10 Secret Reasons You Can’t Breastfeed

reasons you can't breastfeed

Let’s get one thing straight. For most women breastfeeding does not just happen. But most of us new mamas think that, like that breath you just took, it will, without a second thought. Without struggle. Without strife. In a happily ever after kind of way.

How I Pictured Breastfeeding Would Go:

  • Baby arrives in all her glory
  • We nurse and she eats her way to irresistible chubbiness
  • We bond in a way only a mama and baby can

How Breastfeeding My First Baby Actually Worked Out:

  • Baby finally emerges in a manner I will spare you from reading about for the time being
  • I nurse her and we rock the colostrum train for three glorious days
  • On Day 4, the milk comes in and the poop hits the fan. Holy freakin’ engorgement.
  • We try latching
  • My nipples begin to look like a bloody CSI scene
  • I throw up from the pain
  • Starving and muy angry, she screams far louder than a newborn should be capable of
  • I sob through every nursing session and think this must be what hell is like
  • Notice we are definitely NOT bonding
  • Panic that my boobs might actually explode from making too much milk. Google this to make sure its not actually possible because Google gives me all my medical advice.
  • Notice I’m becoming resentful of baby
  • Develop mastitis to the tune of three rounds of antibiotics
  • Decide to formula feed
  • Freak out that I’ve ruined her whole life

Even though I breastfed the two babies that came after the lucky firstborn, I learned in my first entrance exam to mamahood, that despite what the lactation enthusiasts may say, not every woman can and should breastfeed.

Some times you have to kick the illusion of what you thought breastfeeding would look like to the curb and examine the reality you find yourself living in when deciding whether or not to breastfeed.

There are obvious reasons why a woman can’t breastfeed, and then there are the not-so-obvious reasons that may surprise you like……..


Baby cries and cries and cries and cries and then stops, for two glorious minutes.

And then cries and cries and cries you straight into a hair-pulling, cuticle-biting manic attack. You assume she must not be getting enough milk. So being the information junkie you are, you scour the Internet for solutions to low milk supply. You wash down your Nursing Blend Breastfeeding Supplement with Milkmaid tea. You attempt to watch how-to videos at MomAssembly. You pump like your life depends on it. And still, the endless crying. What gives!

There are a couple of possibilities. It’s estimated that 1 – 5% of women are unable to produce enough milk. Perhaps you fall in this small window.

But perhaps you’re not making enough milk because you’re stressing about not making enough milk. Oh the irony. Stress can really affect your milk supply.

Reasons You Can't BreastfeedTruth be told, that little baby bore in your heart a rivalry between stress and joy that will never come to an end.

The key is to learn what allows you to let go of that stress. I am a strange cat, but for the sake of transparency, a couple of things that help me let go of stress: finding new ways to organize the house (I know, I’m weird), rolling out the knots in my back with a roller (my husband would claim this to be a strange form of torture but it truly will make your back feel amazing!), and eating lots and lots of chocolate.

For you (whom I’m sure is far more normal) it might be throwing on some fun kicks for a walk outside, firing Google as your baby consultant, or a mind-numbing episode of Scandal. Whatever it is, do it, and don’t feel bad about it!

The other possibility is that you’re actually producing plenty of milk, it’s just that babies cry. A LOT! On average, newborns cry about 2 hours per day. Which doesn’t sound like a lot, until that crying is being projected directly into your ear! I know some moms swear by The Happiest Baby on the Block. The good news is, this too shall pass.


Reducing too many calories, too quickly can hurt your milk supply. According to kellymom.com 1.5 pounds per week or 6 pounds per month shouldn’t affect milk supply.

If you’re trying to eat nutrient-dense food, exercising for stress relief, and breastfeeding on demand, the pounds will probably shed themselves. If they do not, extend some grace to that uterus of yours. It just carried a child for nine months for gosh sakes. That “mommy pooch” of yours is a badge of honor.

Fat loss while breastfeeding is possible, but it probably won’t happen overnight.


Reasons You Can't BreastfeedYes, cleanliness is next to godliness and most of us function better in a house that is neat and orderly BUT do yourself an Elsa and just let it go. All those cute little systems for keeping your house clean that you see on Pinterest, shun them for the time being! Your plate is plenty full, and that dust on the baseboards will still be there in a couple weeks for you to wipe down.

Your newborn will be an oldborn before you know it. “I really regret cuddling with my baby instead of dusting the blinds,” said no new mama ever.


Despite what well-intentioned “experts” may say, supplementing with formula is not the beginning of the end. Just like breastfeeding will not transform your baby into Steve Jobs or Michael Phelps, formula feeding will not destine your baby for a lower I.Q. or obesity.

Maybe you can’t breastfeed exclusively because you have to or choose to work, you just don’t feel comfortable nursing in public, or you get sick. Whatever the reason, you can combine breastfeeding and formula feeding in any kind of equation that works for you.

Just because the bottle makes an appearance doesn’t mean the boob has to bow out for good. <Tweet This>


There are lots of things I enjoy in life that are not to be enjoyed while gestating. Copious amounts of caffeine, a good margarita, chugging TheraFlu while sick, detoxing in a ridiculously hot sauna……

Reasons You Can't BreastfeedSo as grateful as I am to be fertile, a large part of me rejoices when I am able to once again hang a vacant sign up after giving birth. If I thought I had to continue to give up all my vices while breastfeeding, I’m not sure I would breastfeed to be quite frank. Judge me good.

Now I am by no means in any position to be handing out medical advice, BUT I have found Anne Smith’s article “Drugs and Breastfeeding” tremendously helpful and I highly recommend you check it out. She says “while the placenta lets drugs enter to cross into the developing fetus’s bloodstream, the breast serves as a very effective barrier for a fully developed infant.”

So with the information gleaned from Anne’s article, this is how I manage my drug habit. When pregnant I sip on one mugful of coffee throughout the day. When breastfeeding I chug my mug in the AM and often enjoy a second or third in the afternoon. I don’t do the booze while pregnant but have a glass of red wine about 3 – 4 times a week when breastfeeding.


PPD is very real, very serious, and very much not your fault if you fall victim. The amount of biological change your body undergoes between creating human life, carrying human life, and then delivering that human life into the world are astounding.

Mamas with PPD are less likely to breastfeed or appropriately respond to baby’s needs. If you’re feeling down after having a baby, reach out to your doctor. There may be chemical things (to use the technical term =) going on that you have no control over.

Reasons You Can't Breastfeed


Maybe an unknowing friend at some point mentioned how weird they thought putting a baby on your boob was. Maybe your mother-in-law is quite verbal about how gross she thinks breastfeeding is. Maybe you watched another mama try to nurse in public and get shunned for it. And those statements/images have never left you.

You might be OK with breastfeeding, but knowing the rest of the world is not has left you less than eager to breastfeed. Being a people pleaser myself, I totally get it.

But here’s the truth.

For every one who thinks attaching a baby to your nipple is weird, there’s one who will give you a standing ovation. <Tweet This>

However you decide to feed your baby, your decision is about you and your baby, no one else.


I never set out to be a mama who breastfeeds in public. The idea terrified me. I like my coffee hot and my boobs covered. Three babies later, I have nursed while walking up and down the aisles of Lowe’s, on a plane, on a job interview. Never say never.

Maybe you can’t breastfeed because you think that means relegating your days to a solitary life of never leaving the house.

There are ways to nurse in public without drawing judgy raised eyebrows.

Here’s a quick rundown of my go-to nurse-in-publick hacks:

– Find a cover that works for you. Nursing scarfs work best for me.
– Know where the discrete nooks are in the places you like to frequent.
– Nursing while sitting in a parked car is totally normal and done by almost every nursing mama.
– Find a carrier you can nurse in. I’m kind of addicted to our Boba.
– Relax. If you act normal and at ease, most likely those around will too.

Boba Carrier

If you can’t tell, all three of my babies have LOVED our BOBA carrier and I love that I can easily nurse in it.


Reasons You Can't BreastfeedA nipple shield is a piece of silicone you wear over your nipple while breastfeeding. Now it’s not ideal because it can impede milk flow, resulting in a lower milk supply, plugged ducts, etc. Baby can also become dependent on the nipple shield and have a hard time transitioning to the real deal nipple.

However, if your nipples are in so much pain because of a poor latch or whatever, it is better to try to keep breastfeeding with a nipple shield than to give up altogether. I’ve never personally used one, but with baby no. 3, I ordered some from Amazon. Those first three weeks of breastfeeding were so painful as my nipples reacquainted themselves with the rigors of breastfeeding, that just knowing I had the nipple shields available in case the pain became too much, empowered me to suffer on.


I really hate the phrase “lactation failure” but that’s what the smart people call it. Some women are just not able to make milk. It’s very rare, but happens. Maybe due to not enough breast tissue, breast cancer, breast hypoplasia, breast reductions or augmentations. You just might not be physically capable of making milk and that is quite all right in my book.

There are lot of things that define you as a woman. Your courage, your heart, your sense of humor. Not your ability to produce milk.

What obstacles to breastfeeding caught you by surprise? Do you have reasons you can’t breastfeed?

photo credit: Pusteblumenland via photopin cc


  • Naturally Love

    April 27, 2014

    Love this! Great writing and great information! :)

    • Brooke

      April 28, 2014

      Thanks, friend! Really appreciate the encouragement!

  • Jessica

    April 29, 2014

    You are as awesome as I remember from when we were cool teens!

    We had some anatomical issues (tongue tie). Totally unexpected and completely destructive. Thankfully we got it fixed early, and now we have a wonderful relationship. No more pain! Woo hoo!

    • Brooke

      April 29, 2014


      I was just thinking about how you’d have these little swimming sensation babies =) Or at least babies with a ridiculous amount of self-discipline!

      That’s awesome that you caught the tongue tie early. A lot of mamas don’t even know what that is and end up giving up, never knowing there was a really good reasons why breastfeeding wasn’t working.

      I totally just stalked you on Facebook too and your little man Nikko is so cute!

  • Melissa

    April 29, 2014

    I love your blog Brooke!!!! I was so excited about breastfeeding then I had a full term baby with low muscle tone who spent 38 days in the NICU. I pumped like a mad woman every 2.5-3 hrs and when he was 3 months old, I started nursing him and supplamenting with breastmilk in a bottle (I pumped after each nursing session). Well three months later, I was sobbing quite frequently because he was difficult to nurse (took 45 minutes) and then I had to pump for 20-30 minutes after that! So I went back to being an exclusively pumping mom. I had to let go of my expectations and just do what was best for me and my baby. After 9.5 months of pumping, I’m ready to throw this thing out the window!! (By the way, I’m pumping as I type this :) )

    • Brooke

      April 29, 2014

      Oh Melissa! I totally followed your journey with Silas on Facebook through many tears and many prayers for your family. Your courage to warrior on through breastfeeding (in whatever way works!) is inspiring and humbling. Especially with other kiddos at home to love on and look after. You are seriously a champ. I would say I don’t know how you do it, but I think I’ve got an idea…..His name starts with J and rhymes with esus =)

  • Maria

    July 10, 2014

    Thrush! OMG that hurt so badly, it made my toes curl when my daughter latched. I also had flat nipples, so she couldn’t latch for weeks until they popped after regular pumping. It was a nightmare! Today she is almost 2 and an avid nursing baby…toddler… :)

    • Brooke

      July 16, 2014

      Oh Maria! Stories like that make my heart so happy. I hate that you had to go through thrush and painful latching and oh man, been there, do not care to re-live that season ever again BUT how great is it now, when you’re nursing and look down and see that healthy, baby girl getting nourished from YOU! Way to go, mama!