My breastfeeding struggle

I feel like somewhat of an impostor posting these images.  I’ve actually felt like an impostor since the day I realized that my milk was never fully coming in and had to give Ramona a bottle of formula. I even felt like an imposter at my breastfeeding support groups.  The truth is, I was never able to breastfeed my baby entirely, and  I’ve been a “want-to-be ” breastfeeding mama since day one.  I know that I’m being hard on myself–I know that the very small amount of breast milk that I was able to feed my daughter was invaluable and I should be proud that I worked to give her any at all.   In fact I read that just 3oz a day will be enough to pass on immunities.  But what I yearned for, and what I’m mourning, is the bond that occurs with breastfeeding a baby, and the comfort of knowing that I alone could continue to grow my baby outside the womb.   So today, as I post these beautiful images,  I am waiving the white flag and surrendering after a long and heartbreaking fight to breastfeed.  I am sure that there are a lot of readers out there thinking that I could have made this work–I’ve had dozens of people offer up their advice as to how to make my milk come in.  But I have to stop right here and say that I have never, in my entire life, worked harder at something.  I pumped 8 times a day.  I woke up in the middle of the night, even when Ramona was sleeping to pump.  When that didn’t work, I added drugs and took Domperidone.  I used an S&S feeding tube and taped one end to my nipple and put the other end into a bottle so Ramona didn’t get nipple confusion.  I tried chinese medicine, acupuncture, a 72 hour skin to skin breastfeeding marathon, synthroid, metformin, prayer and anything else that might increase my supply.  But the bottom line, is that my body would simply not produce enough milk to fully feed my daughter.  At first, I used donor milk, but when my donor could only provide 50% of what Ramona needed and I was still supplementing with formula, I gave that up.  And purchasing donor milk was out of the questions at $3.50 an ounce.  I’m saving that for Ramona’s college tuition.  And honestly, I don’t have a huge issue with formula.  It’s food.  Bottom line.  And Ramona needed to eat.  More than anything,  I just wanted to bond with my daughter, and instead of the bond, we were fighting at the breast.  Ramona would get so frustrated, that she would scream and cry and turn her head while pulling my nipple in her mouth.  I had sores. Blood.  Tears.  It was hard.  It is hard.  I look at these images of me breastfeeding and tear up because I wanted this so much, and when I photograph other mom’s breastfeeding their babies, I get envious.  It just didn’t work out for me.  And today, I’m throwing in the towel.

 

 

I need to say here that I have no issue with mamas who choose not to breastfeed.  I don’t subscribe to the whole “formula is poison” philosophy.  Actually formula feeding does have its perks including Dad being able to take a night shift, and the ability to work without having to find a closet to pump in.  I’m not even sure why I’m sharing this.  It’s extremely personal and I feel vulnerable putting this out there, but I guess it is catharsis, and maybe there are other women out there who have had a similar struggle that might take comfort in knowing that they are not alone.  I guess sometimes breastfeeding just isn’t in the cards.  I’m crossing my fingers that with my next baby, things will be different.  Until then…  Here’s to Dad taking a turn!

 

Thank you, my darling Caitlin for taking these intimate photographs.   You are my life saver, sister and friend, and you truly inspire me with your amazing talent.  I will treasure these photos forever. They will remind me daily how truly blessed I am to have such a beautiful healthy baby girl.  After all, that’s all the matters in the end.

 

 

30 Comments

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Mindiereply
June 5, 2012 at 10:04 AM

I could have written that. I spent money on lab work, breast specialist, lactation consultant…and no one can give me any answers. I have 6 kids and it’s been the same thing every time. I’ve never needed a single nursing pad. But I wish someone would have told me that breast feeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing like 4 kids ago.
Anyway, thanks for the blog post. It’s a pain only fellow non-lactaters understand.

Tahverlee Dunlopreply
June 5, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Your heart, your love, your touch and your unwavering dedication….outweighs the breast. You are a beautiful mama…love the pictures and enjoy being able to be a part of it through your blog.

Alexia Bregmanreply
June 5, 2012 at 10:24 AM

3 kids and I battled through what you did with each one of them By the time I got to my 3rd, I decided that I wasn’t even going to try breastfeeding. And you know what? He is the most physically close, bonded child of them all. Breastfeeding or not, your bond is irrevocable. Delicious and beautiful. I can see that from these pictures.

Cindyreply
June 5, 2012 at 10:41 AM

Ditto. I could have written this too, and with each little baby girl I tried harder for longer, didn’t even know about S&S until Stella and did that too…did it all. And cried and cried because that’s all I wanted to do. Remember your photo shoot with Kate screaming and turning towards my breast?! She was hungry, poor thing! Even with bottle you can still coddle, hold close, gaze into eyes, all of it. And I know you never stop kissing on her ;). Proud of you for posting, as obviously you are not alone <3

Katie Gossreply
June 5, 2012 at 10:53 AM

This post was so touching. Loving your child and having a special bond with them is not reliant on breastfeeding. (looking at these photos it’s clear that you know this) You can breastfeed your child and still be an awful parent. The fact that you fought so hard for this and were willing to exhaust every possible resource to make it work speaks volumes about your love for her and the type of parent you will be. And in my opnion, that gift is worth more than breastfeeding. Not trying to discount your grief over this- but try not to be so hard on yourself. I’m breastfeeding my Son now and we had a really rough start. I was close to quitting several times and I didn’t go through nearly as much as you did. Be proud of yourself!

Erin Cadyreply
June 5, 2012 at 11:12 AM

Your are an amazing mama and should be so incredibly proud of yourself for all that you’ve already done for your baby. The fact that you tried SO hard in SO many ways, just means you should look back and know you did everything you could to try and make it work and should feel nothing but pride. Your daughter is adorable. Enjoy the time you have while she’s still little. I hope I get to meet her someday. 🙂

Jodireply
June 5, 2012 at 11:36 AM

Loves to my favorite girls!!

Sarahreply
June 5, 2012 at 12:21 PM

You are SUCH an amazing woman, mother, human being. As always, your posts make me cry. I love you! These are incredible photos!

kourtneyreply
June 5, 2012 at 12:23 PM

Your words brought tears to my eyes. I can not imagine your struggles.I appreciate your dedication and see that you do share a special bond with your daughter, most evident in the black and white photo of you two in the tub. She is lucky to have such unwavering love from her mother.thanks for sharing:-)

alisonreply
June 5, 2012 at 1:17 PM

Nursing (like the rest of becoming a mother) is humbling and even a bit cruel. Chin up Mama, you did good.

Reaganreply
June 5, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Thank you for sharing, Julie. You’ve brought tearful memories to my eyes and heart. I understand and am reminded of how fresh and pure that bond is. Funny, though…I had even less success with Emma Rose than I did Porter, and that little girl is head-over-heels for her Mama.

Melody Zobelreply
June 5, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Jules, what a precious mama you are and what a beautiful baby girl you have! I supplemented with formula for 9 months with Joey, but didn’t feel the kind of grief you express, which I understand but didn’t experience. Honestly, as an old mama, I was so grateful to live in an age where an infant thriving wasn’t totally dependent on my aging body! Ramona is so clearly thriving and loving you both! I am proud of you and amazed at your tenacity in this struggle. I pray you can release this longing with joy. Your humility and honesty is a precious gift to other mamas out there. Love you, Julie. Melly

Amandareply
June 5, 2012 at 7:06 PM

your bond’s in your dna my friend, it can’t be undone …. at all. anyways kids are like dogs, no pretension, your heart is totally there and in her heart she registers that – that’s the bond. you’re a kick ass mom – no guilt.

Shawnareply
June 5, 2012 at 8:37 PM

Thank you Julie for sharing your story! It truly made me tearful as I read it! I am a first time mom and struggled with feeding in the beginning too! I am sure the effort you gave toward breastfeeding will not be the last time as a mother you give your sweat, tears, prayers and alI…I am sorry you had to fight so hard to be in the place you are in today! You have such a beautiful baby girl! May God bless you as you move forward.

Thank you again for sharing!

God Bless!

mamareply
June 6, 2012 at 5:02 PM

Oh, Darlin’…what a journey! Thank you Caitlin for the beautiful photos! That baby is our delight! Julie, you fought like I’ve known no other to fight! For your labor experience, for breastfeeding….and our Mona-Baby is the prize! I’m grateful for those you met along the way…the Mother Hood…Amanda…Sweet Beginnings….many more. This is a chapter for your wisdom journal — a thick book already. You are a wise young woman. Thanks for including me along the way. It has been the honor of my life!

gillianreply
June 6, 2012 at 8:10 PM

ah, sweet cousin. i can imagine how hard this has been. just remember how much love ramona is getting from you. i’m sure you are an amazing mama and the bonding opportunities only continue in abundance! wish i could meet her. love you so.
gillie

Corriereply
June 7, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Julie, this is beautiful. I had the same story, minus about 3/4 of what you tried. My record for pumping was 7 times a day. And it became a full time job. The saddest part about probably all these stories in common is the opposing voice that each of us has heard, “you haven’t tried everything” or “everyone CAN breast feed and if you can’t, it must be something you are doing wrong!”
I have a friend who filled an entire freezer with her excess milk on top of feeding twins!!!! I know all about envy. I think I will always have an awe towards breast feeding. And now, when I hear little complaining voices about how annoying it is to have your child on the boob all the time, I offer a gentle perspective.
You are an amazing mom. The effort you have shown is admirable. I’m in awe at the way you’ve loved your sweet little girl. .

Jamiereply
June 7, 2012 at 7:15 PM

Julie–I cried reading this post. Partly because your words and the images are just beautiful, and partly because I am SO infinitely happy for you that you have this amazing baby girl, partly because I can feel the struggle you went through and totally want to give you a hug, and finally, mostly, because I miss you!! You are an amazing person and mama. So happy to know you. wish we didn’t live 2000 miles apart. I hope one day our daughters get to meet! xoxo

Sadie Shaughnessyreply
June 7, 2012 at 8:48 PM

Oh, Julie! We have very similar stories! I think I tried EVERY old wives tale in the book to try to get my supply up, but alas I finally allowed myself to stop. Trying to nurse when my body didn’t want to produce anything was my HARDEST adventure yet. Scarlett is happy and healthy and I hope you can photograph her soon… And bring that sweet Romona!
Sadie

Sarahreply
June 7, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Julie! I love hearing stories about you and Mona from Cait and i can’t believe how fast she’s growing! I need to meet this little lady soon 🙂 As for this breastfeeding business, anyone (including yourself) who makes you feel like an inadequate mother based on these preliminary circumstances you’ve faced is so wrong. You’ve already been given everything you need to be a wonderful mother with a wonderful relationship with your daughter; these things are in the depths of your soul. Breastfeeding or no breastfeeding, she adores you and always will. I am so proud of your vulnerability as a person and, particularly, as a mother. Stay strong, your daughter is as beautiful as her mother. Love love love to you both!

Mama Rosereply
June 9, 2012 at 12:27 AM

Love all of the girls and can’t wait to hold the little one again! Thank you Julie for allowing Caitlin to share in your baby journey and being so supportive of her!

Mamma lilreply
June 11, 2012 at 9:44 PM

I love you girl! Thanks for being wonderful you and I am so amazed and proud of how hard you worked!

Emilyreply
June 12, 2012 at 9:57 PM

Thanks for this post. Not making enough milk was the most devastating experience of having a baby for me. (I know, there are lots of worse things that can happen, but this was my experience.) I grieved, I wept for weeks, I took drugs, herbs, acupuncture, saw a freaking PSYCHIC- I tried every last, damn thing. Never made close to enough. I had lovely milk donors and then we used formula and then cow milk and it was fine.

And somehow, even I have made no milk for months and months, my 2.5 yr old kept on nursing. We just weaned last month, when I got thoroughly sick of her gnawing my empty boobs. Nursing relationships are as unique as our mother-child bonds. Cherish yours for how special it is. Good job, mama!

Branwynreply
June 14, 2012 at 8:19 PM

I can honestly say that I feel your pain and I’m sorry this happened to you. I tried everything with my first and had to supplement at every feeding. I gave up at 5 months and just put him on the bottle. With my second I tried even harder thinking I could have done something more…no one could give me any answers. I found a condition called hypoplastic breasts meaning that you don’t have as many milk ducts as normal. (not that you have this) Everything described me. Now pregnant with number three I am a little more at ease knowing its not my fault. I will still nurse so she gets the benefits but hopefully I won’t cry when I see other moms nursing. THANK YOU for not being afraid to share this!

Danielle Patrickreply
June 16, 2012 at 9:47 AM

Oh the tears. Why is motherhood so heartbreaking? You are so brave for sharing this. This post is comforting and validating to so many other mamas out there. Your tenacity to breastfeed is admirable.

Jill Gearheardreply
June 16, 2012 at 1:03 PM

Julie- I had the same issues with Riley and I remember sitting in my OB’s office so upset and crying and she told me to just stop. It was what I needed to hear. I just felt like I was letting Riley down. We are soooo close, it didn’t hurt our bonding at all. With Adelee I could make milk but she had tummy troubles and couldn’t drink my milk! I couldn’t believe it. Same with her, we are as close as can be! Hang in there and know you are doing what is best for your baby!

Jannareply
June 21, 2012 at 8:42 PM

So so sweet! I know the feeling.

hillaryreply
July 5, 2012 at 4:14 PM

I am a very womanly, curvy gal. If you looked at me you would think “Made to have babies.” But I couldn’t get pregnant. Even my sister said “If YOU can’t get pregnant what hope is there for the rest of us?” It’s not the same as the breast-feeding struggle you wrote about, but it didn’t happen the way I wanted and it was heartbreaking. (I do have 2 healthy daughters now.) Death of a dream is such a hard thing to overcome, and I am glad you’ve been able to grieve the loss, look in the mirror and say you did all you could, and still enjoy and rejoice in the gift of that baby girl! Even those of us that look like our bodies can do it just never know!

Chelsyreply
July 9, 2012 at 11:51 AM

What a beautiful post.

Bridgetreply
January 18, 2014 at 8:08 PM

I came across your website by accident while helping a friend search for a wedding venue in Colorado. I’m a momma and a photographer in Massachusetts. I was drawn to your images. You have a wonderful ability to bring people right into the heart of a family. I came across this blog entry today and thought it was the perfect place to write to you because it is so very similar to my experience. I was very sick after having my daughter and my body just couldn’t produce enough milk for her. It was emotional and exhausting. My visions of how we would bond together during feedings was destroyed and my heart was broken. But I soon realized that the most important thing was that she was fed. And photographs of those plump little legs are proof of how healthy she was. Anyway, thanks for sharing your story. I hope to continue following your work. My best!
Bridget

Leave a reply