The Insignificant Truth About Women Who Can’t Breastfeed.

May 10, 2013   //   by Lisa   //   Bottle Babe's Blog  //  34 Comments
“The number of women who cannot really breastfeed is so insignificant.  Almost everyone can breastfeed.  You just have to want to.”

Those words, spoken to me by a ‘passionate’ lactivist midwife as she stood over me encouraging my 1 day old baby to stay awake by placing a cold facecloth on his naked body as I desperately tried to shove another handful of breast in his screaming mouth and catch my tears on my shoulder at the same time, ran through my mind again.  It had been almost 8 months since this amazing bundle of life I had the privileged to call my son, had consumed his first bottle of formula but still, those words just kept gnawing away at my sense of worth.

                     “you just have to want to”

Boy did I want to.  Beyond that – I just presumed I would.  Breastfeeding, for me, was normal.  It was what my mother did, what her mother did.  It was my culture, what I grew up seeing, how I thought babies were fed.  I didn’t know anyone who bottle fed their baby and I wasn’t going to.  Why would I?  I had breasts and everyone knows ‘breast is best’ – my baby wasn’t going to miss out on the best!  I was going to be the best mum ever.  The breastfeeding books had been devoured, the classes attended and the organisations joined.  I was so prepared to be a breastfeeding mum. Pity someone didn’t tell me not all women can breastfeed.

                    “women who cannot really breastfeed”

Yep.  That’s me.  No – really.  I don’t think I can’t make enough milk to adequately nourish my child.  I know I can’t.  I wasn’t ‘booby-trapped’.  I didn’t fall for the ‘evil ways of the formula companies’ nor am I ‘uneducated’, ‘lazy’ or any of the other things that seem to be used as an explanation by many as to why women don’t breastfeed.  I just can’t.  Physically I can’t breastfeed.  It’s not my fault, it’s just a part of my body which doesn’t work.  I wear glasses to read too.  Yet I don’t feel guilty that my eyes don’t work naturally, the way they should, the way nature intended.  You won’t see my crying because I feel less of a human being due to wearing glasses, yet still, as my child was reaching his first birth day, the feelings of inadequacy, because my breasts did not function as I wanted them to, haunted me.  Why?  Did the way I fed my baby change the type of mother I was to my child? No.  I was a great mother because the love I had for him didn’t come from breasts or bottles, that came from my heart.  Was he showing any signs of being disadvantaged by my inability to feed him from my breasts?  Not that I could see.  He was happy, healthy, beautiful and too smart for his own good.  I couldn’t be more proud. So why was I feeling so alone, so…… insignificant?

                    “So insignificant”

It made me wonder how many other women may be part of this ‘insignificant’ group.  How many other woman had breasts who were more ornamental than practical? Were we really insignificant? No.  Not really.  I found out that while there isn’t any really solid scientifically back number, most health care professionals estimated that around 5% of woman physically cannot breastfeed.  5%.  Is that really ‘insignificant’?

12% of women are diagnosed with breast cancer. 
9% of children have asthma. 
About 5% of 40-year-old men have erection problems. 
Between 2% and 5% of expectant mothers develop gestational diabetes.
0.1% of the world’s population has Down Syndrome. 
Somewhere between 1.1% and 4.2% of females suffer from bulimia nervosa in their lifetime.
About 1.5% of people though out the world have autism. 
About 0.1% of Australia’s population has HIV. 
1% to 2% of deaths throughout the world each year are by suicide.
0.3% of babies are born with hearing loss. 
In 2009 around 0.09% of the US population were hospitalized with the H1N1 (swine) flu.
0.030% of babies die of SIDS. 
0.005% of women in the UK die from cervical cancer.

Please don’t tell me that the 5% of women who physically can’t breastfeed is an ‘insignificant’ number. It is more ‘significant’ then HIV, H1N1, Autism, SIDS, cervical cancer, suicide and Down Syndrome put together if you really want to look at it that way. People don’t say ‘most babies live so let’s not discourage people by taking about SIDS.’ People don’t say ‘only around 5% of mothers develop gestational diabetes, it’s such a small number so don’t worry about it’ or that they just didn’t try hard enough to overcome it.

For the mother who wants to breastfeed but can’t it is usually, at the time, the most significant hardship she feels she is facing. It may not be the most significant hardship faced in the world, but in her world it is.

So next time you want to throw around ‘insignificant’ numbers maybe think about how ‘insignificant’ you are making that mother feel.



  • Thank you! I have IGT. Most women expect me to explain the lengths I took to breastfeed…and judge if I did enough. Truth is I cannot make enough to keep my child hydrated let alone nurished. Some women have heard about IGT and make reference that I have “deformed” breasts…they are not. IGT is real.
    I am saddened when I read comments that state my children should have died because that is natures way and now they will be a burden to society due to their supposed poor health. Then I see these comments get 21 likes on fb. Sigh. Talk about feeling insignificant. I am a mother. I love my children. I protect them like a mother bear. The extremists are skunks stinking up motherhood for a lot of women.
    Formula was best for my children. period.
    Again, thank you.

    • I will never quite understand why so many think it acceptable to play judge and jury on the abilities of another woman’s anatomy.
      When one woman tells another that she hasn’t had a child yet because she is having fertility issues you won’t see women gathering around asking questions about how exactly her and her husband are using their antomony – accusing them of doing something wrong or not trying hard enough because ‘most couples can get pregnant’. Yet when it comes to breasts everyone thinks it’s ok to ask very personal questions and then make accusations about the woman’s effort or try and ‘fix’ the problem when it’s not fixable!

      Hold your head high Susan. You are part of a huge group of wonderful, loving, amazing mums who don’t need functioning breasts to raise healthy, happy, intelligent and amazing children. We can provide all that is truly important to our children from our hearts :)


    • I get so mad when somebody spits the heartless “natures way” drivel. Those people should count their blessings as they clearly haven’t experienced hardships experienced by others and should leave those alone.
      My sister is infertile. When she started looking into IVF people told her that she probably shouldn’t go down that way as it was “natures way” yadiyada etc. IVF didn’t work but she is now the proud, loving mother lion of a beautiful, adopted little boy.
      It doesn’t matter how families are created and it doesn’t matter how infants are fed as long as the parents looking after those kids love them dearly.
      I am saddened that you have to endure alike silly, thoughtless comments thrown at you.
      Ignore the idiots on FB – enjoy your wonderful kids instead. Life’s too short.

      Thank you! I have IGT. Most women expect me to explain the lengths I took to breastfeed…and judge if I did enough. Truth is I cannot make enough to keep my child hydrated let alone nurished. Some women have heard about IGT and make reference that I have “deformed” breasts…they are not. IGT is real.
      I am saddened when I read comments that state my children should have died because that is natures way and now they will be a burden to society due to their supposed poor health. Then I see these comments get 21 likes on fb. Sigh. Talk about feeling insignificant. I am a mother. I love my children. I protect them like a mother bear. The extremists are skunks stinking up motherhood for a lot of women.
      Formula was best for my children. period.
      Again, thank you.

    • I hope those same women aren’t giving their kids antibiotics when they get sick. After all, letting them suffer and die is “nature’s way.” Freaking psychopaths.

      • I hope that as a breastfeeding mum – who may talk about how important breastfeeding is – isn’t demonized either for talking about breastfeeding, or for trying to offer advice – I would never dream of making anyone feel bad for not being able to breastfeed – it is a gift, to be able to, but it requires perseverance, but if you have persevered, and are not successful then I say well done for trying, and thank god you can still feed your baby, and love your baby, and they will still do great because you will always try to do what is best for your kids, and that is the best gift you can give. Love to all mums that try their best – no matter what way things work out.

  • Wow! Thank you. My BF problem wasn’t not being able to breastfeed but my children not being able to digest my milk, another “insignificant” and “almost no one” problem. I too was made to feel that I was in some way deficient and not providing the “best” for my children. We love our children and have done the best we can for them and no one should expect anything more!

  • 5% – wow, I didn’t know that.

    When I had trouble breastfeeding my 2nd child I was told over and over again that the only factor that stood between breastfeeding failure or success was how “determined” I was.
    I was pretty determined and expressed and combination fed for 5 months before – and only with the introduction of solids – my milk supply was big enough to sustain my little girl without the extra calories provided my formula.

    My takeaway: there simply was no way I could “force” my body to produce more milk no matter how much I pushed it – in fact, the more I pushed and stressed myself, the lower my supply got as all the expressing and subsequent loss of sleep took a toll on my body. Not to mention that I bonded more with the breastpump than with my newborn baby and my poor, pushed aside toddler. My husband was the last priority at that stressful time and our marriage was certainly suffered as a result. But yes, “determination” I had.

    So while I was lucky enough to sustain breastfeeding so far I certainly understand now that for some women it simply won’t be possible to breastfeed. It is just nothing that can be forced.
    When you have your heart set on breastfeeding and it doesn’t work out it can be devastating. I was heartbroken when I had to feed my tiny baby with formula for the very first time – but I was much more shocked and in disbelief when people, so-called lactation consultants and midwives and early childhood workers, suggested to my husband & I that I should just let my baby who hadn’t gained any weight in 6 weeks and became visibly weaker day by day just “starve” because this approach would at some stage “force her to go back to the breast” because the most horrible thing in the world would be that she would experience “nipple confusion”. Those people left me bewildered and scared – God knows how many people they would have pushed to take alike extreme measures to the detriment of their tiny babies.
    As soon as our little girl got her first bottle she started to thrive and we have not looked back.

    Main takeaway: It just really doesn’t matter what food the little ones get as long as they thrive.

    Women who struggle with breastfeeding absolutely need to know that sometimes – and 5 % is certainly not an insigificant number – it won’t work to be able to take some of the enormous pressure off themselves that surely doesn’t help with establishing breastfeeding.

  • I had major issues breastfeeding my first child. I tried sooo hard but DD1 just could not latch, why wasn’t this working? “just keep at it she’ll get the hang of it soon” was the advice from my midwife. I tried and tried, finally after my nipples were so cracked and bleeding that I had to tape cotton patches over them to stop the blood seeping through my clothing and having listened to my 5 day old baby screaming from starvation, I ordered hubby to go by formula. She downed the first bottle and slept for 6 hours straight. What my midwife neglected to tell me was I had ‘flat nipples’, that was why DD1 could not get a latch but did she offer solutions? No. I felt like a failure, like I was deformed. I started to slip into depression. I had one woman come up to me in the supermarket (while I was buying a tin of formula) and tell me I should never have become a Mother if I wasn’t going to feed my baby the RIGHT way. I left in tears, minus the formula and had to send my husband back to get it. I was ashamed. But… My daughter was thriving, she was happy, healthy and was at the top of all plunkets charts. How could bottle feeding be so wrong when it was so right for her? When I feel pregnant with DD2 I was determined to breastfeed. I talked to a lactation consultant before the birth and got tips on how to feed with ‘flat nipples’. It was hard, it was stressful, it was agony but I did it! I breastfed my second daughter…. But I hated it! I hated breastfeeding, all the mums around me were saying how much they loved feeding, how feminine it made them feel, how bonded they were with their babies. I secretly hated it, I smiled and agreed with them all but deep down I couldn’t wait to stop. I made it to 10 months and finally had the guts to speak up to my husband about how I wanted to stop. I told him how much I hated it, how I dreaded each feed and how I loathed myself for feeling like this. He told me to stop that very minute, went out and got formula and gave our daughter her first bottle. She took it no worries. Since then DD2 hasn’t had a breastfeed, she is happy, she is healthy and I am happy and enjoying feeding her with a bottle.
    I wanted to share my story with you to show that even if you can breastfeed sometimes it’s still not the best option. It doesn’t matter how you feed your child, what matters is that you love them. A happy Mum means a happy baby. Keep up the good work Mammas x

    • Oh Nell! I’m so glad I’m not the only person in the world like this! I had flat nipples too and getting a proper latch with my son was next to impossible, after trying all positions, shields, fighting mastitis several times, blood, sweat, tears etc…and even when I got past that, I absolutely hated it! I could not figure out why it wasn’t a beautiful natural thing for me, and I found the sensation of my poor baby fumbling to get food absolutely torturous, and it was my husband who finally talked me into stopping. Even after giving I expressed fed for a month until I realised I was spending 60 hours a week expressing and feeding, expressing and feeding.
      I wish I hadn’t felt like such a failure, but I can’t believe any woman would dare to ridicule any mother for how they feed their child. It’s a disgrace! Xoxo

  • Great words! As a midwife and lactation consultant you can imagine my complete and total devistation upon the realisation that my milk was never coming in! I was never going to fully breast feed and I had ‘failed’ ( in my mind) I was going to breast feed for 18 months and be really good at it! A shining example … But after a week my poor dehydrated baby had his first topup of formula which was the beginning of the end of our feeding partnership. I breastedy next baby with the same ‘I can do it’ enthusiasm but my milk never came it. 30ml every 3-4 hrs is hardly going to keep my babes fed, so formula again. I pumped for months! The sound of the electric pump still brings a shiver to my boobs!
    It’s a tough road for some but at least I can say I tried :)

  • Thank you for this.

    I bawled through 11 shifts of midwives and lactation consultants man handling me, slapping and pinching my screaming newborn baby and telling me that nothing that it worth doing is easy before a lactation consultant finally sat down and informed me that I had flat nipples and fibrous areole (I didn’t and still don’t quite know what this means) which was the reason why my baby couldn’t latch sufficiently to pull the nipple out. She also said that it was unlikely to resolve itself naturally before my 4.1kg baby began to suffer. We spent the next 24 hours trying to express using a pump but this had very limited success (around 10ml from pumping 40 minutes per hour) A friend I hadn’t seen for a while came to visit with her 4 month old and when I saw how much her baby had grown in such a short time I decided that I wasnt going to lose that special time watching my baby grow because I was spending 40 minutes an hour attached to a breast pump and still having to supplement. And so I stopped. And I cried and I cried and I cried. For weeks.

    It had never occurred to me that there was something wrong with my breasts. I’d never taken much notice of other women’s nipples….I mean…I’d always been aware that mine were smaller and didn’t protrude like others i had seen but I didn’t consider what that might mean. I just figured that we are all a bit different.

    I look at my little girl and have noticed that she has inverted nipples. I look at other babies and notice that they don’t. And I just hope that by the time her turn comes around the bigotry and bullying associated with the breast vs bottle debate is long long in the past.

    This is the first time described the specific reason I didn’t / couldn’t breastfed. Even amongst my mothers group where we are all intimately acquainted with each others tears, episiotomies and caesarian scars I have never discussed it in detail such is the shame i have been made to feel about my “deformity” and bottle feeding.

  • I know you are looking for someone to blame because you feel badly,and I’m sorry for your pain. I personally try to educate about breastfeeding due to the fact that many people ( male and female ) are under the false idea that formula and breastmilk are equal. They are not. Yes our babies can thrive on formula, and sine of my six have had formula during some part of their infancy. I am grateful that my breast problem was oversupply (although please, understand that was distressing to both me and baby! ) and I suffered terribly when all failed and my 3rd (preemie) was never able to latch, so I do understand the feeling of failure. My problem lies with people resisting the idea that we NEED to educate about breastfeeding being best for both baby and mom. Suggesting that its somehow wrong to campaign against the current norm of formula feeding. We NEED to educate people and let them know that most ( whatever about exact ncan’trs) women can breastfeed. And we need to support those who can’t. The campaign out hurtful words and accusations against people who are trying to help the world by education with regard to healthy feeding of infants is wrong. Just as wrong as people judging women for having circumstances beyond their control which stored them from feeding their baby. why cant

    • Hi Toni
      I understand what you are trying to say but this is a post about women who PHYSICALLY CAN’T BREASTFEED. Please enlighten me on how, exactly, more education (besides the 1 trillion times we have all had ‘breast is best’ shoved in our faces over and over) on the ‘magical benefits of breastfeeding’ and how ‘dreadful’ formula is will help the women in this situation?
      I would also like to ask where all these people who think formula is equaled to breastmilk actually are? In my 3+ years of working with formula feeding parents I am yet to hear 1 of them say they believe that formula is better or equaled to breastmilk. Everyone knows breastmilk and breastfeeding is pretty amazing and a great way to feed your baby. But it is not unicorn tears and pixi farts. It should not be what our worth as a mother is based on. Formula is pretty good stuff. And when a family needs to formula feed whether that is because the mother can not physically, psychologically, financially or culturally breastfeed or has another personal reason, or if a baby can not breastfeed for many reasons than formula will give their baby what it needs to grow and thrive. She also needs to know that the way she feeds her baby does not define the mother she is or the relationship she will have with her child. Love and good parenting does not come from breasts or bottles – that comes from one’s heart.

      Women who want to and can breastfeed deserve all the respect and support they can be offered. Women who don’t want to or can’t breastfeed deserve all the respect and support they can be offered. How we treat a new mother should not be based on how she lovingly and responsibly feeds her baby.

      It may not be what you want to here but no – I don’t think more one size fits all medical advice such as ‘breast is best’ is needed. I think women deserve to be treated as individual with individual medical needs, abilities and circumstances and therefore should have feeding plans tailored to their individuality. Breast is not best, bottle is not best. What is best is for each family to have access to upto date, unbais information and support and be given the opportunity to weigh that information against their own personal situation and circumstances, decide for themselves which is the best feeding option for them and then be supported by their whole community no matter what that decision is.

      Also I am not looking for anyone to blame for the first 3 months of my babies life I lost due to my fixation on ‘failing’ to breastfeed, I know who to blame. Every midwife, lactation consultant, poster on the wall, stranger on the street and internet blog I read who told me breast is best, it creates bond, if you don’t you are subjecting your baby to a life of stupidity, sickness and you are a bad mum. I am no longer angry for myself (the only thing I regret is not giving my first that formula sooner – formula feeding was the best for us and my babies grow more beautiful, intelligent, healthy and bonded to me every day) but I am angry for ever mother who cries and feels inadequate like I did. It shouldn’t be happening and I will do all I can to make sure these women know they are not alone.

      • YES YES YES! I love this reply, lol! I suffered months of grief and depression over my first “failure” to breastfeed (probable IGT). It took me a long time to bond with my baby. I never got to hold him those first few months, because he screamed incessantly at the breast and I usually pumped while someone else bottle-fed him. I missed his entire newborn stage. I chose with my second baby to breastfeed as long as I could and supplement with bottles but no “heroic measures”…no pumping every 2 hours around the clock, no nipple shields and SNS, no hundreds of dollars in supplements, and no handing off my baby to other family members while I bonded with my breast pump. It took only one inconsiderate (and frankly, uneducated) lactation consultant to make me feel like a guilty quitter and get me attached to my pump again. Luckily I came to my senses but not before I watched my baby endure daily doctors visits, blood draws, and threats of hospitalization as she was wasting away in front of me. Sometimes, breast is not best. My daughter is now 6 months old and thriving on formula, thankfully, but I’ll always be haunted by those early days when I let someone make me feel like a bad mother for having the formula ready.

      • Just found this, my children are 36, 33 and 18 years old, and I went through the same thing, and never before have I seen somebody stick up for us! Thank you, even after all these years it still breaks me up! I tried desperately to breast feed my first child, and went through what seemed like torture before finally admitting that my own ‘apparatus’ just didn’t work, I tried again with the others but it was a waste of time and emotions at a time when you just want to bond with your baby, which is just as possible to do while bottle feeding, you can still hold them lovingly and gaze for hours into their eyes, while doing it, I never propped my babies up and read a book or watched tv like I’ve seen many other Mothers do. All these years later my children are all fit, healthy and very intelligent. My eldest daughter has 2 children and breast fed them no problem, but my own Mother couldn’t manage to breast feed myself or my brother, her Doctor told her not to worry, he said, ”My Dear, don’t worry about it, not all women were cut out to be cows”! You wouldn’t get that sort of sympathy any time in the last 30 odd years, since the BF zealots got a hold!

  • I am also in that 5%. I gave birth to twins in 2010 and wanted so bad to breastfeed them. I pumped, and pumped and pumped trying to get some sort of milk for them while they were in the hospital because they were born 6 weeks premature. I had a hospital grade monitor, a lactation consultant and I took natural remedies and over the counter drugs to try to increase my milk production. After all of that, I would still only produce 2 ounces every 3 hrs, when my 2 babies would consume 3 ounces each every hour, and that was only in the beginning. So of course if i wanted my babies to survive I had to give them formula. I dont feel guilty about it cause the alternative would be worse.

  • hi, for those struggling with flat nipples , nipple shields can help. Im aware that this wont work for everyone but i was lucky enough that it did for me.

  • …and for those who have inverted nipples, try the niplette! Luckily I already had one for cosmetic reasons LOL, because none of the troop of lactation consultants or midwives who advised me at the hospital had ever seen one(???). Following their advice, I tried nipple shields first(every size available, multiple times), but they made BF hurt even more and DS was also getting less milk than the tiny supply I was already giving him(thanks PCOS!).

    5% is not ‘insignificant’. However, more than this percentage may formula feed due to lack of community connectedness. Families are pretty isolated from each other nowadays, so seeing/ringing a professional for an hour of advice even each day isn’t sufficient to replace this support(especially mental wellbeing support), when you might have to feed your baby 10-12 times a day. BF can be really hard for a range of reasons, and if you’ve only been told that it’s the most beautiful thing you’ll ever experience with your baby, you’re behind the eight ball from the first feed.

    BTW it’s okay to have deformed/malformed breasts – I do, trust me, if you saw them you’d say ‘Girl, you got some unique breasts right there’, but my husband and baby love them as they are, so finally I’m cool with them too. ;)

  • I would love to see government support for breast banks – because although formula is okay, people should have access to breast milk for their babies. whether it comes from a breast or a bottle. Going back to what is ‘natural’ and pre-formula days is not the death of babies for mothers who cannot breastfeed, it is wet nurses and donated milk. It takes a village to raise a child, and if the significant 5% who cannot feed their babies with their own bodies, they should have support from the community and access to donated milk.

  • Excellent post. My babies are now 5 and 13, and I *still* get major stink-eye from medical providers when they have appts and I am asked if they were breastfed. In our family, formula has been blamed for everything from my daughter’s rampant ear infections to my son’s autism.

    What’s worse is that anyone with an eye can see the scars that criss-cross my breasts. I had a breast reduction when I was 20. Nearly two decades ago, the technology and technique was not as refined as it was today. This was not a frivolous surgery; it was necessary. I was grossly oversized and in a great deal of pain. But people act like I should have suffered until I was past my childbearing years in order to give my kids a few months (at least) of boob juice.

    I was able to produce milk, but I couldn’t get it out in a quantity sufficient to keep babies alive. It was not for lack of trying, and I spent many many hours with my boobs in milking machines trying to squeeze out every possible drop. I was on a first-name basis with practically every lactation consultant in the area. It just wasn’t happening, but they absolutely refused to acknowledge that.

  • Thank you for this. I am currently going through all these feelings for the third time and it just isn’t easy. I’m sitting here crying because this hit home in so many ways.

    • Laura, for me it finally hit home when one of the moms on a fb group for pumping mommas posted that her son took a nap and when she went to go check on him, he was gone. SIDS. She had at least two other kids. But I thought, “why am I sitting here crying?I have my baby. THIS momma has a reason to cry. I have my baby. ” And so i decided I would not cry anymore. Of course I did a few more times here and there but not again. I won’t go back to that feeling, that thinking, the shame, the guilt. No more. I hope you are also able to find peace about it too. I’m sure you are an amazing mom. Keep being that amazing mom.

  • I’m one of the 5%. Even though it was so many years ago, I won’t forget the depression and sense of failure and guilt when I found I wasn’t able to feed my babies. It was YEARS later that I came to terms with it all. My 2nd had hardly gained anything at 11 weeks old, and I still desperately, DESPERATELY was trying to get my milk supply to improve. If it weren’t for a good friend (who happened to be a very good breast feeder) taking a look at his scrawny little body and coming back from our local shop with some formula… I just don’t know what would have happened.
    Guess what? 20+ years later and ALL of my bottle fed children have survived, thrived, succeeded… (my boys are all intellectually gifted, by the way). I didn’t ‘fail’ as a mother. I did a darned great job, despite my circumstances at that time! Don’t let ANYONE put you down for bottle feeding, whether through choice or necessity, be happy and confident that you are giving your baby nourishment, and love, and the breastfeeding zealotry is not welcome!

  • Before artificial milks I would much prefer to see the sharing of human milk. My experiences with lambs and foals tells me that species specific milk is the safest route to nourish mammals.

    • If you would prefer to feed your baby donated human milk over formula than that is completely your choice and good for you. For others they need to weigh their own pros and cons to each choice and come to a decision which they feel most comfortable. Formula is designed for human babies. For the last 50 years companies have been doing all they can to develop a product which gives babies the safest most nutritious alternative to breastmilk that they are able. While there maybe benefits to breastmilk from another person, there are also risks – just as there are risks and benefits to formula or breastfeeding directly from your own breast. Because we are not clones of eachother, because each of us have unique medical backgrounds, religious backgrounds, personal circumstances and other situations no way is ‘best’ for all. No way id safest for all. The only best and safest choice is the one that is made by that particular family, allowing them to weigh up their options against their own unique circumstances, beliefs and needs, with as much unbiased and factual information available and then to be supported in that choice.

  • Yup that was me. Verbatim. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I did everything to increase my supply. Nothing. I did not take prescription drugs to increase my suppy because I did not feel peace to “make” my body do what it simply would not on its own. I fed my son organic formula and am currently doing the same now for my daughter. Second best, I guess. But they are smart, loving, beautiful people.

  • The main problem with this debate is that it is polarising; plenty of people here have related stories of being harassed for using formula. There are also a lot of people out there that find breastfeeding “disgusting” and get very worked up about it.
    The problem is that we should be showing more support for women throughout this process, regardless of how they are feeding their child. It isn’t possible for everyone, and that shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of. Human societies have been dealing with this issue for thousands of years; one Roman historian distinguished German practice of mothers breastfeeding their own children as a point of difference to Roman children who are fed by a wet-nurse. Essentially this is the equivalent of ancient ‘formula feeding’.

    So the debate will probably never end. We just need to stop being so negative and show our mothers some damn love and support!

    • We completely agree. That is why while Bottle Babies concentrates on support for Bottle Feeding families because, simply, there is no other organisation doing so unlike the many organisations offering support of breastfeeding mothers, we are still very support of breastfeeding mothers feeding their babies when ever, where ever and for how ever long they feel is right for their family. No mother should ever feel shame for lovingly feeding her baby in the way that she feels is best for her and her family in their own personal circumstance. No debate would be needed if we simply showed love, understanding, respect and support for all parents.

  • I wonder if that 5% includes mothers who didn’t breastfeed for mental reasons. With my first daughter I had a lot of issues. Milk supply – fine. Actually too much. Nipples – large but heading in the right direction. But my baby was small (5lb) and had a tiny little mouth. She couldn’t open her mouth wide enough to latch. When I managed to get her to try she wouldn’t stay on longer than a few seconds. But I know I could have worked through that if not for the debilitating PPD I suffered. I know in some cases breastfeeding helps depression, but I think because it was so difficult for me it only fueled the depression. I didn’t enjoy my baby until I stopped trying to breastfeed her.

    Lucky for me with my second there was no depression. She had all the same problems as my first, but I handled them. I went in knowing I was susceptible to depression, knowing my baby was going to be small. I had a nipple shield on hand. Most lactation consultants would not have recommended that for normal nipples, but I knew if I felt any pain I would quit. I learned how to get a small-mouthed baby to latch on my own. I gradually reduced my time with the shield. I breastfed that baby every 1.5-3 hours for 15 months. :) So that’s how I know it was mental illness that caused my problem the first time. Until my second came along I just thought I wasn’t strong enough. But all the strength in the world can be no match for PPD.

    • Hi Heather. The often quoted 5% of women who can not physically breastfeed is an unproven estimate of women who can not breastfeed due to physical incapabilities and does not include women who can not breastfeed due to psychological incapabilities or many other issues which may limit a mother breastfeeding her baby (such as medical conditions of a baby) Psychological limitations can include conditions such as PPD (and the many forms of PPD), D-Mer, birth trauma, previous sexual assault and the list goes on….. Add to that women who have nerve damage that makes breastfeeding unbearably painful or women who are in abusive relationships where breastfeeding if forbidden, or the many other individual circumstances where breastfeeding is nearly impossible or would be a hardship which could severely damage the health and well-being of mother and/or baby and that 5% becomes much, much larger.
      “I didn’t enjoy my baby until I stopped trying to breastfeed her.” You are not alone. This too was my experience. There was no bond for my first baby and I through breastfeeding. For us it was a traumatizing experience that overwhelmed me to the point of my PPD.
      When my second and third babies came I had a different attitude regarding how they would be fed, I knew that the way they were fed had no impact on the type of mother I was and we bonded through a mix of breast and formula for a few months before swapping to exclusively formula feeding. I felt no pressure – I also experienced no depression. It does make me wonder if my depression was a result of the pressure to make breastfeeding work and the feelings of failure when it didn’t.
      Thank you for sharing part of your journey. I’m sorry you experienced such a hard time the first time but were able to make the decision that were best for you and your baby at that time and I am so glad for you that things worked out well for you the second time and you made decisions which was best for you, as an individual, to suit your individual needs and you were able to reach your breastfeeding goals. Well done!

  • Thankyou so so much for this. I don’t understand why people aren’t told that it might not happen for them?? I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken that Breastfeeding didn’t work for us. My baby was in the special care unit and in the humidicrib and while I tried and tried and tried he ended up with an NG tube and formula supplementation and we were in hospital for 8 days. I have one flat and one inverted nipple, one midwife advised shields but told me they weren’t technically supposed to tell me that was an option. Eventually a nurse came and told me that if we didn’t get this nursing thing under control we would never be allowed to leave the hospital, my husband and I went and bought the most expensive breast pump we could find, hired the hospital grade one for 3 and a half months and got formula and bottles and were determined to get home. The nurses were amazing but tied by hospital protocol to say the ‘right’ things about feeding. Shields worked to a very small degree but my son would scream like I was breaking his bones every time we’d try, or he’d suck for 2 hours and still be hungry while I was blistered and sore and exhausted. I pumped breast milk for 3 and a half months, took a portable pump out with me and pumped on the hospital grade one from home, gave up all dairy due to his CMPI and never got more than 2 hours sleep at a time, was the only bottle feeder at many ABA meetings to try and figure this out, so I was sure no one could tell me I wasn’t trying hard enough. True to form though I heard many horrible women tell me that I ‘didn’t need the parents room cause I wasn’t really feeding’, that ‘it’s not real milk’ and that my son’s ‘reflux/CMPI/cold etc was caused by formula’ also hearing at the meetins ‘no formula feeding woman should be proud of the way her baby sleeps through at night, it’s the formula slowing their poor little system and making them sluggish and needing to sleep to work it away’ I stopped going after that!… I think the judging needs to stop, and whilst I don’t need approval to feed my son the way he chooses to be fed, it would be nice for the judgemental people to shut their yappers. I am truly sick of hearing how Breastfeeding people get judged for feeding in public, what people need to understand is that EVERYONE is being judged so it just needs to stop!

  • I come from the other side of the breastfeeding problem, but with the same result. Plenty of milk, great attachment, but a baby that physically couldn’t digest breastmilk. So I was feeding, my baby had the worst diahorrea possible, it burnt his bum so badly that the blisters left scars, he was screaming constantly in pain and he was losing weight.

    I was told by many LC’s, mcn’s and even a couple of doctors that there was nothing wrong, as a baby can always have breastmilk. He can’t be lactose intolerant because that would be “incompatable with life”. My baby was starving, and they said that couldn’t be the problem because he would be starving…

    He is now on prescription lactose free formula. He is thriving, and has learnt to smile. He is still little, and developmentally behind, as he lost so much time when he was sick. And I am dealing with PND because I feel like I made my baby get that sick, trying to persevere with breastfeeding.

  • I was made to feel like the biggest failure in the world because I “gave up” breastfeeding my 7 week old son at 4 weeks. I really hate how people ask me why; do I ask you why your hair is brown or why you dressed your baby in a onesie? No.
    For me, I tried as hard as I could, and as a Midwifery student I was really hard on myself. In the end a combination of poor attachment, slow suck, flat nipples, low supply, severe depression and 2 cases of mastitis with my son only gaining 20 grams in a week resulted in my choice to switch to formula exclusively.
    I just wish there was more support for those women who not only CANT breastfeed but also for those who choose not to. Yes, breast is best – for those who can, but the real rresult at the end of the day is a fed, healthy and happy baby, and a healthy, happy mummy :)

  • […] certainly not comparing ALS with lactation failure (please) but merely making the same point Lisa Watson of Bottle Babies did in her brilliant post about this issue: 1-5% of women is nothing to scoff […]

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