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BBSDTfamily's avatar

Why are some women unable to breastfeed?

Asked by BBSDTfamily (6824points) July 9th, 2009

I know someone who couldn’t breastfeed (not genetic, b/c her mother and sisters all did)... her breasts grew but after the baby was born she learned she didn’t produce any milk after all. Why does this happen?

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8 Answers

WifeOfBath's avatar

Because they give up to quickly, they think colostrum should free flow in the first three days, yet this first milk is concentrated and nourishing enough in small amounts for a child.
In extreme cases (a small percent of woman are unable, this is unfortunate) but i sincerely believe more than 90% of woman who give birth are able to breastfeed.

YARNLADY's avatar

Since it is so very rare, only her doctor would know for sure. Most times it’s because they haven’t been shown the proper way to position the baby.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I know that this lady tried, and had nurses helping her try for days.

marinelife's avatar

There are a whole range of reasons and possibilities for not breastfeeding and the mother’s inability to produce milk is only one. I knew someone whose baby was unable to suck sufficiently. Although she wanted to breastfeed, she had to quit so the baby could gain weight and thrive.

Jack79's avatar

My ex wife couldn’t breast feed (even though she had a lot of milk) because her nipples were turned inwards rather than out. What actually happened was that her breasts grew so big that they outsized her nipples, and would have therefore been impossible for our daughter to get to the milk (also given the fact that she was born extremely small). This could have been remedied if she had followed the doctor’s advice, which she didn’t, or later gone into the trouble of pumping, which she decided was too much hassle, so we went for the bottle (which basically meant that I could feed the baby instead of her).

My sister breastfed her first baby, but due to psychological reasons (coincidentally these had to do with my ex wife too) stopped breastfeeding a couple of weeks after her son was born. She just stopped producing milk, which is also something that can happen in many cases (she was physically healthy otherwise though).

casheroo's avatar

Ah, lots of judgement of the mother. Women berating other women, just lovely.

I was unable to continuously breastfeed my son. I think a lot of factors were at fault, but nothing truly medically wrong with me.
Medically, some women don’t produce enough prolactin. My friend actually has that problem, and it’s caused by a tumor on a gland. The tumor is not dangerous, but it was the reason she couldn’t get pregnant for years. They figured it out and she now has two children, but if she were to breastfeed for more than three days, the tumor would grow.

Like @Jack79 the way the nipples are shaped can be an issue. They have these awful things called nipple shells, which sort of suck your nipple out, but they can only do so much.

I personally had issues because of the lack of support at the hospital. They insisted my child was starving, when he was only a day old. A woman can take up to a week to produce breastmilk, in the meantime, she will only produce colostrum, which is enough to get the baby by but is not very filling. I was naive and did not know what was going on.
I kept trying and my son kept fighting. The nurses kept coming in, telling me I was starving my child, kept giving him pacifiers (nipple confusion is very common)
They had a timeline, and told me if he didn’t eat consistently, they would give him formula, and they were not kidding. They took my baby and gave him a large bottle of formula, which he vomitted up.
I took him home, unprepared to bottle feed as we expected me to breastfeed for two years. I kept trying and trying, locked myself in the bedroom and nursed as much as I could to get the flow going. I have issues with drinking fluids…I just don’t drink a lot, which caused me to be hospitalized multiple times while pregnant with dehydration. So I tried to drink the amount of water you need to, to nurse, but it was difficult for me.
So, 4 days later, a baby very jaundiced (happens when a baby does not eat) he was losing some weight, but not enough to actually be concerned (as I later found out) I would nurse every hour, and breast pump whenever he wasn’t suckling….
The pediatrician said we HAD to give him formula. This was 4 days later with our baby doing nothing but screaming and crying from hunger. It was very scary, and very depressing. I remember the day I fed him his first bottle, he was 4 days old and it was my 21st birthday. I sobbed the entire day because I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong. I saw so many lactation consultants, and continued to try to get my supply up.
I ate massive amounts of oatmeal (helps milk production) Mother’s Tea, which contains fenugreek. I would drink straight fenugreek (nastiest stuff in the world) and pumped non-stop. I did this for 8 weeks, and felt I could do no more.
A friend went through the same thing and was actually able to relactate enough to breastfeed her son without the aid of formula (my son was half and half) And she’s still breastfeeding her two year old, which is great.

Education is key. Medical professions pressure you so much and give so much misinformation. I contacted the local LaLeche group, but there’s only so much they can do.
With our next, I will not use pacifiers and will not let the baby out of my sight at the hospital. If they tell me my kid is starving on just colustrum, then I’ll check myself out right there and then.
There are many problems that can happen, psychological or physical…and some women just don’t want to breastfeed.

YARNLADY's avatar

@casheroo That’s what happened to my DIL with her first baby. She did what you suggest with her second one, and they are nursing just fine.

When my second baby (28 years ago) refused to nurse, in favor of a bottle, no one even told me about pumping my own milk, they just put him on formula right away.

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