It's Okay To Stop Breast Feeding

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Whenever I see the topic of breast feeding pop up anywhere online, it seems to spark a huge debate amongst parents from all sides. People who have never bottle fed, people who have only bottle fed, people who have done halfy-half and people who, like me, did it for a short while, and switched. Of course there are a lot of other scenarios but those are the main four.

I have seen endless debates surrounding breast feeding too, and honestly, it becomes a bit of a headache if you get involved in them all. We, as a nation, are clearly reliant on formula to fall back on, if needs be, and we definitely have a breast feeding crisis in the UK, with the rate of successful long-term breast feeding being extremely low. Ideally, in my eyes, everyone would try breast feeding, everyone would get on brilliantly with it, and bobs your uncle.

That being said, it isn't always that easy. Some people are unable to feed, some people just point blank refuse, and some people can't cope with it. One of the things I have stressed in my tiny online presence over the years is that we need to consider the mental health of the breast feeding parent when we are discussing this topic, as it is something that is so often overlooked.

Having tried and utterly failed at breast feeding both of my children long term, I made the choice to switch to formula at around 2 months (give or take a week) because I could no longer put myself through it. The decision was extremely hard, affected me for months and even now I find myself avoiding the topic because I feel quite ashamed and guilty.

I was conditioned by all of the pro breast feeding materials I consumed during my pregnancies into thinking quitting would mean I let them down. I then put more pressure on myself the second time because I'd failed the first time.

Both times I decided to quit, it took me weeks. I'd quit for a day, the hormones would rush in, I would think "oh come on, just carry on, you can do it" and I would start again. It mentally battered me. Even more so with George, because I was getting absolutely no sleep when he was demand feeding all night, and then I had a 2 year old to see to at 7am. The emotional part was even harder because I knew George was my last baby, and my last shot at breast feeding, and so the turmoil started over.

There was no health professional there to tell me about this part of it, and I couldn't find anything online that was even similar to the battle I was facing internally.

So here I am, telling you that it is okay to stop if you don't want to do it anymore. 

Your baby will be fine. Nobody will judge you. Don't worry about the rates, and what people may say. It is one of those things, and you need to do what is best for you, because you are caring for the child/ren, and you can't do that if you're unhappy, in pain, exhausted or stressed.

I admit I just could not cope. I began to detest the sound of George crying, because I knew it meant I would be sat with him for hours unable to move. My back would hurt, my arms would hurt, and because he was born almost a month early he was feeding endlessly for the whole 2 months. I never got a break. I spoke to the appropriate people for support but there was nothing they could do about how much he was feeding. Nobody was going to come and babysit for me while I slept, or look after my toddler.

It was my right as a human to be happy, just as much as it was his right to be fed.

I know a lot of people will probably disagree with this post, because anything seen as encouragement to switch to formula always seems to get backlash. I am not telling you to stop though, if you're happy, or if you're having an issue that can possibly be worked on, you should absolutely carry on if you want to. There are fixes for lots of things in the breastfeeding world, and it is always important to keep that in mind.

I think breast feeding is amazing and if it had gone the way I wanted I'd still be feeding both of my kids. I just want something to be there for those people who were like me, 3 years ago, searching the internet for "I want to stop breastfeeding but I am scared" or "will my baby be okay if I just stop breast feeding". 

Although I think the pro/normalising breast-feeding movement is fantastic and really encouraging, I do believe it is almost impossible to change peoples minds if they decide they no longer want to or don't want to in the first place. Trust me, I have tried to convince many of my friends to give it a try before deciding on formula and most of them didn't listen to a word. However, this gives nobody at all a right to make somebody feel guilty or ashamed about their choice, just as it doesn't give somebody who has never breast fed a right to criticise someone who chooses to breast feed either.

Let people make their own decisions, and follow your own path when it comes to your children, is what I always say. 

Breast feeding was absolutely the hardest part of being a parent to a newborn for me, and I was very lucky that my children would take bottles. If you're reading this and your baby won't take milk from a bottle, I really wouldn't know from experience what to suggest, but please speak to your health visitor or doctor to see if there's anything you may not have already tried (I know it is unlikely but you'd never know if there's something you may have missed) 

I'd love to read your comments about your own experiences with breast feeding, whatever your story, and if you also experienced this when deciding to quit, if you did.

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1 comment

  1. This post is incredible. Honestly.

    I also went through the emotions you've discussed here but only three days after my son was born. He could only feed from one breast, my supply was basically non-existent and pumping left me feeling extremely lightheaded. I definitely wasn't coping as well as I'd hoped but my son started refusing to take my breast, instead screaming the place down - it was distressing him just as much as it was me. I felt incredibly guilty especially when others would tell me what they managed to overcome to be able to breastfeed their babies. Like you, I try to avoid the topic as much as possible because I still do feel a bit guilty even though it was better for us both mentally and physically.

    Thank you so much for sharing your take on this because it really needed to be said.

    Hayley |


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