Facing the Emotional Difficulties of Breastfeeding

You’re going to run into breastfeeding snobs – those that had a super easy time feeding their babies from the boob – who can’t imagine why you would choose not to breastfeed your child.

But they don’t know the struggle of wanting so desperately to breastfeed and not being able to. They don’t understand why you’re not even trying with your second child because the first time around was so difficult and disappointing.

We all have our reasons for making choices as mothers and no decision – as long as our children are happy and healthy – is better than another.

You may just be one of those moms struggling with the emotional difficulties associated with your breastfeeding difficulties.

Choosing to stop trying to breastfeed, or choosing not to breastfeed altogether, is a mother’s prerogative. You are allowed to make that choice.

Breastfeeding Should Be “Natural”

You’ve probably heard it all during your pregnancy:

“Breast is best.”

“Breastfeeding gives your little the best start to life that you can possibly give them.”

“Breastfeeding is natural.”

Yes, breastfeeding is natural but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Do you know what’s also natural? It’s natural for mothers to seek out a means to feed their children if breastfeeding is not an option.

Touting breastfeeding as “natural” is misleading because it makes the breastfeeding journey seem easy and without effort. It also creates a sense that all other feeding options must be “wrong” because they are not “natural”.

The next time you hear the phrase “Breastfeeding is natural,” tell yourself: “Yeah, it’s natural – because feeding my baby is natural.”

As long as your child is receiving the proper nutrition to help them grow and develop, you are caring for your child.

You are doing everything right.

Breastfeeding Difficulties and Feeling Like a Failure

As soon as someone hears you are having difficulties with breastfeeding, their first inclination is to throw all kinds of tips and hacks at you to increase your milk supply, perfect your latch technique, etc.

You can try to breastfeed to the point of exhaustion, even with the help of a professional, and still not be able to do it.

None of this is your fault.

Yet you still feel like you’ve failed and with that comes the experience of shame and guilt.

Instead of acknowledging that you did your best, you focus on whether or not you’ve done enough. When you get the idea in your head that you did anything less than 100% for your children, you feel that guilt and shame.

Mothers are notorious for chasing perfectionism – if we can’t do it all for our little ones, we are failing.

Guess what? Being good enough for your kiddos is sometimes all they need. You are the best mother because you are THEIR mother.

Most women include breastfeeding in a sort of mental list of what makes a perfect mom. When they can’t tick items off this list, they feel shame for being a terrible parent.

A good parent shows up. A good parent cares for their child’s needs. A good parent provides unconditional love.

See breastfeeding in there anywhere? No?

You can provide all of this to your child without being able to feed them from your boob. Toss out the idea of the perfect mother and concentrate on being your little one’s mother.

That’s all they need.

How to Cope With Breastfeeding Difficulties

Grieve the Breastfeeding Relationship You Thought You’d Have

During your pregnancy, you may have had this wonderful idea in your mind about how exactly breastfeeding was going to be. You were going to feed on demand and allow your child to initiate baby-led weaning.

However, not everything goes to plan, and sometimes you have to let those visions go.

And that’s okay. Allow yourself to dwell on how much the situation sucks in order to work past how your ideas of breastfeeding are not matching up with reality.

When you allow yourself to grieve the breastfeeding relationship you thought you’d have, you give yourself time to adjust to the situation.

Time brings perspective on how not being able to breastfeed is not going to ruin your child’s life – in fact, it pales in comparison to the motherly duties you will be facing in the future.

Give Yourself Permission to Stop

You don’t need a doctor, lactation expert, or some other mom to give you permission to stop trying to breastfeed.

While there are mothers that need support in breastfeeding, there are many that need help stopping.

Remember, you will know when you are ready to give up – and this is not failure. Don’t push yourself to the point of exhaustion and overwhelm. This does no favors to you or your child.

At the end of the day, you are the only one who can make decisions about your body. You don’t have to push yourself to a physical and emotional breakdown to fulfill what other people think is “best” for your baby.

Don’t Blame Your Body

Even though your body may be the source of the inability to breastfeed – such as having a low or no milk supply – it’s not your body’s fault.

Your body just did something completely amazing – it grew a human being and pushed it out into the world.

All of your organs, which were pushed out of whack, returned to their respective positions.

Your stretched-out skin didn’t end up dangling to your knees.

You pushed a watermelon through a hole that has no business having a watermelon pushed through it.

Your body is pretty cool and it’s about to face and overcome many more challenges in motherhood. Even if it’s not able to accommodate breastfeeding, it is still awesome.

Formula is a Good Alternative

I’m probably going to get die-hard breast-is-besters cringing at the following statement, but it is true:

Formula is a healthy choice for your baby.

Is it the healthiest choice? No, but even though we know breast milk is the healthiest form of nourishment for your child, that doesn’t make formula unhealthy.

As you grow as a mother, you begin to make choices based on what will make your life easier. Sometimes you just have to remind yourself that there are worse decisions you could be making.

The same goes for formula feeding. You could be, you know, not feeding your kid at all if breastfeeding doesn’t work out.

But, no, you are giving them a formula that provides the necessary nutrients to facilitate their growth and development.

Out of all the things you could be feeding your infant, formula is proven to be the best alternative to breast milk.

“Just don’t sit on them or drop them.”

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I received when my daughter was born was that there was very little I could do to ruin her apart from sitting on her or dropping her.

This means that as long as you feed your infant, care for them, and love them – you can’t hurt them.

So if you have difficulties breastfeeding your child and choose not to, you are not ruining them or hurting them.

Maybe science tells us that breastfeeding will help your child grow to be super smart and super healthy, but you know what else does that? A healthy diet and books.

Your child has the best chance because they have the best mother – You.

Have you struggled with breastfeeding? Did you have to stop? Let us know how you coped in the comments below:
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