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How to overcome feeling like a failure because you don’t breastfeed your child

When your baby comes into this world, your responsibilities as a mother are immediate; you need to provide comfort and nutrition to your child through the most primal and basic act of breastfeeding. But what happens if your body doesn’t produce milk?

Perhaps you take medication and are advised not to breastfeed? Maybe you have to go back to work and your body can’t keep up the milk supply away from your baby. Or maybe you’ve decided that breastfeeding is simply not going to work for you.

The choice to not breastfeed

There are many paths that lead to the decision of not breastfeeding your baby but they all seem to have one outcome – feelings of failure, guilt, shame, fear of judgment and disappointment.

High expectations

Having expectations at all can only prepare you for one thing- a big downfall. Whether it’s pressure you’ve placed on yourself or pressure placed on you by society, family or friends set the bar low.

This is not a bad thing as a mother, the fact that you feel these emotions shows that you want to do the best for your baby. By continually comparing yourself to other moms and listening to the judgment of others, you may create a stressed, anxious state for yourself and your baby.

Breastfeeding is only one factor

For a child to grow and flourish, they need unconditional love and support, the assurance of a happy home as well as good nutrition. Yes, the benefits of breastfeeding are well known but there has also been a lot of research into what best to put into formula so babies can thrive in the absence of breastmilk.

If you focus on your baby and yourself, try to be present and provide your baby with love and attention, they are sure to grow into healthy well-adjusted children.

Deep attachment

There are many opportunities for meaningful moments throughout the day through playing, singing, exploring the world together or just the simple joy and closeness you both feel when your baby falls asleep on your chest.

You can’t please everyone

Your priority should be your baby, yourself and your partner. After all, there is no need to explain your choice to others. There is a sense of freedom and relief when you accept those feelings of failure and guilt.

It gives you permission to move on and do what your baby needs you to do- be present and offer them unconditional love and support.

If you still feel shame about not being able to breastfeed and it’s causing you distress, speak with your GP or baby health nurse for some support.  You will be able to speak to a breastfeeding counselor who may be able to assist you in overcoming these obstacles.

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