The Problem with Breastfeeding

by Deborah Cruz on May 1, 2021

Breastfeeding is something that I had a difficult time doing. I tried really hard and did everything that my lactation specialist told me to do, but I just never seemed to produce enough milk to adequately feed my baby.

I felt like a bad mother and like I had failed my perfect little baby in some very profound way.

It was a struggle from the first time I took my baby home. My milk hadn’t come in yet and it was my first child. I had no experience with breastfeeding so I just assumed that when she stayed on my breast, almost non-stop, for 24 hours that this was normal.

I would feed her and then she would cry for more. By the next morning, we were both crying and I took her back to the hospital maternity ward, where they had instructed me to bring her.

She was 4 days old and I was not making any milk yet. My baby was starving and to make matters worse, she had developed jaundice due to me not producing milk. Apparently, had I produced enough milk, she would have been able to drink and flush her system adequately. They gave me the news. I had a minor breakdown in the hallway of the maternity ward at Takoma Adventist Hospital.

The range of emotions that went through my already hormonal and exhausted mind was all over the place. In the end, I was sent home with a Bili light and a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS).

The supplemental nursing system was absolutely as cumbersome as you might expect. Mostly, I remember going home and feeling like a complete failure and, worse, like I had hurt my perfect newborn baby.

I continued breastfeeding from then on with the aid of my SNS. In case you are not familiar with exactly what using an SNS entails, let me share with you. My SNS was a small plastic rectangular shaped bottle that held formula; one end had a small rope attached to hang around my neck. I remember it feeling like a tiny noose, reminding me constantly what an utter failure I was at breastfeeding.

Attached to the other end, was a cap and regulator with a very tiny silicone tube. The tube ran from the dispensing end of the SNS system to my nipple. This tube was my baby’s lifeline. The little plastic container provided what I could not, sustenance to my baby. The tube had to be taped down on the topside of my breast to keep it out of the baby’s face and taped right above my nipple, to keep it in place. Think gerbil water dispenser but with formula and attached to my breast.

I felt like Frankenboob. In between each feeding, which was every hour and a half, meaning I had about 15 minutes between when she finished feeding and when she would be ready to eat again to rush to sterilize the SNS system. I cried a lot in those days.

The point of the SNS was to aid me. The theory was that I would give her a little formula, enough to get her interested and suckling on my breast. This was in turn supposed to stimulate production within my own breast. It did not work.

I gladly did this for three months. I tried everything the nurse told me to help produce more milk; I had a beer, I tried to relax, I was popping Fenugreek like it was tic tacs, pumping and drinking mother’s milk tea. Nothing worked for me. Still, I felt more and more like a loser.

I would never trade those few months of snuggling my baby close into my breast and feeding her, however little it was. The bond was incredible and I like to believe that even with my mere three months, I truly did try.

I realize in hindsight, that there was a lot I didn’t know about breastfeeding and maybe more I could have done, though I still don’t know what that might have been. I know now, too, that being induced and having an epidural can both be counterproductive and make breastfeeding more difficult.

I wish someone had told me this before I was induced. Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural thing; I only wish that society didn’t condition those of us who had difficulties breastfeeding to feel like such failures.

Did you breastfeed? What advice would you give a mom-to-be to help prepare her for breastfeeding?

Photo Source: The Natural Way

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm May 1, 2021 at 5:16 am

I had to use an SNS in the beginning and I loathed it. Definitely not a pleasant contraption!

Whitney May 1, 2021 at 7:33 am

I, too, had supply issues. I was induced at 39 weeks because of preeclampsia and got an epidural. My milk took an extra day to come in. But I never got the engorgment I thought I was supposed to get. The lactation consultant suggested I pump in between feedings to help produce more. I also took Fenugreek and drank mother’s milk tea. Nothing worked. I was only making about an ounce (both breast combined) every 3 or 4 hours. My son lost double the weight that most newborn breastfed babies lose. I was so sore. I mean incredibly painful! I finally gave up after about a month. It hurt my feelings. I cried. I felt like a failure and I couldn’t give my perfect baby the perfect food to grow up big and strong. I didn’t know that an induction can affect milk production. My hope for my next child is that he/she comes naturally, and too fast for an epidural, and maybe I will produce more. I’m so sorry for your struggle through that.

Kristen @ Busy Kids = Happy Mom May 1, 2021 at 4:54 pm

I think the 5 things I’d wished that someone had told me about breastfeeding are: 1. If you have a c-section it can take a longer time for your mild to come in (something about not passing the placenta, but I’m not a doctor). 2. It is totally ok to supplement with formula, especially if you are not a big milk producer (I was not - probably due to the allergy meds I was taking). 3. Ask for help in the hospital, even if things seem to be going well! Once you’ve had a baby, it won’t really bother you *that much* to have your boobs messed with by a stranger. 4. If you get a breast infection you have to get the correct medicine to get rid of it! 5. Breastfeeding can make you feel like a martyr. If that happens, it might be time for you to stop.

It’s not for everyone, but it’s worth a try!

Shani May 1, 2021 at 6:51 pm

“I only wish that society didn’t condition those of us who had difficulties breastfeeding to feel like such failures.”

This.

My struggles with breastfeeding were a big part of the post-partum depression that crippled me for the first six months of my elder son’s life.

Using the SNS only served to magnify my feelings of inadequacy and failure. It wasn’t good for either one of us.

What *was* good, ultimately, was anti-depressants for me, and a bottle for him. He’s seven now, smart as a whip and healthy as a horse (and so is his five-year-old brother).

But thinking about that time nearly brings me to tears, even now.

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