Can Anyone Breastfeed?

Take pride in giving your child your love, attention, and time. Just as everyone has muscles, but not everyone can walk, every woman has breasts, but not all can breastfeed.

baby and mother
Baby holding mothers hand - Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

It Is Not as Rare as I Had Thought.

Pam's story

My first son was born three weeks early at only 5 1/2 pounds. He nursed as much and as hard as he could but was losing weight because he wasn't getting anything.

The doctors threatened to hospitalize him if he dropped below 5 pounds. When he reached about 5 lb 2 oz, we tried formula to keep him out of the hospital. He gulped it down and started gaining weight right away, so I knew that was the solution for him.

I cried and felt like a miserable failure as a mother because, really, who can't breastfeed?

All the lactation information I could find just said to keep trying and that anyone can breastfeed. Also, my breasts are large - I wear a G-cup bra - and I thought they should be able to feed several babies. My sister, who has small breasts, could feed her baby without a problem.

My second son was full-term and larger, so I was determined to try harder this time, thinking that I just gave up too soon the first time. We virtually stayed in the recliner with him, nursing till he fell asleep from exhaustion, and then he would wake up hungry again a few minutes later.

Again, I finally gave up and went to formula. Both are now healthy young men, and I know I made the right choice, as hard and crushing as it was for me. My mother told me once that one of her sisters, my aunt, had the same problem, so it is not as rare as I had thought. It's never something the doctors or anyone else ever tell you could happen.

It's Time to Forgive Myself

Alexandra's story

I'm so happy to have found this site. A year after having my son, it still hurts to know I was unable to breastfeed.

I cringe whenever I hear or read something negative about moms who don't breastfeed. I wish there were more articles or research on this issue. This website feels like a huge sigh of relief. As mothers, we should support each other.

We All feel insecure in our role as mothers at some point. Anyone who picks on a mom who is unable to breastfeed is just trying to ease their insecurities. Before becoming a mother, I had many expectations about what it was all about (It was something like perfection.) And you know what? Like everything else, it's full of ups and downs.

It's time to forgive myself for the things I can't change. :) love and healing to everyone out there.

mother and baby playing, playing mom and baby
Mother holding baby up in the air - Image by Neil Dodhia from Pixabay

Some Women Can't Produce Milk.

Denise's story

I had eight children, and I never produced one ounce of milk. With my first baby, the doctor looked at me like I was a freak because no matter what they gave me, my body didn't produce milk.

So when I had my second baby, I had put in my file that I couldn't breastfeed for medical conditions. That took away the rude people telling me how bad a mother I was for bottle-feeding my baby.

My poor daughter, when she had her son, was reduced to tears when she didn't produce any milk either. She had my support and the support of her sister. It seems in our family, from history, at least one daughter will not be able to breastfeed.

I hope radical breastfeeding people will learn to understand that some women can't produce milk. It doesn't matter where the milk comes from. Just love your children.

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The Medical Community Is in Complete Denial

Stephanie's story

As someone with a Master's degree in child development and whose entire extended family is in the medical field, I still feel guilty about being unable to breastfeed.

When my son (now three years) was born, I bought the $300 pump, all the nursing clothes, and accessories, and was utterly shocked when I never produced milk.

It became the hourly phone call - has your milk come in...No? I even tried two different lactation consultants and herbal supplements - nothing worked. It was only then that my mom (an RN) told me that neither she nor my grandmothers could produce milk.

When my daughter was born, I was determined to try even harder with additional support from lactation consultants, extra herbs, and more equipment (SNS, hospital pump, etc.). It was interesting to see the lactation consultants start with the mantra "everyone can nurse" and then slowly recommend more and more formula as my daughter became utterly dehydrated.

The most I could ever pump in a day was two oz. My daughter nursing to the point that she was sucking blood (then spitting it up, resulting in me rushing her to the ER). With a 5-month-old infant, I still receive looks/judgment from co-workers, family, and others for not nursing.

It also makes me extremely scared/thankful. What if there was no formula? I have uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries. Would I have just had a string of starved babies?

Again, it seems as if the medical community is in complete denial over the fact that some women are just unable to produce milk. This should be treated compassionately, just like any other medical condition.

Uneducated, Insensitive, and Discriminatory

Dora's story

I won't go into my failing to breastfeed Saga, but to say it is similar to most I've read here.

At the time, I felt so sad and guilty. Now I have some perspective. My two-year-old daughter is thriving in every sense of the word and has bonded to me like superglue, and I realize that of all setbacks a child might face, being formula-fed is a minor one.

But there was no one to tell me that - when my hungry baby and I cried our eyes out at each breastfeeding attempt.

I'm entirely on board with the pro-breastfeeding campaign, but it goes too far when it makes mothers who can't breastfeed feel inadequate and judged.

One mom admitted that when she sees another mom pull out formula, she assumes she is lazy or uneducated. This type of thinking is itself ignorant, insensitive, and discriminatory. The militant Go-Breastfeeding movement has got to develop a shred of sensitivity to the myriad situations that can preclude breastfeeding (physical inability, adoption, HIV, etc.)...or they become a lot like the pro-formula propaganda machines of yesteryear in some disturbing ways.

If you need breastfeeding support, please contact a breastfeeding helpline in your country.

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