Giving Up on Breastfeeding: Should I?

Are you thinking about giving up on breastfeeding? First thing I gotta tell you Mama, is that if you searched that term like several thousand people do every month, don’t feel ashamed. Breastfeeding your infant is a very personal choice.

But the way our society is set up, women are criticized for all of their choices, whether they decide to breastfeed or not, whether they picked Enfamil over Similac, or whether they decide to stay at home or go back to work. Pump or not pump? Start solid foods at 4 months, 5 months, or six months?

When you were thinking about whether or not breastfeeding is right for you, the first thing I want to tell you to do, to implore you to do, is to take all consideration of what other people might do or say about your decision out of your equation.

I have nursed three babies. It may have either been sheer stubbornness or stupidity that got me through the initial learning curve phase with my first son. No one told me how hard it would be. Before I gave birth, people gave me all kinds of unasked for advice. But not one of them told me that it would be so painful. That my nipples would get chapped, scabbed, crack and bleed, peel, swell to the size of watermelons.

Nobody told me that my infant, who should have been driven by instinct, wouldn’t know what to do and would be relying upon me to teach him how to nurse. The nurses put him to my breast after he was born, and my first thought wasn’t, oh look how beautiful he is. Instead it was, ick. And then IT was supposed to happen…but it didn’t.

What followed was a saga of close to eight weeks of trying and failing to figure out nursing. We didn’t have physical problems such as tongue tie or developmental issues. We just didn’t know what was going on and we apparently we were slow learners.

The baby and I stayed in the hospital for four days because nursing wasn’t going that well. We struggled with jaundice, gas bubbles, colic, my milk let down so strongly that he choked, on and on. Earlier I talked about the state of my nipples and that alone was excruciating.

The solution to just about every problem when it comes to breastfeeding is just nurse more. But every time I had to put his voracious mouth to my poor, tired, aching, cracked, peeling, bleeding nipples, I wanted to stop.

I cried.

He cried.

Nursing wasn’t beautiful. I felt like I must have been doing something wrong. I also felt cheated. It wasn’t peaceful, like it was supposed to be. It was messy, and loud.

We made it through. Looking back now in hindsight, I wonder whether it was the right thing to do to force myself through eight weeks of what was essentially torture. The baby and I did eventually get it figured out, and it did get easier.

But really, the first two months of my son’s life, I almost missed them. I was so focused on the technical aspects of getting breast feeding established. After all, we all know how important it is to breastfeed your baby, and everybody thinks you were borderline abusive if you make the decision not to do everything possible to breastfeed your baby.

But here’s the thing mama, it doesn’t always work out. And this isn’t because you are a bad mom, or that you aren’t doing everything possible that you can for your child, that you are selfish or self-centered or focused on the wrong things. Sometimes nursing doesn’t work out. And that isn’t anything to be ashamed of.

But in our society, in an Instagram and Facebook focused world, it is so easy now to develop such a strong image of what our lives should be based upon what we see of the lives of other people. And the thing that we all know about Instagram and Facebook that we try not to think much about is that these photographs do not represent real life. We see happy families, cooing babies, success stories, but we never see the blood, sweat and tears involved in parenting that makes those moments happen.

So, when things don’t work out, parents feel like they have failed, when in actuality all they’re doing is going through the same trials and tribulations that Instagram happy families are also going through, but never tell you.

Yes Mama, if you are thinking that breastfeeding isn’t for you for whatever reason, because it hurts, you don’t enjoy it, your baby doesn’t enjoy it, maybe your milk makes his tummy hurt, or he has some sort of food sensitivity that nobody can pinpoint, or maybe you are ready to go back to work and you don’t want to pump, whatever the reason.

You make the best decision for you and your family. You will know what that is, and you shouldn’t think twice once you’ve made that decision about what other people will think about it.

Having a child is that it is such a personal journey. You as the parent have the right and responsibility to guide the child. That includes nourishment and sustenance. Yes, the research says breast is best. But if you decide to give up nursing, that doesn’t mean that your child still can’t get the benefits of breast-milk. You could switch entirely to bottles and just pump for him. I know several mothers who have done this when their beloved little one discovered the joy of biting.

You could also transition to formula. And while formula isn’t the same as breast milk, technology has come a long long way. Formula does a great job of nourishing and giving the baby the nutrients that he needs to grow. You could do other things, like find another mother who is willing to either sell or donate breast milk to you so that your child can continue to get benefits of breast milk.

As I’m wrapping up this post, I’m wondering, why are you searching about giving up on breastfeeding? Are you wondering if there is anyone else out there who is in the same position as you? Someone who is currently breastfeeding but wants to quit or is thinking of quitting for personal reasons and feels guilty about it? Are you a new mom who is trying desperately to breastfeed a brand new infant and it just isn’t working? Are you looking for nursing advice, or just some support and help you get through making what is becoming a fairly difficult decision? Whatever the reason, take heart. It is going to be okay, one way or another. Good luck Mama.

Before you go, check out one of these other great articles from our wonderful Mom Advice Line contributors:

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