Previous Post Next Post


Brought to you by

Not Everyone Can Breastfeed – My Story

By Alyson Brown |

me and wolfI’ve always thought that I wanted to breastfeed.  There was something so intimate and special about that moment between mom and baby and I wanted to experience that.  Plus, I knew that there were hundreds of health benefits from breastfeeding.  But I worried that I’d be one of the few ladies who were unable to breastfeed exclusively.  And on Wolf’s 4th day after he was born, I discovered that I’d have to fight if I wanted it to happen for me.

I wrote about having low milk supply a few months back and my struggles to accept my “burden” of supplementing at the breast.  To recap, for all of Wolf’s life, I’ve been using the Medela Supplemental Nursing System to supplement him with formula at the breast.  At 10 and a half weeks old, I’ve just begun to notice an increase in my supply to where I’m able to satisfy him by exclusively breastfeeding when he first wakes up in the morning.  But from what I’ve noticed during nursing, my supply is no where near enough to support my baby.

To be quite honest, I’m kind of tired of hearing about breastfeeding and what I’m doing right or wrong or that I’m doing the wrong thing by supplementing or that I’m not doing enough.  I realize that it’s a tender subject around here, so before we get all factual about boob vs formula, let me tell you more about my struggle.

I’ve cried many many times over breastfeeding.  The SNS is a burden, I’m embarrassed to use it in public, I’ve been hiding in the house while nursing and revolving my schedule around when Wolf is hungry.  I take 21 fenugreek pills, 3 saw palmetto pills and 2 tsp of more milk plus tincture a day.  I used to pump between feedings but my pump pretty much sucks so I let Wolf nurse on demand until my breasts feel less full.  I’ve tried simply nursing Wolf without the SNS and he gets frustrated which upsets me and leads me to think he’s hungry and not getting enough.  He grunts and cries then I put on the SNS.  I feed Wolf with a bottle on rare occasions but mostly I’m nursing him and using the SNS.

Low supply is real and it happens to lots of women.  Unfortunately for me, I have insufficient glandular tissue which makes it more difficult to establish a supply.  The fact that my body just might not be made to breastfeed really upsets me.  I go through moments where I want to do anything to continue breastfeeding Wolf.  Then I go through moments where I want to rip off the SNS, fill up a bottle and just give up.  There was a time when I envy women who have no trouble breastfeeding.  I envy women with oversupply.  I envy women who are able to whip out the boob anywhere they go and feed their baby with convenience.  I envy those women who don’t have to spend $30 every two weeks on formula.

Right now I content breastfeeding Wolf with the SNS to continue hopes of boosting my milk.  Most people quit after a few weeks of low supply and I’m determined to at least give it 3 months.  If you’ve got a similar experience and would like more info, check out this site:  Not Everyone Can Breastfeed.

Ok, mini rant over.  :)

More on Babble

About Alyson Brown


Alyson Brown

Alyson Brown is a graphic designer living with her husband Levi, little boy Wolf and two cats in Bend, Oregon. She blogged for the Pregnancy channel on Babble, writing about her personal struggles to breastfeed, as well as searching for the perfect diaper bag. More of her work can be found on her lifestyle blog, Unruly Things.

« Go back to Baby

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Comments, together with personal information accompanying them, may be used on and other Babble media platforms. Learn More.

27 thoughts on “Not Everyone Can Breastfeed – My Story

  1. jamie says:

    i am so, so sorry you are going through this alyson. my heart goes out to you. you are an amazing woman and mother. wolf is such a lucky baby and his papa, a lucky husband! sending lots of love and support. and feeling bad that it can’t be easier for you. <3 <3 <3

  2. Denise says:

    Breastfeeding is difficult even in the BEST of circumstances. I don’t know why women can’t seem to cut each other some slack, especially on this subject! I’m fortunate that my daughter latched on right away and haven’t had any supply issues, but I have to use a nipple shield because of flat nipples and am now battling mastitis. There are so many things that can make breastfeeding difficult, other women shouldn’t be one of them!

  3. Daisy says:

    I used a similar system in hospital for a few days with my first baby. It was quite difficult, so I admire your persistance! You obviously love your baby very much and are working hard at something you feel strongly about. You are doing a great job!

  4. Liane says:

    I have a similar experience as yours I also felt insecure & depressed that I am not able to feed my baby I only breastfed for 2 weeks. But in the lone run a happy mom equals a happy baby. But you are really doing a good, great job keep it up we will never know. Btw have you tried drinking pure tablea cocoa it helped me lot.

  5. Dana says:

    Oh, this post breaks my heart. Breastfeeding is not easy! Good for you for being so committed. At the end of the day though, I second a happy mama equals a happy baby. Whatever you choose is the right choice for you and Wolf.

  6. Melanie says:

    While I am a big supporter of breastfeeding, I hate that women give eachother such a hard time about it! Any amount of breastmilk is great, but if the momma isn’t happy then that isn’t great. Keep going for as long as you feel like it, and then know that you did a great thing for your son! Also, have you checked your insurance to see if they cover pump rentals? You might be able to get a prescription and it could be covered under “durable medical equipment”. It wouldn’t hurt to give them a call and there are websites that tell you how to word it when you call so it is more likely to get approved.

  7. Katie says:

    Wow, you are an amazing mother to be doing all you are doing for your son. Whatever you decide to do, you have done the very best for him. I have had my own breastfeeding struggles with oversupply and it has been very hard – vomiting, extreme gassiness, choking while nursing. It can be very frustrating when we don’t get that ideal breastfeeding experience with our children. But, we all do the best we can and that is all we can do.

  8. m.j. says:

    breastfeeding IS hard! my first struggled with latch issues and i supplemented for four months until we switched to formula altogether. it was so frustrating, and i was honestly ready to be done with breastfeeding. he ended up weaning himself and refusing breastfeeding. i just had my second and i was so worried that it wouldn’t work out again, but she latched right on and we struggled with oversupply issues the first two weeks. she choked every time she ate, like to the point that she wouldn’t breathe, and i was ready to give up again. we’ve kept going and it’s getting a lot better, but no matter how your baby reacts to breastfeeding, it is HARD. good job for doing what you can, but at the end of the day all that matters is your baby is getting fed and that you love him. thank goodness for formula in instances where breastfeeding doesn’t work!

  9. Janssen says:

    A friend of mine was a nurse before her baby was born and she told me she was CONVINCED that everyone could breastfeed. Everything she’d been taught, everything SHE’D taught, said anyone could breastfeed.

    And then, of course, she had supply issues too and ended up supplementing with formula.

    It just makes me sad that there is this “ANYONE CAN BREASTFEED” line being fed to women that makes them feel like a need to supplement (or do straight formula) means they are a failure or that, if they tried harder, they could make it happen.

  10. Annie says:


    Did you reach inside my head and write exactly what’s happening with Maebel and I? Sns, 10.5 weeks, embarrassment, crying, guilt. And myother in law is a lc. If these jugs could produce more, they would.

    Great post. I feel ya sister. Exactly.

  11. Lauren says:

    Happy mama= happy baby…you are AMAZING for coming this far. Just try a bottle for a day, if you feel less stressed and happier and wolf appears happy i say fuck breastfeeding. If you feel disappointed and not as bonded after that day then keep trying till month 3…….just stop killingyourself over this, I promise when you come to true acceptance with whatever way you choose you will feel so much better TRUST ME!

  12. Taz says:

    celebrate all of the things your body can do and has done- like giving birth to a beautiful baby!!

  13. Kim says:

    I just wanted to say that I think you are brave. Good for you for posting this because it sure is an issue for a lot of women.

  14. Amy S says:

    Kudos for doing all of this for Wolf! I too had low supply, I never tried the SNS, but would pump for 20 minutes every two hours, plus nurse and then bottlefeed what I had pumped previously, then supplement formula in a bottle. After about 3 months it did get better and I only had to supplement formula about 1/3rd of the time. But I never was able to stop pumping. It finally got to be too much at 9 months. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore so I pretty much stopped. My daughter is doing well on the formula and i do still nurse at night when she wakes up, but I’m sure if I pumped I would not get much.
    Just remember, formula is not poison. You do what YOU have to do for YOUR baby and don’t listen to anyone else. If you haven’t already seen a lactation consultant give that a try. Seeing mine really helped me to understand and to let go. I also tried out domperidone (helped a LOT, but was expensive) and Goats Rue (also helped alot) and Malangay.

  15. Melanie says:

    I was doing some research on insurance covering breast pumps. A few websites I came across talked about Edgepark ( They will get in touch with your insurance to see if they cover any of the pump or if you need paperworkfrom your doctor. It’s worth a try!

  16. Tam says:

    I totally understand how you feel, although I didn’t have glandular problems my son didn’t latch for the first 11 weeks and it took me a LONG time to get my supply up. We used a shield for 8 weeks and I was mortified to nurse in public. I felt all the same envious things that you do and thank g-d everyday that things worked out for us. The one thing I did was stopped setting goals. I took each day feeding by feeding. I soaked in my son and told myself how happy I was for THAT feeding. In the end the most important thing is a healthy baby and a healthy Mama and struggling to breastfeed can be all-consuming. Do not feel like a failure if you choose to stop. You ARE a breastfeeding Mama and always will be. You’ve done a wonderful thing, and your efforts are commendable. Hang in there Mama!

  17. Amanda says:

    I’m so sorry you are having a hard time with this. You are working so hard to do the best thing for Wolf, and it must be so frustrating. I admire you for sticking it out for so long, and hope that you can be at peace with it if/when you decide to stop. Ultimately, the most important thing is that he has your love… and plenty of food, wherever it comes from!

  18. logan says:

    I feel you! We had the same troubles with our son. No milk, and he wasn’t a good nurser. So much guilt on top of your post -pregnancy emotional rollar coaster. Do the best you can, and then you know you did everything you could. Happy mom = happy baby. Bottom line. We gave in to formula (which surprised me at how much relieft it brought to me and my husband) and now we have a happy, smart, healthy 16 month old. You can’t tell him apart from any breastfed baby! Good luck and just do your best!!

  19. Been There in SF says:

    I could have written this myself! My son is also 10 weeks old, and I have also been supplementing with an SNS and taking tons of herbs, etc. starting when he was born. And I have the same underlying issue – insufficient glandular tissue. The one difference is that my son is my second child, so I have traveled this road before…

    It can be so discouraging and frustrating to put so much work into what comes so naturally for most mothers. Every day I seem to have at least one feeding that is frustrating for both of us and makes me want to quit. Then I also have at least one a day that is cozy, cuddly and wonderful and makes me want to stick it

    At least this time I have accepted things and am no longer filled with the anxiety and sometimes despair I felt when learning about my problems feeding my first child, my daughter. When I look at her today and see how healthy and happy she is I am both proud that I stuck it out seven months under very difficult circumstances and regretful about how much time I spent stressing about feeding her instead of enjoying her.

    My guideline for this time is the same as my first: do everything I can to make it to three months, then after I experience five days in a row of truly feeling “done,” I will stop knowing I did my best

  20. Roni says:

    I had similar problems. I felt like such a failure— U are an amazing mom!!! Good Luck with everything…

  21. lori says:

    I have the same issue honey and did the lact-aid sns for three months but bottles too. Honestly there comes a time when you have to choose sanity. I miss it and wish it were different but my daughter is doing amazingly and I am still very affectionate when I feel her and make sure to get her lots of kisses and snuggles. There is life after the sns. Hugs to you.

  22. Little Gray Pixel says:

    I feel for you 100 percent because I could’ve written this post a few months ago. My husband could tell you how many times I cried about having to supplement. I thought I was a failure as a woman that I couldn’t seem to “get it right” no matter how hard I tried. But do you want to know a secret? After I decided to let go of breastfeeding a few months ago, everything changed. Within a week’s time I was back to my normal self. I was no longer crying with guilt. My baby girl was happier to be fed via bottle in her mommy’s arms, in the same position as breastfeeding. Our bond did not shake. She is a confident, strong and healthy seven-month-old now. There are more of us breastfeeding-challenged mamas out there than you know, and I promise you if you do not make it to six months or a year or whatever your goal — you will be OK. Wolf will be OK. You’ll gain perspective and the guilt and frustration will melt away. Hang in there, mama.

  23. Nan says:

    I really appreciate your posting this extremely personal blog. I too have low milk supply and due to my ignorance, I’m a first time mom to a 3 week old baby boy, and stubbornness my son ended up back in the hospital one week after he was born because of high bilirubin, constipation and dehydration. During that hospital stay, upon the Dr’s order, I had to stop breast feeding and only feed my son formula, Similac. He was given phototherapy for two days. I cried so much at the sight of him in the incubator, with an iv drip and at the multiple stick tests they performed on him. On the last night there my breast was incredibly engorged to the point where the nurses called the hospital’s lactation counselor, who then convinced the Dr to allow me to nurse my son. Since that visit I began to supplement with formula twice a day. I was and am terribly concerned with nipple confusion but my son still latches on to me for most of the day and night. I am still working on getting over the
    disappointment in my low milk supply and inability to exclusively satisfy my son’s needs. I am happy that my son is receiving most of his nutrients from my breastmilk and still hopeful that more milk will come once I receive the breastpump I ordered earlier this week.
    My little man is no longer jaundice or constipated or dehydrated. That’s all that
    matters. Thank you for sharing your story.

  24. SirUlrichsMom says:

    i completely understand!! i had so much difficulty trying to get my supply up. i was taking 6 fenugreek and 5 brewers yeast 4 times a day as well as drinking non alcoholic beer with hops and several other herbal remedies i had ben suggested by my LC. i was pumping every two hours for 20 to 30 min and feedas well. i never was able to exclusively BF and due to the difficulties, some health issues that i have and his own want my son was weaned at 6 months.

  25. jennifer says:

    Thank you for your honesty. While I breastfed my daughter for 6 months, I struggled with my supply coming in bc she was a c-section and then had my supply drop when I went back to work. I was popping tons of supplements just to keep my supply up at work as my daughter demanded more and more in her bottles. I came to the realization that stressing myself to supply her food wasn’t worth it. I’ve supplemented with formula for 2 months and now she is exclusively on formula and she’s fine – the best I can do for her is to make sure she’s fed whether by breast or bottle

  26. Helen says:

    You poor, poor love!
    I HATE it when people spout out “Every woman can and should breastfeed” I just want to give them a poke in the eye! If they had any idea what it is like for those of us who can’t, perhaps they’d keep their knowitallness to themselves!!!
    I’ve heard EVERY reason in the world why I can’t do it and it’s incredibly annoying. My aunties, cousin, Mother and older sister have all said the exact same things about how things were for them. My sister and cousin were told that they were producing foremilk, but not hindmilk. I won’t go into details about their nightmares, but I will subject you to mine ; )

    With my first I was brim full of confidence that I would be able to do it, my Mum came over from England to help me for the first few weeks, so even though the LC in the hospital was neither use, nor ornament, I wasn’t put off. My baby seemed to have a hard time latching on, how they tell you it should be done, but he was settling and sleeping for long periods, so I wasn’t worried. However, when we went for his first exam, his billirubin (not sure how to spell it) levels were really high and he’d lost a lot of weight. The doctor said I should supplement while I got a decent supply of milk. So that’s what I did. When we went back for his next appointment, his levels were higher and he’d lost more weight. I told the doctor I was supplementing, but he said it wasn’t enough. He said that BF babies lose more weight and it takes longer for them to put it on, but that we were well past that point and he still wasn’t getting any better : ( I was completely crushed. I’d put weight on trying to eat anything that anyone suggested to increase my supply and been drinking the most disgusting mothers milk tea (that came highly recommended) that I had to choke down, but I did it for the benefit of my baby! Nothing worked. So, then to hear all the reasons I’d failed was just too much

  27. Helen says:

    Every time I hear/read “Every woman can and should breastfeed” it makes my blood boil, it truly brings out the worst in me!
    I was writing you a fine reply, then it deleted it : S Perhaps I was just going on for too long! ; )
    I shall make it shorter : )
    My Mum, sister, a couple of aunts and a couple of cousins have all had the same problem.
    I did EVERYTHING that anyone suggested with my first one, but to no avail. I had to supplement and he still wasn’t putting weight on and his bilirubin levels were going up and up. He was sleeping brilliantly, but so did my sisters youngest one, but she was actually super dehydrated and ended up being hospitalized with her bilirubin levels off the charts! Horrendous!
    It was so awful. I was completely crushed. I had to stop at four months, as I had to take antibiotics that you can’t take whilst BF : ( It was nice to give him a bottle and know he’d had enough though! I tried to convince myself that it’s because his mouth didn’t open how they say it should and it didn’t matter what I did, it wouldn’t : S I tried four different breast pumps, the most I ever got and I was feeling “full” for me (I never got engorged and I have no idea what “let down” feels like) was just under two ounces in total. My friend who had a baby at the same time was getting 8oz from each side!!! I have to confess, I was a bit jealous : ( When our babies were a few months old she said she was getting ready to stop nursing and to be quite frank, I just couldn’t understand why she would, when she produced to much with ease!
    Anyway, when I had my second one, it was like a re-enactment of the first time, but this baby didn’t sleep and wanted to be fed all the time. It’s very different when you are trying to do it and there’s a two and a half year old, who is absolutely desperate for you attention. In the end I kept a chart, in 24 hours I fed him 24 times (a side counted as once) and he had six six oz bottles as well. He was about five weeks at the time, from what I remember from those hazy, lack of milk and lack of sleep fueled days. I realized that something had to give, or someone was going to crack and I went from feeding like a lunatic, to feeding him once in the day and once at night. I never felt any differently, except for again I was crushed : ( He slept brilliantly after that!
    I’m now pregnant with my third one, the first two were boys and this is a girl, so I had hoped that somehow perhaps hormonally it would make me produce more. I saw a LC at my OB’s office and she said it won’t. She said it’s not genetic, but it runs in families and after 20 years experience she knows for sure that it does. She said she thinks I don’t have anywhere near enough milk ducts, so there’s never going to be enough milk. Gutted : (
    I had bought two new BF bras when I was visiting my family in England a couple of months ago and I’m desperate to use them, they are the best ones I’ve ever tried on! Then I bought another one the other day, knowing that she’d said I’m not going to be able to produce the goods, I’m still going to try. So when someone says it’s because I’m lazy, or didn’t try hard enough, I know that I’ve done EVERYTHING that I can. I hate it when people try to make you feel guilty. I think this time I’ll say, “Yes, I love spending over $200 a month on formula, so I just thought I’d not bother with the whole BF thing!” either that, or give them a black eye! ; )
    I hope you know you’re not alone. I’m a firm believer that the most important this is being committed to your child and their well being. I know people who BF exclusively, but once their year is up, the child gets little if any attention. I know which one I’d choose from my own mother, a dedicated one! : ) I’m sure Wolf will be fine, you sound like a devoted Mom : )

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Previous Post Next Post