How to get over guilt at not breastfeeding?
November 17, 2010 8:36 AM   Subscribe

They say breast is best, but... after 8+ weeks of constant pain and struggling, I don't know what to do. Breastfeeding isn't working for us, but I'm strangely conflicted about giving it up. How do I reconcile these things?

Baby Informed is 8 1/2 weeks old. I decided to breastfeed but promised myself I wouldn't feel guilt if I stopped for any reason. Well, I've failed on both counts.

Nursing has never gone well--we've been through sore nipples, cracked nipples, flattened and compressed nipples, bleeding (and ingested and regugitated maternal blood, ugh). Basically constant pain. We've met with 4 different LCs. One was absolutely no help but managed to make me feel bad about literally every single thing we were doing and gave us some new worries about weight gain besides (he's actually gaining fine, according to his pediatrician). All of the other LCs agreed that baby was latching fine--he just has a barracuda suck and a strong tendency to clamp down, which he may or may not ever stop. We've tried lanolin substitutes (I'm allergic to lanolin), APNO, nipple shields, a bunch of different positions, and pushing down on his chin to encourage him to open up, but it's made only a small difference. I'm in pain during and after nursing sessions, and it's really affecting my ability to enjoy the baby. I'm constantly stressed out and in pain, which I figure can't be good for the baby either.

For a while, we tried exclusive pumping and bottle-feeding the expressed milk, to give my breasts a break. But I'm currently home all day alone with the baby (and will be for the foreseeable future), and I couldn't find enough time to pump. Every time the baby dropped off for a nap, I'd frantically pump, leaving no time for eating or resting myself. Needless to say, that did nothing to relieve the stress. Even with Mother's Milk Tea, power pumping, etc., I was also not quite meeting his demand, so some formula was going to be necessary anyway. So we tried reintroducing nursing again, with the same mixed results as before.

This has been going on for the past 8 weeks, and I keep hoping that we'll turn a corner and things will get better. Now and then we'll have a good session, and I'll feel better, but then things will go downhill and both baby and I end up in tears, plus I'll be in pain again. So I realize something has to change. I always told myself I wouldn't be swayed by breastfeeding Nazis--I do believe that breastfeeding is best for the baby, but I don't believe in making people feel bad if they can't or choose not to. But I feel TERRIBLE about giving up breastfeeding and supplementing with formula. Even though it never went very well, it makes me sad to give up the closeness. And, of course, I feel like I'm shirking my mothering responsibilities--I'm his mother, and I *should* be producing milk and feeding him! I didn't realize how important it was to me, and how much I wanted to breastfeed, until I thought about giving it up.

I've seen this and this, and they were helpful. But most of the help and encouragement I've gotten, online and from other moms, have been along the lines of "It was SO hard, but I kept at it and ceventually it worked!"--which makes me feel like I, too, should keep at it despite the pretty marked decline in quality of life and mood. On top of this, I'm wrestling with some PPD, which I'm sure is both exacerbating the breastfeeding woes and also exacerbated by them.

So I'm wondering how others have dealt with giving up--or greatly reducing--breastfeeding and the guilt that comes along with it. New perpectives on the situation are welcome ("Here's an upside that you might not have thought of," "This is why you shouldn't feel bad...") as is practical advice ("Here's how I mixed breastfeeding with bottlefeeding," "Here's how to handle the formula mixing/carrying so it's almost as convenient as breastfeeding," etc.). As this previous poster said, I just want to enjoy my baby!
posted by Ms. Informed to Health & Fitness (61 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Remember, all maxims like "breast is best" are superseded by "what works is better than what doesn't." Breastfeeding isn't working for you, therefore it's no longer the best option.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:43 AM on November 17, 2010 [11 favorites]

There is no shame in going with formula at this point. My wife had a problem with production - since we switched, at the advice of our lactation consultant (who's also our daughter's grandma) - since then, our kid is happy, healthy, and growing like a weed.

Breast is best, true... but a good quality formula is just fine for the baby.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

The most important thing I hear you saying here is
... it's really affecting my ability to enjoy the baby.

I know a few of moms who tried to breast-feed and couldn't, for various reasons. All of them expressed enormous relief after they made the decision to stop. Bottle feeding turned their mothering from a battle to a pleasure. Your bond with your child is built by all elements of your time with him, not just by how you feed him.

You've given it a hero's try; it is not working. It doesn't work for all women. Free yourself and your baby from the notion that there is only one right way to do things. If formula helps you and your baby be comfortable and happy, why do anything else?

Good luck you your little one!
posted by SLC Mom at 8:48 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

As other comments have said, there is *nothing* wrong with formula, and whatever works best for you and the baby is the right way to go.

If you want to keep trying with the breast though, ask you pediatrician or hospital if there are any lactation consultants available in your area. Getting help from a specialist pro can make a lot of difference.

Our hospital has a Women's Health Center, and anybody can make a *free* appointment with a lactation specialist.
posted by colin_l at 8:54 AM on November 17, 2010

I don't have any practical advice to offer, but I do want to offer my support. You've really put in a lot of effort on this, and you've managed to breastfeed your baby for about two months - that's a lot of time for someone who was a single cell ~11 months ago, and he's probably already gotten a lot of benefit from your efforts (maybe even most of the benefit that he would get from constant breastfeeding). So there's definitely something to be proud of there. And I think you're 100% right that the best thing for your baby is to have a healthy, happy mom, so I'd encourage you to at least supplement with formula even if you continue to pump or breast-feed on occasion. Remember, the arguments for breast-feeding vs. formula are usually phrased as 100% one vs 100% the other; benefits from antibodies and the like seem like they would still be present even if you're only breastfeeding or pumping once a day.

You don't mention it in your post, do you have any support/help taking care of the baby? If so it seems like they should be able to give you a little time to pump when they're aroud, especially if you don't need to do it as often because you're not trying to do it 100% any more.
posted by Lady Li at 8:54 AM on November 17, 2010

I am generally the first to say keep going. After some early struggles, I've had a lot of breastfeeding success, and believe it's worthwhile. My best resource was The Nursing Mother's Companion, but I have the feeling you might be past that.

BUT. You sound at the end of your rope. I'm so sorry you haven't gotten the help you need and deserve. You're right - you shouldn't be stressed and in pain, that doesn't help anything.

If you need to start supplementing and give yourself a break between feedings, do it. If you decide that you want to stop nursing, then stop and don't feel guilty. You tried. You gave your baby some breastmilk, which is A Good Thing. But don't let it make you anymore crazy that it already has. And that's from a breastfeeding zealot who has - and will - do just about anything she can to HELP someone who wants to breastfeed. If you have specific questions, please memail me.

Can we please, please, please not use the word "nazi" in connection with breastfeeding? It's ugly and unfair. Call me a zealot if you want, but comparing someone who feels passionately about breastfeeding to people who decided to murder 6M+ human beings is just flat out offensive. Thanks.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 8:57 AM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

From the Atlantic Monthly, April 2009:
[T]he medical literature looks nothing like the popular literature. It shows that breast-feeding is probably, maybe, a little better; but it is far from [a] stampede of evidence.... More like tiny, unsure baby steps: two forward, two back, with much meandering and bumping into walls. A couple of studies will show fewer allergies, and then the next one will turn up no difference. Same with mother-infant bonding, IQ, leukemia, cholesterol, diabetes. Even where consensus is mounting, the meta studies—reviews of existing studies—consistently complain about biases, missing evidence, and other major flaws in study design. “The studies do not demonstrate a universal phenomenon, in which one method is superior to another in all instances,” concluded one of the first, and still one of the broadest, meta studies, in a 1984 issue of Pediatrics, “and they do not support making a mother feel that she is doing psychological harm to her child if she is unable or unwilling to breastfeed.” Twenty-five years later, the picture hasn’t changed all that much.
(Also see the letters to the editor on this subject.)
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:58 AM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm one of those big rah-rah breastfeeding advocates. Exclusively nursed, weaned just before my daughter's 3rd birthday, currently nursing a newborn, yadda yadda. I mention this only to secure my bona fides.

Do not feel guilty. Yes, all other things being equal, breast is best. You know what? All other things are rarely equal. It's certainly possible that if you continue to tough it out (probably for another month or so) things will eventually "click"; 3 months is typically the time when breastfeeding stops sucking and starts getting kind of fun. But if you don't have it in you to do this for another month, then you don't, and there's no guilt or shame in it. PPD is nothing to fuck around with, and if breastfeeding is interfering with your ability to provide self-care, well, something has to give.

My best friend suffered -- and yes, that is totally the word -- through problems very much like yours. Baby had a heart-shaped tongue, a high palate, and a tight, pinchy latch. Nursing was excruciating for three months. She tried pumping, and pumped more blood than milk. Nipple shields didn't help. She was eventually diagnosed, first with thrush, then with MRSA in both breasts; if nobody's done a nipple culture on you, I would ask for one. Getting that cleared up stopped her pain, albeit after 3 horrible months. But her supply was also low, and she had to do 1-2 feedings a day on formula. As for how that worked out? She just did it, and it was OK; she called it "mommy's boobie break time." She ended up nursing for 18 months overall, but never exclusively, and she never truly loved it.

My uncles were fed on what was called "formula" back in the fifties. It was Carnation evaporated milk, diluted with boiled tap water and sweetened up with Karo corn syrup. They both survived to adulthood. Compared to that hot mess, modern formula is amazing. Plenty of babies thrive just fine on exclusive formula diets. Is it perfect? No. Is it as good as breastmilk? No. But having a sane happy mommy beats the pants off of having a borderline-psychotic one, and I think the balance is pretty clear.

You have the capacity to make good decisions for yourself and your baby. Pretty much by definition, whatever you choose will be the right choice, for you AND your son. Protecting your health -- physical and mental -- will protect your relationship with him, and that is way more important than the minutiae of how you feed him. Sometimes good mothers make hard decisions for the sake of their babies; in your case, that hard decision might well be the decision to include formula in your feeding plan, whether occasionally, frequently, or exclusively. You're a great mom no matter what.

Feel free to memail me if you want to talk more about it. Oh, and you? You've failed at nothing. You've tried something that isn't working out. That is soooooo not the same as failing. New information yields new decisions, in everyone except the clinically insane.
posted by KathrynT at 8:59 AM on November 17, 2010 [18 favorites]

When my wife struggled with this we decided that breastfeeding was not our goal, a healthy baby is what we really wanted.

I think my wife felt guilty for a while but after seeing our little guy grow and grow well, all that is but a distant memory.
posted by redyaky at 9:00 AM on November 17, 2010

I breastfed Baby Leezie for 4 weeks - he too had the barracuda suck and I had the cracked, sore nipples. Neither of us was happy and frankly, I wanted my body back. I had some guilt about giving up the boob, but the absolute relief I felt at not having to be the producer exponentially and easily trounced whatever guilt I felt.

Baby Leezie turned 8 months old today, is busting the growth charts, wearing 12 month clothing and THRIVING. He's crawling in earnest and going after the dog. :)

I still feel very small twinges of guilt when I see that other mothers with older babies are still providing them with breast milk, but I remind myself that it was the right decision for me and for Baby Leezie. And, most importantly, we are both doing so much better since I made that decision.

Bottom line - guilt is a useless emotion, especially for a new mom. You need to take care of yourself first and foremost.

You are doing so well, Baby is doing so well and it's ok.
posted by Leezie at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Have you gone in person to any breastfeeding support groups (not referring specifically to LLL, which as far as I'm concerned is one of the most evil organizations out there for new mothers, but ones through hospitals or just a local moms group)?

LCs are great and all, but there may be a mom out there in your area who had similar struggles who could have a bit of different advice on how to get baby to relax his grip a bit. I'm not saying you should stick it out, but it doesn't sound like you want to give this up just yet. So if you don't want to give this up just yet, then try to find a local breastfeeding group or local moms you can meet with who can help you in person. I know that's one thing I had a hard time doing, and the last thing I wanted when I was going through low supply issues was, "It's okay to use formula." I didn't want to use formula. I wanted to breastfeed, and I wanted to stick it out even longer than I eventually did, but everyone around me kept saying, "It's okay to go to formula," and it is.....except I wanted support for breastfeeding, not for formula feeding. And I didn't get it.

So, if this is your situation --- if you do want to breastfeed, please do seek out breastfeeding groups in person. If you really are at the end of what you can emotionally and physically handle (and that's okay), then by all means use formula.

I have immense guilt about my failure to breastfeed, and I absolutely despise organizations and people that throw it back in my face. So, I can't really help you with the guilt and sadness that comes with giving it up because it hasn't gone away for me. It's still there and still strong. But I have been where you are --- with different issues --- so I know the grief you're experiencing. MeMail me if you wish.
posted by zizzle at 9:05 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh god, I was so there. your post just brought on a PTSD episode for me. After about 8 weeks of constant pain, frustration, and tears, I gave up trying to nurse. It was just too awful and every session was horrible and I just realized that it was a bad situation for both of us and wrecking our bonding. I limped along pumping and feeding by bottle, while supplementing with formula for 6 months and all the while I was hoping someone would just tell me it was okay to give myself a break and stop the insanity. If it's not working for you and it really sounds like you've tried everything, it's okay to stop. you'll feel guilty for a little while but that's okay too. Don't forget all the hormonal stuff that's going on - weaning is tough and you're likely to feel worse before you feel better but then OH! You will feel so much better.

Breast milk is only one of the many many important things that you can provide for your baby. Love, attention, engagement, warmth, they're all important. You did your best.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:06 AM on November 17, 2010

My mother had five babies, and she never had any milk, so we were all bottle fed. My dad was able to take his turn feeding us, which gave my mother a break and which he really liked because it gave him quality time with his new child. He'd do the five o'clock feed because as a farmer he was getting up to do chores soon anyway and it meant my mother could sleep in. We're all average height or taller and very healthy. It's really okay to stop, and in your case it's the best option available.
posted by orange swan at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2010 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: colin_l, we did try talking to several LCs, both at the hospital where I delivered and at a local maternity center. They were of varying helpfulness, and after 4 different sessions, we seem to have heard most of the LC-approved advice. The last LC explictly told us that some babies just clamp down, and that he might not ever really stop, so it was up to us to decide how much nursing we wanted to do based on how much pain I was willing/able to put up with.

LadyLi, I don't want to say my husband "helps," because that really understates what he does--he is AWESOME with the baby and does more than his share. But he has to be in the office from about 9 to 6. So I do pump when he's home, but it's hard to find time during the day when I'm home alone with the baby. I now feel incredible sympathy for cows waiting to be milked!

Thanks, everyone, for all the kind and supportive responses so far. I'm literally tearing up.

(And Lulu's Pink Converse, fair enough, and my apologies. I think most breastfeeding advocates are just what you said--passionate supporters of breastfeeding, which is a lovely thing. My comment was mostly directed to those--and sadly they are out there--who really make mothers feel like they might as well just throw their babies under a bus if they don't breastfeed. But you're right about the word Nazi.)
posted by Ms. Informed at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2010

I'm so sorry you're having such a rough time, mama.

My experience of breastfeeding-troubles discussions on the internet is that you're likely to get a bunch of "It is totally okay to give up!" comments, which may or may not be that helpful to you. I'm sure you already know, in theory, that switching to formula to preserve your sanity does not make you a lousy person. But it's totally understandable that you're conflicted - I don't even particularly agree with the idea that it's breastfeeding "Nazis" who make women feel terrible about this: I think Trouble Feeding Your Baby goes deep into the hindbrain and overrides logical thought and makes us freak. out.

Some thoughts:

First, pumping is such a drag. I am always really impressed by women who are willing to pump a lot. So, you know - be proud of yourself!

Second, it's awkward and makes you feel like you need a third arm (or you can try the old-sports-bra-with-slits-cut-in-it trick) but if you can nurse your baby on one side and pump on the other, it might help you build up a bit of a milk buffer without that horrible feeling "great, the baby's asleep, now I must hang out with the machine". Also, if you're like me and have a harder time letting down for the pump than for the baby, having the baby on the other boob kind of tricks your body into giving up the goods.

Third, ANY amount of breastmilk you can give your baby is great. At eight weeks, your supply may be established enough that you can give yourself a sanity-preserving framework ("I breastfeed once in the morning when my supply is highest and I have the most energy, I pump once at night after the baby has fallen asleep on my lap, the rest of the day I feed formula") and still get some health benefits and snuggling.

Fourth, and I hesitate to mention this, because I don't want you to feel like I'm brushing off your very real issues, but you're right at the point where a lot of women feel like nursing just clicks for them. (For instance, it's when Baby Beagle and I learned to nurse lying down and I finally got some freaking sleep.) This may not happen for you guys. But if you feel really bad about switching 100% to formula, it may be worth trying to nurse at least part-time for a week or two, and see if things get better.

Finally, I don't know specifically if you've looking into these, so please feel free to ignore this bit: has your baby been evaluated for tongue-tie? Have the LCs you've seen been IBCLC lactation consultants? If you hate the idea of giving up the snuggling that comes with nursing, have you looked into supplemental nursing systems? For your nipples, have you tried rubbing some expressed milk on them and letting them air-dry?

Best of luck to you and your little one!
posted by thehmsbeagle at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Everyone else has said it, but seriously, giving up after trying every single thing for 8 weeks isn't giving up. It's being smart about what works for you and your baby.

All the baby books and advice of das internetten and the pushy folks (for and against breast feeding) are supposed to be somewhat helpful. But they don't *know* and no one can. In fact, the most frightening thing for me in motherhood is that the mom is the only one who gets as close to knowing. But that means that being honest with yourself and trusting your instincts rather than the "shoulds" of the world are more critical than ever.

Every mom is different. Every baby is different. What I do know is that if you're miserable -- tired, frustrated, etc. -- baby isn't happy and won't be happy. And if all the trying with the breastfeeding is making you unhappy then you have no choice but to stop and do what keeps you sane in this totally overtaxing, stressful time of your life.

Any benefit from breast milk is totally outweighed by the benefit of having a non-resentful, totally rested mom -- in the short term and the long term.
posted by Gucky at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2010

My take on this is that what is best for the mother is best for the baby.

I'm sorry you are having to struggle through this, but it sounds like you've given a lot of yourself already. Many women would not go as far as you have, and I would not fault them for it.

I know nothing I can say will assuage your guilt, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with giving up once you've tried and tried and tried. Parenthood is an exercise in selflessness, yes, but you don't need to prove that to anyone.

Good luck.
posted by sunshinesky at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2010

I know *exactly* how you feel. I had all kinds of problems with my oldest, did the pump-then-feed thing, then got mastitis and postpartum depression. I applaud you for lasting 8 weeks, I only made it 6. I would have kept going but my loving husband wasn't going to let me risk my health when there was a basically equal substitute.

I felt enormous guilt and even resentment (like somehow my girls had let me down.) I wanted to breastfeed so badly and I felt like a complete failure as a mother for not being able to do something that women had been doing for eons. I was really, really hard on myself. I really think the breastfeeding problems added to my postpartum depression.

When I was pregnant with my second I was on antidepressants that were safe for pregnancy but not breastfeeding. When I asked my doctor what to do about it she gave me the best advice ever.

"The most important thing for your baby is for him to have a healthy, happy mommy."

Yeah breastmilk has things that formula doesn't, but are those few things really worth having a guilt ridden, neurotic, psychotic mother? I decided that my kids would be a lot happier with a sane mother than they would be with breastmilk. As a matter of fact, my two formula fed kids are much healthier than my one breastfed one. It's kind of ironic that all that stress was basically for nothing. Looking back the only thing I regret is that I gave myself such a hard time.

You've given it a really good try. Now give yourself permission to be sane and enjoy your new motherhood. Make everybody happy and give that baby formula.

Memail me if you want somebody to talk to.
posted by TooFewShoes at 9:11 AM on November 17, 2010

I was conflicted about giving it up too. But here's the advice I've given to lots of other people over time, and that I finally decided to take myself:

your baby knows if you're happy and calm. a clam and happy mom is more likely to have a calm and happy baby. A stressed out, in pain, exhausted, sad mom (while being perfectly normal, especially in the beginning) is not good for the baby, or the dad (the often overlooked silent partner in this debate), and especially not for the mom.

I realized that, that breastfeeding wasn't the best option for my family and my situation, and stopped. Having said that, I sort of mourned the stopping. I think a lot of that was hormones.

You can bond with your baby over bottle feedings (and so can your husband - bonus)! You can get more sleep by sharing night time feedings. Once you have more sleep and less pain and are more at ease - the guilt will subside. I promise!

Hang in there.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:13 AM on November 17, 2010

Which was to say: you get over the guilt at not breastfeeding, largely, in my experience, because, it sounds like, for you, not breastfeeding is going to relieve a dozen other issues that are keeping you from being a happy and healthy mom. Emotions run so much higher when you're exhausted and hormonal and cooped up in the house, etc.
posted by dpx.mfx at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2010

I'm a big old extended-nursing lactivist, and I would frikkin' buy you a bottle of formula if you were in my neighborhood -- because I've also had post-partum depression and I know that mama's mental health is very, very important. Give up, move on, and find new things to enjoy with your baby.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:18 AM on November 17, 2010

It sounds like you've done it all.

One last suggestion that you probably have already heard, but perhaps not.

You + baby, in bed, don't wear a shirt. Snuggle. 1 full day/night.

Be on your side with baby in the crook of your arm.

While I did breastfeed sitting up, in-bed was so much easier for me.

You're trying hard but there is no shame in going to formula.
posted by k8t at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

"It was SO hard, but I kept at it and ceventually it worked!"--which makes me feel like I, too, should keep at it despite the pretty marked decline in quality of life and mood. "

Man, I sucked at breastfeeding. You already powered through longer than I did. Eight weeks? You're a rock star. Stop and rest on your laurels. We went to formula around the second week and two years later I have absolutely no regrets and would do it again in a heartbeat -- and I'd have given up earlier rather than agonizing and feeling like a failure and sitting around weeping and telling Mr. Llama what a lousy mother I was. Fuck that. Motherhood's hard enough. Focus on dealing with the PPD -- it's more important in the long run for both of you.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 9:23 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Our experience:

The Mrs. and our son were in a situation where breastfeeding was just not working. (Details omitted.) We fed him formula for the first year, and transitioned him to whole cow's milk after that.

She felt quite guilty about the situation, and I did my best to be comforting and supportive. Everyone that she consulted (even the local LLL chapter leader!) gave her the all-clear to use formula. But, she couldn't shake the *feelings* she was having. This is less of a logic problem, and has everything to do with maternal instinct and the torrent of emotion that comes from being a new mom.

Fast forward to today, month 18. My son is the happiest and healthiest kid you can imagine, and he's eating solid foods. (And, wow, can this kid eat!) We did the right thing! We made sure he was well-fed and cared for and loved. Nature is handling the rest.

I know that this is only anecdata, but hopefully it helps you envision the near future, in which by following the logic and the science, you get a really beautiful outcome.

All that said, it's probably helpful to talk to a counselor of some sort, at least for a little while. These emotions from motherhood are powerful and overwhelming, and just a hint of doubt about whether one is doing something right can possibly snowball into severe depressive episodes.

Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 9:26 AM on November 17, 2010

I came in to say all of the things that KathrynT already said. I am as passionate/militant as they come but come on! You're doing the best you can & circumstances are thwarting your best intentions. That is NOTHING like failure!!
posted by oh really at 9:27 AM on November 17, 2010

You made it past the colostrum stage so the most important benefit (other than emotional, which doesn't apply if you're having a hard time) has already been received.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:41 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

First of all, you're doing amazing! Being a new mom is the hardest thing in the world--not only are you responsible for a new little life, but your body has been through a massive trauma, and continues to get thrown up on, pooped on, aches, pains, everything! So the fact that you have made it this far is a testament to how good of a mom you are!

I had my baby 3 months ago, and was plagued by low milk production. My baby was losing too much weight, and I wasn't producing enough to feed him. It was the worst feeling in the whole world. I was wracked with guilt because I didn't want to feed him formula, and then after I did finally give in and supplement him, I was wracked with guilt knowing that for the few days before i supplemented him, he was basically starving and crying and unhappy. That was the worst part, and I still feel guilty about it. I tried everything! And 3 months later, I feel happy that I tried everything I could to boost my production. Needless to say, my baby is getting most of his nutrients from formula now. As I relaxed more, my milk production actually went up! The stress I put myself under was actually a huge hinderance to breastfeeding. I'm still not producing anywhere near enough to feed him properly, but I do breastfeed him overnight and maybe once during the day. I now logically that he's not getting much from me, but it's helped me psychologically knowing that I do breastfeed him sometimes.

To make a long story short, perhaps you will find that after you start him on formula (it's not bad, i promise!), you might enjoy breastfeeding him once or twice a day. Knowing that he's not counting on your milk to survive and thrive might make breastfeeding easier and more of a lovely emotional bond than a struggle and guilt-laden fight.

Relax and enjoy your new little person! Also, I found that month 3 was the magic month where I started to enjoy most of the time I spent with my baby and things got a lot easier! Congratulations and good luck!
posted by katypickle at 9:47 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

In my experience, my son had jaws of steel, and nursing hurt a lot for 10 days - 2 weeks. Then it hurt some for several more weeks. As much as I know it hurts, what helped was nursing longer; once he got the idea that he could nurse as much as he wanted, and once I toughened up, it got better. You may have tried this. You may not want to.

You have done all you can. No harm if you choose to supplement or replace nursing. And if anybody gives you any crap, what you do is just stare at them. You don't have to explain or justify this decision. It's none of their business.

New parenting isn't easy. You need somebody to take care of you while you deal with all this physical stress. I hope that's an option, understand that it probably isn't, and I wish you the best.
posted by theora55 at 10:05 AM on November 17, 2010

You know, I actually made it on part-breastfeeding part-formula for quite some time because of what katypickle said. If you want to do both, you might give that a shot for a while. (Or not, again, totally okay to quit!)
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:08 AM on November 17, 2010

Baby tea didn't have problems with latch or anything, but my production just never satisfied her. I took supplements to increase supply-- which gave me clogged ducts, owie-- and tried to pump hourly to increase supply-- which was difficult, to say the least (I was also studying for the bar, so it wasn't the greatest idea). We finally gave up on the breastfeeding around 4 months. Now, at 8 months, she is happy, healthy, and cheerful, and I do feel 100% good and happy with my decision to give up nursing. I did try for a while to nurse her twice a day, but it just seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Simply put, my body just wasn't able to meet her needs, production-wise. I did go to lactation support groups and met with a couple of LCs... none of the advice was helpful.

Sure, I felt guilty at first. But when I saw how much she really, truly, didn't mind drinking from the bottle, and how she rapidly began gaining weight better and maintaining a more cheerful attitude, I lost that guilt. You can too. You've done your best for your baby, and he will be absolutely fine.

I also love this blog: Fearless Formula Feeder.

Good luck, and please memail me if you want to talk more.

PS She is also 99th percentile for head size and 98th for height, and started fully crawling on her 7 month birthday, so clearly she is HEALTHY! (Her weight is only 55th percentile but it is rapidly increasing now that she's getting formula plus solids. She's just a hungry girl and I think liquid nutrition, period, was not enough to satisfy her. She's also super active so I think she burns a lot off!)
posted by miss tea at 10:11 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

k8t: "It sounds like you've done it all.

One last suggestion that you probably have already heard, but perhaps not.

You + baby, in bed, don't wear a shirt. Snuggle. 1 full day/night.

Be on your side with baby in the crook of your arm.

While I did breastfeed sitting up, in-bed was so much easier for me.

You're trying hard but there is no shame in going to formula.

Popping back in to agree with k8t. If you can, try going to bed with the baby. If you haven't tried nursing side-lying, it can make a difference - it changes the angle of the latch, and since the bed is supporting the weight of your breast, the latch might not be as intense. And it'll give you a chance to *really* rest in between nursing sessions. Get your supplies - snacks, water bottles, the phone, whatever you need to be comfortable - and go to bed for 24 hours. If you're up for it, of course. If you're past that point, it's completely understandable.

Also, has anyone checked to see if baby is tongue-tied at all? Even a mild tongue-tie can make a latch incredibly painful, because if the tongue is not out as far as it should be (which is pretty incredibly far), baby is trying desperately to hang on, and that can cause the barracuda-like latch you're describing. Ask your pediatrician to check. Fixing tongue-tie is an incredibly simple procedure, if it's caught early - literally a small snip, little to no blood, no stitches. I am totally paranoid about tongue-tie, because it turns out my husband was tongue-tied and his mother had a horrible, horrible time nursing. They never caught it until he was 5, and even though they "fixed" it then, he still has speech issues and can't stick his tongue out more than 1/8 inch.

(Oh, and no harm, no foul on the "nazi" thing. I know where you're coming from, really. I just wanted to nip it before it took off in this thread ...)
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 10:13 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I so feel for you, breastfeeding through pain is so hard. Good for you for getting this far, and seriously, formula is a-ok. We started transitioning our little guy to daytime formula around 8 weeks to prepare him for daycare. He went into daycare at 9 weeks and has been getting formula there, breast at home. And he is growing like crazy and is a happy little dude.

You say you wouldn't mind advice on how to mix bottle & breast, so here's what we do: He gets formula at daycare and sometimes a bottle of it at home if he's hungry before I get back from work. I get home around 5:30, and he's on me for most of the evening until he goes to bed, then for all his night feedings (though sometimes when he's up more than every two hours and hungry I blearily beg my husband to get some formula together), then he eats about twice in the mornings before I drop him at daycare. I pump once a day during my lunch break, so I do send one bottle of pumped milk to daycare, which is his first bottle of the day there. I think that makes it a little easier for him to accept the formula bottles, because whoo-boy did we have an unpleasant trial trying to get him to accept bottles. It feels so much more pleasant now that I get a break from being the constant ouchy milk factory, and mixing bottle and breast made the guilt go away (now I'm just guilty that he's in daycare all day, but that's an AskMe for another day).
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:16 AM on November 17, 2010

Please know that formula is not necessarily your only option. MilkShare is an organization which can put you in touch with local mothers who have excess breastmilk to donate, but do inform yourself of the risks of using donated breastmilk.

I was able to supplement my second baby's formula feeds for the first six months of his life with breastmilk from three different mums I found through Milkshare.
posted by Dragonness at 10:24 AM on November 17, 2010

I had to supplement almost from the beginning with my son. My left breast simply did not produce milk. At all. I nursed on the right side and supplemented with formula for 13 months. He was happy nursing, though I had painful let down, every single time. It wasn't enough pain to keep me from continuing. When I had my daughter, three years after the first, my left breast decided to produce milk, but my daughter never really liked nursing. She weaned herself after about 5 months (with me practically forcing her to nurse for that last month) and was completely happy to take a bottle. We even had to put her back on formula at age 2.5 because she stopped eating (that's another comment for another day).

My point being: I nursed the first one mostly exclusively and the second one not so much and they're both totally happy, healthy, well-adjusted, smart kids.

You haven't failed. You gave it your best shot and it didn't work! In no other area of our lives would that be considered a failure, so don't take it as one here. Do what's best for you AND the baby. If that means leaving nursing behind, so be it. You're not quitting. You're moving on to what works. Good luck!

p.s. You're going to be judged on pretty much every aspect of how you raise your kid, from someone, some where. It will serve you well to develop a thick skin about it now rather than later - believe me, I know. When you get to the point where you can say to yourself, "My kid is healthy, well-adjusted, and happy, so screw you!" you've succeeded.
posted by cooker girl at 10:27 AM on November 17, 2010

All these (I assume) excellent answers were tl;dr but my take is that you gave your baby a great start in nursing for as long as you could. The colostrum your kid got, initially is a really really good thing.
posted by Danf at 10:32 AM on November 17, 2010

Feeding safely, happily, and with love is best. I'm an LC.
posted by rumposinc at 10:37 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, how the words "ingested and regurgitated maternal blood" take me back. I had much the same situation you have. You have all my sympathy and best wishes.

Have you tried a hospital grade breast pump? We rented one and it totally beat the pants off the top-of-the-line Medela I'd been using. It made the pumping so efficient that it didn't exhaust me or take up all of my babynap time.
posted by apparently at 10:39 AM on November 17, 2010

You sound like my sister. When she was having problems breastfeeding her now 15-month-old son, she used a lactation consultant. This helped some, but she still wasn't able to nurse as long as she wanted to. Still, it's something you might want to look into.

Her son wasn't gaining weight very fast, either, but when she switched to formula, he started growing like a weed. A very cute weed. He's 25 pounds now, walking and babbling, and his lack of breastfeeding has not hurt him in the least.

I myself was a formula baby. I'm not sure I ever enjoyed a drop of my mother's milk. I turned out just fine. So will your son.
posted by xenophile at 10:44 AM on November 17, 2010

Wow. So sorry this is causing you so much pain. I never, ever enjoyed breastfeeding - while my pain was nowhere near what you describe, we passed thrush back and forth three times, and my son had a very shallow latch which two visits to a LC could not correct in any way - he just liked it better where it hurt me most. My husband and I were convinced he would think the word for milk was "fuck!" since that's what I shouted every. single. time. he started to nurse. I would love to say it got better, but the truth is somewhere around the 6-8 week mark it mellowed - I got used to being injured and miserable, and decided that I could put up with it, largely because the hassle of getting out of bed and mixing formula or reheating pumped milk at 4 in the morning just seemed like the greater injury. What worked for me more than anything was that I gave myself a stopping point. First I decided I would stick it out for 6 weeks, because that was when I had read breast milk did the most good. Then I gave myself the deadline of 4 months, because that was when some moms started introducing solids, and formula counted as a watery solid in my book. Then it was 6 months, because that's when we started with solids. And through it all I allowed myself permission to quit even before the deadline. And I think that permission- that knowledge that I was okay with it if I just plain stopped, that it was okay, made it easier to keep going.

The other point which is really, really important (and others have said it) is that breastmilk may be better - but that doesn't mean formula is junk. Broccoli is better for me than potatoes, but screw it, I hate broccoli. There is no rule that says that if you only breastfeed twice a day, or once a day, or a few times a week, that your child isn't getting those benefits. The human body can go for pretty long stretches and still produce milk on demand - so long as you don't quit altogether, you can stagger feedings to where it's something you're doing for your baby and not something your baby is stealing from you. And even then, only if it's what you want for him. If production is a problem galactagogue pills are supposed to work wonders, and you definitely produce better (for me, almost twice as much at times) when you're not stressed out. So switching to a schedule of fewer nursings (using formula at those times), so you're doing it when you choose to and not when you have to, will probably make the times you nurse or pump more productive even if they're not more enjoyable.
posted by Mchelly at 11:00 AM on November 17, 2010

This is coming from my best friend, not from me (I was luckily able to bf/pump), but her doctor told her that giving the baby as little as about 3 oz/day pumped breast milk would still give plenty of the "breast milk benefit" and the rest could be formula.

Pumping is horrid when you are home with the baby, though. Don't feel bad if you can't. Some of these studies that claim breast milk leads to higher IQ/better test performance are poorly controlled - they don't take into account the parents' education and socioeconomic status. I'm not sure we really know how many of these benefits exist. I recently attended a seminar by a leading DHA researcher regarding the intelligence of babies whose mothers were supplemented with DHA (the brain-building fatty acid) vs. not, and her results were, um, extremely underwhelming. My point being, although we want to do all the best things for our babies, there's no need to split hairs.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:02 AM on November 17, 2010

I came in just to say that my smartest parenting decisions come down to my personal comfort level, not what anyone else says (especially you, Mom).

* Once a year my kids are allowed a "mental health day" off school;
* I enforce an early bedtime routine because I need the break;
* My youngest wasn't eating and gaining properly so I put him on formula;
* I've said no to sleepover parties because I've gotten weird vibes from parents;
* We sometimes have brownies and ice cream in front of the tv for dinner. Then chips later because we're still hungry;
* When my daughters wanted to wear dresses over their jeans and sneakers and then their nightgowns over THAT, I let them do it....

What I'm saying is that a big part of being a good parent is trusting your instincts. You're in pain and you're not enjoying your sweet awesme baby?

Time for Plan B. Or Plan F.
posted by dzaz at 11:14 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Even though it never went very well, it makes me sad to give up the closeness."

Take your shirt off and bottle feed skin to skin!

The first time I gave my son a bottle I was amazed because I could actually LOOK at him and he actually appeared interested in me. When on the breast I just saw the side of his head mostly. The adoring mother/child nursing gaze turned out only to happen with the bottle.

My husband was also THRILLED when we started supplementation when breastfeeding was well-established at 2 weeks because I was nonfunctional from lack of sleep, so I started going to bed after the 8 p.m. feeding and then my husband would formula feed him the next one and then I'd get up and breastfeed the rest of the night, but with four hours of sleep together I was something more like a human. Anyway, point being, my husband LOVED being able to do a bottle feeding and to get for HIM to have that closeness. A lot of dads really like being able to do feedings, it helps THEM feel close to the baby and bonded to the baby. My husband was very supportive of breastfeeding, but I do think it's hard when you have a newborn who doesn't do much but eat, sleep, and poop, and mom gets all the eating parts. So that will probably be nice.

I found breastfeeding convenient because I didn't have to carry stuff around and after I got some practice I could do it one-handed and hold a book (or, let's be honest, the TV remote) with the other hand. The flip side is with bottle-feeding, you can hand the baby off to anyone at any point (husband! grandma! friends! babysitters!) instead of being stuck for half an hour and that MAJOR portion of baby care can be SO much more shared. The anytime/anywhere convenience of breastfeeding is easily matched (and for many families, outweighed) by the bottlefeeding convenience of baby not being 24/7 tethered to mom because the food lives in her boobs.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:24 AM on November 17, 2010

I'm pretty sure if you ask your kid in 5 years if he would have rather made mommy bleed and cry, or go with a non-miserable solution, he's gonna go with the not-hurting-mom option. Have you ever thought, "Curses to my mom for not giving me the exact right amount of breastfeeding," especially knowing what you know now? Neither will he.
posted by Menthol at 11:25 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and this is why you shouldn't feel bad:

"But most of the help and encouragement I've gotten, online and from other moms, have been along the lines of "It was SO hard, but I kept at it and eventually it worked!""

Good for them. My mother had four children, tried to breastfeed each one of us, and quit at six weeks with each of us ... having to formula supplement anyway every time because she just couldn't make enough milk. (It was physiological.)

All four of us went to top-25 colleges and are gainfully employed. Three of us have advanced degrees so far (some of us more than one). Two years from now, nobody will be able to tell if you breast- or formula-fed your kid unless you tell them. (The only reason they could tell now is that they see you doing it!) Thirty years from now they DEFINITELY won't be able to tell, and nobody will care. I promise.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:33 AM on November 17, 2010

Joining the chorus. For me, feeding was also a very sensitive issue with my first child. Luckily, nursing mostly worked out for us, but I was always worried that he wasn't getting enough, that I should be supplementing with formula less or more, or pumping less or more, or eating differently, or... Now that kid #2 is coming, I feel more relaxed about a lot of things, including feeding. Partly because kid #1 turned out just fine no matter what we did, and partly because I've seen so many other babies born to friends and relatives who did pure nursing or pure formula or various mixtures and they all turned out fine too. I know that feeding is such a primal thing with your first newborn and it feels like that's your main job as a mother. But honestly, despite all the "breast is best" research, I feel like formula is just fine. In fact, with kid #2 I probably will not nurse as long to avoid all the pumping headaches to return to work. Do what keeps you and your baby happy and healthy.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:40 AM on November 17, 2010

My wife experienced many of the same things you did and gave up breastfeeding at roughly the same time as you. The good news - you've passed the major hurdles of making sure your child gets a healthy amount of the antibodies and things the doctors wanted from breatfeeding. But, life happens and sometimes you have to stop. It doesn't make you a bad person nor does it jeopardize your relationship with your child.

There are a lot more opportunities that you will have with for closeness with your baby over the next 18-25 years. Breastfeeding is not the end-all be all or the start of the moral decay of your child. If the closeness is what is important, be sure to take time each day for some mommy and me activiity - read to your kid, skin to skin, practice lifiting heads, change diapers, etc.

Formula has some conveniences and inconveniences. It gets expensive, but if you shop at a wholesale club, you can usually get a pretty good deal on formual and diapers. We upgraded to a gold membership and basically found that between the two it paid for itself with a bit of extra padding.

As far as how we traveled, we kept a bottle of filtered boiled water (refridgerated) and the dry mix handy separately. I'm sure there's a reason why that isn't optimal, but we found that it worked for us - and our pediatrician thought it was a reasonable level of precaution. For known short trips, we would travel with a previously prepared bottle. And for tirps where we couldn't take the big box, we would take single serving packs (though they don't come in the organic variety - which we normally used on account of our son's excezma).

The other good parts of it were that I was able to be more involved - which was handy for the 2:00AM feedings, so I had the opportunity to bond over sleep deprivation with my son as well as my wife.

Grats on your recent addition.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:47 AM on November 17, 2010

I wrote about what I call a 'breastfeeding relationship' here, in case it is of use to you.

Mostly jokingly, I want to say (I'll even send you a signed card to pass out, if you like):
As a woman who breastfed her first for over a year and her twins* for over 3 years; I, Meira of the interwebs, I officially and permanently absolve Ms.Informed of all guilt with regards to breastfeeding her darling & beloved child; and furthermore, absolve her from any guilt over her parenting of said child what-so-ever.

*that's 20-24 feedings per day in the early months, yo!
posted by MeiraV at 11:47 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've posted this in other threads but I'll post it here again. My biggest regret is not giving up breastfeeding sooner. It was a similar mess to what you're going through, I never enjoyed it and it severely impacted my ability to bond with my daughter. I suffered for 10 months. I was setting alarms to wake up in the middle of the night to pump, made myself smell funny with fenugreek and and still had to supplement. This is no way to live. She's 4 now and all of that early angst is such a distant memory. If I ever get access to a time machine I will go back and tell myself to just stop already!
posted by Wolfie at 12:01 PM on November 17, 2010

Lots of good advice here. I wanted to add, that my MIL, who is a lactation consultant/pediatric nurse, could not feed my husband enough milk as a baby--he was growing so fast her supply could not keep up, and he started losing weight and getting sick. So she supplemented w/ formula.

Her next two kids were not so fast-growing and she breastfed them fine.

In an ideal situation, not only would you have more help, but you would have nursing relatives/trusted friends around to help nurse your baby. But you are alone, trying to do something very difficult. This is not your fault!

I ended up not being able to nurse my son for reasons that had nothing to do w/ my persistence (botched c/sec leading to infection, illness) and I still feel sad about it. But he's fine, just turned five, a happy kid.

If I had another kid, I would try again, but I don't need to beat myself up about this one. Neither do you!
posted by emjaybee at 12:12 PM on November 17, 2010

I hereby annoint you "Super-Hero Mom". You have breastfed for over 2 months (2 FREAKING MONTHS) under grossly adverse circumstances -- you forgot to mention that you were also enduring sleep deprivation, recovery from childbirth, and hormonal craziness at the same time. You have done and endured everything you possibly could to breastfeed.

But I believe what nourishes a child best is much deeper than simply what you feed them. Providing complete nourishment to a child also includes love, play, empathy, cuddling, safety, tenderness and joy. It takes a lot of energy to provide that kind of complete nourishment and requires that you be as happy and fulfilled. Know that you will be providing Baby Informed the most complete nourishment possible if you remove the frustration and anxiety and pain you are experiencing. You, Super-Hero Mom, deserve the chance to enjoy Baby Informed fully and Baby Informed will be better off for it.

P.S. FWIW, I gave up breastfeeding at 6 months because as an introvert, breastfeeding and pumping (on top of everything else Baby Murrey and my life and work required) left me very little time to myself. I was getting very unhappy and resentful and was not enjoying my son as much as I could. I gave it up even though I had absolutely no problems breastfeeding let alone even one of the ones you mentioned.

My guilt at not being Super-Hero Mom did not last long though because formula-fed Baby Murrey was the same as always (happy and healthy) and I was a MUCH better mom to him because I got the time and space I desperately needed to be happy and fulfilled. Baby Murrey is now 15 months old and is still super healthy and super happy. As for his growth, he is HUGE...not in that super chubby baby kind of way, but in the tall and dense kind of way. I swear that kid is made of lead.
posted by murrey at 12:40 PM on November 17, 2010

Just wanted to add one more voice to the chorus: what's BEST is what nourishes your child and allows the two of you to bond. For many, many, many women, that means formula. It's not second-best, and don't let anyone tell you they know you or your baby better than you do.
posted by scody at 1:46 PM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might want to look at Shame And The Mom, just to hear from someone with a similar experience.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:23 PM on November 17, 2010

Please read what Johnny Assay wrote again. You have no reason to feel guilty at all.
posted by Silvertree at 2:29 PM on November 17, 2010

Please, please don't feel guilty. You are so normal, and have done so much for your baby already. Out of everything you give your child, love and generous attention are the most important.

I breast-fed my oldest for nearly a year, and even though we got off to a rocky start, it went ok after that.

Then, #2 came along. I thought things would be the same, but breastfeeding just didn't work. It was JUST like you describe - hell on earth. I felt so guilty when I switched, but then I discovered a few things:
With a bottle baby, you can put your face right up in his/hers and kiss and snuggle and coo.
You can maintain eye contact through the whole feeding.
Your baby can reach up and pat your cheek and poke his/her little fingers up your nose.
Your baby can smile at you without screwing up the latch.
Feeding time can be nothing but relaxing, happy fun-time.
Daddy can have all these experiences too.

Both my kids (ages 7 and 11) are well-adjusted, smart, and very well bonded. I loved breastfeeding when it worked, but I also discovered I loved bottle feeding just as much for different reasons.
posted by SamanthaK at 2:43 PM on November 17, 2010

It helped me to consider that in the 1950s, formula was more popular than breastfeeding, and even though formula at the time was pretty crudely composed, we think of kids from that era as particularly robust.

Also: you will have forty-five zillion other opportunities to nurture your child as he grows up. You're being forced into a choice that you rather not have to make, but the future impact of formula-feeding, if there is any at all (and I'm not convinced there is), will be so much smaller than the positive benefits of other choices you'll make, like reading to him, trips to the zoo, dinner conversations, awesomely messy crafts projects, etc etc etc.
posted by lakeroon at 3:08 PM on November 17, 2010

You have made it through a very difficult 8 weeks. Congratulate yourself for that!

If you have any desire to continue trying, maybe go for one or two super relaxed (for you) attempt at the breast per day, while providing formula for Baby Informed?

If you are ready to be done, please remember that many women are unable or unwilling to breastfeed from the very beginning. You have made the best choices for you and your baby up until now. And you will continue to make the best possible choices for you and your baby going forward.

Allow no person to even hint that you should feel inadequate or unsuccessful as a mother. You are awesome, and you should know it!
posted by bilabial at 3:49 PM on November 17, 2010

Something that has finally sunk in for me after seven weeks with my first child: plans and intentions are all well and good, but parenting is about going with the flow and doing what works rather than forcing everyone to suffer through an ideal that for some reason isn't presently obtainable.

I was dead set on breastfeeding but wasn't making anywhere near enough. I was miserable, baby was miserable and, most importantly, baby was HUNGRY. She's been fed formula exclusively (I got put on medication that would be transmitted through milk so I couldn't even top her up from the breast) for some time now and she's growing like a weed.

Breastfeeding > formula > hungry baby

There are going to be a lot of occasions in the coming years when life just doesn't cooperate with your hopes and your child is going to look to you for an example of how to cope with those times. This is good practice : )
posted by Kappi at 9:07 PM on November 17, 2010

I, too, had excruciating pain, bleeding, etc. for the first months of breastfeeding my son. My problems were that he was a premie with a weird suck and then... thrush. Really bad thrush that required a 2-week course of Diflucan. That took four months to figure out. Four months with a team of experts! This stuff does not always go like the peaceful photos in baby books make it seem. I did go on to have a good breastfeeding experience, but I think I stuck in there because of PPD, not despite it. Inertia, you know?

I list this background to let you know that 1) I am a big fan of breastfeeding, and 2) I know how f'ing much it HURTS both physically and emotionally when breastfeeding HURTS. And then there's the PPD. Holy crap.

Depression by itself hurts. And you are allowed to NOT hurt.

People who have come before me in this thread have said a lot of wise things. I would only like to add that guilt accompanies depression and also new motherhood. The wisest mothering advice I ever ever ever got was from my mother-in-law who told me to choose my battles. This works for every aspect of mothering my kid, who is now 13.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:39 PM on November 17, 2010

Also, if you think you would enjoy breastfeeding if it didn't hurt, you can try:

1. Breastfeeding for comfort just once or twice a day, before a nap or something, or just in the morning or at whatever time of day you feel your best.

2. Getting into a breastfeeding position while you use the bottle, skin to skin, eye contact, etc.

3. Investigating the problem with your physician to see if the problem might be medical -- as mine was. But I had a really enlightened OB/GYN.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:47 PM on November 17, 2010

You definitely tried. Now get the baby some food and yourself some relief, eh?

We have four kids, and as Dad I was delighted to be able to handle half the feedings. My kidlings are healthy & happy & smart -- don't sweat the formula, really. (Look at it this way: do they have any major "Breastmilk-1" races anywhere with glamorous drivers and cheering throngs and lavish prizes? No! It's only Formula-1!!)
posted by wenestvedt at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2010

I totally feel for you, sister. My breastfeeding horror story was different in the details but I remember the awful, awful feeling about wanting to do it, failing to do it, feeling like a monster because I'd read all the you-want-to-do-best-for-your-baby propaganda, all that stuff.

One thing that helped me a lot was realizing that even for a breastfeeding-positive group as the La Leche League, rule number one is: Feed the Baby. Note that it's not "feed the baby breastmilk", just FEED THE BABY. The most important thing is *that* the baby eats, not *what* the baby eats.

Another thing that helped me a lot was my wonderful pediatrician gently reminding me that we have to do what works for the whole family, not just the baby. The baby matters, but you matter too. It is perfectly valid to stop breastfeeding because it's not working for *you*.

As you can see, there are lots of us out here with stories similar to yours. It's totally possible to be a great mom and not breastfeed, to not ever breastfeed. You're already a terrific mom, making sure that your baby gets what he needs. I also give you permission to cut yourself a break and stop.

For my compadres here in Metafilter: I'm absolutely certain that if the OP has seen 4 LCs, they've covered tongue-tie, nursing lying down, staying skin-to-skin, and probably fifty-eleven other things. If the OP's experience is like mine was, these helpfully-offered suggestions are painful and unwelcome. The question is about dealing with stopping nursing, and practical advice about same--let's stick to that topic, eh?
posted by Sublimity at 5:22 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

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