What if You Can’t Breastfeed?

That’s silly. Everyone can breast feed. You just need to try harder…..

That’s really what I thought. Turns out, some people can’t breast feed. Apparently, you need to process water in order to make breast milk. Sounds pretty obvious, but it had never occurred to me. Ever. I had just assumed that I would breast feed, and that it would be wonderful. Breast milk is, after all, the most nutritious food you can feed your baby, and I was trying to start her off as healthy as possible.

Here’s where my frustration starts. Not one of my doctors (and I have lots of doctors as a sick kid) ever mentioned the possibility that my diabetes insipidus might affect my ability to produce milk. If they had, I would have still tried, but it probably would have saved me an incredible amount of guilt over the issue. It also would have caused me to start researching alternatives much earlier than I did.

Soon after delivering the baby, I was told that she had a pretty severe tongue tie. Right away, we had difficulties latching, and she was immediately given commercial formula to supplement. We were kept in the hospital a few extra days, to make sure that we had a proper feeding plan. I worked with several lactation consultants in the hospital, and a home visit was scheduled for a few days later. We worked to fix the latch issue, but the baby was always hungry, so I continued to supplement with formula, as well as pump to try and increase my milk supply. The idea with breast feeding, and pumping is that the more milk you use, through feeding or pumping, the more milk your body will produce. It’s basic supply and demand. Well, for me, it seemed like the more I pumped or fed her, the less milk I was producing. So, I looked for ways to increase my supply. I ate foods that are supposed to increase supply, took supplements, tried to feed her from the breast first at every feeding, before offering her formula, and pumped every two hours around the clock. At this time, my husband was still working overseas, so I was exhausted all the time. I kept telling myself though, if I keep trying my milk will come in, and it will get easier. It didn’t. I thought that maybe the tongue tie was causing some of the problems, so we met with an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist, who preformed a small procedure to correct the tongue tie. Great, I thought, now we’ll be able to nurse, and my milk will come in. It didn’t. So, I continued the supplements, the foods, the around the clock pumping. I kept meeting with lactation consultants, who lent me a commercial grade pump. This has to help, I thought. It didn’t.

Through all of this, the baby was getting most of her nutrition from commercial formula. I knew that this wasn’t idea. The ingredients in commercial formula are not ideal. I certainly wouldn’t put those things in my body, so putting them in my baby’s body was disheartening to say the least. Here are the ingredients in the formula that I was feeding her: Nonfat Milk, Lactose, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil, Galactooligosaccharides, Whey Protein Concentrate. Less than 2% of the Following: C. Cohnii Oil, M. Alpina Oil, Beta-Carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Ascorbic Acid, Soy Lecithin, Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Choline Bitartrate, Choline Chloride, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Salt, Taurine, m-Inositol, Zinc Sulfate, Mixed Tocopherols, d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, L-Carnitine, Vitamin A Palmitate, Cupric Sulfate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin, Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Phosphate, Potassium Hydroxide, and Nucleotides (Adenosine 5’-Monophosphate, Cytidine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5’-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5’-Monophosphate).
Contains milk and soy ingredients.

Why on earth would a baby need nonfat milk? Don’t babies need fat? Breast milk certainly isn’t non fat. And soy? (Here is a great post about why the ingredients in formula are less than ideal.) The ingredients on the organic formulas weren’t any better. However, I kept telling myself that it was just going to be temporary, until my milk came in. After about two months, and several heart to heart conversations with the lactation consultant, it became clear that my milk just wasn’t going to come in. I was devastated. As a woman, you are designed for this, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t give my baby the best nutrition possible. Her health was being compromised because of me. I felt like a failure.

Still not pleased with what I was feeding my baby, I started to research to see if there were other alternatives. There had to be something better out there for her. That’s when I found this article by the Weston A. Price Foundation. This article points out that pituitary function (mine doesn’t work) affects a woman’s ability to make breast milk. That article also referenced home made formula. A little more research led me to this article, with the recipe for formula. Now, this is controversial. There are a lot of options out there when it comes to feeding your baby, even if you can’t breast feed. You can use donor milk, which some people will argue is the next best thing. I wasn’t comfortable with that. Personally, I couldn’t trust a complete stranger with my child’s life, and while some people will argue that a woman’s diet doesn’t affect the quality of her breast milk, I wasn’t convinced. At the end of the day, you have to make choices that you are comfortable with, and I wasn’t comfortable with that. So, I ordered a kit from Radiant Life with all of the ingredients to make the formula and started making my own. The price of this kit looks expensive, but when you break it down, ounce for ounce, it was slightly cheaper than commercial formula. When you add in the cost of milk, cream, and whey, it does end up being slightly more expensive, but I was comfortable paying a bit more to be in control of the quality of my child’s nutrition. Again, you have to make decisions for your family that you are comfortable with. This formula calls for raw milk. That is another controversial topic. Raw milk is legal in my state (it isn’t in some states), but I’m sure you always substitute with the highest quality milk you can find. If it’s something you are considering, I’d encourage you to do your own research on the issue. You will need to be comfortable with your own decision, and you may need to defend those decisions to other people. Our first pediatrician, for example, was not so encouraging about this choice. I was able to find a pediatrician, however, who fully supports my decision to feed my daughter formula that I make. The process takes maybe 15 minutes a day to make, and while it looks complicated at first, after a few days, it becomes second nature. After switching my daughter to this formula, I noticed some intimidate changes in her. She started sleeping better, her skin cleared up, she no longer had diaper rashes (I change her very frequently, but she had been getting rashes on occasion), and she seemed more alert. This formula works for us. While I still hate the fact that I wasn’t able to breast feed her, the fact that I am able to offer her something more nutritious than commercial formula has allowed me to let go of some of the guilt.

With that said, this was a personal decision. It’s not for everyone. If you can breast feed, great. If you use donor milk, great. If you use commercial formula, great. At the end of the day, you need to feed your baby. How and what you choose to feed them, is your choice. You need to live with it, and be comfortable with it. I’m not here to judge anyone, or make anyone feel like their choices are wrong. I’m just here to share my story.

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One thought on “What if You Can’t Breastfeed?

  1. Pingback: Feeding the Baby During the Move | Adventures of a Cavemom

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