Family • Wellbeing • Adventure

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

When breastfeeding isn't working


Breastfeeding is something I'm incredibly passionate about, having breastfed my son for 16 months and he's weaned himself off the breast, I do feel a little sad that it's all over. I even wrote about how I just wasn't ready for our breastfeeding journey to end. For some, in the early day's breastfeeding can be a real struggle. I'm no stranger to this. When I had my first child breastfeeding really wasn't successful and after six weeks we turned to formula.

When breastfeeding isn't going to plan or how you expected it to be, can be so incredibly stressful. Pain, frustration, tiredness and guilt all tend to eat away at you and it can feel like an intensely overwhelming and worrying time. I mean, this is what you're built to do, the most natural thing and you're failing. Pretty crap feeling, right?

Those inital weeks and sometimes even months are the most hardest. Establishing breastfeeding can be tough stuff and many women turn to formula because it's becoming too much.

Sign's there is something wrong

Lack of wet nappies - babies should have between 6-8 nappies per day. If you're noticing that this is not the case for your newborn, this is a telltale sign that feeding isn't quite right.

Engorgement - can sometimes be a sign that your baby isn't draining the breast fully. Whilst this isn't always the case, this can be a warning sign.

Milk in the babies mouth - if you remove baby from the breast you should be able to see milk in their mouth, if this isn't the case then perhaps they're not latching correctly.

Stagnant weight gain/weight loss - initial weight loss is very common with newborns. Both my children lost almost 10% of their birthweight. With my daughter this was a clear sign breastfeeding was not working - she made very little progress and it wasn't until we switched to formula she started to gain at a normal rate. My son however, was different. Within a couple of day's, he regained the weight as my milk supply came in - it was a good sign we were successfully feeding.

Swallows - an easy way to tell a baby is getting milk is watching and listening (you'll need to be in a quiet room) to make sure your baby is swallowing. They should be swallowing every 3-4 sucks, if this isn't the case there may be something not quite right.

Pain - if you're experiencing pain when feeding this is usually a red flag to an incorrect latch.

Things to try

If you're really determined to continue with breastfeeding, there are a number of things you can try. Even though I was successful in establishing breastfeeding with my son, I did have a few issues in the early days.

Change position - trying different positions can promote a better latch. Make sure babies mouth is opened wide, then pull your baby close so their chin and lower mouth moves into your breast first. Watch the lower lip and aim it as far from the base of the nipple as possible, so the baby takes a large mouthful of breast.

Express first - if you find you have quite a flat nipple, expressing first (only a little) can help to draw out the nipple which baby will then be able to latch onto more easily. 

Check for tongue tie - have a midwife or health professional take a look at your baby's tongue. Often the cause of a bad latch can be a tongue tie which can easily be remedied. 

Nipple shields - controversial for some, but they allowed my very cracked nipple time to heal and feed pain free. If this is something you're experiencing I definitely think it's worth trying. The pain of a cracked nipple is indescribable, shields allowed me to continue feeding without screaming out in pain.

Seek professional advice - if you've tried everything you can think of and you're still having no luck speak to your midwife or a lactation consultant. Fortunately, support for breastfeeding mothers is at the best it's ever been. Don't be afraid to ask for help, there is nothing to be ashamed of if you're struggling.

Moving to formula

If you really feel you can no longer to continue with breastfeeding, formula is a lifeline and again there is absolutely no shame in this. At the end of the day, your baby IS being fed and this is ultimately what is important. 


Moving to formula can be equally as daunting, especially if it's something that had not previously considered. Choosing a formula, how you sterilise equipment, choosing a bottle and even how you prepare the milk can baffle a lot of parents. Fuelbaby is a brand I have recently been introduced to and I think they seem to take a lot of this confusion away. Their bottles have been designed with stress free parenting in mind. Their anti-colic system comforts parents in the knowledge that this bottle will minimise discomfort which your baby may experience with ordinary bottles.  They also have a very nifty design at the base of the bottle so you can store formula there ready for when you need it. Whether you’re on the go or just want to be ready for a middle-of-the-night feeding, Fuelbaby allows you to prep your child’s formula in advance, saving time and the hassle of measuring out formula when it isn’t convenient - pretty amazing! You can find out more here.

If you would like anymore advice to breastfeeding, make sure you speak with your midwife or health visitor to hear the latest advice.

Mummy B xoxox



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