When your baby comes into this world, your responsibilities as a mother are immediate; you need to provide comfort and nutrition to your child through the most primal and basic act of breastfeeding.
But what happens if your body doesn’t produce milk, your baby has difficulty latching, or it’s incredibly painful to breastfeed?
Perhaps you take medication and are advised not to breastfeed? Maybe you have to go back to work and your body can’t keep up the milk supply away from your baby. Or maybe you’ve decided that breastfeeding is simply not going to work for you.
Here are some tips on how to overcome those feelings so you can continue being the best mum you can be.
When breastfeeding is not working
There are many paths that lead to the outcome of not breastfeeding your baby but they all seem to have one emotional ending – feelings of failure, guilt, shame, fear of judgement and disappointment.
Having expectations at all can only prepare you for one thing- a big downfall. Whether it’s pressure you’ve placed on yourself or pressure placed on you by society, family or friends – set the bar low.
This is not a bad thing as a mother, the fact that you feel these emotions shows that you want to do the best for your baby. By continually comparing yourself to other mums and listening to the judgement of others, you may create a stressed, anxious state for yourself and your baby.
Breastfeeding is only one factor
For a child to grow and flourish, they need unconditional love and support, the assurance of a happy home as well as good nutrition. Yes the benefits of breastfeeding are well known but there has also been a lot of research into what best to put into formula so babies can thrive. Babies just need to be fed breastmilk or formula, it really doesn’t matter which one you use so long as they aren’t going hungry.
If you focus on your baby and yourself, try to be present and provide your baby with love and attention, they are sure to grow into healthy, well-adjusted children.
There are many opportunities for meaningful moments throughout the day through playing, singing, exploring the world together or just the simple joy and closeness you both feel when your baby falls asleep on your chest. Feeding your baby with a bottle (and being able to have a partner feed the baby too) offers a special moment of closeness many times a day.
You can’t please everyone
Your priority should be your baby, yourself and your partner. After all, there is no need to explain your choice to others. There is a sense of freedom and relief when you accept that you are making the best decision that you can for your family.
It gives you permission to move on and do what your baby needs you to do – be present and offer them unconditional love and support.
If you still feel shame about not being able to breastfeed and it’s causing you distress, contact a breastfeeding counsellor who may be able to assist you in overcoming these obstacles.
This blog was written by Shara Smith who is a psychotherapist and a counsellor with over 12 years’ experience in the mental health, life coaching and self-care sector. While she loves her husband and three kids, she also loves watching re-runs of Sex in the City and baking decadent cookies that only she gets to eat.
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