Alright ladies, I’m already bracing myself for the potential grumblings this post may garner, but I’m ready. And I’m going to lay it on the table in hopes that we support each other as moms, no matter our parenting choices. Let’s start by stating the purpose of this post: It’s ok not to breastfeed. It’s ok not to like it, not to want to, not to be able to and not to do it exclusively. This is the first of many decisions you will make as a parent that should be more about your child then your wants and needs, so get used to it.
I personally think breastfeeding is wonderful, so please don’t misconstrue my opinions as being anti-breast. But I’m also one of the percent that could not do it exclusively. I wanted to breastfeed so badly that I wouldn’t allow formula or bottles in my home, for fear I’d give in to the pressure and start down the slippery slope of combo feeding (oh, the horror!). If you want to know more about my story, you can find it over at The Fearless Formula Feeder.
You’re probably looking at this post right now because you are grappling with some intense emotions about breastfeeding, and I know how you feel. There’s no pressure like breastfeeding pressure, especially in the hormonal, postpartum days. You want to do what’s “right” and “best” for your baby, but there’s good news: no one can decide what those mean except you. Here are some reasons that could help you make your decision:
1. It’s Not Physically Possible
The group of moms that suffer the most emotionally from not breastfeeding are those that simply can’t. The best intentions in the world won’t help you overcome IGT (Insufficient Glandular Tissue), lactogenesis disorders (inefficient milk production) or inverted nipples, all things that can prevent you from being able to breastfeed your baby. Power pumping, nursing on demand, fenugreek, blessed thistle, and Domperidone also may not give you a big enough push to be able to breastfeed. Most women don’t find out they won’t be able to breastfeed until experiencing it in the days and weeks of frustrations following the birth of their child. If your body cannot produce the milk your child needs, it’s ok and it’s not your fault.
2. It’s Not Emotionally Possible
Some women have experienced a traumatic violence in their life that will interfere with comfortably nursing. To them, breasts are a sexual aspect of their bodies and nursing a baby makes them extremely uncomfortable. This also isn’t their fault, and we should all be so blessed to have alternatives to feeding our children that don’t cause moms anxiety and depression at every meal. You may also be experiencing postpartum depression, and breastfeeding could be causing or worsening your symptoms. Your baby needs a healthy mom, and its ok not to breastfeed to have a healthy heart and mind.
3. Can’t Do It Exclusively
Many lactivists will tell you that any breastmilk a child gets is better than none, so just breastfeed as much as you can. While this sounds great in theory, it’s not for every mom. If you nurse for an hour, then have to pump, clean the pump, mix formula, feed the baby and then wash the bottles, you are soon back at needing to nurse again. In case you hadn’t noticed, that doesn’t leave much time for anything else. If this is a schedule you can maintain, great! But don’t feel guilty if you don’t want feeding to dominate the time you spend with your baby. It’s ok to feed them a bottle and Just.Move.On.
Many medications are not safe to use while breastfeeding, as trace amounts can make it through your milk and to your baby. Some women are able to abstain long enough from their medication to make it through pregnancy, but their mental and physical health depends on being able to return to their prescription post birth. No mother should feel that their health and well- being hinges on the act of breastfeeding, and it’s perfectly commendable they were able to sacrifice it for pregnancy. There’s no shame in going back on medication that gives you back your life.
5. Child Has Health Issues
No one plans on a child having severe milk protein allergies, gastrointestinal problems or being born premature, but all of those things can effect a baby’s ability to nurse or properly digest breastmilk. We are so blessed to benefit from scientists who have developed formula that can meet the nutritional needs of our infants, without causing intense pain during feedings. If you’ve ever experienced the pure joy from having a baby eat and not scream in pain as a result, that’s good enough reason!
6. It’s Not “You”
I never knew my personality was so prone to exactness and timeliness until I tried breastfeeding. I did not like not knowing how much my daughter was consuming, and I didn’t like the lengthy nursing sessions that still left her hungry. I was meticulous at logging nursing sessions and pumped milk ounces and it all became too much. Breastfeeding was dominating my Type A personality and while it wasn’t the main reason I did not breastfeed long-term, it ended up being a huge relief to my psyche when it was all over.
7. You Don’t Have The Right Support System
Learning to breastfeed comes easy for some moms and their babies, but there’s a reason there are countless numbers of Lactation Consultants: breastfeeding is hard at best and you’ll need all the help you can get. It’s my hope that you have a supportive spouse and family who is there to help you navigate marathon feedings and give you time to take care of yourself. But if you don’t, that’s ok. You may not be able to afford numerous trips to an LC to catch that tongue tie or incorrect latch, or have someone watch your other children while you try and nurse. You may not have someone bringing you buckets of water to stay hydrated or hamburgers to keep your calories up. Or you may have to return quickly to a job that doesn’t accommodate pumping, due to the nature of your work. While you most definitely have supportive people in your life, they may not be the support system you require to breastfeed.
8. It’s Your Decision, No One Else’s
In the end, you don’t really need my reasons to know it’s ok not to breastfeed. My guess is you just need a little reassurance that you’re not causing your child to be obese or have an low IQ. That you’re not a bad mom. That you’re not selfish. A child is born to one mother and we are burdened with a lifelong love that we never thought possible. Your most important job is to make decisions that are best for you and your child. It’s really nobody else’s business but yours, so let go of the guilt and get back to hugging that sweet baby.