As a NICU and Post Partum nurse I had given myself permission to go with the flow of breastfeeding success or failure before I even got pregnant with my first. I pumped for both so they still got the nutrition of my breast milk. And they definitely got tons of love. Yet, I still experienced overwhelming sadness when I realized that breastfeeding was not going to happen. Those feeling rose up again when it was time to stop pumping. I feel fortunate that my family did not add pressure and guilt to those painful times.
I asked my childhood friend, Tracy Bess, to write this guest blogger post about how to deal with your feelings when breastfeeding does not go as planned. Tracy is a Certified Lactation Counselor and Post Partum Registered Nurse who breastfed her four sons. It's important for mothers to understand that the feelings surrounding stopping breastfeeding efforts or stopping pumping/expressing breastmilk are very, very intense, very normal, and very real. Tracy has some excellent tips for getting through a difficult decision. Thanks, Tracy! - Anara
You’ve read the books, you may have even attended breastfeeding classes. You've prepared yourself for the magical day when your baby is born and the moment when your baby is placed to your breast for the first time to breastfeed. Or perhaps you’ve breastfed successfully in the past and you expected smoother sailing this time now that you’re experienced.
In an ideal world, all babies would get their milk directly from their mother’s breast. In the real world complications arise. Despite all the best efforts, for many women breastfeeding isn’t the magical event they envisioned. Early on, even with healthy, full-term babies, it is rare that there isn’t some sort of obstacle to get past. The obstacles of breastfeeding a preemie, a baby born with a disability, or a baby with a medical condition can be overwhelming.
There is no denying that breast is best, but for some women and babies, breastfeeding may simply not be an option. How do you deal with the guilt that you may be plaguing yourself with or the pressure from well meaning family, friends, and the media to breastfeed if you are unable to directly breastfeed and pumping or expressing your milk isn’t an option either?
- First off, allow some grieving. This is a loss and in order to accept the loss you must allow the grieving process to occur.
- The most important thing you can do for your baby is to offer him an emotionally healthy mom. Align yourself with support. Be patient with your feelings, too. Expect good days and bad days.
- Applaud the effort you made before the baby’s birth and after to try and breastfeed. You need to feel good about your efforts.
- Acknowledge that there are sometimes factor’s beyond your control that may make breastfeeding impossible no matter how motivated you are or how well you prepared for breastfeeding.
- Accept the situation and focus on the important aspects of your baby’s health and development. Once you have accepted the situation it will be easier to release the guilt and focus on parenting your special child.
As a PostPartum Registered Nurse, a Certified Lactation Counselor, and a mother of 4 sons, three of which were successfully breastfeed past 6 months and one until a year, I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding. I know all the benefits of why breast is best and I have helped many women get off to a great start with breastfeeding their newborn.
However, the reality is that being the best mother to our children isn’t in the form of nutrition that we provide. It’s in the love, the nurturing, and in the bond formed between mother and baby. Bonding comes in many forms. Snuggle with your baby, stroke your baby, read and sing to your baby. Releasing yourself from the guilt placed on yourself will allow you to be the mother your baby needs you to be.
You might also like:
Directory of Resources for Parents of Premature Babies (check it out even if your baby is not Premature - there are some good links and tips for breastfeeding and bonding support)
Do You Know Enough about SIDS Prevention? Take the Back to Sleep Quiz!
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