Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Many mothers I talk with about baby feeding mention the guilt they felt when they could not, did not, or had to stop breastfeeding. (One or two of my regular readers will say they did not feel guilty, but sadly, they are in the minority.)  It makes sense: most moms understand breast milk is the healthiest choice, so we set our hearts on it, and if it doesn't work, we feel like we've failed our babies.

We are told that "breast is best," but we aren't all able to do what's "best," for reasons I've already talked about--first, the problems that can occur with breastfeeding, and second, the lack of help to solve them.  To me, this is like to telling someone to build a house without providing blueprints, skilled help, or materials. 

Maybe the message "breast is best" is in itself flawed, as this article points out.  It suggests that "breast is normal" might be better.  But for this to be true, breastfeeding would have to become the new norm--and the only way that can happen is through the information and support that will set new moms up for success.  (This article also points out that, interestingly, formula-fed babies, rather than breastfed babies, are the control groups in most studies.)

Meanwhile, we should remind ourselves that none of this is easy, and that a mother's love isn't diminished by what she feeds her baby.


  1. and even when he weaned himself at almost 14 mos i still felt...weird, not quite guilt, but it was a very strange feeling. like shouldn't i be doing this longer?

    when i had to supplement one formula bottle per day at daycare 9-12 mos? total guilt. and feelings of inadequacy because i couldn't pump enough while at work. failure. some i did to myself, but some is imposed.

    i know there's LLL groups out there, but it'd be great if the hospitals gave you the names and numbers of the leaders, meeting times, more "classes" after birth (i didn't go to any while prego, because it seemed too far away).

    and it does NOT help that all peds are trained on formula fed babies and criticize you for their weight/growth/eating habits based on the formula "norms". been there, done that. i've had to do so much of my own research and reading to learn things-such as nurse baby before and/or after feeding solids to keep up your supply, breastfed babies can poop 8 times a day or 1 time a week and it's normal, what to do about nursing strikes, etc. there's so much more than just "football hold, cradle hold, cracked nipples" in the literature they give you.

    perhaps Lynne, you need to start an organization ;)

  2. I'm one of the not-feeling-guilty ones!!! I refuse to feel guilty for doing what I think was best for my situation, as long as my child(ren) suffered no harm from it. I was well aware of the benefits of breast milk, so it wasn't for lack of education that I switched to formula. And despite the lack of breast milk, both of my boys have been very healthy as babies and kids, they both have brains that think well (sometimes too well!), and I forgot what my third point was going to be . . . Darn. Doesn't matter.

    I wish more women would realize it's OK not to be a "Perfect Mom." Parenting decisions only get more frequent and more difficult as the kids get older, and if you're going to agonize over each decision, then you're likely to miss out on a lot of the happiness of watching your child grow. And THAT would be something you should feel guilty about, because they only grow up once . . .