Breastfeeding Disasters by Liz Nord

Breastfeeding was not easy for me. I wanted to be good at it and do the best thing for my babies. The intense pressure I felt to do the best for my babies was both internal and external. We all hear repeatedly that breast milk is the best nutritional choice. It helps defend against infections, prevents allergies, protects against a number of chronic conditions, helps you bond with your baby, and supposedly makes your child smarter. One thing I learned early on about parenting is that things don’t always work out as you thought, hoped, or planned for. I know that sounds obvious, but that was hard for me to accept back when I was a serious type A personality, and felt the need to be a perfect mother (I’ve since realized that’s impossible and unnecessary—phew!!).

Bella was my first baby. I loved snuggling with her and gazing at her while sitting in the rocking chair breastfeeding. It was so peaceful and beautiful, at first. Then something changed. I started feeling anxious and trapped. I didn’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, it began hurting more and more, I hated pumping, and Bella started throwing up and crying excessively. I didn’t know what to do.

I found out that she had Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and lactose intolerance. (My mother and I are both lactose intolerant and it’s hereditary.) I tried to breastfeed as long as I possibly could, but I only lasted three months with my first daughter. Once I made the decision to quit and worked through my feelings of guilt, the transition to the bottle was pretty smooth for both of us. It was so much easier. Ahh…things got better.

Olivia came along three years later, and I thought I’d give breastfeeding another shot. It was a disaster! She would only take milk from one side, she cried, she didn’t sleep, she looked unhealthy, she seemed uncomfortable, and she wouldn’t drink anything from a bottle ever. Her pediatrician suggested I exclude milk, nuts, cheese, and soy from my diet. That didn’t help–nothing seemed to help. I was frustrated and Olivia was clearly unhappy. Here we go again… At just six weeks old, the doctor was concerned and drastic measures were in order. I remember that last day I breastfed like it was yesterday.

The doctor was kind, understanding, and listened to me, which can make a big difference when moms, guilt, babies, health, and big decisions are all in the mix. I told him that it wasn’t going well for mommy or Olivia. I told him how I was feeling and how Olivia was behaving. Olivia was not thriving. He told me to go home, call my mom, and have her come to our house right away. I was to leave the house (so Olivia couldn’t smell my breast milk) and not come back until she was drinking formula from a bottle. I remember thinking, “Today? Right now? Seriously!?!” Until that day, I had never left Olivia for more than a short thirty-minute walk.

This may seem like it should be an easy endeavor, but it was a nightmare. Olivia refused the bottle. I called to check in many times over the next several hours, and I could hear her screaming. I felt horrible for my baby and was feeling sorry for myself. In my rush out the door, I had forgotten the breast pump and my breasts were throbbing. That evening, she took the bottle from my mom. The transition was hard for both of us, but we got through it. No matter what anyone said, I felt like a failure, again.

With the Doctors guidance, we tried several different formulas before we found the right one for her–Hypoallergenic Similac Alimentum, containing alimentum made up of protein broken down into tiny pieces, which virtually eliminates allergic reactions in most babies with protein allergies. I was so thrilled! We were both happy, at last. When Olivia was nine months old, we found out that she has a severe anaphylactic food allergy. My breast milk had been making her sick those first six weeks. I was poisoning her. I felt horrible and guilty again, but I’ve since gotten over it. I did the best I could with what I knew.

Both our girls are really happy, active, intelligent, and thriving now. I feel completely bonded with both of them. Those are the things that really matter most to me. Looking back, I should not have been so hard on myself. Olivia still has a severe food allergy, but that didn’t have anything to do with me breastfeeding or not. She was born that way. 

If you are struggling, you are not alone and this challenging time will pass.

*Did you breastfeed? If so, what was your experience like? Did you or your baby struggle? How long did you breastfeed for? Would you do it again?  Did you opt out of breastfeeding? If so, did you feel guilty? Did you feel pressured? What would you say to moms who are struggling?

**Much more on severe allergies to come in future posts.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Tweets that mention Breastfeeding Disasters by Liz Nord « Secrets of Moms Who Dare To Tell All --
  2. Sonita
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 07:40:17

    I breastfed both my boys. The first one for 6 months, the second one for 18 months. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. It wasn’t always perfect, but it was, overall, an amazing experience. With my 2nd we got a yeast infection and oh my! It was horrible. I’d scream in pain as he latched and cry the entire time he nursed until we got it cleared up! Far from perfect! LOL

    My 2nd also hard GERD and I had to cut just about everything out of my diet! I joke that for the 6 months he had GERD I had to live off chicken, white rice and white bread because he reacted to everything else! LOL

    I think there is a huge lack of information for new moms about breastfeeding. Too many moms think ‘it’s natural-so it comes naturally and will be easy.’ When it doesn’t-we moms feel like a failure. Yes it is the natural way to feed your baby but it doesn’t always come naturally to mom or baby and it isn’t always easy! It takes a lot of work!


  3. Molly Pitts
    Jan 23, 2011 @ 19:04:38

    I did not breastfeed for several reasons-I had a breast reduction and there was a low chance my milk ducts could get all the milk thru with the type of surgery I had. I also am just not that type of person. Being naked makes me nervous enough, but to have to have a boob out in public-well that thought sent me over the edge. I got a lot of grief for not breastfeeding from some people I know, but mostly from total strangers. One of my kids is adopted and I still got grief for not going to a milk bank for her! I am all for breastfeeding, and look up to people who tried, and to those who succeed at it. But, there is just so much pressure about it, everyone is different, has different issues and makes different choices. People seem to offer their opinion about it way too often. Why do they care? If I was at a McDonalds with my kids noone would ever come up to me and say, “that is so unhealthy, you should really think about feeding your kids a nutritious diet”!!


  4. Jessica
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 08:14:14

    I had a nightmare breastfeeding all 4 of my kiddos. I wanted it to be the dreamy experience other mothers get to experience. With my first 3, I produced so much milk that if I took my bra off, it would shoot across the room (literally). Breast pads are expensive, and they filled up soooo fast, I ended up with wet dots around my nipples anyways. If I went anywhere even for an hour without emptying, they would become so engorged and painful. I never fed them for more than 3 months because it was horrible not being able to leave my house and to always have to hurry up. I also lived in very conservative places at the time where people frowned if you were seen breastfeeding in public. Thankfully, I could visit friends since they didn’t care. With my last kiddo (4 yrs old now), there wasn’t enough milk being produced and she wasn’t gaining weight, she also cried all the time, but seemed satisfied when we finally started giving her bottles to supplement. I couldn’t pump enough milk either, and when I did get some out, it took me at least an hour of pumping to get 2 oz. out. I love my babes, but my happiness is important too. Babies can sense stress and anger, which can make them even more upset. Both mommy and baby feel much better doing what is more comfortable.


  5. Liz
    Jan 24, 2011 @ 14:20:43

    @Jessica–I had forgotten about the breast pads. I HATED those yet needed them as I had a similiar issue as you. I think I had blocked those memories from my mind! =)


  6. Andrea Owen
    Jan 26, 2011 @ 06:34:31

    My first child was delivered via c-section (due to breech position) and I felt like I had failed him regarding his birth, therefore I was going to breast feed him if it killed me. 7 weeks of severe nipple pain, blisters, clogged ducts, and weekly trips to the doctor (yes, 7 trips in 7 weeks). I FINALLY got it and nursed him for 12 + months.
    My daughter is now 16 months and I’m still nursing. Breastfeeding a toddler is well, challenging, but we are both happy.
    What I have found is that as women, we put so much pressure on ourselves and each other to do everything perfectly, I’ve found there is a lot of judgement from other moms. I’ve found that supporting and having empathy for one another is much more helpful!


  7. Bonnie MacPhail
    Jan 29, 2011 @ 13:56:27

    It has been 25 years ago, and I can still recall the pain of nursing my daughter that would only feed off of one breast. I thought I was making it up at first. I didn’t even mention is to my doctor! When I happened to mention it a year after the fact, she wished I’d asked, because the solution was simple – hold the baby like a football so it doesn’t have to turn over to nurse. Funny how we have the energy to ask after we aren’t so burned out!


  8. Myra Elwell
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 17:17:24

    Just started reading this today. I went thru some of what you mention with my first two and the last kidlet. It was very frustrating and painful. I am an advocate of breastfeeding and really hate it when new moms get pressured not to even attempt it and are told formula is better. In some cases, may be that may turn out to be true, but overall, breastfed babies are healthier. I also like that in the area I live in, there is an organization called “Eats on Feets” that helps moms who want to feed thier babies human breastmilk but can’t due to reasons cited in your post find donor moms, or as the classic term is, a “wet nurse”. (Yes, they do screen as much as possible.) I wish that medical professionals would be more open to alternatives like finding donor moms or other viable alternatives besides pushing the formula route. In some cases, due to allergies, special formula IS needed. But to pressure moms to use formula from the get go is very disappointing.
    Anyway, great post. I shared. :-) I love the other posts so far, too. We need more moms to help our young women and girls love themselves as they are.


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