Guilt-Free Breastfeeding: Advice From A Mom Of Five



I partnered with/received compensation from Babywise.Life to write this post.  Even though this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

First I should probably clarify for new readers that I'm a mom of four on the outside and one in the oven, who I plan on nursing despite my difficult beginnings with breastfeeding!

I was never an obsessive breastfeeding advocate before I had a baby, but before Wyatt was born I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed him for a year.  I was pregnant with him seven years ago, and maybe this is the case with new mothers now as well, but I felt like the pressure to breastfeed was at the highest it had ever been.  There were plenty of studies about the benefits of breastfeeding, and I heard them all.  I felt that if I was really going to do the best for my baby, I had to try to make it to a year.  That’s what good new mothers did.

Wyatt was born at 37 weeks after an induction from pre-eclampsia, and all the nurses were surprised about how quickly he caught on to nursing.  They expected small babies to have a tougher time, but we didn’t seem to have any problems.  I left the hospital proud of my baby, and proud of myself that everything had gone so smoothly.

That didn’t last long.  

About a week after I brought him home from the hospital, we started having problems.  And by problems, I mean that I would cry out in pain every time he latched.  I couldn’t figure out what went wrong!  I talked to my doctor and lactation consultants, I read online great articles about breastfeeding trouble-shooting and about what a proper latch looks like.  But every time he went to eat, I ended up with tears streaming down my cheeks.

On top of that, I developed mastitis, which took a little time to be properly diagnosed.  I remember a few days being laid out on the couch with a fever and a hard knot in my chest, knowing I needed to nurse more often to try to get it out, but crying when I thought about it because I knew it was going to hurt so badly.

All this lasted about a month, and I started to almost resent when Wyatt would get hungry and want to eat.  Even though it wasn’t great for our relationship, I’d suck it up anyway, and scream in pain, and cry a little.  Finally someone told me something that I will never forget (even though I forget who exactly told me this amidst this painful newborn phase).  

Someone told me that your bond with your baby is more important than whether you breastfeed or not.

That little bit of advice meant so much to me - because someone had finally given me permission to let breastfeeding go if I needed to.   Someone had finally acknowledged that there are more important things in motherhood than whether I breastfed or not.

That advice helped me to take my doctor’s advice when she suggested I stop nursing on the affected side and just pump until there was some improvement.  That advice gave me permission to not breastfeed because I felt I had to, but only if I wanted to.

It was the most freeing thing I could have heard at that time in my motherhood journey, because it made me realize that breastfeeding is not what makes a person a good mother.  The love and care you have for your baby, and the bond that forms with or without breastfeeding, is what makes you a good mother.

I did end up finally healing and I nursed Wyatt until six months old.  Even with future troubles with my supply and nursing a baby with a food sensitivity (Gwen), nursing has been a such a sweet time with all my babies.  But it’s been sweeter yet knowing I breastfed my babies because I wanted to, and not because I was obligated to.  I am most proud today not of how long (or not long) I breastfed, but that it was a guilt-free journey.

So if I were to give advice to a brand-new mom today about breastfeeding, it would be that: Breastfeed because you want to, not because you have to.  Know that if everything doesn’t go as planned, you can fight through it and still have a successful breastfeeding story - or you can decide to let it go for the sake of reducing the stress on your bond, and that is a good choice too.  Your bond with your baby is not dependent on how successful you are at breastfeeding.  Loving your baby, and caring for their needs as best you can, until someday they don’t need you anymore - that’s what makes you a good mother.  Regardless of how this part of your motherhood story goes, it’s only one brief part, and not anywhere close to the most important.




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Michelle said...

I love this and could not agree more. I had a very terrible experience nursing Gracie. For two months the pain was indescribable, but I refused to give it up out of guilt. We worked through it and I'm so thankful for that, but I wish it had not been because I felt like a failure if I didn't.

Angi said...

Love this!! Currently in the throes of BF drama over here. It's hard not to give up some days but I really want to keep at it, I know it'll be rewarding if we all survive this period of time!

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