"I'm an obstetrician and I failed at breast-feeding."

Maliha Sayla, is an obstetrician who has spent much of her career reiterating to patients the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. Yet despite this, when it came to breastfeeding her own children, she found it incredibly difficult.

“I breast-fed my daughter, Safiya, for only one month, and my son, Haider, for only one week. I was a breast-feeding failure,” Sayla wrote for NPR. Sayla went on to explain that her difficulties occurred immediately and that her first child Safiya wasn’t able to latch on, despite trying to breastfeed her every two hours.

This led Sayla to pump her breast milk and supplement it with formula. But being a fourth-year university student made it difficult, so she decided to pump exclusively and feed her daughter with a bottle. She pumped every hour in an attempt to increase her supply whilst studying and relying on her mother-in-law for help.

But this routine quickly became exhausting and above all, frustrating for Sayla. “Every minute the pump was attached to my body, Safiya was not. I could not enjoy the bonding that breast-feeding was supposed to offer and even began to resent Safiya for not being able to latch on better. I decided to stop pumping, and exclusively feed formula. While I felt relieved to live a more normal life, I continued to mourn the fact that I never experienced what it felt like to breast-feed my child,” she wrote.

"I continued to mourn the fact that I never experienced what it felt like to breast-feed my child." (Image via iStock)

When Sayla fell pregnant with her second child, her son Haider, she was convinced she would do better this time. She was convinced she would succeed. But sadly when she tried to breastfeed for the second time, she faced the same issues. Haider would spend hours on Sayla's breast but only feed for two minutes.

That is when she began to develop concerns for her son's health, when he began to show signs of dehydration. She took him to a pediatrician, who advised her to consider using formula. Sayla then adopted the same technique she had previously used with Safiya.

"Haider did start showing signs of improvement, but feeding him occupied every moment of the day. My husband and I had to send Safiya to my mother's house because we could not manage to look after her while trying to succeed at feeding Haider. We banned visitors, mostly because I could not manage to get through an entire hour without crying," Sayla continued.


Sayla then visited a lactation consultant. Of her visit, she wrote, "After working with us for an hour, she listed our diagnoses: retracting nipples, poor milk supply, tight frenulum, poor latch, excessive infant weight loss. I left feeling defeated. The mountain I had to climb to breast-feed seemed to get steeper and steeper."

"The mountain I had to climb to breast-feed seemed to get steeper and steeper." (Image via iStock)

"As an obstetrician, I had recommended exclusive breast-feeding to all my patients. Yet here I was, a complete failure. Not only did I feel like a bad mother, I also felt like a bad doctor; I could not even follow my own recommendation. I was resenting Haider, just as I had resented Safiya, for not being able to breast-feed. I was angry that my body was failing me, and I was failing my child. I missed Safiya," Sayla continued.

Finally her pediatrician told her she would support her fully if she wanted to continue breastfeeding, but ultimately said it was okay to stop.

"One thing I had heard for my entire pregnancy, and my entire training as an obstetrician for that matter, was how important breast-feeding was. I almost felt like I had been brainwashed into thinking breast-feeding was absolutely the only healthful way to feed my child. This was the first time I had ever heard that it was OK not to breast-feed," she wrote.

Yet a week later, Sayla decided to stop breastfeeding.

"I do still sometimes mourn not having been able to breast-feed. But formula feeding allowed me to keep my family together, nourish my children and keep my sanity. It was the right choice for my family," Sayla wrote.

"If you decide to stop breast-feeding, let me give you permission to do so. You are no less a mother, and your child will be just fine," Sayla advised.

Did you have difficulties breastfeeding?