When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work

In doula training, we learn all about the benefits of breastfeeding. We have a skilled lactation counselor on staff. We teach about all the great things we can use breastmilk for and all the benefits to not only baby, but also the feeding parent.

However, no one ever talks about the struggle. The breastfeeding struggle is real. Sure, it’s natural.. but that doesn’t mean it comes easily. There are lip and tongue ties, recessed chins, mandible issues, flat or inverted nipples, high palates, extra blood loss at birth that delays supply, and much much more that can complicate breastfeeding.

I’m here to tell you that I see you, I hear you. Sure, I’m going to try my best to help you nurse, if that’s what you choose. I’m going to refer you to someone more skilled than I when it’s needed. I’m going to give you all the tools and resources that I have available.

But if you decide that you can’t.. I’m not going to judge you. I’m going to meet you where you’re at, I’m going to let you own your decision and support you in it.


Because I’ve felt that way, too.

With my first, I didn’t try to breastfeed. I was a teen mom with exactly zero support. I had none of the information and no one to help me.

With my second, we had lip and tongue ties + a serious mandible issue. I couldn’t get him to latch. I wanted it so badly, so I sought out revision for his ties. Finally, I wasn’t in pain. Then, at his 4 month appointment, we discovered that he wasn’t gaining weight- he was losing. We kept nursing. Skin to skin, all day every day. Nursing nonstop. Still no weight gain. Twice a week weight checks. An evaluation by Early Childhood Intervention. Barium swallow study. Breastmilk caloric content and fat content testing. GI Specialist appointment once a week. Failure to thrive diagnosis.

Finally, our speech pathologist that was helping us with suck training, suggested that it may be his mandible. We adjusted position (Dancer Hold) and FINALLY had a successful nursing session with adequate milk transfer. I was never able to get my supply up to a point that it could be his sole source of nutrition. He continued nursing for comfort, but his ultimate source of food was from incredible moms who donated to us in addition to feeding their own babies. We once drive 10 hours to pick up 5,000 ounces of milk for him.

I went on to successfully breastfeed my next two babies. I had incredible support and had armed myself with all the information available.

I tell you all of this to let you know that yes, breastmilk is the ideal way to feed a baby. We know, thanks to extensive research, that breastmilk is the best we can offer our babies and ourselves. But I absolutely acknowledge that Fed is what they need for survival, regardless of how that happens. Donated breastmilk, milk from your breast in a bottle, directly from the breast, or formula.

Making the decision to not breastfeed is hard and can feel devastating. We’re happy to walk alongside you, to help you research all the options and to hold your hand when things feel impossible. We are happy to see you every single day to assist with latch and evaluate suck patterns, if that’s what you need. But if you ever come to the conclusion that breastfeeding isn’t best for YOU because you need to just be and not compromise your sanity in the name of breast is best, we’re going to support you through that. No judgment.

I hear you. I see you. You aren’t failing.


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