My breastfeeding story

Yesterday was my first mothers group and I was the only member who doesn't breastfeed. It was confronting and very upsetting for me and its made me think about my breastfeeding story and wondering just how rare it is. I guess I had convinced myself that it wasn't all that rare and that there are lots of other women out there like me. Yesterday made me feel alone... very alone.

Before I was married, before I planned for children, before the thought of being pregnant was even an option... I didn't know what the big fuss was all about. I thought that it wasn't particularly glamorous to be breastfeed, and I thought that it seemed like a necessary but not fun part of having a baby - like changing nappies or something.

Then when I was trying to get pregnant and actually pregnant I thought about breastfeeding again and I thought it was something that would be exhausting and a lot of responsibility using my body to get a little baby to grow and thrive and develop. I thought it was a lot of pressure and a lot of work and not something I was particularly looking forward to - but still something that I was going to have to do. I figured I would breastfeed for only as long as necessary and not any longer.

Then when my darling Bubby was born - everything changed, including my views on breastfeeding. When he was first born he had absolutely no interest in sucking or licking anything. He just wanted to snuggle and cuddle. Eventually, my milk still hadn't come in (I never got colostrum) and he still wouldn't even suckle so the nurse decided to give him formula. I wasn't a part of that decision although I wouldn't have argued because I didn't want him to starve. On day 5 when feeding still hadn't happened (I had just thought it was something that just "happened" all of a sudden) lovely Hubby scruffed a lactation consultant who was in the private hospital where I was and got her to try to help me. After a lot of wrestling, crying (by both of us) and struggling, we were able to get Bubby to feed by using a nipple shield. He had a tongue tie (which was snipped later that day) and a front lip tie so his top lip always curls under.

We went home from the hospital with vague ideas of what to do feeding wise, and a plan to go back to the breastfeeding clinic at the hospital 3 times a week. After 2 weeks, Bubby still wasn't gaining any weight and I had suffered bleeding nipple after bleeding nipple and I just had 2 chaffed, cracked, bleeding masses on my chest. So I was told to express and bottle feed Bubby that way. Immediately, Bubby was happy. He gained LOTS of weight and feeding was no longer this negative struggling experience. Finally we were feeding in a bonding, positive way and I was thrilled.

By 7 weeks of age I was less than thrilled. Bubby might have been thriving but I was suffering. I would spend 6 hours a day expressing... and was constantly panicking about what I would do if my supply ran out or lessened and I couldn't feed my baby. I was so unhappy with the feeding situation but I didn't know what to do about it. The paediatrician and g.p. all said to just wean him to formula but I thought that was giving up AND I didn't know how to go about it. I felt trapped and completely alone and very very very ashamed.

I was diagnosed with post natal depression and admitted to the Mother Baby Unit for treatment. Within 48 hours of admission I had a feeding plan sorted out for Bubby. I saw a world leading lactation consultant who gently explained that feeding without a nipple shield was impossible for us due to Bubby's mouth. After wrestling and battling with Bubby still to try to feed after not feeding like that for a month, I had yet another bleeding nipple and I came to the realisation that the image of breastfeeding I had in my mind wasn't the breastfeeding relationship Bubby and I were going to have. I made the decision to wean him onto formula and as of Monday, he will be an exclusively formula fed baby.

I grieve the loss of this relationship every day. Watching those mothers breastfeed their babies without any worry or stress or battle just broke my heart. I had convinced myself as a way of accepting our situation that I was not alone in this situation - but now I feel that actually I am. I thought that some mothers who didn't have difficulties feeding would even be thinking of weaning by now even. I didn't see any evidence of that yesterday.

I honestly did everything I could to try to create that kind of a relationship for Bubby and I and it breaks my heart that it wasn't going to happen. When I tried telling the nurse who takes our mothers group about it and I described the various complications she said "Ohh so he's got lots of problems then" and I was crushed. No mother likes to think that there's anything wrong with their baby, and yet that's exactly how she made me feel.

Every time I see a mother nursing their baby I just want to curl up and cry because I am afraid that they have a better bond with their baby than what I have with mine. I am afraid that they are a better mother than I. I am afraid that people look at me and think I am a bad mother. I am afraid of so much and its using every effort within myself to remember that I have made a decision for our family that is best for us in our particular circumstances. I am trying to remind myself that feeding Bubby formula (which, incidentally, he now prefers to feed than the expressed breast milk!) is something that is best for us and best for our relationship. It is so hard and agonising. I just hope that in time it can get easier for us. And I really hope that someone else out there had a similar situation too.


  1. You are your Bubby's entire world. You are everything to him and nothing will change that. You are doing the best for both of you, and now you may grieve because it's so fresh, painful. But you have a gorgeous (he is a little spunk!) boy who is going to thrive because of the love he gets, not because of the way he is fed.

  2. Lisa plenty of women have been through similar situations. I struggled through cracked & bleeding nipples, nipple shields and mastitis with my first so he was comp fed with formula from week 2. My 4 month old nephew is bottle fed because my sister in law was told she didn't have the right kind of nipples! In fact, i'd say only about 40% of the mums I know have fully breastfed babies. You can still have a beautiful bond with a bottle fed baby. You're not a bad mum and you're certainly not alone xx

  3. Your baby just wants you.
    He doesn't care if you are offering him a boob or a bottle as long as you are there, holding him, loving him.

    Do not feel guilty because you are not breastfeeding.
    And try not to let other people make you feel ashamed!
    Although I think all mothers feel guilty or ashamed for one thing or another, really, it is such an unproductive way to spend our time!
    We have enough to do as it is!

    I hope you have someone there who can give you a great, big hug and assure you that everything is going to be fine...because it will be.

  4. Lisa. I've just scheduled a post yesterday for Breastfeeding week to let everyone know that they are no better than me... just because I couldn't breastfeed it doesn't make me less of a woman or less of a mother.

    I don't believe that a mum who breastfeeds is bonding more than a mum who gives formula. As long as you hold your baby and spend time with them, that's bonding.

    You do what you can, love. I couldn't breastfeed but I have had a wonderful time up to now bonding with my now 4.5yo.

    Love yourself, love your baby. That's all you need.

  5. Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog. I had a terrible time trying to breastfeed my first daughter (now 14), so when I had my second (now six) and third (now 4 months) I went straight onto bottle. I bonded with each of them and love them all dearly. I will not allow anyone to make me feel bad (intentionally or not) about the way I choose to feed. It works for us and that at the end of the day is all that matters


  6. I called my son Bubby when he was a baby. He also had a tongue tie and breastfeeding was traumatic at times. Childbirth and breastfeeding are only a part of the story......focus on the bigger picture and don't justify your decisions to anyone. You might as well start now because there are so many different ways to parent which becomes obvious with every new stage so you just have to go your own way......;o)
    Have a great day!!!
    Everything will seem brighter with Springtime too......
    Tania xx

  7. Hi Lisa,
    You have still given your son a great start to life by providing the breastmilk that you have up until now. Please don't beat yourself up about the decision you have made. I would say that the mums group you went to was an exception, as every mother's group I have ever come across has had a mixture of feeding styles. When you are feeling a little less raw I am sure you will find a support group of mothers that you feel comfortable around.

  8. It doesn't always go the way you plan! I was a breastfeeding counsellor for many years and had fed my first four children for varying lengths of time with no probs- that is until baby number 5!!!
    She was born with little or no suck reflex due to bad muscle tone on one side of her body. Try as I might, with all the best will in the world she just would/could not suck! She would chomp at me and for the first time ever I had cracked and sore nipples. My solution was to express and feed her with a special teat which enabled her to get fed without actually sucking, my problem with her was not the quantity of milk I had- just the delivery system. We went on like this till she was old enough for a cup and then onto cows milk. At about 18 months she decided one day to have a suck- yes a suck- of her older sisters drink with a straw- too old to worry about feeding her then! She is now 23, beautiful, healthy and sweet natured, thinking about starting her own family! So don't you ever feel bad about your course of action, your ultimate goal is a happy healthy baby- whatever way you feed. Good luck with it all!!

  9. Hi Lisa, thanks for popping by my blog.
    I have 2 teenage sons,both were formula fed.They are bright,gorgeous boys.We have a wonderful bond and as a mum with a young baby all you need to do is relax and love your bubby.Formula was invented for a reason.It is nutritious and balanced. If you can breastfeed, that's fantastic,if you can't don't be upset because all the love you're giving your bubby will cement that bond forever..xx

  10. Hi Lisa. My son is 9. It only seems like yesterday I was at the end of my wits trying to breast feed him after a traumatic delivery. I had the nicest nurse offer to give him formula and what she said to me took away all my guilt. She told me I had done a wonderful job delivering him but that I had to think of keeping myself strong so I could be a great mum to him and his two little sisters. I had to do what was right for us as a family. I persevered with a bit of both until I finally admitted defeat and bottle fed. I have the best relationship with my son. How many people ask me how I fed him? None! Although it is such a big topic now as you meet other new mums it will soon fade into the background and other topics will be discussed. Be good to yourself. Love you little boy and know that you are a WONDERFUL mum.

  11. Lisa my heart goes out to you. My baby is 18yrs old now. After 8 weeks of the worse time ever trying to breast feed him I went to bottle feeding. I was told off by the counsellor on the help line I had called. That reduced me to tears during an already deeply emotional, depressing time for me.
    Once on bottle my baby was awesome, no longer did we fight and struggle during feeds. I went on to breast feed 2 other children but it wasn't meant to be with this one.
    (The Bumpiest Path)
    That 18yr old gets angry at media who state that 'studies show bottle fed babies have a lower IQ than breast fed'. That 18yr old entered a selective school after testing in the top 2% of the State-IQ….
    Hang in there, be informed but be strong and free to make your own choices.
    Your little bub is so cute, and wow what a beaut smile he has. :-)

  12. I love your honesty :) It sounds like you are definitely having a more positive experience using a bottle, so that's what's best for you two. You are in the thick of moms breastfeeding right now, but in just a few months those babies will be crawling and walking - so not much time to breastfeed socially. I imagine you will begin to see a lot fewer women breastfeeding publicly, so this chapter will be closed for you soon :)
    Wonderful to 'meet' you here, Laura (via Post Of The Month Club)

  13. Oh sweetheart, I know your pain. I had terrible trouble with my first born. Lots of tears and guilt. I felt like I was being judged. Then 2 years later when my daughter arrived, I breastfed not a problem. Couldn't believe the difference. You know what - my babies are 10 and 12 years old now, and both the breastfed one and the bottle fed one are doing fine! ANy time spent with your baby is special, not just breastfeeding time.
    Kylie x

  14. You should NOT feel ashamed in front of those woman. It is purely coincidence that you are the only one who cannot breastfeed.
    I think you are so AMAZING to go to all of that effort trying! Makes me feel slack in my poor attempt! The first month of breastfeeding was great for me then slowly she started becomming more unsettled and not wanting to latch on so I was trying to express more but the supply was dwindling. I just had enough one night and went up to the servo and grabbed a tin of formula and never looked back. It is not ideal but she was happy, I was also happy my man could feed her which was nice bonding time for them. In regards to bonding I know every day that my daughter and I have bonded when she comes up to me and gives me a kiss and cuddle (she is 18mths), when she calls out Mummy Mummy from the cot and goes crazy of excitement when I go in there.
    You will see - you can bond without it, they can still smell your skin, hear your heartbeat, look at your face, touch your face, hear your voice.
    Hope you are feeling better about this xoxoxo

  15. Oh Lisa, you sweetheart. I have a similar story about breastfeeding both boys yet was able to breastfeed India in between them. Go figure!

    Please don't feel ashamed or a failure as a mum. You are his entire world. He relies on you to give him sustenance, in whatever form, to live. And you're doing that, beautifully.

    Remember that society isn't cleaved in two - those who were breastfed and those who weren't. I know how incredibly hard that social pressure is, especially when it's your first-born. Hang in there, sweet girl!

    Thanks so much for joining the POTMC. J x

  16. I know it is hard if you have a plan in your head before your child is born and things do not follow suit. I always try and remember every day, everyone is trying their best. It sounds like you are and you are doing a great job.

  17. Hi, am visiting from Jane's POTM club...

    Only you knows what is best for your bub and no one else can judge your situation. I know there's a huge push for 'breast is best' but at the end of the day, it should be 'LOVE' is best, that's all that matters to your bub, that he is loved, not where his milk comes from xx

  18. Hi Lisa, there were only two of us with babies on formula in my mother's group, and I nearly didn't go at all because I was afraid of being judged. However 3.5 years later we still meet up every week and I have made some fantastic friends. You'll find that everyone has something they think they're failing at - whether it's their baby not sleeping, not growing fast enough, crying too much - the list is endless! Try to relax and get to know your group - and ignore that silly nurse! Wishing you all the best, Sue x

  19. I'm having heart palpitations reading this. I struggled with breast feeding my first son- for some reason he never got it.... I would attempt to feed him every three hours, and he would only occasionally guzzle if there was a let down or I compressed. So I pumped every three hours for six months, and supplemented with formula. Otherwise my baby would have starved. And I felt so alone, because I too was the only mother in mothers group that was not breastfeeding, and there was nothing I could do about it, because despite seeing several lactation consultants, trying nipple shields, and a supplemental nursing system, my baby didn't get it. And I was so embarrassed when I had to feed him a bottle in public.... I had a second son 16 months later (now 9 months) who I was able to breastfeed successfully. My eldest is now 2 and thriving- the breastfeeding struggles are a distant memory. My heart reaches out to you, but I know it will get easier.

  20. Parenting is such a tough gig! Expectations are really hard work to change and sort out a new kind of normal in your mind xx I was unable to breast feed my first child as he suffered a brain injury at birth so had no suck and I was devastated xxx it's just a different experience than you had envisioned, hang in there! Mother guilt sucks!

  21. Nothing anyone will say will make you feel any better, but I too felt like this with our first son. I did the express feeds and it wore me down, and changed to formula, just as you did. I look back on the time now, (he's almost 4) and our bond was developed in so many other ways. The best advice I was given, is to put a chair by his bed and watch him sleep, and learn baby massage. Both things helped me form that bond with him. I felt like a failure, but these two things helped me a little. We're very close now.

    Mothers guilt is such a horrible thing to live with.

  22. I didnt have enough milk. I pumped for six months to keep feeding my baby as in the end she got tired of working for it and was frustrated with it. I was devastated. I went to clinics to be told I'd done all I could and relax and formula feed. They said I had a beautiful happy healthy girl. I kept trying with motilium. Eventually I went on holiday and decided not to drag the breastpump back pack with me. I was also the mother not breast feeding in mother's group. I was jealous and felt like a failure. I felt I'd let my baby down. Anyway, 14 months later only a few mothers keep breastfeeding and it's irrelevant who was breastfeeding and who wasn't when we met. I have a wonderful mother's group and we are still great friends a year on. We offer each other advice but no judgement. In a year's time, it will also be completely irrelevant to you too as to which baby was breastfed and which wasn't.

    Enjoy your baby and your beautiful relationship. Breastfeeding is one of the first challenges to being a mum. There are so many more coming your way, and you win some you lose some. In the end, all that matters is love. All we can do is the best we can, and it's always right for you and bubby if you are still smiling together.

  23. Hi Lisa. Thanks so much for writing this post. I have a seven week old baby who has just been weaned onto formula. I expressed from Day 4 due to nipple thrush. Feeding Bubba was excruciating and I tried everything to clear up the thrush but just couldn't get rid of it. Expressing is exhausting in itself, let alone combined with everything else you need to do for your bub, (and my other two kids). Do not feel guilty and do not take any notice of any negative input you may receive. Feel confident in the fact you love your bubba and would do anything for them. Breastfeeding is definitely not as easy as it would seem from those who promote it so heavily. Some mums, and some bubs, just cannot do it. My two older kids have turned out just fine - one I fed by expressing for four months, and one I expressed for 4 weeks. Both due to recurring nipple thrush and tongue tie. Take care and just enjoy your baby!

  24. You are certainly not alone in your challenges with breastfeeding and the grief and loss associated with switching to complimentary and formula feeding. I too struggled with breastfeeding both of my boys and found there to be a lack of support for combining breast and bottle and eventually moving to formula full time. But this is what was best for my babies and I have beautiful bonds with them. Even though it is a big focus now, as he gets older no one will care what milk he received and he certainly wont! All he wants is your love and you obviously have loads of it to give him! Mel from Just Winging It. Parenting by the seat of my pants. (Facebook)

  25. I feel your pain, literally. I spent the whole 9 months of pregnancy just feeling like I would breastfeed because that's what my mum did, that's the best thing for the baby. I admit that I was judgemental of mother's who chose formula, and my opinion was a narrow one. I had these high expectations of breastfeeding and the relationship, and when I couldn't tolerate the feeling of my daughter's ferocious suck when she was latched (with a shield), my choice like yours was to express. I felt like my whole life was expressing, and if I didn't every 3 hours then my supply wouldn't increase. I understood the logic, but practically if I expressed while she slept then she drank it all when she woke up. Then I had none for the next feed, nor was I getting any sleep at all. My partner was doing alternate night shifts so I was always chasing my tail and never having enough expressed milk for her needs. Part of my depression was panicking and feeling anxious of crazy things that would never happen, so even when I had the opportunity to sleep, I couldn't stay asleep for longer than 45 minutes before I awoke in a panic worrying about my baby's saftey. She was safe with my partner/my mum/in her cot, but after that I coulnd't fall asleep again. So no rest/not enough time to express enough/fears my baby would starve led us to choose formula. My mum offered to stay with us until I had expressed enough, but I already felt like a failure and allowing that to happen would have shattered my already fragile sense of myself as a mother. When my partner and I made the decision to use formula I was so relieved, but later, like you, grieved for the loss of the breastfeeding relationship, and I judged myself harder than I had judged any other formula mum. Reading your story I am crying because you are not alone in your decisions, your baby is healthy and I have no doubt that your bond is everlasting and strong. Part of my depression was never believing that my daughter loved me, and I know a lot of that came from the guilt of not continuing to breastfeed. Now my little hurricane is a healthy 2 year old with energy to burn and she is thriving, it is a mental/emotional journey that I wouldn't change, and when I have another baby down the track I am uncertain as to how I will approach the feeding situation. My mother's group was like 70/30 breast/formula, and I have a strong bond with the other 2 mothers who for whatever reason chose formula. We did not consciously choose each other because of feeding choice, although we were all feeling secretly discriminated against by the breastfeeding mothers who seemed very high and mighty about their choice. I understand everything you say, everything you feel, I hear your pain and you are not alone. There is nobody who can ever take the place of the mother, the bond of growing inside our bodies is something that will never be affected by which milk we give them. The women who find breastfeeding are lucky, and in no way are we less because we did not. Love and support to you, Ange :)

  26. It sounds like you have done everything you can to try and make it work and your bubby is a lucky boy to have a mum so devoted to him. I had trouble with breast feeding both my boys and I've just finished writing an article about the trouble and the guilt and all the things you've described. I was overwhelmed by the stories other mums shared, those who don't struggle at some point are few and far between so please don't ever feel alone. You have to enjoy your baby and this time with him and you'll both be happier when he's fed and you can use all that extra time to just be with him.

  27. "Every time I see a mother nursing their baby I just want to curl up and cry because I am afraid that they have a better bond with their baby than what I have with mine."

    That sentence really struck a chord with me. I've been there and felt that. Your breastfeeding story is very similar to mine. I now have 6 children - all raised on formula - all very healthy - none are overweight - all are in the top 5% of their class - all have a great relationship with me, their mother.

    So don't feel bad or a failure. Mothering is SO SO SO much more than breastfeeding.

  28. Oh my heart aches for you. Look at all the comments and all the women who have had similar experiences and all their testimonies that it really is all fine. I don't believe that breastfeeding does create a special bond between mother and child, what's soooo much more important is that you love your baby and cuddle them as much as possible. I have three beautiful girls, started out breasfeeding all of them but with the third one, I literally ran out of milk and I put her straight on to the bottle. There's absolutely no difference in our relationship compared to the others. Be encouraged, you're doing the very best both for you and your bubby and you're a great mum for that. In a year's time, he'll be a lovely bouncy one year old who is eating food and that's what'll count then. lots of bloggy love for you. May you find some beautiful friends who accept you for who you are and give you wonderful friendship and support.

  29. Don't feel guilty, breastfeeding is NOT for everyone. I did manage partially until both of my girls were 3 months old and within a day my milk was GONE! Thankfully they both thrived on formula. Both are in their teens now, both very healthy, doing incredibly well at school and are the joy of my life. Your love with get him a lot further than any particular type of food.

  30. Hi Lisa,

    I'm so sorry to hear of your anguish with trying to breastfeed your bubs. I know exactly what you must be going through as I had a very similar experience with both my girls.

    I had major problems with breastfeeding my 1st daughter, she too, was tongue-tied. She was born prematurely (29 weeks + 3 days) so couldn't latch on properly. I also had flat nipples which didn't help so had been using a nipple shield. My main issue was a depleting milk supply. I tried expressing every 3 hrs, was on motilium for 2 months, but only b/f her up to 4 months of age. I also felt like a failure that I couldn't breastfeed her, and was upset when I placed her on formula full-time. It was the best thing I could have done for her, as she no longer struggled for a feed and was content, and a happy little baby.

    Don't be too hard on yourself for not being able to breastfeed your bubba. You can still have a special bond feeding your bubba his bottle. Both my girls thrived on formula, and my little premmie is now a very loud, cheeky 3 1/2 year old!

    If you want to read more about my story, look up "My breastfeeding scars" on my blog (Off to the Park).


  31. Oh Lisa I'm sorry to hear your story. I hope your feeling better now. Our love for our children is only as strong as you make it. It doesn't matter if you breast feed or formula feed. Our babies still get the same connection. If anything they get connection with both parents more than just one. My PND is worse at the moment because I'm still feeding my 14month old and my hubby can't help!

  32. O Lisa, I feel your pain.
    When I had my first baby at the age of 21, I was told he didn't like my milk (!) and I really didn't know how to continue. When baby no2 came 18 months later I still had no clue (not to talk about having no time with a toddler who was up the walls).
    Ten years later I was pregnant again and I decided that THIS time I would most definitely breastfeed as long as possible, I knew this was my last chance, this would be my last baby.
    So, Baby brother is born and there is no problem except the feeling I had. And he was crying so much that Big brother had to move in with his dad...
    Five days after being born we went back to the hospital, exhausted and with a feeling something was not right. I was met by the midwife (in Sweden midwifes take care of everything before, during and after labour) who was sighing, she let me know that I was a third time mother, how hard could it be... I was in tears, mu husband (who just had his first child) was trying to keep us together and it was chaos.
    Then she put Baby brother on the changing table and he is still crying like the devil himself, she turns to us and says:
    "I know whats wrong, he's got a cleft soft palate...!"
    And I knew it! I had of course seen it, but my head was so tired and foggy I didn't "see" it. Do you know what I mean?
    His weight had went down from 3 kgs to 2.5 and was considered a preemie. We were admitted asap and they stuck me to a breast pump (which I was stuck to for almost 6 months).
    Once in a Babies R Us, I saw someone breastfeed her baby, and I had to leave, in tears. I was so sad about not being able to give my baby what he needed the most.

    Next month he will turn 13 and is the tallest boy in his class, they closed his cleft when he was 1 and there has been no problem what so ever since. But a part of me are still sad about not being able/having the chance to give any of my precious kids what they needed the most.

  33. I am sorry that this was your first breast feeding experience, and I hope you will have another baby who does feed easily.
    I breastfed my first three children really easily, although they did need to start off with breast shields to get a grip on my small nipples. My third sounds just like yours. Because I had done it before the nurses left me to it, but the baby just could not latch on. And like you said, he was fed formula from a bottle because I failed. Unfortunately for you, you had no previous experience so it must have been devastating for you. At least I knew that I had done it before so it was not me who was having the problem. The baby just could not physically latch onto my breast and suck. When my milk came in I started to express milk and I continued to bottle feed him expressed breast milk for seven months! I found it quite liberating not to be tied to the baby, and it was great for his Dad to be able to share the feeding (especially at night!)
    Thanks for sharing your story.

  34. oh hon, I feel for you. I have a six year old and a four year old and I seriously don't think anyone has asked me in years whether I breastfed or formula fed them! Or for that matter whether I had a CS/epidural/natural birth. The pressure on Mother's to be perfect is ridiculous and dangerous. How a baby is fed isn't important. That the baby gets fed is what is important. That the baby is loved is what is important. xx

  35. Very descriptive blog, I enjoyed that a lot. Maybe there is part Two?


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