Having a baby is an amazing thing and there isn't one right way to do everything.
Although we can sometimes feel like we're doing it wrong, there are many mothers out there who are going through exactly the same emotional journey.
Breastfeeding guilt is a common experience amongst parents when it really shouldn't be.
Your breastfeeding relationship should be guilt-free; it's about being connected to your baby and making sure your baby is nourished.
Whichever way that may be.
There are a few reasons women don't breastfeed or aren't able to breastfeed:
- Your baby won't latch on
- You have sore nipples
- A lactation specialist has advised to pump or give supplemental formula
- Low milk supply
- Baby formula is much easier for you.
We want to explore the ways around stopping breastfeeding guilt so this is one less thing you need to worry about.
What is the average age to stop breastfeeding?
The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding exclusively for up to six months old.
After this, you can introduce solid foods alongside breast milk consumption up to two years old.
These are recommendations and can be treated as a guide, not a concrete formula to follow.
In the most recent Australian research surrounding infant feeding, researchers found that:
- One in seven babies were exclusively fed breastmilk up to five months old
- Four in 10 babies quit breastfeeding after six months old.
What happens when you stop breastfeeding?
If you stop breastfeeding, it's best to do so gradually.
Quitting breastfeeding suddenly could cause the risk of:
- Blocked ducts
- Engorgement (sore or full breasts)
It could also affect your baby's immune and digestive system, just because it's sudden.
You want to look after yourself here too — despite the physical changes you might experience, the emotional effect might be more significant.
Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your child, but it doesn't mean you'll lose any connection with them if you choose not to breastfeed.
There will be other moments each and every day to stay close to your baby.
Making sure you have enough milk to slowly wean your baby onto the bottle, or onto solely solid foods is the best practice.
Is it normal to feel guilty about stopping breastfeeding?
There are some misconceptions about 'breast is best'.
It's great to connect with your child and not rely on popping to the shops for formula, but a breastfed baby's health is not necessarily better than babies who are formula-fed.
Although, there are certain benefits.
The benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Antibodies in the breast milk being passed through to the baby
- Lower risk of infections such as ear infections or respiratory infections.
However, whether you're feeding your baby formula or you're moving onto solid foods exclusively, you shouldn't worry about quitting breastfeeding.
Infant formula is adapted to be highly nutritious for your baby, with lots of key nutrients and vitamins.
The fact of the matter is that feeling guilty is normal. We're sorry to say that guilt is an emotion often connected to raising a family.
You'll wonder if you're doing it right, or whether you can be doing it better.
Those that feed their baby formula can feel guilty that they're not offering breast milk, while breastfeeding mothers often feel guilt attached to stopping breastfeeding.
The key is not to let breastfeeding guilt control your life.
It happens, and there are ways to move past it.
How can I stop feeling guilty for not breastfeeding?
There are benefits of breastfeeding, such as health-related incentives, but there are also great benefits of formula feeding.
Many women cannot breastfeed and there is no shame in this.
Although guilt is more prevalent in mothers who feed their baby formula, there are ways to combat this emotion:
- Instead of thinking 'breast is best' think of it as 'every feed counts' or 'fed is best'
- Take time to connect to your baby as they drink their formula — make it a special bonding moment
- Reach out for support — you're not alone, ever! Your friends and family can help, or even reach out to other mothers who struggled to breastfeed
- Share your journey and reduce the stigma of not breastfeeding.
As always, you need to look after your mental health to be the best mother for your baby.
Take some time for yourself and reflect on all the great things that are happening around you.
You have a growing baby who is healthy — it doesn't matter how you're feeding them, as long as you're feeding them!
Feeling guilty about formula feeding
There are a number of reasons why parents use baby formula including ease of feeding, allowing others to help with infant feeding and not being able to breastfeed.
Whatever the reason, it's not something to feel guilty for.
We know that this is easier said than done though.
'Fed is best' is a great mantra for parents that don't breastfeed.
It will help reduce breastfeeding guilt as it focuses on the infant being fed and nourished.
You can also see feeding time as a special time, regardless of whether it's formula or breast milk.
Make sure you focus on your baby getting their food, and take time to relax and enjoy the fact that you're feeding your baby what they need.
Will I regret stopping breastfeeding?
Guilt and regret can be intertwined emotions, but you can navigate through it.
You might miss that connection to your baby, or wish that you had prolonged your breastfeeding journey.
However, with time, you will get used to the other stages of being with your baby which don't necessarily revolve around mealtime.
You'll be so thrilled with other milestones such as:
- Starting to speak
- Using hand gestures
You shouldn't feel guilt when stopping breastfeeding, and remember that with time, everything will settle and you'll find a routine with formula and food.
Why is it so emotional to stop breastfeeding?
It can be emotional to stop the practice of breastfeeding. Stopping breastfeeding can muck with your hormone levels as well as your mood and it's natural to feel a little low.
This will only last a few days though, so just allow your body and mind to readjust.
You may also feel external and internal pressure to breastfeed your baby, so stopping breastfeeding can have you feeling a bit out of sorts.
You might feel that you're missing out on precious moments with your baby or ignoring valuable advice from others but you know your baby and when it's time to stop.
You can consult with your paediatrician or even lactation consultants when you want to stop breastfeeding.
Their expert advice will help reduce the guilt and validate the emotions you feel, allowing you to relax into the next stages of your baby's life.
Whether you have a breastfed baby or not, your baby will be loved and fed.
Many people are going through the same thing as you, so it's important to reach out for support whenever you need it.
If you are navigating breastfeeding and feel like you need a helping hand on the journey, you might want to try Kin's Breastfeeding Essentials.