The best breastfeeding advice I ever received? You don't have to if you don't want to

Let go of the guilt, and find a way to feed your baby that works for you and your family.

The best breastfeeding advice I ever received? You don't have to if you don't want to

As soon as I became pregnant, I started hearing and reading about the benefits of breastfeeding: immunity to disease, increased IQ, lowered SIDS risk. Plus, we would save money and I would lose weight, right?

I was sold.

About three months before my due date, my husband and I signed up for a 3-hour breastfeeding basics class. In the class, we spent a lot of time listening to the benefits of breastfeeding. We heard about how natural breastfeeding is, learned various breastfeeding holds with a doll and watched some videos demonstrating a good latch. There was a vague reference at the end to contacting a lactation consultant if there were any issues.


Seemed like we had this down.

Then, we actually had our baby, and reality did not look like the videos for me.

From the first hour, my little girl would not latch. The advice from nurses was to just keep trying. They would come in and smush her head to my boob for 10 minutes at a time without success.

"Just keep trying," they would say as parting advice.

By the first night, one of the nurses gave her some formula. "I didn't want her to suffer," she said. More guilt over my suffering baby. And wasn't I messing up my milk supply by giving her formula?

On the second day, my daughter was diagnosed with jaundice. The pediatrician on staff said the way to fix this was with "quality" feedings. She definitely did not get that from me, so more formula.

The "breast is best" advice intended to inspire me to breastfeed resulted in intense guilt over the fact that it wasn't working. My plan was unraveling, and I felt like a failure.

The feelings of failure left me crying to my husband in our hospital room. I thought this was supposed to be "natural." I thought that I was failing at doing my first job as a mother: feeding my child.

After we were released from the hospital, I did see a lactation consultant, and through a combination of pumping, nipple shields, and new positioning, we made some progress. I was still supplementing with formula every day.

But I was spending roughly 18 hours a day pumping, feeding or cleaning parts, and I still supplemented with formula.

I was reaching a breaking point. At about the same time two other new mom friends reached out, and I told them about how much I was struggling. One had an exclusively breastfed infant, and one was now exclusively formula-fed. Both were thriving.

Formula mom told me she had the same experience I was having. After four weeks, she told her lactation consultant that pumping and feeding were consuming her, to the point where she wasn't enjoying being a mom. Mercifully, this lactation consultant told her it was time to stop.

"The first time I watched my son gulp down a bottle of formula, I realized THIS is what motherhood is supposed to feel like!" She told me. "If it's getting too hard, don't do it."

Breastfeeding mom had similar advice. "No one tells you how hard it is. It got easier for me, but it doesn't for everyone. Fed is best. You don't have to feed her this way."

These two women saved my sanity. If I didn't breastfeed, my daughter would be okay. In fact, my daughter was happiest when she was full. If I got her there, what was I feeling guilty about?

Through the cluster feeding and weaning off of the nipple shield, I developed a new mantra. If it's still this hard, maybe I don't do this tomorrow.

Without the pressure of feeling like I was failing, my guilt went away (for the most part). I continued trying to breastfed and supplementing with formula.

Now at 12 weeks, I exclusively breastfeed my daughter. But it's not out of guilt, or thinking this is the only way she will be a healthy, smart and happy child. It just happens to work for us right now.

Soon, I will be returning to work. I'm lucky to work for an employer that is accomodating to breastfeeding moms, but I know this will come with its own challenges. I plan to take it one day at a time, and if it gets too hard, maybe I won't do this tomorrow.

As long as my daughter is fed and loved, I refuse to feel guilty about the way that I feed her.

So to all the other mothers struggling with breastfeeding, know that you don't have to do this. Let go of the guilt, and find a way to feed your baby that works for you and your family.

You've got this.

You might also like:

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

Keep reading Show less

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play