Mom Reveals Feeling Like a 'Piece of Sh*t' After Breastfeeding Almost Killed Her Baby

After giving birth to her first baby, Mandy Dukovan was determined to breastfeed. However, what she wasn't prepared for was just how difficult this journey would be for her and her son, Brock -- or that it would leave him literally starving. Luckily Dukovan came to realize that her baby was cluster feeding without taking in nearly enough breast milk and that he was failing to thrive because of her reluctance to supplement with formula. She decided to share her story to hopefully empower other moms, but she ended up being dragged online by judgmental parents who don't understand the importance or bravery it took for her to speak out.  

  • Dukovan originally shared her story in a 2017 blog post for Fed Is Best, explaining how a breastfeeding mom can unknowingly be starving her newborn.

    She shared that Brock was born weighing 6 pounds, 5 oz, and lost 10 percent of his birth weight by the time they were discharged from the hospital. By the end of the first month, Brock had only gained half an ounce, so Dukovan went to a lactation consultant, who realized this wasn't normal. She found that after an hour of nursing, Brock had only eaten 20 ml. Dukovan immediately started a pumping and supplementation schedule, and in that first week, he gained two pounds. 

    "'Wow! He must have been hungry,'" Dukovan recalled the nurse responding. "He wasn't just hungry, he was starving!" 

    Brock would scream whenever he had breast milk; she thought it might be related to the dairy in her diet (which she tried to cut out) or his potential acid reflux (which it turned out he didn't have). Eventually, Dukovan decided to talk to her doctor about exclusively formula feeding. "'You've tried harder than 99 percent of the moms I've worked with to make breastfeeding work, and it's totally OK if you stop and exclusively formula feed,'" Dukovan recalled her doctor saying.

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  • Brock doubled his weight within 6 months and Dukovan posted her story online to help other moms.

    "I am so thankful my baby is now thriving and feel it is extremely important for other moms to understand that if your baby is not gaining weight, it is critical to figure out why and not assume everything is normal, no matter what popular breastfeeding mom groups on Facebook might say!" she wrote.

    More from CafeMom: Mom Shares Tragic Warning After Breastfed Newborn Dies of Starvation

  • Of course, Dukovan was immediately slammed for it.

    At the time, Dukovan was already feeling extremely angry at herself for ignoring her own instincts that something was wrong, and equally pissed at those who pressured her into believing that it would be a failure if she had to supplement with formula. "I got to a point where I dreaded even trying to breastfeed him, but I was told that was the best thing I could do for my baby, so I kept going, at the expense of my baby's health and my well-being," she wrote in a recent post for Fed Is Best.

    But the reaction to her opening up about this serious struggle was brutal. Although Dukovan tells CafeMom that many women sent messages thanking her for her bravery and sharing the words that struggling moms "desperately needed to hear," others trolled her for her honesty.

  • A year later, she wants people to know not only what the shamers said, but also the impact it can have on new moms.

    Mandy Dukovan

    "[The criticism] was mostly about how I must be a complete idiot for not seeing my baby was hungry and that I was a piece of sh*t mom because I didn't see," she says. "One woman said, 'the mother should kill herself.' I did read a few comments that said that babies who couldn't breastfeed were natural selection's way of weeding out the weak babies. I think the most hurtful things [said] were that I didn't deserve to be a mother."

  • In this past year, Dukovan has dealt with grief, denial, shock, guilt, and anger.

    "I felt like the world's worst mom as it was, but I had the internet confirming these thoughts," she wrote. "How could I have not known my baby was starving, because, 'Any idiot can see that baby is starving'? Why did I not listen to my mommy instincts? .... I was angry at myself for starving my baby. I was angry at his doctor. I was angry that no one told me my baby looked sick. I was angry that people were judging me so harshly without knowing me or my situation."

    More from CafeMom: Why This Mom Doesn't Think It's 'Lucky' That She's Still Breastfeeding

  • Now, she and her healthy baby are moving forward to help other moms, in spite of the sanctimommies.

    "I know there is nothing I can do to change the past," she wrote. "I can't go back and give my baby formula from the very beginning. I can only look to the future and move forward. I can only use my experience and my voice to ensure that all babies are properly fed."

    And despite what you may hear, Dukovan wants women to realize that formula-fed or supplemented babies aren't less than. "Sometimes breast isn't what's best for baby and/or mom and that's OK," she tells CafeMom. "Your worth as a mother is not determined by how you fed your baby. I thought that the only way I should properly bond with my baby was if I breastfed him, and it wasn't until I stopped breastfeeding that I truly felt I bonded with him. I didn't have the stress of breastfeeding and I could just relax and enjoy looking into his eyes and signing to him or talking to him."

  • And after a year of watching her boy thrive, she knows now more than ever that women need each other's support.

    Brock is now 19 months old, and Dukovan hasn't forgotten about his start -- so she's being the voice for women who are afraid to speak up. "Trust your instincts and if something seems off, contact your pediatrician, not Google or Facebook or even your friends and family," she continues. "Go to your doctor with your concerns, and if you feel as if the doctor is dismissing your concerns and you don't feel heard, find a doctor who will listen and will take your concerns seriously."