As an IBCLC, I often encounter what's commonly known as "mom guilt," a pervasive feeling that you're somehow failing your child. One of the most emotionally charged subjects that fuel this guilt is the inability to exclusively breastfeed. If you're navigating through these choppy emotional waters, I'd like you to know that you're not alone. Let's delve into some strategies to cope with this particular form of mom guilt.
Dismantling the 'Ideal Mother' Myth
The first step in conquering mom guilt is to shatter the preconceived notions of the 'Ideal Mother.' Social media and cultural narratives often depict this unrealistic image of a mother who can exclusively breastfeed without any hurdles. Remember, various circumstances—medical conditions, work constraints, or even personal choice—may prevent exclusive breastfeeding. It doesn't make you any less competent or loving as a mother.
Changing the Narrative
Feeling guilty stems from the idea that you're not meeting certain 'standards.' Instead of dwelling on what you cannot do, focus on what you can. Are you holding, cuddling, or playing with your baby? Are you feeding them in a different but equally valid way? Then you're doing just fine. Remember, the most crucial aspect of parenting is the love and security you provide, not just the method by which you feed your child.
Internalized guilt festers and grows. Talking to a supportive partner, family member, or friend about what you're feeling can be liberating. Often, vocalizing your emotions diminishes their power over you. Plus, open conversations may yield practical advice or shared experiences that can offer you a new perspective.
If feelings of guilt become overwhelming, it might be beneficial to consult a professional. Meeting one-on-one with a lactation consultant can help resolve breastfeeding challenges or provide alternatives. Click here to book an appointment with an experienced IBCLC on our team. If the emotional toll becomes too heavy, meeting with a therapist who is trained to help you manage feelings of guilt and inadequacy can make a huge difference. Click here to find support near you.
Alternatives Are Okay
Many mothers turn to formula feeding or mixed feeding (formula and breast milk) for various reasons. Remember, infant formulas these days are designed to be a substantial alternative to breast milk. The main aim is to have a healthy, well-fed baby, and formula is a perfectly acceptable way to achieve that goal.
Last but not least, don't forget to be kind to yourself. Parenting is a journey filled with highs and lows. You're navigating through unknown territory, learning as you go. Give yourself the grace to make mistakes, learn, and grow.
Do you know we have two support group options? We host both a new moms group, designed for all mamas whether they are breastfeeding or not to find community and a breastfeeding support group tailored to breastfeeding questions. Find more information on our weekly groups and other class offerings, here.
You are enough
While society has set certain 'standards,' the reality is far more nuanced. Feeding your child is important, but it's just one part of the larger, intricate tapestry of parenting. Instead of burdening yourself with guilt, focus on the love and nourishment—emotional, physical, and psychological—that you provide to your child every single day. And remember, you're not alone. Help is always available, and it's okay to seek it out.
Wishing you love and light on your parenting journey!