When I was pregnant with my first child, I was surprised at how many people asked about whether I was breastfeeding. I was also surprised by the strong feelings people had about it. But perhaps most surprising was how much breastfeeding impacted my mental health and relationship with my newborn—and not in a good way.

Unlike many pregnant women, I didn’t have a strong desire to breastfeed my baby. But I didn’t expect to hate it as much as I did. 

There were no medical reasons it didn’t work out. No tongue ties or low milk supply issues. Other than the typical latching challenges of the first few days, the physical act of breastfeeding my newborn was pretty smooth. The mental and emotional aspects, on the other hand, were fraught with anguish and anger. Soon I began to dread nursing my son. I would fear his next feeding and each time I pulled down my nursing bra, I felt annoyed and resentful. 

Related: Breast wasn’t ‘best’ for me

I was angry at everyone—at myself for not feeling the way it seemed every other mother felt when they nursed their baby, angry at my son for needing me in this way that was so unnatural and uncomfortable to me, and angry at the world for telling me that breastfeeding is the “best” way—the only way—to feed our children.

After three long weeks, I realized just how much breastfeeding was hurting me, my mental health, and my relationship with my newborn. I called it quits on my breastfeeding journey and began the long process of healing. 

The assumption that every mom wants to breastfeed is dangerous and leaves out those moms who choose a different path.

And when I say long, I mean long. For years, I carried around guilt that I hadn’t breastfed my son longer, confusion about why I hated breastfeeding so much, and deep shame about the way breastfeeding had hindered bonding with my baby. It wasn’t until three years later when I was pregnant with my second son—a rainbow baby after three miscarriages and years of infertility—that I learned to accept this aspect of my motherhood journey. Maybe it was because it had been such a long and painful process to get and stay pregnant that I was more comfortable advocating for what I needed. Maybe it was because the process had taught me how to trust my instincts. Maybe I just knew more about what it means to be a “good mom” and how to best love our children.

Whatever the reason, I had decided: I would not nurse my son. Period.

I was nervous to tell my OB-GYN that I wasn’t going to breastfeed at all, but she didn’t bat an eye. She didn’t try to convince me that “breast is best” or remind me of all the facts and data that I already knew. She simply said, “OK, we’ll make a note in your chart. You’ll want to bring a tight sports bra with you when you go into labor to slow down milk supply after delivery.”

Related: I had to fight to be heard when it came to feeding my baby at the hospital 

After my son was born, I held him with a fierce adoration. You’re here, you’re finally here, I thought. And I fed him with the teeny-tiny newborn bottles the hospital gives out. Sure, it didn’t contain my antibodies, but it contained love. So much love.

There are likely people who will think I didn’t try hard enough, that I didn’t care enough about my baby’s health, that I wasn’t a “good enough” mom, but I am no longer vulnerable to those opinions. I simply do not care, because I know with every ounce of my being that this was the best decision for me and for my babies.

This decision shouldn’t require an explanation. However, it should simply be respected.

The topic of breastfeeding is fraught for many mothers. Mamas talk about the sadness they felt when it was over or the fears they felt about whether their baby was eating enough. Some moms lament their inability to breastfeed due to medical conditions or complications with childbirth. But in all of these conversations, there is the assumption that all mothers want to breastfeed, that if they didn’t, it must have been because they weren’t able to. All of these stories include a justification for the absence of breastmilk in their babies’ diet. 

I didn’t breastfeed my newborn. Full stop. No explanation or justification needed.

I am glad that pregnant women and new moms have the resources they need to make informed decisions about breastfeeding and the support they need to continue on that path if they so choose. But the assumption that every mom wants to breastfeed is dangerous and leaves out those moms who choose a different path.

Related: These are the products you need if you are bottle feeding, mama

I didn’t breastfeed my newborn, and I shouldn’t have to provide a “valid” explanation. 

I didn’t breastfeed because it wasn’t right for me and my baby.

I didn’t breastfeed my newborn. Full stop. No explanation or justification needed.

If you are a mom who breastfed because you wanted to, I am happy for you. If you are a mom who was unable to breastfeed but wanted to, I understand your grief. And if you are a mom who didn’t breastfeed because you didn’t want to, I see you. I understand. I know that this doesn’t mean you love your baby any less, but rather that you knew what you needed, that you knew how to love your baby, and that you took the hard steps to do exactly that.