When Breast Isn’t Best


I swear, the moment I announced I was pregnant, people started asking about how I planned to feed my baby. I heard “breast is best” from my friends, family, my OB, a random women in the grocery store. Being a first time mom, I took that to heart and knew pretty early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to breastfeed my son.

My son was born a few months later via c-section at 9 pounds, 1 ounce. In the nursery, his blood sugars tested low, so he was given an ounce of formula before I was even out of surgery. Once I was in the recovery room, my son was brought to me, and we attempted to breastfeed. Unfortunately his blood sugars would not stabilize, so he was put on an IV of sugar water to keep his levels up. I was pumping and feeding him any colostrum I could get by syringe, as well as feeding him formula every 3 hours.

3 a.m. colostrum feeds by syringe

Over the course of a 4 day hospital stay, his levels started stabilizing, and we were able to go home with instructions to continue feeding him formula and breastfeeding until his one week check up. At his one week appointment, he was deemed stable, and we were told to stop feeding him formula.

I was determined to make breastfeeding work for us. We went through a bumpy first week, but we eventually got the hang of it. He was eating well, sleeping well, and we were in a good rhythm. I settled in for what I thought was going to be an easy breastfeeding journey.

Jokes on me.

Around 2 months old, my son started waking up every hour or so wanting to eat. He was gaining what I thought was an appropriate amount of weight, so I just thought his increased hunger was a growth spurt, and I powered through, even though I was exhausted.

Around 3.5 months I had to bring my son into the doctor, and when he was weighed, I noticed he had dropped pretty significantly in his growth percentile from the 92nd percentile at birth, to the 7th. I brought up my concerns about his weight and his frequent nightly wakeups, and the doctor brushed them off. I brought it up again at his 4 month appointment, and originally the doctor didn’t seem concerned, but when I said that he had fallen to the 2nd percentile, she suddenly got worried and suggested formula.

I went home, did some research, which included reaching out to a lactation consultant, and ultimately concluded that I was not producing enough breastmilk to sustain my son. I was devastated. After infertility and a failed vaginal birth, not being able to breastfeed felt like just another way my body had failed me.

After allowing myself to mourn, we began a breastfeeding/formula combo that worked out really well for us. He got three bottles a day and breastfed the rest of the time. He gained over a pound in just two weeks, and we started getting better sleep overnight, which we both desperately needed. At 6 months we added solids and he started growing like a weed.

At 7 months I stopped breastfeeding all together. My son was more frustrated than comforted at the breast because I was hardly producing anything. He was thriving with formula and solids, and I knew my mental health would be better without the constant worry about my milk production.

Deciding to stop breastfeeding came with a lot of guilt. I felt like if I just tried a bit harder, or took the right supplement, or increased my pumping schedule, it may have worked out. At the time I didn’t now anyone who chose not to breastfeed, so I felt a lot of shame around pulling out a bottle of formula. Thankfully I found friends who didn’t breastfeed for a variety of reasons and that helped me gain confidence in my decision.

Now, my son is almost 9 years old and he is thriving. He is no different than his friends who were exclusively breastfed or exclusively formula fed. While I am thankful for my breastfeeding journey, I can also look back and see how it severely impacted my mental health. If I could go back and give my sleep deprived self a hug, I would tell her that ultimately, fed is best, whatever that looks like for us.