Invented in the mid-1800′s as a last-ditch option for orphans and underweight babies, packaged infant formula has since been perfected to be a complete and reliable source of stress and shame for mothers.” -Tina Fey, Bossypants

I do not produce breastmilk.

I figured I’d better come clean on this whole subject since some of you may see Vivi drinking formula out of bottles in a few days.

Ironically this is World Breastfeeding Week.

Chances are there are other women like me out there who see all of this PRO BREASTFEEDING! and GO TEAM MILK BOOBS! talk and feel a rock in their stomach like I do.

The assumption of a bottle feeding mother is hardly ever a good one. Generally the assumption that tops the list is that she gave up. Or that she’s selfish. Or lazy.

I can assure you that bottle feeding does not a lazy/selfish life enable. I have to be twice as prepared when I leave the house because I do not make milk on demand.

Did I give up? Sure, I guess you could call it that if you want to. But I gave up knowing that for eight weeks I did anything and EVERYTHING I could to promote milk production. Vivi had a latch and patience breastfeeding mothers dream of.

nursing with an SNS tube.

I wanted this to work so bad you guys.

I wanted to breastfeed Vivi exclusively just as badly as I wanted to be pregnant.

But my body…it didn’t oblige.

Many bodies out there don’t produce what comes naturally to so many others. Some bodies don’t produce enough tears, some bodies don’t produce enough insulin, some bodies don’t produce enough estrogen, some bodies don’t produce sweat, some bodies don’t produce sperm and some bodies don’t produce babies.

Just because someone has all the parts doesn’t mean they all work in harmony (or at all.)

But a body that doesn’t produce breastmilk is the only one that is judged both openly and silently on a fairly regular basis.

Can you imagine someone who suffers from dry eye syndrome being accosted for putting eye drops in their eyes? “Those have chemicals in them! THEY ARE UNNATURAL! What, are you so selfish that you can’t bother to cry your own tears? Your eyes are going to be damaged, don’t you care?

(I realize the ratio of people who think this way is 1:100, but that one. They are loud.)

I stuck with it. Eight weeks day and night. I did outrageous things for outrageous lengths of time at outrageous hours. People would say “I don’t know how you’re doing it.” I would respond “I can’t not, I’ll know when it’s time to be done and now isn’t the time.”

One morning I looked at a tiny baby Vivi and I said “Baby, I don’t make enough what you need. I’m sorry. I did my best.” She gave me a gummy little smile and I knew it would be okay.

That day I didn’t take fenugreek, domperidone, goat’s rue, More Milk Plus, drink my tea, wear an SNS or pump.

I never made another drop of milk.

There was no tapering. No drying up.

There was nothing. No evidence that I had ever even tried aside from the breastfeeding paraphernalia at the side of my bed.

I was never able to satiate her with breastmilk. Not even once. Not even after spending a week straight in bed doing nothing but everything I was supposed to be doing. I never leaked. I never let down. I never engorged. I never pumped more than an ounce. Combined. All day.

Those first eight weeks went so fast.

Every moment was spent trying to make more milk. Every time I nursed her I would think “This has to be it, this has to be the time I’m able to fill her up.

That time never came.

These last four weeks have been spent settling into our new routine and mourning the loss of breastfeeding.

Vivi is easily the most loved baby to ever exist. We crowd around her daily, fighting over who loves her more. She fits into our family so perfectly. Her little spirit is exactly what we never knew we were missing. Will I ever not feel a tinge of jealously when I see another mom breastfeeding? Maybe. Maybe not.

My boobs don’t work. But my heart does.

And it belongs to this little girl and her big sister. (And the guy who helped me make them for a few glorious seconds.)

four feet.

Comments

  1. I have stalked your blog for awhile :) but can’t say how much I adore you for this post. I went through exactly what you have gone through–2 baby girls, boobs that just don’t work. I even have big ones…thought with my first baby they should at least be good for something! Alas, they were not. I tried it all as well, nothing worked and I believe was the source of my pp depression. My 2nd baby, again very little milk. This time however with a very patient baby who latched perfectly as well! I never had my milk “come in” never leaked, none of those other things that happen when you breastfeed. My heart still breaks a little when I see a breastfeeding mom (and I see them a lot as I work in an OB clinic :)!). It has taken me years to come to terms with this and not feel guilty. My children are brilliant and strong by the way, even with their minimal amounts of breastmilk! I still grieve this at times, but it is better. Thank you for this, have a good trip and enjoy your baby!

  2. Hollienoel says:

    OH, I FEEL YOU! For totally different reasons. I had tons of milk and EBF for months on a crazy diet because my daughter had allergies. Her GI finally told me to stop and put her on formula, and even though I’m on the opposite side of having to give formula, it is so terrible to look at your hungry baby and not be able to feed her. It SUCKS to go out to do errands and feel JUDGED by everyone because you pull out a bottle. YOU ARE AWESOME FOR DOING THE BEST THING FOR YOUR KID. <3 Internet love.

  3. It’s a little bit crazy how similar we are! My PCOS made it difficult to get milk in and then I had severe anxiety and needed meds. In the end? I figured my twins needed a happy, healthy mommy most of all. x

  4. me too with baby #1. tried everything. didn’t owrk. cried my heart out. then i lied to everyone. told them the formula was breast milk pumped into a bottle. it shut their mouths. it stopped me from crying of shame in front of them. i just lied. i am not as brave as you. thanks for sharing. thanks for being that voice for the rest of us.

  5. I had to hold back tears. Even though it’s about 2 1/2 years behind me, I remember the day I decided to stop. It became a stress and I knew going back to work 4 weeks later was going to be hard enough, I knew I need to put away the pump, the pills, supplements, teas and sns system. I needed to enjoy my baby and I knew she would be healthy either way. Many hugs to you, Casey.

  6. Ditto to all of those non-milk producers. Mine didn’t work either and they were HUGE. I suffered a long six months of pumping and supplementing with bottles. The day I stopped pumping, was the day I stopped producing. And I guess the one good thing about it was I never was engorged or in pain after I stopped pumping. Gotta look at the silver lining sometimes. C is now a rambunctious 22 month old and I love him more than ever.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    This is a debate that I just don’t get. Breastfed or formula? Who cares? Is your baby nourished and loved? Yes, then success!

    I have friends that argue their position (whatever side that is) vehemently.

    I have 3 girls who have been both breastfed and bottle-fed. We did what was right for the child and me, at the time. They are now pre-teens and I would defy anyone to tell me which ones received which method of food.

  8. <3

  9. It’s all for food. Feed the baby. Happy baby = happy mum (mostly.) In the end, one can never tell who’s been bottle-fed or breast-fed.

    I tried everything, but always had to supplement. The worst part is the “shaming eyes” of others… but I just turned my head and fed my kid(s) from the bottle… sated and happy. Yay for us.

    Yay for you, lady! And oh, what a beautiful baby…

  10. I am SO happy I found your post on Babble, that led me to your blog. You are exactly what I have been looking for in the blog world. I follow several other (wonderful) mom blogs, all of which are milking machines! It warms my heart to read about their successes with breastfeeding but I can’t help but feel sad while reading their posts.

    Similar to you, my daughter and I worked so perfectly together while nursing. Her latch was perfect from the start and she felt so comfortable on my breast. I tried and tried for 4 months to get my milk to come in. Unfortunately, my body would not make milk and I topped out at 1 ounce each breast per feeding. We had to supplement formula at 1 week old because she was so hungry, and I could not provide.

    My daughter is now 7 months old, and while I am still mourning the loss of my breastfeeding hopes, I hold my head high while buying her formula, because she is happy, healthy and thriving! And in the big picture, that is all that matters.

    Again, I am so thankful to have found your blog and look forward to being able to relate to a blogger that I follow.

    Best of luck to you as you head out on your bottle-feeding adventure. Know that there are others, just like you, washing bottles and toting formula on each and every trip away from home. :)

  11. Hey Rockstar, YOU TRIED. Go you. <3

  12. Jennifer says:

    If I knew you and it wouldn’t be weird, I would kiss you. At least hug you; and I’m not a hugged. I have been there, 3 times. This was like reading my thoughts. Thank you!

  13. I wasn’t able to breastfeed. It broke my heart and I’m still grieving, 9 months later. I’m working hard to “let it go” but I had a hard start to this mom thing and not being able to breastfeed seemed, for a while, like it would be the end of me. I didn’t do everything I could, but I also know that I physically couldn’t do everything I needed to do to be successful.
    The glares from the assuming others is not helpful. I feel like I need to wear a sign saying “I love my baby as MUCH as YOU DO”.
    You’re a good mom. You didn’t give up. 8 weeks is not giving up. 8 hours? maybe. And you are right… Bottlefeeding is NOT easier. I hate bottles. I hate them.

  14. This post was wonderful. Thank you for your honesty. We don’t know each other, so this might not mean much…but you are doing an amazing job. :)

  15. Your problem is one that i’ve seen with many other women. My sister was so happy when she gave birth to her second child because she would be able to breastfeed (she couldnt feed with her first because she was too anemic) And for the first 3 months of her maternity leave she loved it. But now that shes back to work full-time, she dosnt have enough time during the day to pump, or she cant pump enough, so she often has to substitue with formula. She hates having to substitue,but giving her child an alternative is better than letting the child go hungry without enough food. Regardless of what your body does or allows you to do, all the love that you give to your children is much more important than where their food is coming from.

  16. thanks for this. I only wish when I went through this with both my kids ( 8 and 5 years ago) that I had this to read. The whole thing broke my heart. And the Moms in the park judging me only made it worse.

    thank you for being there for Moms of today.

  17. I know how you feel. I tried the mother’s milk, pumping every hour, every pill, I even went so far as taking Reglan which has awful side effect (severe depression is one of them). Like you all day I pumped a total of 3 ounces for my Twins! I was all pro-Bf’ing and to this day I still feel the twinge of sadness. However, I now have 2 crazy, healthy, happy 1 year old twins.

    I had 3 months of PP bleeding caused by Subinvolution of the placental site. Yea, a medical term that makes me scratch my head, but I would do it all again for my babies.

    Great job on the effort, you tried, and you were able to have a bonding experience even if there wasn’t any milk.

  18. I’ve been there. I know if I stopped breastfeeding my son, I would have no milk by the end of the day. We eek it out with generous formula supplementation and i feel like a terrible person because of it. Like the formula somehow negates the breastfeeding part. But I press on, because I could not make it with my twins- they wanted NOTHING to do with it. And if you combine two babies who don’t want to nurse with two boobs that have no interest in producing milk (even when they are tricked into submissions with reglan and fenugreek and oatmeal and teas and never ending pumping sessions) the end isn’t what you plan it to be.

    At least my youngest *wants* to nurse. He gets what he can and the rest comes from a bottle. So far we’re getting along fine.

  19. Oh, I think it is sad you felt the need to write an entire post defending why you do not breastfeed.

    I think parents need to do a better job at parenting and breastfeeding is the least of the problems.

    I did not breastfeed either of my children, my choice. My kids were incredibly healthy. In addition,We have the most wonderful relationship. They are 23 and 19, both are hanging out with me this summer. Guess, I managed to still bond with my children, wonder how I did that, oh with love throughout their entire life and through the years in which they will remember it!
    Trust me, this hoopla over breastfeeding is beyond silly!

    A good parent does what is best for the entire family and what works for one family may not work for another.

    One thing is certain American parents need to parent and stop the overindulgence because that is leading to way larger problems than if a mother breastfeeds or not!

    Focus on you and your lovely family and it will all work out for you!!!

  20. I just had a piece published that basically begged people not to judge my parenting skills because I have several tattoos. Yet if I hadn’t read this, I would have went right on judging bottle-wielding moms. I’m a jerk. Thank you for this.

  21. Oh, me too. ME TOO. I tried so hard. I saw lactation consultants and went on drugs and nursed for hours and hours and on demand and my baby lost weight and I felt guilty and he lost weight for WEEKS and I started bottle feeding and he gained weight and thrived. I still feel sick and guilt ridden and think I didn’t try hard enough, when I hear “Go Boobs Go!” and “Breast isn’t just best, it’s natural.” THANK YOU.

  22. I couldn’t breastfeed my daughter and it devastated me. I went through so many lactation consultants, but she just wouldn’t latch on. It was awful.

    The comments people made were unreal.

    One lactation consultant actually said “it must make you feel so terrible to have your baby reject you like this.”

    A woman I worked with said “what would you do if you were stranded on an island without formula?” as though it was a matter of trying harder.

    I’d spent thousands of dollars trying to get her to latch on.

    Hey, she’s 13 years old now. Think I should ask her why she never latched on?

  23. I love “My boobs don’t work. But my heart does.”. Completely unrelated:
    After having 2 c-sections and feeling that my body failed me that statement spoke to me. My birthing parts don’t work, but my heart does!

    I had a difficult time nursing my second. There were many factors that came into play that I won’t go into here, and ultimately I chose to formula feed. My first son nursed like a champ. I stupidly thought that breastfeeding was so easy, anyone can do it, anyone who doesn’t is selfish and lazy and if you’re having issues you aren’t trying hard enough. Yeah, I was that bitch who would judge a mom who I saw giving their baby a bottle. I wish I could find every mom I every judged and give her a big hug and apologize.

  24. My boobs don’t work either. I thought stopping abruptly when he was so tiny would ruin him. Would ruin us. But you know what? It didn’t. It didn’t. My second is as beautiful and big and strong and healthy and wonderful as my first, and it’s all good.

    Yours is too. I can hear it in your voice.

    Also? I can hear that you fought for her, as i’ve heard for weeks. And that, my friend, is awesome. Keep that, tucked away in your heart. You fought for her, and she is loved.

  25. First: Your baby is so so so so beautiful.
    Second: I had to bottle feed one of my boys and the shame does run deep, even though I know I did the best I could. It stinks that we have to explain ourselves on this subject, but I think that any woman who knows (and hears so constantly) that breast is best feels the need to explain. It just shows that we cared about the choice that we had to make.

  26. I’m so proud of you. I think I told you that at BlogHer. I hope I did. In case, I didn’t, I’ll say it again: I’M SO PROUD OF YOU! :) XO

  27. Sending hugs your way. I had two kids who did not breastfeed, so I pumped. My daughter just refused and my son was tongue tied so literally couldn’t. I pumped with each of them as long as could. Once I started resenting the extremes I was doing to produce more milk, I quit. Guess what — my kids are pretty darn healthy and you do the best you can at the time.

  28. SO glad I found this through PhDinParenting…I really want to reach out through my crappy little laptop and hug you, but that’s no possible, so instead let me just say 3 things:

    1. You are a rockstar mom, and you made the right decision. What is important is not so much your breasts but what’s under the left one (ie, your heart…corny, right? Yeah, that’s why I haven’t used it on my own blog).

    2. I totally hear you on the 1:100-but-they’re-loud bit. I saw this chick’s Twitter feed today and it made me want to cry. So much hatred and judgment of some women she saw bottlefeeding, with no thought of what the story might be behind it. It makes me so angry, and so angry that kickass women like you have to come on their blogs and write things like this and feel ashamed AT ALL for feeding their babies in a way that is not considered “right” or “good”.

    3. My body didn’t “work” in quite a few ways. It screwed up 2 pregnancies with numerous complications. I needed medical assistance to stay pregnant and not miscarry in the first place. And I wasn’t able to breastfeed one, and didn’t breastfeed the next one b/c of all the emotional trauma caused by that first experience (I had pretty severe PPD and then, when I found out I had essentially been poisoning my son b/c he was severely allergic to my milk – yes, that is possible; rare, but possible – and this was after clipping a tongue tie, dealing with low supply, exclusive pumping, nerve damage in one of my breasts… I was too scared to go down that road. Some days I really regret that I didn’t try harder the second time around, and I sincerely believe that if I hadn’t felt so much pressure/guilt/inadequacy/fear the first time, I may have been more encouraged to take the risk on #2.

    3. Vivi is lucky to have you as a mom, working boobs or not.

  29. Thank you for sharing, mama! There is nothing to feel bad about. You gave it more than your all. I thought my tongue-tie experience was tough. Nothing compared to what you went through. Yikes.

  30. The Green Bean says:

    Oh, wow…I wish I had known about your website two years ago! I wish this post had been around then. Like you, I had a chronic supply issue. My daughter steadily lost weight over the first few weeks of her life, it was horrible. I began investigating alternatives and decided to feed with a supply line, which we did for nine months, until she weaned quite aggressively (and which was devastating to me). Every day I would wake up and shove fistfuls of pills into my mouth – herbal remedies, domperidone. The supply line was the best thing I ever did as it meant we got to have some semblance of the breastfeeding relationship I had hoped for, but I felt so self-conscious about it. I felt I could never breastfeed in public, too frightened of people’s reactions to tubing and a dangling repository of milk. I felt like I couldn’t go out of the house at feed-times as the other option was a bottle, and I had visions of being lynched or something for that. I felt guilty for supplementing because of the prevalence of anti-formula rhetoric, even as I know that I simply wasn’t making enough to sustain my child on my own. The mother-guilts, squared, every which way I looked at it, ever day of those first few months. I choked up reading this thread; it’s such a primal connection, and the desire to nurture and feed our children is so at the centre of the parenting (particularly for mothers) experience that feeling as though there is failure there can be crushing. Or at least, it was for me. Thank you so much for sharing your experience here; it feels reassuring to read other mothers’ accounts.

  31. I have *so* much admiration for you. You are such a rockstar.

    My first child was combination fed from around 4 months old – not due to physical need, but due to my emotional needs. I have pretty much made my peace with my choice but I can’t help feeling like i need to explain myself.

    I am a passionate advocate for breastfeeding but I feel ashamed when I see the way that some so-called “lactivists” (better known as big bad bullies) go about “educating” others. It’s despicable.

    anyway, im rambling. I just came to say that your story moved me to tears, and I hope that if you ever feel guilty about formula feeding ever again, come and read the awesome comments you’ve had here and remind yourself of just how hard you tried and what a fantastic mother you are for making the RIGHT choice for your baby xxxxx

  32. Through a whole series of blog hopping tonight after I saw a tweet, I found your post and am SO glad I did. Much to my chagrin, I’m in the “no milk” club too. I get that same rock in my stomach and on some level, still mourn that loss even 4 years later!
    I blogged about my story here: http://www.momendeavors.com/2011/03/when-breastfeeding-doesnt-work-part-1.html

    And, I’m SO thankful to find other moms sharing their similar stories. This statement, “Many bodies out there don’t produce what comes naturally to so many others. Some bodies don’t produce enough tears, some bodies don’t produce enough insulin, some bodies don’t produce enough estrogen, some bodies don’t produce sweat, some bodies don’t produce sperm and some bodies don’t produce babies.”, couldn’t be better said!
    So sorry you struggled with this too, but thank you so much for sharing!!

  33. I was in that club too, took the Reglan to regulate proactin levels and was able to FINALLY produce, but did the tube thing too. Kudos to you for posting this and kudos to you for your fight! I see how many comments you have and it’s comforting to have a place to discuss these things. I didn’t have it with my first. Now with my second, I love the mommy support in the blog world!!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Hale over at My Postpartum Voice, & a couple shared by James & Jax on her Facebook page by Mooshinindy & Our Crazy Corner of the [...]

  2. [...] call it a gift because even though our female bodies are supposed to be able to do it, not everyone is able to and that is something to remember. I admit, I am guilty of judging a mom that I see bottle feeding [...]

  3. [...] could have been asleep awhile ago, but the bottles, they’re not going to wash themselves, no? I came out on my blog yesterday and admitted that I cannot breastfeed. Not that I didn’t want to or try. Because oh hell almighty I tried for eight weeks. Eight [...]

  4. [...] as she raises a bottle to her baby’s lips, is extremely sad. As she wrote in her post, the one about me not being able to breastfeed, the assumptions made about bottle feeding mothers are hardly ever good ones. So this [...]