I Want to Breastfeed… But I Can’t

There are few things about new parenthood more fraught with emotion than learning to feed your new baby. Whether they plan to breastfeed or formula feed, parents are overwhelmed with information and shamed at every turn.

There are people who don’t ever want to breastfeed.

There are people who want to breastfeed and find it to be a cake walk.

There are people who want to breastfeed and find it to be immensely challenging.

And then there are people who desperately want to feed their child at the breast and simply cannot.

Whether it is due to no or very low supply, insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), being born without the necessary anatomy, a medication the parent must take in order to stay healthy, or any other reason at all, this is one of the hardest places to find yourself as a new parent.

However, with the proper support and information on their side, many of these parents can go on to have wonderful breastfeeding/chestfeeding relationships with their child or children.

Breastfeeding is not all or nothing.

I’ll say it again for those in back: breastfeeding your baby is not an all or nothing decision.

There are many options for accommodating the parent/child bonding needs and the child’s need for complete nutrition.

The Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) features a very thin tube which is attached to a syringe that holds milk or formula. The tube can be secured to the side of the nipple so that when the baby nurses, milk or formula can flow through the tube and into the baby.

This allows parents, and babies of parents with the desire to chest or breastfeed, who do not have a full milk supply to still have the experience associated with this form of bonding and feeding.

While the SNS is generally indicated for short-term use when establishing breastfeeding, it is up to every parent to decide what works best for their family.

For parents whose desire is that their baby be fed breastmilk and their supply is not plentiful, they sometimes consider donated breast milk from other pumping parents. There are formal milk banks that allow parents to purchase pasteurized human milk for a fee. Additionally, organizations such as Human Milk for Human Babies and Eats on Feets, can connect parents with peers who are willing to share their milk.

Dry nursing is also an option. If your client wants to breastfeed and has no supply, that doesn’t mean they can’t put baby to the breast. Babies take comfort from suckling at the breast as well as from receiving nutrition there.

Remember, pacifiers are made to resemble nipples, not the other way around.

The best thing a doula or Infant Feeding Specialist can do for a client, no matter their feeding choice or outcome, is support them exactly where they are.

You’ll likely be the only person in their lives who will.

Breastfeeding is about so much more than food. The emotions surrounding it are as unique as the parents choosing it. If you want to learn how to support clients emotionally through any feeding situation, the ProDoula Infant Feeding Specialist Training is a great place to start. Parents deserve support. Without bias. Without judgment. Without conditions. And they deserve it every single day.

Tiffany Depute 
Co-Owner, Houston Birth & Baby