Breastfeeding: Where dreams go to die

I probably sound like I'm being dramatic.

I probably am.

Breastfeeding is really, really hard - in case you missed that memo, which I did, each time I gave birth apparently.

All joking aside, my battle with breastfeeding has been a bitter rivalry over the years. It's something I avoid talking about with people at all cost because I feel like an absolute failure when it comes to being able to physically provide nourishment for my children.

Pearyn at one month old
Part of it is because I'm surrounded by these amazing women who seem to have very few struggles when it comes to breastfeeding. Their children latch with ease, digest like pros and the moms lactate enough to feed not only their child, but mine, yours and maybe a few other people's kids as well.

The other part is because I'm a perfectionist. I'm hard on myself, sometimes when there's not even a need to be. So when I made my mind up about breast being best (for my kids anyway) I didn't bother to think about the ups and downs we might come across on the way.

I didn't plan for what might happen if breastfeeding DIDN'T work out. (Thankfully, other moms do, which is why milk banks have become a much more viable option than simply switching to formula).

Disclaimer: It's true. There are very few reasons why breastfeeding doesn't truly work out (speaking in physical terms). Many women who blame it on a low milk supply or the child not latching right probably didn't investigate every last avenue they could to make breastfeeding a success. To some of the die-hard breastfeeding moms and lactation consultants out there it means these moms didn't try hard enough, didn't want to put forth the effort to make breastfeeding work.

To these people, I say "big whoopie."

Sometimes, it's not a positive experience. And while motherhood certainly isn't sunshine and rainbows all the time, feeding your baby shouldn't be a constant battle to not fall into a depression. Sometimes, it's 3 a.m. and you're nursing your monster baby for the third cluster feeding in a row, your nipples aren't just sore, but cracked and bleeding and your back aches from cradling a child and holding them to your breast (not to mention holding up said breasts).

Sometimes, breastfeeding just doesn't work.

Sometimes, it's the difference between baby blues and full-blown momma trauma.

That doesn't make them any less human, any less a mother or any less a woman.

In my eyes, it makes them rational.

To be honest, if it weren't for our vegan lifestyle, I can't say I would be as hard on myself about breastfeeding as I am. Because breastfeeding is the one real option for vegan moms it can make it more of a chore, more ominous than just an "option" for other mothers. (And don't even start arguing with me about humans being mammals and breastmilk not being vegan. Human breastmilk is designed for human babies like cows milk is designed for calves. Period. End story).

After months of watching our daughter struggle to poop, struggle to put on more weight, struggle to be even remotely happy, we learned she had an issue digesting the lactose my body produced. I put her through months of uncomfortable eating and feedings because I allowed myself to be so convinced "breast was best" that it overshadowed my motherly instincts.

It was one of the hardest things I occurred in early motherhood; knowing not only that I had been making my daughter sick, but that I continued to do so despite a nagging sensation in my gut that something wasn't right. Eventually we found a schedule and routine that worked for us, one that she flourished on. But it took us a longer time to get there because I refused to compromise my thoughts on what was supposed to be the best thing for our daughter.

It frustrates the hell out of me. How can something that is touted as being so natural, so wonderful, so good for baby and such a fabulous bonding session often leave me ready to pull my hair out? What are we supposed to bond over? Our desire to BOTH scream because he has to fart and I'm just a walking disaster? Not the kind of bonding I'm looking for this early on.

Does anyone else find it ironic that throughout all this evolution garbage we've basically grown out of the need for our appendix, wisdom teeth and extra ear muscles, but in 2013 we STILL can't give birth to a baby that can digest freaking milk from it's mom?

Face palm, face palm, face palm.

Braeburn is a nursing champ. His latch is strong and fast, like my friend Sharon said "he took to the boob like a man." He gains weight, he snuffed jaundice concerns in two days and in just a week is almost back to his birth weight (quite the accomplishment for a baby of his hefty size).

But he screams. He rives in pain some nights, wailing as he passes gas.

I'm assured that this is normal. That his system needs time to adjust and we shouldn't start panicking just yet. But I can't stop the worry. I can't stop the feeling that it's my fault he's in pain. I can't help but start to feel as lost and as helpless as I did when first going through this with Pearyn.

We're going to wait it out.

For now.

And until the day his system "matures," I'm going to be gritting my teeth along with my little guy. And in the event that day doesn't come and we have to explore other avenues, I'm not going to beat myself up this time. Instead, I'm going to recognize that I'm being the best mother I can, even if that means my breast isn't best.


  1. A Polish woman I know says it is common to drink fennel tea to relieve nursing babies of gas. Hylands also makes colic tablets that are homeopathic. There is also gripe water by a couple of companies. Check with your health food store. Good luck!

  2. Thank you, I had no idea fennel tea could help with gas, I've heard of using it for milk supply, I'm def. going to have to give this a try! We've tried the gas drops and haven't had much luck yet, but I don't have any plans to give up on finding something to make him more comfortable.

  3. Thanks so much for posting about your experiences! It gives me hope that when my little one comes I can say "No, this is normal, don't freak out" and try not to be so hard on myself. Everyone talks about the beauty of motherhood but rarely mentions such obstacles. Hearing stories about some challenges of mommyhood really helps when you're scared to death that everything you do and don't do could be causing issue with your child. That's a lot of pressure and hearing other moms say "hey, it isn't easy and takes some work" really relieves the perfect new mommy pressures. I hope all works out with baby B!

  4. Thank you for expressing the frustrations that so many women experience. The "breast is best" comment really irratates me, how can someone else judge what is best for your baby? Every child and mother are different and every situation varies. Nolan was the same as baby B. I put so much pressure on myself and really was upset that he couldn't handle what I was feeding him. I eliminated everything from my diet and he still would scream in pain. It is a battle and I hope you are able to overcome it! Good luck!

  5. Thank you for this honest post. I too am struggling with breastfeeding, though from different reasons. When every book I've read and every class I've taken makes breastfeeding looks so easy and natural, it's difficult not to feel I'm such a failure when facing obstacles. I beat myself up. Although I've seen a little bit of improvement, things didn't tun out the way the lactation consultants said they would. I cried so many times. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone and I'm doing the best I can. I hope your situation will become better, though. good luck :)

  6. The gas drops never helped my sons. Try gripe water from the health food store. Or hylands colic tablets. I've also read that infant probiotics can help.

  7. All 4 of my children had colic but at around 10 weeks it was gone. They spent a hell of alot of time in a moby or on a boob. It is so stressful. Do your best, that's all you can do.

  8. How did you determine that your daughter could not digest the lactose in your breast milk? Once you determined that, what did you do?

    1. Our doctor ran a few tests and determined it based on her reactions. She either went weeks without having a bowel movement or would have blood and mucus in her stool, it was terrible. We ended up using an organic soy formula, while not 100% vegan (the vitamin d may possibly be sourced from lanolin) for about three months and then at nine months she pretty much rejected any bottle and switched to coconut milk and solid foods (with the approval and supervision of our daughter). It was a difficult decision with conflicting feelings (how could a formula be better than breast), but in the end we have a healthy little girl and have tried to live as compassionate a life as humanly possible with her ailments.