Finding Success Through Breastfeeding Difficulties


When moms talk about successful breastfeeding, they usually talk about making it to six months, a year or even two (or beyond). But what if I told you that I felt victorious after nourishing my second-born with half-formula and half-breastmilk bottles for just his first month of life?

The fact that I managed to last that long was a personal achievement for me. It sure wasn’t what I had pictured or wanted, but it was a huge improvement over my first experience with breastfeeding.

Just the fact that I feel good and empowered enough to say that it was a success is a feat in its own. I am proud of it, and I hope you are proud of me too.

Evan and I rock together after a nursing session during his first week of life. He is attached to a bilirubin light to reduce his jaundice.
Evan and I rock together after a nursing session during his first week of life. He is attached to a bilirubin light to reduce his jaundice.

When my daughter was born four years ago, I did not have any colostrum until the third day of her life. I had a normal, healthy pregnancy and an intervention-free childbirth, but I had not experienced much breast growth. I never outgrew my bras; my breasts maybe grew half a cup size.

My inability to breastfeed at the get-go, combined with total birth shock of becoming a mother, put me in a tailspin that I was unable to rise out of until Penelope turned one. I sought help from a mental health counselor, and we talked about my feelings of inadequacy and guilt over not living up to my dreams and expectations of what mothering looked like. It was a cruel way to introduce myself to motherhood. I was so happy to bid goodbye to mixing formula every day.

So, when Evan was growing within me, I took action with the help of a lactation consultant. I took a tincture to stimulate breast growth, which helped tremendously. And as my due date approached, I started taking goat’s rue. Lo and behold, when he was born, I had colostrum right away, just like most moms. I was ecstatic.

But then he had breastfeeding jaundice and went days without pooping. That meconium just didn’t want to come out, and that didn’t help his bilirubin levels. The bili blanket we had at home was his saving grace. Evan lost more weight than we were comfortable with, and I was starting to feel myself go down the long, dark road of postpartum depression again.

There were also conflicting opinions among lactation consultants and medical professionals as to whether he had a tongue and lip tie. I hadn’t gotten him circumcised, and I wasn’t keen on putting him through such a medical procedure anyway.

Once I made the decision to make my ego step aside and let go of my dream of exclusive breastfeeding, it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I knew that my family needed a mama who was happy with herself in order to take care of her family. And now that I am almost exactly one year removed from my last breastfeeding experience, I know I made the right decision.

One of Evan's last bottles during his 11th month.
One of Evan’s last bottles during his 11th month.

I pumped as often as I could, the little breastmilk that I was able to get, and gave it to Evan until he was a month old. His gut was colonized by my healthy breastmilk bacteria, and that was enough for me. He is such a smiley, happy little boy who adores his beautiful and intelligent older sister. How is that for a breastfeeding success?

To the mamas who have walked in my shoes, I salute you and honor you. What did your breastfeeding journey look like?