It’s easy for moms to feel guilty if you can’t or decide not to breastfeed. See why you need to stop feeling guilty about not breastfeeding.
Many moms want to breastfeed our babies, but for one reason or another, it just doesn’t work out. While you breastfed your older child, this one can’t seem to latch. You may not have time, or your supply is low. Perhaps you have health issues, or you feel stressed.
You’ve tried pumping, but that has brought on more hassles, from waking up at odd hours to the extra time to pump. Or maybe you’re not able to breastfeed as long as you did with your older kids, or as long as you expected to.
Nothing seems to work, and you feel guilty for not breastfeeding or about switching to formula (or even supplementing with it). It feels even worse when your older kids got the benefit of breast milk while this one won’t.
But you’re not at fault for circumstances that have thwarted your original plans. While it’s normal and even expected to feel some guilt over stopping breastfeeding or pumping, it’s not healthy to do so for a long time.
Why you should stop feeling guilty about not breastfeeding
Despite a difficult first month, I managed to breastfeed my eldest for a year—just as I had planned.
With the twins, plans didn’t work out as I hoped. They were born prematurely, and my priorities lay in helping them gain weight. From the first day, one of my twins got formula, with his brother following suit a few days later.
And that had been the pattern for four months, where I breastfed with the occasional formula.
Then I got hit with thrush. My supply tanked, and I was miserable and in pain. My body was making enough milk for one, not two. So, from then until they turned a year old, I gave them half breast milk and half formula.
Not what I did with their older brother, but I didn’t let guilt fester in my mind. Here’s why:
1. You’re not a bad mom (or a martyr)
We have the Ideal Mom planted in our heads, and if we don’t meet her expectations, we feel guilty for not breastfeeding and falling short. Except… Ideal Mom doesn’t exist.
Your breastfeeding capabilities, desires and circumstances speak nothing of the mom you are. You’re not a terrible mom because you don’t breastfeed (whether it’s by choice or not).
You’re also not a better mom because you breastfed, or a martyr because you kept going despite putting yourself through misery.
Bottom line: You didn’t fail because your plans didn’t work out as hoped for.
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2. You’re adding unnecessary stress
Surviving the newborn stage isn’t exactly the most peaceful time in a parent’s life. Imagine piling on extra stress and guilt because you aren’t able to breastfeed.
Accept what is, including your choice or the circumstances for not breastfeeding. The initial discomfort of breastfeeding should be just that: uncomfortable—not agonizing.
If you’re spent and in pain trying to breastfeed, you may be causing yourself more harm than good. And when mom isn’t happy, neither is baby.
3. Breastmilk is… overrated?
It describes how the benefits of breastfeeding have more to do with the type of parent who breastfeeds, rather than the breast milk itself. And that the benefit to breastfeeding isn’t the looming gap we all assume.
I still believe breastfeeding provides many health and financial benefits—that was a main motivator for me to keep going. But I also understand the point of the article: breast milk isn’t the one thing that’s going to make or break your child.
If you’re miserable, in pain, and in extra stress, the benefits of breastfeeding may not be worth it.
4. You should enjoy the time you do have with your baby
After unsuccessfully trying to latch on, many moms turn to exclusively pumping breast milk. The problem? Pumping is time consuming.
First, pumping isn’t as efficient as a baby. You don’t collect the same amount of milk as a baby given the same time. Then once you’ve pumped for 20 minutes, you then have to feed the baby. It’s no wonder few women enjoy pumping.
If you decide to stop pumping or breastfeeding, don’t let that guilt fester in. Instead of feeling guilty for not breastfeeding, enjoy your new-found time with the baby. Rest. Focus on the gains, not the guilt.
Feeling guilty about what could’ve been negates the time you could be spending in a positive way. Your baby needs you to feel positive and happy, not miserable or guilty.
5. You tried and did your best
I’m not one for quitting. Growing up, I wish my parents didn’t let me quit so many of my activities: ballet, piano, art. I felt like I had quit too early.
And if you’re like me, you sometimes compensate by trying—for a long time. But it can come at the expense of not knowing when the returns negatively outweigh the effort. When it’s just not working.
Do your best. Make a list of the ways to continue breastfeeding, or the remedies to help the issue. Some turn to lactation consultants for guidance, or to herbal remedies for supply. Some find better pumps, and others research nursing pillows to keep them comfortable.
Many of these will work, but sometimes you can drive yourself crazy when they don’t. And when you can tell yourself you’ve tried, then stop, knowing you did your best. Guilt can’t poison your mind when you did all you can, given the circumstances and knowledge you had.
What’s your end goal?
What’s your end goal with breastfeeding? Yes, you want the health benefits, save money, and bond with your baby. But taken as a bigger picture, your end goal probably looks something like this: To raise your baby in the best way you know how.
The end goal isn’t to increase your child’s IQ scores or to lower her chances of developing asthma. It’s to raise and love her.
Should you feel guilty for not breastfeeding? Absolutely not. Breastfeeding isn’t the only way to love your child and provide your best.
Remember that when the guilt starts creeping in. When you feel bad for not breastfeeding, for cutting it shorter than you planned, or because you breastfed your other kids but not this one.
Don’t feel guilty about not breastfeeding, mama. You love your baby, whether she’s breastfed or not.
Get more tips:
- Mom Guilt: 7 Reasons We Shouldn’t Blame Ourselves for Everything
- Parenting Tip: Be More Carefree
- How to Survive the First Few Weeks with a Newborn and Toddler
- Why Motherhood Is Hard for You
- Newborn Life: Expectation vs Reality
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