Not everyone can breastfeed.
Not everyone wants to, either, and that’s totally fine. Do what works for you!
So one new mom is speaking up to let others in this situation know they’re not alone.
“My milk never really came in to nurse our baby. Only a few ounces a day. I just assumed it would, that I’d breastfeed. No one prepared me for the possibility that it would not,” Kate Beaton, a Nova Scotia-based cartoonist, wrote on Twitter Monday.
“This was a heartbreak, and I have cried a lot. You just think your body will do what it’s ‘supposed’ to.”
Her tweet and the following thread resonated online, where it has been liked more than 2,000 times so far and has seen hundreds of others sharing their own experiences with infant feeding.
WATCH: The guilt about bottle-feeding. Story continues below.
While the world’s top health experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding until a child is six months old, with continued breastfeeding to age two and beyond, campaigns such as “Fed Is Best” point out that women often feel immense pressure to only breastfeed their newborns, “even when they do not have enough milk to do so.”
A 2003 study found that 22 per cent of new moms experienced “delayed onset of lactation,” which was mostly commonly associated with being a first-time mom, having a C-section, having a long labour, being overweight, having flat or inverted nipples, and low birth weight.
A more recent study found that one in eight moms who intend to breastfeed were affected by “disrupted lactation.”
The majority, or 89 per cent, of mothers in Canada breastfed their baby in 2011-2012, Statistics Canada notes, but far fewer, 26 per cent, breastfed exclusively for the full six months.
“The most common reasons cited for stopping breastfeeding before six months were ‘not enough breast milk’ and ‘difficulty with breastfeeding technique,’” the agency said.
Beaton tried all these avenues without success, she tweeted.
“It felt like everyone said breast was best by far until I could not produce milk, then they said ‘well, formula is fine too,’” she wrote.
“That felt like a lie to comfort a broken body. I wish that I could nurse, but I can’t. I am sharing this with you, because no one told me this could happen, and it was a lonely, sad thing to go through. You hear ‘lots of people have this problem’ but who are they? Me, I am one.”
In a moving response, hundreds of other parents replied to share their own stories and say, “I am also one.”
“There is such pressure to be perfect and breastfeed because “our bodies were made for this” but honestly, like my OB said as she hugged me, as long as your baby is healthy, happy and clean, that’s all that matters. My little girl is 6mo and thriving,” one person wrote.
“I am one of those people too. I am sorry. No one warned me, either. Not until I was in the middle of it. Thank you for sharing,” another person added.
“I struggled until my daughter was five weeks, and I remember sobbing when I had to go get her formula. And it seems so dumb now, but I personally felt like a failure even though I was not. She’s six now and at science camp. A total laugh riot. She, too, is thriving,” added another.
A common theme in Beaton’s thread and the responses to it is that new moms feel unprepared for the possibility that they might not be able to breastfeed. In 2018, the Royal College of Midwives in the U.K. released a position statement encouraging more support for those who bottle feed.
“Evidence clearly shows that breastfeeding in line with WHO guidance brings optimum benefits for the health of both mother and baby. However the reality is that often some women for a variety of reasons struggle to start or sustain breastfeeding,” chief executive Gill Walton said in a news release at the time.
“We recognize that some women cannot or do not wish to breastfeed and rely on formula milk. They must be given all the advice and support they need on safe preparation of bottles and responsive feeding to develop a close and loving bond with their baby.”