…but what if my breasts don’t work?

That got your attention, didn’t it?

Today’s post is one that some people may not agree with, but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately. If I get it off of my chest, maybe it won’t be so heavy.

Really, I have actually come to terms with my breasts not working. It took a while, but I’m finally there. I am writing this post for those other Mommas out there who had the same problems as me and were made to feel inadequate as a mother. I am writing this post for other mothers who are currently struggling with breastfeeding. I think it’s important to look at all sides to an issue…things aren’t always black and white. Here is the black and white…

Breast Is Best!

Yes, of course breast is best. If you are reading my blog, we likely have at least some similar beliefs and probably agree that nothing (NOTHING!) can replace mother’s milk for a child. There are lots of stories out there, but this is my breastfeeding story. I hope that it helps some mother, somewhere, to make the best nutritional decisions she can for her child.

I believe that breast IS best……but what if it’s not?


Meet freshly born Oliver. He came into this world almost exactly as I had hoped. I labored for 17 hours (three hard hours) in the tub, with a birthing bar, in the shower…you get the picture. I wanted so badly to have an all-natural vaginal birth with no medical interventions…at all. I spent countless hours researching pregnancy and birth and even enrolled in an amazing Bradley childbirth class. We had a fabulous OB/GYN (sort-of hippity-dippity, like me) who fully supported my efforts, which in the end were successful.

Oliver was born all-natural with no complications (other than a little plagiocephaly and torticollis…nothing a helmet wouldn’t fix). Of course, after having a natural childbirth, I would breastfeed. How hard could it be…I just had an amazing all-natural birth (for which I’m grateful I was able to do, as I know many mothers are not), so breastfeeding should be a piece of cake.


Pumping, Feeding, Pumping, Feeding, Pumping, Feeding, STARVING

I guess that I should have spent more time researching breastfeeding. It did not come naturally to me (I’ve since learned that this is true for many other women). It was awkward and anything but natural. Even so, I kept offering my breasts to Oliver. I remember on the first full day after Oliver was born a nurse came into the room and asked, “How’s is going, Momma? Is he getting any milk?” I had no idea, so I told her that. Then she asked, “Well, has he latched???” HUH!?? I don’t know…what does that mean!?? Finally, on day three my milk did come in, so I knew what they were talking about.

Now I was home and feeding on demand, pumping, feeding on demand, pumping, feeding on demand, pumping…round the clock. Oliver? Yeah, he was still hungry. He was never satisfied. I noticed that when I pumped there was never much milk, at all. One breast gave less than an ounce and the other right at an ounce. This didn’t seem right. Plus, my nipples were bleeding, cracked, and in a TON of pain. I sought assistance from LLL and they were very helpful. They helped me understand the latch, which we kind-of got down eventually. Still, not nearly enough milk.

We were seeing his pediatrician every couple of days for weight checks. At every check, he was losing. I was devastated. I was working so hard to feed my baby, yet he was still hungry. He cried and cried and cried; I pumped, and fed, and pumped, and fed. No one was happy…my baby was literally starving.

Oliver’s pediatrician knew how badly I wanted to breastfeed, so she continued to let us go way past when we should have. I simply refused to supplement; he needed my milk, but no supplements I took were helping me produce enough.

Finally, one month and one week after Oliver was born I had my epiphany. I was looking at him…cry and cry and cry, because he was starving. My husband is the most supportive man I’ve ever met. He said nothing negative during all of this, but only offered support. I looked at him that night and said, “I can’t do this anymore. Go get the formula they sent in the mail. He’s starving to death.” He said he was just waiting for me to have this epiphany on my own and he supported feeding him formula; I’d done (literally) all that I could.

That was it. I was a failure. I was not a *real* woman. Even though I was drinking lots of water, eating very healthy food, and trying all of the supplements to support milk production…I never produced enough milk for my son.


RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH and Say NO To Formula

I’m getting a little windy here (sorry, I have the tendency to do that from time-to-time). 😉 Let me get to the point.

First, I now know that before you give birth you should spend as much time researching and talking to other moms about breastfeeding as you do about pregnancy and birth. I mean, we spend hours researching which stupid toaster to purchase, but not how to feed our babies!? (At least, that was me).

Second, research shows that 2-3% of women do not produce enough milk. Now, that looks like a small figure, but in reality…2-3% is thousands and thousands of women of childbearing age. For these women, breast is not best. I was starving my child because I did not have enough milk. As an uneducated new mother, I thought that formula must be the next best thing.

Please, do not give your children formula! What I now know about formula horrifies me. I believe that by giving Oliver formula, I made his eczema worse; his immune system is shot. Beyond the fact that formulas are filled with toxic ingredients (byproducts…waste products!), the first two ingredients in the formula he received: Corn-derived (GMO-riddled) ingredients. If I had only known then what I know now. There are other options…

  • Donor milk
  • Goat milk
  • Pasture-raised, grass-fed raw cow milk
  • Homemade milk formulas

Please visit Weston A. Price’s website to learn more about breast milk alternatives. Send this resource to your friends. Shout it across the mountains, oceans, and deserts.


If you are a mother who tried (absolutely everything you could) to breastfeed, but couldn’t, you are not alone. Please know that there are thousands of other women like you.

Our babies deserve the best…YES, this is breast milk (from well-nourished mothers). If you are unable to provide that to your baby…please, please PLEASE do not do what I did and simply succumb to the coupons and free formulas that show up at your door. They are NOT best for your child. Do your research and do what you have to do to ensure that your child is getting the best possible nutrition available to him or her. Until next time…

xoxo,
Jess, aka Scratch Mommy

PS As always, I welcome comments. That said, I know that this is a touchy subject. If you have a constructive, knowledgeable comment to share…by all means, please share! I love great dialogue! If you want to leave a bashing, negative, or otherwise not constructive comment, please leave…now. Although I certainly don’t want to, I have a delete button and I know how to use it.


Other resources-


This post was shared atSimply Natural Saturdays, Fresh Bites Friday, Sunday School Blog Carnival, Weekend Whatever Link Up, Thank Your Body Thursday, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday.

Comments 27

  1. Great post! Very similar to my first experience. But, the Price website breastmilk wouldn’t work if your baby is allergic to cow milk like mine was. I would never trust that someone else truely gave up all cow milk for weeks before pumping.

    1. Hi Kelly,

      Thank you for sharing…I am certain that there are thousands of other women out there like us. I just hope that they can find other healthy, nutritious alternatives before heading over to the disgusting formula aisle.

      Right you are! Their main recipe does call for raw cow milk (or at least organic, non-homogenized cow milk). They do have a recipe for a liver milk. I wish I would have known about that as my son had an intolerance to milk for a while. We were able to work through it by giving him organic, ultra low pasteurized, non-homogenized cow milk. He seems to do okay with it now.

      You are also right about trusting milk from a donor. That would be a very difficult one for me, too.

      I wish I had know about these other alternatives when I had to go away from breast. Thank you for your comment!

      Jess

    1. Oh wow. Thank you, Sara! I just linked this up. 🙂

      I am sorry to hear that your milk supply quit at 9 months. I, too, have lots of questions about topics in this area. I’ve learned that (among other things) nutrition has a lot to do with it (as it seems to have so much to do with all aspects of our lives).

      Thank you for reaching out with your invite.

      Jess

    1. Hi Megan,

      There are a few different homemade formula options. I would go to WAPF’s website and peek around. You’ll get some great ideas there for ways to provide excellent nourishment for your baby. 🙂

      Jess

  2. THANK YOU for this post!! Not nearly enough people talk about the fact that not all women have enough milk. With my son, I didn’t have enough, but thought it was perhaps due to being induced. No one, and I mean NO ONE that I talked to ever mentioned the possibility that I just didn’t make enough milk. (LLL, Lactation consultant) they just kept telling me to work harder. So I felt like a failure when I just couldn’t make any more milk, no matter what I tried. With my second pregnancy, I prayed like crazy for milk and trusted that a completely natural, unmedicated birth would ensure milk. Nope. I had a perfect water birth, and a perfect, healthy baby…and again, no milk supply. I was crushed. Again, no one talked to me about the legitimate possibility that I simply wouldn’t make enough. My midwife, doula, lactation consultant…all were so dang optimistic that I would definitely make more milk…so I was even more disappointed that these truly knowledgeable ladies were wrong. I finally, after much research and tears, diagnosed myself with IGT – Insufficient Glandular Tissue. Thank goodness I found a support group on Facebook. With their help, I managed to increase my supply incrementally (though my daughter refused my milk when I consumed the one herbal blend that upped my supply 4oz/day!)and to nurse to almost 8 months, and pump to 10 months. Of course I had to supplement, I was working and running after a toddler, so I felt too overwhelmed to make formula. It killed me to not – but we found a formula without any corn in it, so that was comforting. I have a severe allergy to corn and we know it’s simply terrible for a 100 reasons and we absolutely refused to give her any formula with that crap in it. We got donor milk once, but my daughter refused it. I felt so bad about that, and the fact that she was so very healthy, versus other posts for newborns/etc that *really* needed breastmilk, that I never asked for more milk. I just felt guilty taking milk from other babies. Now, as we plan to try & conceive our third child at the end of this year, I am actively working on what I can do now (nutrition, etc) to set my body up for the highest milk production possible. And I will proactively plan on a) asking for donor milk up front and b) making our own formula! Again, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for talking about this…more mommas need to know!!!

    1. Amy- Thank YOU for your comments!!! It sounds like we have a lot in common. I, too, have self-diagnosed with IGT (and also have a corn allergy…just like my son now does).

      I wish you the best as you work to conceive number three. It sounds like you are doing all of the right things.

      Thank you for your kind words. <3

  3. I am a “new” grandma. GDD is 12 months and was raised on formula (I met her at 10 months). Now “WIC” says it’s ok to give her cow’s milk so they are weaning her off formula on to cow’s milk but the “only” thing available locally is ultra-pasteurized. We can and do, however, get raw cow’s milk and I fed it to her this past weekend when we had her (GDD). Now…how to convince her mommy and grandmommy to also give her raw cow’s milk.

  4. I bf’d my first three for 2years each. My fourth is 8 mos and I’ve just been diagnosed with MS. I need to wean him to go on disease modifying drugs (talk about a “touchy subject”, everyone and their neighbor has an opinion on this course of action).
    My question is…how long do you use the formula? Through one year? Weaning is totally changing how I parent and I’m back to knowing nothing.

    1. Hi Christine,

      I am so sorry to hear about your MS diagnosis. I can’t imagine what all you are going through right now. I hesitate to give you medical advice, as I am not a doctor. I know with mine I went through one year and then made the switch to raw. I would check with WAPF (see the links in my post) and see if you can find anything on their site to help guide you.

      I wish you the best in your treatment and with feeding your littlest. <3

  5. I was a failure too 🙂 ! More than 30 years ago I had two babies, 18 months apart. My firstborn was raised on formula because I just did not have enough milk and my neighbor at the time told me to just give him a bottle, for heaven’s sake, because he cried for 6 weeks straight from hunger. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I developed an inflammation in my leg veins and had be put on blood thinners as soon as I delivered. I was totally discouraged from breast feeding due to the medications I had to take and was given a shot after birth so the milk would not come in. Did I feel like a failure? Sure I did. Did I get over it? You bet. My children grew up just fine and in the meantime I am a happy grandma of 5 grandchildren. Don’t sweat the small stuff!

    1. Helga…I simply LOVE your honesty! I am sorry to hear what you went through with both of your little ones. You are right though…we do the best we can with what we have and just have to move on. Your post just made my day! Stop by again sometime. 🙂

  6. It happened to me too. Instead of too little milk, I had a bad latch, so my nipples were ripped and chewed by my hungry boy. I lasted 3 weeks before succumbing to commercial formula. I bought the “organic” brand, which gave him diarrhea, then to soy which gave him constipation, then lactose free which gave diarrhea. When I talked to the pediatrician, he said it’s normal. That if it was too big a concern, I should switch him to Alimentum. That stuff is NASTY!
    That’s when I reached my limit and looked EVERYWHERE until I found someone’s version of the WAPF goat milk formula. Thank Heaven for it!!! My son is almost two, growing amazingly well and happy. I felt like such a loser for not breastfeeding, getting all the negativity from everyone around me PLUS from myself. Now I look back and I am so happy I was able to make him a homemade formula which helped him be healthy and happy. I know it’s not breast milk but it’s the best I could have done and I’m glad I did it. And YES, IT NEEDS TO BE SAID TO EVERYONE EVERYWHERE!!!! there are alternatives, and you should be able to enjoy a healthy baby whether your boob works or not. You are a great mother because you care about your baby, not whether you breastfeed or not. Thanks for sharing this message!!! Not many moms are willing to share it openly like you. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Paula! It sounds like you made the best of the hand you had been dealt. Great job! You are right…the guilt we give ourselves is enough. We don’t need any further guilt from friends or family. :/ I am happy that your little one is doing so well now!

  7. I had huge amounts of milk and then suddenly it dried up just after 3 months… I’m not going to go into the emotional trauma, starving baby, finally resorting to formula since you know what its like, but I do have a personal take on why my milk dried up. I had a c-section, not by choice, and did not realise how much antibiotics, pain killers, etc is involved. I then went home with new baby and felt guilty for being home so started doing home work, etc. Did not eat properly and I think my body just said you are exhausted what can I do to help with this exhaustion? Milk supply goes first. Well, today more than a year on I still have adrenal fatigue and just can’t get on top of things, but I know better now and will take it easier next time along, not feel so guilty if things go hairy, look at other options than commercial formula. And sleep more!

  8. I had the same problem as you did but my oldest (now almost 7) would never latch… she was the anti cuddle baby… didn’t want to be swaddled either lol… so I pumped and pumped and pumped… nothing… LLL was a complete waste of time for me. They were rude and basically said it was my fault… we used a milk based formula (didn’t know what i know now)… and she was allergic to milk… and had to switched to a “gentle” one still had issues but the rashes and open sores finally went away… as soon as she was 9m we switched to whole milk and she was super happy lol… with my 2nd one she is the cuddle baby (she is almost 4 lol) but had some issues but my milk came in but at this time I was working full time… and they made it super super hard to pump at work… I was told a number of times that what I was doing was nasty… and then they took the room from me (only one room in the whole office that didn’t have windows)… so we added goat milk to the boob juice… but we finally had to go completely over to that at 6m because I just couldn’t take it anymore… all i did was pump… I would wake at 5 to pump for an hour, get everyone dressed, on the road at 7 to get to work at 8… and i would pump on the way in (i car pooled with the hubby)… did the same thing on the way home… get home at 6:30 – fix dinner,.. etc… pump again… get ready for bed… pump again … etc.. because at 5ms she wouldn’t latch on anymore… at 6ms it was either full goats milk or mommy sanity lol… it sucked but not much I could do about it… and now I don’t feel guilty… others that try to make me feel bad can suck it… they didn’t have to deal with what I had to etc…

  9. Oh my, this is MY story. This is exactly, MY story. I called the nurses at the hospital, I called LLL, I called every mother I knew who was “good” at breastfeeding. I changed my diet, I took every supplement and herb and bought the best Medela pump and pumped after every feeding, in between feedings…I feasted on nutrient dense food, I rested, I beleived with ALL of my heat and soul that I would get more than an ounce out of each breast. I didn’t happen for me. No matter what I did, both pregnancies, same exact thing. I could not produce enough, and my babies were hungry and losing weight. I did the same thing, went to formula and I regret it SOOO much. After my second child turned 1 and we had JUST found out about grassfed raw milk and put him on it, I saw the homemade formula recipe. I cried and cried, if I had only known! We are trying for a third baby soon 🙂 And now I know it’s ok. IT IS OK! I may be that 1-2% of women, but it’s ok….and Thank God I found the homemade formula for the third one. Im so glad you posted this and are spreading the word, more Moms like us need this encouragment and peace of mind that it…is…ok. Thankyou for posting this, it’s nice to know Im not alone.

  10. Thank you so much for writing about this!! Our first child was terribly sick and in the NICU for 6.5 weeks, unable to coordinate breathing, sucking, and swallowing. No matter how hard we worked on breastfeeding with lactation consultants, nurses, and Occupational Therapists, he would just scream. Later we tried bottle feeding with countless types of specialty bottles filled with my breast milk, to no avail. I pumped religiously for 4.5 months and got TONS of milk. We even had to purchase an additional freezer to keep all the milk in. We were able to bring him home with a g-tube and continued to orally and tube feed him my breast milk, and he was miserable most of the time. As soon as we switched to a certain commercial formula ( I knew nothing about the horrors in them as I do now), his symptoms significantly lessened and he was much less miserable. I was a breastfeeding failure. However, I felt great that I was able to donate all that milk to a milk bank! Our second child was born perfectly healthy, and I was so excited to breastfeed. She seemed to be doing well, but I later realized she wasn’t latched well and my nipples became terribly painful, cracked, and bloody. A friend from LLL came to help the next day and amazed us with her skills. My husband and I did what she did that night but could not feed past the pain and her screaming. She came again the following day and could not get her to latch. I had been pumping several times a day as well, and my supply was dwindling rapidly. We decided to give up and feed the same commercial formula we had used with our first child. I was, again, a breastfeeding failure. Our third child was born perfectly healthy, and we decided part way through the pregnancy that we would not subject ourselves to the emotional trauma of breastfeeding and feed him the same commercial formula right away. I was again a breastfeeding failure and received a myriad of negative comments. Six months ago I was introduced to the real food way of life and have slowly been eliminating processed foods from our home and diets. This week we found out I am pregnant with our fourth child, a wonderful surprise. I’d love to breastfeed this one, but if I can’t I won’t be using that commercial formula.

  11. What then do you suggest for people who have to tried all the other options you suggested, their kids cant tolerate it, & have soy allergies too?

    1. Great question, Carol.

      I mention a few in my post, but I also want to send you to Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) amazing website.

      WAPF has a plethora of available options for babies and mothers who can’t (for whatever reasons) BF. I wish, wish, WISH I’d known about these options. Alas, I did not. If there is a second time for us having a baby and I (again) do not produce enough milk, I know that I’ll be referring to their guides from the start.

      http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/recipes-for-homemade-baby-formula

      1. DD is lactose intolerent too…just a brief passing over of the ingredients and in at least the first 3 call for lactose in them.

        1. I am not a doctor. I would suggest speaking with a naturopath, or other holistic professional for advice re: options for babies/toddlers who are lactose intolerant.

          I will say that my son tested lactose intolerant, but since switching to raw milk (not pasteurized, not homogenized, 100% grass-fed), we have seen massive improvement in his skin troubles. There is something very, very different with raw milk.

          But again…I’d seek professional advice from a holistic doctor. I wish you all of the best luck in your endeavors!

  12. I wish I had seen this a year ago. I tried and tried and never produced more than 2oz every 3 hours or so, plus my son couldn’t latch (despite NUMEROUS appointments with LLL). I gave him organic formula and counted down the days until I could stop. We were so low income at the time I couldn’t afford to do the goat’s milk formula and it upset me so much until we switched him to milk when he was 11 months old.

    Do you have any advice for maybe like a post-formula detox? He has eczema that I am worried the formula caused even though it didn’t develop until two months after he started formula. I don’t know how long that crap stays in their system, but he’s 13 months now and on raw organic cow’s milk with a FCLO/BO supplement every day. Do you think maybe just by eating healthy foods now it’ll eventually work its way out?

    Thanks for sharing your story and putting your “mom guilt” out there for us to see. We all have it about something.

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