How Can I Overcome Breastfeeding Difficulties?

I know that doctors recommend breastfeeding over formula, but I’m having a hard time with it. I've worked with a lactation consultant, but it's still not happening. I feel like a failure and am afraid to admit that I've been giving my baby formula! What can I do?
- Tracey

It's true that breast milk is pediatricians' first choice for newborns. And in an ideal world, breastfeeding would be easy and the right fit for all moms. But the reality is that breastfeeding doesn't work for every new mom. Ultimately you've got to make the choice that's right for you and your family.

Many new moms can't breastfeed due to medical conditions, medications they're taking, or work, travel, and scheduling issues that make it impractical. And while some find breastfeeding easy from the get-go, it's extremely challenging for others. Even with the help of a lactation consultant, it can feel like the baby just isn't taking to it!

The stress of wanting to breastfeed but struggling with it can be too much, especially with the tidal wave of other life changes that come with a baby. Some new moms find it helpful to pump breast milk and deliver it from a bottle. But in some cases, formula may be the right choice.

Rest assured, commercially prepared infant formula is a nutritious alternative for babies. And bottle feeding offers its own benefits — it allows fathers, grandparents, and other caregivers to get involved with feeding the baby and enjoy quality bonding time. Because formula digests more slowly than breast milk, formula-fed babies usually need to eat less often than do breastfed babies.

With everything that's now known about the benefits of breastfeeding, it can be easy to feel like you're somehow shortchanging your baby if you use formula. But you're not. Giving your baby formula is nothing to be ashamed of. You're not the only mom doing so, and you're doing everything you can to help your baby thrive.

If you continue to have questions or concerns, talk with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: July 2013