When Breastfeeding Isn’t An Option

Breastfeeding, in all its natural glory, isn't always something that happens easily. The choice to breastfeed is a dedication that some mothers have to work very hard for, and others are not able to breastfeed at all due to a medical condition, either with themselves or their baby.

When mothers are seeking alternatives to breastfeeding, they are often quite overwhelmed. I was inspired to write this article because of two mothers in particular who recently contacted me for advice. One mother was wondering how to best feed her newly adopted 4-day old baby. Another mother with Multiple Sclerosis had a sudden relapse and was put on heavy steroids. She’d been exclusively breastfeeding her 9-month old son since birth, but had to stop immediately during treatment. She doesn’t have a freezer stash of pumped milk, so what’s the next best option to a mother’s milk?


Donor Milk

When breastfeeding is not an option, my first choice is donor milk. Human Milk 4 Human Babies  is an amazing resource and their Community Page puts you in direct contact with donors in your area. Some hospitals also supply donor milk for those in need, although breast milk from a hospital often has to be pasteurized. Unpasteurized breast milk has live enzymes that help with the digestion of lactose and other proteins. 



I’ve written a guide for The Tot about Choosing Infant Formula.

Things to consider when store-bought might be necessary:

  • what to look for in a pre-mixed formula,

  • ingredients to consider avoiding,

  • ready-to-feed vs powdered,

  • the benefits of importing European formula,

  • additional supplements to consider for a formula-fed baby.


Seeking Breastfeeding Support

Sadly, many mothers don’t receive the necessary support they need to establish a lasting breastfeeding relationship. Some incredible resources of support are International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and La Leche League

The hormonal physiology of birth is set up to support the hormonal physiology of breastfeeding, so a birth augmented with drugs often impacts breastfeeding and these mothers could greatly benefit from additional guidance.  

Wanting to breastfeed but feeling unable to sufficiently nourish your child can be utterly devastating. I’ve also shared various ways of Naturally Increasing Breast Milk Supply, and why your supply might not be to blame if your newborn isn’t gaining weight.