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Dear Mom Who Tried to Breastfeed But Couldn't

Photograph by Getty Images

Dear Mom Who Tried to Breastfeed But Couldn't,

I wish I could give you a big hug and then look you right in the eyes and tell you that you are an amazing mother. I was in your position once; in tears, in pain, wracked with guilt and self-doubt. When you are struggling with breastfeeding, it becomes your whole world. It feels as though your entire worth as a mother is somehow hidden behind your cracked and bleeding nipples. And when you finally wave that white flag of surrender and mix up a bottle, you are at once relieved and disappointed.

Please know that there is some much more to motherhood than how you feed your baby. And your baby needs a mother, not a martyr. An unhappy, pained, frustrated mom isn't good for anyone. In fact, if breastfeeding isn't working for you, feeding formula frees you up to be a better mom. You can stop worrying about that aspect of motherhood and start focusing on bonding and play. Snuggles, singing and stories feed your baby in deep and lasting ways.

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Don't let guilt taint your experience of motherhood like I did. Don't let it stop you from making mom friends. Breastfeeding selfies are not designed to make you feel bad. People aren't nursing in public or at playgroups to throw it in your face. Even those who breastfeed toddlers aren't doing it to spite you and most of them would never dream of judging you. Most people, and mothers especially, understand that breast isn't always best and if someone wishes to argue the point with you, you probably don't want to be friends with them anyway.

You did your best and ultimately did what was best for your child—that's not failure, it's success.

Let the worry go. It doesn't matter how or why breastfeeding didn't work out. You have made a challenging decision, the first of many as a mother, and now it's time to move on. Thank god we live in a time and place where formula is nutritious and available. They are constantly striving to make formula the very best it can be. Ignore that rude "reminder" on the can and be confident that you are doing what is right for your family. Hold your baby close and look into her eyes as you give her that bottle—she isn't worried that it isn't coming from your breast, in fact she is quite happy and you should be too.

When I look at my hearty 5-year-old son who has always topped the growth charts and has never had more than a cold, I see proof that there is more than one way to grow healthy kids. And when I look at how he is independent and sweet and confident in my love, I see that there is more than one way to be a great mom.

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This motherhood thing is hard and just by trying to breastfeed you have shown that you are up for it. You did your best and ultimately did what was best for your child—that's not failure, it's success. You are doing a great job, keep up the good work, and enjoy that sweet bundle of joy.


A mama who's been there

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