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Breastfeeding Blues: What to Do When Nursing Doesn't Go as Planned

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Breastfeeding is a natural and beneficial way to feed a newborn baby. It provides the necessary nutrients for growth and development, strengthens the immune system, and helps create a strong bond between mother and baby. However, breastfeeding can sometimes have a rocky start due to various reasons, such as medical conditions, low milk supply, or difficulties with latching.

In this post, we will discuss the options available when breastfeeding goes wrong and the risks and benefits associated with each.

Collecting Colostrum

Colostrum is the first milk present before it transitions to mature milk. Colostrum production by your body begins during the 12 to 18 weeks of pregnancy. It is highly nutritious and contains antibodies that help protect the baby from infections. In some cases, collecting colostrum before birth or in the first few days after delivery can be helpful if the mother is having difficulty breastfeeding.

Collecting colostrum can be done by hand expression or with a breast pump (although, hand expression tends to be more effective). This can help stimulate milk production and provide the baby with the nutrients they need until the mother's milk is more abundant or the latch has improved. It is essential to work with a lactation consultant to ensure proper collection and storage of colostrum.

Donor Milk

Donor milk is another option when breastfeeding is not possible. Donor milk is breast milk that has been donated by a lactating mother and is screened for safety. Donor milk can be obtained from milk banks or through peer-to-peer donation programs.

Donor milk is beneficial for premature babies who are at a higher risk of developing complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and sepsis, both of which can be fatal. Donor milk contains important antibodies that help protect the baby from infections and promote healthy growth and development. For information on the four pillars of safe breastmilk sharing, please visit If you are local to the central Ohio area, we have a milk bank right here, OhioHealth's Mothers' Milk Bank.

"Donor milk is the next best thing to mother's milk and can help support the health and development of babies who are unable to receive milk from their own mothers." - The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).

Formula Feeding

Formula feeding is a common option when breastfeeding is not possible or isn't going well. Formula is a nutrient-rich milk substitute that is designed to provide babies with the necessary nutrients for growth and development. Formula is available in various forms, such as powder, liquid, and ready-to-feed. Formula feeding can be a safe and healthy option for babies when done correctly.

It is essential to follow the manufacturer's instructions for preparation and storage to prevent contamination and ensure proper nutrition. It is also important to choose an appropriate formula that meets the baby's nutritional needs. Ready-to-feed is the best option for the first 2-3 months as powdered formula has the highest risk of bacterial contamination.

Risks of Formula for Preemies

Premature babies are at a higher risk of developing complications such as NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis) and sepsis. Formula feeding can increase the risk of these complications due to the lack of antibodies and nutrients present in breast milk.

General Formula Guidelines

When choosing a formula for a baby, it is important to consider their age and nutritional needs. Here are some general guidelines for formula feeding:

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for preparation and storage

  • Use only appropriate formula

  • Sterilize bottles and nipples before use

  • Hold the baby in an upright position during feeding to prevent choking

  • Discard any leftover formula after feeding to prevent contamination

  • Do not prop bottles, as it can cause choking

Breastfeeding is the best way to provide babies with the necessary nutrients for growth and development. However, when breastfeeding isn't starting off well, there are several options available, such as collecting colostrum, donor milk, and formula.

If nursing is your goal but it didn't start out how you planned, keep these goals in mind

  1. Feed the baby: you decide what your baby will consume

  2. Keep the breast working: hand expression and pumping

  3. Seek help to work on what is not working

Still Have Questions?

I'd love to guide you through this process and answer any questions that you may have. From the comfort of your own home, we can create a plan just for you! Click the link below and schedule a virtual consultation.


About the author: Kellie Green is a certified and licensed Speech Pathologist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), who specializes in infant feeding. She operates a private practice in Columbus, OH, Green Living & Wellness.


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