In an attempt to #NormalizeBreastfeeding (which need to happen, don't get me wrong) breastfeeding is held up as the end-all-be-all way to feed your child. Rhetoric like "breast is best" is continually regurgitated in mom groups and online forums. New moms are told "breastfeeding is natural," so every woman should be able to breastfeed and with little or no trouble. However, many women can't physically breastfeed, which means the choice to breastfeed is essentially taken away from them. The worst ways to respond to your inability to breastfeed, unfortunately, are responses far too many women use when they are physically unable to breastfeed, because while #NormalizingBreastfeeding is important and ending the social stigma surrounding breastfeeding (especially publicly) is important, it shouldn't come at the price of so many women's emotional, physical, and mental health, or their feelings of self-worth.
If you find that you are unable to breastfeed— whether that be as soon as your baby is born or later on in their life — it can be an incredibly rattling and difficult thing to handle (especially if you had your heart set on breastfeeding). I know because I was one of those people. I knew that some women are not able to breastfeed at all so I had mentally prepared myself for that possibility before I tried breastfeeding my daughter. However, I thought that if I could breastfeed initially, my supply would remain relatively the same until I needed and wanted my daughter to start weaning. Sadly, I was wrong.
My supply disappeared completely after only six weeks of breastfeeding and I soon found myself having to learn how to cope with that loss, amongst the "breast is best" and "breastfeeding is natural" messages. I was a difficult transition, and it wasn't easy to be kind to myself when I heard from so many people (directly or indirectly) that I had "failed." So, if you're struggling with the realization that you're not physically able to breastfeed, my advice is as follows: don't give in to negativity and respond to your inability to breastfeed in the worst ways possible. Instead, seek out support groups and, most importantly, know that you are not alone.