Maybe your baby never latched.
Maybe it hurt so damn much and nothing made it better.
Maybe you were given bad advice in the hospital, or by your pediatrician, your obstetrician, your midwife, your mother, your friend.
Maybe you just didn’t want to breastfeed.
Maybe something happened that is none of my business that made the idea of breastfeeding frightening or repulsive to you.
Maybe you couldn’t produce enough milk and you never figured out why.
Maybe your baby was adopted and adoptive breastfeeding wasn’t in the cards for you for whatever reason.
Maybe you tried all kinds of gadgets or interventions to get breastfeeding to work, and it made you feel inadequate and disconnected from your body and you needed to stop trying.
Maybe you couldn’t nurse because of a medical condition, or a medication you needed to take that was incompatible with breastfeeding.
Maybe the things that went wrong with breastfeeding crushed you so hard you needed to stop trying for your own sanity.
Maybe you just didn’t like breastfeeding.
You don’t need a reason.
You don’t need to explain what happened.
(But I will listen if you want.)
You don’t need to figure out why breastfeeding didn’t work out.
(But I will help you figure it out if you want.)
Maybe sometimes you go through all the possibilities in your head:
if only you’d gotten help from a lactation consultant;
if only you’d gotten a second opinion;
if only you’d had an easier birth;
if only your postpartum depression had been treated sooner;
if only you had waited for the storm of the first few weeks of new motherhood to end . . .
I want you to know that if you feel a hole in your heart because breastfeeding did not work out, I understand. After birth, it is a mother’s instinct to breastfeed. It is an ancient, primal longing. That is part of why it can feel so traumatic when it doesn’t work out.
I want you to know that you are not alone in that feeling.
But maybe you have no regrets and feel at peace with not breastfeeding.
I want you to know that it’s OK if you made a clear decision not to breastfeed and you enjoyed the conveniences and freedom of bottle feeding.
Whatever it is—whatever your reasons, your feelings, your regrets, your peace—I want you to know this: Breastfeeding is about more than the milk.
It’s true that breastmilk is full of antibodies, antiviral agents, perfect nutrition, and life-long protections. Any amount of it that you gave your baby was a gift. But if you gave your baby none of it, you did not fail. You found ways to keep your baby healthy. You are a mother. You do anything for your children.
Breastfeeding is about more than the milk.
It’s about feeding your baby against your body, the two of you gazing at each other in wonder.
It is connection. It is touch. It is two souls who spent ages looking for one another and are now earthbound, nestled together.
Breastfeeding is about the relief of holding your child safe in your arms.
You can do that no matter how you feed your baby.
I am tired of the judgment and shame over not breastfeeding.
Love is what’s important.
So let’s choose love over fear. Connection over division.
And let’s talk to one another. Let’s ask for help if we need it.
Let’s hold our children against our beating hearts. Let’s inhale their perfect baby scents. Let’s breathe together. Let’s rest awhile.
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