Before I became a mom, I honestly thought I would make a terrible one. I was afraid that my toxic childhood would affect my parenting and my need for freedom would trump a kid's need for stability. I was afraid that, after struggling to simply take care of myself for 20+ years, I wouldn't be able to take care of someone else. Turns out, according to society, my fears were just the tip of the iceberg that is "ways to fail as a mother." However, there are so many reasons why weaning early doesn't make you a bad mom; reasons that I had to search for when I weaned my son after breastfeeding for seven months (above the national average) and facing a seemingly never-ending sea of judgment and shame.
Turns out, thanks to "mommy wars" and the shame every mother seems to face on a daily basis, there are so many ways that you can be a "bad mom." If you have a home birth you're a bad mom but if you choose an epidural you're a bad mom. If you breastfeed in public you're a bad mom but if you choose to formula feed you're a bad mom. If you decide to go back to work you're a bad mom and if you stay at home you're not a motivated mom. I mean, you just can't win. I thought I was doing the "right thing" when I chose to breastfeed my son and, after seven months, I thought I was doing the "right thing" by weaning. Turns out, many mothers thought that seven months was far too early to wean and, in turn, the choice to give my son formula was the wrong one.
I was simultaneously sad and thrilled to be weaning (a decision my son actually made) and that mix of emotions made the shame and judgment I was experiencing all the more debilitating. After a few pep talks by way of my partner and some moments of necessary reflection (aka a few glasses of wine) I realized that my choice to wean was just that: my choice (well, and my son's, in this case). Weaning "early" doesn't make me a bad mother, it just makes weaning part of my breastfeeding story.
So, with that in mind, here are a few reasons why weaning early doesn't make you a bad mom. After all, what constitutes "early," anyway? What you do with your body and for your baby is entirely up to you. End of story.
Suffering Doesn't Make You A Good Mom
I used to think that killing myself and pushing myself to the point of complete and utter exhaustion, proved I was a "good mom." I vividly remember a moment when both my mother and my partner had to physically place me in bed, so that I could get some sleep and they could take care of my newborn son. It took me a while, but I realized that making myself a martyr and refusing to take care of myself and putting myself last on the list of people I care about, wasn't doing my son any favors. If weaning early meant that I would be able to get some sleep or have complete autonomy over my body or simply feel more like myself and, in turn, happier; well, then that is what I should do.
Taking Care Of Yourself Doesn't Make You Selfish
I don't know where we (and by "we", I mean society) got this idea that taking care of yourself first or putting yourself first or just genuinely caring about your person, somehow makes you a selfish individual. While a mother does sacrifice certain aspects her life in order to better care for another tiny human, that doesn't mean sacrificing everything is the standard for which all "good mothers" are measured. When you put yourself first and give yourself what you need, you are doing something beneficial for everyone around you (including your kid). It's not selfish to want to be happy or to feel comfortable or to just care about yourself as a human being.
Your Kid Needs A Happy Mom More Than They Need Breastfeeding
Everyone knows the benefits of breast milk and how nutritious it is, but what your kid needs more than breast milk is a happy and healthy mother. Formula is a substitute for a reason, and giving your kid formula because weaning is the best decision for you, isn't going to hurt your kid in any way. Trust me.
No One Knows Your Breastfeeding Situation But You...
Breastfeeding isn't a "one size fits all" situation, and there are multiple problems and complications and situations that can arise, that can make breastfeeding difficult for someone, when it's the easiest thing in the world for someone else. There are so many reasons why women choose to wean, and those reasons are as unique as the women who make them.
...Which Is Why You're The Most Qualified To Make That Decision
And because breastfeeding is not only a unique experience, but your experience, you're the only person who is qualified to comment on your decision to wean. Only you know why you decided to wean and only you can say that the reason why is beneficial or not.
There Are A Million Reasons Why Weaning Early Is Necessary...
There are so many reasons why women wean, and those reasons can't be deciphered by simply looking at a woman who is feeding her baby formula. Whether it's because she's a sexual assault survivor and breastfeeding is a trigger, or she is in pain because of an infection, or she is simply too tired and too exhausted to continue, or she is having problems with supply or, you know, she just doesn't want to breastfeed anymore; those reasons aren't painted on the faces of women who breastfeed, and they're all valid reasons why someone should stop breastfeeding if they want to.
...But Please Don't Feel The Need To Explain Yourself Or Your Decision
You're not a bad mother if you wean "early" and you're definitely not a bad mother if you don't want to sit and explain every single decision you make as a parent. You don't owe anyone any explanations, no matter what they say or how hard they judge or how long they shame you.
Using And/Or Substituting With Formula Won't Hurt Your Baby...
Formula isn't poisonous and it won't hurt your child if you decide to feed it to them. It's a perfectly healthy substitute and has existed for decades for a very specific reason. In fact, formula is the reason why so many babies end up living healthy, normal lives.
...Either Way, Your Kid Is Getting Fed
Honestly, as long as you're feeding your kid (among other things, of course) you're a good mother. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding falls secondary to simply feeding.
Mothers Are Shamed For Breastfeeding For "Too Long," Too...
There are mothers who end up being shamed for deciding to extend breastfeeding into toddlerhood, too. I mean, what is this about?
...So, Honestly, You Can't Win
Seriously, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. You can "wean too early" and you can "breastfeed for too long" and it's all just a wash, when you think about it. No matter what you do or what parenting decision you make or whatever choice you end up deciding on, there will be someone who disagrees with you and someone who haphazardly decided that you're a "bad mom." Don't let the inevitable judgement change how you view yourself. You're a great mother, weaning early or not.