Stopping breastfeeding… how to cope emotionally

Posted on December 12th, 2017

Whether your milk supply is low or non-existent, you have a medical issue, or you simply choose not to breastfeed anymore, here are some strategies to help you cope with the idea of stopping breastfeeding. By Tammy Jacks

Stopping breastfeeding - how to cope emotionally

Mom guilt. It’s a very real thing. From feeling bad about being a working mom, stay-at-home mom, an impatient mom, or an exhausted mom who just wants a nap and a shower – there’s always something we feel bad or anxious about when it comes to caring for our kids.

ALSO SEE: 10 #MomGuilt moments we can all relate to

According to a recent survey of over 900 mothers, commissioned by TIME Magazine, results showed that half of all new mothers had experienced regret, shame, guilt or anger – mostly due to unexpected complications and lack of support.

What do moms struggle with most?

According to the survey, moms reported that breastfeeding is a greater challenge than anticipated. Out of the 20% who planned to breastfeed for at least a year, fewer than half actually did. Regardless of the reason, giving up breastfeeding can be an emotional roller coaster that comes as a shock to many moms. The end result? We end up feeling like failures who can’t do what Mother Nature intended. But the truth is, guilt is a useless, wasted emotion that serves no purpose and takes the joy out of motherhood.

ALSO SEE: The pros and cons of prolonged breastfeeding

So how do we ditch the guilt and cope emotionally with weaning our little ones off the breast?

  1. “Remember that a happy baby is a fed baby,” says author and childcare expert, Ann Richardson. “Whether that’s breast milk or formula, your goal must be to have a well-fed, happy baby who thrives, because a happy baby also means a calm mother and solid family unit.”
  2. “Speak to other moms in a similar situation to avoid feeling alone”, says clinical psychologist Dr Maya Griffiths. “Sharing your experience and knowing that others are unable to, or have chosen not to, breastfeed can help ease any pain or guilt you might be feeling, and will help you find peace with your own situation,” she adds.
  3. Find other ways to bond with your baby. This could mean spending 10 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted quality time together, whether it’s playing, splashing in the bath, reading stories or simply communicating face to face with your little one, on his level.
  4. Believe in yourself. Although we suggest speaking to other moms in a similar situation, this doesn’t mean comparing yourself to other moms and feeling bad about your decisions. Remember, all babies are different, and all moms are different too. So, whether you can’t breastfeed or choose not to, believe in yourself as your baby’s mother, and know that you’re doing your best and that’s good enough. Your success as a parent, doesn’t rely solely on whether you can breastfeed or not.
  5. Make feeding time fun. Just because you’re not breastfeeding, doesn’t mean that you and your little one can’t enjoy feeding times. Make regular eye contact with your child while feeding with a bottle, sing or talk to him, hold him close and savour the moment.

 A mom’s perspective

Johannesburg-based mom of twin boys, aged 8.5 months, Candice Tehini Blignaut recently stopped breastfeeding her sons and found the transition to the bottle easier than she thought she would.

She says, “I knew from the get-go that it was going to be a bit trickier to breastfeed twins, so I told myself that if I could make it to six months, I’d be happy. Luckily, I had ample milk supply and made it to six months without any hassles, but had I struggled to breastfeed until then, I would have still felt happy knowing that every little bit of breastmilk counts and that my boys would benefit from even a month of breastfeeding.

ALSO SEE: The benefits of short-term breastfeeding

“As the six-month mark approached, I felt a little emotional about ending breastfeeding, but I had great support from my husband and knew the time was right. I didn’t want to end up in a situation where breastfeeding would become stressful and it was already heading that way because the one twin didn’t latch or drink as well as his brother.

“Both boys took to the bottle well and I’d expressed and stored loads of milk beforehand, so they were still drinking breastmilk for quite some time. Both my pediatrician and clinic nurse supported my decision and never put me under pressure or made me feel guilty for stopping breastfeeding. Their primary concern was always that my boys were happy, healthy and well fed. If you can’t breastfeed or choose to stop at any point, surround yourself with positive, supportive people and stick to your decision. Trust your gut as a mother, because you always know what’s best for your child.”

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About Tammy Jacks

Tammy is a wife, mom and freelance writer with 15 years’ experience in the media industry. She specialises in general lifestyle topics related to health, wellness and parenting. Tammy has a passion for fitness and the great outdoors. If she’s not running around after her daughter, you’ll find her off the beaten track, running, hiking or riding her bike. Learn more about Tammy Jacks .