It really is okay to quit breastfeeding. Everybody does sooner or later.
Once you quit breastfeeding for good, it may be after already quitting nine other times. Some of us will, in fact, quit breastfeeding ten times.
It’s okay to quit breastfeeding, you know. It will be okay when you finally “break down,” “give-in,” and “give-up.” Some of you may have quit all ten times listed below.
It is okay to quit the first time when you get an epidural, even though you said you weren’t going to. Although having an unmedicated birth may improve the very beginning of your breastfeeding relationship, getting an epidural does not negate your ability to nurse. Your baby will still breastfeed, I promise. Whatever difficulties you may be having to make breastfeeding work, it isn’t because you got an epidural. It is because breastfeeding can be really hard.
It’s okay to quit the second time when you stop struggling to get him latched during the “golden hour.” He seemed tired and you were SO. TIRED. You just wanted to rest your body, close your eyes.
You don’t have a low milk supply because your baby didn’t latch on during the first hour after birth. You may have a low milk supply for a number of reasons, many of which we still can’t explain, but it isn’t because you missed the “golden hour.”
It’s okay that you quit the third time when did not heed your baby’s demand. After two straight hours of breastfeeding, two straight hours of trying to end the feeding only to have baby cue to be put back on, two straight hours of a sore butt, a sore back, and sore nipples, you begged your partner to take him away from you. You knew you were supposed to feed him whenever he demanded, but you can only give so much of yourself before there is nothing left to give. It doesn’t make you a bad mother, it makes you human.
It’s okay that you quit the fourth time when you gave him a pacifier, even though they told you that pacifiers are bad for breastfeeding. He wouldn’t stop crying. He wouldn’t stop crying and he wouldn’t latch on. You had never, in his three days of life, heard a cry like that. That can’t be right. Babies don’t cry that hard. You have never seen a baby cry that hard. But, you didn’t want to give him formula. You said you weren’t going to give him formula. You thought, “I can’t even put him down because I have to keep my finger in his mouth. And my arm is tired and I am so tired. If I had a pacifier he might sleep and I can sleep too.” When you quit the fourth time and gave him a pacifier (ahh, blessed two hours of sleep!), you thought, “At least I’m not giving him formula.”
Pacifiers aren’t the reason your baby won’t latch on, nor are they the reason that your nipples hurt so badly. Come and see me and I will tell you why you are having trouble. It might be his labial frenulum, it might be his lingual frenulum. He may just have a wonky suck that doesn’t suck milk out of your boobs properly. Maybe he is just too little right now. Too young, too early. Maybe he just needs some time for you to help him grow… make it a little easier on him. Because breastfeeding can be really hard for some babies! It might be your nipples. They might be flat or inverted. Or they might be small, or your boobs might be too firm, or they might be too big. You might have gotten your boobs done and they are interfering with your ability to breastfeed. There are a number of reasons why breastfeeding is painful or the baby won’t latch. In my opinion, it is almost never the pacifier.
You quit the fifth time when you gave him formula. It might have been a little easier than you expected. You almost feel guilty for feeling good about it. It had been all you thought about for days, weeks, even months. You considered feeding your baby formula many, many, many times. You feared the moment and the unknown: how the baby would react to the formula, how you would feel either way he reacted. Then you gave him formula. You gave him formula even though you were told formula was bad for breastfeeding.
Or maybe you quit the fifth time when you gave him formula after you finally had to admit and accept that you weren’t making enough milk. Your baby gained just enough, but never a lot. You transferred just enough, but never a lot. When you finally surrendered to the harsh and stinging reality that your body was, in fact, never enough, you fed your baby a safe, nutritious substitute to complement your breastmilk. Good choice, mama.
He is going to be okay, even though he didn’t gain so well in the early weeks and months. He is going to be okay. Even if he got a little or a lot of formula, he is going to be okay. More than okay! He is going to be amazing.
It’s okay that you quit the sixth time when you stopped trying to make more milk. You acknowledged defeat as you admitted that your body would never make more than half, a third, three quarters, of what your baby needed. You tried hard enough. You swallowed enough pills, drank enough water, pumped enough times. You did everything possible. There was nothing more you could do. Yes, the proportion of breastmilk you are giving him, whatever it is, is helping your baby be his healthiest self!
(Side note: In my professional experience, I see a lot of mamas make plenty of milk the second time around. Yay!)
Then there was a period when you started not wanting to quit. Shortly after, your baby started not wanting to quit. Then you really didn’t want to quit because baby really didn’t want to quit!
You quit the seventh time when you thought about quitting again for the first time in a while. It is okay to start thinking about quitting before you hit your “breastfeeding goal.” It is also okay to quit altogether before you reach your breastfeeding goal. This is the point at which you should sign up for Weaning Gracefully, by the way.
Hear me when I say:
You are going to quit eventually. Whenever that is, however old your baby is, it does not negate the benefits that breastfeeding for whatever length of time has had on your baby’s physical and emotional health.
It’s okay that you quit the eighth time when you night weaned. You were no longer feeding on demand. You let your baby cry. You told him, “Milkies are asleep!”
Your baby didn’t quit breastfeeding before you were ready because you night weaned him. And, even if it did cause him to wean, I am sure it was still worth it to night wean him. Trust that you were doing the very best job you could when you made the decision to night wean. You are a better mother and partner for having slept.
It’s okay when you quit the ninth time by cutting out daytime feedings. You refused your baby and he cried a cry unlike you had ever heard before. Not a pain cry, not a tired cry. A cry like a sweet little lamb that was panicking because he has lost his mother. Your baby’s heart seemed to be breaking to be denied the comfort of your breast. It is okay. Your son won’t remember this when he is 34. Unless maybe he is this guy.
You quit the tenth and final time when you breastfed for the last time. It wasn’t too soon. It wasn’t the wrong time. Whether he decided or you decided, it was decided that breastfeeding had gone. The time to quit had finally arrived.
Whenever it is that you quit…
You didn’t do anything wrong.
You couldn’t have done anything differently.
It was just the right amount of time.
However much breastmilk your baby got really is better than no breastmilk. No matter how much breastmilk he got, he is going to be a great kid.
If you fight as hard as you are fighting now to give him what is best for him in this world, he’s going to flourish.
If you teach him how to cope when he realizes he won’t always win—that life often isn’t perfect—he will be resilient.
And if you are able to recognize the moment at which your self-sacrifice is out weighing your self-care and make the hard choices to bring your family back into alignment, you will model a balanced lifestyle.
You are enough. You are a really good mother.
And to quote one of the Hybrid Feeders who is near and dear to my heart,
“Never forget. You don’t only mother with your breasts; you mother with your whole body.”
Click here to register for the upcoming Weaning Gracefully Live course.