Is it ever physically impossible to breast feed?

(276 Posts)
ThePowerof3 Tue 30-Jul-13 06:44:06

I know that there can be a lot of mental barriers to breastfeeding but what are the physical ones? Is it ever possible for someone's milk not to come in?

ThePowerof3 Tue 30-Jul-13 07:59:59

That's really interesting iamadoozermum

primallass Tue 30-Jul-13 08:01:46

I think some babies arnt that hungry at birth and can be quite happy being put to the breast and not getting much for the first few days, others want lots of milk now and become distressed when they arnt getting it. Ds4 was like that he was awake trying to feed most if the first day and night and cryed alot. I cup fed him for the next few days, and he seemed more content and happier at the breast.

This was the same for my DS. He was a big baby and needed food straight away. I managed to mix bottle and breast feeding for months, but never just breast.

BrennieGirl Tue 30-Jul-13 08:04:09

I had no milk for either of my babies. Not a drop. I pumped for 4 weeks on both of them but there just wasn't anything there.

I had a difficult last few weeks on pregnancy one (severe gestational diabetes) followed by a very long labour and emergency section. I was in recovery for about 9 hours because of bleeding. I then had to have a blood transfusion. Midwives suggested that stress was the reason I had no milk.

However on pregnancy/birth 2 everything was relatively straight forward and I still didn't produce any milk. I managed to get the baby latched on and thought I was feeding her for 2 days but the day we were due to go home the poor little thing was dehydrated and jaundiced so I had to give her a bottle. Despite this I still used the pump after every feed for 4 weeks hoping my milk would come in. But it never did.

I had been so looking forward to breast feeding. I felt so disappointed and guilty but in the end I conceded defeat for the sake of my mental health and decided to be thankful that at least my baby was being fed somehow and that she was perfectly healthy.

So yes it can happen. I also had 2 other women tell me that they had no milk including my GP.

meditrina Tue 30-Jul-13 08:05:35

I think you only have to look in the Infertility or Miscarriage sections to see that bits of female bodies go (sometimes heartbreakingly) wrong and go not produce what they are meant to.

Yes there are medical conditions which make it impossible - or dangerously inadvisable - to feed, plus there are issues which complicate breast feeding to the extent it becomes unachievable.

I had the problem that as soon as the milk came in, the let-down was accompanied by a rush of sadness and terror. Every time. I persisted, but quickly began to dread every feed. Breastfeeding was preventing me from bonding with the baby and I ended up with severe PND and had to be admitted to hospital.

It never worked for be either. I followed all instructions I attended clinics I pumped and had her sucking near enough all day. There were no problems with the latch or anything. No idea what it was that stopped me producing anywhere near enough milk. It just didn't happen and it was sooooo painful and I just couldn't cope with it. Especially when she chewed a chunk out of me and left me bleeding.

I didn't even bother with dd2 and I never even leaked even sleeping on my tummy pads were dry. I guess I just dont produce.

cory Tue 30-Jul-13 08:12:42

Most of the above replies focus on the woman, but breastfeeding is very much a two person job.

I was overflowing with milk like an expensive milk cow and but dd was hypotonic and not strong enough to suckle. Not really any stranger than the fact that at the age of 9 she wasn't able to walk much and there were periods around the ages of 11 and 12 when she wasn't able to sit upright.
As goldenfoil and MrButtercat said, when pretty well every other function of the human body has been known to malfunction, why not this one? In dd's case it was all part of a much bigger problem, but we didn't know that until many years later.

Dd still had breastmilk, some fed the conventional way, some by bottle, some squirted into her by syringe. And is now (16 years later) on strong painkillers to enable her to do the other clever little things, like walk...

So that might be a tip for you, Powerof3- remember it may not always be something to do with the woman; there is a baby involved too. But the woman will be taking it all on as her failure. I nearly broke down and sobbed with relief 10 years later when a physiotherapist pointed out that dd's condition will have caused our problems. Dd was 10 years old and in a residential rehabilitation clinic to learn how to bloody walk and that's how strongly I still felt about "my failure"!

Januarymadness Tue 30-Jul-13 08:13:20

I assume due to birth trauma my milk never came in. I produced colostrum (sp?) And tried to give my baby that to encourage production but she was a vert big and very hungry baby. In the end the breastfeeding consultant said "I think that baby needs a bottle" it wasthe kindest thing anyone could have said. She tookthe guit away. I still tried to mix feed but as I said my milk didnt come in, even after the blood transfusion.

sashh Tue 30-Jul-13 08:13:30

I doubt it's possible after a double mastectomy.

Fakebook Tue 30-Jul-13 08:13:49

My sister's milk didn't come in with her first baby at all. Second and third time it did. It was weird.

wonderingsoul Tue 30-Jul-13 08:16:22

with ds1 no milk came at all.

ds2 i didnt "get" milk to the second day he was born.. i twas quite funny really.. due to ds1 i assumed it would be the same with ds2 imagine my shock on day 2 when i woke up and my boobs where huge.. it looked like i had a boob op over night.

i wasnt confideant enough to breast feed, though i tried for a day or two.. i just couldnt get my head around it and felt v unerable so gave up, which for ds2 may not have been a bad thing due to his size he was 4lb and was on special milk to help him put weight on quick.

MiaowTheCat Tue 30-Jul-13 08:18:21

Boobs worked, baby didn't get the memo. The saying about taking two to tango rings very true. Oh and when the breast pump motor burnt out from overuse (for I was running myself ragged trying to Do The Right Thing) - I took the hint that some things for us were never meant to be.

This WILL go to hell very shortly when the usual suspects arrive and women start being called liars.

cory Tue 30-Jul-13 08:19:40

I was going to say that, sassh: in these days of cancer survival, it is a bit of a big assumption that any given woman will have breasts at all.

LAlady Tue 30-Jul-13 08:22:02

Yes, after a very difficult delivery (failed forceps, emergency section) I tried and tried My DS ended up jaundiced and my midwife advised me to start bottle feeding as I had no milk (this was 7 days after the birth).

"Insufficient lactiferous tissue" is one reason.

I have inverted nipples so DS1 couldn't latch. I pumped instead until they were gradually drawn out. With DS2 I had a weird sucker thing to pull them out before a feed.

If 1% of women physically can't bf, that still represents hundreds or thousands a year. We shouldn't be surprised to encounter them. And whatever we might think about national policies and aims, it is none of my fucking business why any particular woman did or didn't bf.

The sense of failure is

cory Tue 30-Jul-13 08:26:12

Medication is another one to consider. Doctors will be unlikely to advise breastfeeding if you are using a new drug which is not yet known to be safe- but you may need this drug if the baby is to have a mother at all. The fact that the drug may later be pronounced safe doesn't mean it wasn't worth being cautious before that was known.

When ds was little betablockers were such a drug, not yet around long enough to be declared safe. I had very bad reactions to the only blood pressure lowering drug known to be bf safe in those days and my GP rightly judged that I was a greater threat to ds carrying him around in my zombie-like state than formula could ever be. And coming off drugs altogether at that stage might well mean that ds would have to grow up without a mother. So I stopped breastfeeding when he was a few months old.

When I have told this tale later, some women have reacted as if I was making feeble excuses: but we all know that betablockers are safe. Yes dears, that may well be, but the GP was not psychic: she had to go on the information known then.

Overwhelming though sad takes years to realise that it's not that important really and a loved happy baby is what matters

kungfupannda Tue 30-Jul-13 08:27:04

Cory - that's a really good point.

BFing didn't work out too well with DS1 - he just wouldn't stay latched for more than a minute or so before coming off screaming hysterically and refusing to re-latch. We had a specialist HV, a specialist MW, a BF consultant and various other people trying to work out what was going on, but there was no obvious physical cause.

The general consensus was that it was just an unfortunate combination of a not terribly plentiful supply, a very slow let-down, and a very impatient baby who wouldn't persist long enough.

We managed to mix feed until 4 months when it gradually fizzled out.

DS2 was BF for nearly 9 months, with a hiccup around 4 months when an undiagnosed tongue-tie suddenly started causing problems (very similar to DS1's) and he stopped feeding altogether. It was snipped and the problem resolved, but the MW who dealt with it said that it was possible that DS1 had also had a mild tongue-tie which wouldn't have helped.

So in DS1's case, BFing wasn't impossible in itself, but exclusive BFing was.

Although to listen to a few random mothers I encountered, apparently I should have just persisted hmm

Treagues Tue 30-Jul-13 08:27:31

Although I have the breast/bottlefeeding topic hidden and wasn't expecting something like this in AIBU for obvious reasons...I was going to say what Cory said.

I did produce milk, probably quite enough, and expressing worked.
I had a baby with tongue tie and I have small nipples (no chapel coat pegs here) and there was jaundice involved and early birth etc etc.

My baby could have breastfed (when not sleepy from the jaundice) from someone with bigger nipples.
I could have breastfed a baby whose mouth was differently configured.

So 'is it ever physically impossible?' isn't really a clear-cut question unless you just want to know about the milk supply. Taking the mother/baby pairing into consideration, sometimes it is, or nearly is.

Years on and I am happy with how things turned out (expressing and formula feeding) but I am filled with contempt for the simplistic way breastfeeding problems were talked about on MN at the time and women like me (and, I suppose by extension, babies like mine, since it takes two to feed) were outright sneered at in the name of wrong-headed 'awareness raising'.

cory Tue 30-Jul-13 08:27:35

HorryIsUpduffed Tue 30-Jul-13 08:22:22

"If 1% of women physically can't bf, that still represents hundreds or thousands a year. We shouldn't be surprised to encounter them."

Wise words there.

greeneyed Tue 30-Jul-13 08:27:35

6 weeks of hell, hungry baby feeding for one hour out of every two, agony nipples and couldn't leave the house then tongue tie was diagnosed. He could have had it snipped and gone through a period of trying to teach him how to latch on properly but by this point i had lost the will to live. Doc said bottle feed. Mum and baby hugely relieved. Months of guilt, now I can't believe we both suffered for so long and I didn't give up earlier.

greeneyed Tue 30-Jul-13 08:29:20

Yes I came on MN at the time and was crucified.

DeWe Tue 30-Jul-13 08:30:03

I think actually physically impossible is unusual.

I have a friend who just produced no milk, when she looked into family history there was obviously something genetic as there were several relatives that had had the same. She used to joke that surely that was a gene that ought to have died out. wink

I didn't know inverted nipples was an issue, dm had that and she bf fine at a time when they were encouraged to bottlefeed. She said latching was hard, but once they'd latched the nipples popped out and it was fine. But maybe not all pop out in the same way.

There are drugs people can be taking that are life savers, but pass into bm so bf is not advisable. Plus I know if your HIV+ you're not advised to bf, plus Hepatitis as well, I think.

Some people try and just find it very hard at a hormonal time. If it's not going well, having your baby hungry and screaming is not going to help is it? Then things like mastitis, cracked nipples etc. just add to the stress.

I always reckon I was very lucky. Dd1 came out seeming to know how to latch on and feed. And she put on considerable weight-HV used to joke I produced gold top. grin
Dd2 didn't know how to, but now I did, and ds I got cracked nipples and all sorts-he was also inclined to clamp on and turn his head which wasn't pleasant.
I think if dd2 or ds had come first when I didn't know how to do it. then I migh well not have tried with the others.

Lambsie Tue 30-Jul-13 08:30:37

I produced milk but my son was unable to latch on. He was prem and we know now has low muscle tone. I did expressed milk/ formula for 6 weeks but by that time was so miserable due to no rest never mind sleep that I switched to just formula.

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