes from your heart.

Apr 27, 2013
breastfeeding saga
by: Anonymous

I am a psychologist. I am horrified at my breastfeeding failure.

I have tortured myself now for almost 9weeks. We had a very long labor, followed by the baby being delivered in theatre. I didn't see him for nearly 18 hours, and by then SCBU was already feeding him with a tube. 2 days later someone asked me how I wanted to feed my baby and the breastfeeding saga began.

I was in the hospital for seven days with my baby because he needed antibiotics. The nursing staff gave it everything they had: continual support, intervention, midwives grabbing my boobs and putting them in babies mouth. They and I did everything possible, and nothing worked. I felt such a failure, and I felt like not only was I letting my baby down, but also this fantastic medical team who were trying to help me. Then the breast pump was produced. I suppose at least I was feeding my baby.

We came home with lactation consultants phoning me every day. Suddenly the situation improved. We managed for a few days. Then at two weeks, the first growth spurt arrived, and he reverted to screaming at me. I arrived at Tescos at 3 am trying to find some formula. I felt like such a cheat and a failure.

My baby gulps when I breastfeed. The screaming with wind is awful. However, when he gets formula in "Dr. Browns' bottles, he is happy and content. Nine weeks now and we have a bit of breast, a bit of pumping and more formula than I would want, but we have a family life.

I would suggest to you all to focus on the good stuff. My LO feeds well at night when he is calm and in a dark environment. This time is lovely, but I have given up expecting it to continue past 3 am.

It has helped me to look at blogs and research on "attachment parenting." These sites have lots of information on feeding with love and respect, capturing breastfeeding experiences with a bottle and lots of other information about calming your baby.

Feb 19, 2014
by: Sharon

I'm a nurse, and I felt all this pressure to breastfeed and I wanted to! But, my body had other plans. My son was a superstar he latched on great! But I didn't have enough milk for him. I had to call it quits at six weeks. I felt like I failed him! He was losing weight. Luckily my doctor was very supportive and reminded me I wasn't a failure. But its hard to not feel that way when everyone around you is talking about how great breast milk is... Geeze it says right on the formula " breast is best" thanks for writing this! It hit the nail on the head! There are many empowering breastfeeding articles but none on failing at breastfeeding or pro-formula. People think ohh those girks didn't even try.... Etc.

May 11, 2014
Also struggling
by: Melissa

I gave birth to my son via c-section after going through labor with back pain all the way to end.

When it came time to push they realized he was too high up and angled. Later I also found out he was face up.

A day later we were told he had a tongue tie and a significant one. We didn't see it as a big problem, we would get it fixed, and that would be that.

Little did I know this was the start of a problematic breastfeeding journey.

For the first few months, we struggled with what I later found out to be his latch. I would sit in the chair crying as he nursed. I would cry from pain, frustration and the thought of failure.

We finally got the latch fixed, and things were great until my supply dropped all around the time I got my IUD.

I did research an found out at a certain point your supply levels out. So I continued feeding on demand and my supply seemed to continue to drop, and my son seemed always to be hungry.

I pushed the thought of formula out of my head it wasn't an option.

When I returned to work, I still faced the low supply and struggled to pump enough. I spoke with a lactation consultant and had my pump checked, but nothing worked. I was forced to accept formula for supplementing at daycare.

Today we are at six mths and are facing the end of breastfeeding. Not by choice, but because my supply continues to drop. I am having a hard time accepting this. I feel like I am mourning the loss of it. Parts of me feel like I have failed even though somewhere inside me I know that six mths breastfeeding is an accomplishment.

Even saying that is hard even to believe.
I don't know anyone else who has gone through a similar journey, so your story has helped me a little though I have a long way to go in accepting all of this and a short time frame to do it in.

May 15, 2014
Thank you
by: Bex

Thank you! Thank you a thousand times over!

I breastfed my now four y/o daughter until she was seven months old. It was hard work, but I refused to do anything else.

I knew it would be hard to do the same when my 2nd gorgeous girl came into the world....but I had underestimated just how hard.

I've managed seven weeks, and it had been exhausting, stressful, emotional and quite awful! She feeds for hours at a time (up to 5 hrs), fusses, won't sleep.

I feel like a complete failure, but for the sake of my baby, my family and my sanity, I can't do it anymore. I am devastated. But your words have helped enormously.

I would never judge a mothers choice on how to feed their baby, but I judge myself. I question if moving to bottle feeding is best for my baby or just for myself. The hurt will heal, I know that. And I will never love my baby any less for making this decision.

Thank you again xx

Jan 21, 2016
Eff mom
by: Anonymous

I'm a first-time mother. I had a very long labor which ended up in a c-sec due to fetal heart distress.

I saw my son hours after the surgery, but even then I couldn't hold him, a nurse held him while I fed him colostrum. I thought he latched on great and was looking forward to a problem free breastfeeding journey.

I was in post-op all night and joined my son in the room only in the afternoon the following day. I couldn't keep up with his demand since my milk came in just two days later.

He was a healthy baby with a good appetite, and I had to give him formula. It was downhill right from the beginning.

I couldn't keep up with his demand ever. He would fall asleep at my breast but would cry once I try to put him on his bed and begin to root.

Only formula could satiate his hunger. It is still like that at six weeks, and I'm beginning to give up.

I try and bf him before his formula feed and pump later, I'm taking fenugreek, homeopathy, oatmeals, gallons of water, but nothing seems to be helping.

I hardly ever enjoyed his birth or time spent with him. I dread breastfeeding now, the constant pumping and feeding made my breasts sore!

I haven't fully recovered from the surgery yet..and all this seems too much for me to handle. I know there are a lot of mums who go through harder ordeals to make breastfeeding work, and I applaud them for their perseverance, but this simply isn't working for my son and me.

I love my son to the moon and back. I mourn the fact that I couldn't give him the best start in his life, but I'm sure I will catch up😋

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Feeling like a failure

by Annie

I have two kids, I tried nursing with my first one but after two months and hardly any weight gain and lots of crying I decided to give it up. Now with my 2nd one, I'm trying everything to keep nursing, but nothing wants to work. I've taken herbs, I've tried drinking a gallon of water a day, massaging, hot baths and I barely make any... And the comment about feeling less of a woman is soo true. I felt so guilty after quitting the first time that I'm doing everything that I know to do to keep what little milk I have.. I am using formula too now, but I'm scared of feeling like a complete failure again!

Comments for Feeling like a failure

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Oct 16, 2013
you are NOT a failure
by: Lyssa

Mama, you are NOT a failure!

There are several reasons a mom may find it difficult to produce milk or maintain supply, and the answer isn't always solved by overhydration or herbs.

Most commonly, the baby has a weak or improper latch due to a bad habit, poor suck, or a tongue/lip tie. Talking to a lactation consultant may help ensure your baby has a proper technique for breastfeeding.

Slow weight gain is NOT a problem unless it stops completely or is accompanied by consistently delayed milestones. If the baby has 3-6 or more wet diapers, it is unlikely your supply is the issue. Some babies are just tiny. Some babies gain weight slowly, like older kids and adults! You could make small babies, and that is okay! The WQorld Health Organization has a breastfeed baby only chart that can be found online. Because formula is so differently digested than breastmilk, babies feeding differently have different growth patterns. Consulting these growth charts may help assure you that your baby's growth is nothing to worry about.

If you do have low supply, it can be caused by baby's inability to effectively get milk from the breast or from a hormonal imbalance that can be made worse by the herbs so commonly used to treat low supply. A simple blood test by your doctor can check to make sure you do not have a thyroid imbalance.

I strongly suggest getting help from a local lactation consultant or La Leche League member.

YOU CAN DO THIS, MAMA! And formula does NOT make you a failure!

Oct 16, 2013
I Understand
by: Michelle

I had an inadequate milk supply with my first baby. I spent the first twelve weeks breast feeding using a supplemental nursing system (SNS) which is a bottle with a thin tube that you tape to your nipple so baby can breast feed and get supplemented with extra pumped breast milk or formula from the SNS. So I would SNS breast feed and express day and night trying to make enough milk to put in the SNS for one feed the following day. After 12 long weeks of crying and pumping around the clock, I decided to stop.

I felt like I had missed out on a part of motherhood not being able to breastfeed - so much so that I started trying for baby number two straight away. And now we are suffering from secondary infertility and can't conceive again! We are undergoing IVF, and if by some miracle I do get pregnant again, I hope that I can make more milk. But if I don't, I plan to breastfeed using the SNS until my baby is 12 months old when the baby is eating enough solids so I can exclusively breastfeed without the SNS.

I was crying for the first six months of my son's life. But now that I look back, I am so proud of my efforts. I certainly know the feeling of thinking you are a failure. But when you look back, you will see how much harder you worked than any other mother who can breastfeed easily, and I hope you will feel proud of yourself and your efforts too.

If you would like to vent more, or need any extra emotional support and advice, I would love to hear from you, having been in the same situation myself, and having studied everything on how to increase milk supply. My email is [email protected]

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Felt like a total failure as a mother

by Pam
(Newark, DE)

I had the same problem. My first son was born three weeks early at only 5 1/2 pounds. He nursed as much and as hard as he could but was losing weight because he wasn't getting anything.

The doctors threatened to hospitalize him if he dropped below 5 pounds. When he reached about 5 lb 2 oz, we tried formula to keep him out of the hospital.

He gulped it down and started gaining weight right away, so I knew that was the solution for him. I too cried and felt like a miserable failure as a mother, because really, who can't breastfeed?

All the lactation information I could find just said to keep trying and that anyone could do it, so I felt like a total failure as a mother. Also, my breasts are large - I wear a G cup bra - and I thought surely they should be able to feed several babies, while my sister who has small breasts was able to feed her baby with no problem, but it was not to be.

My second son was full term and larger, so I determined to try harder this time, thinking maybe I just gave up too soon the first time.

We virtually stayed in the recliner with him nursing till he fell asleep in exhaustion and then waking up hungry again a few minutes later.

Again I finally gave up and went to formula. Both are now healthy young men and I know I made the right choice, as hard and crushing as it was for me. My mother told me once that one of her sisters, my aunt, had the same problem, so it is not, as rare as I had thought. It's just never something the doctors or anyone else ever tell you could happen.

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Feel like a bad mum and a failure

by Emma

My little boy is 6 months and still this upsets me so much, i feel like a bad mum and a failure as a woman. i struggled giving birth as James was in the back to back position so he was born using forceps. Because of the epidural taking so long to wear off the nurses pretty much did everything for James when he was born i feel that initial bond just wasn`t there. I never produced any milk at all not a drop it just didn`t happen. James didn't feed for over 24hrs so was put on formula. No body once explained to me why this happened or offered any support, breastfeeding is just expected there was no advice on which formula to give. When i got home i just cried i had no formula in had no idea how to work the steriliser i felt totally useless. My baby was hungry, and I couldn't give him what he needed.

He is a healthy very happy little boy and being bottle fed has had no impact on him at all its the impact it has had on me that is so hard. I am now weaning James, and he loves his food, but I am so scared it will be something else I fail at. I can not believe in this day and age there is so little help out there for women who just simply could not breastfeed. Instead, we are frowned upon as so people who are lazy and choose the easy option!!

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Felt ashamed!

by KellyKelly

I am so glad to find this site!

I had always assumed I would breastfeed exclusively. I had heard it could be difficult and that women give up too soon.

Perhaps I had judged them too harshly in my nieve past. I spent the first 12 days of my daughter's life in tears and heartbreak trying to breastfeed.

She would be on the breast for literally 8-hour stretches and come off hungry, crying, and fussy until she finally became so frustrated that she just gave up and fell asleep.

Four visits with lactation consultants and a miserable baby and heartbroken sleep deprived mommy and daddy, and we saw a breastfeeding specialist doctor. Simple problems with latching had cascaded to low milk supply and no weight gain over the first three weeks.

I sobbed for hours until I gave her the first sample of formula I had gotten from the OB visit and stuck in a cabinet, never intending to use... And my daughter drank it down and fell into the most restful, comfortable sleep I had seen her in yet.

I am still trying to breastfeed and increase my milk supply, but my misery at trying to exclusively breastfeed robbed me of the initial joy of meeting my newborn daughter.

I wish my husband and I had both been less hard on ourselves about breastfeeding.

At this point, we'll see how much breastmilk I can give my daughter. I know the benefits. But, if I can't give her a loving, happy mommy without any formula, I will supplement.

I wish there were more support online like this. I desperately want to exclusively breastfeed. As a first-time mom searching the internet for answers at 3 am, all I had found was judgment and shame.

I support you sisters, breastfeeding, pumping, or formula fed. Feed those babies!!!

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