I Could Not Breastfeed, and That’s Okay

When I was eagerly awaiting the birth of my first son, I had grand visions of rocking him in his nursery while breastfeeding.  I, being the planner that I am, bought bottles and formula just to be prepared, but never really thought I would use them.  Then my son was born.  Breastfeeding was hard, and it took practice, it was not as natural as I thought it would be, not to mention the pain that no one warned me about.  While still in the hospital I had the lactation consultant stop by to help me and answer some questions.  I was told to “keep working on it”, “practice makes perfect”, and “try to relax.”  I tried to relax and enjoy this intimate time with my new baby, but I kept having this feeling that something was not right.  This was not how it was supposed to be. Every time I voiced my concerns with family or friends I felt guilty for wanting to give-up.

My son was almost 10 pounds when born.  He was a hungry little guy, and I had no idea how much he was getting, was he getting enough, too little?  I felt like he was constantly eating, but yet always wanting more!  At his 1 week check-up he had lost weight, and had developed jaundice.  I, being a first time mom, felt like a failure.  How could I have been starving my son and not have known it?  Bless my doctor for being the first one to tell me “Its okay to give him formula.”  I broke down right there in the doctors office, and thanked her for validating the feelings and thoughts I had been having the past week!

b1I switched to formula that day, but decided to still pump, so I could see how much he was getting.  Turns out after pumping an entire day, I had a grand total of 2oz!  No wonder my son had been losing weight!  After I stopped feeling guilty, I started to feel upset.  Why had not one doctor, nurse, or professional mentioned to me that some woman cannot produce milk?  Had I known this it would have made me feel a lot better, that something was not wrong with me, and that it did not make me a horrible mother.

After this experience I went into my second pregnancy with a much different mind set.  Sure enough I did not produce any substantial amount of milk, but this time I was prepared, mentally and physically, to use formula.  I mentioned this to the nurses the numerous times they asked if I planned to breastfeed.  I did not let anyone make me feel guilty, in fact I felt empowered.  I knew my body, and I knew what was best for my babies.  No matter how many articles you read, or how many professionals tell you one thing or another, always trust your motherly instinct and do what feels right for you!




  1. I also did not produce very much milk. I was lucky if I could get 4 oz in a day pumping. So many people told me to just keep trying — that the more I pumped and breastfed, the more I would produce. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I never got above 4 oz in a day, with either of my kids.

  2. Melissa my son is 35 years old, back in the day it was all natural childbirth and breast feeding. I know how you feel I tried breastfeeding and it was not working for me either, I to felt like a failure. That was when you were in the hospital fo four days. Once you stated you were breastfeeding they would not allow you to change. When I got home I immediately started him on formula! I was concerned about our bonding. I would always hold him when I feed him. I had three babies in under four years. I had my hands full but I loved it!
    We are still very close.
    I now have the honor of taking care of my first born grandson. He is two now and we also have a bond no one can compete with.
    You will have other decisions on raising your children, just be the best you can be and follow your heart❤️❤️❤️
    Mary Phillips

  3. it sounds like your care providers may not have given you a chance. It’s wonderful that you have made peace with everything that happened to you, but since other women going through the same thing may be reading this, I think there are a couple of points that should be made:
    1. Almost all babies lose weight from birth to one week. Babies are not expected to be back at birth weight until at least 2 weeks, and a truly breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician will consider waiting until a month before pushing for supplementation. Babies often have a lot of water weight from mom receiving IV fluids during labor, which can make them look even bigger than they are (and make weight loss even more than expected).
    2. Newborns nurse A LOT. That does not mean you are starving your baby. They are adjusting to a new world and mom’s breast is a safe place. Sucking is also very soothing for a new baby.
    2. Output from pumping is not a good indicator of supply. Some people are able to feed their babies without problems and have seriously chunky monkeys but just never respond to the pump. Don’t let low pump volumes discourage you from nursing.

    I hope this info helps other moms who might be at a crossroads with breastfeeding, unsure if they’re producing enough.

    • I second the above comment. There is so much I’ve learned from my first to now. I thought I had researched it and knew but there are so many things not talked, or incorrect for so many people. I wish there was better information to prepare new mothers, people talked more about how hard and painful the beginning(but not forever!) is so others do not think that is abnormal, and throw out the idea that babies nurse on a schedule of every two hours…. They nurse constantly!

    • I also think that what Jan said is very important for first time Breast feeding moms to know. I think your experience is what a lot of new moms go through but with more support they could actually breastfed successfully.

    • Important information here ^. Breastmilk is not unicorn tears, and formula is not poison—Melissa and all the mothers here are taking such wonderful care of their babies. No one could do better for their babies than they are. But for moms who really want to breastfeed, use Jan’s comment here as a jumping-off point for your own research. Odds are, you’re doing it right.

  4. I tried nursing all 3 of my children, being more prepared with each baby and I never produced milk. After attempting to nurse for sometime and my babies continued to lose weight, I stopped without any problems of engorgement or anything. There was nothing there. I do understand the benefits of breast milk but as far as bonding I was able to bond with my babies just as good as any nursing mom. My babies never held their own bottle because they didn’t have to, I always held it for them. There is enough pressure and concern of being a new mom, the last thing one needs is to feel shamed that breast feeding wasn’t for them. Just do your best and once you make the decision either way, be okay with it, because it really is okay.

  5. I formula fed. I hate how everyone tried to make me feel bad about it. I did not produce a single drop of milk. The lactation consultants and nurses told me it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough… wtf??? Formula exists for thosean who chose not to breastfeed or are physically unable to and either reason is none of anyone’s beezwaks! I am so tired if the breast-police making bottle moms feel bad. We love our babies just as much. We use feeding time as bonding just as much. I felt inadequate on top of my already debilitating PND because anytime I fed my baby 10 strangers had something to say about it. Good on you for being strong and fighting back for all of us bottle mommies by choice or by chance it’s a safe and valid substitute.

  6. Same situation happened to me. My baby was 8 pounds 12oz and hungry. I felt like she wasn’t getting enough just by breast feeding. She would scream each time I tried to breast feed. The hospital staff just kept saying it’s ok and don’t worry babies have small stomachs. After second day of my baby screaming I gave her formula and she sucked down the whole bottle then went right to sleep. I have never looked back or felt guilty. She has gained weight and is doing amazing! Bottle feeding for us was the best decision ever!

  7. Breastfeeding was nothing short of traumatic for me. I left the hospital bleeding, with gel pads and instructions to keep trying. I rented a hospital grade pump, met with an Lc, went to physical therapy, are tons of oatmeal, gallons of water and tea, lactation cookies, and you know how much I pumped? 3 quarters of an ounce. And I’d be told how “rare” it was for women not to produce milk. “It’s very unusual for milk to not come in”.
    Well I’ve yet to receive any concrete reason why I was unable to breastfeed and having that would provide a good deal of closure.

  8. My breastfeeding experience with my son has been challenging as well. I was not producing enough milk (confirmed by a pre- nursing / post- nursing weight comparison a the LC office). It took weeks of nursing, pumping, taking herbal supplements, and formula use before production increased. It was a long process, and each feeding/ pumping/ bottle session lasted about an hour, then we did it again 2 hours later. Happily, by 8 weeks, my baby was exclusively breastfeeding. We continued that until introducing solids, and now at 10 months he eats lots of food and nurses 4-5 times a day. There IS a way for many women with low supply to increase their supplies, BUT it is a long process and pretty much feels like a full time job. I don’t blame women who decide it’s not for them and just formula feed. Nursing was very important to me, and I’m glad I stuck it out. But it’s wonderful that we have access to formulas that are nourishing and really quite close to breast milk.

    • I share my story, without judgement, to let others know what may (or may not) work for them.
      My son was 9 lbs 13 oz at birth. The first few days of breast feeding were the hardest, most emotional days of my life. I expected the nipple soreness, but never imagined that breast feeding would be anything but natural… no one warned me there might be difficulties or not enough milk production. My little man cried, ferociously the 2nd and 3rd nights (something I later found out is quite normal, but at the time I was sure was because I wasn’t feeding him properly). My milk didn’t come rushing in as expected. The lactation consultants said he seemed to be latching well, but to watch for swallowing – like I knew what that looked like (thank you google and your many resources). At his one week follow up he had dropped 20% of his birth weight which surpassed the normal 10% expected so my pediatrician suggested supplementation until my milk came in and / or until he at least regained his birth weight and was gaining weight appropriately.
      So began my cycle of breast feeding every 2-3 hours, no more than 15 minutes each breast (beyond that is non-nutritive sucking and can actually contribute to weight loss) followed by hospital grade double breast pump for at least 5 minutes after milk stopped pumping while I or my partner gave the wee little man 1-2 oz of formula. Which he sucked down like a fiend and yes sometimes made me feel like I must be starving him. Initially he got around 10-12 oz of formula per day, at one point up to 16oz of formula per day, but then a slow and steady decline eventually down to about 3-4 oz per day, and right around 4 months I was able to wean him off formula, but replaced formula with one serving of rice or oat cereal per day.
      In the early days of pumping I was lucky to get 1/4 to 1/2 oz after his feedings, in later days I could get a total of 4-6 oz per day (total post feeding pumps), the pumping was largely to encourage and build my supply.
      The first few days of bottle and breast feeding I had to dribble formula over my nipple to get LO to latch (this trick discovered after sobbing uncontrollably when after his first bottle of formula he wouldn’t latch on to the breast at the next feeding and I was sure I had creative nipple confusion and ruined everything). It was work, all consuming, emotional, frustrating, sleep depriving work and if I had had to return to work at 6 weeks like many mothers do, probably would have been impossible.
      The most frustrating part of being a breast feeding mum, with a low milk supply is the not knowing… you never know how much your LO is getting. As some of the previous posts mention, your breast pumping yield, is not a good indicator, some women with brilliant milk supply don’t respond well to the pump, and for me I was always pumping after a feed, so it was surplus. It wasn’t until my son was 5 months old and my husband and I drove 16 hours to visit family (I was alternating a bottle in between rest stops and nursing) that I had my first experience with engorgement, until then I hadn’t thought it was possible.
      I share my story because it represents that it doesn’t have to be breast feeding OR formula feeding, it can be both. There is hope for women with low milk supply who want to continue the experience of breast feeding… and that motherhood is hard for all of us, and whatever works for you and your LO is the right choice.

  9. My baby lost nearly 20% of his body weight in 4 days. All the nurses and lactation consultants kept telling me it was working fine-“Look, see he’s swallowing, that’s how you know he’s getting milk!”. I started pumping, only to discover after 45 minutes strappped to that thing I’d produced less than 1/8 oz. I saw another consultant who told me to look into milk banks, and try feeding from a catheter taped to my boob. No thanks, there’s enough stressors and anxiety that comes with being a new mom. I was given formula, so was my husband. I think we turned out alright. He’s a perfect and healthy little nugget of joy. I couldn’t be happier with my choice.


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