Breast Is Best Failed Me And It Failed My Starving Son

My son was born at 8:33 am on a Saturday, delivered vaginally at 36 weeks and 3 days gestation. He weighed 6 pounds 3 ounces, and was in the 51st percentile for his gestational age. He latched onto my breast within the first 15 minutes. It was painful for me, but my nurse said his latch was great and that he was eating well. I continued to put him to breast every 3 hours as I had been instructed. We were told that we could see a lactation consultant, but one never came to our room. I was not concerned, since we were told he had a great latch and was feeding well.

On Sunday morning, we found out that he had lost weight and that he was suffering from jaundice and would need phototherapy. The medical staff told us that weight loss was normal and that his bilirubin levels were “borderline,” so the photo-therapy was just a preventative measure. Throughout the day he alternated between lethargy and crying. He only voided a few times, and his urine was very dark. His latch was still very painful, but I kept bringing him to breast to nurse every 3 hours. He never seemed to calm down after nursing.


When he became inconsolable on Sunday night, known as the ‘Second-Night-Syndrome’ a nurse instructed us to continue trying to give him a pacifier and that he would settle eventually. He began screaming at my breast and refused to latch. There were no lactation consultants available at the hospital on Sundays. Another nurse brought in a Lansinoh latch assist, although my nipples were not flat or inverted. She instructed me to use the latch assist to draw out drops of colostrum, which I then swept out of the bulb with my finger and fed to my son. I did this for several hours. There were blood blisters on both of my nipples and I had not slept since the Thursday night before. My son eventually fell asleep in the early hours of the morning.

When he was weighed around 8 am on Monday, he was 5lb 4oz. He had lost 15% of his body weight in 48 hoursNewborn weight loss calculator 

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I Shared My Story a Year Ago And I Was Told To Go Kill Myself – How I Am Healing

By Mandy Dukovan, MS, MFT, Marriage and Family Therapist, Fed is Best Foundation Senior Advisor

It’s incredibly hard to put into words all the things that The Fed Is Best Foundation has done for me the past year.  I happened to stumble upon the Foundation when I noticed a friend of mine “liked” one of their blog posts. I was a first-time mom who was struggling with many different feelings, and wasn’t sure who or where to turn to. My son was 2 months at the time, and was just beginning to thrive after I had begun to supplement him with formula. While I was so happy to see my baby finally gaining weight and thriving, I had haunting memories and raw emotions that I was struggling to sort out. I had immense guilt that I didn’t see the signs that my baby was hungry, which tortured me non-stop. I was embarrassed that I could look at his 1-month picture and now see that he was obviously malnourished, but how on earth did I miss this at the time?


1 Month Old

I was angry that I didn’t follow my own instincts that something was wrong with him and was angry that I believed all the terrible things I was told from lactivists that would happen to him,  if I gave him a drop of formula. I worried that we would not have the kind of bond that babies who were exclusively breastfed (EBF) experienced with their mothers. I now know that our bond is so much stronger because we bottle-fed him and no longer experienced the immense stress that came each time I tried to breastfeed my baby. I got to a point where I dreaded even trying to breastfeed him, but I was told that was the best thing I could do for my baby, so I kept going, at the expense of my baby’s health and my well-being. I honestly believed I was the only mother who had experienced what we went through because I only heard the stories about how amazing and natural breastfeeding was and every mother could breastfeed if only she tried hard enough.

Since I am a therapist, I knew I needed to share my story. I found courage in my strong desire for other babies and mothers not to struggle. I also found courage in the fact that I needed a reason for all of the suffering—I needed to know that Brock’s struggle was not in vain. I kept telling myself, “If I reach even one mother and prevent even one baby from suffering like Brock, then I have to do this.”  

Then I shared my story… Continue reading

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The Shaming Began In My Hospital Breastfeeding Course And Never Stopped

The shaming began prior to delivery, at the hospital breastfeeding class.  A soon-to-be mom asked if she should keep some formula on-hand, just in case she was unable to breastfeed.  The lactation consultant (IBCLC) insisted she not keep any formula around because, as soon as you start feeding the baby formula, you will give up on breastfeeding and never forgive yourself! She also said it was rare for a mother to not be able to produce enough milk, which is not true.  I told her it was fine to get some formula, if for nothing than to relieve the intense pressure of exclusively breastfeeding that was being forced in our class.  The IBCLC also instructed us not to use our pump for at least twelve weeks, and even then, only if we were returning to work–because pumping would interfere our milk supply. I later learned this is also  not true.

I delivered my beautiful baby, but I could not get her to latch, no matter what I tried after delivery. The IBCLC  said that I had flat nipples and taught me a new feeding position to try, but had to rush away. I struggled to get my baby to latch the entire time in the hospital without any luck, but no one was concerned.  We left the hospital, and on day three, my milk came in with a vengeance.  My breasts were rock solid and felt on fire.  My daughter was screaming and hungry but still could not latch. It was 2am. I was crying and begging my husband to go to the store for some formula (I had not taken my own advice because I was confident I would be able to breastfeed.  The thought never occurred to me that there would be trouble).  Meanwhile, I was attempting to hand express into a spoon to feed to my daughter. When that didn’t work, I quickly learned how to use my new pump and was I able to pump 5oz! I fed her my expressed milk by bottle, because she still could not latch onto my flat nipples and extremely engorged breasts.  At her doctor appointment the following morning, she had lost 14% of her body weight, despite my feeding her with bottles all during the night. I continued to pump and bottle feed my starving baby as much milk as she wanted and she began to gain back her weight quickly.   I went to see the IBCLC several times for latching help, and even though I shared how happy I was to pump, she told me to continue putting her to the breast. But she simply could not latch and breastfeed! What was I suppose to do?

I became an exclusively-pumping mom.

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Clinicians’ Guide to Supporting Parents with Guilt About Breastfeeding Challenges

Written by Dr. Ruth Ann Harpur, Clinical Psychologist

A systematic review of the scientific literature indicates that women who intend to breastfeed but who later feed their babies formula consistently report feelings of guilt, anger, worry, uncertainty, and a sense of failure despite the relief that introducing formula after experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding may bring (Lakshman, Ogilvie, & Ong, 2009). Recent research also indicates that this group of new mothers are at particular risk for postnatal depression (Borra et al., 2015).

Clinicians are uniquely placed to provide compassionate care at a vulnerable time for this group of parents. Their attitude and words can invoke a sense of shame, judgment, and failure, or they can inspire compassion, reassurance, and emotional healing.

Lacking any widely published evidence based guide on to how to best attain the most emotionally supportive clinical environment, the Fed Is Best Foundation has developed these suggestions in collaboration with parents in our support group and a clinical psychologist with expertise in mental health.

Florence Leung, 32, vanished on October 25, 2016 after driving away from her New Westminster home. She was suffering from post-partum depression and her body was eventually discovered in the waters near B.C.’s Bowen Island. Her husband subsequently posted the following on Facebook, “You are Not alone. You are Not a bad mother. Do not EVER feel bad or guilty about not being able to ‘exclusively breastfeed’, even though you may feel the pressure to do so based on posters in maternity wards, brochures in prenatal classes, and teachings at breastfeeding classes. Apparently the hospitals are designated ‘baby-friendly’ only if they promote exclusive-breastfeeding. I still remember reading a handout upon Flo’s discharge from hospital with the line ‘Breast Milk Should Be the Exclusive Food For the Baby for the First Six Months,’ I also remember posters on the maternity unit ‘Breast is Best.’ While agreeing to the benefits of breast milk, there NEED [sic] to be an understanding that it is OK to supplement with formula, and that formula is a completely viable option.”

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I Closed My Eyes As I Bit Down On My Gum And Waited For The Latch

My daughter, “little L,” was born a healthy 8.8 pounds, exactly on her due date in late September, several years ago. Like most new moms, I had spent all 9 months months studying up for my new job as a parent. And all the literature out there agreed that “Breast is Best!”.   I read and believed the unfounded claims that children who were exclusively BF had higher IQs, and were healthier than formula fed babies. I read that I should NEVER, under any circumstances, feed my child formula. I decided to leave work and stay home for a solid 6  months to exclusively breastfeed. After all, the books and doctors made it sound so magical, easy, and most of all, crucial. I had no idea what I was in for.

My problems were not related to supply. My milk came in roughly 8 hours after she was born, and by the time I left the hospital, I had enough milk to feed a village. (Her growth stayed in the 90th percentile for that entire year.) My problems were depression, loneliness, and sleepless nights,  all stemming from the unbearable pain I had with breastfeeding. 

When I left the hospital, I had several blood blisters already on both nipples, and at home, my nipples became black and  blue and cracked. They were open sores that bled constantly. I went without a shirt for a month, basically becoming a shut-in because wearing a shirt was excruciating. I couldn’t even shower because of the pain. 


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I Found Breastfeeding Success In The Fed Is Best Support Group

I have been praised in pro-breastfeeding groups for my tenacity.  For overcoming overwhelming odds.  For persisting when others would have “given up.” Along the way there were people who told me that I should just feed formula, that I should just stop breastfeeding because of the horrible experiences I was having, but I honestly thought those people were just misinformed.  I never thought that formula was bad, horrible, or poison, but I honestly thought that I should keep going.  It wasn’t until I broke down crying in front of my midwife with my second child, my second bout of severe PPD, and my second struggle to breastfeed (26 months into my parenting journey) that a medical professional or breastfeeding support person told me that my mental health was more important for my child than my milk. And I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.

My first pregnancy was textbook.  Very uneventful. I took the classes, read the books, had supplies, had supportive friends, ordered my pump.  I had heard it was very important that I not have any formula in the house because it might be “tempting” and that babies shouldn’t get bottles until 6 weeks, so I had no bottles and no formula.

My baby arrived at 36 weeks, 6 pounds 5 oz and quite healthy for a preemie. I was encouraged to supplement with formula from birth because we were afraid he wouldn’t be able to latch and suckle properly.  I used a nipple shield because of my flat nipples.  I wasn’t even 2 hours postpartum the first time I was hooked up to a pump to get a drop or two of colostrum which got smeared on baby’s lips.  We spent the first week in and out of the NICU and on and off phototherapy for jaundice.  By 3 weeks old, he was diagnosed with severe GERD, and we cut dairy and soy.

I triple fed for 3 months, every feed taking 1.5 hours if my husband could help, 2 hours if I was home alone.  I woke my baby to feed every 3 hours for the first 5 weeks.  I took all the galactogogues.  I took prescription drugs that I really shouldn’t have taken because I have a cardiac condition and aren’t even approved by the FDA. Continue reading

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I Found The Fed Is Best Foundation Before The Birth Of My Third Child – Thank God For Them. 

I don’t think I ever thought about infant feeding till I became pregnant. I never looked at a baby and wondered what it was fed. But it seems like everyone nowadays is so concerned; it’s the first question I was asked with each pregnancy. When I imagined myself as a mother, I always saw myself breastfeeding. It’s something I wanted desperately, and yet, I couldn’t produce enough milk for my babies. I have insufficient glandular tissue  (IGT) and I don’t make more than a half ounce to an ounce per feeding.

I thought that I had failed my first two babies because I thought breastfeeding had to be all or nothing. My first almost starved to death on so little milk, and my husband wouldn’t let me repeat that experience with our second, so I fed him only formula. I found the Fed Is Best Foundation before the birth of my third child, and thank God for them.  They empowered me to see it doesn’t have to be all or nothing—combination feeding is just as good for my baby. In fact, it’s the best for my family because I can breastfeed like I want, and my baby received the nutrition from formula that my breastmilk cannot give her enough of.  Without them, I probably would have stopped just like I did with my other two. They gave me encouragement and support to make sure my baby is fed and happy.

And here I am, five months later, still latching her at every feeding. I wouldn’t change a thing.

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I Had Permanent Tear Streaks On My Face – Thank God For The Fed Is Best Foundation

The act of giving doesn’t have to be physical to be meaningful. When I think of giving, I think of one support group that has given me more emotionally than I could ever imagine. It’s hard to describe how much they have given me. This is my story.

During my first pregnancy, I thought I had done everything right. I read all the books, ate the right foods, went to all of my doctor appointments, and exercised.  I had always planned on breastfeeding and never gave a thought to another option. I studied up on the perfect latch, breast shields, nipple pads, and milk production. I was so excited to have that bonding experience that everyone talked about. The day he was born, that dream came crashing down.

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What Happens When Mothers Are Told Being Fed Is The Bare Minimum?

The Fed Is Best Foundation has a private Facebook support group for mothers who need a safe place to talk about their infant feeding challenges without judgement. Mothers told us how they felt when they fed their babies formula.


Bulletin Board At A WIC Office

Shannon: I was told my daughter needed formula when she was hospitalized for three days.  I cried for those three days because I felt so guilty. I kept telling her “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for doing this to you, baby girl. Mommy is so, so sorry.” The doctors had to bring me food because I refused to leave my daughter alone. Granted, she was only four months old, but at that time, I just couldn’t leave her. I felt like she had to know I was there for her, that I felt terrible for unknowingly starving her.  My husband at the time came to visit and he held me for hours as I cried saying “It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. I wasn’t enough. I’m not enough for her. They told me I would be enough and I’m not.”   To this day, when I have one of my bad days, it all repeats in my head– the psychological damage is still there.

Amanda: The first time I fed my son a bottle of formula, I felt like an absolute waste of space as a mother. I genuinely felt like the worst, piece-of-garbage, failure-of-a-parent there was. I felt like I had failed him in every single way. Not only had I starved him and been unaware of it—I felt like I should have just known—but I had to use formula from a can to nourish him because my body stubbornly refused to make enough milk. I felt like anybody could just pick up a bottle and completely replace me in his life. It was a terrible feeling.

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My Inability To Breastfeed Made Me Fear My Newborn And Her Hunger

I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from my daughter’s traumatic birth. She was born in September 2016 and I was diagnosed in December 2016. I undertook Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a type of therapy designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories, which caused severe anxiety and panic.  The need to breastfeed was very triggering. The thought of not breastfeeding was very triggering — essentially, I felt like a horrible mom and I was struggling to feed my baby.

During my daughter’s birth, I lost forty percent of my blood. About twenty minutes after she was born, I went into shock and had to be revived. I have very limited memory of her birth or the hours after it.

Prior to my daughter’s birth, I got very sucked into “breassure”. I am a pediatric nurse practitioner and have patients who are formula fed. I also was exclusively formula fed, so I KNEW formula was safe and totally healthy for babies. But that part of my brain seemed to turn off. I HAD to breastfeed. I did not even want formula in my house before going into labor, as I had been told it would be “too tempting.” Even as I went into shock, I reminded my husband to feed our daughter with a finger or syringe rather than a bottle to avoid the infamous nipple confusion. It was not until about a month ago that he told me he fed her a bottle in the nursery, as he was afraid I would be upset.

After being revived, I did not even get to see my daughter until after I was stable and in the postpartum unit. I lost a lot of blood and I felt like HELL. I truly cannot explain it. I was so weak and so exhausted. Still, the nurse on the floor brought my daughter to me so I could feed her. She gave me NO instructions and did not acknowledge what my physical and emotional limits were, while attempting to breastfeed my newborn baby.  Still, I believed that I, and only I, could be the source of food for my child. I cannot explain how haunting and distressing that thought was. I desperately needed someone to care for me. My blood volume was low and very dilute. But still, I HAD to feed her. Otherwise, what kind of mother was I?

The Lactation Consultant gave me a nipple shield the next morning. It helped my daughter immensely. My daughter had to go to the NICU every few hours for an hour or more to get IV antibiotics for a very serious infection, which complicated breastfeeding. They gave me a pump to use during those times. I decided quickly that pumping was much more reassuring for my analytical and anxious mind. The only problem? I produced practically nothing. Fifteen minutes on both sides produced eight mL.  How in the world could this sustain the life of my precious child, especially in light of her enduring a thirty-four hour labor AND chorioamnionitis. I knew it wasn’t enough, and the thought of it brought me immediate panic attacks.

#2 Why Fed is Best- CaloriesColostrum(1)


I think, looking back, the worst part (and there were some TERRIBLE parts) was that when I saw my daughter, instead of love, I felt PANIC. I was terrified of how I was failing her.

There were many people in the hospital who were overly optimistic about my medical situation. My own doctor told me that “breastfeeding would be a breeze,” in spite of my severe anemia. Only the neonatologist was truly honest. She told me that I would need to pump and supplement for three to four weeks before my milk would truly come in, if it did at all.  In some ways, that honesty gave me the freedom I needed to feed my daughter in a way that worked for us both. It was still a wrenching decision though. Who endures what I did to do anything less than the best for their child?

Thankfully, my husband and parents were supportive. I got a few side glances from the postpartum nurses here and there for formula feeding, but I was so exhausted that I did not care.

I would like to pretend that I could let it rest at that, but since I truly believed that breast was BEST, I thought I was a terrible mom. For weeks and months, this went on. The thing is, I liked formula feeding.  It allowed my husband to do almost all the night feeds before I received a blood transfusion when my daughter was five days old. It allowed us to split the feeds evenly after that. It allowed him or family to care for our daughter easily when I spent hours getting iron infusions three times a week. She had no issues with formula and she loved her feeding time with bottles. But I felt so incredibly guilty for formula feeding! At one point, I even tried to relactate. It was totally unproductive. Through all of my pumping, I never produced more than fifty mL a day. Of course, I know now that a post-partum hemorrhage is a risk factor for inadequate breast milk supply.  I never had more than a mildly bloated feeling in my breasts, certainly nothing like how I have heard others describe engorgement.

Through it all, I think my biggest wish is that in pregnancy I was not so vulnerable to “breast is best.” The need to breastfeed and my inability to do so made me fear my newborn and her hunger. 



There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:

  1. Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
  2. Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
  3. Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
  4. Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
  5. Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
  6. Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
  7. Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and every thing in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
  8. Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child.  Your messages of support keep us all going.
  9. Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
  10. If you need support, we have a private support group– Join

Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!

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