Why You Should Stop Feeling Guilty About Not Breastfeeding

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.

Feeling Guilty about Not BreastfeedingMany 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. Below I share the reasons why. Hopefully you’ll find them reassuring, as one parent said after reading the article:

“Words cannot express how much I needed to see and hear that. It’s like you were in my head addressing all the feelings I’ve felt about my journey so far with my baby. Trying to show myself grace and recognize that I’m doing all I can.” -Jess

Pain After Breastfeeding

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.

Failing as a Parent

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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.

Newborn Stage

3. Breastmilk is… overrated?

In 2009, an article came out suggesting that breast milk isn’t all it’s hyped up to be.

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.

Learn how to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle of formula.

How to Get a Breastfed Baby to Take a Bottle of Formula

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 can work, but sometimes you can make yourself miserable 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 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.

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  1. Thank you so much for your article. I feel pain and sadness with my decision to quit pumping milk. I had a difficult birth and my baby and I were separated for most of the first week of his life. Once we got home I tried hard to breastfeed. I’ve continued to pump at all hours for two months. The guilt to quit is very difficult and no amount of logic helps. Your article is very helpful and supportive at this difficult stage. There is a lot of support for breastfeeding, but not a lot of support for those who tried very hard and did not succeed.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad that the article was helpful, Elina! You are so right—there is so much support for breastfeeding but not for those who decided it’s okay to quit as well, and for he ensuing guilt that can often follow. This is not a failure on your part. I always like to say, I would rather have a happy mom than one who feels guilty. Your baby will too!

  2. Christina Cardwell says:

    Thank you for this article!
    I breastfed my daughter for 8 weeks and it was going just fine after some help from a LC. However, I went back to work at 6 weeks and pumping was extremely frustrating. I feel like I tried everything and nothing worked! I would come home from a long day of teaching/coaching and be resentful towards my sweet baby! I would be frustrated I couldn’t pump more, that I HAD to pump during the day just to be able to maintain supply, that my husband couldn’t help much, and frustrated that I couldn’t find time to hold my baby much with all the pumping I was doing! I didn’t have time to cook or exercise, which would spiral into feeling fat, unhealthy, depressed, and even more guilty.
    About 2 weeks ago I decided I was going to stop pumping and if my supply totally dissipated then I would just stop breastfeeding! Well it did, very quickly and without any pain. It is one of the best decisions I’ve made. I constantly have to remind myself I’m not a bad mom, but the truth is that I am a much better mom/wife since I’ve stopped breastfeeding! I have more energy, more patience, and am able to eat better and exercise with 2.5 extra hours a day I previously spent pumping just to get 2 bottles worth!

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      Oh Christina, I’m so happy to hear the turnaround! I’ve always said, babies want a happy mom! Pumping isn’t always as efficient as a baby, so I can see why pumping at work wasn’t producing the same amount that your baby might have needed. And yes, it does take a ton of time. I’m glad you’re able to spend time with the baby, and you are definitely not a bad mom for making this choice 🙂

  3. Words cannot express how much I needed to see and hear that. It’s like you were in my head addressing all the feelings I’ve felt about my journey so far with my baby. Trying to show myself grace and recognize that I’m doing all I can.

    1. Nina Garcia says:

      I’m so glad the article was helpful, Jess <3