Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone. Back when I was pregnant with my son, I was reading books and websites about how to raise a child the most "natural" way possible. That entailed, among other things, using cloth diapers, avoiding the mainstream baby products (shampoos, soaps, etc.), and breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months. Little did I know that my son’s birth would be incredibly complicated, and that breastfeeding would be a tremendous challenge. I would have benefitted from these mantras for women who couldn’t breastfeed, mantras that can keep you feeling grounded and OK and capable and empowered, when you might otherwise feel helpless and broken.
There are many reasons why some mothers can’t breastfeed. If you’re unable to breastfeed right away, for example, it might complicate the initial let-down process. My son was placed in the NICU immediately after birth and, as a result, I was unable to begin breastfeeding until he was about a week old. Even then, I hadn’t pumped enough and my milk all but disappeared about as quickly as it had arrived. Other moms can’t breastfeed due to the triggering nature the act of breastfeed can elicit, which may remind them of previous sexual assault trauma. Other women have hypoplasia or insufficient glandular tissue; which I was later told by a lactation consultant I may have. This means I (and others) are physically incapable of producing enough milk to keep our babies full and healthy. As a mother that spent the better part of her pregnancy looking for ways to "naturally" raise her child, you can't imagine what a blow it was to hear that my body couldn't do what I wanted and needed it to.
Like many others, I know what it’s like to desperately want to breastfeed your child and simply be unable to. If you’re finding yourself in this situation, use these mantras to get you by. Most important, know that there's nothing "wrong" or "unnatural" about you. Not. At. All.
"Not Breastfeeding Does Not Make Me Less Of A Mother"
Because I couldn’t breastfeed the way I wanted, I initially felt like I wasn’t living up to the supermom standard I wanted to achieve. Of course, every mom ends up feeling a bit guilty about things because our society tends to put a lot of pressure on moms being these perfect, wholly-giving beings. However, I know that I am a great, caring, and nurturing mother and none of it had to do with how much I breastfed.
"Not Breastfeeding Does Not Make Me Less Of A Woman "
I’ve always felt a bit self-conscious about my small chest. Our society tends to glorify breasts and I’ve often felt like “less” of a woman because of my not-so-ample bust. I was excited when I read that breast size had nothing to do with breastfeeding success, but I still had difficulty and it made me feel slightly inadequate again. But know this: breasts do not a real woman make, and neither does breastfeeding.
"My Baby Will Be Just Fine And Healthy Drinking Formula"
Sure, babies benefit from breast milk, but that doesn’t mean they get sick if they drink formula. Formula is fortified to ensure your baby grows strong and healthy. Repeat this to yourself as a reminder that formula is OK, too.
"Formula Is Not Evil"
Some folks would have you believe that everything found in baby formula will result in your child developing cancer (or worse). If you don’t believe me, do a quick Google search on “baby formula is poison” and see how many results you end up with.
Saying formula is poison is a vicious lie and causes more harm than good. Some babies need formula and it’s totally fine.
"Breastfeeding Isn’t For Everyone"
Baby wearing isn’t for everyone and circumcision isn’t for everyone and breastfeeding sure as hell isn’t for everyone. It’s a choice to attempt to breastfeed, and success is one part effort and another part luck. If you’re unable to do it, that’s alright.
"Breastfeeding Is Beautiful, But So Is Bottle Feeding"
I understand the push for breastfeeding in recent years, but I don’t understand when it is wrapped up in shaming moms who use formula. I will advocate hard for moms to breastfeed in public, on demand, and for as long as is right for their family. It’s a beautiful thing.
However, so is feeding a baby in any way, because the real beauty is in your child feeding and growing and you being the one to help them do it.
"If You Don’t Support My Bottle Feeding, You Don’t Support Me"
I can’t stress this enough. If someone shames you for feeding your baby formula, and they don’t see why that’s wrong, you don’t need them in your life. Period.
"Sometimes It’s OK To Stop Trying"
Early motherhood is hard enough without dealing with the potential difficulties of breastfeeding. I pushed myself to the edge trying to breastfeed my son, pumping every 2-3 hours, sacrificing sleep, taking supplements, and doing everything I could to produce more milk. In the end, all I was doing was driving myself batty with little output. I "gave up" because I knew I would be a better mom if I stopped exhausting myself. I was right.
"I Would Never Judge A Formula Feeding Mom, So Why Judge Myself?"
It’s funny how we often are harsher on ourselves than anyone else. While I was nearly beating myself senseless trying to breastfeed my son, I never stopped to think how I’d react if I had a friend in my shoes. More than likely I’d tell her to relax and take a step back, tell her it was OK if she needed to stop and tell her that she needed to be kind to herself. Why couldn’t I do that for myself?
"My Body Is Not To Blame"
Being unable to produce enough milk when you really want to can make you curse your breasts to the goddesses on high. I looked down at my chest time and again, angry that I wasn’t filled to the brim with breast milk for my baby.
But it wasn’t my body’s fault.
My body wasn’t trying to punish me or my kid. That’s just how things were. Those were the cosmic cards I was dealt. There’s no need to hate on your body, especially when it just grew another human and birthed that human into the world and is still in recovery from something as magnificent and awe-inspiring as labor and delivery.
"My Baby Won’t Remember Any Of This "
Some moms might find some comfort in knowing that none of this matters to your baby. Had my mother not told me I was raised on formula, I’d have no way of knowing what my first year of meals consisted of. Your kiddo? Definitely won’t care either.
"I Did My Best, And That’s Enough"
In life, all we can do is our best. So why should we make an exception for breastfeeding? If you want to try, go for it, but once you can’t anymore, it’s important to remind yourself (and know) that you’ve done enough.
"A Fed Baby Is A Happy Baby"
This is just a variation on “fed is best.” At the end of the day, all that matters is that your baby is eating and growing and healthy. Always keep this in mind. You’re a good mom, and you’ve fed your baby, and that’s all that matters.