I knew full well that my life would change dramatically when James came into it, and this year, at 33, I was up for it. I wanted nothing more than to care for and give all my love to our baby boy. I prepared in every way I could. I read books on sleep and childhood development. I watched YouTube videos to get a sense of what to expect during and after labor, read parenting blogs, listened to parenting podcasts, and spent hours at night reading forums for new moms. They said it was hard, of course. They said it would change my life, in good and challenging ways. They mentioned the little to no sleep I’d get—many times in fact. And still nothing, and I mean nothing—not a single thing in the whole wide world—could have prepared me for the reality of having a newborn baby.
I braced myself for one hell of a challenge. I could live without being able to get up and go on a whim—to restaurants, the movies, to grab a coffee. In time, I could learn to adapt to the change in how much and when and where and IF I slept. As hard as it would be to essentially upend our life, I wanted it.
And as someone who has struggled with depression off and on for many years, I was aware that I might be inclined to struggle with postpartum depression. The possibility of it didn’t scare me or fill me with dread. I talked openly about it with my doctor before giving birth. Daniel and I talked about it many times, kind of marveling at how good my pregnancy had gone, how good I’d felt mentally the whole time, even after tapering off of my antidepressant in the second trimester. But who knew what would happen when my hormones changed again after I gave birth?
The moment James was born, I felt this intense rush of love and excitement wash over me. Here he was finally. I kissed him and snuggled him and wept through a thousand I love yous. I was so relieved he was out after the grueling labor we’d had.
But in the days that followed, that warm, cozy love feeling stayed and the excitement began to wear off. As happy as I was to have my baby boy, I was realizing that life with a newborn was so hard—harder than anything I had ever done.
The first night home from the hospital, James was utterly inconsolable, unable to be put down anywhere for longer than a minute. The second night was the same, only he wanted to nurse constantly, which I understood. He’d just spent nine months in my womb; it made sense that he’d want closeness and comfort. I did the very best I could, which meant staying up all night every night and sleeping for an hour or two in the day while Daniel held him. Those nights were so lonely. Daniel would attempt to stay up with me, but it just seemed crazy to me to keep him up, when I was the only one who could feed James.
The trouble was, I wasn’t so sure I even was feeding James. He struggled with latching then unlatching and seemingly forgetting how to feed at all. For hours and hours, he’d find his latch, push away, then struggle to remember how he latched in the first place. He’d scream the whole time, too, which left me confused and feeling desperate. I was so scared that something was wrong, that maybe he’d never settle down at all, or that he wasn’t getting enough to eat—a feeling that had plagued me since the night we began nursing. It was impossible to know how much colostrum he was getting since it’s such a small amount that your body makes overall (the nurses at the hospital told me time and again when I looked to them, worried that he wasn’t getting anything, that his stomach was only the size of a cherry. He didn’t need much, they said). I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.
And yet, I didn’t want to give up on breastfeeding. My nipples were raw, cracked, and crusted with blood but that was fine, as long as he was fine. I told myself that I’d eventually get used to the pain and that my nipples would desensitize and adjust. This is what all breastfeeding mothers go through, I reminded myself over and over. But there was something about the way he cried, the way he thrashed, the sort of desperation in his latch. My gut said he wasn’t getting what he needed. We went to the pediatrician three days in a row that first week, hoping that he’d begin pooping and regaining the weight he’d lost after birth. We were told to keep coming back until he’d made some progress. I met with a second lactation consultant, who encouraged me to keep on keeping on. And I did. I tried pumping, as she’d suggested, and didn’t produce more than a few drops.
I felt isolated, all on my own with this perfect, precious newborn I loved so much, who didn’t sleep at night and only cat-napped during the day, who I could barely breastfeed, who couldn’t tell me what he needed when he wailed. Of course I had Daniel, who’d do anything for me, and that relieved me some. But I was James’ mother. I was the one he knew. I was the source of his comfort, the one who could feed him. And maybe that role wouldn’t have felt quite as daunting IF I felt confident that I was indeed feeding him, but breastfeeding was a war, and I was losing.
Friends and family came and went, visiting us and meeting James, and I remember how incredibly alone I felt. I remember looking at them, feeling desperate, wanting so badly to cry out, help me please!, and then shooting myself down. But what could they really do? Could they feed him? Get him to sleep?
I cried. Every day, at least once, for a week and a half. I lived with a constant feeling that at any moment all the tears in my eyes would come spilling out. One half of me was filled with this potent, profound love for my baby boy, and the other was filled with something I couldn’t even define—some murky mix of fear, isolation, and at its worst, a hopelessness that it would always be this way.
What plagued me was the endlessness of it all. It was so hard to believe that it would get better, so hard to take comfort in reading about how much easier newborn life would be by the time James was six weeks old because we were living minute to minute, crawling our way through one day at a time. Six weeks might as well have been a hundred years away.
But look at how lucky you are! I told myself over and over. I couldn’t help but acknowledge that the circumstances of my life were overwhelmingly positive. I had a husband I adored, who was eager and available to help me in any way. We lived in a safe home, in a place we loved, with family 8 minutes away. My baby was healthy, for God’s sake! I had it good, I repeated, like a mantra. It only deepened my shame.
Ten days in, I looked at Daniel with tears pooling, lip quivering, and revealed my worst, most shameful fear: What if—what if maybe we…what if we made a mistake having a baby? It was a gutting thought to have, even worse to say aloud. I didn’t want to wonder it much less say it. All I wanted in the whole world was to be a good mother, a whole-hearted mother, and here I was on day 10, failing.
Daniel reached over, took my hand in both of his. Of course he understood. He was having just as hard a time adjusting, he said. He told me he’d had the same awful, frightening thought, and it was the first time I felt anything but alone since James was born. I didn’t want either of us to feel like we were drowning in parenthood, but sharing our struggle divided the pain by half.
I started taking my antidepressant that day.
Daniel and I worked out a schedule of sorts (more of a shift system) and divided up our tasks. I felt supported and bolstered and he felt good being able to help. He grew even closer to James. We both got more sleep.
Daniel called his sister, and asked for help. She began coming over once a week to spend the night. She got up with James overnight while we got a full night’s sleep. It saved us both.
I came to terms, finally, with the reality that I just wasn’t able to breastfeed. I couldn’t will my milk to come in, no matter how I tried. James was still rooting constantly. I was terrified he was hungry when I heard his stomach growling, despite having nursed pretty much all night long, so we decided to give him 10ml of formula (the amount we tried in the hospital when I insisted he was hungry). After he ate, it was as if we had witnessed a switch flip inside him. He stopped crying, allowed himself to look around and “play” without constantly searching for my nipple, and even slept in his bassinet for two whole, uninterrupted hours.
Once we began giving him formula, his behavior, his temperament, everything—changed overnight. He went from not sleeping at all to sleeping peacefully. And when he was awake, he was calm. I no longer had to hold him around the clock. At long last, I slept.
I surrendered. I asked for help. I couldn’t be the hero mom I wished I was in my mind, who didn’t need rest and didn’t complain. I was just a mom.
I look back and realize that so much of the suffering we all endured in that first part of James’ life was due to him being hungry, desperately trying to feed at all hours with nothing to eat. It breaks my heart to think about that now.
When mothers describe new motherhood as hard, they never leave it there. They’re quick to add a “but it’s the best, most rewarding thing in the world.” “Savor every second,” they tell you. “I miss it,” they say to you, as you’re dying. How can I savor this time, you wonder, when I’m barely surviving? You question whether or not they ever had a newborn.
For the first two weeks of James’ life, I thought other moms had kept the truth from me, about how devastatingly trying it is. “Hard” doesn’t even do it justice. “Do they just not remember?” I asked Daniel. “Is it like how women can completely forget the pain of labor in order to do it again?”
Today, James is 10 weeks old and I understand. I understand because with every single day that goes by, I love him exponentially more. Just being with him brings me enough joy for three lifetimes. Those mothers had perspective, something you can’t always know without time and distance. Their memories of sleepless nights and wailing babies had softened and faded into nostalgia. They could reminisce because they know their children were worth every single struggle that raising them entailed. I understand that now.
With my brain no longer functioning on fumes and hormone surges, I feel really good. Sometimes I wonder if it really was postpartum depression that I experienced in those first two and a half weeks, or if I was just grieving. Grieving breastfeeding, grieving my own expectations of the way I’d feel and the mother I thought I should be. It doesn’t matter, I suppose. I’m already beginning to feel a little wistful for those early days. I can even imagine doing it all again, something I truly never thought I’d say two months ago when Daniel and I were in the thick fog of having a newborn.
This is motherhood.
Beautiful. Thank you for this!
Andie this brought me to tears & my oldest is 16 & 1/2
I read your book a few years back and have even screenshot a few pages to keep rereading every time I start my manic eating …I relate to you so much and I wish I knew about this the first month of my daughter‘s birth everything you wrote brought back so many memories. You are such an inspiration to me. I’m 47 & struggle with my weight & depression. You are so comforting & you baby is so blessed to have you as his mom
This is so beautifully written. Thank you, as ever, for being so honest xx
This was also my story and I vividly remember the pediatrician visit where I learned that my baby was sleeping not because he was sated, but because he was working so hard to get so little breastmilk. I can remember giving him a bottle while sitting on that hard chair in the middle of January and sobbing brcause my son had been hungry when I could have been giving him food. He’s 8 now and huge and amazing and in a way I am so grateful for that experience. It was the first of many times that a child taught me to let go of my own expectations and plans and instead to really listen to what they were telling me. I’m so glad you got the support you needed and are doing better, and that James is clearly thriving. I’m one of those moms who, 3 kids in and with my youngest almost 2, will always pine a little for those newborn days with a baby on my chest at 3am, tired, unshowered, and completely and utterly besotted with the tiny creature who was the source of my constant fatigue. You are doing a great job. Happy Thanksgiving from a fellow Bostonian.
Yes. My baby had been sleeping SO MUCH because she was too tired from not getting enough. I can’t forget it or seem to forgive myself.
Our second baby was born a few months ago and even though we had been through the newborn experience before it was hard. I realized there is grief and mourning that accompanies a birth – even if it’s a routine birth with a healthy baby. Grief and mourning for the life we had with our three year old daughter before her brother joined us. We too feel like we’re finally on the other side of that grief and now we can’t imagine life without our son.
Beautifully written and incredibly true. I breastfed my daughter for the first 6 months and am now on month 5 with my son. It’s still difficult and I’ve been blessed with a great supply so I can’t imagine trying to breastfeed with a low supply. You should feel great trying and knowing when it wasn’t the best route for you and your son. Rolling with the punches and changing the original plan is what I’ve found parenting is all about. I’m a planner as well and being a mom I’ve had to allow myself to fly by the seat of my pants a bit more. You’re doing an awesome job!
This was incredible. Thanks so much for being real and raw with us. I don’t have kids yet, but I feel like I should definitely bookmark this to reference in the next year or two when I’m up at 3am wondering if I’m alone. He’s such a cutie! :)
Oh mama, thank you so much for writing this beautiful, painful, honest story of new motherhood. I wish you had written it about 6 years ago ;).
Attempting (and failing) breastfeeding was the hardest time of my life. With years of perspective and hindsight, I can see that my babies are perfect, wonderful, and FED. They have everything they need, and are close to both parents.
I am so sorry you had to go through this, but I hope (and feel pretty sure!) that it will just get better and better.
Congratulations on your beautiful baby.
This resonated with me so much. I went through the same when I had my daughter. Thank you for writing this and being honest – we need more of this! Sending so much love to you and that sweet boy.
Beautifully written and so real. When I had my first son, who is now 14, I struggled. I had worked so hard to have him, after 2 miscarriages and then treating a thyroid condition before I could try to get pregnant again. All I had ever wanted was to be a mom. I remember saying to my mom that all the new mom celebrities being interviewed on tv were all lying about the joys of motherhood. It all got better though and I even had baby boy #2 who is now 12. I struggled after his birth too and then one day I just fell in love with him. I realized that sleep deprivation did not work for me and my husband and I made some adjustments so that I could get some sleep. And it’s really true that the baby days go so fast. You’re doing a great job, mom.
I wonder sometimes if the strong push for breastfeeding (for good reason) creates so much guilt and shame for new mom’s that it’s take a few weeks (or months) to finally allow yourself to surrender to the reality that maybe your body is so busy putting all it’s energy into loving, holding, comforting, and caring for your baby and on top of that trying to keep your own body functioning at all, that it just doesn’t have the surplus energy to create milk. Our bodies are so different in all kinds of ways. Why would it be any different with breastfeeding or any other aspect of mama-hood. I’m so amazed at your ability to reflect with kindness and wisdom and then share your truth in such a way as to make others feel supported, seen, understood. What a gift you are to this world and to your beautiful baby boy. We all need help sometimes. So glad you were brave enough to as for it.
This was so beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes. My beautiful boy is now 18 months old but I remember how desperately alone and scared I was when he was first born. I was so terrified that I would make a mistake and as you so eloquently point out, it was hard to see that it would ever end. I had no perspective. Now looking back, I miss those days so much sometimes although I also love the stage we’re at now. I think motherhood is always tinged with grief. As excited as I am for each new stage, I feel nostalgia and sadness for each stage we leave behind. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.
Beautiful. My daughter is 4.5 months old. As I read this I kept saying “Yes. Yep. Mmmhmmm”. I wish more people talked about this and had the courage to admit all of this feelings. Each time I bring up my story to another Mom, inevitably she says “Oh my god, me tooooo..” and tells me her story. It seems we all go through some form of PPD or in my case PPA. Feels comforting to know we are not alone in this. And not bananas.
Much love. I had a similar experience with my son, he had a lip and tongue tie that went continually undiagnosed for 3 ENTIRE MONTHS until I found my 5th lactation consultant who checked his basically nonexistent suck and sent me to a pediatric dentist who fixed the ties. By that time, though, he knew that food came from a bottle and was utterly uninterested in breastfeeding. I was pumping for him but only made half of what he needed so he was partially formula-fed from the beginning. I stopped pumping when eh was around 6 months old, couldn’t keep it up with work. He is brilliant, strong, and healthy and kind. Formula is not the devil, but man did it feel like it at the time. I grieved our whole breastfeeding experience for a long long long long time. Give yourself that time. My son is almost 2.5 year old now and only in the past year or so could I read stories like this and not have my anxiety around the whole thing triggered. You’re doing a great job.
This rings so true. After 3 months of strict hospital bed rest. We brought our twins home. It was unbelievably hard. I was ashamed of the way I thought and felt. For so long, they were all I wanted. Once we brought them home, my only thought was that we needed to give them back. Everyone kept telling me how fast time would go by and I thought they were delusional. 15 years later, I can’t believe how fast it has gone by. Thank you for sharing your story.
What a beautifully written post. My daughter is now 20 months and the first 2 weeks of her life were INCREDIBLY hard and I cried everyday. The first month was also pretty hard. Every month got easier. Moms never give themselves enough credit! Pregnancy, labor, and delivery are very challenging and demanding. As are newborns. Moms are rockstars! Everything gets easier and the truth is there will always be hard decisions to make every step of the way but you will be ok if you go with your gut instinct and follow your heart and make decisions that are best for your baby. Give yourself a pat on the back, mommy!!!!
I agree-nothing can prepare you for the constant demands of having your first baby. Nothing. When people have asked me how “it really is”, that’s all I have to say. It’s just so much harder and unlike anything else I’d experienced that far. It’s just seemingly unending. Of course, the story continues, but man alive! It’s one of the toughest times on a woman: body recovering, no sleep, being responsible for someone else…it can be a grueling period. You’re not alone in thinking that way.
You did the right thing ( so many right things, in fact: talking about depression with your doc + husband, before and after, asking for help, getting the sleep you need) and this reflective post has the tone of relief. I’m glad things are getting better for you guys. Sleeping was my ‘mountain to die on’. I could handle just about anything during the day if I got decent sleep at night. I often remind other moms that people are tortured by sleep deprivation for information like war crimes!! It’s awful that culturally, we don’t take it seriously enough to support new moms with things like maternity leave, or ‘lie in’ periods like other countries.
Newborns are so, so hard. You’re doing a great job!
I am wiping away tears as I read your story. I can relate to this on so many levels, especially the breast feeding concerns. The social pressure we feel to nurse “breast is best” is not helpful when you see your hungry baby and you know that it’s nourishment he needs! We cannot will our breast to produce milk as much as we would like! I read your book several years ago and have been following you on Instagram. You have given me courage tonnage healthy changes…I need it..for my two boys!
I’m so glad you were able to get help! The beginning is SO, SO hard. Having your heart outside of your body is so raw and there is a feeling of helplessness and vulnerability that no one can explain. But I’m a physician as well as a food blogger and I will tell you wholeheartedly, Fed is best. Not breastfed is best, FED is best. You are a fabulous mama for trying breastfeeding and an even more fabulous mama for recognizing it wasn’t working and moving to formula. You did what you needed to do and that’s what mommin’ is all about. It gets better, slowly but surely and I’m glad you’re starting to feel some of that!!!
I feel like I could have written this myself – baby boy is just shy of 4 months born on 7/24/18.
When I was pregnant, I had several friends & acquaintances ask me if I were going to breastfeed. My only response, as it was my only thought on the subject, was that I was certainly going to try! I had seen enough friends giving their kids formula and had an idea that sometimes supply was a big issue. But when I said that, “oh yeah, I’m going to try! I’ve got these huge boobs so may as well put them to to the test – ha ha haa…?” (They really did triple in size and crazy tender breasts were like the only pregnancy symptom I experienced…. looking back… so foolish hahaha).
BUT THEN NOBODY FOLLOWED UP AS TO WHYYYYYY THEY WOULD ASK THAT QUESTION. Nothing about how frustrating it is when the baby doesn’t latch, how you don’t know how much the baby is eating, how you may only produce foremilk, that the baby might forget how to latch, that you are going to base 150% of your existence on how you’re doing feeding your child because everything is about weight gain and percentiles.
You are doing a fantastic job. Your son is ridiculously cute. Thank you for sharing your experience and putting it out to the world. It’s powerful stuff.
This was my story exactly with my first. It was heartbreaking to not be able to breastfeed like I wanted. It was a lot of grieving and mourning. And no one told me it was even a possibility, to not have enough milk to feed your baby. So he’s three now and so fun and I love him so much. And our second is six months and it was so much easier with him because I knew what to expect. And I tell everyone how hard it was the first time around. But I don’t include the “but.” I just say it’s brutal and check in constantly and tell them exactly how much I cried. They’ll figure out you do come out on the other side. Thanks for sharing this. Much love to your new family.
I just want you to know you are not alone. I had the EXACT same experience with breastfeeding. I mourn, to this day, that I didn’t get to breastfeed – but for selfish reasons. Because I put that expectation on myself. Because for me breastfeeding exclusively was part of being The Perfect Mother. Which – of course – is all bullshit but it meant something to me. Ultimately, fed is best (really), and so is your happiness. I’m so glad you had the courage and strength to ask for help. Motherhood humbles you, but also reveals your strength, in ways you could never imagine.
This made me want to cry, and my first is 10! I had a similarly dark experience after I had her. I loved her endlessly but the breastfeeding struggles and lack of sleep were doing a number on my mental health. The pressure to breastfeed made me not think clearly. I gave up my entire life (and a spot in the medical school I had worked for 3 years to get into) so I could be home feeding her around the clock. My supply was crappy and that was the only way she could get close to enough food. She slept only in short spurts. In spite of all my efforts she was growing at a barely acceptable rate. Yet no one tried to talk me out of it or if they did I would feel offended. She ended up not sleeping through the night until age 2. It turned out she had undiagnosed tongue tie, which definitely made things harder. And her eating has unfortunately remained “disordered” and I’m beginning to suspect everything took root that first year. It has taken nearly the entire decade for me to feel normal again. Reading your story was so poignant because I clearly remember being in that dark space. You absolutely did the right thing for you and your family. The health of your mind, body, and soul is worth it!
I try not to give much unsolicited advice to expectant mothers, but the one thing I do say is “fed is best” and a bottle doesn’t mean a breastfeeding journey is over. It’s so, so, so helpful to have formula as a tool.
I thank my lucky stars that I had a nurse suggest in the hospital that we give my son “just a bit” of formula to “top him off” after breastfeeding.
Turns out breastfeeding wasn’t in the cards with either of my kids. I pumped for awhile but never produced nearly enough to replace formula. And you know what? I absolutely loved sharing the feeding with my husband. The bond formed with a baby while they’re eating is so precious and I was happy to share that closeness.
Perfect. Your words could have been my own! Love to you and your sweet family x
Oh Andi! How beautifully written and how honest was your blog. I hope the young mother’s to be read this. My children are adopted so I never knew anything about nursing. BUT, even though we know nursing is great for them, young mother’s can feel shame in doing otherwise. I think young mother’s are afraid to trust their gut and do what is best for them AND the baby! Don’t beat yourself up over it. Being a new mother is hard and challenging. Sweet James won’t remember his first two weeks. Put it to rest. He is a cute little baby boy. Enjoy, sweetheart!
Thank you for sharing and I’m so glad you have come to a better, more enjoyable place with you sweet boy. I had a similar experience with my first where she wasn’t getting enough breastmilk. I remember how that switch flipped as soon as she got some formula in her belly too! She was like a totally different baby. I wish more people shared that breastfeeding doesn’t always work and that it’s okay. I did everything I could (while supplementing) to get my milk production up for 3 months and never could get more than an ounce or two. After 3 months, I let go and decided to just enjoy my time with my baby, and never looked back.
We just had our second baby, a boy, and I was more prepared mentally and physically his time. I had formula handy and I wasn’t afraid to use it! It has made a world of difference this time around. A fed baby is a happy baby which makes for a happy mama.
Much love to you on this journey. xo
You are doing a fantastic job! The hardest thing for me was admitting we would have to start giving our first born son formula but the choice was taken out of my hands when he was hospitalised for losing too much weight in the first couple of weeks of his life. I felt terrible and ashamed he had been so hungry. He thrived on the formula and he was happier and I could pass a little of the burden over to my husband who could then feed him at night. I swore I would not let it get to the same stage with my second baby. But I felt the same breastfeeding pressure and guilt the second time around. This time I managed 3 weeks before I was told I had to start giving formula and I felt bereft at my inability to sustain my baby all over again. Now my first is nearly 4 years and my second is 8 months. It gets easier but the sleep thing is still so hard to deal with and I still feel I failed at breastfeeding both of them. You are right, nothing can prepare you for their arrival but your honest words here are a comfort to mums everywhere that we are not alone and we can find strength to survive those early days and nourish and love our babies.
This is such a sad sad reality. One I see so often it makes me so angry. This was me! My daughter is now 3. When I had her I was an ER nurse. I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT BABIES. Breastfeeding?! Nothing. I bought the pump, the breast pads and all the other goodies I saw at Baby’s R Us that went along with it and thought “well of course I’m going to breast feed” and that was all I thougnt about it. It’s just something you do. Little did I know it wasn’t just something you do. My baby was born at 40+4 days, she then developed breathing issues and then sugar issues. But of course I was told her stomach is the size of a pea, she doesn’t need much right now, plus she has fluids going, she is fine. Little did I know she was starving. Fast forward to today. I am now a NICU nurse. I switched tracks, went through a 6 month training to do so and know so much more than what I did about babies. I wish I had the knowledge I did back then when my little girl was so small. It breaks my heart to see babies so hungry because Mother’s have such an awful time breast feeding and I can’t tell them enough how amazing they are and they are not failures. It’s just not in the cards for some. I still get a knot in my stomach when I see overflowed fridges of breast milk, and wonder why couldn’t I do that! Breastfeeding is wonderful and breast milk is great but it’s not the only way. Sometimes breast just isn’t best and that is ok.
Andi – I love how honest and raw you write how you experience life! You are a gifted author! I felt your pain and “grief” as I read your words. It brought me back to those early days with my daughter. I felt the same way, isolated and alone even though I had a loving mother and husband in the house with me while I was trying to figure out motherhood. I really love that you described grief—I totally agree with that, that is something women don’t talk about. Some of my mom friends do not identify with that emotion, but I totally do! I was 37 when I had my daughter, I was grieving my “old” life when I brought my daughter home. I felt totally overwhelmed and wondered if we had made a mistake also. I knew my life would never be the same, and that is okay! It is a rewarding wonderful experience to be a mom, but it does not negate the life you had before motherhood, and the change is mind blowing. I admire how brave you are in your writing and it inspires me. I am sure you have spoken to many women and encouraged them through your writing. You are doing a great job at this motherhood thing—stay true to you and keep writing! xo
You are not alone <3
With my first, we suffered for six weeks because everyone said to give it six weeks. Pumping around the clock with a baby who wouldn't latch, only producing about an ounce over the course of a day. He dropped so far on the weight chart (he barely surpassed birth weight at his one month checkup). I don't know why that decision to stop trying is so hard, but the relief I felt when I finally said "no more" was literally instantaneous. I decided to try again with my second but with the plan to stop when it didn't feel worth it, which ended up being two weeks (and she did latch, I just don't make nearly enough, and I like sleeping). Even now, three years out from when my first was born, I still feel pangs when I see women talking about it – not guilt (I know I made the right call), but sadness over what everyone says is supposed to come naturally. Some small part of me still feels like I failed, even though I have two healthy, thriving children.
Thank you for sharing Andie. I too went through similiar things with my first baby 25 years ago. She screamed and cried for the first six weeks while I tried desperately to breast feed. hand pumps, electric pumps, wires stuck to my first that sent formula along with the breast milk…I was finally diagnosed with post partum depression and had to stop trying and take anti-depressants. I loved her but really wanted my life back…I gradually got better and was able to enjoy her so much more…but the bottle feeding shame was incredible…people were so insensitive and so judgmental. It was a dark time and it interfered with our bonding until I got well. Our babies need healthy mothers so we can love and care for them…I’m so glad that the world is changing and that you have such a supportive partner…your baby is beautiful and you are so brave and generous.
My baby is 28 and the same thing happened to me. They were really starting to push breastfeeding over bottle, and I was totally for it. But the nurses gave him a bottle in the nursery and he loved it. Sigh . . . So I pumped for six months to do the best I could for him. And like so many have commented here, my husband absolutely adored being able to feed him. We were true partners. I’m glad you were able to get the help you need and make the right decision for your boy.
I, too, never had my milk come in. I, too, tried for two weeks to feed my daughter with my body and failed miserably. I, too, had to grieve a lot pertaining to the birth and breastfeeding.
But I didn’t ask for help. And I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and psychosis a year and a half later. That’s how long I spiraled before getting the help I so desperately needed. I’m glad you are back on your antidepressants. I’m glad you are feeling better and know that fed is best. I’m so very glad you asked for help.
Congratulations on James! He is a cute little nugget.
I went through a similar experience with my first daughter. I am a low supply momma and I wasn’t able to make enough milk for her (or any of my FOUR kiddos) But you know what, they have all turned out really well. My oldest is 12 and she is such a kind hearted girl, gifted in art, and in advanced classes in school. My other 3 kids are younger and they are all doing very well. Please don’t ever feel like you failed, take it from this seasoned momma :) You are doing a wonderful job.
I so appreciate your beautiful vulnerability. I just hope that the women reading this who haven’t yet had children or gone through this will keep this in the back of their mind. It may save them the 10 long, long, excruciatingly long days you endured. You are paying it forward with your frankness. You love your child deeply, that is obvious. It’s beautiful you have found that peace and sweet place, but I personally as a woman and mother would like to tell you I’m sorry for the way it happened with you, those newborn days.
I read your story and personally know that I have three women intimately close to me who have echoed parts of this story themselves with their first child. I did not know, since I did not experience this, but I wish so much I had been able to help them better. Your story propels me to BE there, see what’s unseen, and help. Much, much, much love to you all.
This is such a beautiful post. I just had my second baby and thank you so much for being honest and open. So many women, myself included, are going through similar experiences and it helps so much to know others are right there in the trenches too. James is adorable!
Thank you for your words, Andie. I wish I would’ve written something down about my own experience, but it hurt too much at the time. It still hurts a little reading what you wrote today, but my first thought is “Isn’t formula great?!” I still felt so guilty, but I felt like my whole life opened up after we switched. Babies and kids are hard no matter what, but it’s so much more manageable when everyone is fed and well rested. You’re doing great at this, and your son is a doll!
First off, what a beautiful, precious, handsome little boy! He is adorable! I am so happy for you. :-) I can relate to everything you wrote about those early days. My milk didn’t want to come in no matter what I did and I was a crying mess. My husband was at his wit’s end and my mother was trying to help, too, but I was a wreck. I had quit my job to be a full-time mom and felt I was failing at it miserably. I tried to breastfeed for far too long, the breastfeeding consultants were urging me not to quit trying; ‘It will work, relax, give it some time, you’re too tense!’……um, how do you relax when you’re sleep-deprived, your milk is non-existent and you’re afraid for your baby? Though at first I felt like such a failure, we turned to formula and just like your son, what a difference, he began to thrive. And SLEEP!
I did feel guilty, though. I’d had people tell me my babies wouldn’t ‘bond with me’ because they were bottle-fed, and all sorts of nonsense. My sons are 32 and 28 and I’m a 60 year old grandma, guess what? We bonded! After all these years, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself not to worry so much. Everyone’s experience is different, no two people are alike, you have to do what works for you. I am sure breast is best, but as an earlier comment stated, FED is best! Congratulations on your little boy, you’re doing a WONDERFUL job!
ahhhhh, our sweet, kind, and loveable Andi! Remember** BREAST FEEDING does not define you or your mothering. It’s a great natural way to feed your baby and I “get” the organic guru mommies who are obsessed with it, GOOD FOR THEM!!… I will tell you what truly matters and will always matter.. LOVE & patience. <3. That is all you need to worry about today. I used Similac for both my children and they were chubby and happy and healthy and hardly ever sick. So, let me remind you, Miss new Mommy…. Take care of YOU first… and as my beloved grandmother told me 1000 times.. you must put your health first in order to take care of anyone else! James is thriving! & he is also adjusting. He has so so adorable and precious! So…remember to Enjoy the little moments together and watch him blossom. You have a good, kind heart and your going to be just fine…..I promise! xxx Love, leelee
Thank you so much for sharing! Be gentle with yourself. Your little boy is happy and healthy and he doesn’t remember those difficult first days. I had something similar happen with my daughter, she was hungry even though we were bottle feeding her. She just wanted a lot more all of a sudden! Babies are tough and amazing and so worth it!
Oh Andie, I wish I could reach through the computer and give you a huge hug. I am so sorry you had to experience this struggle. I had a very similar experience when my daughter (now almost 11 months) was born last December. I had to start taking an antidepressant when I was 6 months pregnant. My milk never came in, despite a month of failed feedings and pumping sessions that produced such a small amount it was laughable. At 3 weeks postpartum I went to my husband and begged him to help me. I had been crying inconsolably for hours and all I wanted in the whole world was my daughter to love me and to just lay down and float away. I was so exhausted and so utterly spent. He called my doctor the next morning and they increased my dosage. I felt like I had failed because I could not successfully nurse. I worried that she wasn’t going to develop mentally the way she was supposed to because she was a formula baby. Or that she wouldn’t bond with me. None of those things have proven to be true. We have a wonderful village who brought us food and played with my daughter, rocked her, changed her, put her down for her naps, so that my husband and I could sleep or sit and drink a cup of coffee WHILE IT WAS STILL HOT!
You are doing an incredible job. And you ARE a superhero mom, because you realized you needed help and you got it. Know that you are doing an amazing job, James is happy, healthy and oh so beautiful, and you are not alone
about the 100th person to say this really resonated with me.
i am actually pregnant with our second and have A LOT of anxiety (more so than with my 1st crazy enough) about those first few weeks bc they were so so so hard with my son and breastfeeding. i had significant oversupply problems which is the only reason i think he gained weight at all in spite of his terrible latch, constant fussing and frustration with latching, etc… turned out he had tongue/lip/bucchal ties. it’s something i dealt with for 8 wks, feeling guilty every single day that i was so unhappy, didn’t think i’d made the right decision to be a mother, etc.- it was the longest month of my life (i definitely wasn’t a mom who was like can’t believe he’s a month! time flies! it felt like an eternity).
ties are something hospitals do not talk about- but a lactation consultant i had a consultation with (independent of the hospital) and pediatric dentist found them and corrected them for him at 8 wks and it was like a brand new baby lived with me. i don’t know why more hospitals are not educating patients about this issue and it is of course not the thing that goes wrong for every breastfeeding relationship but i really think it saved our breastfeeding relationship, my sanity, my son’s comfort, etc. that i had a friend who informed that this could be my son’s issue.
Thank you for putting into words so powerfully what I too felt after having my son. You are smart, strong, beautiful, and a good mother. ❤️
Although my experience was a bit different from yours, I do recognise many of the feelings you describe, being completely overwhelmed by motherhood and how hard it was in the beginning, both physically and mentally.
My beautiful son is now 14 weeks old and doing wonderful, and I could not be more proud. However this does not mean I did not have a rocky start and in the first few weeks I felt myself slipping away. Thanks to the unlimited support from my husband and my parents, after a couple of weeks and after switching to formula, I started to feel like myself again, and started to enjoy my son and motherhood much more every day.
Thank you for writing such a vulnerable and real piece, which unfortunately is rare to find.
So much this. Feeding challenges are absolutely heartbreaking. I struggled with my first (difficulty with latching, low milk production) and my second (reflux and other issues). I thought my only role as a mother was to feed my child. And when I couldn’t – – when something was clearly wrong – – I felt like the failure. It’s not about BFing v. FFing. To me, it was about doing what I thought I was supposed to do. And when I couldn’t, it broke me. I thought it would be different with my second – I combo fed my first and knew that formula was an option. My second, however, refused to take a bottle until 12 weeks. So I struggled for 12 weeks trying to feed him through reflux, tongue ties, lip ties, dairy/soy intolerance, etc. You are killing this mother thing. It is not easy and I firmly believe everyone is lying when they say they love the NB stage. It is f’ing hard and all we can do is muddle through, feed our children and love them.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
More people need to see this, hear this and understand.
As in your memoir, I see so many parallels! It’s like you had written this from my mind too! I felt/feel the same. My baby boy is 7 weeks old now and it gets better everyday.
You’ve expressed this challenging time and your experience, which so many others experience, so perfectly! Thank you!!
I just love you!
Wow, what a beautifully written post. I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes reading it. Though my new mom experiences have been different in many ways, there’s still so much I can relate to-those feelings of isolation, fear, loneliness, and then frustration for feeling those things during what I deemed should be the most joyful time. By sharing this you are helping people tackle those tough feelings of despair, and letting them know that they are not alone. Thank you so much for sharing this! You’re a great mom already!
Beautifully written Andie. Made me remember my first child. Very similar to yours. He is now 45!! My second child was completely different. I was able to breastfeed her with no problem. Remember that the days are long but the years are short ;o)
My heart goes out to you. Those early days of new
Motherhood are very challenging and exhausting. Know
That you absolutely made the right decision dropping the nursing now and getting the sleep you too need for this awesome time in your life. I have no doubt you are and will continue to be an awesome mommy to James
He is a very lucky boy
Hang in there and trust your instincts. Know that you are not alone and many of us older moms understand what you are
Going through. Much love to you and your family
You ARE a hero mum Andie…..it takes amazing courage to make a decision against what seems the “best” thing to do and actually do the “right” thing. So many mums dont have the courage to chose to go against what we know is best practice and see that maybe for them its not best, you used your supermum powers to know that you needed to make changes and aim for right. It’s this one little difference I hope you remember throughout mother hood ….have the wisdom to chose whats right for you and your family, not what society/friends/family think is best. You have earned your “superhero” cape! Relax and enjoy the ride however bumpy….x
Your story is so moving! I too struggled with feeding my two boys and switched over to bottle feeding within two weeks. It was wonderful to share the feeding with my hubby and the pressure I felt to provide food was off. My daughter however just came out knowing what to do and I was able to nurse her for almost a year. I love the phrase ‘fed is best’!
As someone who really wanted breastfeeding to work, I understand this. I felt the same way when I stopped nursing my son at 3 weeks. I felt like I had failed him in my first task as a mother- feed him. My son is now 5 and I now know that is the furthest from the truth. Just know you are taking care of him and getting him what he needs- a full belly and a happy mommy. You made the right decision. He will grow up happy and healthy!
Your story is so beautiful and your dear baby boy is beyond precious. I, too, had the same experience as you. I could not produce enough breast milk and after 2 weeks of trying so hard, and my baby boy losing a significant amount of weight and was visibly uncomfortable and hungry. After I gave him a bottle of formula, he transformed just like your baby boy. It is amazing how some of us just cannot breast feed. I just thank God there are so many nutritious formulas out there to choose from. Congratulations on your sweet baby boy!
Such a beautiful post, thanks for sharing! I wonder if we mothers “forget” later because, in the long run, we know the newborn phase is just a tiny blip in time. It’s hardly any time at all, even though AT the time it feels as if it will never end… I, too had the same issue with milk never coming in. I was intent on breastfeeding, and it was beyond frustrating when my body just wouldn’t do what I wanted/needed it to for the baby. I can fully appreciate your experience! Your son is absolutely adorable and you capture such gorgeous photos of him! Congrats!
thanks for sharing. so brave and beautiful. motherhood is very challenging and we all struggle with different things… for me, it was a horrible, traumatic birth that ended up triggering terrible PPD. I waited way too long to go back on meds and get sufficient help. I am so glad you did what you needed (and not after too long) to take good care of yourself, your son and your family. he is lucky to have you.
Such a great, open post! I experienced many of the things you did, thought similar thoughts, struggled with the same things. Pregnancy was pretty easy – but I couldn’t believe how unbelievably hard bringing baby home was. I wish I’d been better prepared mentally. But then, even though you don’t believe it at the time, it really will go fast. And before you know it, your baby will be 9 and as a grandparent will say, You’ve already half-raised her! Nooooooo
My story too-and my babies are 25 and 30! if I lived near you I’d come with a healthy dinner and give you a hug. Your son is adorable and you’re doing a great job!!
You are a great Mom!!
I could have written this exact post myself a little over a year ago. My son is now 17 months, and I can confidently tell you, it gets better and easier with each day. There are still challenges (obviously), but nothing even close to those first few weeks. You’re doing a great job, and James is so lucky to have you. Thank you for sharing this.
Shortly after my son was born (he’s 2.5), a dear friend sent me a text. “Just so you know, you don’t have to love this part.” It was exactly what I needed to hear! I try to pass it on to new mothers in my life. You hear all these wonderful things about bonding with your newborn, and yes, it does happen, but the parts in between are *hard*! It was such a relief to know that I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling.
Thank you for your honesty. Reading your post brings back memories of the desperation, confusion, and sense of failure I felt while learning to nurse. Breastfeeding is HARD. And as new moms we do it without any prior training, after putting our bodies through childbirth, while dealing with postpartum hormones, for the first time! Talk about stacking the odds against yourself.
I am so glad switching to the bottle worked out for your family. A fed baby is a happy baby.
So beautiful! Mother’s intuition is real and every mother gets it when she becomes a mother. Listen to it. It will be the most important voice you listen to. Be kind to yourself. Find joy in the small moments and celebrate the tiny victories. Give yourself lots of love and pats on the back. You are doing better than you think you are. Loves to you and your sweet family!! You got this!
Andie, I have never commented before, but have been reading your blog for months, and absolutely loved your memoir. This was a truly beautiful post. I am the mother of a nine year old girl, and a seven year old boy, so years have passed since I was in your shoes, but oh, my goodness, how your words brought me right back to those early days with my children. I wish I would have been able to read this back then–it would have calmed my heart and mind. Thank you for your honesty. I know that your words will provide comfort to new mothers all over! Congratulations and blessings to you. James is gorgeous, and I’m so happy for you.
This is exactly my same experience with my first baby! He was starving and that was a rough reality, i did everything right and i know it made my postpartum depression worse to know breastfeeding was not working out. It was a lot easier the second time, i knew i had insufficient glandular tissue so i supplemented from the beginning, and we were both so much happier! I love your description of the grieving process, i had a c-section and breastfeeding didn’t go the way i had planned, it took me such a long time to deal with all of that. Good luck with your baby
Thank you, Thank you , thank you for writing this. I could have written this about my son’s first few days this past June. My eyes welled up with tears as I read this and felt a sense, for the first time since June, that I am not alone. I am still struggling with postpartum depression and I also had the issue of low supply and I felt so ashamed (and was shamed, by family and friends). You have no idea how much this touched me and made me feel that I am not the only mom who has felt the way I do. Thank you, keep doing what you are doing, you are an amazing mom and your baby is absolutely precious.
Same. The details differ here and there but mostly- same! I felt all of those things after I had our first baby boy 11 months ago at age 35. I had wanted to be a mom my whole life! Then he was born and I immediately told my husband that we had ruined our perfect life. Thank you for this. Every month after those first few gets exponentially better and easier and you’ll love him more every day!
This is such a beautifully crafted post. I hope you’re really proud of it! Newborn-hood is SO hard. I’m so angered by the expectation and the idea from those who have had breastfeeding success that it is just something hard that if you work hard enough you can do it. I’ve tried, too hard, twice now, and it was miserable for each of my babies and me. I reached out to other moms who seemed like it was no big deal. You’re doing a great job and hope you never feel like you have to love every second. That just isn’t possible but some parts – different ones for everyone- truly are magic. He’s beautiful and your followers are proud and rooting for you all!
Andie, your son is just beautiful! I look forward to the pictures you post as if I know you personally. I have been a fan of yours for many years. I, also had the struggles of trying to breast feed and not producing enough milk, many years ago. On top of the stress of my daughter not getting enough milk, having very sore nipples and feeling as though I was a failure, I had to have all of this figured out within 6 weeks so that I could pump at work. I was sobbing after spilling what little milk I was able to pump as I was searching through all of the paperwork and suggestions that I had collected to be able to do this nursing thing successfully my husband walked in and gently took the entire file and put it in the trash. He said it will be OK to give her a bottle, we survived on formula and so will she. Our life was much better after that. When we had our son, I didn’t try and nurse. You are an amazing mom and James is lucky to have you!
Thank you so much for sharing. I have a 10 month old and I relate SO MUCH to your postpartum story. It’s like you put into words what I couldn’t. I had many of the same struggles.
From a mom who survived PPD & PPA to another who will make it through this journey better than before, YOU are a great mom.
You are so brave! Thank you for sharing your struggle – the raw truth is so hard to face, but in doing so you encourage others! I also wasn’t able to nurse my baby and I was devastated. I cried all the time for 2 weeks straight and then finally decided for my mental and emotional health that moving to formula was the best option for both of us. I’ve never looked back! You aren’t strong mama :-)
The early days are no joke, i literally breastfed my daughter 9 hours the first night she was with us. Which in turn caused my milk to come in crazy fast. She’s 2 now and we are weaning hard core and it’s kind of heart breaking but i feel lucky to have been able to go this long. Do not beat yourself up! For some it just doesn’t happen but it doesn’t make you any less of a good mom. Your heart is gonna break a thousand times over the next year when he explodes from a little squish into a full blown creature. Savor it because you blink and they are 2 running and screaming from one end of the house to the other and you think to yourself…i miss those days. Good luck to you xoxo
We were told today that our three-week-old isn’t gaining enough weight and we need to be on a strict feeding schedule with supplementation. I felt like an absolute failure – how could I not have known? – but later thought to reread this post, and it helped. Thank you.
Amen to all of this. I have a 6 month old. Multiple times in
the first 8 weeks i thought “what have i done? I cannot do this”. Motherhood is hard and honestly i think we need to stop telling moms who are in the trenches that it gets better. Deep down we know that but in the moment we just want someone to acknowledge its HARD. I shared this with a friend who had a baby 1 yr before me and after the fact she shared how hard it was for her. This shows me society makes us think something is wrong if it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. We need to be more honest, so THANK YOU for doing this post. I cried so much reading it. 6 months later i love my little bug so much but there are still very challenging moments.