Inside: You want to quit breastfeeding and make the switch to formula, but the breastfeeding guilt is coming on strong. We’ve got you! Here are 12 legitimate reasons to stop breastfeeding completely guilt-free.
There are tons of reasons to stop breastfeeding, none of which make you a bad mom.
Your job as this baby’s mother is to keep him or her fed and happy, right? You’re going to have a hard time meeting those two requirements if you’re alone, exhausted, and/or miserable.
Maybe you’ve heard that “breast is best,” or are afraid of the mommy shaming that goes on in some internet circles.
You know that your current situation is JUST.NOT.WORKING because you’re constantly thinking verbatim, “I want to stop breastfeeding, but I feel guilty,” but you’re afraid the alternative might screw up your kid forever.
Let’s just bust those myths for what they are, ok?
12 Reasons to Stop Breastfeeding Guilt-Free
The fact that you’re even worried about this is what proves you’re a good mom.
Good moms look at their individual situations and collect data. They weigh the pros and cons.
And in the end, they make choices that work for their life. They make the hard calls, even if those calls aren’t popular.
If you find yourself in the middle of a breastfeeding nightmare, please don’t feel guilty for making a change to formula or fully weaning (if your child is over 1 year old). It’s going to be better for you, your baby, and your entire family in the long run if you “put your own life vest on first.”
For those of you who still need some reassurance, I’ve made you a list to read when you need a pep talk.
Here, I’ll share some of the most common, legit reasons women just like you stop breastfeeding – and consider it the best possible decision for their unique situation.
1. Mental Health
I had a doula client once who knew from day one she wouldn’t be able to breastfeed her baby.
She and her doctor had a long conversation about risks and benefits of breastfeeding during her pregnancy because of some medication she was on.
In the end, they both agreed. Her continued well-being would be far better for her son than any benefits he’d get from breastmilk.
You know the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup?” That 100% applies here.
Whether you struggled with your mental health prior to getting pregnant or you’ve recently been diagnosed doesn’t matter. The fact is, you need to be bringing as much of your A game as you can to parenting.
Depression, anxiety, bipolar and more can make that almost impossible. Adjusting to a new alone is hard work, but throw breastfeeding on any of that, and that can amplify an already bad situation.
I’d always suggest looping in a counselor or your primary care physician to help you brainstorm solutions, but in the end you need to take care of yourself.
2. Baby Is Not Gaining Weight
This one might feel like a more “legit” reason. You can measure it, see graphs about growth curves, and know for sure if there’s a problem.
But even with all that, you still might get pressure to just tweak this or that, keep trying, or just supplement here and there with formula instead of quitting breastfeeding entirely.
Like everything else, it comes down to your decision. But the stress from worrying whether or not your little one is starving or “failing to thrive” is real and overwhelming.
If your baby isn’t gaining, I give you my full permission (not that you need it!) to leave breastfeeding. Fed is best.
3. Exclusive Pumping
Some women, for a number of reasons, never quite got baby to actually feed on the breast, even if they’re making plenty of milk. This could be due to anything from no available lactation consultants to a tongue tie or even to a baby’s strong, painful suck.
If you’ve been exclusively pumping for any length of time, you’re likely exhausted, sore, and sick of hearing that woosh-woosh sound. The moms who stick it out with exclusive pumping for an entire year deserve a round of applause and a standing ovation and a medal – well, you get the idea.
It’s ok to just be done with the breast pump! Your little one, like so many others, can grow into a happy, healthy kid on a full formula diet.
D-MER, or Dysphoria Milk Ejection Reflex, is a physiological disorder that results in overwhelming sadness and despair, but only during a milk let down.
Doctors haven’t really studied it, know exactly what causes it, or even have a way to treat it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Thousands of women have found support and affirmation online by sharing their stories of extraordinary sadness only while nursing.
D-MER can make every day feel like an emotional roller coaster, which can make parenting feel hopelessly difficult.
If you’re in this boat, you don’t need to martyr yourself or accept that feelings of deep depression are just part of motherhood. It’s ok to let go.
Breastfed babies need to eat much more frequently compared to formula-fed ones. Why? Because breastmilk is so easily digestible that babies work through it quickly, then need more soon.
This is especially evident at night, when a breastfed baby might wake up anywhere from two to eight times a night. (My firstborn was in the latter category!)
If you’re supposed to be at work, keeping your house in order, or caring for other family members, that lack of sleep can really take a toll on you.
Studies show that lack of sleep can have serious consequences for your mental, physical, and emotional health. If you need to stop breastfeeding to finally stock up on some Zzz’s, it’s okay.
6. Subsequent Pregnancy
Surprise! (Or maybe not.) You’re pregnant again!
I’ll be honest, this is the reason I had to quit breastfeeding my firstborn.
Concurrent pregnancy and breastfeeding can be a landmine of hormones, sensitivities, and pains. Your body is trying to do two complicated things at once, like juggling a fire-breathing lizard and an overtired cat.
Sore nipples, emotional upheaval, and/or worry about tandem nursing are all perfectly acceptable and normal reasons to stop breastfeeding.
7. You’re Trying to Get Pregnant
Maybe you’re not pregnant now, but you really wish you were.
For some women, breastfeeding hormones can really get in the way of fertility. In these cases, it’s the body’s way of saying “Hey! Let me focus on one thing at a time!”
You don’t have to feel guilty if you choose to stop breastfeeding to get pregnant again.
You’re trying to give your current baby a sibling! There aren’t many gifts as long-lasting as brother or sisterhood.
8. Your Drive (You Know the One)
You know it and I know it. The hormone soup your body has become since breastfeeding can really put a damper on your desire to get it on.
It might not matter how many candles you light, what you wear, or even if your hubby does that little dance you used to love. Intimacy with your spouse is the farthest thing from your mind.
Part of the reason is purely practical; it’s hard to feel desirable when your breasts are leaking, baby is cluster feeding, or you’re being interrupted by a hungry baby.
But the other part is just hormones that you are not in control of.
If you and your husband are really struggling with your lack of drive, it might be time to stop breastfeeding.
9. Physical Health Problems
There are probably a thousand physical health-related reasons to stop breastfeeding, many of which aren’t directly related to your mammary glands.
Maybe you were diagnosed with cancer.
Maybe you or your baby had a hospital stay, and the distance (physically or emotionally) is too hard to bridge.
It’s also possible that you need to go on some medication that would be transmitted through breastmilk.
Again, this is a good time to loop your primary care physician in, but please don’t feel guilty if health problems out of your control are getting in the way.
10. Supply Problems
There are probably a thousand physical health-related reasons to stop breastfeeding, many of which aren’t directly related to your mammary glands. This can often happen around the four month mark.
And there’s only so many supplements you can take and tea you can drink before you throw in the towel.
If everything else was going great in your breastfeeding relationship and you really want to keep going, maybe it’s worth getting a lactation consultant’s opinion. But if this drop in supply is just the icing on a horrible cake, take it as a sign to switch to formula.
Let’s face it- breastfeeding can be painful. It shouldn’t be, but without adequate support, perfect technique, and/or outside guidance, pain sometimes just comes with the territory.
Plus, have I mentioned that when babies start teething, they sometimes bite? OUCH.
There’s no rule that says you need to endure cracked, bleeding nipples or fist-clenching pain because “real moms do everything for their kids.” You also shouldn’t accept popping tylenol all day as your new normal.
Ditch that toxic rhetoric floating through your head and be at peace.
12. You Just Want to Stop
At the end of the day, you can choose to stop breastfeeding just because you want to. You don’t need to explain or defend your decision to anyone.
Your baby is going to love you just the same.
While there are disadvantages to formula feeding, there are just as many to breastfeeding. So make the best decision for YOU.
Your Baby Is Only a Baby Once, So Just Say No to Breastfeeding Guilt
You only get to enjoy this child’s babyhood once. Don’t miss out because you’re stressing out over breastfeeding.
If stopping will allow you to shower them with more cuddles, kisses, and peek-a-boo time, do it! You can still enjoy snuggling your baby while you feed them a bottle and rock them to sleep.
When you stop breastfeeding, it creates the opportunity to make new routines that your baby will come to associate with safety and comfort. You can also add other family members like dad in the mix to enjoy feeding times, too.
You’re doing a hard thing if you decide to stop breastfeeding, and not everyone is going to understand. But you’re making the decision that’s best for you, your baby, and your family.
So make the best decision for your unique situation and move forward as the amazing mom that you are. I said it once, and I’ll say it again because I know you need to hear it: the fact that you’re agonizing over this decision at all says you’re an amazing mom.
Your kid is SO lucky to have a mom like you.
Hillary is a certified doula who loves supporting moms in the birthing process. When not offering support and advice to pregnant mamas, she tends to her own garden, family, and cat. You can connect with her on her website, homegrownhillary.com.