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My Breastfeeding Mistakes

A midwife measures the height of the mother's ...


I am an aspiring doula and midwife, and though at this point I have no idea when I will be able to make those dreams come true, I am doing what I can to start making it happen.

So this week I started in on the required reading that is part of the certification from DONA International - the first step in a long (and hopefully awesome) journey.

The first book I picked up is Breastfeeding Made Simple: 7 Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, by Nancy Mohrbacher & Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. Boy do I wish I had read this book when I was pregnant!

As you may know, I don’t breastfeed. And while I own that decision and believe I was and am doing the best I can do for my daughter, I do wish it had worked better for me. In the light of perspective – that whole hindsight is 20/20 thingI’ve come to realize some of the mistakes I made in my attempts.

And the reason I’m writing this is not to point fingers or justify or any of those defensive/offensive take a stand reasons, but to continue to reflect on what I’ve done, what I can do better, and how I might be able to help someone who is experiencing anything similar.

So here goes…

1. I did not take the time to rest and focus as much as I should have.

By way of explanation…every day, throughout the entirety of my pregnancy, up until the day I gave birth – I threw up. I was so, so sick. I could hardly eat anything, I didn’t want to do anything, I constantly felt nauseous, and the opening act of every morning was puking.

So when the Bean finally got here, I felt GREAT. After 10 months of feeling absolutely wretched, I finally felt like a normal human being again, and it was really hard for me to just chill, sit still and relax - I wanted to be doing stuff just because I could!

I didn’t go crazy or anything, but I think I was a lot more active than I should have been during that time.

Next time around, I plan to stay in bed (as much as possible) for about a week. I’ve seen this recommendation from comments on breastfeeding blogs and sites and I think it is absolutely brilliant. What a huge de-stressor to give yourself that time right in the beginning - to know that that’s the plan – that you don’t have to do anything else. I feel more relaxed just thinking about it!

2. I underestimated the importance of skin on skin.

I did have the opportunity for skin on skin bonding with the Bean almost directly after her birth (she was taken for a few minutes to be checked out due to a meconium issue), but we had that blissful hour together and she breastfed and it was wonderful.

But after that first time, I didn’t really take the opportunity to have skin on skin that often when I was feeding her – I was afraid that she didn’t like being naked (because she seemed pretty darn unhappy whenever her clothes came off!) and I didn’t realize how much putting her against my own skin would solve that issue. So while I was often shirtless (in my house and it was easier and cooler in the middle of summer :) ) she was wearing clothes.

I’ve since then learned that a baby will eat when she is most comfortable, and one of the ways she is most comfortable is skin to skin with mum (and even though I bottle feed, I do now take the opportunity to give this to the Bean very often, as does her daddy).

I know – this is basic knowledge. And I did research breastfeeding – but I also thought it would be a lot easier than it was and got a little overly confident, so some of the basic things like this passed me by.

So that week in bed I’m planning? It’s gonna be skin on skin baby. :)

3. I had very high anxiety about not having milk.

Now that I’m thinking about this, I really don’t know where this came from. I don’t recall reading many specific instances about mothers unable to produce milk. I don’t believe it is actually all that common at all. But I was really freaked out that I wouldn’t have milk…I had this persistent worry that it was a strong possibility.

And I really believe this affected my whole mindset in general – I was focusing on fear rather than focusing on my ability.

Next time, obviously, I will know that I will have milk because I was able to produce milk – but just in case you have this worry yourself, it is highly unlikely that you will not have milk, so don’t let it scare you like it did me!

4. The fear of the expectations and judgments of others – and myself.

As I wrote in my previous post about why I don’t breastfeed, I had no question that I would breastfeed, and I very severely judged those who didn’t or had given up (this was before I ever tried it myself, of course). Boy did I have a rude awakening!

And when it started getting more and more difficult, the strain of all that judgment and expectation, both from myself and others, was really screwing with me. I already felt like I had failed before I had even begun, and I couldn’t come out from under the weight of that failure.

The next chance I have to try breastfeeding, I am not going to allow this fear to factor in at all. I recently read a great blog post of why fear is not a good motivation to homeschool, and I really think it works the same here – with fear as my motivation, I was setting myself up to fail, and I did.

So this is getting really long, and I still have 4 more mistakes I want to share!!

I think this will be another post tomorrow, but just wanted to add a few more thoughts before signing off.

I understand and believe that breast is best for mother and baby. But I think that there are very valid situations and circumstances that cause mothers to turn to formula, and I cannot condemn that. It is easy to dismiss a woman as lazy or non-maternal, but the reality is most women are doing the very best they can for their childrenand I think we all need to start ascribing better motives to people than we do.

Many women who feed their babies with formula may not view it as a mistake, and I am OK with that, too. I don’t even know that I feel it was a mistake for me – in my situation, at that time, with my knowledge then, it may well have been a mistake for me to continue breastfeeding – I didn’t know how to seek help, and I may have gotten to the point of harming my child.

Today, she is happy and healthy. She never stops smiling. In almost every other area of parenting you could call my style attachment (not that the label is that important).

And mistakes are inevitable. If I was perfect with breastfeeding I would have screwed up somewhere else – that’s just how we do.

But I see value in reflection, and trying to do better. I, personally, see value in breastfeeding, and it is something I would like to achieve. But if I try again and fail (though I ardently hope not to), I can’t call myself the worst mother in the world – only am imperfect one who is trying along with the rest to care for her baby the best way she can.

My main hope is that this will help me next time, and maybe someone else who is going through a similar struggle – whether it be someone who is reading this blog, or someone I am assisting as a doula or a midwife.

What do you wish you had known about breastfeeding? What was the most difficult part of it for you?

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12 Responses to “My Breastfeeding Mistakes”

  • Juju says:

    I always heard the first 2 weeks were the hardest…no the first 4-8 weeks were the hardest with all my babies. I did what I had to do to feed my babies but I never gave up trying and eventually we've had very successful nursing relationships :) if its something you want to do you can't give up, if you have to give baby a bottle that doesn't mean you have to stop trying. KEEP ASKING FOR HELP!!!

    • Kelly says:

      Hi Juju – thank you for your comment!

      I want to say I really do admire women like you who stick it out through the hard times, particularly now that I know firsthand how truly difficult it can be!

      One of the reasons I'm writing this post (and the one upcoming) is that I did feel I had to give up (and I REALLY wanted to breastfeed). In my experience as a new mother with (possibly disproportionate) levels of anxiety, combined with the fact that I really believed it would be natural and easy, I've realized now that I kind of set myself up to fail.

      And I wish that I had asked for help more (I'll address that in my next post, but just to touch on it here) – I am a very independent person, and asking for help doesn't come easily. I also have fewer friends and family who are physically nearby than I would like, and I just didn't know about all the online forums and sites that are such a great help to so many women. My midwife was amazing, but she couldn't be with me all the time, and when I did go to the medical establishment I managed to find the lactation consultants from hell (a friend had TERRIBLE experiences with them as well!).

      Thank goodness we do live and learn. :) If I had it to do over again I would do it differently, and will do it differently next time around. I only hope someone else may be able to benefit from my mistakes – a way of good being brought out of bad. And I'm thankful to know now that there are mommies like you out in cyberland who can and will give help to those who need it. :)

  • Great post! My answers to your questions are too long for a comment on my phone. What I do want to say is a resounding YES to supporting one another as mums who are doing the best we can for our families. We all need to trust in the support without judgment so that we can admit to mistakes and successes, ask for help, share research and personal anecdotes alike. I am a total crunchy granola on just about everything. I not only hug trees, I hug people. And they both thrive best when allowed to find their own sun.

  • I wish I hadn't been told so often that it would be uncomfortable at first… I waited until I was cracked and bleeding before I realized that "uncomfortable" was not the same as "miserable"! We are now at 8 months and still going strong, but I wish I had checked in with the lactation consultant within the first couple of days.

    • Kelly says:

      It is so hard to know sometimes!

      I think we're going in this circle now from having all kinds of support from other women in that past, to devaluing that support – being isolated and not realizing we need it or that it's there, to now having so many more of those options available again…but it can still be an uphill battle!

      And kudos to you for sticking with it. :)

  • Rachel says:

    So I am a little behind, but I finally read this post. For both of my girls, I learned something new about breastfeeding, and I have even different ideas this time around. I loved "Breastfeeding made Simple", and I loan it out to my clients. The best thing is, you don't have to "obey" it exactly, but just keep the rules in mind. It is tough to begin breastfeeding- can be very tough!- and I am sorry for your struggle. Both times it took a good month or two to start "enjoying" it with my girls. I think I was too busy to sit down and rest with them, but then again, I made myself busy cause I was tired of being "disabled" from my pregnancies. thanks for sharing!

  • Danielle says:

    Great post.

    I want to say that I agree whole-heartedly about the pressure from nurses with documenting poops/pees, which breast baby was on and when. So overwhelming after giving birth.

    I think they could simplify it greatly by telling momma to offer breast when baby signals for it and maybe every 2hr during daytime hours for first few weeks until you are comfy with babies signals.

    It makes me mad that there are mothers who are still being instructed to wake baby in middle of the night to breastfeed – because that mother isnt sleep deprived enough?

    I tell everyone that I know to expect breastfeeding to be painful for a month. Most people expect it either to not hurt or only hurt for a few days.

    I also believe seeking too much help can be overwhelming. I didnt seek any help but talked to a close friend who follows babyled weaning. I was only comfortable until recently in the basic breastfeeding position, now with baby 18mth I can laydown or just let her attach in the crazy manners she wishes.

    I struggled a bit with latch… She latched great but would pull off repeatedly resulting in terrible gas. I had an overflow of milk production and now can take the information of pumping a bit off prior to help lessen that for next child.

    Im sad for you that you were stressed by your babys weight issues. I have had pressure about my childs weight too however fortunately it is was not until after our first 6mths of breastfeeding and I had read enough to know my continued breastfeeding after 6mths was still the best thing I could do for my child dispite doctors assuming I wasnt offering my child enough “food” and only breast. To be honest I will EBF beyond the 5.5mths I did with my daughter for next baby.

    We are currently at 18mths and my goal is min 2years. We face more challenges now due to court ordered extended overnights with father and her being clung to them at her returns resulting in continued blistering.

    Anyway I have way over commented sorry.

    Thanks for your awesome post. You did great by trying with all the booby-traps out there. You sound like a great momma.


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