I see your pain and guilt. You ask for advice. How can you succeed? You admit that you feel like a failure, you feel like your not producing, you feel like the baby isn't getting enough. Your nipples are sore to the point where you want to walk around topless so that nothing touches them but then there is a breeze and you want to shriek.
You've tried lactation consultants and Youtube and doctors and nothing seems to be working. Half of your friends rave about breast shields and the other half warn you that breast shields can be a slippery slope and to only try them as a last resort.
So as your last resort you ask everyone you know, you post in online mom groups, you ask questions on breastfeeding forums and all you want to hear is: No matter what happens you are a good mom. You will try your hardest and if it doesn't work out for you you will feed your baby in a way that works for your family, be it formula or donor milk. I am here to tell you that. It will all be okay. I've been there. You are a good mom. You will try your hardest and if breastfeeding doesn't work out for you you will find a way to care for your baby and give him or her the nutrition they need.
With my first he came 5 weeks early. By the time I saw him in the NICU he had already been given a bottle without my permission. He was there for almost a week. I was a mess, who goes home from the hospital without a baby? It was surreal. I got a hospital grade pump and I just didn't get anything. I tried to breastfeed him and he screamed his head off. I got a case of raging mastitis that hospitalized me. The doctor's wanted him on a special high calorie formula and I felt like a double failure because I couldn't breast feed him and because of how expensive it was.
With my second she took to breastfeeding but had trachial malachia (a little flap in her throat) that caused her to chug and feed and then projectile vomit up 3/4 of what she ate. I couldn't keep up with her. I pumped, I breastfed and I supplemented with formula.
And then my third came and all was well. She fed beautifully, when I pumped I yielded actual results and my boss allowed me to bring her to work with me. It was a little slow at the start and a friend offered donor milk which I took and we rounded the initial hump. I finally made it to my one year goal.
So for new worried moms:
1- See a lactation consultant. You owe it to yourself and your baby to try this route. Moms have such a habit of feeling guilty. Seek help from a professional and if you still aren't able to after more time you'll know you gave it your all. If you can't afford a lactation consultant (which a lot of insurance companies cover) go to a local La Leche league meeting.
2- Try not to stress. It sounds impossible, after all you're worried about feeding your baby but stress can interfere with milk production.
3- Drink lots of water. Tons. Buckets. I was horrible at this but it really helps to keep yourself hydrated.
4- Look into galactogogues (foods that increase breast milk production). There are supplements out there, let your friends bring you lactation cookies, eat lots of oatmeal, work fenugreek into your diet and sip tea.
5- If you feel like you have to supplement discuss it with a lactation consultant and if it eases your stress DO IT. I found that after the first time I supplemented my middle daughter I had my most successful pumping session. I felt like there was a weight off my shoulders. In the end it made me more committed to breast feeding because I saw that I could produce.
6- Try a manual pump. Electric pumps seem convenient but sometimes a good manual pump can mimic a baby better and since they are small and portable realistically it will be what your reach for to bring with you the first time you're going to be without baby during a feeding time. I LOVED my Avent manual pump. It was small and I could pack it, breast milk bags, and an ice pack in a little Built lunch sack when I traveled.
7- Using a manual pump for a minute before you latch on your little can help start the flow stronger, especially for lazy little sucklers.
8- Get out. Don't fall into the shame spiral if you decide to use formula. I remember panicking at the thought of going to baby yoga and having to make a bottle in front of all the other breastfeeding moms but don't isolate yourself. In the end moms support other moms and getting out and interacting with other moms will help with stress.
9- Accept help. Let friends come over to sit with baby while you try to pump more or while you take a bath and relax. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your baby!
Best of luck to you. You can do it!