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. Melissa A says:

    Don’t sweat it honey, my boobs didn’t work either and I have 3 healthy grown teenagers.

  2. hey woman, came over linked from kellymom.com. You are a total rockstar! I can honestly say I would have given up after perhaps 2 weeks of what you did, and I’m a big bf-ing supporter. Those first weeks are tough enough without adding anything else to your plate. The gift you gave to your daughter is priceless, and just a small indicator of what a fantastic mama you are. I’m sure everyone has said it all, but it bears repeating: breastfeeding and these early years are just a blink of an eye in the big scheme of your relationship with your baby girl. Kudos for giving it 200%, and for following your heart with when to stop. Gosh I hope you don’t really hear from judgy people, but remember the old cliche: Those who mind don’t matter, those who matter don’t mind. Rock on!

  3. Awe! Thanks for this!!! I went through the exact same thing:( everytime I try to explain it to people that I never had milk (and that the teeny bit I had never went away) they don’t get it. I was never engorged, had a let down or had anything to dry up….I gave my best but had nothing to give. My little guy is a thriving 13mo now and while I envy moms who did or still do Bf and feel a little tug on my heart thinking about it….Happy/healthy baby, happy mama, right?:)

  4. God, I hear you. I wasn’t so hung up on the “exclusive” breastfeeding part. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fill up her up with my paltry supply & I never tried to. I took all the supplements and figured that as long as she got *some* breastmilk, we were doing ok.

    For a lot of different reasons, last week I stopped taking the pills. And my milk dried up like the freaking Sahara desert.

    I’m sad it didn’t work out, because formula is a pain in the butt (and expensive!). But like you, I also have one pretty kick-ass kid who I raised on formula, so I know we’ll be ok. You will be too. xoxo

  5. Way to go! You tried longer and harder than most people who have it easier than you!

    Hope to see you at Blogher.

  6. I think the reason for nursing is a lot less about nutrition than it is about maintaining and building on that connection you shared for 9 months. I do understand the guilt swirling around it because I am going through that myself – but my intelligent self (what litlte is hanging in there post-partum) says Mission accomplished!

  7. Sarah Viola says:

    Reading the comments here is almost like therapy for me, too. It’s nice to hear people recognize that you did your best, everything you could for as long as you could, you know? Solidarity, sister. Love you.

  8. My 2nd baby got very stick at just 10 days old, I tried to keep my milk supply up for the month while she was hospitalized, but upon coming home she just wanted to pacify herself with it. I didn’t mind one bit, except obviously she wasn’t taking in enough. I was engorged leaking etc so i had some milk, but it just wasn’t working out so at 4 months old we went strictly to formula. And i still get jealous of those breastfeeding. and while bottle feeding my babe i feel the need to tell onlookers my life story and reasoning for it. i probably feel guilty for not trying even half as hard as you. you’re amazing and should rest assured you did ALL you could and more.

  9. Oh my WORD, you did NOT fail!! You gave it your very best effort and only YOU can determine what defines “best.” Those lactivists have NO FREAKING IDEA HOW LUCKY they are that breastfeeding worked for them. So we can’t blame them for being judgy, right? They are completely clueless as to how DIFFICULT, and sometimes impossible, it is for many women to make it work.

  10. @Jessica Nunemaker from little Indiana, I so agree. Sure, breastfeeding is nutritiously better for babies. But when did we decide that the nutritional boost is more important that a mother’s self esteem, sanity, or ability to take care of ALL her family and NOT just the nutritional needs of a small infant.
    I tried with my first born. Did I try as hard as Casey? No. Way. But I did try and it didn’t work out. I refuse to apologize for under utilizing my nipples ever again. Nor will I ever consider myself less than the good mom that I am.

  11. You’re story sounds a little like mine. When I went off all of the galactagogues and domperidone I just stopped producing.

    There was no evidence except all that breastfeeding equipment all over my house. But no milk. 🙁

    My body doesn’t work either; but like you, my heart does.

  12. You realize that you are my idol, right? And that you are a kick-ass mama. Not because you tried so hard to breastfeed, but because you ARE A GREAT MAMA. Boobs have nothing to do with good parenting. Your heart does. And your heart is big, strong, and fully functional.

  13. No one should ever judge you for how you feed your baby!! I am a HUGE breastfeeding supporter and successfully bfed my 4 children for as long as I wanted to ( still nursing my 14 month old). But every family, every baby, every situation is different!! You give your baby the best you can every minute of every day! Sometimes that includes breeding, sometimes it does not. It does not make you less of a mom. To have tried so hard is amazing to me, you are a great mom, do not EVER let anyone make you feel differently!

  14. This was REALLY beautiful!

  15. I am sitting at my desk at work reading this, with tears streaming down my face. Because this was my story, basically. And I thought I had come to terms with the fact that I tried to breastfeed, but couldn’t. Just last week, I saw a link on a blog to little cards that said “thank you for breastfeeding” that someone could give to a breastfeeding mom. And it hit me like a ton of bricks…like it was criticizing me because I couldn’t. The only time I came close to PPD was the time when I was reading everything I could about increasing supply, and was being bombarded with messages implying that I was a bad mother if I quit.

    Hugs to you.

  16. This is beautiful. I hope you only feel encouraged from here on out with your girls, regardless of the issue. You deserve every blessing, and you are an amazing mother. Thank you for being honest with all of us – the good, bad and ugly. You are so encouraging (especially to me – as a mother of 3, 2 of which had milk allergies and so breastfeeding never worked for me either).

  17. I always hated that part. The part where you tell someone, no I literally do not make milk. I am literally not capable. And then they say, but you didn’t try this or this or that or or or. It was never enough for some people.

    Yet it was for me. I tried, I failed, I moved on. I have three of the most amazing kids on the planet. We are very much bonded. They were all three formula fed. Hell then, I didn’t know why. Now I know. But it doesn’t change anything.

    I think you are amazing for trying as hard and long as you did.

  18. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you and Vivi – that whole feeding thing. But who I REALLY feel sorry for is HIM – “for a few glorious seconds.” – Geez. Just throw the guy under the bus!

  19. My respect, love and awe for you bring me to tears.

    xoxoxo

  20. Nothing to say other than: I know. xoxo

  21. My baby started with tube feeding. (She was a preemie.) Then we mostly did bottle feeding, because we had to add extra calories to my breast milk, and that is really hard to do when it’s still in the boob.

    I pumped exclusively for seven months.

    But she wasn’t digesting it properly. For seven months I made my baby have awful diarrhea. (And a terrible diaper rash to go along with it.)

    All because I felt guilty about giving her formula. I finally gave her the formula that she needed and we BOTH feel a lot better about the world. Sometimes breast milk is NOT best, and that should be okay.

  22. Oh honey boo. I’m sorry it didn’t work out as you hoped, but gosh darn, you gave it your all. Your whole heart.

    If I could share my magical milk making boobies, I totally would.

    XOXOXO

  23. Kudo’s to you for saying all of this. My DD is nearly 8, and I struggled with this same issue, and really fought with the emotions that ensued for more than 5 years. It’s such a very “natural” thing that we all assume we’ll be able to do.

  24. As an IBCLC, I was so glad you included this line right here: “These last four weeks have been spent settling into our new routine and mourning the loss of breastfeeding.”

    I have worked with more than one mother who DID want to breastfeed and DID do everything within her power to make it work and it just didn’t. We need less judging and more honoring that mothers are doing their absolute best for their situation. And we need to respect that there is often a mourning period, a grieving process to go through. Judgment doesn’t help anyone get through the process.

    Thank you for a fabulous post.

  25. Knowing that you’ve done your very best and fought so hard is just further proof that you are an AWESOME momma!

    I was sad to learn that my milk was making my daughter sick 🙁 What saddens me more now is that I fought SO hard and long AGAINST switching to formula because of all the nasty comments and pro-BFing propaganda (yeah, I said it :). I WANTED to breastfeed! But it just wasn’t fair to my daughter.

    We are still bonded and still snuggle when she has her bottles – and the elimination of the stress and tears has allowed us to enjoy each other even more!

  26. I totally feel for you and am proud of you for trying for so long. I had a bit of a tough go at first because my milk didn’t come in for 7 days. My milk supply was never great. The whole year I nursed, I also had to pumped twice a day to keep my supply up. You and that little one will be just fine. Keep your chin up and don’t feel the need to explain yourself to all the bottle haters out there.

  27. I’m 2 months away from having my first. And while I don’t know the feelings associated with the breast feeding conundrum, I do experience guilt (is that the word I want?!) in other areas already. I don’t have the energy to workout, I have eaten 1 or 1000 too many cookies and not enough carrots. Whatever it may be, I think we are all doing the best we can with the equipment we have. I’m sure I’ll be looking back at your posts in a few short weeks to see what I’m missing on the breast feeding thing too! Thanks for sharing – if we all worked perfectly we wouldn’t be human, I guess. Doesn’t make it hurt any less though. Best wishes!

  28. Oh, darling, so sorry it didn’t work out for you and Vivi. I know the ache of mourning the loss of something so important to you (in my case, it was having the birth I desired), and I hope you are finding peace.

  29. It hurts me more than I can adequately say that someone out there is thinking that I don’t love my baby because I chose to formula feed. Just because I opted not to breastfeed doesn’t mean my babies are loved with every ounce that I have. I’ve seen you with Vivi and that baby is getting all the love (and nutrition) that a baby needs. She is lucky to have you and you are lucky to have her.

    Jen Reply:

    @Jen, Ha! Spelling errors for the win. “Just because I opted not to breastfeed doesn’t mean my babies AREN’T loved with every ounce that I have”

    Whoops! Point is; I love my wee ones.

  30. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about switching to formula, and don’t be hard on yourself either. You put more effort into feeding sweet Vivi than anyone I know. Think how wonderful it will be to be able to sit and just feed her without all the extra gear!

    All that matters is that you love your girls and you have proven that you do, time and time again.

  31. The Momdane says:

    Why must you crack my hard exterior?

    This happened with my first. I tried everything – made me a nutcase – but I wasn’t as smart as you. I dragged it out and that sucked even worse than the smell of formula diapers.

    Second? Milk! Not QUITE enough, but MILK!

  32. But your heart is making all the love she’ll ever need. That’s the really important part.
    I hope to see you and the gorgeous little one at BlogHer!

  33. Michelle says:

    This was sent over by my friend who knew that for the last month, I’ve had issues with this exact topic. I couldn’t feed my son, now a month old, because I was dry. I mourned not being able to breastfeed and I felt awful, just awful. And you? Hit it on the head. “My boobs don’t work. But my heart does.”

    Thank you. A thousand times, THANK YOU! This? Made my day. I don’t feel so alone!

  34. She’s perfect. You did everything you could. She’s still perfect.

    (I sort-of know how it feels, although I had the opposite problem: tons of milk, but baby boys who were VERY rough & impatient.)

    Thanks for your incredible honesty as always. Enjoy the rest of the summer with your beautiful family!

  35. You have a wonderful, healthy, happy baby and a marvelous family. You have done the very best you could to breastfeed and you will do the best you can for those girls until the day you leave this planet-and beyond if that is possible. I will NEVER understand the guilt and shame we women heap on each other. I felt some of that after two c-sections. Here’s the deal-I don’t give birth and never will. I don’t dilate even with help. So my choice-c-section or death. Easy choice. I refuse to feel guilt for doing what is best for me or my kids. Hug your babies and love your life. You have earned it!

  36. Love love love this post.

    You are an amazing person and mom. Those who have not struggled cannot understand the full physical and emotional wringer you put yourself through in your determination to make this work.

    I lasted 8 weeks at both attempts, and was ultimately unable to make it work for a wide variety of reasons. It wasn’t laziness. It wasn’t lack of desire or education or anything like that. Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Oh, how it killed me to “fail” with my twins. The heartbreak lasted forever. And how determined and “better-prepared” I was the second time around, only to have a baby who turned out to be completely unable to eat by mouth, period. Life throws curveballs. I so badly wanted breastfeeding to work, but it just wasn’t in the cards for me.

    Squeezes to you and your sweet baby from me and my (formula-fed) clan.

  37. I so love this post and your honesty. It’s not an easy topic and not something we always feel comfortable talking about, but thank you for your words. I can relate as I had to formula feed around 8 weeks to supplement Elise because she wasn’t getting enough milk and was actually losing weight. You do what you gotta do to feed your baby, and never look back.

  38. “She gave me a gummy little smile and I knew it would be okay.”

    Yup. It will totally be OK.

    (and you may want to stick a bottle and some formula in your car somewhere– I spaced three different, inconvenient times when the Fox was an infant, and it was awful. Like visiting the social worker to sign off on his placement and we forgot to bring a bottle to feed him while we were there awful)

  39. I admire you so much for how long and how hard you tried. Vivi will never doubt she is loved and in the end that’s the most important thing.

  40. Is this a comment record book winner, or what!? Anything with the words boob, breastfeeding, and bottle and everyone has something to say! If only we judged our parenting on the same way our mothers were judged. My mom cracks up at the idea of me worrying about breastfeeding. It helped get me over those feelings of quitter. At the end of the day all of my babies are growing and healthy and loved. Loved loved loved. So are yours and that’ REALLY all that matters.

  41. **** shame. be proud. your rock.

  42. Eli will turn 4 tomorrow, and I still get pangs of regret and guilt when I see other moms nursing. For those of us who weren’t able to nurse despite our deepest desires to do so, I think it always hurts a little. We all had different breaking points, different moments when we just knew this was the last straw for us. But we all finally realize that this obsession with nursing when it just won’t work is doing more harm than good.

    For me, it was after my 4th round of mastitis in 3 months (including one hospital stay). You would think that would be enough to get a hall pass, but still the hurtful comments came. Still, it wasn’t enough for some. It was enough for us, though. I wouldn’t trade a single minute of nursing moments I shared with my children, no matter how stressful or painful it was. But I also loved every minute of bottle feeding them. Love and care is the same no matter how it’s delivered. Thanks for sharing, Casey. You’ll help a lot of moms feel better about themselves.

  43. I use to judge women all the time who I saw bottle feeding their kids before I had my own. BEFORE I had my own. And then my first was born. And for the first four months of her life we had the most stressful nursing relationship. It was painful and awful. I didn’t produce right away, so I had to have a feeding tube attached to me. Then she had a poor latch on, so I had to have a guard to help her. And she nursed all. the. time. For hours. By the sheer grace of God things turned a corner one afternoon (after 4 months of horribleness) and I was able to have a really great nursing relationship with her until she was 13 months. After that, I realized that breastfeeding or not breastfeeding is no indicator of an awesome mom. Some babies don’t latch on despite all efforts. Some moms can’t produce milk. Some moms are on medication that prevents them from nursing. And some moms realize that for their family, nursing isn’t the best option. And that is totally awesome, because they are doing what’s best for their child and themselves – loving them as only a mom can. My hats off to you for sticking it out and then being willing to say it’s okay to stop.

  44. Hugs and love. I know that sick guilty feeling all too well. You are an amazing mother.

  45. “My boobs don’t work. But my heart does.”

    Love you. I am so sorry you had to go through all that but I know you aren’t, I know you were just being Mom. But still. I do hope that I’ve never said or written anything that hurt your heart. Please know that I of all people know we all have our own stories to live out and then tell.

    Smooches.

    Steph

  46. You’re doing what’s best for your gorgeous little Vivi, she’s gorgeous and just going to get better.
    Good going Mom, you’re doing wonderfuly.

  47. This brought tears to my eyes. I could feel your pain, desperation, and eventually you succumbing to what will be. I can relate on so many levels. Life isn’t always what we dream it will be and doesn’t always seem to play out the way we plan in our heads. I will never understand why so many of us mothers judge and compare (we all do it on some level) ourselves and our children to those around us. Parenting with unconditional love is hard enough without the glances, stares, and words of others. You are an amazing, dedicated, and loving mother. We each must do what’s best for our children and family and whether your boobs work or not it’s not defining of you as a mother. Thank you for sharing this. (btw, I found you through natural urban mama)

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