You hear many advocates for ‘Breast is Best,’ and while that may be true, breast milk is not always available. No mother should shame another on how she decides to feed her baby. We need to start letting go of breastfeeding guilt.
No one knows the whole story or why the decision not to breastfeed or why a mother quit breastfeeding. It is a struggle for many mothers; the last thing they need is the extra shame from others when they are just trying to do their best. That mother probably already carries her breastfeeding guilt or formula feeding guilt.
Mothers are also shamed for having a breastfeeding relationship for too long. So, where does it end? Can we not just do what we feel is suitable for our babies and let others do the same?
Sure, give your opinions, advice, or experience on what you did or thought, but it should stop there. Motherhood is hard enough as it is.
We should be supportive of each other, give each other baby care tips, not try to tear each other down. For our mental health, let’s put an end to guilting mothers!
My Breastfeeding Journey
From the moment I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I knew all about breast milk’s incredible benefits for a baby’s health, and I wanted to do all I could. I hoped my body would cooperate and allow that to happen.
Did I Breastfeed?
My breast milk came in on time when I had my first baby and worked out wonderfully. I was so amazed at what my body could do.
My milk fully came in before I even left the hospital. Good thing I had my nursing shirts packed in my hospital bag. It took a couple of weeks to figure out a good latch. Lactation consultants are great for helping you figure out what you need to change. However, I still had to use a nipple shield for a while because it was so painful.
That’s how you know the latch isn’t correct; IT HURT! But, I stuck with it, being told it would get better and more manageable. And it did! Coconut oil was great for sore nipples.
We finally got the latch right, and my breastfed baby ate like a champ. I fed on demand, which usually worked out to be every hour and a half. Plus, cluster feeding in the early evenings sometimes.
My daughter regained her birth weight within a week, and in just a few weeks, she was already in the 90th percentile for everything.
She had those cheeks that you couldn’t wait to squish. She was a great eater.
How long did breastfeeding last?
It was time-consuming, but I was so happy to do it for all the health benefits a baby would get. The bonding time during breastfeeding is incredible. I set a goal to try and breastfeed for a whole year.
At six months, I started Baby Led Weaning and was still breastfeeding. I was also pumping enough milk to get a freezer stash going. I also would bring bottles whenever we would go out because I was uncomfortable nursing in public. Even though I was doing what I should be doing for my baby, I would feel guilty about how people would react to breastfeeding in public.
I could pump almost 30 oz on top of nursing a few times a day and a couple of times a night. It was amazing. I figured I could do a whole year with no problem.
Come nine months, and suddenly my supply took a drastic change. I upped the pumping sessions, nursed more often, threw in some power pumping, and tried all the tips from the lactation consultants.
Nothing worked. Within a couple of weeks, I went from being able to pump 6-8 oz per breast at a time to barely 2 oz total. I was devastated. I had to stop breastfeeding.
Even as I write this, I’m emotional thinking about it. I felt like I had let my baby down. I felt so upset that I could not provide for my child what nature intended. I was feeling some pretty intense feelings of breastfeeding guilt.
Quitting breastfeeding did not come lightly. But for my mental health, I knew I had to stop. It was exhausting and stressful to get my body to produce more breast milk.
Within a few weeks, my freezer stash was gone, and I had no choice but to supplement with formula. Enter in formula feeding guilt. I worried my baby wasn’t getting the proper nutrition. I felt like a bad mom. I was feeling bad that I could no longer provide for her. I was spending money on something I should be able to provide for my baby.
Why did I lose my supply?
A couple of weeks later, I discovered I was pregnant with my second baby. Whether that had anything to do with it, I don’t know.
A decrease in your milk supply can signify you’re pregnant, but I also have known many women who breastfed throughout their pregnancy. So it’s hard to say.
The why can never really be answered. I tried to do all I could, but in the end, the right thing for my baby was to supplement with formula. I had to find a way to give up the breastfeeding guilt because it was exhausting.
In the last two months of the year, I fed formula and introduced different solid foods. But, the formula was the primary source of nutrition.
I felt like I was explaining to everyone why I was feeding my baby formula. The question seemed to come up a lot. And feeling guilty about it in the first place, it felt natural to explain why.
That should not have been the case. However, I should not have felt guilty for doing what was best for my baby and me.
Once my daughter turned one, I started feeding her solid food meals and giving her whole cow milk. I was happy I was able to breastfeed for the time I did, and I finally accepted the way things turned out without feeling guilty about it.
My Second Breastfeeding Experience
I figured there were many reasons why it did not turn out the way I envisioned during my first baby so I was still determined to go a full year for my second baby. After all, the expert advice is that the breast is best, right?.
Did breastfeeding work for my second?
When my son was born, my milk came in right away again. And the first time I tried feeding him, he latched right away. I had the same goal of wanting to breastfeed him for a year.
Of course, I felt more confident as a nursing mother, but he was naturally an excellent eater. He ate fast and was super efficient for a newborn.
He loved to eat. He ate more at one sitting but less often compared to my daughter. Looking back on it, she was more of a grazer, where he loves to eat full meals.
Funny enough, this is still true today. They are almost four years old and 2.
Since he was not nursing as often, I knew I had to pump to keep my supply up. I started adding in pumping sessions between feedings.
At about four months, he started majorly fussing while on the breast. He was not into leisurely eating and wanted it all now. It wasn’t coming out fast enough for him. So I started giving him a bottle, and he loved it immediately.
Once he got a bottle, he would no longer attempt the breast. So I started exclusively pumping and bottle feeding—a good thing for my Spectra S1.
It was EXHAUSTING! I was constantly pumping, power pumping, night pumping, anything to keep up my supply. And I was still barely getting enough to feed him as much as he wanted. He would eat over 8 oz at a time.
Thankfully, he was sleeping through the night in his crib, but I was still awake-pumping. I did this for almost four months when I couldn’t keep up anymore. I felt ashamed but knew this was not sustainable.
I was constantly pumping. And it was hard to even interact or play with my daughter and my son when I was just attached to a pump.
My husband kept telling me to give him formula, that it was okay. But I still felt like I was failing my son. I couldn’t believe I was feeling so guilty for having to formula feed again.
Once again, though, I knew it was what was best, and I finally gave in. For the next four months, I gave him formula and weaned off pumping. He also had started Baby Led Weaning at six months.
I switched him to whole cow milk and solid food meals when he turned one. He was more than ready for it too. He LOVES food. He will eat pretty much anything I put in front of him.
How can I Stop Feeling Guilty for not Breastfeeding?
I have learned that it doesn’t matter what other people think or say throughout my breastfeeding journey. Your baby needs to be fed. Breastfeeding is an experience and a journey, but it is between a mom and her baby. Everyone is different. It is no one else’s business if you need to stop breastfeeding for any reason.
How your babies get fed should not be anyone’s business but your own. As long as your baby is happy, healthy, and loved, it doesn’t matter. Whether you can breastfeed or formula feed, you should feel no guilt.
You will do what is best for your baby to get enough milk. Others should not shame you for the decisions you make. We know that there are benefits of breastfeeding, but you can nurture and bond with your baby just the same when they are formula-fed.
My kids are happy, thriving, and incredibly loved, even though they were formula-fed for part of their lives.
Will I Regret Stopping Breastfeeding?
I am glad I made the choices I did. At the time, it completely devastated me. That was not what I had in mind for my baby.
And now, my heart goes out to any new moms that feel the way I once felt. The guilt we feel as mothers is no joke; we should not have to put that on ourselves. Many women are able to breastfeed while others may not be able to.
It is a hard decision to make. No one should assume that the decision was taken lightly. There was a reason behind it and most likely a struggle within the mother’s heart.
Guilt is a common emotion experienced by mothers who breastfeed. They may feel guilty about not breastfeeding, or they may feel guilty about needing to stop breastfeeding. Either way, it is essential to remember that breast milk is not the only important thing for a child’s health. Mental health is also crucial; sometimes, mothers must stop breastfeeding to care for their mental health.
If you are experiencing guilt, talk to a therapist or lactation consultant. They can help you understand your feelings and provide support. Remember that you are not alone in this and that there is no shame in seeking help to manage your mental health. Your baby will benefit from breast milk regardless of how long you breastfeed. The most important thing is that you are happy and healthy.