When I made the decision to breastfeed, I was pretty good at brushing off mentions of other people's negative experiences. I knew potential complications were a thing, but I wasn't in any way prepared for the nauseating roller coaster ride that would be nursing (for me). It was an awful journey, filled with heartache and disappointment. So, when I couldn't deal with the anxiety and depression anymore, I stopped. As a result of my decision, I heard things you wouldn't believe people say to a woman who quits breastfeeding; things I'd never say to another new mother who made the best choice for her, and her situation.
My choice to stop breastfeeding came after a significant period of time in which I endured a long string of complications. Not only did my milk fail to come in as it's supposed to, but my baby absolutely refused me and the process itself. Not only was I frustrated when things didn't go as expected, I was confused. I did everything necessary to prepare, went in with a "can-do" attitude, and still I failed. The stress of not being able to execute such a "natural" thing caused so much anxiety, my postpartum depression worsened to the point that I emotionally detached from motherhood completely. It was a dark time that escalated slowly enough I didn't notice until it was almost too late. The first thing I did as an attempt to re-center, was stop breastfeeding. It was a painful decision, but my mental and emotional health depended on stopping. So I did.
There's so much judgement surrounding whether or not us moms choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed, whether we use cloth or disposable diapers, and whether or not we choose to stay home or continue on with full-time careers. None of these are easy things we aren't fully thinking through. Ultimately, whatever we decide is what's best for us and our babies. What someone thinks doesn't, and shouldn't, factor into our decision making. With that, here's some unbelievable things people say to women who quit breastfeeding. For the record, I've heard them all and not a single one changed my mind.
"What's Wrong With You?"
There are some incredibly brash people in the world, who don't think about their words before deciding to shout an opinion across the room. They don't always mean to come off this way, I'm sure, but they do.
When I stopped breastfeeding, hearing this question made me wonder two things: Is this person asking what's wrong with me, medically? If so, my postpartum was severe enough that yes I had to stop breastfeeding. If the person with the seemingly necessary question just wanted to inquire about my decision with the kind of tone that suggests I've made a mistake, then no. I'm not going to open up to someone about my decision or struggle, in any way, if they're already coming to the conversation with assumptions and judgment.
"Don't You Care About Your Baby's Health?"
I don't know why some feel it's OK to even hint at this sentiment, but I heard it more than once. Of course I cared about my baby's health, which is why I attempted to breastfeed far longer than I probably should have. It was taking an obvious toll on my mental health and delaying our bonding process entirely, but I kept at it with the desperate hope it'd work itself out. It didn't, though, and once I quit my healthy baby and I were much better off.
"That's A Selfish Choice"
Is it selfish to take care of myself so I can be the best mother to my new baby? If so, then yes — I'm incredibly selfish. I'm selfish for making the choice I needed to make so that I could seek the treatment I deserved. I'm selfish for sticking through the painful, frustrating breastfeeding sessions where nothing was accomplished. I'm selfish for pumping long after I stopped exclusively breastfeeding, then finally going to formula when the time was right. Mostly, I'm selfish for wanting to bond with my baby, because the way for us to connect didn't involve breastfeeding.
"You'll Miss Out On All The Bonding"
False. As I said, I couldn't bond while trying to breastfeed. My baby was too fussy, and I was too anxious and stressed as a result. We missed out on bonding for what turned out to be months. I was so set on nailing down the breastfeeding dream, I lost sight of what motherhood is — making the choices that best benefit my new baby. We found our bond once I went to the bottle.
"Formula Is Bad For Babies"
There's conflicting advice and opinions on whether or not formula is the best option. Most agree breast is best, though when it's not possible or too difficult (as it was for me), there are plenty of formulas that re-create some of the nutrients found in breast milk. Regardless, the most important part of feeding your baby is that you, well, actually feed your baby. So while breastfeeding truly is incredible, fed is best.
When I reluctantly went to formula, I did a lot of research and asked the opinion of the pediatrician and other mothers who used formulas, too. As long as my baby is thriving, does it matter?
"I Had Similar Problems & I Did It"
I know quite a few women who struggled to adequately breastfeed but, despite those difficulties, soldiered on. That's great for them, but making comparisons is unfair. Our circumstances were different.
I wish I'd been able to continue my attempts to breastfeed, because it might have been great. Then again, there's always the chance that it would've always been awful and we'd have been miserable. I can't apologize for all the good that came because of my choice to stop.
"You'll Regret Not Sticking It Out"
Immediately after I decided to pump, then go to formula, some people reminded me how much I'd regret my decision. Helpful.
It's not to say they weren't entirely wrong, though. I mean, of course I wanted to be successful at breastfeeding. I even hired a lactation consultant. Still, I wasn't. It's something I can't go back and change. Now that my kids are older, I think back on that time and know I made the best decisions I could at the time. So while I wish breastfeeding would have worked, I have no qualms about deciding to stop when I did.