Women are constantly put in a position of having to explain and justify themselves. The narrow yet often contradictory scope of "acceptable womanhood" leaves us feeling like, when we don't fit into that paradigm, we need to tell people why. I've found this is particularly (or at least uniquely) true when it comes to motherhood, and breastfeeding is one of the worst topics when it comes to having to justify oneself. But here's the secret: come closer... YOU DON'T! The breastfeeding struggles you don't have to prove are real are, literally, any breastfeeding struggle you face. People will try to convince you otherwise, but don't believe them.
It shouldn't really surprise anyone that breastfeeding gives so many people Big Feels — it meets at a baggage-laden intersection of "children," "women's bodies," and "eating." Any one of these issues is brimming with societal bullsh*t and the confluence of all three is a veritable Patriarchal garbage fire.
Breastfeeding is hard enough without jerk people with their jerk ideas forcing you, on top of everything else, to explain just how much your personal challenges are challenging you. (Especially when a lot of these problems are super common and if they were interested in learning more they could just go ahead and Google it.) So please allow me to give you personal permission (something women have been trained to seek as well, by the way) to never have to prove any of the following:
Your Baby Has No Clue What They're Doing
Some people just don't believe that, no, really, it's the baby that's the problem. You're doing everything right but the baby just isn't getting it. Maybe they can't latch or they get super distracted or they fall asleep before they can eat enough or a million other things that are all on the baby.
And hey, that's OK. It's not like the baby is doing it on purpose. They're new to this "being a human" nonsense. Maybe they'll get it and maybe they won't and you'll wind up formula-feeding. Whichever works for you and your baby is the right choice, and you don't have to prove to anyone that it's the kid that's the issue.
Whether this is a temporary or persistent issue, undersupply (not producing sufficient milk to feed your baby) is a challenge many moms face. Some people — lucky people, people who have not faced this particular challenge themselves — may, unfortunately, believe you're making excuses because they buy the rosy lie that everyone is capable of feeding a baby with their body if they really want to. It is not up to you to convince them otherwise.
"How can someone have too much milk?" those lucky ones may ask. "I would love to have a lot of milk!" Only, no, you probably wouldn't. Oversupply can be very painful for the person with the boobs (engorgement anyone?) and can also be an issue for baby, exacerbating reflux issues or just providing too much damn milk per serving. A lot of parents with oversupply wind up exclusively pumping, which is its own version of fresh hell.
Previous trauma, particularly sexual assault, can really complicate a woman's relationship with her body. Your experiences are your own and you don't need to prove anything was "serious enough" to warrant it having an effect on your breastfeeding relationship with your child.
It happens and it sucks and it's not something you need to share with or explain to anyone. If you do, maybe they'll be cool and have some good advice for you... or they could "well actually" you and either dismiss your struggle as not being too bad or let you know how whatever you're doing to get infections is clearly your fault and here's what you have to do to stop that. You can just go ahead and tune those people out.
Pressure To Breastfeed
I feel like most people understand that this is a problem, but some people will highlight the challenges breastfeeding mothers face as a counterpoint, as though both problems cannot exist at once. Yes, many women are completely unsupported in their efforts to breastfeed (to say nothing of trans and genderqueer people who want to do the same), but that doesn't take away from the fact that many others face tremendous pressure to not only nursing but exclusively nurse their children and that pressure can be overwhelming and even damaging.
Just Plain Not Liking It
Seriously, you don't need to come up with a reason: you can just not like it for any reason you don't like it, or for no one solid reason at all. This does not require a formal thesis to present to anyone who would ask you about it. Saying "meh" is enough and should be respected.
Pressure To Stop Breastfeeding
This, I find, is particularly common once the child gets a little bit older. Different folks have their different thresholds as to how old is "too old" to nurse. I've heard everything from two weeks (no, really) to six months to a year to two years. The truth is, there's no medically or psychologically justified expiration date on breastfeeding. Yet the struggle of dealing with people who would have you believe otherwise is real.
Remember, you don't need to prove those people exist. You know they do.
Some people who have no problems whatsoever breastfeeding have a lot of trouble dealing with a pump. Like me, for example. My body just did not respond well to a pump and so going back to work proved to be an enormous challenge in continuing to feed my son breast milk exclusively (eventually we combo fed and I still count it as one of my best parenting decisions to date). It happens, and you don't need to go overboard to convince people of this fact.
Preexisting Medical Conditions That Making Breastfeeding Harder
Whether it's the condition itself or a medication you take to treat the condition, there are lots of things that can be happening with your body that make nursing hard... and that's valid. Never let anyone make you feel like you have to pass some sort of test to prove just how much of a struggle it is.
Maybe you're someone who had depression before you had a baby and, in choosing to breastfeed, you're forgoing medication. Maybe breastfeeding is causing your depression. You know how you feel, and you deserve help and support instead of people telling you you just have the baby blues or need to smile more.
If anyone ever tells you "if you're doing it right it doesn't hurt" you hereby have my permission to karate chop them. My permission will not get you out of any kind of ensuing legal trouble but, like, I won't blame you for a damn thing.
Struggling To Find The Time To Do It All
Work, other children, all other childcare needs, other family matters, feeling like a human being and not a vending machine for a greedily hungry baby all require a massive amount of energy and time. And the times you need to do various things are not always compatible. You don't need to show anyone a schedule to prove this to them. After all, you don't have time for all the stuff you have to do, let alone this nonsense.
There is no quantifiable number of either hours of sleep or hours awake or whatever to make your exhaustion "count." This is all exhausting and everyone feels it at their own level in their own way.
Any Issue That Makes You Decide To Stop
Deciding to stop breastfeeding at any point is never something you have to justify. Ya done good, mama. Live your life.