I Had To Stop Breastfeeding For My Mental Health — Literally

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Linda describes herself as an educated woman who is fully aware of the health benefits to breastfeeding one’s baby. Coupled with massive social pressures to breastfeed, Linda’s sister-in-law is also in the La Lech League, a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging women to nurse. Aside from Linda’s gnawing anxieties about breastfeeding, she had been hearing her sister-in-law espouse all the beneficial facts and figures for a decade.

Yet, her ultimate decision to stop breastfeeding her daughter came at the suggestion of her concerned husband. Although Linda planned to stick to the recommended six months for the sake of her daughter,  she found that she was doing no service to her baby by being a wreck.

“In the most loving way possible, he let me know that our daughter needed a healthy mother more than she needed my breastmilk,” she says. “And he was right.  I needed to be present in her life instead of floating through the day in a fog. I wanted to be engaged in her life and enjoying all the new things that babies learn in that first year. After a few sessions of therapy knocked the cobwebs out of my brain and I was able to think more clearly, I realized that he was right. I had to stop breastfeeding in order to be the emotionally present mother that my daughter deserved.”

Linda describes her initial feeling after relinquishing the breast in one word: relief. She tells me that the decision truly lifted a weight from her shoulders and realigned the partnership in her marriage. Able to share parenting duties with her husband, she calls her halt to breastfeeding as a real turning point in her recovery from PPD.

“The day that I stopped breastfeeding was the day that I felt I could move onto the next chapter in my life and start digging myself out of that dark hole.”

Now a year later, Linda is still regularly seeing a therapist for her PPD. She also encounters comments and cultural judgements for not breastfeeding her daughter “long enough.” However, she appears unfazed by the digs at her daughter’s first few months of life, telling me, “I know my truth.” She says that her ordeal with PPD, anxiety, and breastfeeding has revealed a lot to her about the criticisms and judgements mothers are often keen to make about one another, as well as illuminating what’s truly best for her own child.

“Over the past months I’ve realized that the ‘best’ that I can give her isn’t always what can be written down on paper or put in a category like natural birth, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, etc. The best that I can give her is an emotionally stable and content mother.”

(photo: OLJ Studio/Shutterstock)


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