Mom Guilt

I never knew how acute Mom guilt could be. I’m sure the crazy hormones in the early weeks after birth don’t help either.

We’ve been having issues with breast feeding. The biggest problem is that Evan is so young. Being born at about 35 weeks means he didn’t develop the suck/swallow technique very well. This means, even though he can latch on and feed off the breast, he isn’t very efficient at it and he gets tired quickly. He can be on the breast for 15-20 minutes, working as hard as he can, and not get very much milk.

So, in order for him to be able to breast feed, he needs to be bigger and stronger. In order to make sure he’s getting enough food in order for him to grow bigger and stronger, we’ve been supplementing with bottles of pumped breast milk. But, this means that he’s not getting a lot of “practice” on the breast, which could lead to him not wanting to breast feed at all in the future.

All of this has caused me a lot of anguish. Each time we try to breast feed, it is extremely emotional and frustrating. I typically end up crying, and feel like I just want to give up. I worry because I know he doesn’t get much milk from me, and so we have to supplement with a bottle. I get frustrated being attached to the pump, because it means less quality time I’m spending with him. I worry that my milk supply either won’t keep up with his demand or will start to deplete.

I talked to my midwives about this yesterday, and they eased my mind a bit by saying the important thing right now is that Evan is growing and getting stronger. If that means he’s getting breast milk from a bottle, then so be it. Hopefully, once he gets strong enough, he’ll be able to breast feed. And if he doesn’t end up being able to for whatever reason, there are other solutions.

Now a confession: I haven’t attempted to breast feed for two days and I feel a lot better emotionally. I’ve been able to feed Evan from a bottle and I feel more connected with him. I know that I should try breast feeding again soon, but I am so nervous because I don’t want to deal with the pressure of having “successful” feeds.

Before Evan arrived, I knew I wanted to breast feed. What I didn’t realize was how agonizing it would be if I couldn’t do it for some reason. I feel okay with where we are right now, because it’s acceptable for it not to be working because he’s young — but then I think about a week, two weeks, a month from now and I’m already overcome by guilt if it doesn’t work (or if I decide not to push forward).

This whole mom thing is hard. I just want to give Evan the best, and I feel my best might not be good enough.


Comments on: "Mom Guilt" (14)

  1. I'm so sorry you are struggling! Breastfeeding is totally emotional and frustrating, even under the best of circumstances. Get lots of support from your midwives and lactation consultants if you can (it sounds like you already have). You are doing a great job. It is all really new right now and your body is recovering from pregnancy and the delivery and it is SUCH a hard time. It will all feel better (emotionally and physically) eventually. I wish I could come over and help somehow!


  2. Alyssa, I'm so sorry! Don't worry, with a good pump you will be able to maintain your supply and provide enough nourishment for Evan for a long time. It is true he may not want to take the breast later if you totally quit giving him the breast, as it's easier to eat from a bottle, but try to put your experience in a positive light: he's getting the breastmilk, you are holding him and snuggling with him while you feed him. Those are the things he needs and he's getting them. I hope breastfeeding works for you in a few weeks, but even if it doesn't, try not to be too hard on yourself. You are doing everything that you need to.

    Most of us feel guilty if things don't go perfect. I know a “fellow” mom who rolled her eyes at me because I had an epidural with my 1st son. I was so ashamed to even admit that I needed painkillers, like I somehow failed at giving birth! In retrospect, it was all such bullshit. I had a healthy baby, period. Same with you here: you have a healthy baby and are even willing and able to provide him with the benefit of breastmilk. Who cares if there's a pump in there too? It still all sounds like perfection to me.

    Take care of yourself and try to enjoy your baby as much as you can!


  3. Anonymous said:

    thanks for this post. I don't have kids, and I also always thought “oh, but of course, I'd breastfeed if I have kids”. So yes, I'm interested in hearing why it might not work out the way you expect it too. I have heard before of it being hard to breastfeed, and never really understood why (afterall, the thought being- well isn't it the “natural” thing to do, why would it be hard?). I think it's important for those of us who don't have kids, to hear about these things beforehand we- may help us get ready to for possible disappointments, and also learn not to “look down” on those who decide not to breast feed because there may be more at play here than we even know.
    I know it's easy for me to say this because I'm not a mom, but at the end of the day, I'm sure most moms just want the best for their child- as your midwives said- the important part now is that he's feeding and getting bigger. doesn't really matter how that happens- as long as it's happening. šŸ™‚



  4. Anonymous said:

    so sorry to hear about your stress!
    but don't worry too much. My baby was introduced to a bottle early and still much prefers the breast. not every baby will have issues with 'nipple confusion'. when he's big/strong enough, your little one will probably prefer it straight from mom.


  5. Sorry that everything is so stressful for you now. It will get better and you are doing a great job:) Hang in there!


  6. ((Hugs))


  7. Hi Alyssa! We had problems from the start from her latching so I went the pumping route and she got breastmilk from the bottle plus some formula since I never had a good supply. She enjoyed both breastmilk and formula and I bonded very closely with her when I fed her the bottle. When pumping got too much for me I stopped and became a much happier and relaxed Mom for pumping left me very emotional and depressed at times. Kathleen loves her formula and she is growing healthy all the time with it. I agree with everyone as long as your little one is growing bigger and stronger everyday that is all that matters. You will have that special closeness no matter how you feed your son. I found I was a better Mom when I just gave her the bottle and I am very closely bonded with my daughter. I concentrated on spending time with her and giving her all my love and hugs which is what is the most important. You are doing a awesome job for your son!


  8. I think the end of the post was key. You felt better emotionally and physically when you stopped trying to breast feed. Yes of course breast feeding is the best and blah blah blah.

    Thats easy to say when things are all sunshine and roses.

    The fact of the matter is breast feeding is hard and doesn't always work. Formula was developed for a reason. That reason is that not every woman can breastfeed successfully. For centuries villages and tribes had wet nurses for those women that couldn't breastfeed.

    A strong majority of us were raised on formula and we're fine. Forcing yourself to BF and be unhappy is not what is best for Evan. What is best for Evan is having a mom who is happy and emotionally balanced. Happy mommy leads to a happy baby, not the reverse. Do what is best for your mental health and your body. Evan will be flourish because of that.

    Yes mom guilt sucks ass. If it makes you feel better, three years later it doesn't get any better:)).


  9. Becca – Thanks! Support from my midwives has been great. I've had both good and bad experiences with LCs (they all seem to have different/conflicting advice!).

    GMP – you're so right. And I'm sorry about the mom guilt regarding the epidural. It's so frustrating how we just can't all be supportive of each others decisions! What difference does it make to anyone else if you got an epidural, or if I have to feed my child breast milk from a bottle?

    Anon #1 – I think it's important for people to know why some of us cannot breast feed, so I guess I'm glad that I can help bring at least some of those reasons to light.

    Anon #2 – Thank you for sharing your experience! It seems to be a common one, so I have my fingers crossed.

    Ash – thank you for your support!

    Liz – hugs are always appreciated šŸ™‚

    Jrose – thank you so much for sharing your experience. I am so glad you were able to come to a decision that really works for you and your baby and that you have a strong connection because of it.

    SM – Thank you. I agree that forcing myself to BF is probably the worst thing to do if it continues to be a struggle like it is now. I guess I just hope it will magically start working one day. But, I'm starting to come to terms with the idea that it might not.


  10. Alyssa,

    So sorry to hear that it's been a struggle. Scientistmother is right on all counts. Even under the best of circumstances it's difficult, and the most important thing is that Evan is fed AND that he has a happy, sane mommy. My best friend also had a lot of trouble breastfeeding, felt tremendous guilt and stress, and ended up feeling much happier when she finally recognized that bottle-feeding was best for her and her baby.

    Good luck. You are a terrific mother no matter which way it turns out.

    And sorry I've been late to this party-CONGRATULATIONS on your new son!!! He is adorable in that Halloween pic =)


  11. Alyssa, you are doing a GREAT job as a mom!! Evan is healthy and growing – it may not be exactly as you had pictured it, but that's ok too. Your health and happiness are important in all of this too.

    I know absolutely nothing about this stuff, but have you tried finger feeding him? My brother-in-law and his gf were trying to do that with their newborn, apparently it's supposed to help them learn to latch better (but as I said, I know nothing, and she gave up trying to breastfeed after 2 days so I couldn't tell you how it worked out).


  12. Bean-mom – thanks for the congrats and for the support. I'm really trying to get in the mindset of doing what's best for us, not what everyone else thinks is the best.

    Lyss – I think one of the issues is exactly like you said: it's not how I pictured it. With him coming 5 weeks early, we've had to deal with a lot of things we never planned on – breast feeding not working included! I haven't tried the finger feeding, but have tried other supplementing techniques. Though I have found them to cause even more stress because there is all this additional “equipment” needed, and we end up being focused on getting it all to work instead of just being with Evan.


  13. I KNOW it's not a popular notion, but formula fed babies (I was one of them) to grow up to be normal, healthy, stable adults too. You are giving it your best shot, but if it doesn't work out, don't sweat it.


  14. Alyssa – I know I mentioned some things on IV, but I just wanted to send you some more HUGS! You are such a great mom and your last sentence about this mom thing being hard, I totally agree with. I never thought it would be so difficult breast feeding and now that I am going back to work I have a whole new set of challenges and mom guilt of my own. so I hear you! Hang in there and you are doing great!! He is adorable!


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