When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Happen

Breastfeeding is such an emotive subjectAfter I had Reuben in 2011 I became very ill. I had a rough birth with several complications which came as a shock to my body as I had, other than a spot of morning sickness in the beginning, been really healthy throughout pregnancy.

I had it in my head all throughout the pregnancy that I really wanted to breastfeed my baby, I’m a great believer in the benefits it holds for Mama and baby, not only physically but psychologically. Don’t misunderstand me, I am also a big believer in choice, I don’t think any woman should be pushed into breastfeeding if she doesn’t want to, or finds it too challenging, we all know how hard it is as a new mother and I think there is so much pressure and guilt surrounding feeding that is unnecessary and, frankly, unhealthy. Generally I believe you have it in your head that you want to feed, or not, and you get the choice to do so, or not for whatever reason, but what about the women who have that choice taken away from them?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I had a very complicated labour and my body went into shock. This isn’t unusual, it isn’t even unusual that my poor little boy would’t latch after his traumatic experience, so I opted to try and express to encourage my milk production. After 12 hours, the various breastfeeding experts, mid wives and the doctor had all tried and failed to get any milk from me at all. My body just said no.

Eventually, I was advised to get Reuben on a bottle. I felt like such a huge failure! I can still remember crying to the midwife, who told me we didn’t have to give up and we would keep trying to get somewhere with feeding him myself. I did keep trying when I arrived home but the decision was ultimately taken out of my hands after I had to return to hospital with a post-op wound infection, that developed into septicaemia. I couldn’t even take Roo into hospital with me as I was too ill and need to have a host of strong anti-biotics that wouldn’t be safe for him.

Now let me just say, I am not a ‘sensitive’ person, but looking back it hit me really hard that I couldn’t do the one basic thing for my son that is so natural and instinctual. Call it the hormones or my own character flaw of being too hard on myself, but I felt like I had let myself and my son down. I had various reactions, from the scowling mothers at baby groups who were shocked I wasn’t feeding my newborn myself to the ‘supportive’ friends who told me that I could feed if I just tried really hard. Eventually, my Mum took me to a side and told me that the best Mum’s feed their babies, Period.

I wanted to share this experience with you all because there are so many opinions out there on this controversial subject, but very little support for women who have the choice taken away from them for whatever reason. I think we should rectify that.

Harriet x

Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to hear your comments on this emotive subject, please share your own experiences.


  1. Avatar
    April 15, 2017 / 10:47 pm

    Thankyou I needed to read this, there is so little support in situations like this. Long story short (hopefully) my breast feeding journey with my first ended early after not having the right support, I never got to feed my 2nd due to me having pancreatitis and her spending her early weeks in Nicu. So when I found out we were expecting our third, I did all the research, read all the info, got prepared and ready for our bf journey – it was the only choice for me! So fast forward to the birth that ended in emergency caesarean, I ended up with liver inflammation, pancreatitis, paralysis of the bowel, anaemia and sepsis. I was lucky through all this I had the most amazing support to continue feeding unfortunately due to how ill I was my milk dried up, I was devastated and felt my body had failed me, no body seemed to understand the grief and loss I felt. As the weeks progressed I decided I wanted to re-lactate, it was tiring, all encompassing journey, my baby had nipple confusion so we use nipple shields and combination feed as although I have milk not enough to satisfy her. We have gone through tongue tie, nursing strikes and mastitis. The amount of times I’m told how the supply and demand works and I need to stop combi feeding is gruelling, I’ve done everything to increase my supply but it’s not happening, baby is now largely refusing the breast at nearly 4 months and I know our journey is coming to end even though we have tried so hard, been so determined and persevered, even though I don’t want it to end and don’t feel ready to stop pumping, the reality is grief stricken, teary eyed sadness and loss of this coming ever closer. So for now every second I get my baby to latch I hold her close and remember those precious moments as I know they could be our last. So completely get your post and thankyou for understanding, thankyou for not judging, thankyou for not uttering cruel and unhelpful comments. Sadly sometimes breastfeeding is a choice that despite all attempts is taken from us.

  2. Avatar
    May 14, 2014 / 3:51 pm

    I believe there is pressure to breastfeed your children – I understand the benefits and would have loved to have been able to do this for my son but I have Raynaurds and what they dont tell you is that this can sometimes transfer to your nipples when you produce milk. I was in agony for the 22 hours that I wasnt feeding my son and when I spoke to my Health Visitor as kind as she was she was unable to provide me with details for bottle feeding. They are no longer allowed to advise on what formula would be better, no longer able to discuss all options with you. After feeling so bad about not being able to be the best Mum by breastfeeding for at least the 6 months they advise I decided that my son would be better off with a Bottle and a Mum who wasnt always in tears and in pain than have the benefit of the breast. He’s now a very healthy little boy who has not had any ill effect from the bottle. I believe that every new mum should have all the options available – at least that way they can make a decision based on all the facts. I dont think you should ever be made to feel like you are not worthy – other mothers should never judge a book, roles could always be reversed.

  3. Avatar
    May 13, 2014 / 9:55 pm

    I really feel for you from the bottom of my heart. I didn’t have half the rough time that you had but my little boy never latched after a difficult birth. After 6 weeks of trying, expressing milk and numerous appointments with lactation consultants I got mastitis. An NCT lactation consultant at that point gently told me to give up expressing, start using formula and enjoy my baby. But 20 months later I still feel awful about it. Those looks people gave me when I got a bottle I’m sure were a figment of my imagination. But your imagination can hurt you more than anything else.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.