Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Breastfeeding Failure

When I had Jackie I always struggled with my milk supply. She was so little that her suck wasn't strong enough to breastfeed. I would pump every 2 hours but I would only get maybe half an ounce from each breast, it was beyond frustrating. The lactation consultant I had basically made me feel like I wasn't trying hard enough, and she scolded me for giving Jackie formula in the hospital. I know you aren't supposed to give a new baby pacifiers and bottles, but I didn't have a choice. Jackie was barely 5 lbs at birth and because I was diabetic she had to have formula to keep her glucose levels okay. If I had chosen to withhold formula like the lactation lady suggested, what if something happened to Jackie? I would never have been able to forgive myself. After a month of pumping and going crazy with guilt over not being able to give my baby what's best for her, I finally decided to give up breastfeeding. I tried not to let it bother me, but deep down it did. I just felt like my body failed me once again. I struggled getting pregnant, then my entire pregnancy was miserable, I had to be induced at 37 weeks after being I the hospital for over a week, so what made me think breastfeeding was gonna be easy?
Then came my surprise pregnancy with Levi. I did struggle with low progesterone in the beginning and diabetes with him as well (this time I was diagnosed at just 10 weeks), but other than that I felt great. I could tell he was much bigger than Jackie, and much stronger. After failing at breastfeeding with Jackie I did some research on Dr. Google, and I found some studies that showed mothers with PCOS who stayed on metformin their entire pregnancies and then continued it post-partum produced plenty of milk. I felt so hopeful! I brought this up to my high risk Dr. at my next appointment and he agreed to let me stay on metformin for my pregnancy and after. Then lo and behold at 20 weeks my breasts starting leaking colostrum! My ob assured me this was an excellent sign that this time breastfeeding would go smoothly. After I delivered Levi I kept waiting to wake up after a nap and find that my breasts were 3 cup sizes bigger and full of milk like all my friends and sisters had said happened to them. But it just did not happen for me. Levi was a much bigger baby than Jackie and his sugars were fine so I decided no matter what I would withhold formula for a few days. But finally Levi started inconsolably crying and I could not calm him down. I knew he was hungry and I just wasn't producing anything. The hospital where I delivered this time is very pro breastfeeding, which is good, unless you want or need to bottle feed, then they make you feel like you're the devil for giving your child formula. When I couldn't settle Levi down, I called a nurse so I could get some formula. This nurse insisted that I was making plenty of milk, so she helped me position Levi and he latched on, but quickly let go, then he started screaming and flailing his arms. Finally I convinced her to let me try to pump, then depending on how much came out we would discuss giving him formula.  So I got hooked up to the pump, and literally after 20 mins of pumping I had 2 drops of colostrum come out. The nurse looked at me confused and asked me if I had ever had breast surgery or some kind of  breast injury. Um nope, but for some reason they just refuse to do their job, that's for sure. She got Levi some formula right away, and he gobbled down the whole 2 ounces as fast as he could.

When I was discharged I was determined that when I got home I would do whatever it would take to increase my supply. First, I was able to get my insurance to completely cover a $291 medela breast pump. Then, I stayed on metformin, I drank mother's milk tea, I ate oatmeal, I had Levi nurse before pumping, I pumped every 2 hours around the clock. Still no improvement! I just could not understand what was doing wrong. I was getting an ounce or less at each pumping session, so Levi was having to get mostly formula, and I would mix in some breast milk. Finally, at around 1 month post- partum my already pathetic supply became almost non-existent. I was really struggling with feeling like a failure. I felt guilty feeding my son formula that was making him gassy, fussy, and constipated. I felt like I was burdening my husband because I don't work anymore, but we don't qualify for W.I.C. so we have to buy a can of formula a week. The kind we get is $23. That's $92 a month, and $1,104 for a year that we could have saved if my body would just do what it's supposed to. I decided at my 6 week check up that I would discuss what happened with o.b. to see if she could give me some answers.

My o.b. finally diagnosed me with low milk supply because of the lack of proper breast tissue needed to produce milk, which was caused by PCOS.  She believes that I had an early on set of PCOS which stopped my breasts from developing milk ducts and other breast tissue needed to produce milk, and that basically there was nothing I could do to produce more milk. She said that most women with PCOS have no trouble with breastfeeding, then there is a percentage of women with PCOS that actually produce too much milk, and then there is the smallest percentage of women with PCOS who have a very low milk supply or some don't make any milk at all. Of course I fall into that percentage!

The diagnosis that my o.b. gave me did help me get over the guilt I was feeling over having to give my kids formula. But I gotta say I envy moms who get to breastfeed. I loved holding my babies close and being able to feed them knowing they were getting the best possible nutrition for them. Plus the level of bonding that goes on with breastfeeding is amazing. I miss it! But I did all that I could do, and I know that in the end, they will be fine even if they are on formula.


  1. Since I have never had a baby I really can't comment on breast feeding too much, but I have a wonderful friend who struggled with PPD after the birth of her first which was brought on due to her struggles with breast feeding -her struggles mimick those that you had- so when she had her second she told me she wasn't going to try to breast feed this go round.. instead she was going to focus on making sure her baby was healthy and happy and that meant a healthy happy Mommy and formula for them. While most want to breast feed it isn't always the way its going to be- so don't think down on yourself! You do so much to try to over come the low supply and you will still bond with your baby despite the breast feeding set back! Sending you well wishes and prayers and hoping you start to feel better soon. <3

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I am happy to say that I am over my feelings of failure that were brought on by my failure in breastfeeding. At that time my son was very fussy from gas and I think having a baby that cried so much made the situation worse for me. But I am very lucky, I have a wonderful husband who always helps me and he would watch the kids so I could have a break and nap. Then after a visit to our pediatrician we switched Levi to gentle formula and started to administer gas drops and he is like a different baby! Ever since then we have all been much happier around here and life is good!

  2. Hope you don't feel guilty girl!!!! Don't be too hard on yourself