Breastfeeding, Weaning, and the Guilt that Follows

Why do I feel so guilty about weaning by baby off breastfeeding and what can I do about it?

This is a special post written specifically because a friend asked me to write it. It’s all about weaning off breastfeeding and the guilt that goes along with it. If you’ve ever breastfed a child and then weaned that child from breastfeeding, then you probably know what I’m talking about.

Breastfeeding, Weaning, and the Guilt that Follows - Moms Have Questions Too

Why is this guilt so strong? I have a couple theories, but what they all boil down to is this: 1- breastfeeding is hard. There is at least one aspect that is hard for almost every woman that breastfeeds. 2- Breastfeeding provides THE best nutrition for a baby and today almost everybody knows and understands this. On the one hand, you have your body telling you how hard breastfeeding is and how much easier it would be just to wean your baby off breastfeeding. On the other hand you have your brain telling you that breast is best and you absolutely must press on at all costs. Because, don’t you want what is best for your baby?

Well, guess what people? Sometimes weaning off breastfeeding IS better for your baby. How could this be, you ask? Didn’t I just say that breastfeeding is THE best nutrition for a baby? Let me share a simple story to illustrate my point.

After my sweet and wonderful Smiley Man was born, I was hit pretty severely with post-partum depression. I won’t go into very many details (because they aren’t all that pleasant), but I was not doing well and I knew it. I never felt like I could hurt myself or my children, but I could see very clearly that if something was not done about the depression, that I would get to the point that I wanted to harm someone. That scared me. A lot. I was desperate to find something that would make me feel better. I tried lots of things. I went off sugar completely. I took a vitamin D supplement religiously. I exercised a bunch. All of those things helped a little, but it wasn’t enough and I knew it.

I had heard that breastfeeding can sometimes make post-partum depression worse. I honestly don’t know if that is true for a lot of people. I had only heard of it with one person, but I was desperate. I needed to feel better so that I could take care of my sweet children. Honestly, the decision to wean my sweet Smiley Man off of breastfeeding was an easy one. I knew that breastfeeding was THE best nutrition for my baby, but I also knew that if I took my life because of post-partum depression that would be FAR FAR worse than my baby having not quite as good nutrition from formula.

Luckily, this story has a happy ending. I weaned Smiley Man off of breastfeeding when he was only four months old, but it took less than a week for my post-partum depression to disappear almost completely. Breastfeeding provided THE best nutrition for Smiley Man, but formula provided him with the best environment to be raised.

Now, I’m not saying that every woman who has post-partum should stop breastfeeding because I honestly don’t know if it helps everyone. Also, I’m not saying that post-partum depression is the only reason you should wean your baby off breastfeeding. What I am saying is that sometimes there are higher priorities than THE best nutrition for your baby. Maybe you can’t breastfeed because you have to work to provide a roof over your baby’s head. Maybe you can’t breastfeed because you don’t make enough milk for your baby. Maybe you can’t breastfeed because your baby just doesn’t understand how to latch on.

Whatever your reason, don’t be afraid to let the guilt go. I definitely think every mother should breastfeed her baby for as long as she possibly can. But when the time has come for weaning, just remember that there are often higher priorities than the best nutrition for your baby. You are responsible to give your baby the best possible environment to grow up in. Sometimes that means breastfeeding and sometimes that means formula feeding. Whatever the case is for you, try to let the guilt go. As long as you are trying to do what’s best for you baby, then you are doing the right thing.

Do you agree? What are some reasons you’ve had to wean from breastfeeding sooner than you wanted?