Why Most Women “Can’t” Breastfeed

Este artículo en Español –> https://yournaturalbirth.co.uk/2015/10/26/por-que-la-mayoria-de-las-mujeres-no-pueden-amamantar/Photo Credit: Lillian Sediles Photography | lilliansediles.comBreastfeeding versus Formula Feeding is a hot debate. Mothers feel judged, whether they choose to breastfeed or not, and we are in the midst of Mommy Wars. Mothers who breastfeed feel like society shames them for feeding in public. Mothers who formula feed feel like they are lambasted by lactivists for ‘being lazy’ or even ‘poisoning‘ their child. I’d like to shed some light on why so many mothers cannot breastfeed.

Only an estimated 1-5% of all women have the inability to produce enough milk for their baby. Even fewer, around 2% of women, cannot physically lactate or have problems that lead to the inability to breastfeed (child has a cleft palate, mother has glandular tissue problem, etc). From the rest of the 95% of mothers who have the ABILITY to breastfeed, 81% of mothers try to breastfeed, 17% are still exclusively breastfeeding at three months, and then it drops to 14% at four months. Exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months is only 1% in the UK (From the NHS 2010 Infant Feeding Survey). Is breastfeeding really so difficult? In our society, yes it is.

Our society doesn’t see breastfeeding as the norm. Mothers don’t get the support they need. The reason why most women can’t breastfeed is because they are missing these 3 essential things for successful breastfeeding.

Here are 3 Things that Women Need in Order to Breastfeed (if baby doesn’t latch on right away):

breastmilk_vs_formula1. A Strong Desire to Breastfeed. There are many reasons to breastfeed: bonding, less expensive, more convenient, lose weight faster, healthier for baby, etc. If you don’t really care to breastfeed, you’ll probably end up giving formula.

2. A Good Support Network. If your baby doesn’t latch on right away, establishing breastfeeding is HARD. Sometimes it’s painful. Most of the time, it’s tiring from tending to your baby every 15 minutes to every hour just to feed. It’s embarrassing for some, since our society doesn’t embrace public breastfeeding. Other times, the baby isn’t gaining weight fast enough for your doctors. If you don’t have a good husband, partner, mom, sister, friend, or community group (La Leche League) telling you you’re doing the right thing to keep at it, you’ll probably start supplementing with formula and then maybe switch to formula full time.

3. Access to Good Breastfeeding Experts. There are good experts and there are bad ones. When I was struggling with breastfeeding, I called the local LLL leader and she came to my house the very next day after I called for help. She was able to give me moral support and recommend a lactation consultant. That lactation consultant was able to identify a submucosal tongue tie as well as a lip tie and was able to recommend a dentist who did multiple tongue and lip tie cuts every day! Plus, my insurance covered almost all of it! Sadly, some experts won’t be able to find the problem and can’t help a mother in need. And other people don’t have access to or can’t afford procedures that might be needed to establish breastfeeding. Don’t trust the hospital midwives, nurses, or doctors to give you advice on breastfeeding! Always find a LACTATION CONSULTANT. Hospitals advise ‘topping up’ with formula which leads to the Top Up Trap.

Top Up Trap

In order for a mother to breastfeed if baby doesn’t latch on right away, she would have to have all three of these things. To start, if a mother doesn’t have a strong desire to breastfeed, she will most likely switch to formula before pursuing other options (so they dropped off at #1). Others who have that strong desire personally may have been told by their husband, parents, or friends that they didn’t need to ‘suffer’ through breastfeeding and begin to believe that formula is ‘just as good’ (didn’t have #2). And if the mother had the support, but didn’t have good lactation consultants, found them too expensive, or needed procedures done that weren’t accessible (tongue tied or lip ties), they switched to formula. Sometimes mothers are given BAD advice (topping off with formula), giving supplements with bottles (nipple confusion), and lose milk supply due to the advice given. Mothers also don’t realise that how much you pump isn’t a good indicator of how much milk you are producing. There’s a huge misconception about milk supply, how it works, and how it can be measured.

It’s rare to have all three of these things. So even though 95% of women can physically breastfeed, this is why only 1% of mothers can establish breastfeeding for up to 6 months (even though WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months and supplemented breastfeeding with food up to 2 years or beyond). There are factors outside a mother’s control that play into breastfeeding successfully, so even if you strongly desire to breastfeed, you may not be able to establish or continue to breastfeed without good support and good breastfeeding experts.

Some examples of POOR ADVICE given by “experts” are,

  • “The baby is losing too much weight, you’ll have to supplement with formula.” This is wrong advice, because the best food for babies is breast milk, so a professional would recommend pumping in between feedings and supplementing with pumped breast milk.
  • “It’s been two weeks and your baby is not back to his birth weight, it’s time to supplement with formula.” As already mentioned above, it is better to pump breast milk than right away go with formula. And secondly, this timeline doesn’t fit all babies. Some babies may take a bit longer to gain weight. Other babies were bloated from the extra fluid (received from the mother receiving IV fluids during labour and birth) that their birth weight was elevated (false). This is especially true for c-section babies. For more info on maternal fluids and birth weight click here. Remember, each baby is different, and experts need to be looking at other factors that may indicate failure to thrive. If developmentally, socially, and emotionally the baby is doing well, then the actual number when it comes to weight may not be something you have to worry about. In some cases, it may take up to 4 weeks for the baby to be back to birth weight.
  • “The baby shouldn’t be feeding every hour, he must not be getting enough milk, you should top off with
    formula.” 
    Newborns’ stomachs are so small that feeding every 15 minutes is a variation of normal! Some newborns are efficient sucklers, so they may only need to be on the breast for 5 minutes and then sleep for several hours. Other newborns are still figuring out how to suckle and may be on the breast for 1 hour, sleep for 15 minutes, and then be up again to eat. Real signs to look out for are if it feels painful. Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful. It may be uncomfortable for the first few seconds of latching, but the discomfort should go away. If discomfort or pain persists, seek a lactation consultant to see if there is a tongue tie, lip tie, or suggestions for different positions to improve the latch.
  • “The baby shouldn’t use your breast as a dummy, it should be for feeding only.” Giving a newborn a pacifier (dummy) may cause nipple confusion, which makes latching onto the breast more difficult. Giving a newborn supplemental formula with a bottle also may cause nipple confusion. The way their tongue functions is completely different when sucking on a bottle compared to the breast. Newborns often enter a “fourth trimester” after birth and sometimes the only thing that comforts them is the mother’s breast. This is normal and should not be denied or substituted; plus, this best regulates a mother’s milk supply. (The b
    est way for a mother to produce enough milk for a baby is by demand, putting the baby to the breast as often as he wants it).11201172_1502040286782035_4254934609137638146_n
  • “If you’re not sure how much your baby is getting, try pumping instead to see how much milk you can produce.” Breast pumps are not as efficient as the baby. They cannot get out as much milk as a baby, and they don’t stimulate the breasts as well as the baby to signify to the mother’s body to produce more or less milk. If you’re worried that your baby isn’t getting enough milk from breastfeeding, don’t use pumping as a measurement of what you can produce. Instead, count your baby’s wet diapers.

What do I do if I’m struggling with breastfeeding? First, figure out why you want to breastfeed. Read 101 Reasons to Breastfeed to give you more determination and knowledge if you feel you are lacking. Second, find a good support network. If your husband, mother, or friends don’t support you, contact your local La Leche League or Breastfeeding Facebook Groups! Third, find a good, highly recommended lactation consultant. And Fourth, if you’ve done all three and still struggle, I encourage you to pump or express your own milk. In the WHO’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, it recommends:

  • Milk from own mother by breastfeeding,
  • Milk from own mother, expressed,
  • Milk from a wet-nurse, or
  • Milk from a milk bank, or
  • Breastmilk substitute fed by cup

In case you didn’t catch that, “Breastmilk substitute” (formula) is the last recommendation for feeding your baby. I have been so encouraged by fellow mums who couldn’t breastfeed due to cleft palate or other reasons but chose to pump and exclusively bottle feed their own pumped milk. Life doesn’t get more hectic than pumping every three hours and then bottle feeding your baby (You know who you are, and you are a hero)!

If you are pregnant and preparing to breastfeed your baby, you can work on establishing these three important factors to best ensure breastfeeding success right now!

What do you think? Do you agree? Where did you struggle with breastfeeding?

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39 thoughts on “Why Most Women “Can’t” Breastfeed

  1. As a trained breastfeeding support volunteer I like much of this article, but a few of the inaccuracies are very worrying, and bordering on irresponsible.

    1. “Newborns’ stomachs are so small that feeding every 15 minutes is a variation of normal! Some newborns are efficient sucklers, so they may only need to be on the breast for 5 minutes and then sleep for several hours.”

    While technically this may be possible, it is really NOT a commonplace scenario for a newborn babe to be so efficient they can get enough milk in a 5 minute feed, and then fall asleep for “hours”. In fact if I was told this story by a mum I’d consider a sleepy baby nursing for 5 minutes at a time as a bit of a red flag for inefficient milk transfer, jaundice or similar and would be urgently referring that mum back to their healthcare team. Some babies will be so sleepy as a result of inefficient milk transfer it can lead to a quite dangerous situation if not properly addressed.

    2. “In some cases, it may take up to 4 weeks for the baby to be back to birth weight.” Yes, while this is the case, it is also the case that a baby who is taking 4 weeks or more to get back to birth weight will certainly need experienced, expert lactation support- this should be stressed after that sentence rather than ending a paragraph on it as if that’s OK. And yes, in some of these cases a carefully advised supplement will need to be given, whether donor milk, EBM or yes, formula. This whole article has a worrying anti-supplement tone, and while I wholeheartedly agree that unnecessary supplements should be avoided, we also shouldn’t be scaring mums who need to supplement away from doing so.

    3. Several references to lip tie- and in your comments buccal ties? There is no evidence these have any impact on breastfeeding in isolation, more often problems relate to tongue ties or incomplete division of tongue ties.
    https://sarahoakleylactation.co.uk/lip-tie/

    There are a LOT of anti-breastfeeding articles and organisations gaining ground at the moment, including organisations like the “Fed Is Best” foundation. Articles like this play completely into their hands, bolstering their argument that “lactavists” are irresponsible and putting babies at risk. It would be really worthwhile discussing this article with an actual lactation consultant and putting some of the more worrying angles of this blog right.

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    1. Thank you for your well-thought comment. I believe it is essential that women work closely with well-trained breastfeeding specialists, especially IBCLC lactation consultants. These drastic examples are real-life examples that I find warning mothers that on the chance that these actually happen, mums shouldn’t immediately think they’re failing, that they cannot breastfeed, or that they’re not producing enough milk. On the contrary, when these instances occur, mothers should note them and pass them onto a lactation consultant. I believe proper specialists know if and when supplemental feeding is necessary. So, remember that this article is explaining why most women give up, or say they just couldn’t breastfeed, and these examples are often a reason given as to why they’re incapable of breastfeeding.

      This article is NOT medical advise, in fact, it further promotes the need for expert advise from qualified people. I hope people aren’t using this as medical advise, but as a reflection of the problem we’re seeing in the West with breastfeeding rates. At risk babies should receive any kind of supplementation necessary. I would not call myself a “lactivist”, but there are so many advantages to breastfeeding that mums are missing out on because they’re missing these three elements stated in the article: determination/will, support, and quality care.

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  2. I have always joked that my breasts are “false advertising.” They are large but never produced enough milk to feed my babies exclusively. I consulted a lactation specialist, pumped and was desperate to breastfeed. None of it helped and I could barely excrete enough milk. I’d get 2oz after pumping each breast for 1/2hr. So I’d breastfeed and then offer a bottle each time. I’d pump in between to try to get milk flowing. Eventually after 3 months, I was just exhausted and stopped breastfeeding. Never had any pain because there were hardly anything flowing. It’s been a tremendous source of sadness for me and it happened with all 3 babies.

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    1. I’m so sorry to hear how difficult if was for you. There are mothers who feel the same way! It’s wonderful that you were able to get support and I’m sorry the lactation specialist didn’t work for you. Once again, the amount you get from pumping is not a good measure of how much you can produce and how much babies can get from you. What was the reason you first started to supplement with formula?

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    2. I had a very similar struggle with both of my babies. I was only able to pump 1/4 – 1/2oz from each breast after half an hour of pumping. It was very frustrating, and I stuck through it for about 3 months as well, then finally decided it was not worth the extra stress of pumping. However, I’m incredibly thankful that both my girls are healthy, strong, energetic and incredibly intelligent! You’re not alone, mama. 🙂

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  3. I breastfed my first for 4 years, my second for 4 yrs and 2 months and my 3 yr old is still nursing. I only received support or help for my first because she was nipple confused. It was a horrible beginning and it took weeks to retrain her to fully nurse from the breast. I wouldn’t give up because I have always rescued animals and raised animals and I couldn’t stand the thought of a rat having the benefits of mom’s milk and not my daughter. That was my incentive 22 yrs ago. I learned with breastfeeding it’s like a marriage, you just never give up. No matter what I never offered bottles never ever. If my milk supply was bad, I just ate and drank more and took extra vitamins and slept more to build up my supply. I did know a woman who’s milk just didn’t come in though. She tried everything in the world. It was sad because she nursed her other children and was devastated. Her baby turned out fine, just had more ear issues. I learned that even though it sounds gross, if you eat or have your placenta processed into pills, you will not only make tons of milk, you won’t get post pregnancy depression. Just thought Id mention it. 🙂

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    1. Actually while that all seems lovely… when you don’t have breasts or don’t have any milk ducts (mammary tissue) inside your breasts, it doesn’t matter what you eat/drink/swallow… you can’t produce milk. This is a real situation some women face. Women like me who have no mammary glands and cannot make milk only end up with babies in the hospital starving to death when we “try hard enough”.

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  4. Well, biology didn’t give me a choice. I guess I fall in the tiny but very real group that physically does not produce any breastmilk. I put my baby at risk to find that out and he ended up hospitalized severely dehydrated and not doing well at 2 weeks old having dropped way too much weight. He was severely jaundiced, lethargic and would hardly wake up… For us, formula was the ONLY answer. it was a miracle, and I’m grateful for us… so I guess where breastfeeding went wrong for us was before we ever started. IGT is a real thing. I have spent quite a bit of time researching things and discovered that all the sources of how horrible formula is compared to breastmilk didn’t pan out at all in the scientific data at all. I have 4 children now… all perfectly healthy with NO allergies, and none of whom struggle with weight issues, or asthma, or all of the things I was told they would suffer because I fed them formula. Except that I occasionally speak out to help other women, no one would ever look at my children and think “oh it must have been the formula.. just look how sickly, fat, and dumb these kids are!” Nope.. in fact no one bothers to even think about what they ate as infants.

    I’m the one struggling with obesity and various health problems – I was breastfed.

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  5. Well, I always trust my ability to feed my children by my breasts. My children ages 2 and 4 still manage to get milk out of me. So I’m happy. But what about my friends who also really (desperate) want to give breastfeeding, have a good network and pump like crazy…I feel something missing in the trap. What about feelings of insecurity and pressure of our surroundings? I see lots of mums suffering from this and I can imagine this is a big cause as well, why women ”can’t” breastfeed. What do you think about that?

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  6. I chose to stop breastfeeding at 8 months so I could take medication that would make my life easier. It was hard, it took me a full month to wean because I was so ambivalent about it, and I felt very selfish for weaning to do something for myself. I actually feel emotional writing about it now, a few months later. Seeing that only 1% made it to 6 months made me feel better. Although it felt like a failure to me, it was the longest I nursed with any of my 3 children. I would’ve liked to have made at least a year, but I’m trying to celebrate the accomplishment of making it as long as we did.

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    1. Please dont compare yourself with others; they arent in your body or situation. You yourself say you did your best with this baby (nursed the longest) and that my sweet, is your only comparison. From your baby, “Thanks Mom! You did your best!”

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  7. Mom to four boys here. BF was excruciatingly painful–knives through me, knives! I would have to totally psych myself out just to feed. I went to LeLeche–what a joke, they told me to speak soft, sweet things to my babies while feeding. That’s hard to do when you’re sucking in your breath and pounding your heels on the wall in order to endure the pain. FINALLY, with baby #4 a nurse actually helped me figure out how to get the boy properly latched! It involved breaking all the “rules” of how-to…and then I was one of the 5%. Bonding never happened in agony. It did come, however, when I just bought formula and a bunch of bottles. Today those boys are 21, 18, 16, and 14. Strong, healthy, rarely sick, tall and all tested into the Gifted and Talented Education program here in CA. The 21 yr old is in a PhD program for Biomimicry with a Fellowship and full scholarship. The 18 yr. old is at Biola University studying Physics. The 16 yr. is determined to be a pediatrician and the 14 yr. loves art. They all drank formula through a bottle. If BF works for you enjoy the cost savings–that’s a true claim. The other claims are not as sound as the LeLeche league would like you to think.

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  8. I have 2 children and each breastfeeding experience was different. I had my firstborn when I was little more than a kid myself, my stone was born 2 weeks before my 15th birthday. Despite having a natural birth, (which at that age it wasn’t a choice but now I am glad for it) my son had to go into nicu because his blood was too thick and the doctors had to thin it out. During that time I pumped with a manual pump believing that once he came home I could breastfeed. Ill be honest and admit that I initially chose to breastfeed because it was free and I thought it would be easy since it is what my body was made for, the reality was I knew nothing about breastfeeding and because of my age the doctors didn’t really talk to me but at me instead. When I got my son home I was weak from severe blood loss and low iron and could barely lift my baby but still I tried for weeks to get my son to latch on. Finally I gave up because my pediatrician told my formula was just as good and I was harming my son by not giving him enough milk. Despite having #1 & #2, thanks to my very supportive mom and other family members, I lacked #3 and didn’t realize that my son suffered from nipple confusion from being bottle fed while in the nicu. I thought that formula was similar and since manual pumping was painful and time consuming I switched. My son suffered from ear aches on a biweekly basis from fluid draining into his ears, it was then that his doctor told me I should have breastfeed instead and he wouldn’t have had so many ear infections but by that time my milk was gone.

    With my daughter, 10 years later & wiser, I did a lot of research before she was born and had a great midwife who worked with a lactation person. The lactation specialist came that same morning and showed me how to hold her so that we were both comfortable. For the first 2 months I exclusively breastfed her until I ended up getting an infection from sores on my nipples that spread to my blood. For the next 10 days I could not give her my milk and had to formula fed her but I pumped my milk to keep my supply up even though I had to dispose of it. After that I both bottle and breastfed her because I didn’t pump enough during that time and she started losing weight. Instead of giving up on breast milk I made her a bottle mixed with as much milk as I could pump and then filled the rest with formula every other feeding I would feed her directly from my breast. She ended up getting 80% breast milk and 20% formula when she had a bottle and half the time she drank from my breast. I kept trying to straight breastfeed but she would be hungry every 15 minutes until I gave her a bottle. Doing the bottle for half the feedings allowed me to give her the best of both, full tummy and good milk with only 10% of her total milk being formula. This continued until she was 2 and she didn’t get infections like my son. She also continued to be a large healthy girl, she was 9 lbs 7 oz and 22 in at birth and although bigger than other children her age her weight was in keeping with her height.

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  9. I loved this article. I am American, a Bradley Method mom, and have an awesome husband who, though not breastfed himself, supported me through any challenges. The desire to breastfeed is definitely the most important factor, and that is something every woman must find for herself. I never wanted my babies to have anything else but my milk, so we worked it out. Some relatives didn’t understand, but we didn’t care. When traveling, we pulled over as needed and found ways to feed no matter what. It’s such a blessing on airplanes! It keeps my babies calm and decreases pressure in their little ears. It helped me get down to pre-baby weight within a month. There are so many advantages! Pumping at work was the biggest challenge for me— finding a private place, finding the time, etc. But going home to my baby and snuggling up to nurse in the evenings made it all worth it. Even as a working mommy, I was still the mommy with the precious milk my babies needed. I love, love, love breast-feeding! To those who have yet to form a strong opinion about it—Do the research, connect with breast-feeding moms, and do what you can to make it happen. You will never regret slowing down and taking advantage of the bonding magic that can happen through breast-feeding.

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  10. Reblogged this on Catherine Bell Hart and commented:
    In Australia, you can seek support before you baby arrives, and this will help you to meet the three requirements mentioned in this article.

    The ‘go-to’ place to gain this advantage is The Australian Breastfeeding Association. They offer breastfeeding education classes, for you and your support person, during pregnancy. This is followed up with a support network beyond birth. You can also add a breastfeeding plan to your birth map. There is a guide to this on the ABA website.

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  11. I appreciate your last paragraph, Lilian. I had all three criteria and a natural birth to boot and my daughter just would not latch. Not even a “bad” latch, just wouldn’t. She only ever nursed a handful of inefficient times, usually with a nipple shield. I tried everything while renting a nice pump to build my supply, including feeding by cup for the first two weeks of her life to avoid nipple confusion (hell), trying every position multiple times, tons of skin to skin, a great lactation consultant (who I know saved my supply from her pumping advice!), checked multiple times for lip/tongue tie, even a chiropractor. I killed myself trying to make nursing happen. About 2 months in, I had to accept reality and I decided to keep exclusively pumping for 4 more months. I was able to make enough milk to not have to supplement (after the first month) and have a moderate freezer stash. I’m so proud of what I did and yet it was such a dark time for me. I’m honestly not sure the physical, emotional and mental stress of exclusive pumping was worth it. I think I channeled the loss of control of breastfeeding to being able to meticulously control my exclusive pumping and in an eerie way, it can become obsessive. Anyway, I believe it’s rare for this happen, but it IS my story and women need to hear and share each other’s stories in this area.

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  12. I really like this article. I was lucky enough to have all 3 things. Even though there was one midwife in the hospital, that made me doubt my abilities.
    I had done so much reseach and talked to so many people, doulas, midwifes, birth coaches, and lactation consultants and was so determined to have an all natural birth and breastfeed for at least 6 months.
    Sadly I had to get a cesaerian, it turns out that my hips won’t part and I will most likely never have a natural birth.
    But now I have been almost ebf my daughter for 5 months. We had to give her formula because I can’t pump milk and I had some dental surgery where my husband had to take care of her for several hours. During the last 2 weeks we started some baby led weaning and she loves to explore the food and the taste. She still doesnt really eat much and her main source is still me. And I love it so much.
    I had a really hard time to establish breastfeeding in the first few days. But my husband and my family knew how important it was to me and got 4 different lactiation consultants to come by in the first 2 days of her life. They helped so much and I’m so glad I have the support. It is hard. Very hard if shes sick and wants to nurse almost 24/7 but I’m not yet ready to give it up and so is my baby girl. It also makes me so proud when I see her trying to use the sippy cup by herself at only 5 months.

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  13. Its a topic that gets an emotional reaction.

    The high emotion involved demonstrates just how strongly women feel about breastfeeding.

    Instinctively women strongly desire it.

    Instinctively babies strongly desire it.

    Yet, society and conscious thoughts get in the way.

    Doubts, fears, repeated mistakes and failures, justifications, excuses, defenses, denials.

    Imagine if you were a woman and you let yourself strongly desire it.

    And you realised that you could have succeeded, but the system failed you.

    That poor advice and misinformed medical staff actually thwarted your chances and your babies chances.

    That would be a whole lot of grief to face.

    In a society rife with anxiety, depression and birth trauma, can our women face that grief – or is it the straw that broke the camels back?

    If only the grief would turn to anger and turn into the FIGHT to get better support for the next generation of women.

    The passion to make sure our daughters have the chance to birth vaginally and feed their children from the milk of their mammary glands.

    If only that change would come.

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  14. Lip ties, tongue ties, and cheek ties are often overlooked and very often the reason for problems in breastfeeding! My personal experience was very stressful as my baby was losing weight and breastfeeding was so painful! The midwife was unable to detect a tongue tie, but I persevered and found a lactation consultant, recommended by a LLL leader, and she diagnosed a submucosal tongue tie. I was able to get the tongue tie laser-cut by an amazing paediatric dentist and breast-feeding was IMMEDIATELY pain-free and my baby started gaining weight at week 3.

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  15. I was able to feed my first baby without any help. He was a voracious feeder and when I was told to wean him at 9 months, as the milk did not have the required nutrition(the 1960’s before we knew about Nursing Mothers), I had so much milk that I had to have it dried up with an injection from the doctor. The next baby was a tiny girl with a rosebud mouth and as I was feeding her every hour and a half, my mother-in-law said that I didn’t have enough milk! She eventually went onto formula because of the wrong advice I was given.

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  16. QUOTED FROM THIS “Only an estimated 1-5% of all women have the inability to produce enough milk for their baby. Even fewer, around 2% of women, cannot physically lactate or have problems that lead to the inability to breastfeed (child has a cleft palate, mother has glandular tissue problem, etc”

    This is complete outdated, non researched statistics I am a genuine low supplier( with no medical issues to explain low supply) i have not fallen into boobie traps that made my supply suffer and have done everything on earth to try to make enough milk for my babies.. Im part of an Australian group for genuine low suppliers, igt ect the group has become a massive group with members starting to get close to 8000, and that is only a small % that this group reaches.. other groups worldwide also are attracting huge numbers of women in the same boat.. I hate these % that are put on us the problem is bigger than it looks and not so rare…

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    1. First of all, I am sorry for the struggle it must have been for you as there is very little support for those with IGT or other problems that inhibit milk production. I found this article to to be unbiased and informative on the different issues that may lead to the actual inability to produce milk: http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2013/8/19/breastfeeding-and-low-supply-common-and-surprising-causes-an.html

      You have to wonder what’s causing the inability to breastfeed in the West if “In Bangladesh, where infant formula isn’t readily accessible, affordable or safe for most families, 98 percent of babies are breastfed and the average age of weaning is 33 months (source: WHO Global Data Bank on Infant and Young Child Feeding).” –>http://www.who.int/nutrition/databases/infantfeeding/countries/bgd.pdf?ua=1

      But when you look at the numbers provided, you still can’t get a true sense as to the actual statistical number of genuine low suppliers. IGT was 1 in 1000 in the article I linked and the incidence of PCOS was 6%-8% of caucasians, 8%-10% for African Americans, and 10%-12% for Latinos and Native Americans (for all women, not pregnant women). So I imagine the number of women struggling to breastfeed with PCOS is still less than 5%. No number was given for those with diabetes, nipple surgery, and etc.

      You may be right that the number of women who actually cannot produce is higher than 5%; however, I cannot find any true data showing this. This article I wrote is not intended to shame or belittle women who struggle with the inability to breastfeed; and I am encouraged to know that there are amazing women who have IGT and yet, with determination, support and expert advice, are still able to produce breast milk for their babies!

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    2. Hi, what is the group you belong to called? I’m a genuine low supplier and have struggled for months in end trying to feed both my kids, doing every crazy thing under the sun to boost my supply. It’s been a pretty lonely journey, would love to join.

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  17. Okay, I get all of this, but there’s another thing that people seem to refuse to understand (I know it was mentioned at the very beginning, but I don’t feel it is stressed enough). Some women can’t breastfeed because they can’t breastfeed. Period. There’s such a push to breastfeed, and all new moms ever hear (at least, in my experience, here in California) is that, “Yes, you can breastfeed. You can breastfeed at any age. You can make enough milk to feed your baby. Trust your body.” But here’s the thing I have a problem with – your body, for various different reasons, can at any given time stop making other things. Because of injury, illness, genetics, etc. your body can stop producing hormones, insulin, white blood cells, melanin, etc. and yet, even with any medical problems you may or may not have, breast milk is the absolute ONLY thing you will always be able to make? I had a good support system. I had the determination. I had the skills. I breastfed my first two children. But then I had issues with diabetes, then my heart, and no matter what I did, no matter how often I pumped, how I changed my diet, no matter how many consultants I saw, according to LLL, there was nothing wrong with my body, it was me (in softly worded, subtle and passive-aggressive ways I was told) that wasn’t doing right. Baby latched on perfectly, I just wasn’t putting in the effort. With two other kids, one of them disabled, and a job at home, already walking around bra-less (which is mentally uncomfortable for me) to keep my baby stuck to my chest – I was still not putting in the effort and therefore that’s why I wasn’t breasfeeding sufficiently. I was told to see more consultants, go to classes, change medications, all so I could breastfeed. I know breastfeeding is important, but that’s a ton of pressure to put on anyone! With my last baby, I was willing to try again, but I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to. In the hospital, my baby wasn’t getting any breastmilk from me. She cried. She screamed. She wouldn’t sleep. She stopped peeing. And when I asked for formula, they told me that since I had opted to breastfeed only, they WOULD NOT give it to me. After five nights in the hospital when she didn’t sleep once and was dropping weight LIKE CRAZY, I said that if they didn’t give me formula for her, I would have my husband go get it. They had the doctor come in, look at her, and he had the nerve to tell me they were going to put her on a feeding tube to get her weight back up, then I could try breastfeeding again. Well, what the f**k was going to be in that feeding tube then? Because it wasn’t going to be breastmilk FROM ME! And then, after I took my baby home, happy, healthy, gaining weight again from formula, the nurse who came to my home asked me why I wasn’t breastfeeding. At that time, I had been put on heart meds and was told by a cardiologist not to risk it, because the meds were strong and could transfer through the milk, and they didn’t have a sufficient enough study to conclude that it was safe. The nurse told me to go off the meds to breastfeed. Off the medication I need for my heart. When I refused, she had her supervisor dig up a study that said they did a test on the safety of these meds for babies who were being breastfed, and that out of a hundred women, three out of every five babies showed no significant effects. Out of only 100? They only studied 100? And two babies did show effects? That’s a little much for me. I wholly stand behind breastfeeding. I really do. But the thing that these nicely written articles and their statistics don’t show you are people like me, and I think that’s wrong. 1-2% (estimated) sounds like a small number, but when you’re sitting in a doctor’s office – a crowded doctor’s office – with women like you, it’s a larger number than you realize. I think that letting a baby scream and cry with hunger for five nights and then opting to stick a tube down its throat is wrong. I think having a nurse belittle the medical plan that your personal doctor gives you to keep you healthy in lieu of breastfeeding is wrong. And I think that this assumption that of all the important, life sustaining things your body produces that can suddenly drop in production for various reasons, that breastmilk is the one thing that will never ever run dry, is ignorant. I mean, when my milk production dropped with my second child, a holistic health specialist gave me a tea that the box claimed had been a solution for milk production since, like, the dark ages or some crap. If these salt of the earth people with no formula available needed a solution for decreased milk production, might that not mean that maybe – JUST MAYBE – this is an issue, and has been an issue, for longer than people like LLL are willing to acknowledge? I’m sorry for the rant, but this is very personal to me. The amount that I’ve been belittled, and treated like I was stupid, and had people touch me without my permission in an effort to “help” me to breastfeed makes me want to advocate not against breastfeeding, but that no one be treated the way I was treated ever again when there are other options. Because guess what happens when poor women like me, but who are less educated, are denied formula for their kids because they can’t produce breast milk? They stick anything in that damn bottle – corn syrup, chocolate milk, juice, soda – to get them to eat. Because when your kid doesn’t eat, it’s f””king scary, and in the end, when you’ve done everything LLL says and CPS shows up at your door because your kid looks sick and has lost weight, who gets the poop end of the stick? It’s not LLL. You can tell CPS all you want that you’re just doing what LLL says. CPS will tell you, “Okay, but you should have used common sense.” You mean, the common sense that you’re told is wrong when you bring it up to your LLL consultant and she tells you to just “try harder”? Yes, teach women the importance of breast feeding, tell them that it’s the best choice, help them be successful, but tone down the strange militantness. Because in a country that gives very little in the way of maternity leave or other support for women who are doing the best that they can, we need to stop stigmatizing formula and the people who use it.

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    1. I am so sorry to hear about your struggle, especially in America. We are very fortunate in the UK to have a national health care system and 12-month maternity leave. Even with these advantages, we still have uninformed ‘experts’ giving out bad advice. It is also very scary to think that people threaten to take away your children because you’ve been poorly advised! Here is a list of reasons women may have the inability to produce, or have genuinely low supply: http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2013/8/19/breastfeeding-and-low-supply-common-and-surprising-causes-an.html

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    2. Thank you for this. I am another one who desperately wanted to and was severely pressured by family… I also have a blood-borne virus that makes feeding an infant with my cracked nipples impossible. I was bleeding within 24 hours with my daughter and was in my hospital bed crying with her screaming that first night because it was so unbelievably painful I couldn’t bear it, then they refused to bring me an electric pump, citing ‘those are reserved for the NICU moms/babies only’. I had my husband go purchase an electric pump that minute and bring it back to the hospital, and proceeded to hook myself up despite all their looks of disapproval. Voila… I was pumping out 3-4 ounces of colostrum almost immediately and she was happy, thriving, and not in danger of getting my blood in her. Screw what ANYONE else has to say about it… whatever works for you and your particular set of obstacles… that is enough. It just is.

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    1. It is possible that there’s something going really wrong in the West! You have to question a rising number of women unable to provide for their children naturally through milk production when places like Bangladesh have a 98% breastfeeding rate. (http://www.who.int/nutrition/databases/infantfeeding/countries/bgd.pdf?ua=1)

      I don’t particularly like the groundedparents article because the reference “original study” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2288566) isn’t the “one” that everyone refers to. It is true that finding the actual statistical number is difficult; but you look at the incidence of IGT, Hypoplasia, and other specific reasons for low milk supply, and you don’t find a number higher than 5%.

      Here is a good overview of reasons for low milk supply or inability to lactate: http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2013/8/19/breastfeeding-and-low-supply-common-and-surprising-causes-an.html

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      1. Bangladesh also has more than 4 times the infant mortality rate of the UK and US. So logically, the mothers who can nurse have living children, and the ones who cannot have dead children. Of course 98% of the mothers there nurse because if they’re not nursing, their children aren’t alive.

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    2. …not to mention the millions of women who rely on medications for a myriad of health issues and mental health issues, many of which are not compatible with breastfeeding.I had to stop exclusively pumping after four months with my daughter because my health issues from being off my meds became so severe, I was forced to start my regimen again or risk becoming very ill. I cried the last time I pumped, knowing my milk wouldn’t be healthy for her anymore. It was a sad day for me but it was truly for the best. Statistics can kiss my butt. It is impossible to truly ever know everyone’s particular circumstance, and if we say we can’t (or won’t because we simply don’t want to), that’s where it should end. Period.

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  18. my first didn’t latch ever…I pumped for a full year so she would still get the benefits of breast milk! every time we tried (and I did all the time) she would fall asleep immediately! my second daughter latched a half hour she was born and nursed for an hour! she has been a champ from day 1…I am glad I tried with babe #2 and have been so successful! looking back I think part of the reason my oldest wanted nothing to do with the boob is she has a lip tie…but my littlest does to so hmmm not too sure

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