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Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work For You, Now What?

If I could reach through the screen right now and hug, I would. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for you and you wanted it so badly! I’m sorry, I truly am. Not everyone will understand your heartbreak, but I do. My heart aches for you, but your baby needs you to move on and do what needs to be done. So, I’m going to tell you how to deal with formula heartbreak when breastfeeding doesn’t work so you can get back to the joy your baby brings you.

when breastfeeding doesn't work and you are heartbroken. baby and bottle of formula

Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work For You

Women stop breastfeeding or decide not to for a number of reasons. Including, “just not wanting to!” There is a myriad of complications that can arise during breastfeeding. And many of them are reason enough for a woman to say, “forget this.”

However, sometimes, like with you, that wasn’t the case. You tried and tried and pushed through and did absolutely everything everyone told you to, and strait-up honest-to-goodness could not make enough milk. It happens.

It’s typically due to insufficient glandular tissue. Basically, no matter how hard you try, you won’t make enough milk to exclusively feed your baby with breastmilk.

Occasionally our bodies just don’t operate like we want them to. It’s frustrating and it’s heartbreaking.

When Breastfeeding Isn’t Working

Unable To Breastfeed Story #1.

Stephanie was a young mom that I was privileged to help when her first baby was born. Steph had about the worst delivery you could imagine. I won’t go into all those details. It’s legit intense and we are talking about breastfeeding right now.

When she came home from the hospital with her new baby she was beyond frazzled and shook up. None the less, she was determined to breastfeed, so we got to work.

Her baby was a natural. He latched right away and her shape lent itself perfectly to nursing. Steph put her baby to the breast and he began suckling right away.

Although she had been nursing her baby at the hospital since he was born, she had nurses there to help her care for him when he got fussy or she needed to rest. Now that she was home and mostly alone, she noticed something didn’t seem right.

Her baby would suckle and suckle but wouldn’t fall asleep. She’d get him quieted down for a brief moment only to have him begin crying again almost immediately. It had been roughly 48 hours since her baby’s birth so we were hopeful her milk would be in soon.

She had been breastfeeding him quite regularly and for as long as he wanted to help speed up her milk production process. She made it through that first rough night home with a fussy baby, in hopes that things would calm down soon.

Something’s not right.

A full 36 hours had passed since her baby’s delivery and he was still extremely fussy. I began to get concerned since he seemed mad while at the breast and sincerely never satisfied. Before jumping to big conclusions, I grabbed a breast pump. A really good, top of the line, pump.

Steph had become concerned that her baby wasn’t getting enough to eat. A good way to find out was to hook her up to a pump and see with our own eyes how much colostrum she was producing and if she was making any milk yet.

You know what happened when we hooked her up to a pump? Nothing. Not a single drop of colostrum. Certainly no milk. Her breasts were not putting out anything! Zilch. Zero. Nada.

Her husband ran out to get some formula and we pulled out the special tubes the hospital had sent home with her. For days, she tried to tandem feed. Placing a tube with access to formula next to her breast and letting him “nurse” to get the formula.

We held out hope that her body had merely been traumatized by the delivery and would begin making milk. It never did.

Steph pumped and pumped and pumped. She’d let her baby nurse whenever he needed to be pacified. She did anything and everything she could to make milk during the weeks to come.

It never happened.

Once she accepted that her body was sincerely unable to perform the task she wanted it to, she laid down the expectation, grieved the loss, allowed her heart to heal, and moved on.

It’s been 8 years since Steph’s experience. Her story still serves as a reminder that being a good mommy is not defined by a single good thing you do for your baby. Breastfeeding wasn’t hard for her… it was impossible! She didn’t stop because it got hard. She never had the option, to begin with.

Unable To Continue Breastfeeding Story #2.

Brittany was adamant about breastfeeding. In fact, she was adamant about a lot of things. Her “I’ll do it or die trying” attitude got her through pretty much anything she set her mind to.

When her first baby was born, everything went just as she had planned. She didn’t ask for consultations. She didn’t let people offer comments. Instead, she simply fed her baby at the breast and if he was happy, she knew it was working. Breastfeeding as a whole came very natural to Brittany.

She went on to exclusively breastfeed 3.5 babies. 3.5? Wait… what? Ya, unfortunately, something happened when Brittany had her 4th baby.

All was well for the first several months. Then something changed around her baby’s 9-month mark. She noticed her breasts were not feeling full between feedings like they use to.

She began nursing extra, pumping and taking supplements to get her supply up.

After a few weeks of this, she was still producing a fourth of what she needed to sustain her growing baby. There was no need to call a pediatrician or a lactation consultant. She had nursed enough babies to know what was happening. Her body was done.

With a heavy, broken heart she began researching what formula she would have peace about giving her baby. The only one of her babies to ever need the stuff. She hated it. She wept. And she grieved. Then she moved on.

Stephanie and Brittany are both great mommies. They are real people and I know them personally. Two very different and unique situations, that faced a similar obstacle: Breastfeeding doesn’t work for me, how do I deal with the heartbreak and move on?

How To Choose a Formula When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work for You

I understand the feeling you are having. The feeling of anger at even having to pick a formula, because you resolved to never use the stuff! So I am going to give you a few tips to help you pick one and make the whole process a little easier.

Find the perfect formula here.

Allow Yourself to be Sad and Take Time to Heal.

Breastfeeding doesn’t work for you and you need time for your heart to heal. Be selective about who you talk with regarding your disappointment. There are some who will imply (or strait-up say) that you didn’t do enough or try hard enough.

Likewise, there are others who won’t understand why you are so upset and may make light of your pain.

It’s important to guard your heart during this time of healing. Find that one mom friend who truly understands and let her love on you. Talk to her about the why’s and the now what’s.

Discuss how to go about choosing a formula as I did above. Share a few stories that will inspire you. Then pick yourself up, and move on as a proud formula-feeding Mama!


Hi there! I'm Mama Duck,

I'm a stay-at-home/work-at-home, homeschooling Mama of 4 beautiful kiddos, wife to my loving husband, Parenting Coach, Speaker, and Writer. I adore the sound of my children's giggles, that first sip of hot coffee, and a snuggly blanket fresh out of the dryer. Here on Faithful Parenting, my heart is to equip mamas with the skills, knowledge, and biblical wisdom to raise fantastic kids and build a tethered family!