To the Mum who feels She Failed at Breastfeeding: An Open Letter

Dear Mum,

Congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby.

Whether your baby was born yesterday or 5 years ago, congratulations!

Today, I’m writing you – the mum struggling with breastfeeding failure and guilt!

My story of Breastfeeding failure and guilt

You see, I remember all so vividly the birth of my first son, just 2 and a half years ago. He came 9 days late and I was soooo impatient to finally meet him.

I spent a lot of time day-dreaming about the first time I would breastfeed him.

I imagined I would put him on my chest just after birth for skin-to-skin. Then, he would wiggle around till he got to my breasts. And then, latch-on with baby instincts.

Only, it never happened in any of the ways I had happened. To be honest, the breastfeeding almost didn’t happen at all! Neither did the skin to skin!

You see, my son was born tongue-tied. This was unknown to me at the time. As a result, he struggled to latch.

It took a whole day with numerous interventions from several midwives for him to get it right.

When he eventually did. Oh my! How it hurt! After really struggling through the pain and bruised nipples, I gave up exclusive breastfeeding after only 10 days.

Sore and tender nipples from breastfeeding a tongue-tied baby

I can tell you now, that was one of the most painful decisions I’ve ever made! I cried! I was heartbroken and I felt like I had failed him.

Precisely that I had FAILED AT BREASTFEEDING. Something, I thought should come so naturally. Something, I never imagined would cause so much pain. This same thing that others did so beautifully.

But I failed at it.

For the longest time, I could not forgive myself. I felt guilty of not being able to breastfeed. I felt like a failure for not breastfeeding.

On you feeling like a breastfeeding failure

So, I do understand you, mama. I feel your pain and anguish and guilt.

Many may not understand. Why would a woman feel a deep sense of shame, guilt, and failure at giving up breastfeeding earlier than intended? Except you’ve walked in similar shoes, it’s difficult to explain.

The absolutely heart-wrenching feeling you have when you so desperately want to breastfeed but can’t.

You blame your family and friends for not warning you in advance about how HARD breastfeeding can be.

Too late, you realize the antenatal class instructor made breastfeeding seem so easy and natural. More importantly, she didn’t adequately warn you there could be challenges along the way.

woman weeping from breastfeeding guilt

Difficult challenges. Times, when you’ll be up at night weeping during another painful breastfeeding session.

.And when she told you your baby will naturally wiggle up your chest and latch onto your breast; you wish she had just added that this was hardly ever always the case especially if there are complications.

You get angry that a lot of women hide the truth about postpartum and about how hard breastfeeding can be!

Worse of all you BLAME YOURSELF.

You should have read up more on breastfeeding. Endured the pain more. Or you wonder why your body failed you. Failed to do what it should have done so naturally.

I know all this because I’ve been there! You can’t breastfeed and feel like a failure. This is exactly how I FELT! I know this feeling.

The feeling of GUILT that comes as well.

The guilt that you didn’t give your baby the right start to life. You didn’t give him enough antibodies to fight infections.

This guilt gets worse when he gets sick. You can’t help but think that if only you had breastfed him, then he might not have been ill in the first place.

But, it gets better: Coping with breastfeeding failure

Yes, mama, I see you. I hear you even if others don’t. You are not alone!

I want to remind you of something I’m quite sure you already know. Or hopefully you’ve heard before.

You are a FANTASTIC mother!

Your worth as a mother is not tied to how you fed your baby. Whether or not you successfully breastfed or not!

You are a mum first and foremost.

A mum that cared enough to feed her child the best way possible that ended up feeling guilty about quitting breastfeeding. And felt that she failed at breastfeeding.

You had those feelings because you CARED. Cared so much about giving your child the best. The best start in life. And that is what makes you FAB!

Do NOT let anyone put you down for quitting breastfeeding. Not even yourself! Don’t put yourself down for doing what you felt was best for you and your baby!

30 years from now, your baby will be a happy adult that wouldn’t care less if he was breastfed or not!

These are things I try to remind myself of when I start to have breastfeeding guilt. I try to change my perspective. After all, I, myself, am a formula-fed baby.

You can CHOOSE your perspective!

Instead of feeling like a failure why not look at it with a different lens.

A woman showing gratitude as a way of overcome breastfeeding failure

The lens of GRATITUDE.

Gratitude that you have a healthy baby. You were able to feed him because you had the money to buy formula milk.

If you look at your life with a different lens, you’ll be grateful. There are so many reasons to be!

Think of the future and how inconsequential this will be for your son 30, 50 years from now.

You may be wondering If I wrote this letter because I’ve successfully dealt with my breastfeeding guilt.

I wish I could say I completely have. But after almost 3 years, I have come a long way from how I once felt.

Once in a while, I still grieve giving up breastfeeding early. On occasion, I feel guilty especially when my son falls ill. Or when I’m breastfeeding his brother and I think of the breastfeeding bond I could have shared with my first son as well.

I feel sad about not having that same breastfeeding bond with my first child.

But I am grateful that I was able to breastfeed my second baby after not being successful the first time.

You see, I really wanted to breastfeed my children. With my second son, I prepared thoroughly for breastfeeding. I got a fantastic midwife on board and she was fabulous! I bought breastfeeding accessories etc. And I PRAYED!!!

I just want to encourage you if you really desire to breastfeed your next child, it is possible. Especially if the reasons you couldn’t before were due to a lack of proper breastfeeding education as is the case, most times.

And if breastfeeding didn’t work for you before and you would rather not do it again. That’s fine as well.

Remember the goal is a happy mum and a happy baby

Other posts related to failing at breastfeeding:

Are you out there struggling with feelings of breastfeeding failure and guilt? I’ll love to read from you. Share your story below.

Whatever the case, remember you are not alone. I see YOU. I hear YOU.

You are NOT a failure. You are a GREAT mum doing your best for your kid(s).

Love always.

Gloria

An (almost former) breastfeeding guilty mum

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