Guilt: the great conversation killer.

“Women should not feel guilty if they are unable to nurse their baby, but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so, and they should be intellectually honest enough to know the difference.” ~ Elizabeth Gene

This quote was bouncing around FaceBook on a few pages I “like” last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I recognize that this quote is taken out of context which causes it to be understood differently than originally intended. However, this is exactly how it was presented and commented on though FaceBook often with great passion. It was discussed on The Leaky B@@b forums as well and I am building on some of what I said there, here. Because I couldn’t quiet my thoughts on the matter I decided to explore it freely.

“Women should not feel guilty if the are unable to nurse their baby…”
Here, here! Absolutely, totally agree with this. It happens, sometimes things don’t work right or there are special circumstances or situations make it beyond difficult and a mother can’t breastfeed. Nobody should feel guilty for something they couldn’t control. But sometimes they do. Why is that? Because they think nobody will believe them? Because they are so grieved themselves that things didn’t work out? I would hope that it isn’t because other moms cast guilt on them and that along their parenting journey they find away to let it go. I want to wrap my arms around all the women in the world that wanted to breastfeed but could not and tell them that they are amazing women, loving and caring for their children with all their heart, mind, soul and body. Just like women that are able to breastfeed.

“… but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so, and they should be intellectually honest enough to know the difference.”
Hmmm, well, here I have a problem. First of all, they should feel guilty? Guilt is supposed to be something only we bring on ourselves so why would anyone say someone should feel guilty? When we feel guilt it is because we know we did something wrong, something dishonest. For someone to suggest that we should feel guilt is to be shamed. Shame is an ugly monster, it causes people to hide, to conceal their hurt and to guard and protect it so they don’t hurt more. It does not bring openness. It certainly doesn’t encourage them to “be intellectually honest enough to know the difference.” I want women to own it when they are unwilling to nurse and if at all possible to explore why that is but I don’t wish guilt on them. Honesty with themselves, sure, that would be great but not for me, for themselves! If they can be honest, rather than defensive with themselves then maybe they could even talk about it. Guilt and it’s evil twin Shame are great conversation killers, particularly when delivered by their twisted Uncle Judgment step-child of Pride.

Guilt to change a culture?
I want to change attitudes about breastfeeding, breasts, women and infant/toddler nutrition, these are subjects I am passionate about. BUT, and this is a big huge but, I think that intending to create guilt in people does not bring about change. Guilt is a poor motivator and does not encourage dialogue. There is so much too that can not be seen or understood as to why people make the choices they do. If we are spending our energy trying to incite guilt in them instead of supporting all mothers, we are not going to create an atmosphere that encourages actual change but rather breads resentment and bitterness. Telling a woman she should feel guilty for not breastfeeding by choice is dismissing her personal struggles, invalidating her emotions and intelligence. Yes, we have to make sacrifices for our children but if a sacrifice is made that causes a woman to struggle with resentment and bitterness then surely sacrifice that comes out of obligation, fear of judgment and guilt is not really sacrifice at all but a form of martyrdom and can do more harm than good. Nobody wants a mother to kill herself, emotionally or physically, that would be worse for the baby than 2 years of formula any day. Nor should these women give up having children because they have struggles. I have a problem with saying a woman who isn’t ready to give up her personal struggles and inhibitions and willingly breastfeed shouldn’t be having children. All of us have issues that make us less than perfect parents but in the end what a child needs is love, parents that are present in the child’s life, and their physical and emotional needs met. If a woman can do that then she should not be excluded from having children even if she chooses not to breastfeed. Society (and formula companies) as a whole should bear the burden of guilt. In the end though, guilt will change nothing, education will.

Going deeper than guilt.
This quote has one thing I really love about it, that women that tried to breastfeed but honestly couldn’t shouldn’t feel guilty. That part I stand by wholeheartedly. It’s the flip side that I have a problem with, that women that didn’t even try to breastfeed should feel guilty. I honestly feel sorry for the women that don’t breastfeed because they are afraid of their breasts sagging, because they will feel less sexy or because it is gross or any other reason based on low self-esteem, sexually related concerns, past relationships or abuse, or fear of what others will think. I wish I could figure out how to tell them that their worth, their value is not in their sex appeal, not in their body meeting some standard but rather in who they are. Questions run through my head as to the heart of their reasons to be unwilling. What kind of wound are they trying to band-aid with the belief that their bodies are so valuable only if they are a certain way? What deep hurt prevents them from being able to give further of their bodies to nourish their child? What suffering have they encountered that creates fear and disgust towards the amazing miracle that is their own body’s capabilities? What lies have they believed about themselves and the world that causes them to silence the voice inside their head and leads them to reject what comes naturally to them as mothers? How alone do they feel that embarking into the territory of parenting is something they can face but the landscape of breastfeeding is too much? How overwhelmed are they already feeling to give themselves permission to avoid confronting any or all of these issues and then some in favor of something they know is at the very lest, second best for the child they so love?

And what can I do to help encourage and support them, educating from a place of non-judgment?

I love how Sarah, one of the posters on the forum put it (actually, everybody brought thoughtful and challenging responses that I appreciated): I have never understood the whole “well, the ones who *couldn’t* nurse shouldn’t feel guilty, but those who *wouldn’t* nurse should!” argument. With very few exceptions, moms try to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. I will never judge another mother’s efforts as “not enough” when it comes to infant feeding decisions, because, to me, it is both unfair and impossible to know what is “enough” for every individual or family.

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Comments

  1. As a new mom, I've found it really difficult to be "intellectual" about anything, much less breastfeeding. The urge to feed my twins from my body was instinctual. Luckily, I had the support I needed both before and after their birth to create a safe space in which I could follow my instincts without succumbing to society's hangups regarding infant feeding. I wish that could be true for every mother.

  2. Tiffany says:

    Wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I just happened upon this blog and really like what you have to say about the quote.

    22 years after the birth of preemie twins, and 16 years after the birth of a "normal" baby, I have some perspective. I had to pump for my one of my twins because he was so sick that his kidneys couldn't handle the formula. I was grateful that I was able to pump. All I did for 2 1/2 months was pump and go to the hospital to visit them. Those babies never did breastfeed. Once they finally got off the vent, they still were on oxygen and had very weak suck reflexes. It was a disappointment but with all their problems I was just happy to have them. Oddly, the one who got the breastmilk was the one who had all the upper resp. infections later, and the one that got the formula rarely ever had any of those issues.

    Then I had the "normal" baby. He was 4 days past due date, weighed 8 lbs. 4 oz.. I was thrilled to be able to BF but ran into BF difficulties with him. It took about 2 months to get us straightened out. If it hadn't been for 2 very supportive friends I would certainly have dropped it. If those friends had made me feel at all guilty, instead of loving me, I would have cut them off. People that are having problems already don't need that.

    I BF him for a year, after which time HE made the decision the stop…he walked at 8 mos. and was just too busy to sit still for it!

    BF is wonderful and I'm glad I could do it, but looking back, it is just such a tiny little blip on the screen. What has preoccupied me in the years since is homeschooling. I think it is one of THE most difficult, yet important things I have done for my kids. Yet, some people who COULD homeschool DON'T. Some homeschoolers want non-homeschoolers to feel guilty for NOT doing it, and some non-homeschoolers want homeschoolers to feel guilty for not participating in the community, or not socializing their kids, or whatever their particular issue is. Then we have the stay-at-home moms vs. the employed moms…sigh.

    Surely everyone has enough to deal with in their own lives without needing to judge and meddle in other peoples' very personal decisions. Life is hard, and most people make the best choices they can for their own families. Respect that.

  4. Anonymous says:

    This is why I love this blog. I'm not pregnant, nor did I have children yet, but I enjoy reading these stories and input so when I do have children, I am better educated about how breastfeeding really is. My sister- and mother-in-law are huge into LLL (group leaders) and I sometimes hear them give judgmental remarks about those who could not breastfeed. I think loving understanding and nonjudgmental discussion is really what would help best. New mothers and even second and third time mothers are overwhelmed and there is often a lack of support, or rather there is support for something else (formula feeding). If there were more people understanding and sympathizing, which I get from this blog, then I think there would be fewer formula fed children who by the way do grow up to be intelligent and healthy children. Thanks, I absolutely love this post!

  5. I'm an OB nurse, and that quote made me a little angry! To be fair I don't know the context it was meant to be in. I am a firm believer that all babies were born to breast feed, but, what if mom doesn't want to? Its easy to sit on our (yeah its mine too) soap box and judge. If mom doesn't want to, how will she feel while doing it? If she doesn't fall in love with breast feeding and does it any way, what emotion is passing from her to baby? I encourage everyone to breast feed until it no longer makes sense for them. And I have gently convinced many women to try it, who had planned on bottle feeding. My 4 nursed until they were close to 2 y/o, in my circle of friends thats early weaning, but I didn't want to after that and my kids weren't all that interested. I NEVER denied them a boob, I think thats cruel, but at 20-22 months I didn't wrestle them down to take it either. But I am extremely impressed (and a little envious) of moms that nurse through toddlerhood. Should I feel guilty for this? IMO NO mother should ever feel guilty for making the best decision for HER and HER child.

    Thanks for your well balanced post. I just found you on face book and I already <3 you!

  6. Maureen, that's a great point. When you're a new mom and faced with all that entails, being intellectual is a challenging goal indeed.

    Jackie and both Anonymouses, thank you. I agree, heaping the guilt on mother's simply trying to do the best they can isn't productive, in fact, it is damaging. Healing should be our goal, not hurting. Jackie, thank you for all that you do as a L&D nurse and supporting families whatever they choose.

    Anonymous #2 this: "If there were more people understanding and sympathizing, which I get from this blog, then I think there would be fewer formula fed children…" is exactly what I believe and part of why I refuse to bash moms that do not breastfeed whatever their reason.

    I love this: "Surely everyone has enough to deal with in their own lives without needing to judge and meddle in other peoples' very personal decisions. Life is hard, and most people make the best choices they can for their own families. Respect that." Thank you so much, that is beautifully expressed.

  7. oursentiments says:

    "…but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so…"

    I understand what everyone is saying here. That we should not wish guilt onto another person. How guilt is a negative emotion and who are we to pin it on someone else? I thank everyone for their thoughts and will continue to think about this. However, I am in agreement with this comment. Maybe it's because of my feelings, personal experience, and the way I read it.

    I will risk sharing my thoughts.

    I think the anger of this section of the comment is mostly coming from the side of 'the mothers who were failed' and not the later 'the mothers who just was not going to'. In my thoughts these mothers who don't do it, think its disgusting and believe the myths. These are the very things that prevented the support for the 'the mothers who were failed'.

    Most of the hateful issues I have endured are from this group of mothers who did not even try to breastfeed. It's the ignorance to breastfeeding that making nursing in public and nursing in general ok for my daughter. It's this group that nearly broke my husband and I up because they made him believe such awful lies about breastfeeding, in result, my mothering. I have ever walked up to a formula feeding mother and condemned them, I respected their choice. Yet I was given this treatment, mainly from those who never latched a child to their breast. I was gross, and enabling my daughter to grow up, I was also doing harm to her, ect. In this I think they should not only feel guilty for but also ashamed.

    I find more support from the women who were failed then the women who just would not. Women who were failed, know that it's hard and know what I am going through. Although they have their fair share of continuing the cycle of myths. I would rather have friends and support from those who tried to breastfeed, then from those who do not know and belittle me.

    NOTE: I would never consider anyone who was brutally abused sexually/physically/emotionally apart of this group of those who just didn't. I would consider them to be in the first group. Only because I feel in my heart they would have, if they could.

    • Alexandra says:

      I actually respect this! I have one daughter and breastfed her for about two days (yes days… giving formula at night). I was sixteen and I thought it was “wierd”, TLB has fully changed my opinion on that (along with a bit of maturity). The only thing I have to ask is; If someone who has never breastfed and only used formula as I did was willing to listen and was absolutly in no way judgemental of you for breastfeeding they just didnt want to do it themselves, would you feel the same way? Because I know that I never turned a cheek to hearing what people had to say about bf, and the more I learned I wished I had turned back, I supported all my fellow teen moms in thier effors and saluted them for having the courage I didnt have. Would you have felt people like me to be a friend or “foe”?

  8. I havent been reading your blog long… but for all of the reasons I was scared to join a breastfeeding group, forum, fb page, etc… was changed by this post. I have always felt that as women who may know more or be really passionate about something we should be uplifting, encouraging,kind, and loving to other women. How helpful could we possibly be if we are slamming, judging, and berating others. I hate that we as women tend to fit the stereotype that "women attack women" instead of standing together. It makes me sad in my soul. Love thy neighbor

    So anyway thank you for this post and by the way… i breastfeed!

  9. I think the worst thing for someone not breastfeeding is that, amongst people who do, you can’t just say it. You feel you have to explain your reasons. Then you get judged. It would be lovely just to be able state the fact, and then get on with things without having to endure pitying stares or outright hostility depending on what you’ve said. Not everyone wants to go into how hard they tried and what a terrible time they had or how they just don’t like it at at every little social occasion. Sometimes its nice just to say you don’t, ask for a jug of warm water to warm up a bottle, and for it not to spark some great philosophical discussion or spiel from an evangelist. Because really, no matter what your reasons, its not that big a deal. Its just one thing among many. I think making it a big deal, like some great divide between mothers is the most damaging thing of all.

    • I think that’s so true. Even though I NEVER ask someone why they don’t/didn’t breastfeed I’ve found that people seem to feel compelled to tell me. It’s almost like they go on the defensive before I’ve even had a chance to respond. In fact, now when people hear that I write and run The Leaky Boob they volunteer all sorts of information about how they couldn’t/didn’t breastfeed and why. I always just want to hug them and tell them it’s ok, I’m not the breastfeeding inquisitor.

      • Premie mommy says:

        This! Always feeling the need to explain, even when you’re just buying it at the store.

  10. I have to admit here that it’s the guilt of not being able to keep going that KEPT me going in the early days of breastfeeding, so to me it was a necessary evil I placed upon MYSELF. I’d never dream of placing it on another mother. There are some women I know wanted to but weren’t given the support they so desperately needed. I wish those mothers could have gone on, but always try to encourage them that they made the right choice for them, no matter what. Pity, guilt, judgment, etc. never helped anyone.

  11. I love this! Thank you for being open, realistic and non-judgmental AND reminding the rest of us not to be 😉

    Sometimes we forget the instinct to breastfeed may be a motherly instinct but so is being loving and nurturing and not just to our babies but to everyone.

  12. As a working mom, I find it very difficult to pump every day, and be up for night time feedings. I am fortunate that I have a job that I can run into another room and pump at.

    I realize it’s a law that employers are supposed to provide a safe, secure place to pump but it’s a NEW law. Just in the last year.

    If I didn’t work where I do, and didn’t have the support system that I do… then I think little Bumbum would be a formula baby. It’s extremely difficult for working moms and I don’t think anyone should ever make people feel guilty.

    If the choice comes down to.. do I work and keep a roof over his head, or stay home and nurse.. guess what? I have to work. No one else is going to do it for me.

    So. Yeah moms make the best choices we can. I’m fortunate that I can pump and get that milk to my son.

    No one should be judged because they can’t.

  13. So well written – thank you for your compassion and support. I am a breastfeeding mother and nursing has always come easy for me and my babies. But i KNOW it doesn’t come so easily for everyone, and I also know that there are some women that just won’t nurse, for whatever reason. I get really tired of all the super-judgy crap that is thrown around on forums – it does absolutely no good. It is likely to either make the mom feel crappier about herself, guilty about her decision, or just angry enough to leave the board. None of these are helpful results!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for being an awesome advocate for mothers in general, not just for those who can and do nurse.

  14. I have 4 children and exclusively breastfed 2 of them into toddlerhood, one only till 4 months and one for only a week. Was it that I “couldn’t” breastfeed the first and last one? It depends on how you look at it physically, yes, I could have. Emotionally, it would have been too difficult and after years of guilt over not breastfeeding my first child I have finally been able to get over it. With my fourth daughter by 4 months I was exhausted, stressed, overwhelmed and just plain tired of having someone latch onto me AGAIN (I had been breastfeeding someone for 6 years straight by this time) and was feeling more resentment that love for her so I made the decision to swtich to formula so anyone could feed her. I feel no guilt (until someone tries to make me feel guilty, lol)

    While breastfeeding IS best I feel that having a happy, caring mother is more important for a child than how they are fed. I also feel that those of us who feel strongly about breastfeedin should do a little less preaching and a little more doing. If you know a new Mom pop over, take the baby and tuck Mom into bed telling her you’ll wake her when baby wants to eat. Or, pop by and grab her older children and take them for the afternoon after tucking Mommy and baby into bed. Stop by with dinner…do a load of laundry or dishes…clean her floors…Show her that she’s not in it alone and doesn’t have to be Superlactating Woman.

  15. I never had any intention of doing anything other than breastfeeding. Formula feeding was something that was never considered an option for me. It was inconceivable that I would do anything else. My mother breastfed myself and my brothers for a combined 10 years. My G cup boobs were leaking colostrum from 22 weeks pregnant. Of course I was going to breastfeed!

    From the word go my son had attachment issues. Then my milk didn’t come in. Day three and he was severely jaundiced, needing uv light treatment in a humidicrib for 24 hours, and I was told by the paed that he had to have a bottle of formula, no we couldn’t finger or cup feed it, because it had to get into him ASAP. While I accept that he needed that bottle (he was fading fast), it was definitely the beginning to an end for our breastfeeding experience.
    While he was in the humidicrib, my husband and I finger fed him, that is, I sat on the bed double pumping for 30 minutes every 2 hours, and my husband fed every drop to our son with a feeding syringe, along with formula top ups. I was given domperidone, and slowly, ever so slowly, I started to get transitional milk.
    However by the time my son came out of that humidicrib, he wasn’t interested in trying. He knew that as hard as he tried to attach, he’d get bugger all for his efforts, and my four day old baby was beating his fists on my boobs and arching his back, trying to get away.
    By day six we decided to give him bottles of EBM and formula top ups, with the idea that we’d wait until my milk was in properly before attempting to breastfeed again, and we were finally able to go home.

    My milk took ten days to come in properly.

    For the next 6 weeks I attended one on one sessions with lactation consultants, the last one admitted that I was doing everything right, that he just wasn’t interested, and whether we caught him very hungry, very sleepy, very alert, calm, whatever, he didn’t want to do it.

    I continued to try until 12 weeks, when it just got too much, having your baby scream his refusal of your breast is heartbreaking, and it wasn’t helping my already struggling milk supply.
    I continued to express my milk until 6 months, by which time it had dwindled to less than one feed a day, at which point I allowed myself to ‘give up’, with a lot of associated grief.

    I will NEVER judge a woman who chooses not to breastfeed. As a bottle feeding mum I have had to explain myself so many times, and it’s heartbreaking every single time. The visual daggers thrown my way by women in shopping malls while bottle feeding my son have made me want to use a breastfeeding booth in a parent room, just to hide my shame, but they’re always busy with breastfeeding mums, and I won’t use that limited resource when it’s needed by others.

    Why should I have to relate my story over and over, hurting every time, to justify why I bottle feed? Because I’m still struggling with the grief and guilt of not succeeding at something so ‘instinctual’ and ‘natural’ as breastfeeding.

    Will I try again with my next baby? YES! I am aching to breastfeed, it is something I desperately want to do. But do I judge others who have been through a similar journey and decide to not even try next time? No way. The emotional rollercoaster is tough, really tough, I wouldn’t ask anyone to go through what I went through, and then to do it all over again.

  16. Heather W says:

    This is a great topic to address, thank you for posting it!

    It can be so easy to swing from one extreme to the other. When you experience discrimination first-hand while NIP or in sharing your intentions to nurse beyond 12 months, sometimes you WANT to lump a group of people together and direct anger at them for the “shame” they placed on you. I think the points you raised about WHY someone willfully chooses to NEVER breastfeed really hit the mark. I think so many decisions are based in fear. Fear of sagging breasts, fear of feeling like she’s giving more than she can, fear of how breastfeeding feels, fear of raising a dependent child, fear of so many different things. And like other times in life, fear is not the best factor on which decisions should be made.

    But those moms have a right to choose. And retribution will sway no one’s opinion. You are right on track that education and acceptance are the ways to win people over, if not to breastfeeding itself, to a better understanding of how great it CAN be for mom and baby both.

  17. I have personally been struggling with a self battle to stop judging. On all parenting accounts. I am a pretty confident person, and don’t feel much guilt in my parenting choices and actions. Even giving a binkie, I thought I never would, but it was the right thing for our baby and us. I do feel like I have to justify it though. “6 week hormonal migrain + colicy baby and father-in-law who just had triple bypass” has cone outta my mouth too many times. As with formula feeding, most choices are made because we feel it’s the best choice. No one should feel guilty shamed or defensive.

    Shaming or guilting doesn’t do anyone any good. By the time someone learns that a mom chose not to BF, it’s usually too late to change it for this baby. And the negativity isn’t going to change her feelings when the next baby comes.
    All we can do is try to dispell some of the myths that surround BFing. To make it seem like the natural, first choice option that it should be. Being supportive of all parenting choices (that we make or are made for us) will help change the world of mommyhood.
    I certaintly wouldn’t want to associate myself with (some have called them) BFing Nazis. Other moms to be who feel such negativity coming from some lactivists will have just one more reason to chose
    formula.

    So when a FFing mom tries to give you the defensive reasoning behind why they couldn’t or wouldn’t just let them know that every mom has the right to make the choice they did. And should feel guilty. If we hear misinformation about breastfeeding, we can gently correct the information.

  18. I like the quote. And as a former Ob/NICU nurse I saw many women do everything in their power to successfully breastfeed, others who never even tried & others who I believe tried it but were looking for the first excuse to quit but not make themselves feel guilty about it since they could say “I tried. What bothered me the most & still does is women who research what’s the “best” to buy their baby- the best car seat, the $1000 bugaboo stroller, the best activity center that will make their baby the smartest etc… yet when it comes to the very thing that’s going to nourish their baby- the very thing that’s keeping them alive… suddenly second best is o.k. I just don’t get it. The Graco stroller isn’t good enough but Similac is. Why are women settling for second best when it comes to the food that’s going in their baby’s body? I’ve had 3 patients that truly couldn’t nurse (one undergoing chemo, one with HIV & one with a breast reduction- who ended up using an SNS), others get caught in “booby traps” which I understand- I saw that all the time at work- there is NOT enough support for women to breastfeed long term. It’s the ones who who have no intention to breastfeed that I don’t understand. Doesn’t make them bad mothers but when I see you carrying around your consumer reports best baby products catalog & bottle of formula I’m going to judge a little. But I know I get judged for toddler nursing- it works both ways I guess!

    • You’re right, you’re being judged for breastfeeding a toddler, as am I. People judge others for all kinds of reasons, in large part because we can’t understand and are arrogant enough to think that if we can’t understand then they must be wrong and we must be better. Finding balance between judging for ourselves what we need/want to do and not judging others for doing the same but making choices we don’t understand is difficult. I guess I just can’t understand wanting someone to feel guilty for something like this. Particularly a mother who probably heaps plenty of guilt on herself without anyone’s help.

      But even more than that I just could never, ever assume I know everything about a person and why they make the choices they do. Those women that don’t ever intend to breastfeed have also been “booby trapped” long before they even had children. Maybe they are a sexual abuse survivor and don’t feel the need to tell you (or anyone else that) or maybe they believe that their entire worth is wrapped up in being sexually desirable and fear breastfeeding would ruin that, or maybe they don’t believe they can emotionally or mentally handle the pressure of having a small person entirely dependent on them alone. Whatever the reason I don’t see how stating things like wishing them guilt is possibly helping ANYONE successfully breastfeed. All I can see it doing is hurting those that don’t breastfeed and damaging opportunities for valuable dialogue and education by putting them on the defensive. None of us can possibly know everything that is behind that bottle of formula of that mom with all the best baby products. I would rather encourage and support her and hope to open the door for future dialogue without any preconceived notions as to why she made the choices she did. ~Jessica

  19. I love this article and am so glad I found this site.

    I admit, I’ve been guilty of judging mom’s who decided to formula feed their little ones. I’m working on it, and I find the more I read things like this and the comments that follow, the easier it is to see it from the other point of view. I believe some of my bias comes from the fact that I too have never met a formula feeding mother who hasn’t felt the need to defend her decision where I never felt mine needed to be explained.

    Breastfeeding was always my only choice and it came very naturally and easily to me and my children. My older 2 nursed until almost a year, but my youngest, well he’s two and a half with no signs of ever wanting to wean. I was fortunate enough to be supported, and if I was judged I didn’t care. To me it was the best choice so if I had to nurse my screaming infant at a restuarant booth (covered to be respectable) I was secure enough to do so. What I’m faced with now is the judgement of nursing a toddler. In a twist of irony the same mom’s that I seem to be judging because they formula fed for one reason or another are now telling me “it’s time for him to stop” or “you need to break him of that”, and because I have never nursed this long I allow their remarks to make me feel as though my decision to breastfeed into toddlerhood is wrong. It’s teaching me tolerance on ALL levels 🙂 Because of groups and blogs like this, I feel good about continuing to breastfeed until my son and I decide to stop together, and hopefully I’ll be able to approach judgemental comments with the same confidence I had when nursing all my infants. At the same time, I’m learning not all mom’s had the same experience I did and their reason to NOT nurse is just as valid as mine is to continue.

  20. A good friend of mine got pregnant, accidentally (her birth control failed, through no fault of her own) she was on medication for a mental health issue. When she is medicated, she’s stable, able to function, hold down a job, be married, “normal”. Unmedicated, she ends up in hospital. She’s tried no meds, it doesn’t work. She came off the meds as soon as they found out she was pregnant, because they’re dangerous to the baby. She battled for the whole of her pregnancy, was hospitalised twice, and decided she wasn’t going to even attempt breastfeeding, but to go back on her meds as soon as her son was born. Her OB, psych team, and social worker all agreed. In the hospital, she was given such a hard time, by midwives hassling her to “just try feeding him for a few days” “to give him the best start” etc. GUILT?? The best thing for that baby was a mentally stable, able to function Mummy. Maybe she could have tried, but really he was better off being being formula fed, and her able to function. She still felt guilty though, which is sad.

  21. I am one of the formula feeding moms who beats myself up everyday because I gave bloodup on breastfeeding. From the time I was a little girl, I planned on breastfeeding my children and thought of formula as horrible stuff that no mother should give her child. After all, our bodies were made this way so that we can feed our babies. I was in for a world of shock when I fell and broke my ankle 2 weeks before giving birth, and my son’s bloodsugar dropped so low after birth that my colostrum couldn’t sustain him. He had a perfect latch, but his bloodsugar kept dropping which resulted in him having to be in the special care nursery with nurses giving him bottles after I nursed; the nurses also didn’t wake me for the middle of the night feeds, and I didn’t always wake up in order to hobble over to the scn. I pumped every 2 hours to try and stimulate the milk to come in faster, but even when it did, my son was confused and he never suckled correctly in order to swallow the milk. He would constantly pull of my breast and open his mouth, sending all the breastmilk just pouring out of his mouth. Then I had to give a bottle of formula after that to be sure he was actually ingesting something. I tried pumping as much as possible between attempting to nurse when we were home from the hospital so that I could supplement with bottles of breastmilk, but with a broken ankle, that honestly just got to be too much since pump parts need to be washed after every pumping session and the kitchen is 2 floors from where I was; walking up and down stairs in a walking boot is not easy at all. All that said, I gave up after about a week, and have beaten myself up for it since then (my son is almost 7 months old now). Every time I finally get over it, a judgemental breastfeeding mom makes a comment like “I guess I just care more because I tried harder and am still breastfeeding.” So it means a lot to know that there is a breastfeeding group that is understanding, and doesn’t look down on women who wind up not breastfeeding. All this said, I really hope that I can successfully breastfeed any other children that I have, and after enduring comments from other judgemental mommies, I will not think twice about how others choose to feed their babies!

  22. Premie mommy says:

    I almost died. But that’s not written across my forehead. My son was under three pounds and over two months early. But he looks perfectly healthy how.

    I felt guilty. Really guilty. I tried for weeks including drinking teas, taking pills (including reglan), visualization, trying to latch my son while his monitors were going off, having creepy women touch me with their hands covered in lanolin (I’m allergic to it).

    I almost died because I was sick. I almost killed myself from all the guilt. I went into my pregnancy planning on breastfeeding. After being poked and prodded for two weeks after his birth and not being able to see my son until almost a week after his birth – I shouldn’t have even bothered trying. In fact, that’s what lactation told me after 6 weeks of trying to breastfeed.

    But my bigger point here is – you can’t see why someone chose not to breast feed. They can be asked, but maybe they don’t want to go into the fact that they almost died, or that they were sexually assaulted, or had cancer, or whatever. So if you’re a judgy-mcjudgerson, just assume everyone can’t, because you’ll save that mom a lot of heartache.

    But since this is about starting conversations, how about these to begin with:
    What is your opinion on breastfeeding? (I couldn’t with my son, but plan on trying with any subsequent kids).
    What’s your opinion on nipple confusion? (I don’t have one, but thanks for asking!)
    Out of the breastfeeding support groups, which is your favorite? How much contact did you have with each?

    As a mom who formula fed, I find that those questions are a lot less confrontational than the ones I received. I think I would be more open to talking. Thanks for letting me get this out.

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  1. […] she may not even understand but are a result of the booby traps so prevalent in our society and I don’t want any mom that doesn’t breastfeed to feel guilty about it.  Should I hand in my lactivist card now?  Should I be smacked and scolded “bad […]