Boobs Are So Overrated

I think the only thing worse than being connected to a double electric breast pump for half an hour, is not producing a drop of milk after being connected to a double electric breast pump for half an hour.

Everyone knows that breast is best. Babies who are breast fed are smarter, do better socially, and grow up to be doctors and lawyers and presidents, whereas babies who are formula-fed grow up to be unintelligent drug dealers and pimps. At least, that’s what the lactation consultants will have you believe. The breast is best, and anything less than breast milk for your newborn is akin to child abuse.

You can imagine, then, the conversations with the nurses, when three weeks after she was born, Nyana was still being fed donor milk and I was still not lactating. “No pressure, but how’s your pumping coming along?” they’d ask. “How often are you pumping? Are you relaxed? Have you tried this, or that, or the other thing? Are you sure you’re pumping correctly? Maybe you should see the lactation consultant again.”

I know they’re only trying to do their job and do what’s best for Nyana, but as a mother who’s tried everything, all I hear when they ask those questions is what’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to give the best you can to your baby? Do you want your little girl to grow up to be an unintelligent drug dealer?? She’s only three weeks old and you’re already failing as a Mum!

I was pumping every two hours, three hours through the night. My doctor put me on a prescription to help my milk come in, a pill I needed to take two of, four times a day. When that didn’t work, my midwife recommended I start taking two herbal supplements, each one requiring three pills, three times a day. On top of this, I needed additional iron pills to help with my hemoglobin levels. If you’re counting along with me, that’s 27 pills and 4 hours of pumping every day, in a valiant yet futile attempt at lactating.

I can’t tell you how depressing this all was. Day in and day out, pumping until my nipples were sore, popping pill after pill, feeling embarrassed as the nurses prepared another vial of donated milk. I hated watching as all the other mums emerged from the pump room at the hospital with bottles and bottles of milk for their little ones, or even worse, sitting in the pump room with them, as they saw my bottles remain empty as I pumped. I hated their sympathetic smiles. I clung to hope that maybe enough skin-on-skin with Nyana would kickstart the hormone and one day my milk would start flowing. And I tried to pretend that none of this bothered me.

My midwife finally sent me to see a specialist at the breastfeeding clinic here in Vancouver. We had a quick conversation as I explained to her the details of my pregnancy and Nyana’s birth, and it was very quickly concluded that I am suffering from Sheehan syndrome. Giving birth to Nyana broke my pituitary gland. As it turns out, a massive hemorrhage during childbirth can cause tissue death in the pituitary, and this tissue damage hinders the gland’s ability to produce prolactin, the hormone needed to produce breast milk. No amount of pumping or pill popping is going to help me. Breastfeeding Nyana simply isn’t an option. I’m waiting for the results to come back from the bloodwork they did to learn how permanent the damage is, and whether or not I’ve done enough damage that I won’t be able to breastfeed future babies.

It was such a relief to hear the doctor tell me that it’s OK to give up now. I’m disappointed that she won’t be breastfed, but knowing that there’s a reason, knowing that I can tell the nurses to shove it, is such a relief. Nyana has slowly been switched over to Similac formula and is thriving. She’s gaining every day and is now over three pounds. My baby will be formula-fed, and I am OK with that.


About Mrs. B

Wife, mother, marketer--not always in that order. Lover of fine food, good company, and exceptional grammar. Mother of one former micro-preemie and one full-term monster baby. Building childhood memories in Vancouver's suburbs.
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11 Responses to Boobs Are So Overrated

  1. Lynn Duncan says:

    Oh, Karen, so much pressure! Nyana got benefits from being fed breast milk AND she got and will continue to get benefits from a VERY loving and caring Mum, YOU! I know you both will give her every possible benefit in life and I had no doubt that she will grow into a fantastic child and adult.

    Hugs to all three of you..

  2. LeeAnne says:

    Karen, you can’t feel like a failure as a mom! You were taking 27 pills a DAY! You pumped hours on end, you are the most amazing mom for trying for so long! AND now, you have a reason as to why you couldn’t pump. Go with it, tell those nurses to back off. Not everyone can breastfeed, or pump, that does NOT make us bad moms. We do what’s best for our babies, and for now, Similac is the best for Nyana! What’s important, is that she is gaining weight, and growing stronger!

  3. Shannon says:

    You did your best and some things are just not meant to be. I have to add – my mom only breastfed me for a few weeks (she found the whole experience painful), and I have a “Dr.” in front of my name, so I think you can tell those nurses (and anyone else who judges you) to shove it!

  4. Heather Mullen says:

    Fantastic post. So many women deal with this issue and pressure, at such an emotional time for us anyway. It is good for you to have an answer to give the nurses – hopefully this will relieve some of the pressure on your life right now.

    I choose to pump and feed my daughter via bottles – and got dirty looks wherever I went. Everyone has an opinion, and feels the need to express it to you!

    Heather (from Winter Babies)

  5. Olivia says:

    My mom wasn’t able to breastfeed me, but she pumped for about 6 weeks.

    She felt terrible about herself (she felt like a “failure”), and one day she was crying on the phone to her mother after yet again being unsuccessful with breastfeeding, and her mom said “Do you want your baby to have enough to eat?” (at this point I wasn’t gaining weight properly, and was looking kind of emancipated), Mom: “Well, of course”, Her Mom: “Well then stop crying and get that baby some formula.”


    … I only had 6 weeks of breastmilk, and I am proud to say that I am not a drug dealer or a pimp! I was on honor roll every year, and I can definitely say that I’m fairly socially well-adjusted …

    At least you finally got some answers, and through all of this, you learned that you’ll do whatever it takes to be a good mother to Nyana. Just think, you didn’t give up, even though you weren’t producing a drop! And that says a lot about your character. 🙂

    Looking forward to more entries,

    – Olivia

  6. Jenn Robinson says:

    Like everyone else who commented, it’s such a tough experience being a new mum, not to mention the pressures society puts on us to breastfeed. I used to pump and top up my little guy with a bottle when we went out and I got tons of dirty looks as a result. I felt the need to justify that it was breastmilk to anyone who gave me a second look. After a while I gave up caring. There is absolutely nothing wrong with formula. If your baby is thriving on it then you’re doing the right thing! Who cares what those crazy nurses think! 🙂

    You sound like an amazing woman Karen! Nyana sounds just as amazing!

  7. K says:

    I found your blog through Baby Center and just wanted to congratulate you on your little girl. Her story is amazing so thank you for sharing it.

  8. Kasia M says:

    Like all your other friends said, don’t worry about the milk.
    I was born a month earlier (and weight 1.92 kg) and my mom could not feed me with her milk, because we had some conflict. So she donated all her milk to other kids. She also felt bad about it, but you know what? I know she did her best at the given situation.
    I don’t love her any less because I ate some formula milk!

    This blog is very inspiring. I have had tears in my eyes a few times.
    I can tell you when your little girl will be old enough, she will LOVE the blog.

    I hope all three of you are doing great.
    Hope you will be able to go home soon.

    We would love to meet your beautiful girl!

    Many, many hugs!

  9. Alexis Sykut says:

    I wish lactation consultants would spend more time identifying the reasons woman may not be able to breastfeed. For every friend who has had babies, they have had different experiences. I have one friend who has a genetic issue and never expressed enough milk to feed her little one. I have another friend who couldn’t get baby to latch correctly without so much pain that resentment was beginning to occur – so she went with pumping and bottle feeding. My mother botttle fed me because I was so relaxed and calm in her arms I would fall asleep and not be able to stay awake to consume enough!

    The message we should be giving new mothers is that the most important key is to care for and take care of your little one. If this means pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding, the important thing is your little one will grow. I don’t believe there is any true factual data about breastfeeding making you smarter. There is some evidence that breast milk does help the immune system strength – but does not feeding baby at all help the immune system?

    I am glad you finally found someone who had the sensitivity to understand it is not from lack of desire or trying!

    You are an AMAZING, strong, and loving mom.

  10. Kristie Walthall says:

    Bless you…………..both for trying your darndest & for posting this. Iwasn’t able to nurse either of my boys although I tried and tried and tried. I was also put on meds to “help” my milk come in. All they did was manage to give me even worse insomnia & post partum depression. You are NOT a failure because you couldn’t breastfeed. Although I can totally relate to the feeling. With my 2yo I actually had a nervous breakdown about, what else? BREASTFEEDING in front of one of the ladies from my church who stopped by to bring us dinner. Poor thing scrammed out of here fast as she could. I’m so glad that you found someone who understood that there was actually a medical reason instead of just continuing to put you down for your inability to do so. I’m not even going to try with this current little one & I DARE anyone to say anything negative to me about it.

    OH……and FYI to those folks who believe formula fed babies turn into druggies………my 2yo already recognizes his entire alphabet on site & can tell you most of the letter sounds along with his numbers. He can also hear a song no more than twice & sing almost the whole thing through. Not a darn thing in the world wrong with that one.

  11. Olivia ♡ says:

    I had to comment again just to comment on this:

    “I hated watching as all the other mums emerged from the pump room at the hospital with bottles and bottles of milk for their little ones, or even worse, sitting in the pump room with them, as they saw my bottles remain empty as I pumped. ”

    YES. That drove me nuts, and made me feel terrible about myself. Those damn lactating bitches! 😛 JK. Seriously, as you know I wish I could dish out milk like that. I’m jealous!

    Also, after having some experience with this now, I can fully understand how frustrating that was. And DAMN those pills, lol. I gave up on my herbal supplements a few days ago, now I have to see if the Domperidone gets me anywhere.

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