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Our Breastfeeding Story

I wrote this story out a long time ago after being asked time and time again to share it on various message boards where I provided support to moms that went through the same breastfeeding difficulties that I did with my first child. I just realized that I never shared it on my blog and thought I would post it to share with all of you why breastfeeding has become so important to me.

Perhaps if it had been easy for me, it would just have been a way of feeding my child like it is for many others perhaps. But for me, it is one of the things I worked hardest at in my life, one of the accomplishments I am most proud of, and an important investment in my child's future.

Here's the story:

Before my son was born, I promised myself I would not have specific expectations about who he would be or what he would do. I want my son to be able to chart his own course and do so with my support. The only expectation that I went into this with was that I would breastfeed. Of course, breast milk is best for the child, breastfeeding is cheap and convenient, and it allows for bonding between mother and child.

Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t as easy as that. Here’s a quick history of what we dealt with during the first months:

  • First few days: Wouldn’t latch on in hospital, pediatrician on duty diagnosed tongue tie (ankyloglossia) and arranged for it to be clipped when he was two days old. Went home from hospital a few hours after the procedure, armed with a lactation aid to try to get him to breast.

  • Week 1: Still not latching. At this point, my milk has come in, so I am pumping milk (unfortunately with an Avent Isis hand held pump because I was on maternity leave and couldn't afford an electric pump at that point) and giving it to him using finger feeding or in attempts with the lactation aid. Later in the week, we try a nipple shield – he still doesn’t latch on.

  • Week 2: I’m still pumping at this point, and LC suggests using orthodontic nipples to bring his tongue down and out and to continue suck training with the finger as much as possible. Also offering both breasts at each feeding (switching bottle for breast to see if he can be tricked into taking the breast).

  • Week 3: Trying the nipple shield again, but he is not grabbing onto the breast, he is just grabbing the nipple. LC suggests that we make an appointment with Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist to have him assessed.

  • Week 4: See my doctor to get a referral to ENT specialist. Still pumping, bottle feeding and trying breast.

  • Week 5 and 6: Still pumping, bottle feeding and trying breast. Many moments of despair, doubt that it will ever work. Resigned to the fact that I will likely be exclusively pumping rather than ever nursing my child.

  • Week 7: Finally! The appointment with the ENT specialist. She says that the tongue tie clipping wasn’t done properly the first time and that it had scarred over a bit. She re-clips the tongue tie. I try right away at each feeding to get him to latch on. He has limited success. He is latching, but not latching well. We keep trying and he gets better and better. I am thrilled that he is finally breastfeeding. I go out and buy more nursing bras and shirts.

  • Week 8: Appointment with LC to see if we can fix the latch. Suddenly, he latches beautifully. My nipples are sore at this point, but I figure it is from all of the bad latches that we experienced while trying to get to the good latch. Towards the end of the week, my nipples are cracked and bleeding. I had been exclusively breastfeeding for 4 days, but I am in pain and he is spitting up blood. I see the LC (who says that the latch is good) and my doctor, who prescribes treatment for thrush.

  • Week 9: Treating the thrush and breastfeeding when I can. When it is too painful, I pump and offer him that in a bottle. Try to offer him at least one breast per feeding. His latch is sometimes good, and sometimes not. When it is not, I take him off the breast and relatch him. I am pretty sure that he is not using his tongue properly, because despite a good looking latch, my nipples are still very sore and get worse with breastfeeding. He is also like a little snapping turtle. I have to fight to get enough breast into his mouth before he closes it.

  • Week 10: My nipples and breasts are in pain during breastfeeding, while pumping (less so), and in between feedings. I am kept up at night sometimes by the pain. See my doctor again and she diagnoses mastitis. Start antibiotics for mastitis.

  • Weeks 11 to 12: I pumped exclusively while letting the mastitis clear up and getting my supply up again (pumping every 2 hours or so around the clock) because my supply dipped to about 2/3 of what it should be. I unfortunately had to supplement with a bottle of formula a day for about a week because I wasn't pumping enough.

  • Around week 13: Finally found some Evenflo Ultra Elite nipples (the ones everyone was raving about for being the best ones for breastfed babies and that have since been discontinued unfortunately) on www.zooscape.com and ordered them. When they came, I really worked on his latch while he was nursing from the bottle. I made sure that he opened wide, his lower lip was curled out, and that his tongue was below the nipple. I also started getting him to nurse once per day and really working on the latch (it still hurt, so I didn’t want to push it).

  • Weeks 14 and 15: I slowly started increasing the number of times per day that he nursed. I think in week 14 he nursed twice per day. Then in week 15 three times per day.

  • Week 16+: picture-0511Then finally on the weekend after week 15 I put away the pump and just nursed all weekend. It was great. I was a bit sore afterward, but I knew that my goal was in sight. I really kept working on the latch and despite all of that work, he always had a narrower latch than I liked.

We finally achieved success just before Christmas. My siggie on the breastfeeding support message boards had been "all I want for Christmas is a nursling" and I got my wish!. My little boy continued nursing until he was 2.5 years old and I was 7.5 months pregnant with my daughter. Considering the rough start we had, I think that is pretty good!

I owe a great deal of thanks to Paula (of Mother-2-Mother), Kelly (of kellymom.com) and Carol who provided me with a great deal of support and advice on the ivillage Breastfeeding message board back then, as well as the ladies on the ivillage Exclusively Pumping message board that helped me to see that there was another option if breastfeeding didn't work out and that understood what I was going through when it looked like things wouldn't work out.

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Reader Comments (45)

Thanks for sharing your story. It reminded me so much of my trying to breastfeed my 2nd son. He had latch problems as well, but with him, I gave up pretty quick and went to exclusively pumping (at the begining with the Medela Manual and then with rented Lactina)..I EP'ed for 18 months.
I am so glad you were able to work it out. For me, I'm glad my 2nd daughter BF with no problems at all! Still going strong at 21 months.
I hung out on the EP ivillage boards when I was an ep'er too. It was a good place for support.

December 29, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterchandlerful

Whew! That is quite a story. ;p

Here via your twitter link after following from VDog. ;p

December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAl_Pal

That's a great story. Thanks for sharing it. I think moms really benefit from hearing each other's experiences.

December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Thanks for sharing your story. Through teh proliferation of bottle-feeding in the past few generations, we have lost teh support network for new moms that used to exist, so too many women give up as soon as things get tough instead of looking for help. I hope your story helps another mom.

My own breastfeeding story was also one of challenge, although quite different from yours. In my case, my daughter had an excellent latch and will to breastfeed despite being a 4-week preemie and only 4lbs12oz. However, I didn't have enough milk for her. And when I say "not enough" I mean "saw 3 Lactation consultants, 2 doctors, several public health nurses, pumped between every feeding, ate oatmeal every day for months, took domperidone for 6 months, tried all the herbs and lactation inducing durgs I could think of, even made chocolate chip oatmeal lactation cookies from a recipe found on the internet and STILL had to supplement my daughter with formula every day for at least 75% of what she ate." I'm one of the rare women who truly did not produce enough milk, even with extensive and ongoing intervention. But we breastfed for 8 months and I have never been prouder of anything in my life.

December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarianne

WOW. I am always impressed after hearing stories like yours. Kudos to you for sticking with it and for your little one too!

December 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

Wow! What incredible determination you had to stick with it, despite all of the struggles, pain and challenges. And boy, you got them all! Your story is such a great lesson and reminder for everyone about the triumph of sticking with something until the end and the final victory of being able to breastfeed your child!

Just curious about how it went with your second child.

December 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermudspice

@mudspice - my second one was nursing within a few minutes of being born and I had no problems at all. She is 21 months now and still going strong.

December 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] 2) They are proud of their accomplishment: Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone. A lot of women struggle through bad latches, poor milk supply, sore nipples, and other breastfeeding challenges and if they persevere, they want to share their success with others. Other people like to post pictures of themselves getting their university degree. Well, honestly, that was a walk in the park compared to the effort I put into breastfeeding my son. [...]

What an ordeal. Good on you for following your heart.

I love these stories, yet they also bring tears to my eyes. I was unable to breastfeed, for about a million reasons, but the most significant was that my milk was water. I basically wasn't making proper milk. It broke my heart. I had thought that BFing was the most natural and therby easiest thing in the world. I had no idea what happened to us was even possible. I am so thankful for formula, as my baby was losing weight and so distressed. I couldn't nourish my baby and it still hurts. If I had magical powers I wouldn't change anything in my life, even the bad, but oh I would change that.

I'm glad it worked for you.

January 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMon

Oh my, you are a tenacious woman! I'm so glad your perseverance paid off.

January 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermichelle y

Wow. This is the most G-rated thing I've ever read that uses the word "nipples" this ubiquitously.

That said, you've gone through quite the saga. I didn't think this many hurdles could be placed in the path of breastfeeding. Kudos to you for getting to the finish line!

January 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbad parent

[...] 2) They are proud of their accomplishment: Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone. A lot of women struggle through bad latches, poor milk supply, sore nipples, and other breastfeeding challenges and if they persevere, they want to share their success with others. Other people like to post pictures of themselves getting their university degree. Well, honestly, that was a walk in the park compared to the effort I put into breastfeeding my son. [...]

Thanks so much for referring me to this on Twitter. We've shared our story with frenulectomy/frenotomy here on Trusera: http://www.trusera.com/health/stories/heyjudeseattle/frenulectomy-to-help-an-infant-with-breastfeeding-issues-ankyloglossia Yours is an inspiration! Thanks, Jude

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJude O'Reilley

I can so relate to your experience!! My son was tongue-tied but wasn't diagnosed until he was 14 months (and then it was me that diagnosed it!!). We dealt with jaundice, delayed milk, a nipple shield for 5 months, lots of pain, biting, and nursing strikes. For me it was worth the hard work and fight. We ended up with a WONDERFUL nursing relationship that lasted until he was 2.5. Breastfeeding was one of the most rewarding, difficult, fulfilling, and personally gratifying things I have ever done. And it has made me strive to become a lactation consultant/advocate. I wrote about the importance of nursing in a blog and hope you might read it. http://breastfeedindy.ning.com/profiles/blogs/found-memory

Thank you for sharing your experience!

February 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCrystal Gold

[...] lot of moms struggle with breastfeeding. In addition to Colleen’s story and my story, you can read the stories of Lindsay, Maria, Dani, Katrina, Beth, Tara, Christina and many others [...]

[...] know how damn hard it can be to breastfeed (see my story and the stories of many many others referenced in this [...]

Wow, I had no idea it could be that difficult for a mom and she would still insist on breastfeeding. My first couple of days were difficult then things got easier, but I found it boring and tedious but loved it at the same time. I thought if I could stick around till the 6 month mark it would be a miracle. I started introducing solids at around 6 months but she just wouldn't have it. She had already started teething and would go on food strikes for weeks so breast feeding was her only option. She's 14 months now and I am aiming for 24 months. Some of my friends have tried and failed but I respect their option and never asked why, but from your story I guess I understand now why some women would give up. I guess BF was easier for me, it's cheaper and cleaner. I would have probably killed myself if I had to wash bottles and care for an infant at the same time.

May 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjessyz

[...] time), being knowledgeable about breastfeeding to avoid problematic interventions at the start (thankfully I overcame those problems), and babywearing right from the start (I wasn’t aware of anything other than the Snugli for [...]

WOW! I don't have anything more to say than that. AND, that your son is extremely blessed to have you for a mother. I know that he knows it.

May 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSam

I am struggling with breastfeeding as well....she is almost 5 months and I am DETERMINED to breastfeed until she weans....but she seems to not like eating from my breast...there are times that she does really good and enjoys nursing and then there are weeks that she screams and fights to eat. She did great the first 6 weeks but then all of a sudden she was screaming while nursing and refused...I saw LC, doctors, chiropractors. The LC told me to quit dairy and soy...I have done that....the chiro said that her neck is sore so she sees the chiro 2 times a week and the LC, really has no more advice for me. It is really frustrating when I produce enough milk, her latch is great but no one seems to know what is wrong with her NOT liking to nurse. I love it and am determined to continue....but if there is any advice out there I could use. She got better after seeing the chiro, but lately she has been refusing and fussing, again.

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

@Jessica: I'm sorry to hear that you are having struggles. I would strongly recommend to you, or anyone, having struggles with breastfeeding to check out the http://forum.kellymom.net/index.php" rel="nofollow">forums at kellymom. There are some great experienced moderators and breastfeeding counselors there that can give you some advice.

June 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] Our breastfeeding story (where support makes a difference) [...]

I realize my reply is a couple months late, but hopefully might still be helpful. In my opinion, Dr. Newman is a fabulous resource. His website has all kinds of information (http://www.drjacknewman.com/) and he's readily available by email for questions not addressed in the resources. He'll often reply to messages immediately (though this depends on volume of messages), even in the middle of the night. I don't think the man actually sleeps.

September 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

[...] best way to relate to him and meet his needs. He had a very strong tongue tie at birth and we had a really rough start with breastfeeding. He is a very spirited and bright kid and does everything with a passion. He loves to learn and [...]

[...] I say that because I also know how difficult breastfeeding can be and how much it can hurt (read our story). I also know how vulnerable moms can be when they are experiencing breastfeeding difficulties and [...]

I know you submitted this more than a year ago, but I just read it (found it because of all the fb bf [bs?] controversy) so it is an ongoing discussion that will continue. My own son (born in September 08) was challenged in all the same ways your son was (and I too got my Christmas wish!) My success with breastfeeding also feels more hard-won than my college degree, it is also the thing I am most proud of. Our trials during that 3 months are simply beyond description, my husband [now] describes it as I got "scorched", singed, I know know what "to the bone" means, I understand the story of Inanna's descent into the Underworld, and her Return...
He is 18 months old now and I am typing this one handed as he nurses. I am thankful everyday that we fought for and won our breastfeeding relationship, for a million reasons
I am including 2 links, that they may be of use to anyone in need of them, one is an interview with me about our experience, the other is s a discussion about tongue-tie, which is on the rise...


March 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

Thank you for your comment and for sharing your links Leah. I had seen the post on the Sufficiency Blog before, but will take a look at your interview too.

March 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

What a wonderful story of perseverance. I think most women give up on BFing too easily. I nursed my first until he was 14 months, pumping beginning at 4 months because I was working outside of the home 40 hours per week. I wish I could have nursed longer, but his food allergies and my vegetarianism made too many restrictions to keep a healthy weight up for me. It was my family that convinced me to wean him and sometimes I look back and wish I would have held on a little longer. Your story is inspiring and I hope I can nurse my second (expecting in Oct) longer.

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Jo

[...] decision that we made was to breastfeed. I was pretty adamant that my kids would be breastfed and went through an awful lot to get the initially resistant Julian to nurse successfully. On the breastfeeding front, my [...]

Wonderful story, good on you. I had a somewhat traumatic birth with #1 and went home with a tiny, jaundiced baby who didn't latch well and had to be woken to feed. After a few days she woke up, wriggled with anxiety, didn't sleep and didn't put on weight. I was so lucky to have support from my family and our health care system here in Australia (free lactation service at the hospital, and help from the nurses at the early childhood clinic). Eventually we supplemented with a small amount of formula in a cup for a few days -- just enough to kickstart weight gains. She had thrush in her mouth and I had mastitis and she took ages to finish a feed.

At three months it all suddenly clicked into place, she took 20 minutes to feed instead of an hour, and suddenly it all felt possible! But just getting to that point was due to a healthy share of support and stubbornness. She weaned herself at 13 months -- I was working and pumping but never really got enough, so my supply just dwindled to nothing.

#2 has had a different set of challenges, getting started was easier but we have ongoing issues whenever he has a tooth coming through and I've had blocked ducts and mastitis numerous times, and nipple vasospasm. But I've been able to work from home so he's had a bottle exactly once and I'm hoping, at minimum, to never give him formula. He's 8 months now and eating well so it's very doable.

December 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrivqa

i am so, so very happy that you've shared your story! why when my kids are 6 1/2, 4 1/2, 2 & all weaned? because breastfeeding isn't always easy and there's so, so much to learn. and us moms have to (HAVE TO) tell each other these truths. or else we run the risk of feeling isolated and uninformed, giving up and bashing ourselves and/or (quite often) other moms. so thank you. truly.

December 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGalit Breen

You are a strong woman. Tears in my eyes reading this post.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Thanks for sharing this story...I am sorry that you had such a difficult time.

March 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLorette Lavine

[...] then, I’ve learned a lot about pumps. I had to exclusively pump for a while, I pumped at work for about 18 months, I moderated a pumping and relactating forum, and [...]

really? 2.5 years old? that's kind of gross.

March 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercheryl

Nope! Just all kinds of awesome!

May 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTopHat

[...] are the words our family doctor uttered when I burst into tears in her office when my first born child was four weeks old and still hadn’t latched on once. I’d been pumping every two to three hours around the clock with a manual Avent Isis pump ever [...]

[...] I had to pump for my babies, including exclusively pumping for my son who couldn’t latch for the first two months and then pumping for both my children after I returned to work, I was lucky that I never really had [...]

I wish I had found this post while going through a similar struggle with my son! We have made it to successful exclusive breastfeeding anyway, but would have been nice to read your story when I was in the depths of despair.

I have to say that I wish I had been better prepared for how challenging bf can be. I understand that it does come easily to some women and that there in an interest in the lactivist community to encourage bf by extolling its virtues, but I think more women would stick with it in the face of difficulties if they had been better prepared for them.

[...] remember my short maternity leave with my first born. I spent it primarily dealing with breastfeeding issues and trying to stop the crying. He didn’t always cry hysterically, but sometimes he did [...]

I had the same experiences!!!! I was told my nipples weren't big enough and he would only make a tight little latch- mastitis, thrush, blisters, scabs, bleeding, pumping for many many hours... At 3 months and after no help from nurses or the la leche league (phone consults didn't help me), 4 or 5 times at the lactation consultants, we gave up. My pediatrician eventually is the one who told me to stop when I was in trying to get pills to bump my milk AND anti depressants because of it all. Bottle-feeding was an absolute relief...

March 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKrisfreddy

[...] judge mothers who can't or don't want to breastfeed, because I know how hard it can be. I've been there. I do find, however, that some mothers who found breastfeeding easy are quick to judge. I think the [...]

I am so happy to have stumbled onto your story and article about the troubles of Breastfeeding. I too, am struggling with this and have feelings of wanting to give up. I am currently still trying when I have the courage to, and pumping exclusively. My little girl (16 days old) has problems latching and I have problems with cracking nipples and frustration. We tried as soon as she was born (completely natural, unmediated labor) and she latched, but briefly and not correctly. Every nurse and LAc Specialist said tht her latch was good, but I knew that it felt wrong. I kept trying and ultimately after a few days he cracking caused pain that was unbearable. I switched to pumping and feeding her via a hospital syringe/dropper. This caused her to be quite gassy/collicky, so we switched to Dr brown bottles---she finally gained weight This week and her pedi is happy. I'm terrified to even attempt bf'ing bc psychologically, I'm so devestated that she isn't on my breast. I want nothing more than to enjoy this time bf'ing my baby, and instead I'm miserable. My cousin is a great support and came over the other day to help me latch all day. It worked and I was happy---she left and the saga continued (and continues still). I'm too scared to try but I know I have/want to. I see now that I can actually Achieve this if we persist. I will try I give her at least one Breast today and as how it goes. I pray that we can do this. Thanks again for your story.

May 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGina

[...] "Have you tried to breastfeed him yet?", asked the nurse as we were resting maybe an hour or so after the birth. No, I hadn't. I was waiting for someone to tell me what to do, to explain it to me. After all, I didn't have a "plan". I was putting myself in their expert care, at least until they pushed me out the door two days later. So she explained it and I tried and it didn't work. My baby didn't latch on. Not that moment, not that day, not that week, not even that month. No, not until he was 7.5 weeks old. [...]

Just wanted to comment and say thank you. Your story was an inspiration for me. It helped me not be scared to go into the trenches and fight for a breastfeeding relationship with my baby. I am sure some folks think me a loony for going to the lengths I did, but at 3 months I am gratefully reaping the rewards of our early struggles, the exclusive pumping, the international flight to the states for a tongue tie revision... Thank you.

January 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

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