Breastfeeding

Do you Feel Guilty Stopping Breastfeeding? Don’t.

We’re going to discuss two important factors of breastfeeding here: Things to try before you stop and don’t feel guilty stopping breastfeeding.

Before You Make the Switch

Before you decide to go to formula, see a lactation consultant.  In fact, see one before you have Baby. I don’t remember who it was, but someone had mentioned to me to not worry about seeing a lactation consultant before my little girl was born. Their reasoning was that without the baby, a lactation consultant couldn’t teach much.

That advice was very far from the truth. If I didn’t learn about breastfeeding before Sara was born, I would have given up while still in the hospital. It’s hard, and it hurts.

Learn as Much as You can Before Baby is Born

I read a book about breastfeeding that prepared me well. So when the OB who delivered my baby checked on me the following day and said it’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt for six weeks, I knew better. I knew nipple trauma for over a month was not okay and that something can be done about it.

Had I not read up on breastfeeding beforehand, I would have believed her and given up. Breastfeeding at the hospital was hard and very painful. It took time for Sara and me to figure it out. If I would have thought that was my future for several weeks, that would have been it.

There is no way I would I have continued.

Before your baby comes, learn. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can battle well-meaning, but inaccurate advice.

Nipple Trauma isn’t Normal

Nipple trauma is a sign that something isn’t working right. For the first few days, I personally don’t see a way to avoid it. A good lactation consultant may know how to. But during those first few days, you and Baby are learning how breastfeeding works. Learning how to get that good latch. Meaning sometimes you’re gonna fail.

Even if you have breastfed before, it’s still your new baby’s first time feeding on the nipple. They take time to learn and every child is different. Tricks that worked for previous kids may not work for your new little one.

If after a week, your nipple trauma is still getting fresh wounds instead of healing up, you need to book it to a lactation consultant. You shouldn’t be getting fresh wounds anymore. That’s not normal and can be fixed.

Why the 6 Week Advice is Wrong

People say it takes 6 weeks for breastfeeding to stop hurting because that’s when the nipple calluses to protect against pain.

Nipples don’t callus, ever.

The pain ends not because the nipple has hardened, but because Baby doesn’t need help to feed. They have learned how to do it efficiently. When a baby feeds efficiently, that also means no pain for you.

Sara feeds without hurting me. But my nipples are super sensitive. When she’s feeling rambunctious and hits my nipple, it hurts. When my breast pad isn’t sitting just right in my bra and my nipple rubs the bra instead of the soft pad, it hurts. When I towel off after a shower and the towel hits my nipples, it hurts.

All kinds of slight things cause my nipples to hurt. Things that never would have before. They are more sensitive than ever. They haven’t hardened. Sara has just learned how to feed efficiently, meaning no pain for me when she eats.

In the beginning, I had to help her feed well. But now that she can do it on her own, I don’t have to do anything. And that’s what happens around six weeks. Babies figure it out and don’t need any more help. It’s not the nipples callusing.

So seeing a lactation consultant before that time can help you learn how to help your baby feed efficiently. Eventually, they will be able to do it without your help.

Production Problems

Another common concern with breastfeeding is not being able to produce enough. Most women are able to produce enough for their baby. But we’ve lost general knowledge about breastfeeding and don’t always know how to fix a low production or we perceive low production when there is none.

In America, our fix is usually to go to products. There are many on the market that claim to help boost production and many women who claim they work. The research is a bit mixed. Lucie’s List does a pretty good job discussing the products that can be prescribed and the herbal favorites.

But most women don’t need those products. An understanding of the mechanics of breastfeeding and having confidence in that knowledge will create the same effects as any supplement and without the potential for harmful side effects.

If you want to learn about the mechanics, read this book from my book list. It contains all that information.

I’ve Tried Everything, but Breastfeeding Still isn’t Working

That’s okay. Make the switch to formula. I believe anyone who wants to breastfeed should do everything they can before moving on, but that doesn’t mean moving on is a bad thing.

Notice how I don’t say giving up? The term ‘giving up’ has a negative connotation to it and can add to the guilt. It’s like we’re giving up on what’s best for our baby and that’s not true. What’s best for our baby is not breastfeeding, it’s being fed.

My Feeding Story as a Baby

I share this story to demonstrate you don’t have to breastfeed for your child to thrive.

My mom didn’t try to breastfeed. After everything they went to to get me to eat, she regrets not trying because it probably would have not been so difficult. But hindsight is 20/20, and she did just fine.

My family gave me formula to start with, but I didn’t keep that down. I projectile vomited everywhere. Apparently, I was keeping enough in my stomach to gain weight, but throwing up all the time was problematic.

The doctor had my mom trying many different things, including soy milk. Eventually, she ended up using goat’s milk at around 2 months. I kept that down better and didn’t vomit all over the place.

But it wasn’t easy getting goat’s milk. My mom had to drive about 45 minutes to find a farm where she could buy it from.

The goat’s milk smelled awful and even worse as spit up. My mom supplemented with baby cereal so I wouldn’t have to drink so much of it. Eventually, I moved onto solids and ate like a normal child.

My mom never breastfed me and even had a hard time feeding me. And guess what? I have been able to thrive in life just fine.

I graduated with a BA in Sociology less than two weeks before my daughter was born with an almost 4.0. While I was in the Navy, I was a top-notch sailor. I was one of the subject matter experts in my shop and held several additional duties. I always got the highest advancement recommendation during yearly evals. I am happily married starting my own family.

You know who else wasn’t breastfed? Most of the population born in the 20th century. It’s hard to pin down the dates of when breastfeeding was discouraged, but a google search shows it was much of the 20th century. Even if it’s not the whole century that saw a discouragement of breastfeeding, there are still generational gaps where it occurred.

Entire generations weren’t breastfed but society continued to move on.

You can feed your child formula and still raise them so they can thrive. Not being able to breastfeed is okay. Babies need nutritional food (whether formula or breast milk) and happy parents far more than they need everything to be done perfectly.

On the Note of Society Discouraging Breastfeeding

We’ve lost family knowledge of how to breastfeed. Generations who did it successfully passed on and the new generations were encouraged not to by the medical community. Now that we are picking up the practice again, we have to relearn as a society how it works.

That’s hard work. When an individual woman struggles to breastfeed it is not her failure. It is a reflection of our history with breastfeeding. We’ve lost skills and need time to get them back. Until we get to a point where we are familiar with breastfeeding again as a society, it’s going to be common for people to struggle with it.

As moms, we can’t beat ourselves up over something that isn’t our fault. Parenting has enough pitfalls for us to stress over. We don’t need to add the guilt of not being able to breastfeed to that list. It’s a skill that is going to take time to come back. And babies are able to thrive on formula.

Formula is okay. In fact, it can be great for some

I’ve seen a lot of women post online about their guilt over not being able to breastfeed. Breast milk is a wonderful thing. But if it comes at the expense of your child eating enough and/or your mental health, it’s no longer a good thing.

If you’re one of those moms beating yourself up over not breastfeeding, it’s okay. You’re not at fault. You’re not failing your child. Your child will still thrive.

I’d appreciate any thoughts, questions, or concerns you have on this topic. Please comment below.

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Raymond LepkowiczLeoBabsie WagnerNicole StilesAmelitaRecent comment authors
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Babsie Wagner
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Babsie Wagner

I am so happy for your article.  My daughter had great angst over stopping breastfeeding.  She did it for a few months, but scheduling, etc. made it nearly impossible, so she went to bottles and then to formula.  I have to admit I wasn’t happy because I had breastfed my children for a full year, but I didn’t say anything to her.  I was proud of her for giving it the two months!  When I fed my children, my nipples would be sore for about a week at most.  After that, it was pain free, so I’m not sure where people get… Read more »

Leo
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Leo

I agree with you regarding to the breast feed. Feeding the baby with the mother’s milk is really healthy and increase the baby immunity. All the moms have the same problem at the first time, at the hospital, until the milk comes fluently. It depends also from the baby, on how is capable to get the milk from the breast, as usually they take a little and than have a sleep. This is the crucial moment as the baby need to be stimulated.

Amelita
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Amelita

Hello, a breastfeeding mama here. I’ve got 3 babies under my belt so during this post my head was nodding and nodding. Thanks for giving moms the support in whichever they decide to do. A lot of moms do feel guilty to choose not to breastfeed. From my experience, people look at you with shame and feel its necessary to share their opinion even when you are a breastfeeding mom. Its all about making sure that mom and baby are healthy and have bonding time. Baby’s are resilient and as you say, they will thrive. Thanks for having our backs… Read more »

Raymond Lepkowicz
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Raymond Lepkowicz

love your site.  You have it all together.  You write with passion and a commitment to helping others new mothers.

One thing I had trouble with was reading some of the article that is in light pink…  Perhaps you could bold those parts to make it easier to read, especially for old people like me.

I would have never thought much about this subject, but you present the information in a way that even I can understand and sympathize with the challenges that new mothers have.

I would recommend your site to anyone who is interested in helpful articles for mothers.  Great work.

Dave
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Dave

I truly enjoyed your post on breastfeeding and its emotional impact because it hit me personally. My wife was very much interested in breastfeeding and became a consultant for La Leche League.  It was a lot of work ot learn the techniques of trying to get “difficult” children to breast feed and she was an expert in reciting them all. She, when she got pregnant with our first child, she was very excited about breastfeeding.  Unfortunately, the child was not. He had all kinds of problems with latching on, poor suck, difficulty gaining weight, and this really produced significant emotional… Read more »

Matt's Mom
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Matt's Mom

I always felt guilty because I breast fed for so long!  My mom used to come over and say, “Are you still doing that?”…meaning breast feeding.  I think it is a wonderful way to bond with your baby/toddler, and how ever long someone feels comfortable doing it, then they should.  I won’t even say how long I did breast feed, because yes, most gasp at that.  I think that it is becoming a lot more normal now to breast feed period, but longer as well.  It is healthy and beneficial.  

Mary
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Mary

I have 3 kids and I breastfed all three, but each one a bit different. My milk supply went down as soon as I got back to work 3-4 months after giving birth. I pumped, but still it just slowed down. I tried to get the most of myself and put as much as I could in the freezer, for the months to come. With the first, I kept pumping till around 9 month, second maybee 6 month and the last one about 4 months. I never stressed out about it. Added formula when I saw my supply is not… Read more »

Pardeap
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Pardeap

Wow… I never knew how much goes into breastfeeding, the pain, the skill, and  lactation consultants.  This is very informative site for new moms.  I was breast fed.  I remember my mom talking about how bad she felt when she stopped breast feeding me.  Breast milk is very potent with nutrients.  I think every mother should breast feed their child unless pain or something else is preventing them from doing so.  Society shouldn’t be a reason for not to breast feed. When I was growing up in India, breast feeding was very common.  It’s not so common there anymore due… Read more »

David
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David

Hi Nicole Thanks for your article – it was very informative and encouraging. From a male’s perspective, I thought you were spot on!  I have seen my wife struggle with the choice between breastfeeding (what she wanted) and utilizing formula.  She formed the same conclusions as you and we found, and this is probably person rather than consensus, that breastfeeding depended on two things: her ability (including getting nipple problems and, probably, age…she gave birth to our their child at age 41) and the baby’s nature (one child would take 4 hours to feed on the breast!). I wondered what… Read more »

Chris
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Chris

Nicole, This is a very in depth article on breast feeding. To start, being a new mother yourself and having experience in breast feeding gives you great credibility. You talk about the challenges that you yourself have overcome through the process and let other new mothers know they are not alone in their struggles. You also emphasize the importance of not blaming oneself if unable to breastfeed and I think that is very important. We all want to do best by our child but you point out generations have survived without breastfeeding. You have a great skill at writing very… Read more »

Victor
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Victor

This is a very interesting article because my wife and I are at the stage again (second kid) where we talk about when is our baby boy going to stop getting breastfed? My daughter was breastfed until she was 18 months and the only reason why she stopped was because my wife got a bit sick and had to take medication. Otherwise, I’m sure she would have kept going. I think that it is important to be breastfed because babies can get the natural benefits from their moms. I also believe that it helps moms and babies take their relationship to… Read more »

Fiona
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Fiona

I’ve been very lucky that I haven’t had much issues with breastfeeding my babies. The main problem that I’ve had is developing a milk blister on the nipple, which was causing a bit of blockage in the ducts. But with some research, particularly referring to the Australian Breastfeed Association website, I was able to clear it out. 

It can be such a hard time trying to breastfeed. Thank you for sharing your story as a baby. I was formula fed and turned out just fine too. 

Brenda
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Brenda

Excellent article. I am happy that you shared this. Firstly breastfeeding is the best gift a mother can give to her baby. It’s a form of immunity, so it decreases the risk of your baby getting sick. It has all the right nutrients, it makes your child smarter, it allows bonding between mother and baby and I could go on and on. There are women who for various reasons are unable to breastfeed. However, for every mother who is able to, I would encourage to continue for at least 6 months.  This is really not easy in the beginning and… Read more »

Rasa
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Rasa

Hey, Nicole!  i can definitely relate. It took us about two weeks to get the breast feeding right with my little one. I also were educated enough at the time to know that it shouldn’t hurt. We got quite mixed results with sometimes it being hurtful, but most times not. As I said it took us some two weeks to really get it down. Afterwards it was all good. I had no idea that most of the 20th century population wasn’t breastfed. All in all it’s really good to know that the lack of breastfeeding doesn’t really leave any noticeable… Read more »

Erin
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Erin

Great page. It was well written and will definitely hit home for a lot of families. I can totally relate to this page. After my child was born I got  A LOT of advice about what I should or shouldn’t be doing. It was very confusing. The amazing thing was that even the nurses in the maternity ward would give different advice. They brought formula in from day one and encouraged using the formula, others would say how if I used the formula my baby would get nipple confusion Blah blah blah.  It is also amazing how when my mother… Read more »