Everyone Is Judging Your Breastfeeding, No Matter What You Do

By  | 

shutterstock_194953364There is an interesting paradox surrounding the subject of breastfeeding. We’ve all been told that Breast Is Best. It’s precisely for this reason that most women, myself included, try to give it their best shot after having a baby. Most women do their research, ask for help in the hospital or from a lactation consultant, and try to get their baby to latch successfully so they can continue to feed them when they return home.

Once you’ve mastered the first few weeks of breastfeeding, you’re good to go. Right? As any new mom can tell you, that’s not always the case. You may decide to breastfeed for just a few weeks, upwards of a few years. There’s something about the breastfeeding culture today that makes women competitive with each other and with themselves.

I can tell you from experience that I set a personal goal to breastfeed my first son for at least nine months, and I did that. With my second son, I was so sick of breastfeeding and later exclusively pumping since I had my kids close together. My mom finally encouraged me to quit breastfeeding at seven months, and I felt like an utter failure—just because I didn’t meet my self-imposed nine month goal I had with my first son.

Other women can tell you that quitting breastfeeding early can make you feel like the worst mom ever:

My lo is now nearly 11 wks old i breastfed for first 5 weeks but eventually stopped as he would feed from both breasts every hour and then he would want more, i would put him back on the first breast and he would pull away screaming still hungry. I got some organic formula in just in case and he would gobble it down after being on both breasts. I soon realised that i may not have been producing enough milk, breasts felt not full so put lo on permanent formula. however though cannot get over guilt of stopping and feel i stopped too soon and also in hindsight i wonder whether his screaming was wind.

If you stop breastfeeding too early, you may judge yourself harshly and feel like a failure. If you’re very unlucky, friends and family members who support breastfeeding may judge you too.

If you are “successful” at breastfeeding and choose to continue, you’ll soon enter into uncharted waters. Once you pass that unspoken window the rest of society deems acceptable to breastfeed, you may be considered gross or inappropriate for the extended breastfeeding of your child:

There is nothing in attachment theory or in bonding that suggests it is beneficial for mothers to breast feed their child after 6 months and there are questions whether breastfeeding is psychologically necessary at all. Mothers who do not breat feed should never be made to feel they are depriving their child of anything. At the same time, there is the question whether breast feeding after 6 months is really for the child’s needs or more for the mother’s needs. Children starting to become independent at 6 months is perhaps more developmentally important than some paediatricians might think.

The moral of the story is this: The breastfeeding mom can’t win. If you decide to quit early, you may incur judgment for “not trying hard enough.” If you breastfeed longer, you may be judged for making other people uncomfortable. Breastfeeding moms, do what you gotta do. It’s your child and your choice. If you’re done breastfeeding for good, as I am, support any new moms you know in their breastfeeding decision.

(Image: Lana K/Shutterstock)