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Supporting a Wife Who has Milk Duds

By Cody |

When having a child it is normal to consider breastfeeding as something that will just happen with ease.  At least, that is what I was expecting when I was preparing for Addie’s birth.  My expectations all went out the window when I learned that my wife had milk duds.  First, let me state that my wife is the one who named her, uh, baby feeders “milk duds.”  Despite my wife’s ability to joke about her milk duds, a mother’s inability to produce milk can be an emotionally devastating experience for her.  It is important to keep this in mind when discovering that the mother may not be able to produce milk as planned.  When my wife was first discovering that she might not be able to produce milk, I had decided that she wasn’t trying hard enough and that it was just a matter of time and effort.  That was, obviously, the wrong approach to take.

Be aware that the mother will be encouraged, more like harassed and in many cases guilted, to produce breast milk no matter the consequences.  The problem with this type of encouragement and harassment is that the helpless baby is caught in the middle between a mother trying desperately to produce enough food to keep the baby properly nourished and the strict breastfeeding crowd who believe supplementing the baby’s food supply until breastfeeding is an option is detrimental to the mother and the baby.  It is important for the father of the baby to take control of this portion of the experience—at least it was important for me to do so.  The mother has enough to worry about and does not need to expend herself emotionally fending off the pro-breastfeeding crowd.

The hospital’s lactation specialist can be an important tool to helping the mother eventually produce breast milk or eventually accept that breastfeeding just might not be an option.  In the first day or two after the baby is born and it becomes apparent that breastfeeding may be an issue, find a computer and search for advice on how to approach the situation.  Learn about the options and tools that are available, particularly the proper way to supplement any breast milk that the mother is able to produce.  Once aware of the options and tools that are available, create a plan and speak with the lactation specialist and ask him/her to help with the steps in that plan.

At some point throughout the process the mother will either be able to breastfeed the baby or accept that breastfeeding is not an option.  The key in that sentence is that the mother will make the decision on when it is time to move on from breastfeeding.  The inability to produce enough milk to properly nourish the baby is going to be difficult enough emotionally for most mothers, she certainly does not need the father overstepping his bounds and making that decision for her.  Instead, do whatever it takes to support the mother in that process. If this means mixing formula and arranging various tubes to help the mother supplement the milk, then do it.  If it means waking up two, three or even four times in the middle of the night to formula-feed the baby as the mother pumps, do that as well.  Learn to view feeding the baby in the middle of the night and any other time as an opportunity to spend additional one on one time with the baby that would otherwise not be available.

When the time comes and the mother makes the decision to move on from breastfeeding, support her in that decision as well.  Do not pressure her into stopping before she is ready and certainly do not add monetary stress to the situation by pressuring her to continue to try to produce milk when it is clear that the mother cannot produce milk or cannot handle the emotional stress of trying to breastfeed.  Finally, when the mother does move on from breastfeeding do not let her get dragged down by those who believe that formula-feeding is absolutely wrong no matter the circumstances.  Until those people can produce magic wands that fix every woman’s ability to produce breast milk, leave those people and their opinions exactly where they belong—on the sidelines ignorantly pretending to have all the answers.

Read more about my family on Moosh in Indy or follow me on Twitter!

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More on Dadding:

My Lovely Wife, Casey, but you Know Her as Mooshinindy

My Other Little Girl, Vivi

My Little Girl, Addie


More on Babble

About Cody



Cody is a father, husband, practicing attorney, and loyal football fan who is outnumbered by girls in every area of his life. He's also been known to drink maple syrup straight out of the bottle. Read bio and latest posts → Read Cody's latest posts →

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7 thoughts on “Supporting a Wife Who has Milk Duds

  1. Barb @ getupandplay says:


  2. Kirsty says:

    Thank you so much for this post! As someone also endowed with “milk duds” in a country that venerates breastfeeding and pretty much diabolises formula (France), the early days with my elder daughter were miserable. I eventually gave up after a month of hell, thanks to a wonderful paediatrician who made me see that feeding my daughter was more important than breastfeeding my daughter. My younger daughter’s early days were less stressful (I didn’t try as hard, didn’t beat myself up so much) but stressful all the same.
    My ex (who wasn’t my ex at the time) was supportive and great at helping out. It was everyone else who brought me down, from the militants telling me I’d “screwed up my baby’s life” (yeah, that really helped) to the “friends” saying that “there’s no such thing as supply issues, you’re just doing it wrong”.
    Every new mother (and father!) should read this post – you’re kind of led to believe that breastfeeding is within the realms of possibility for every woman on earth and that if you’re failing you are, indeed, just “doing it wrong”. The sense of failure is overwhelming and certainly spoiled the first 4 or 5 weeks of my life with my premature, hypoglycaemic elder daughter. I’ve “gotten over it” now (thankfully – my elder girl was 10 in December, her sister will be 8 at the end of this month!), but the pain and sense of failure never really go away. Idiots like Gisèle Bundchen and her statements about criminalising mothers who don’t breasfteed for at least 6 months just add insult to injury.
    Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Melina says:

    nice start! welcome to the blogging world!

  4. Candace says:

    You articulated this important subject SO well, thank you!! We need more informed and supportive dads to speak out.

  5. Hallie (@ChasingHallie) says:

    Great post! Thank you for this. I had “Milk Duds” as well as its an emotional rollercoaster. Having husbands like you will make it all the more easier for a struggling milk producer.

  6. Catherine says:

    The only thing I have to add is make an appointment and take her to see a Board Certified Lactation Consultant IBCLC. Most breastfeeding issues are not caught in the 1-3 days you’re in the hospital after you have your baby. Heck, your milk doesn’t even fully come in until days 3-5! These health care professionals are trained to help mothers with “milk duds” (horribly offensive and degrading term by the way). I’ve had breastfeeding issues with each of my 3 sons. My first had trouble nursing because I had flat nipples – used a nipple shield and breast pump to draw them out so he could latch. My second had breathing issues after birth so he was in the special care nursery for over 24 hours. Again I had to use a nipple shield and pump, giving him my milk by bottle until he was strong enough to nurse on his own. Both of those little boys went on to breastfeed until they were 22 1/2 and 23 months old :) I’m currently nursing my 13 week old son. He was born 3 weeks early and kept losing weight instead of gaining. At 3 1/2 weeks he was diagnosed by an IBCLC with a posterior tongue tie, had his tongue frenulum clipped at 4 weeks, was hospitalized at 5 weeks to help him regain his birthweight. I had to take fenugreek capsules and order special cookies to get my milk supply back up. It was pure hell!!!! But he is now thriving and nursing without any problems. My husband made sure I ate and drank enough, helped out more around the house as I was pumping and feeding baby at the breast with an SNS every 2 hours. Do what she needs but also get her the proper help with nursing.

  7. Jill says:

    Thank you for this article. My son, now 5 months, was born 2 months early. I had dreamt about being a dairy maid and producing gallons of milk- but there was no hope. I pumped from the time he was just hours old, every 2 hours, took pills, herbs, ate and drank. But the fact that my son couldn’t even attempt breastfeeding until he was a month old dismissed my supply and was difficult. My main concern was for him to grow, and although half of his feeds were breastmilk, he had to be supplemented. By the time he came home, i pumped for a month, but then he went through a growth spurt anD I couldn’t keep up. I was devastated and an emotional wreck. I wanted to breastfeed so muc and couldn’t. My husband supported my every move and cheered me on when I was pumping and was a shoulder to cry on the day I produced nothing but drops. People are so rude about a very personal choice- although breast is best- my happiness and ability to feed my hold so he grows is more important than stressing day in and say out about maki g enough milk. Thank you for writing such a supportive article and bringing awareness to what is a painful subject for so many mothers.

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