Breastfeeding & Why Some People Just Can't Hack It (Including Me)

This is hard for me to write. I'm usually the 'I don't care what other people think' type of person, but I feel like I've let myself down too this time. Which makes this particular situation even worse, because it's not just about me.

I have five kids. With each one, my goal was to breastfeed for at least a year. I love everything about the concept of breastfeeding. The bonding, the not having to get up in the middle of the night to make bottles, the benefits for mom and baby, donating milk to others, toddler nursing ... all of it. I can easily tell other nursing moms what to do to help with their breastfeeding issues. But for some reason, when it comes to me nursing, it's a different story.

For various reasons, my breastfeeding goal of at least one year didn't get met with my first four kids. So when I had Lily, knowing that she was going to be my last, the pressure was on. I was really excited because everything started off great. She was a great eater and didn't have any issues latching on, and I didn't have any supply issues. It felt like this time, the goal would be easy to meet and I was happy about it. 

Fast forward to a little over a month ago. She was almost 4 months old. It started with not wanting to nurse on the left side, and progressed to not wanting to nurse at all. When I finally got her latched on, if I so much as took a deep breath, it was over. If someone came in the room and started talking, it was over. Everything I read said it was a phase and might last a week or so. But it was so frustrating, knowing that she was screaming all the time because she was hungry, but not being able to get her to eat. I toughed it out for about a couple of weeks, but by that time, I was at my wits' end. I dreaded her waking up and the fight starting all over again. I wasn't enjoying taking care of her, she wasn't happy when she was awake, and the frustration was starting to take its toll. I dreaded being around my daughter. 

More from The Stir: 12 Most Common Breastfeeding Hurdles & How to Overcome Them

I had a sample can of formula in the cabinet, and Arick suggested we give her a bottle. I was hesitant, but I was just so frustrated, so I did it. She drank it like she'd been starving for days. When she was done drinking it, she was happy. She was smiling and cooing. I was smiling back at her. I WAS SMILING BACK AT HER. That hadn't happened in weeks. 

Happy Lily
I started reanalyzing things. I didn't want to quit breastfeeding, but I realized that by both of us being so frustrated, I was robbing us both of a great bonding experience. I decided right then and there that I had a new goal: To do what made us both happy. I realized that she didn't care if I breastfed for a year, but she certainly did care about feeling hungry all the time and feeling like she wasn't being taken care of. I realized that I didn't even know why I set that goal of a year to begin with. And I realized that the stupid goal just made me more frustrated when nursing problems started coming up. 

More from The Stir: Breastfeeding a Toddler -- That's So Not My Plan

So I suppose my message to those that read this is to not have expectations about breastfeeding. Don't expect that you'll be able to nurse for a certain amount of time. Don't expect that your baby will just latch on and suckle happily ever after. Don't expect everything to work out just right. And don't feel like you are letting anyone down if you decide to quit nursing. The best you can do is try, and don't beat yourself up if it just doesn't work for you and your baby. And to those that can hack it, kudos to you. It's hard work, and you should be commended for it.

Check out these cute pics of breastfeeding moms who can hack it.

Did you have a hard time breastfeeding?


Images via Arya Claire Viol; Heather Reese 

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Torra... TorranceMom

Absolutely!!!  Both my kids took between 2-3 months to get the hang of breastfeeding and I even had two surgical procedures (on the same nipple) while I was nursing my daughter.  It was a struggle but like many things in life, it was a phase and it passed.  My son ended up nursing for 3+ years and my daughter is approaching the 3 1/2 year mark this September.  

Gypsy... GypsyMa76

Excellent advice!


iicar... iicarmerin

I loved this. I believe in doing what feels right and what is right. The best thing you can do is what makes your baby happy because that will make you happy and better able to take care of baby.

nonmember avatar Mommadeeder

I had a similar experience with my now 2yo. Once he started on formula, his demeanor changed almost immediately!

nonmember avatar Laura Williams

This is what I'm going through now. My daughter is a little over 4 months, but it's even more frustrating because she doesn't like to take a bottle. I have extra pumped since she goes to daycare. I've tried lots of things and I have thyroid problems on top of it. But I keep thinking at some point I might stop, even though I really wanted to make it to a year as well.

Buffy... Buffymom9

Sometimes psychology gets in the way of biology.

nonmember avatar Anna

I agree! I am very much for breastfeeding. I nursed my son until he was two. That being said, I know it doesn't work out for everyone and I don't think anyone should feel guilty about that. Breastfeeding is hard for so many reasons. There is a lot of things to feel guilty about as a mom, many of them self-inflicted. I would love if we could be more encouraging and supportive of one another in general. I'm tired of mommy wars! I don't think our culture really does much to support parents' the least we can do is stick up for each other.

Em Chappell-Root

Breast feeding was AGONY for me, all 4 times, like seriously, sit down and cry, want to just die pain. So I exclusively pumped instead, and I was AWESOME at it. I was a freaking Dairy Cow, putting out better than a gallon every two days. I was happy, my kids were fat and happy, my husband was happy, it was a complete win for me. So I totally believe in doing what's best for you, and screw everyone else and any preconceived notions you have about the issue. 

Rebecca Plusa

Very well written. I'm a little different...I had hoped to make it 6 months (I really hated pumping at work which has gotten better now!!), and now I'm considering to at least breastfeed 1 year minimum!

Mom2S... Mom2Selena

I sometimes feel like a failure because when my daughter was born she would not latch on. I tried pumping but I couldn't pump enough fast enough. I do feel like I let her down

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