Breastfeeding Guilt

Remember that post where I was all – Breastfeeding Rocks! Eff yeah I’m going to breastfeed until a year! Look at me! I”M A BREASTFEEDER!

Yeah…about that.

In the last month or so breastfeeding has become more and more difficult. Not because of a physical issue, but because of a I’m a Working Mom with HUGE projects on my plate kind of issue.

When I came back to work I pumped 3 times a day. I scheduled it on my calendar and it was an unspoken rule in the office that no one would book meetings with me during those times. It worked for about 4 months.

Then things started to get busier, my workload slowly returned to pre-maternity leave status, I got a new boss, and I started to notice that I was cutting at least one pumping out a day. No big deal as I had an entire freezer drawer full of excess breast milk. Then things got even busier and pumping only once a day became more like the rule than the exception.

If you know anything about breastfeeding, then you know that it’s a supply/demand kind of operation. It shouldn’t have surprised me when I noticed that I simply wasn’t producing as much as I used to. We decided to introduce a bottle of formula at night.

Yes, my child has had formula.

Yes, your child (who you breastfed until he was 5) will probably win the Nobel Peace Prize.

I’ve accepted that.

First, supply dips. Second, I have a week of issues with my pump. One day it won’t turn on. The next day a bottle I am pumping into leaks 2 ounces of breastmilk all over my pants leaving me practically in tears. Third, pumping is taking longer and leaving me with less milk. Fourth, I am still pumping in a bathroom stall.

Boo-Hiss!

Henry is almost 9 months old and I’m facing the reality that I might not make it to the one year mark. We’ve now added a a few bottles of formula everyday and within my freezer supply is almost non-existent.

The hardest part of this whole thing is the enormous amount of guilt I feel. I hadn’t expected this, and I’m blaming it on all that breastfeeding bonding that has taken place. My heart breaks a little when I think about quitting. I can’t stand the thought of not having that cuddle time anymore. I know that, inevitably, we would come to this point. I don’t think I’m ready for full on weaning yet, but I’m having a tough time coming to terms with the thought of NOT breastfeeding anymore.

I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think the root of all this mommy guilt is coming down to the idea that NOT breastfeeding to a year means I’m a failure. And, let’s face it – I don’t do well with failure.

Even though I am still breastfeeding a couple of times a day, I still feel like a failure. The logical part of me knows this is not the case, but the emotional/control freak/Type A part of me feels like unless I am 100% breastfeeding him then I am not #winning.

And winning is everything. As all of you know.

I joke, I joke.

Kind of.

I’m realizing that this new feeling of breastfeeding guilt is probably the way a lot of moms out there who couldn’t or chose not to breastfeed feel. My neighbor had her second baby girl in June and tried so hard to breastfeed, but for whatever reason her body would not make enough milk for her baby. And she tried. Boy, did she try. She saw a lactation consultant, rented a medical grade pump, drank a stout beer, pumped day and night to increase supply. In the end, nothing worked and back to formula she went.

“I feel like such a failure,” she said on my front porch. “Everything you read says breast is best. Where’s the support for the rest of us?”

She’s right. There’s no support for the non-breastfeeding mom. No support groups for formula fed babies. No books about formula feeding.

The weirdest thing is that no one really talks about this guilt. I had to summon up the courage to bring it up with another friend of mine (shout out Jill!) just to see if she felt the same way. And she did! And I wasn’t alone! And I’m not a bad mom! And I’ve done the best I could!

Everywhere you turn it seems that people will spout their judgement on what is best for you and your baby. That judgement has to be the worst way of cultivating a culture of supportive moms. If we don’t support each other, then who will?

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6 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Guilt

  1. Jill says:

    Jenny, first things first, you are a fantastic Mom! As for the guilt, I feel the same way you do. Breastfeeding is such a special thing. We have to remember to be thankful for the time we had and celebrate our achievements for hanging in there for so long. Let’s be honest…it ain’t easy. When you are ready, I’d love to raise a glass and have a toast to our breastfeeding achievements while sipping a delicious fine wine!! hang in there and stay strong.

  2. Annie says:

    Hooray for a new post, Jenny! I missed my updates from the Durtty Bride.

    Only you can give yourself permission to be okay with all of the different choices along the road of parenthood. You don’t think any less of me as a mom for not breastfeeding Lillian. And Travis’ time feeding Henry is no less special or bonding just because it comes from a bottle. So treat yourself with the same kindness! Maybe if we all gave ourselves a break, mommies everywhere could be more generous and supportive with one another, too. But from where I stand, we are a looooooong way from that.

    • thedurttybride says:

      You raise a good point Annie! Parenting choices only come down to two people. It takes a village, but not that big of a village!

  3. So happy that you’re writing again! Isn’t it amazing the amount of guilt we can generate as Mamas.

    So many decisions and opinions to deal with. Co-sleeping vs separate room. Crying it out vs holding them constantly. Working vs staying at home. Daycare vs private nanny. Breast vs bottle. Uggh it’s just overwhelming. I can say that having a second one, and looking back it made me realise how much pressure I put on myself.

    I thought I was an easygoing mum first time around, I made a point of not reading any parenting books, I even avoided mothers group it was too competitive and stressful. It was all about ‘my baby is crawling, he’s only three months old’, ‘my baby has slept through the night since week two’. Oh eff off.

    Countless times I would be driving somewhere with Ethan and he cried and screamed non stop, he hated the car. I would be bawling and feeling so guilty, I thought all his crying was going to cause him permanent psychological damage. But of course he is fine and now I know when Dean is crying in the car, I am not going to break him and I don’t feel near as bad as I did first time around.

    (Sorry for mammoth reply here).

    Breastfeeding is beautiful and special and you should be proud you have done it as long as you have but if you need to stop then that’s OK. Really it’s OK.

    Be kind to yourself.

    • thedurttybride says:

      Sim! Henry does the same thing in the car sometimes and it is the worst! It peaked at around 4 months, but it still happens from time to time and it sucks!

      Being kind to myself seems to be one of those things that I have to constantly work on. Thanks for the reminder!

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