Overcoming Parental Pressure and Guilt: My Breastfeeding Experience
The widely-known phrase “Breast is best” is based on advice from the WHO, Unicef, CDC and other highly-respected health authorities. All advocate for exclusive breastfeeding for babies in the first six months of life, as it offers numerous benefits for both baby and mother.
While I couldn’t agree more, at Bébé Foodie we focus on empowering parents with a range of choices and options to feed their babies. But 3 months after giving birth to my second child, Alice, I am now struggling myself with my own complex breastfeeding journey that is taking a toll on my mental health.
With this article, I want to open up the conversation about the unrealistic pressures that mothers impose on themselves when it comes to breastfeeding. This is a battle that should not be overlooked, especially in a time of our lives where we can feel isolated.
The challenges of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my baby girl began easily; much easier than with my firstborn. However, after three days she had lost too much weight, putting her in the danger zone. While awaiting blood test results, doctors instructed that I breastfeed her every two hours to prevent further weight loss. Eventually, she was diagnosed with jaundice, accounting for some of the weight loss. This first diagnosis sparked guilt about breastfeeding and feeding in general.
After a few weeks, I realized she was getting tired quickly during breastfeeding. She would drift off to sleep or only latch from one side. Worried if she was getting enough milk, I asked her pediatrician at her two month checkup. The doctor reassured me she was gaining weight and nothing to be concerned about, yet I couldn’t shake my doubts.
I started topping off feedings with pumped milk to ensure she was getting enough. And that’s when things started getting complicated…
Obstacles I faced
I consulted with a lactation specialist who observed a tongue tie preventing my daughter from latching effectively, leading to a decrease in her growth percentiles. Feeling anxious, I began using a combination of pumping and bottle feeding to ensure Alice consumed an adequate amount of milk.
As I continued pumping, I began to lose sleep and feel overwhelmed with the time commitment of breastfeeding. It felt like my entire day was consumed with feeding, pumping, and cleaning pump parts.
On top of that, my baby started to loose patience at the breast, which only added to my feelings of guilt and inadequacy as a mother. I felt like a failure for not being able to meet the societal and personal expectations of exclusively breastfeeding my child.
Despite all my convictions and advice to all parents, I found myself struggling to let go of the pressure to exclusively breastfeed my baby. I had to remind myself that there are many ways to ensure my baby is healthy and well-fed.
The combination of all these factors caused me to question whether breastfeeding was the right choice for me and my baby. Despite my doubts, I felt immense pressure to continue breastfeeding exclusively. Social media and mommy groups portrayed exclusive breastfeeding as the ultimate goal for any mother, with formula being stigmatized as an inferior choice
Overcoming parental pressure and guilt
It’s important to remember that every mother’s breastfeeding journey is different. And while there are many benefits to breastfeeding, there are also reasons why formula exists. Ultimately, the decision to breastfeed or not should be based on what works best for both you and your baby.
One way to overcome parental pressure and guilt is to have a support system. Seek out help from a lactation consultant, speak with other mothers who have had similar experiences, or join online support groups. It’s also important to listen to your own body and mental health. Take breaks when needed and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. It’s about finding what works best for you, and your baby. If breastfeeding isn’t working out, don’t beat yourself up over it. The important thing is that your baby is fed and healthy. There are plenty of alternative feeding options available, such as supplementing with formula, or even exclusively formula feeding.
It’s also important to acknowledge the impact that societal pressures have on mums today. Social media in particular can be overwhelming, with pictures of perfectly curated breastfeeding moments and success stories. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own journey and celebrate the accomplishments you make along the way.
Breastfeeding is a personal choice, and it’s important to remind yourself that there is no right or wrong answer. It can be a challenging experience for new moms, and it’s important to acknowledge the obstacles that can arise. While breastfeeding may be the optimal choice for some, it’s not always feasible or desirable for everyone. It’s crucial to make informed decisions about what’s best for you and your baby, and to seek support when needed.
So, take a deep breath, trust your instincts, and remember that you’re doing the best you can.
I am a proud advocate of “Fed is Best,” recognizing that every parent and baby’s journey is unique. Whether it’s breastfeeding, formula feeding, or a combination of both, and this is valid throughout your child’s feeding journey, and the choices you’ll make that are the best for you, your baby, and your family.