Why I am not exclusively breastfeeding – confessions of a nutritionist mum

with 56 Comments

This blog has been quite hard for me to write and taken me a few drafts! I sincerely hope that it helps another mum out there feel at peace with their own choice of how they feed their baby.

My First Experience

This story really starts with my experience breastfeeding my first son (now aged 2). As a nutritionist and lecturer prior to having children I taught the importance of breast-feeding. I KNEW how important it was – but I had no idea just HOW HARD it could be.

I thought I was prepared. I read books, practiced with balloons in antenatal class, but in reality I had absolutely no clue. By the middle of the second night after my first son was born, I already had raw painful nipples. My milk did come in but every feed was painful and getting worse, especially on my left side.

I tried every cream on the market, every breast-feeding position, even my midwife struggled, we just could not get him to latch properly. I was feeding semi-ok on the right side so why could I not get the left side? I remember thinking “how can I be teaching the importance of breastfeeding and then use formula? I am a woman and have boobs – the very purpose of my being – and I could not use them?” I had to just ‘keep trying’.

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Breastfeeding our first son in the early days, the pjs and exhaustion on my face say it all.

Mastitis

Day by day my nipples got worse, cracked, raw and in the end I was bleeding with every feed. I was literally feeding my son blood and it would take me at least 10 goes to latch him each time. I would lock myself in the bedroom and scream in pain to do this and my poor husband would stand outside the door helpless. My life was a blur of painful long feeds. I was doing a bit of expressing…just to stretch out gaps between feeds, to try and let the left nipple heal….but this reduced my rest time even more, especially at night. As I could not heal my nipple I got sever mastitis. It was horrendous, I would wake several times in the night (aside from feeding!) drenched in sweat from my body fighting the infection. The worst part was the only way this would clear, was to keep breast feeding.

Rock Bottom

It was somewhere around when my son was 3 weeks old. On this particular night I had not slept. Somehow between feeds and expressing sleep never came. In the early morning I had to feed (again) but I was out. I was at rock bottom. I recall looking at my husband just not able to face yet another excruciating latch and very calmly, I placed our son on the couch and said “I cannot do this, I cannot feed him, I do not want to feed him”. My husband just looked at me (lord knows what he saw) took our son and rang my best friend, who raced over.

For me when I look back at THAT moment I shudder and feel sick with guilt. It was the detachment, the lack of bond between myself and my son. The fog of post-natal depression was knocking at my door. I was beyond exhausted and feeling like a complete failure, as a mum, as a woman, and a shadow of my former self.

Life-Saving Help

My mastitis was so bad that I only narrowly missed having surgery to remove the lump in my breast. In desperation we called a private lactation consultant who manually drained my breast (yes it was excruciating).To avoid surgery, I had to keep breastfeeding and we had to manually drain my left breast after every feed for three days – bless my husband, he did this every feed even through the night – nothing brings you closer as a couple then milking your wife I can tell you! – but this is what pulled me through. My best friend would also sit with me during feeds just to help support me and some-how the pain was never as bad when she was there. If it was not for the help and love from my husband, my mother in law and best friend – post natal depression would have engulfed me.

Lack of Bonding

I never got the bond with feeding my son, I never enjoyed breastfeeding, even once I had mastered it. I returned to work part-time at 12 weeks. This was my choice and something which also helped save me from post-natal depression. However, we had another fight on our hands. Firstly our son had to take a bottle and I dutifully expressed my breast milk, which took a substantial physical toll on me as well. Eventually at 7 months my supply ran dry and it was my doctor who suggested that I needed to switch to formula. A decision which I struggled with, but ultimately had no choice. If I am completely honest there was a huge part of me that was secretly relieved my fight was over.

My Second Experience

Fast-track to the birth of my second son. I was already apprehensive about feeding, given my traumatic experience of my first. It seemed that things maybe different – he latched really well had a great long first feed. However, by the second night we were already back to non-stop painful feeding. But I was NOT going to go through what I did with our first son. Not even for one feed did I want to look at our son and see pain and not enjoy him. Yes I am a nutritionist. I know inside and out the benefits of breastfeeding but my son needs ME – his mum. Above all else he needs my love and I did not want to sacrifice that precious bond.

Expressing

I was still prepared to fight as best as I could. So with the support of our birthing center we started expressing on my left side while feeding on the right. I knew though that this is also not an easy choice. Expressing is NOT like it is advertised in glossy magazines. Happy, glowing mums with smiling content babies and magical pumps. What you do not see is the exhaustion of expressing. Time oh what is time? When you have the choice to sleep, shower, eat…. having to pump instead takes its toll.

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Keeping well organised

Expressing is also stressful – what happens when you express and your child wakes up or is still hungry? Is the milk ok, how long has it been in the fridge for? Has some been defrosted?. Add this stress to a screaming hungry baby and your own wits frayed with sleep deprivation it is a lethal combination. With my first son I was too afraid to top up with formula and so this stress was part of every day life. But this time around I was more accepting to using formula. It is not the root of all evil. I knew that expressing while establishing feeding may result in my supply may not always be there. If using a bit of formula means my hungry new born child is feed – so be it.

Little Goals

The plan has been to breast feed on my right, express on my left and top up with formula when I was completely out. To make things manageable I made little goals. My first goal was for my son to have colostrum. I made that. Then it was to get to 2 weeks, then 4 weeks, now at 8 weeks I am actually very proud. I did not even think I would get to day three. My next (and final) goal is 12 weeks but already that may change, I am finding the physical and mental exhaustion of expressing is taking its toll and my milk supply is starting to drop and drop fast. I am fighting a losing battle with it and needing to use formula for most of my feeds. I have over pumped and stored milk in the freezer in the event that this would happen so that my son could at least get one breast-feed a day for as long as possible after my own supply stops.

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Expressed breastmilk in among the frozen vegies!

Social Stigma

It does amaze me that in 2015 there is such a social stigma around bottle feeding and formula. When we were at the birthing centre, my husband was feeding our son (about four days old) a bottle of my expressed milk while I slept. Sleep is like a drug to a mum with a new born baby and you do almost anything to get it. Another mum walked past my husband and said “oh he’s already on the bottle, that is far too young!”. She had no idea of our situation, circumstances or the fact it was actually my expressed milk. I am glad I was not there to hear this at the time.

Getting feed by dad (4-days old)
Getting feed by dad (4-days old)

Through my work and research I see children consume all manners of unhealthy, highly processed and toxic foods. Where is the judgement now? Where is the ‘vegetables are best’ signs above the lollipop stands?? Where is the legal disclaimer to sign when you give your child Coca-Cola?  (You have to sign a waiver in hospital to give your child formula). Good nutrition is a life-long habit, why is there such emphasis on the first few months and then effort and to promote and encourage good nutrition is just forgotten about?

The Best Choice

I am the first to say breast feeding is the best nutritional choice for your baby. There is compelling research to support this. However, a mother’s choice to breast feed is often not as simple as this. There may be a multitude of factors at play just like in my case. I have chosen to put my son’s needs for love, and bonding first. I have also chosen the needs of my first son, who needs a mother there for him too – if I am to be spending HOURS trying to painfully feed my new-born how are his needs meet? Am I to deprive both my children of the mum they need, when there is another option? I will let you be the judge of that .…but what-ever judgement is put on me, trust me I have tortured myself about it even more.

Enjoying the bonding of feeding (it is expressed milk here)
Enjoying the bonding of feeding
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Happy baby, happy mum

Will I ever feel ok about using formula? No.  Do I wish things could be different? Of course. This is not simply because I am a nutritionist, rather I am a mother and a mother who does want to provide the VERY best for her sons. But this is my very best and do you know what… my son is HAPPY, HEALTHY AND THRIVING, I am HAPPY and my family is HAPPY  – and for me this is the most important of all.

xxx Dr Julie Bhosale

P.S Since first publishing this blog I was interviewed live on national television  – you can view this interview here.

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Disclaimer

It is important and necessary I add a disclaimer here. I am sharing my experiences as a mother. I am not advocating either for or against formula. If you have any questions or concerns about breast feeding or formula feeding please check with your LMC or GP first.

Post-Natal Distress

The experience I went through feeding my first son, made me realise the huge difference the support I had around me. I know that there are some mums who do not have such help. For this is the reason I am now support and am on the board for the Cherish Trust (formally the Post-Natal Distress Support Network). For more information about the Cherish Trust check out our Facebook page – Cherish Trust and website http://postnataldistress.org.nz/ or phone 0800 CHERISH

 

56 Responses

  1. Sarah Alexander
    |

    Julie,
    I applaud you, as you know I had the same experience with Sanna (my first born) and I suffered glares from mothers in malls as I bottle feed my daughter (for the first 10 weeks it was expressed milk) but after that it was formula.

    I actually had a lady come up to me in a mall once and tell me that I was destroying my child and would end up costing them and the government lots of money – (NB this women was in no way shape or form the most healthy looking person I had ever seen)

    I actually lot the plot at her (a serious lack of sleep and I was over the judging stares) I wasn’t at all polite and pretty much let loose… but it felt good to let it out. An lovely older lady (in her 70s) came over and gave me a hug (after the lady turned and left I burst into tears) She said to me, your daughter is lucky that she has a mum that loves her… and wants her to feel full.

    You are an amazing women, I love this blog, you tell it how it is, you’ve been a fantastic support to me as a friend as well which I can’t express how thankful I am

    xx

    Much love you and your family xx hope to see you guys soon

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Thank you so much Sarah! You are an amazing mum too!! And a wonderful friend!! What would we do without such awesome friends??!! Can’t believe the judgement that is still out there around all this xxx

  2. Amelia
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    Oh this is so familiar.
    We had to supplement feed – so a tube between the nipple and mouth with formula – because he wasn’t getting anything out of me those first few days.
    Off and on for three months it was excruciating. Husband found me screaming on the sofa many nights. I had bruises all over both hands where I was biting them to try and not scream.
    Thankfully I didn’t get mastitis, only ductal thrush.
    And I perservered. Somehow. Honestly, looking back, it was probably part of the problem that impacted how bad my PND got. If I could do it all again? It would definitely look different. I would probably stop breastfeeding much earlier, even though, once it got really established it was lovely – until he decided he wanted to start weaning, and then it wasn’t much fun again.
    While I do have some fond memories, they are the exception. Mostly it was leaking, bleeding, pain, huge (H-cup) breasts causing back pain, awkward pillow arrangements, desperate hunger and thirst, and a wriggling infant who then threw half of it back up over me.
    I still have scarred nipples. He nearly chewed them off. The damage and scarring is still (a year after I finished feeding) impacting my physical relationship with my husband.

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Oh Amelia, I have goosebumps reading your reply 🙁 I really hope that you found some peace knowing you are not the only one out there. Big hugs xxx

  3. Julia
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    I have been under so much pressure from the plunket nurse to lose the nipple shield when feeding. ‘Its best for bubs to feed naturally’, ‘your supy will be affected’, ‘it’s the reason you get blocked ducts’

    My supply has been great, the blocked ducts are because I sleep so heavily when I finally get to and sometimes that’s with my arm pressing on my breast. Both baby and I can be as calm as anything when trying without the shield and we both end up crying and stressed. It just doesn’t work for us. So I made the decision to just keep the shield. But according to the nurse, I’ve given up.

    New mums need support, not judgement. Baby needs to be happy and loved. If I end up crying everytime I feed her, I’m not going to want to do it. I’m going to resent her, resent feeding her.

    We are doing what works for us. Thank you for helping me see that it’s the right thing to do.

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Hi Julia,

      You have not given up!! And what really is ‘giving up’ anyway!! So long as you are both happy that is honestly the most important, babies will only bond with love and happiness. I really hope you get some more sleep soon. Big hugs xxx

  4. Grace
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    Before my baby was born I was determined to breast feed, even though I knew it would be a challenge as I have inverted nipples. Once he was born I tried with nipple shields for the first week or so while also expressing from day one as my milk took a while to come in. My baby’s first feed was formula, which saddened me. He first drank from a little cup, then eventually a bottle. We were in hospital with lactation consultants visiting daily for four days simpky trying to get feeding right.

    Eventually my baby was getting about half expressed milk, half formula. I gave up on the stupid shields. My baby was all bottle fed, but the looks I got (or felt I was getting) even when bub was drinking breastmilk made me feel like a failed mother. I built my supply slowly but surely, but I never got to the point where I could totally feed my baby breastmilk. I pumped day and night, sometimes 2 hourly, for 8 months. Then I stopped as I was done, and my pumping was inhibiting my time with my child.

    I’m still really proud of myself for doing what I did and have no regrets, although next time I will be more assertive in putting a real plan in place with lactation consultants before baby arrives and maybe getting to grips with shields. I do feel a little guilty as my second child will likely get less breastmilk than the first simply as I’ll have another child to deal with as well as pumping, but what can you do?

    Breastfeeding certainly isn’t easy for everyone!

  5. rach
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    people can be ridiculous- most people I know have to do both (breastfeeding and supplementary formula) e.g.. insufficient supply, health problems for baby or mum or working mums etc etc I don’t have any problem with people doing what is best for them / their family/their baby. I just get upset at people judging other people or pushing their sometimes borderline psycho black and white opinions on people.

    At one point I thought if someone said ‘Breast is best’ one more time I was gonna slap them haha
    There is a lot of know it alls out there. But one should never assume to know someone else struggles or reasons

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Very true Rach, people are just so quick to judge without knowing the full story! thank you for taking time to comment xx

  6. kathryn
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    This is the most honest and true account of feeding I have ever read online, thank you for this!! you have probably helped numerous mums who are feeling the “mummy guilt” that so often comes with breastfeeding/formula feeding and when women feel like they have to justify how and what they feed their babies! I bet so many mums can relate to that constant excruciating pain and that dreaded feeling of not wanting to feed your baby because it’s so painful!! Awesome stuff 🙂

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Hi Kathryn, thank you for your reply!! I really hope it helps other mums, it can be such a lonely, exhausting battle and very hard to open up about – I wish it was easier for women to talk about and get help with! x

  7. Tessa
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    Well that brings it all back! Thankyou for such a honest account on the difficulties of breastfeeding!
    I too had a very traumatic breastfeeding experience with my first daughter.
    She however would not latch no matter how hard I tried. Four weeks old she got the hang of it, but still wouldnt take a full feed. Between the trying, frustration, tears, sleepless nights I expressed for every feed, night and day for three months. I saw the fabulous lactation consultants at every oportunity.
    I ended up with a HUGE abscess and at ten weeks, had surgery and three nights in hospital. One of the largest abcesses the surgeon later tells me he had seen. Lucky for me the only symptoms I had was redness and a bruised feeling lump. Safe to say that was the end of my tortureous breast feeding journey!
    Crazily enough I went back for round two, and I was petrified the same thing would happen. We managed to make it to 6 months with a few difficulties for good measure. It is the HARDEST thing I have ever done!

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Wow Tessa!! Thank you for sharing your story!! And after all that you went back for round 2 #superbravemum xx

  8. Rebecca
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    Sadly, it would seem that women just love any excuse to sit in judgment of one another and breastfeeding is just another reason to criticise, to bully, to tear down. What is wrong with us, that we would criticise a woman who is at such a vulnerable point of her life; where everything is sore, aches, out of shape, sleep deprived? Truly, there is no species that is as cruel to one another as humans! I successfully breastfed 3 babies, am pro-breastfeeding and believe in trying to get the support you need to give it your best go BUT it’s just so sad that mothers have to go through this sort of physical pain, emotional agony and self-doubt, and then have external criticism heaped on top as well. It’s hard when you are sleep deprived and in the middle of those first few weeks, but I would encourage everyone to try and step back and take a bigger picture view – your point about breastfeeding being only one aspect of life long nutrition is GREAT! Let’s get some things in perspective people! And that there are so many other factors that come into play such as the needs of other children, which are worthy of consideration in the post-birth struggle to survive. Wonderful post.

  9. lis good
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    Thanks for sharing your story 🙂 some breast milk is better than no breastmilk.
    Have you had your children checked for tongue and lip ties by someone whose expert field is this problem?
    https://www.facebook.com/NewZealandTongueTieSupportGroupResources

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Hi Lis, thank you! Yes we have, they are fine tongue tie wise for what ever reason it is just a latching/positioning thing, especially on the left side. I have still been trying to get our son on the left, on occasion, often at night to try and keep supply up and it still hurts – but not as bad as it would be if I was constantly feeding on that side, and he does not drain that side as well as my pump so clearly something just doesn’t work for what ever reason! Now my supply is basically almost gone now so won’t be long until I stop altogether. I do know tongue tie can cause a lot of problems so thank you for this link!!

  10. Marrean
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    I truly believe there is nothing wrong in bottle feeding. There is no need to justify yourself to the world. This is your baby and it is your body. I had no issues breast feeding so I did it. If I had gone through what you had, I doubt I would have done 7-8 mths as you did with Arjun. Your courage is amazing. It’s not about giving up but rather knowing what’s best for you and your family. I personally know people who have been formula fed from day one due to various reasons and they are healthy fit loving people. Please do not feel guilty about not being able to breast feed. You are still feeding your child and that is what counts.

  11. Alissa
    |

    Thank you so much for this blog post! I had a similar experience. Everything was fine for me until 9 days post-partum when my nipples were suddenly in so much pain. I had thrush, which eventually was also causing a burning pain inside of my breasts as well. Each feeding felt like I was being cut with glass the whole time and my nipples were constantly burning. At 2 weeks I was just crying constantly and hated the idea of feeding my son. I felt like the world’s worst mother. I saw a lactation consultant and two doctors, and the pain just continued to get worse. I stopped breastfeeding at 3 weeks, but around 5 weeks I started trying again. The pain was gone, but my milk was almost gone. I was able to breastfeed, pump and feed formula until 8 weeks when my milk dried up (I’m positive this is due to my doctor prescribing regular birth control pills which are known to reduce milk supply – I didn’t know this at the time). I was also very depressed and was diagnosed with post-partum depression and took medication and went to therapy. This was not the experience I wanted in those early months with my son, and I think the expectation of exclusively breastfeeding was the biggest driver of my depression. My son is 2 now and he is smart, happy and healthy.

    Your story is such a great example of how to learn from a hard experience, and how parenting is not all or nothing. Everyone needs to do their best for their specific situation. I LOVE your point about good nutrition being a life-long habit. I’ve thought about that many times.

  12. Nicole
    |

    Your story is quite something to read and it helps me to feel a lot better about the choices we made with feeding. You are amazing to have gone through all that with #1 and still try with #2. Right now our feeding problems and how they made me feel make me not even want to consider a second child let alone breastfeed again.
    We really struggled with latching issues in the early days (compounded by me having a broken hand so positioning for latching was difficult for several weeks). My supply was good but my son couldn’t stay latched long enough to feed well and would exhaust himself trying. We persevered by hand expressing to supplement with syringes for the first week but I was going insane trying to manage it all. Nightly pumping started at 1 week so my husband could do the midnight feed and I could sleep a bit longer which helped a little. I lived in a perpetual state of stress and started to dread every single feed but my husband wheedled me along a day at a time and we topped up with expressed milk when we needed to. At 6 weeks we trialed a few different formulas in order to start supplementing that way and we (very) slowly started switching out feeds (very slowly though as I felt like I had to battle my husband each time I wanted to switch out a feed as well as my own guilt). When we made it to 12 weeks with 1 formula, 1 expressed bottle and 3 breast feeds I couldn’t believe it. Now I’m staring down the barrel of 6 months and I’m still managing 1 breast feed!
    I’ve always said to people that I make no apologies for how I feed my son, it’s more important that he is fed and I am sane but in the back of my mind is the little voice that says I should have done more and I shouldn’t have hated it so much. It helps a lot to hear someone else’s story and know I’m not alone in how I’ve felt for the last 6 months. Thank you for this post – you are amazing.

  13. Sarah
    |

    What a lovely article to share Julie – breastfeeding can be so hard and very isolating. I had a very similar experience to yours and I felt guilty about it for months when I couldn’t feed my eldest daughter. Second time around I tried but moved to exclusive expressing (and formula when we need it). We are at 5 months now and I still take it day by day. If you are expressing make sure you have a hospital grade rented double pump, they are so so much better. My eldest is a healthy happy beautiful girl and I’m sure your son is too. Be kind to yourself, you sound like an amazing mother 🙂

  14. Courtney
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    I just want to say that you are amazing and not alone! Don’t let anyone make you feel any differently about yourself. Your stories are so eye opening and close to home. Couldn’t help but tear up as I’ve felt many of the feelings you’ve described feeling and been through simmilar things regarding breastfeeding. I hope anyone who reads this gets a new prospective on what breastfeeding is really like and how it is not an easy decision for us mothers to put our children on formula. I endured many painful feeds which resulted in me biting myself, pinching myself, digging my nails in to myself, doing anything I could to try take my mind off the pain in my nipples when trying to breastfeed my daughter. Also can’t forget the many tears wept from not only the pain but the feeling of failure…

    Just want to say thanks for speaking up about this matter! Being so honest! You’ve made the right choice for yourself and your son xx

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Thank you Courtney oh you bring back memories with the digging in the nails!! Your words mean so much x

  15. Amy
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    I can’t tell you how amazing it was to read this. It’s such a brave thing to publish how low you can feel when the rest of the world thinks you should only be full of elation at the tiny person you have created!
    Of course you are happy but the struggle you described, to provide the best nutrition for your baby, happens to more women than we are ever led to believe. It took me such a long time to live with the guilt ( it never completely leaves you after you give up) I felt at not being able to continue breast feeding my son! I can’t thank you enough for publishing your struggle!

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Thank you so much Amy!! And no that guilt never totally leaves you but that’s because we are mums x

  16. ctsang
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    You’re not alone. I just had my first baby in march and experienced the same thing. I was bleeding and was in so much pain. I quickly decided to no longer breastfeed my baby and switched to formula by 2nd week of her birth.
    I’m also not producing milk at all. Why stress yourself out and end up hating feeding bonding time with your baby? Forget those strangers who judge! They don’t know the real story behind us moms.

  17. jan
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    Hi Julie, Its good to know we’re not alone when we read things like this!
    I have 4 kids and 3 had so much trouble feeding. All had attachment problems from significant recessed jaws which apparently they might have grown out of at 3-4mths. reaching that milestone is not so easy. express feeding = breast refusal with my first at 6wks. colic from swallowing so much air, watching her in pain every night for hours on end with my second at 7wks. Nipple pain so intense i couldn’t go past a week with my 3rd.
    but I’m doing everything right, everything is fine lactation support ladies say.. well why am i in agony over the pain and absolutely dread feeding? not to mention a fussy unhappy baby. low milk supply … losing weight, etc. and why does everyone else have it so easy it seems?
    I study nutrition in my spare time because I love it so much, and know how important breast milk is. especially with all the new research about gut flora and long term health. It was hard to get over the guilt of giving in to formula with balancing my own mental health status as i know you can relate to.
    so blessed i am to currently be feeding at 12 weeks with my 4th (my only son – i figure a better jaw placement!). Pain free at 6 weeks, was like i won the lottery!
    we can only do the best we can in an unperfect world. lets focus on the legacy of nutrition and good health we can model and teach them from eating solids and beyond!

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Thank you Jan, can’t believe you went back 4 times!! Hope your enjoying your studies!! Love you comment “we can only do the best we can in an unperfect world” could not agree any more xx

  18. Kat
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    I’m currently mixed feeding at the moment, my son is almost a month old. When my toddler was born he had to go to the special care nursery due to birth complications. He had to have formula those first few days so when I would come down to try and breastfeed him, he would reject my breastmilk. Mind you the postnatal depression had already kicked in but I was too tired to notice. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t breastfeed him, at one stage he spat out the breast milk in defiance. I was giving him formula that time & had to make the decision whether I continue the misery or be there for my son. I chose the latter…

    Second time around, birth was good but my milk supply was slow & he wouldn’t latch on. When things were getting better then his blood sugar level dropped so we had to top him up with formula. I always offer breast milk first but he either spits it out or there isn’t enough so he ends up having formula. I’m stuck whether to continue mixed feeding or exclusively bottle feed.

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Hi Kat, sounds like you are doing a stella job! One day at a time and talk to those around you that you trust like your LMC – trust your instinct and although breast feeding is nutritionally the best choice there are sometimes other factors at play which you also need to consider xx

  19. […] with my first son. Not fighting horrendous mastitis surely will be playing a large part of that (see why I am not exclusively breastfeeding here). The other, is I am kinder to myself, I am not out trying to walk for an hour or more a day like I […]

  20. Morgan Hayes
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    I just wanted to thank you so much for your blog post. I have been struggling with expressing breast milk emotionally. I didn’t realise it was going to be as difficult and time consuming as it is. I am struggling with keeping up a supply and struggle with the idea of stopping. I want to go until 12 weeks and I am over halfway there. She is mostly formula but still gets one to three bottles of expressed milk depending on the day. I feel bad about wanting to stop but I do feel like sometimes my bond with my daughter struggles because of it. Trying to explain this to my husband is hard. And I don’t think he fully understands when I am having an emotional moment because of it. But when I read your post it has given me the strength to make it to the twelve week mark. Thank you for your words. I appreciate them more than you know.

    • Julie Bhosale
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      Hi Morgan, oh do I feel your struggle here! Expressing is so not what they show in magazines or in adds that sometimes the only time you get to yourself you spend on a darn pump! And then comes the guilt! You are so brave and strong for fighting and just remember one day at a time xx

  21. Michele Herring
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    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this incredibly encouraging experience of yours. I can’t tell you how re-assuring and helpful it is! Thanks for your honesty and positivity towards encouraging mums to be HAPPY mums of HAPPY babies!

  22. Katie
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    Just reading this whilst feeding my son (second child) and really appreciating what you have shared. My experience feeding my daughter was not at the level you experienced but she had a tongue tie and dairy allergy that meant I would build up to the pain of a feed only for her to be in pain /vomit it up and need another on quick succession. I think some of the worst days were feeding around 20 times and my poor husband suffered a lot of blue language! Luckily after lots of heartache we got tongue tie division at 8 weeks and it made a huge difference (dairy issue not picked up until 3-4 months). After day 1 with this baby and I started to feel the pain again I broke down in hospital at the thought of doing it again. Luckily the midwives were amazing and offered a top up of formula to give me a break. I felt so guilty and was a but of a wreck. We managed to get his tongue tie sorted before leaving hospital – I’m still recovering from the damage done in only three days (!) but knowing it won’t get worse is a lot on itself! I don’t know how you carried on with mastitis- it must have been hell, and I think it’s so
    Important to talk about how it makes you feel when you dread feeding your child and the emotions that causes.
    I am still wrestling with the guilt associated with formula even though I know it’s ridiculous and your words help hugely. It is so much more important to be a happy and thriving mum than a defeated milk machine!!

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Hi Katie, you are a brave, courageous mum! I do hope things have settled a bit for you? I am so glad that you have got the tongue tie sorted quickly. I don’t think we are ever meant to feel ok about using formula but sometimes we need to make a choice that puts our children and ourselves first xx

  23. Anna
    |

    Thank-you! Breast feeding with sore nipples was the worst pain I have felt in my life and thank-you for discussing how time consuming and sleep depriving expressing is – I lost the plot doing it 3 hourly through the night = no sleep = crazy crazy. I think the Breast is Best message is a reflection on ABA/La Leche League etc trying to make breast feeding culturally normal and encourage it, however women need *help* to breast feed, not judgement (just as they used to get judged for feeding in public etc). Going into it expecting a rosy bonding experience when the reality is different is not helpful. Finding out that Drs and midwives are often pretty useless with lactation doesn’t help. In Australia child health nurses are often lactation consultants (free and helpful). Getting a list of lactation consultants and some real life stories of how difficulties were resolved in antenatal classes would be helpful. There is too much emphasis on exclusively breast feeding leading to massive guilt if any formula is used – I get the supply thing but this could be taught other ways. Did you take antibiotics for the mastitis? It is not true that these end up in breast milk to the extent that you need to pump and dump – they resolved my mastitis in 24h. Thanks everyone for sharing your stories – it’s made me feel less alone, less guilty and also thankful that things seem to be getting better (currently able to feed ok off both sides and sometimes top up with one bottle of formula if I can’t stand it anymore – this is the best it’s been in 12 weeks).

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Sounds like you are doing an amazing job Anna and the way I see it, everyday with some breast milk is pretty darn good when you are up against really painful feeding – the fact you have got to 12 weeks is amazing x

  24. Cate
    |

    Wow, good on you! I had a similiar experience with my first son and will be introducing formula with this one straight away. I plan to wean completely at three months. Most of the benefits of breastfeeding are overstated and really? Stuff what other people think. Are these complete strangers gonna come over at 2 am and settle your screaming hungry baby? No? Then they can butt right out.

  25. Kelly
    |

    Your article is so well written I’m in tears going back to the first few weeks of our experience. I had a planned csection because he was breech. My milk didn’t come in for 8 days and even then it wasn’t noticeable… He latched like a champ, or so they all told me. It felt like a death grip and after 90 mins on my breast on the second night, I no longer had a nipple… The pain never stopped, the thrush would never go away, the crying was horrendous (both of us). I had a stressful pregnancy and was determined to nurse forever… After 6 weeks of SNS, supplementing, topping up with formula and unreal pain, I decided to exclusively pump. An option that was never suggested by any nurse or LC. It saved my life, my nipples, my sanity. I thought I had invented it! The BFing groups told me I would never last. I did it for 9 months. Did he only receive my milk? No. I never made enough but friends donated and eventually I realized formula wasn’t killing him. But my PPD was terrible. If I hadn’t struggled, maybe I would’ve loved him sooner or felt a bond. Do we have a bond now? Totally! He’s over 2 and I don’t notice any difference between my relationship and those that had a BFing bond. I’m a huge supporter of EPing and guided friends with multiples after me. I’m also a loud mouth about PPD. The only thing that got me out of the funk was talking about how shitty the first 6 months were, everywhere, to everyone, in any situation. I got bottle stares and the guilt and my sadness was more than enough that I didn’t need the added comments or glares. Ignorant moms that preach no bottles, no pacis and no formula, obviously haven’t known anyone that went trough this kind of trauma. I’m scared to do this all over again if we ever have another but good for you for facing your fears! Small goals are the best! Everyone should read this… Thank you

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Thank you so much Kelly and likewise I have goosebumps reading your reply – oh the pain, the never ever ending pain – you can’t really put it into words can you? Wow 9 months is just phenomenal!! I made it to 11 weeks – using up all expressed freezer milk! I was scared too – but it only makes you stronger 🙂 x

  26. Karina
    |

    OMG you did so much better them me… My nipples were bleeding in the hospital. I told my friend to feed my son, she had a five month old baby at the time, Zac was only two days old when she did. I had a huge meltdown in the hospital because the nurses didn’t want to give formula to my son. He was losing weight and I just didn’t have any milk. Finally with the formula the doctors let me come home. I was not lucky to have plenty of milk 🙁

  27. Anna
    |

    Why does everyone think it’s ok to judge moms?! I went through the most terrible, traumatic childbirth with my first child. After days of “natural labor” I had an emergency c-section, she ended up in NICU due to the extreme trauma and subsequent lung damage, and she had a feeding tube (and a zillion other tubes and wires) for three weeks with mostly formula as I was too ill to pump much. So… breast feeding didn’t go as planned. After much pumping and effort I was able to make breastfeeding work a month in. But I get so sick of hearing that natural birth is best, c-sections are bad, and immediate bonding is essential. So many people have said something about my c-section, not even knowing what we went through. All those things are a rosy ideal, but given that my daughter and I would have both died without extreme medical interventions, I’ve realized that it’s best not to judge! And I actually feel that we have an amazing bond after making it through so much together- my second childbirth was uneventful, and it felt that it took me longer to feel bonded. Thanks for sharing your story. It is so important to see the beauty in our imperfect stories!

  28. Claire
    |

    Well done for trying so hard! I was just wondering who checked for Tongue tie as sometimes posterior ones can be missed even by professionals and the way your story reads really screams tongue tie at me – especially as you had the same issue with your second baby too. I’ve had friends in pain be told there is no tongue tie only to see someone else and yes there was a tongue tie! Just made me wonder 🙂

  29. Tonia
    |

    Hi Julia. I also suffered from mastitis while breastfeeding my first. He’d suck for 15mins, take 45 mins to belch (he had a lot of gas) and start crying again for food. I was extremely tired and so I used to lay him by my breast and sleep off (big mistake) as a result he didn’t latch on properly and some serious tears around my nipples. These worsened by expressing using an electric breast pump which expanded the tears. At 2 and a half months my son started rejecting my breast milk. I woke one night in excruciating pain from my right breast while shivering with a bad fever. Mastitis had set in, I had to be on admission and get the pus in my breast drained. Of course the separation from breast feeding caused my supply to dry up (honestly I didn’t mind and I didn’t feel guilty). I am 23weeks pregnant and looking forward to doing it all over again of course avoiding some of the mistakes I made with my first. Nice blog! Keep it up

  30. Alexandra Taylor
    |

    You know, I really think the whole breast is best thing is a grain of truth embellished with a whole lot of hype. That’s kind of how I feel about “natural childbirth”, too. I read so many books and watched documentaries and movies about childbirth and breastfeeding, and was very excited to have an epidural-free birth and to then breastfeed until my baby was at least one year old.

    Reality just isn’t like that. I didn’t have an epidural, but after it was all over, I couldn’t imagine why having had one would have been a big deal. Childbirth was horribly painful! I had a totally normal experience–just a little longer than average, at around 24 hours labor and delivery, but otherwise fine–and it still sucked! And breastfeeding was terribly painful, and I had a normal experience on that, too! Normal supply, no mastitis, no thrush. Just cracked, bleeding nipples and no sleep, because I was the only one who could feed my baby.

    At 9 months my supply ran out and my baby’s sharp little teeth made nursing painful. I started giving him formula and…wow…the clouds parted and angels sang. My husband could do feedings and I could have extra sleep. I didn’t have to spend hours pumping at work.

    If/when number two comes, I’m getting an epidural and we’re going to do formula and breastfeeding both. God bless formula! God bless epidurals! I have no need to be a “super mom” on that stuff anymore. And to heck with judgy people on formula feeding. We live in a first world country where the water is safe. It’s really not that big a deal.

  31. Emily
    |

    Thank you for your courage & honesty! I still feel pangs of sadness & envy when I hear friends talk about being successful at exclusively breastfeeding, and getting subtle comments that seem to imply “if only you tried this?” when I had tried almost everything and still couldn’t have enough for my babies. My two kids both did not gain much weight as newborns and no one could figure out why! Now I’m going expecting our third and feel scared about this whole process. But like you I don’t want to sacrifice my bonding with this new baby and the older kids!

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Bonding above all else!! xx

  32. Waldowoman
    |

    I have been in very similar shoes as you. My first we used a nipple shield until he fell off the weight charts around 3-4 months. #2 I would cry when she woke up because I knew I was going to have to feed her from my cracked bleeding nipples (even though our latch was “text book perfect” according to the lactation consultants). We made it a week #2. #3 we made it 18 days. #4 came and I had figured out that my children had tongue and lip ties! We got that taken care of by someone who was knowledgeable (#3 had his tongue clipped incorrectly and it helped very little). We made it to a YEAR of breastfeeding. I am beyond grateful that I was able to breastfeed for a year mostly because I no longer have guilt about not meeting my goals with the first three. It is not suppose to be screaming painful, I am not suppose to have these permanent scars/cracks in my nipples, you are not meant to see ribs on a 3 month old. I was able to comfortably breastfeed #4 and I really didn’t enjoy it all that much. All the perks and warm fuzzes that I had heard of and had in my head that it would be did not occur with us. Glad I did it for my mental sanity and to be able to share my experience with my daughters, but I was fine when we finished. And am relieved that we are not planning on a 5th so I never have to make the decision to breastfeed or formula feed again. I hope you embrace your decision and are at peace with it! And if you do have a 3rd, tongue ties/lip ties might be something to look into if you go that route ;o)

  33. rose
    |

    wow, you are amazing. Breastfeeding is a powerful experience but as you so rightly note, none of us ever truly understand the extent of the volume of work / energy etc. it requires of a mom. I am blessed to be a dairy queen and to be able to BF both of my boys (my price to pay for this is that I was unable to give birth to my sons naturally and had to have an emergency C-section with my first – which took me a year to get over – and an elective with my second, which was a hugely positive experience in comparison). I do not for one second take my BF for granted and I am fully aware of the need for formula and that nutrition for your baby is a very personal choice that should not ever be judged but rather supported to ensure as you note “happy baby happy mum”

    I was forced to stop BF my first born at 12 weeks, I had to have a tumour removed from my spine. I had for 6 weeks prior expressed every time he dropped a feed, I even instituted extra feeds to my body – read EXTREME exhaustion – After my op my milk came back and I tried to get him to latch he refused with nipple confusion, so I expressed – it was ridiculous time consuming and exhausting. I also had to realise the Formula was part of his nutrition, not breaking or poisoning him but nourishing him and ensuring I was doing my best by giving him nourishment that was scientifically developed to do just that. Big ups to you for doing expressing at all, it is hard work!

    At the end of the day no doubt the kids are healthy and strong, and that is the ultimate goal 🙂

  34. Karina
    |

    Julie, thank you so much for this amazing blog. You words resonate so much and it is incredibly uplifting to hear that so many other women had similar problems with breast feeding as I did. I got mastitis in my left breast when my daughter was a week old because the hospital told me not to pump too much since it would make me overproduce. However I got a healthy milk supply anyway and due to plugged ducts got mastitis in my left breast. My daughter was also not latching in the hospital and everyone said it was because I had flat nipples. But then a lactation consultant noticed that my daughter had tongue tie and after we got it snipped the second week and I was shown how to properly latch her she was latching like a champ and I didn’t have to use the nipple shields anymore. However, the stress of potentially not being able to feed her and pain of mastitis took its toll and I did have more severe depression than just baby blues! Thankfully antibiotics healed my mastitis and I was able to nurse her throughout that time, but constantly thinking she may still be hungry and my husband wanting to give her the bottle (with my expressed milk) was traumatizing and made bonding with her difficult those first few weeks. We are now 6 weeks in and I am exclusively breastfeeding (breast and occasional bottle) and pumping at night and freezing it just in case. But every time she cries for no reason my husband thinks it’s because she’s hungry and that still is tough. She is at a very healthy weight and thriving remarkably but there is still that feeling after every feed : did she get enough? Is she still hungry?! No one ever tells you about how difficult and painful bfeeding is and how it affects those first precious moments of your child’s life, mainly because there is so much pressure (even from those closest to you- husbands, mothers, mil’s) to solely breastfeed that if there are any issues you feel like a complete failure. But it’s remarkable to know there is such a strong community of moms out there that go through similar issues and pass no judgment, Thank You so very much.

  35. Paula
    |

    HI Julie, I just found your blog and although this post is quite old I feel I have to share my experiences! First of all, I’m in Canada so maybe the thinking is different here, and also my two miracles are now 18 and 17 years old so my experience could almost be considered to have happened in another generation! My son was conceived with the help of fertility treatments after 6 years of trying and 4 miscarriages so you can be sure I wanted the absolute best for him. I went to La Leche League for months before the birth so I thought I knew what to do. Well, at 8 weeks he developed a fever and we ended up doing all kinds of tests but in the end all it was was failure to thrive. His weight had stayed the same despite the constant feedings. He was literally attached to me all the time. Turns out he did not nurse effectively and I was also not producing enough milk. Onto formula he went, but we always nursed first and did so for another 2.5 months. Fast forward a year and my miracle daughter (conceived naturally and a complete surprise) was to be monitored very closely because of my history. Well, I ended up taking herbal supplements and pumping post-feed to increase my supply and did try supplementing via a tube during the feed. Very difficult when you have a 13 mth old too. Needless to say the dual nursing/bottle feeding didn’t last long.
    I so wish I had been perfectly made so that I could have children easily and do what a mother is meant to do but, in the end, the health and happiness is most important. Thank goodness I wasn’t alive in medieval times!
    Your blog is invaluable to young moms…keep up the good work!

  36. Katie
    |

    Your post is incredible. This is so courageous. Katie (midwife) xx

  37. […] “Be prepared for breastfeeding to be hard – it might be easy for some women but I know a lot who’ve found it tough. Ask for the help and support, persevere if you can, and know that what ever the outcome you are an amazing mum because you are keeping your baby fed – because at the end of the day that’s what matters over how it’s done”. (You can read my personal experience on this too here) […]

  38. […] they require from breast milk or formula. Just as a side note here for those that don’t know my previous challenges with breastfeeding you can read this here. Breast milk has low amounts of iron – when you look at the typical composition it’s virtually […]

  39. Indy
    |

    Hi Julie
    Reading your story encourage mums to do what their heart says right for them and the baby. I went through the same. My first baby being a nurse i was a big advocate for exclusive breastfeeding not knowing how difficult it can be. My baby is now 7 months old and I breastfeed her now also takes solids. I suffered from nipple pain due to thrush and Raynod’s disease (I think I have spelt it right ) a condition that can deminish blood supply to the nipple (Really bad during cold weather) and causing excruciating pain during feeds and even when exposed to air. I had really good supply means too dam good that we both have a milk shower each feed due to fast let down really frustrating. Every dark piece of furniture had milk spots on it. That’s my part making it hard to breastfeed my baby on the other side is born with a condition which makes it hard for her to feed and breathe at the same time so she would not latch properly making my pain even worse. While she was in hospital only 4 weeks old i was told to bottle feed her so that her intake and output can be monitored accurately as she was not gaining weight as expected. So now I have to express every 3 hours and feed baby while struggling to sit on.my bottom due to infected stiches and anal fissures. My hubby was not allowed to stay with me for the nights even I was in a single room I work in that same hospital and know the rules but it’s different being on the other side. So we got discharged came home bottle feeding me expressing day and night but I was lucky enough to have a lovely husband who supported me during this. Oh and my baby also has reflux which make her vomit each feed and then cry as she was hungry again. At this point I alao tried formula but she would not tolerate so I decided to stick with breatfeeding. I got in touch with the lactation consultant who was my gardian angel. Saved my sanity by teaching me different position in which baby would latch properly and was less painful and she will also hold milk down so now I started cutting down on expressing and started exclusively BF. As baby got bigger and so wiggly that I hurt my shoulder feeding her in that position. Now I have to change position again it took few more visits to the lactation consultant and la lache groups to find a suitable position but no luck and I was still adment to exclusively BF so did my own research and found lying on my side works for us. I am sure there were few more problems that I have forgotten already but she still can not tolerate formula. I had been told by many family members to do bottle feed as well bur they don’t understand what we have been through to establish BF and baby cannot tolerate formula doesn’t matter which one. I have cried countless times during last last 7 months and felt like giving up sometimes felt depressed too and its even hard when you don’t have any family support as they all are overseas. Just me hubby and baby. But I feel really proud that I have made it through all these months and baby is thriving.
    Julie Reading your other stories sounds similar too and I think it gives others encouragement that they are not alone.

    • Julie Bhosale
      |

      Wow what a journey thank you for your message and your story xoxo