Why I Kind of Regret Breastfeeding
I have a momfession to make: I kind of regret breastfeeding.
I say “kind of,” because I don’t know that I would go back and change how I fed my babies, but time and distance has given me a slightly different perspective.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew all the benefits. I shouted them from the rooftops. It just makes sense that human milk is for human babies. I knew the studies about how good breastfeeding is for babies: less risk for allergies, obesity, SIDS, less risk of illnesses, and chronic diseases. And I saw those benefits in my own babies. For instance, I remember when the whole family got the flu except the breastfed baby.
I also know that breastfeeding has health benefits for mom. It promotes healing after birth, helps Mom’s weight normalize after birth, and reduces the risk of breast cancer.
So why do I have some regrets?
More Recent Studies Show the Benefits Might be Overblown
After so many years of being told that breastmilk was “liquid gold,” it turns out the benefits might not be as big as we used to think.
I thought breastfeeding made me a better mom
To clarify, I actually breastfed three of my four children. I intended to nurse all four, but when my oldest was born in 2003, we just couldn’t get the hang of it. I didn’t have a car, money, or resources and had a baby completely refusing the breast. So he was formula fed.
I was devastated to formula feed him. I felt so much horrible guilt that I was giving him “poison” i.e. formula. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that I was a good mom and that breastfeeding never would have made me a better mom.
I never liked breastfeeding
I wasn’t one of those moms that really enjoyed breastfeeding. I did like that it was convenient and free. But I do not look back on breastfeeding fondly and I don’t miss it at all. In my head I knew this was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, but I am not really a physical touch person, and that much constant touching felt unnatural to me. The sensations of suckling and milk let down were very uncomfortable for me. I was glad it was good for my baby, but it never felt good to me.
Lack of sleep + No help = recipe for disaster
With baby numbers 2-4 I was determined to breastfeed, no matter what happened. I felt like I was being told that my problem with baby number 1 was that I hadn’t been determined enough to breastfeed. I did successfully nurse the other three, but due to latch and supply issues, what it means for me is that I usually have to be nursing while sitting upright, at least for the first 5-6 months. I also have babies that want to comfort suck all night long. So in my determination to make sure my baby never had formula, I got precious little sleep for months on end. My husband wanted to help, but if the only thing that soothed the baby was my breast, that meant I was out of luck. With all of my babies I suffered from postpartum depression ranging from mild to near psychosis with one of them. I do think my breastfeed at all costs mentality contributed to that.
What I could have done Differently?
So, do I really regret breastfeeding? I don’t know. I do regret how I did it. I regret the pressure I put on myself. I regret not taking care of myself in an effort to breastfeed. I regret that I put breastfeeding on this pedestal, especially since it turns out that the benefits might be marginal at best. Would it really have been so terrible to let my husband give the baby a bottle of formula at night so I could sleep? Did I have to be so “all-or-nothing” about it? Did breastfeeding really make me a better mom if I was a zombie for my other kids?
What I would say is this: When you are a new mom, this decision of how to feed your baby feels like the most important decision in the world. It’s not. Time has made me see that. I spent years of my life worrying about this and in the end, I can’t get that time back. You matter too, and if breastfeeding is a struggle for you, that needs to be a real consideration. So if you’re struggling and thinking about quitting breastfeeding, and maybe feeling guilty or conflicted, I see you. Know you are a good mom no matter how you feed your baby.