An Open Letter to Breastfeeding Moms (That Think They've) Failed

Hey momma bear,

I want to tell you something today - because I know it's hard for you and I want to make it a little bit less hard. It's not your fault that you can't nurse your child. Don't listen to the haters, the people who tell you if you just did this, or just did that, you would have made it. Nursing's a beast. It's like trying to dig a hole to China, finding the answer to world peace, and building a skyscraper all wrapped into one. It's hard and difficult and there's no one perfect answer or way to do it.

I know the lactation consultants told you that if you just worked on baby's latch a little bit more it would have worked. Or maybe they told you if you would have pumped after baby ate, or not slept on your stomach, or if you had just eaten the right cookies, taken the right pills and drank the right tea - you could have made it to the so called "finish line."

A lot of the "advocates" like to say that it's okay if you had a medical issue and were not able to nurse. You get a free pass. But what about the rest of us? Those of us that have no doctor's note to say "why" it didn't work. What about those of us who look back every day and wonder what it was that made it not work? Was it because you introduced the pacifier too early? Was it because you didn't wake up when baby first slept through the night to pump? Was it because you got the flu that one time and didn't drag yourself out of bed to pump as often as you should have? Was it because you didn't try hard enough, long enough, often enough? Was it because you were not woman enough?

Maybe you heard these things from another mom, or in a blog post, or in a book.

I know they're just trying to be helpful, to help problem solve, but really, it's just creating problems in your heart.

Here's what you really need to know: It's. Not. Your. Fault. If you even tried to nurse your baby one time - you are a breastfeeding success story. You're super mom. You are THE BEST mom. And don't let anyone make you feel different. And you know what? Even if you did go straight to formula: WHO FREAKIN' CARES? We momma's should not be defined by how we feed our children. It is wrong and mean and terrible that these days, our worth as mommas is found in FOOD. (We women have enough problems with that topic already.)

So tell me, please someone tell me. Will my formula fed son grow up to be less of a man than his fellow breastfed peers? Will he be dumber, uglier, meaner and less talented? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that answer is a big, fat, NO. And I'm pretty sure you agree with me. So please, stop listening to those who make you feel bad. Stop feeling guilty. Stop wondering why. Stop kicking yourself for thinking you screwed something up and now it's your fault that you can't nurse your child.

The reasons why you can't or don't breastfeed don't matter. It's no one's business but yours. You're mom and you're doing what's best for your baby, simply by loving them and raising them to know what is right. What is true. What is lovely. What is honorable. You're raising a soul, and what matters is not what you feed your baby's belly, but what you feed their heart.

So chin up, my friend. My fellow warrior. We mommas are in war - but not for the reasons people think. It's not about what we put in our children's mouths, but about what we put in their hearts. So whip out that canister of formula proudly, because you know - YOU KNOW - that's not what matters.

Wipe away that regret and shed your shame. The breastfeeding guilt is not worthy of your time. Walk free and know that no matter how you feed your baby, breast or bottle, you are a success. Tune out anyone who makes you feel guilty and tune in to those who are cheering you on in this battle.

As a momma who's been on all the sides - breastfeeding, supplementing and formula feeding, listen to me: You are not a failure. You are a success. And don't let anyone tell you differently.

Like this post? Here are some of the top posts in my "Motherhood" series. I also share a whole lot more on this motherhood gig over on Facebook and Instagram (@laurawifler) and I'd love it if you followed along!

And if you're interested, here are some related posts on breastfeeding: 

10 comments:

  1. Thank you so much! This was beautifully written. I gave up after 6 weeks when I returned to work and always beat myself up over the guilt I feel. So thank you! :)

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    1. I'm glad you connected with it! That guilt is not worth it! You're a great momma!

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  2. Great post! Another point to future moms out there--I told myself that I would try to breastfeed and if it didn't work out, that would be okay. I was formula fed and managed to get my PhD anyway, you know? When I was pregnant, I would have read this article smugly.

    But hormones, wow...I was not as blase about it as I thought I would be. I was sad, and some of my best friends told me I just wasn't trying hard enough! Then I beat myself up for not being able to breastfeed and then for being irrational enough to see it as "failing". So, I would say it's okay to not be able to breastfeed, it's okay to not be able to pump long-term, and it's okay to be sad about it for awhile. I enjoyed my baby much more when I figured that out!

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    1. Oh man, I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience! Definitely agree - it's okay to be sad about it and to mourn the fact that you can't - it's just that darn guilt that creeps in that's not okay!

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  3. Thanks for sharing, Laura! I'm definitely in the tough spot right now of "deciding what to feed our children". Pumping is wearing on me BIG TIME and I just want to quit and enjoy my life and my babies again without worrying about my other friend, Medela Pump in Style. One of the major factors keeping me going some days is the guilt and feeling like I'm going to be selfish for choosing formula. Like, "well, why can't i just keep pumping, shouldn't I lay down my desire for freedom?" Ugh. Yuck.

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    1. Hey Em, I know - when the answer is unclear, it's so hard to know what to do! There's definitely a fine line between sacrificing your time for your children's "nutrition" (and family's bank account!) and sacrificing breastfeeding for your children's attention and mental sanity. There's no clear cut answer and no one can decide but you - that's the part I always hated! Mike just kept leaving it up to me and I wanted him so badly to tell just tell me to "survive" or "quit!"

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  4. Well said. Kudos to any Mom who tries nursing. What I think is crazy is right after you've just gone through the hardest most physically demanding and excruciating experience of your life, they say, "Here, feed your baby". Say what?! What exactly does that mean? What do I do? How do I hold them? How do I even start? And that's only the beginning... :)

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    1. Oh my word - I know! Childbirth is terrible enough, then we have to endure all the craziness that comes from nursing! I felt like the "nursing area" was the one thing that came out of birth unscathed, and two seconds after baby comes it's sacrificed as well. Ahh, the things we do!

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  5. I completely agree with the article and the point it makes that we should support mothers in how ever they choose to feed. I wish I actually received more support for breastfeeding. The nurses pretty much told me to give up when my milk didn’t come in for a week because of my C-section; they even told my husband behind my back that we would end up formula feeding. Nursing didn’t work out for me and I ended up exclusively pumping for 11 months which was awful and I wish I got more support for it (I wouldn’t have made it that long without the support from my husband though). It was hard work and not quite as long as I wanted but I am happy I didn't give up. Definitely the hardest part of the first year for me!

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    1. Hey Robyn, I'm sorry to hear you didn't feel supported for breastfeeding - I feel like that's a little uncommon these days. While I don't endorse anyone making a mom feel bad for not breastfeeding - they shouldn't make you feel bad for trying it either! Good for you for EPing for 11 months - that's super impressive!

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