Confession: I Was Terrible At Breastfeeding

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I thought I was prepared for everything. I read every book I could find. I stayed up late nights reading forums, I got all the pamphlets and books from La Leche League. I was ready to breastfeed. I was going to knock this whole booby milk party out of the park, my kid was going to get the best she possibly could.

I suck at breastfeeding

And then I had her three days shy of 37 weeks. 37 weeks is a full term pregnancy, she was perfectly healthy and happy in every way, and all was good. Except when it came time to eat. I pulled out my ginormous hot pulsating boobies (by the way, nobody told me about the pulsating part– was that just me?) in front of god and everyone, we stuck her on there, waiting for the big to-do, and she did nothing.

My mom was sure it was because my boobs were three times the size of her head. Everyone had a reason for why she wasn’t eating, and I didn’t care. I just knew that she wasn’t eating, and I needed to feed my baby.

In came lactation specialists, nursing helpers. We emptied the room, they brought in more lactation consultants. We tried turning off the lights, turning on all the lights, teasing her to open up, not teasing her, singing, music. WE TRIED EVERYTHING. In the meantime, my boobs were filling up fuller and fuller, and she wasn’t eating. In fact, she was turning orange. I thought I was prepared, but I didn’t have the answer to that– all I knew was that the doctors, the nurses, everyone were worried about jaundice. And she was so little, and they wanted to give her formula. But, I wanted to give her breastmilk.

why I sucked at breastfeeding and what I did instead

So, I pumped. I pumped out the gooey stuff first, and we sort of let her suckle that off my hands. And it worked! Then I pumped some milk. And we put it into a bottle and she drank. She drank like it was nobody’s business. My baby wasn’t hungry, my stomach un-knotted, and I felt like I was taking care of my kid.

But then I thought about everything I had read. NIPPLE CONFUSION, BREAST IS BEST, I HAVE BROKEN MY KID FOREVER. And the knot in my stomach returned, and I was already failing as a mom. She was like– 46 hours old, and I was already failing. So, I cried, because I was hormonal, and I was completely void of all logic, and I turned to my mom and my husband and they were both like, “What does your gut say?”

“My gut says to feed my baby.”

And so I did. I pumped the milk I made into a bottle, and she drank. And then I did it again, and again.

suck at breast feeding

And then I became one of those moms that NOBODY TALKS ABOUT. The moms who pump and feed. The moms who spend twice as long as the rest of the world feeding their baby. You want to know why nobody talks about these moms? Because these moms are too busy pumping to be on the internet talking about they are doing. They are literally either feeding or pumping ALL THE TIME. I would hook up the breast pump to both of my boobies, and I would pull my laptop in front of me (no iPhones yet, I am so jealous of moms that have iPhones now) and I would play games, or I would read baby forums, or I would just watch videos, I’d even hold my baby. We’d coo and talk. It didn’t matter what I did, it just mattered that I was getting that milk.

When I’d pumped enough, I’d pop a lid on the bottle, and she’d drink up. We did this for a long time.

So long in fact, that I can’t even remember how long it was. I just know that there were breast pumps and breast creams, there were milk bags, and there were also bottles and there were bottle warmers, and there was SO much stuff and it all had to be cleaned.


I got to where I could pump twice as much as she needed, but that took twice as long, and I’d freeze half and give her half. And then one day my boobs just didn’t make milk anymore.

And I was devastated. Here I’d hatched the perfect (and totally irrational) plan to make it through the first year on my milk alone, and my milk was gone. I had enough saved up to get her through another month or two, but the reality is that we only made it about the first six months on breastmilk and then we switched to formula exclusively after that.

Wow, formula was so expensive. She couldn’t take the powder stuff, only liquid, and when we did the math we realized it was costing more than my car payment.

But she took it, and she was a happy, healthy kid. I still felt guilty, heck, I STILL feel guilty for not making it that entire year, but the reality is that was a crazy crazy plan that was so unbelievably time consuming that I was actually missing out on spending time with my kid.

And so, there is a little part of me that is glad the milk stopped coming. Because when it did, when I finally wasn’t breast feeding and bottle feeding and I was able to be with my kid, and it was awesome.

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  1. This story made my night by chippinh away a little bit more at the feeling still deep inside thar I failed at feeding my daughter from day one.
    She didn’t have a good latch, and I felt like a failure because I had to pump and bottle feed her. Then two months in, my supply dropped to less than half of what it was the day before and I was so upset my husband had to call the lactation specialist for me and ask for advice. Nothing worked, and I felt even worse when I realized I would have to supplement with formula (because of all the “formula is poison” messages I read).
    But by the time my girl was just over four months, I was fine with the fact that my supply was frying up and she would be exclusively formula fed. I was tired of staying up later than necessary and washing dozens of extra things and making sure the cat didn’t chew on any of the parts. Yes, it now costs almost $40 a week to feed her, but she’s happy and healthy, and I can get a little more sleep.

  2. I overproduce which meant my babies stomachs were always upset because they were never getting to the hind milk and were filling up with lactate. I’m expecting my third in a few months and am mulling over what to do. Without knowing why pumping solved the problem until my second baby I pumped exclusively for 6 and 3 months respectfully after nursing for the first three months. It was exhausting and I resented the whole thing by the time I stopped with each. I have a decision to make with this last baby and when I hear “breast is best” without any consideration as to the individual situation I want to reply that, actually, “mother is best” because a woman who is broken and exhausted can not care for her family or herself properly and THAT is what is most important. I’ll give the pumping a shot again but I won’t let it break me before I turn to formula…for the sake of everyone. I admire those that, faced with adversity when nursing, make the decision to pump. It is taking on a laborious task for the sake of their little ones but if you don’t it doesn’t mean that you don’t care just as much.

  3. Wow I can relate to this soooo much. I was in the exact same boat with both my girls. And both ended up having jaundice. I pumped n pumped I hardly slept. U make it to 6 months how did you manage that I only made it to 3. I was obsessed with pumping I pumped till I bleed it was insane. Best thing I did was putting baby on the formula. You so right on missing out on the baby and to focused on the way we are “supposed” to be feeding.

  4. Hi Jamie… my name is Jamie as well. I just wanna say I like you 🙂 just yesterday I read an article about what to tell your daughter before entering the 5th grade and I loved it so much, so shared it on facebook. To let other folks now but mainly so I can reference it so I could prepare my daughter for when she starts 5th grade next year. And now here today I’m reading yet another great article that was so similar to my story about breastfeeding, and then seeing your picture, again, at the end of the article I just had to comment 🙂 I’m currently pregnant with my 4th child and I’m totally excited to try to breastfeed again.. but if I have to pump it again I certainly will. Yes it was time consuming but I also got to where it almost felt easier.. even though I would watch so many mothers, who so gracefully breastfed their baby, and I would be so jealous. I have large boobs and there was nothing graceful about.. nor was there any way to conceal what was going on.. not for me anyway. So pumping just started to feel natural. And as long as my babes got my milk I was happy. Anyways great read..thank you!! I’ll definitely be a subscriber.. I always said “Jamie’s are pretty cool” lol 🙂

  5. I’m so glad I had children before the internet, “mommie groups”, and so much advice. I had my first child in 1978 and only knew one other mother my age that breastfed so we muddled through on our own. By six months she wanted food rather than a liquid diet and would only nurse first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. By seven months she was totally done with me. Other than a feeling of being rejected by her, I realized that the enjoyment of nursing at that point was for me rather than her. Thank God I didn’t have the pressure of “should do it this way” or “shame on you” like today’s mother’s are faced with. I took my cues from her and guess what. She was and still is incredibly healthy, intelligent, and compassionate in spite of only being nursed for six months. Truth is, if I had followed my friends’ lead and fed her formula I suspect the outcome would have been the same. Their children turned out just as awesome. I do think breast is best for the immunity, but mothers need to listen to their instincts and take cues from their babies, too. My second daughter was nothing like the first and nursed for 18 months. Mothers, do what feels good for you and your baby and never feel shame because “this is what the others say I should do”. I promise they will be fine whatever you decide.

  6. We do so much for our kids!! I always wanted to breast feed, but my son was born with a cleft palate and wasn’t able to nurse. We had the “nobody talks about” too, since the bottle we had to use was pretty weird. Hey, it’s our family and other’s opinions shouldn’t matter anyway! 🙂 Thanks for sharing at the #HomeMattersParty

  7. I congratulate you on exclusively pumping/breasfeeding for 6 months! Wow that’s a time commitment. However, you make it sound like it’s more time consuming than breastfeeding. Like everything else that depends on the baby. My babies nursing sessions are about 50-65 minutes including the diaper change in the middle to wake them back up for the first 2 months. Then they shorten to 25-30 minutes. However if I pump and give a bottle it takes about 20 minutes total, 5 minutes to pump out, 10-15 to feed the bottle. I have a 6 week old right now and he’s my 5th and these are accurate for all my babies. Except my first who nursed in 15 minutes from the first couple weeks, she was so efficient. So for me pumping and giving bottled breastmilk is not more time consuming than nursing. Breaastfeeding is always a sacrifice and time commitment and however you got the breastmilk into your baby doesn’t matter, what matters is you did.

  8. Oh – contrary to the other comment below my first, 37 weeks was in fact considered full term for all 3 of my kids. So unless something has changed since then – I believe you are correct. Yes 40 is ideal- but we were always told anything past 37 was good to go.

  9. Thank you for telling the story that most don’t. I pumped exclusively for a year for EACH of my 3 kids. Attached the the pump every 4 hours of my life- even in the middle of the night. A chest freezer packed full of milk. Pumping in the back of the van while out traveling. Those were tiring years- but I was doing it for my babies. I wish we all could just stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to do what everyone tells us we should be doing. You shouldn’t have to be in tears because of guilt brought on by outside pressure. I was there & it’s not good. You did the right thing for your baby & that’s all that matters.

  10. Not sure when your baby was born, but 37 weeks is not considered full term- minimum of 38 weeks is full term and the preference is for a baby to be at 40 weeks before birth, barring other health issues. My point is only that perhaps the issue was that your baby was just a little young. I have known women who have done what you did- you are awesome for hanging in there like you did. Remember 100 years ago, people would have hired wet nurses! Then we had the formula decades so women are in a tough place now – total guilt for not breastfeeding even when it is so hard. It can’t be new, this difficulty in nursing; only the guilt is new.

  11. Thank you for this text, thank you because, I was one of these mums… And I also felt guilt that I didn’t proceed with it, after her 7 month.. Now I have my second child, and I am sooo thankful that he is breast eating alone!!

  12. I am so glad to know that I am not alone. I pumped for 10 months. I pumped 8 times a day, day and night. My baby would sleep through the night and I would wake up to pump because I could only pump enough milf for the next day. I used the Mother’s Milk tea, I power pumped, I did everything under the sun to make just enough milk for tomorrow. It was draining and exhausting, but now that my son is six, I can say that it was worth it and he deserved it.

  13. I’m so glad I read this! My children are 10 and 12 now and I remember crying every day when I couldn’t get my daughter to feed. Exactly the same situation – giant, raw breasts so full that I’d leave a trail if I didn’t pack my bra with pads, but she couldn’t latch on – even after numerous consultants trying to help. They kept giving up and telling me to formula feed but I was devastated and cried a lot, feeling like I was failing my child. i had taken it for granted that we would work it out, but we just never did. She was always hungry and I was trying to express through infected nipples and tears. I managed for about 4 mths. Feeding every 3 hours during the night meant that I was up an hour before she was, expressing only just enough for one feed. I couldn’t understand why I was leaking all over the place then when it came time to express I’d spend 20-30mins expressing about 50ml. It was much less stressful with my second because I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be expressing for him too, and we got by. Both children and happy and healthy kids and when I look back I applaud myself for trying so hard for them and doing my best. I just wish I had been more prepared for the possibility that I could not breastfeed so that I could relax and just enjoy my babies without being terrified that they would be damaged for life is I bottle fed.

  14. I had triplets who were born 7 weeks premature, and spent 7 weeks in hospital before coming home. I pumped for the first 3 months of their lives, and I feel very proud that i managed to feed my 3 kids myself for that long. Just because they weren’t feeding from my boob doesn’t mean they weren’t breastfed. You did great. Yes, it’s a bit more effort, but it also means that family can help with the feeds, and feel more involved. Don’t waste energy feeling guilty about something you have no reason to feel guilty about. Do what is right for you. There is no wrong way to feed your kid if both you and they are fed and well-rested. You rock!

  15. I pumped full time for 3 of my babies (not triplets, 3 separate pregnancies) and made it to a full year for 2 of them (close to 9 months for the other, finished the year with formula). I actually have 4 kids but didn’t know that exclusively pumping was possible when I had my first. I did try breastfeeding with all of them, but a variety of issues got in the way. I think it would be great if more lactation consultants, doctors, and nurses were educated on exclusive pumping so they could let new moms know that this is definitely an option, and so much better than formula!! Yes, it takes a LOT of work, but for me it was definitely worth it!!! 🙂

    1. Stop saying it’s better than formula. This thinking is what leads to this pressure to give breast milk at all cost and is causing babies and mothers to suffer. Formula fed babies thrive just as well.

  16. I pumped and pumped for the first 2 months, but had to supplement with formula the whole time. I never produced enough. I dried up in 1 day of not pumping. It was rediculous how long it would take to get maybe 2 ounces every 4-6 hours. I learned to not feel guilty. I wanted to breast feed, but my body said, nope. She is now 4 and incredibly healthy. I did all I could for her and that is all we can do as moms.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing. I experienced this exact thing. It was easy to think I had failed or that I was screwing something up. Looking back I know I did everything I could do. My daughter is healthy. That’s what matters.

  18. Thank you so much for this article. This is exactly me… from day one! ! My beautiful girl is 3 months now and I’m pumping, feeding and freezing. Thank you for letting me hear my voice.

  19. This is awesome!!! My baby just turned one and i am no longer pumping! I kept a log I pumped over 80 gallons of breast milk & spent a total of 42 days pumping. All this while working 55 plus hours a week & raising a 3 year old…. I’m so glad to be done pumping

    1. Absolutely! It’s a tough crowd to be in, because it’s so hush hush, but we are all awesome moms!

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