Breastfeeding Troubles: When breastfeeding doesn’t become second nature

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When I was on Facebook the other day Undercover Mama asked their fans if they thought breastfeeding was easy or hard.

Most responded that breastfeeding starts out hard but gets easier after the first six weeks.  One woman’s response in particular struck me because it exemplifies why I often find myself envying–even to the point of jealousy–other breastfeeding women.

“Breastfeeding starts out hard, but then becomes second nature.”

If this describes how you feel about breastfeeding you can count yourself blessed.

But what about the women for whom breastfeeding doesn’t become second nature?  What about mamas like me who start out with breastfeeding troubles and continue to struggle for months and months and even more months?  Is all the pain, the second guessing, the stress, the tears even worth it?

When breastfeeding doesn't become second nature

I’ve now been breastfeeding for almost 8 months!  I say this with an exclamation because this is the longest I’ve breastfed any of my children.  This is a huge milestone for me.

Though breastfeeding troubles can come in many forms ours came from a series of partly unavoidable circumstances. Here is what we’ve dealt with this time around:

  • To start with Baby Z had more than just mild jaundice for three weeks.  Because of his jaundice, Baby Z would fall asleep during every. single. feed that first three weeks.  This led to my initial low milk supply.
  • Reflux. True reflux is a big hurdle for moms who want to breastfeed.  Not only do babies with reflux spit up a lot, but it can also be tiring, difficult, and literally painful to feed them.  Baby Z is fine during the initial let-down, but once the flow slows and he has to work harder to get the milk out, the stomach acid starts to creep up and cause discomfort.  He’ll clamp down and arch his back (not letting go of me, mind you), or he’ll stop sucking cry and want to sit up only to immediately cry and want to lie down to nurse again.  He repeats this every swallow or two.  And this is what happens while on medication.
  • Low milk supply.  Yes, I fed on demand and then some.  I pumped, I power pumped, I eat oatmeal every day. I tried More Milk Plus (Baby Z was sensitive to it and it made his reflux flare up terribly), I used an SNS (supplemental nursing system) for almost 3 months.  I feel like I’ve ready every article published on the web about how to increase your milk supply.

My days became all about breastfeeding.  –Well, for the first 6 weeks breastfeeding is pretty much all I did all day.  Approximately 16-18 hours of my day was spent breastfeeding–  Even when the number of hours I spent breastfeeding decreased, it was all I could think about. Was baby getting enough?  Why was he crying at the breast all the time? Why did he eat for 60-90 minutes and then only go 30 minutes between feedings?  What else could I possibly do to increase my milk supply?

These thoughts became invasive. I was obsessed.  I began experiencing waves of anxiety-induced nausea over it. I’m sure if you’ve ever had any sort of drawn out breastfeeding troubles you can relate.  It was really my pediatrician who encouraged me to hang in there.  If it had been up to me I would have thrown in the towel at about 4 months. He set me up with a lactation consultant on base (the Air Force base we were stationed at), and she became my support system.

I’m feel like I’m finally at the point where nursing is getting easier.  I wouldn’t say it feels second nature, but I’m holding on to the hope that one day–before he weans, I hope–we’ll get to the point where breastfeeding becomes second nature.  Until that time when setbacks come up I just tell myself, “I made it this far without going insane, surely I can keep going.”

The hardest part is over.  And, guess what?  Even after all the breastfeeding troubles baby and I have been through, I can still confidently say, It has all been worth it!

UPDATE: I wanted to pop back into this post and write a quick update on how my breastfeeding journey with Little Z ended up. I continued to breastfeed Little Z and give him an additional couple bottles of special, hypoallergenic formula each day. When he hit about 1 year we took him off the formula and switched him to whole milk kefir (he is severely lactose intolerant–shake my head, all my boys are). I continued to breastfeed him until he weaned himself at 22 months–he thought he had more important places to be than on mommy’s lap nursing, can you imagine! 😉 I am so thankful for all those amazing, peaceful moments nursing my toddler! The journey was hard, but oh, so worth it!

sleeping baby in blue


About Amy @ Oh So Savvy Mom

Amy is mom to three, wife to one, and a sister and aunt to many. Her family is a former military family now settled in Lehi, Utah. Oh So Savvy Mom began as a way for Amy to share parenting and product advice with others. Just as she has evolved, Oh So Savvy Mom has evolved into a resource for Healthy Living for Families, Food, Parenting, and Family Travel.


  1. That's wonderful My baby gives trouble to breastfeed now and he's only a month. I was on medication following a careless dr's verdict of leaving something in me that had to be removed. He practically robbed me of bonding the way I wanted to with my baby. My aim is to try as hard as I could to get him back on the breast but it's turning to be a little hopeless :(
    • Hi! Have you seen a lactation consultant or been to a La Leche League meeting? They might be able to help! Don't feel like you have to give up yet!
      • Don't worry. I'm not anywhere near giving up. No, I wrote this article so that women who struggle with breastfeeding can see that having struggles doesn't mean you have to give up. Baby Z and I have progressed to the point where he is now fully breastfed (with the exception of a little solid foods)! He's formula free for the first time since he was 6 weeks old.
    • I'm sorry I'm so late in responding. Are you still trying to breastfeed your baby? I found this to be the most effective thing (well, really the only thing that worked) to get my baby from the bottle back onto the breast: Hope things are going well!
  2. Thank you!!!! I had a really hard time with my first two, but we got through it. But with my 3rd baby I had a sigificant hemorhage after her birth and had to stay in the hospital a week longer than her. My milk came in while my baby was at home being cared for by my Grandma and having formula. I pumped feverishly. When I got home, I tried to ge her to nurse, but my milk supply was dwindling and I got mastitis. She wouldn't latch on. She threw up eveything. I got us to a lactation consultant and she worked with us. Everybody else told me to give up. I felt like I had no support. I was able to apply for WIC so they would pay for a hospital pump rental. We started using a shield because it was the only way we could get her to latch on. I was drinking the mothers milk tea. My sister made me lactation cookies and mailed them from ID to FL. The Dr. put the baby on reflux meds. Slowly we reached milestones. I was pumping around the clock in between nursing. Eventually I was making enough milk to be able to stop supplementing with formula. At about 6 months we were able to return the pump. During this time she was diagnosed with a medical condition and we found out that her reflux and swallowing problems were a symptom of that. At 10 months old she had to have brain surgery. And now here we are 1 week before her 1st birthday. Still nursing. With a shield. It never did become a second nature. But its been worth it. Especially when I was able to provide her that comfort and nutrition in the PICU after surgery and in the weeks after when she refused all other foods. Its nice to hear someone else say it too. That yes theystuck with it but no, it never did get easy. So thank you.
    • Oh. my. goodness. Now that is amazing! Your experiences, what you did, breastfeeding your daughter through all that is inspiring. I hope you get the chance to share your story with those who really need encouragement. And, despite how rough and how frustrating it can be at times, isn't it amazing how much you cherish that breastfeeding bond with your baby?
  3. I was the exact opposite of most moms, breastfeeding in the beginning was so easy and the older the boys got the harder it was. My first made it four months, he got a tooth and rubbed me so.raw and I couldn't get it to heal so I stopped. The second one made it 6 months and then we had supply issues and by the time I realized it was a supply issue, I didn't have the energy to try and build it back up (I was working). Hopefully the next baby I have will make it longer than the second :) lol it's really not second nature, especially because it hasn't been the "norm" to breastfeed. We haven't grown up around nursing and tips and tricks and trials etc.
  4. Vanessa Coker says
    I feel so sad that breastfeeding is such a taboo / mommy war topic. I know many women have issues with it and for others it's smooth sailing. For most of us it is hard and then becomes easier. However way it goes, it is OK that it is not the same for everyone. The real "nature" of the whole thing is that we are all different. <3
    • I agree. One of the reasons I wrote this post is that I feel like there is just not a lot of support out there for those who struggle. Sure there are LLL meetings, but what if you can't go. Women need to know that it is okay if it is hard. And, if you decide that you can and will stick it out it will ultimately be a rewarding experience for you and your baby. Sometimes sticking it out isn't possible like I talked about in my previous posts. As mothers we really strive to give our child what is best. We mommies need to keep that in mind before judging one another.
  5. I am so glad that you stuck it out and kept breastfeeding your baby. I breastfed my son for a year, and it was very rewarding. I did not have any problems with breastfeeding my son. I guess I was lucky. But, if a mother can breast feed there baby for as long as she can, it really helps with the child's health. Baby Z is so adorable.
    • Baby's health is one of the reasons I was so determined to stick it out. Baby Z has had two colds in his 8 months of life. The first lasted 2 days and the second lasted 3 days, and when every person in the house came down with the flu he was a perfect picture of health. And like all my kids he is sensitive to a lot of foods. By breastfeeding I can help make sure he doesn't get those things that make his tummy hurt and give him eczema.
  6. I'm one of those lucky moms for whom it became "second nature". The fact that you've stuck it out for as long as you, with all of the challenges you've had, that makes you a hero in my book. Especially to Baby Z. You rock, mama!
    • Aww, thanks Olivia. That really means a lot. Because I wasn't able to breastfeed my first two boys as long as I wanted I just kept holding on to the hope I had that it would get better. And, though I wouldn't say it is quite second nature yet, I have a feeling that one day it will be.
  7. I breastfed all six of my children. I was lucky as I always had more than enough milk for my babies. I remember when my first baby threw up all over me when she was two or three months old. I was amazed by the amount of milk she had gotten from me.
  8. I think every kid and every situation is uniquely different. I struggled and fought with my first child. I made it 5 months and then gave up. I felt like a failure but in another sense was so much happier once we went to formula. He was much happier too. My second son, I didn't stress and we had a wonderful BF relationship. My 3rd is now 4 weeks old and is breastfeeding all of the time. She does well but it is still hard. I think you are amazing to have nursed for that long especially with reflux and what you've faced. Kudos to you!
  9. I haven't had troubles with breastfeeding as of yet, but I just wanted to say congrats on eight months so far!! That is beyond awesome, and your strength is commendable. I think it's a struggle for most at first, but only because as moms we need encouragement (beyond baby troubles, latch, etc.) from our peers. I know that really helped us! I love how you said it was all worth it. Because moms need to hear that! That they too can push through obstacles and overcome. Great post!
  10. I am in the 2% that literally can't produce breast milk because of a rare disorder, so when my son was 2 weeks old, the pediatrician begged us to bottle feed. I admire women who are able to breastfeed, and applaud those that do it despite the struggle to do so. (((Hugs))) Mama, you're doing great!
  11. Dallas Finnell says
    So, I decided to go back and look at what kind of experience you've had with breastfeeding. My experience has mostly been with latching problems. We haven't been able to get his tongue tie looked at yet, and won't be able to until his insurance kicks in. However, I've been very grateful for the nipple shield I have. I would love to breastfeed without it, but it is very painful. Whenever I try to ween him off of it he either loses his good latch or cannot get a good latch at all. At least with the shield it makes the experience enjoyable for both of us while we wait to get his tongue checked out.