Stopping breastfeeding before 6 months - guilt and shaming

(46 Posts)
blueberrypudding Mon 04-Aug-14 21:52:57

DH and I made the painful decision to stop breastfeeding my four month old a couple of days ago after almost two months of struggling.

My DD was 11 weeks old when she first went on nursing strike. Since then I've got her TT divided, breastfeeding support, nursed in a dark room while sleepy, stimulated letdown before feeding etc. Nothing's really worked to get her back on the breast full time - she's screamed at every breastfeed and I've ended up having to make up a bottle and try to swap it for breast midfeed. I've got clinical depression and it's only got worse since - I feel so rejected each time she screams on the breast. I can't find time to exclusively express as she's quite a high needs baby and DH works full time.

In my head I know this is the right decision for both of us (she's no longer distressed at every feed and seems to be much happier overall) but it's so hard to reconcile this with what is said to be the best for baby. Everywhere I look there's things telling me EBF till six months. I feel like such a failure and I can't help but feel that other mums will be judging me.

Is it just me or is everything out there designed to subtly shame mums who FF? The Aptamil advert made me cry today.

MJP1 Mon 04-Aug-14 22:04:05

Honey big well done for the last 4 months giving birth to a new baby and feeding your dd through all the difficulties xx please don't beat yourself up you've done Amazing Xxxx

I know from experience how hard it was feeding a reluctant baby I did it myself for 6 months, I found it truly horrendous and looking back now I cannot believe I put us both through it, it turns out my dd had terrible reflux and cows milk protein allergy and even though I tried cutting dairy out it wasn't enough and she suffered until I gave her her special hydrogenised formula on which she thrived and is continuing to do so at nearly 18 months. I didn't bond with her until after I stopped breastfeeding and suspect I will always regret putting us both through it.

Please don't feel guilty enjoy your gorgeous new baby you wonderful mummy. X

PenguinsHatchedAnEgg Mon 04-Aug-14 22:18:07

Well done you.

You aren't being shamed. A mother's place is just in the wrong. Bfing mums get the same level of negativity in different ways.

You are doing great. smile

DramaAlpaca Mon 04-Aug-14 22:24:08

blueberry please don't beat yourself up about this. You did all you could and it's not your fault. I have been through something very similar, and I just want to reassure you it will get easier. Don't let anyone or anything make you feel guilty. You are doing the right thing for your DD and she will thrive perfectly well on formula.

I had to give up bf DS3 at four months because he wasn't putting on weight. Everything I did to increase my supply made no difference whatsoever, and I had to start supplementing at about six weeks. It got to the stage when he was four months old that I had to make the decision to stop bf altogether because he was rejecting the breast and my attempts to bf were making both him and me very distressed.

I sobbed myself to sleep after our last ever breast feed, I was devastated that I couldn't make it work. There were no physical reasons, he just wasn't thriving. I felt a complete failure as I'd breastfed both his older brothers without any problems, and I ended up with PND as a result. Those first few months were a rough time, both physically and emotionally.

I began to feel a lot better once I could see that DS was beginning to grow and thrive on formula. He changed from a miserable baby into a happy one almost overnight, and I know I made the right decision for both of us.

If it helps, I have always had the same strong bond with my ff baby as I have with my bf ones, and they have all grown into strong, healthy teenagers.

sleepysleepy Mon 04-Aug-14 22:25:08

You've been incredibly stoic to get this far.

Sometimes it just doesn't work: its not supposed to be THAT hard. It's supposed to be enjoyable and good for both of you. It sounds like neither of you are getting any joy out of it right now.

Just feed your baby. Don't worry that its formula, let it go and get back to enjoying this time. Honestly, it such a shame to lose any more time worrying about this when you have clearly tried your hardest.

RedCountryRoads Mon 04-Aug-14 22:25:34

Is it just me or is everything out there designed to subtly shame mums who FF?

Yes, I'm breast feeding my 8 week old but do give the occasional formula bottle.
It makes me feel like I'm feeding her poison.
There is too much pressure from everyone.

You've made the right choice for your DD. Sod everyone else. flowers

sleepysleepy Mon 04-Aug-14 22:28:43

Should add I am a three times "failed" breast feeder - many tears shed each time. And each time I gave up ( the longest I managed was four miserable months) my babies became happy almost immediately and shot up several "dropped" centiles.

I've no idea in retrospect why I let them remain hungry and miserable for so long just to stop my guilt about my perceived failure.

stargirl1701 Mon 04-Aug-14 22:29:28

This too shall pass.

You will feel better. Time will heal this wound. When you watch your LO graduate university I guarantee you won't give a damn. It just hurts right now because it's something you truly wished to do.

I remember sobbing as I bf DD for the last time. Ditto, giving the first formula. She is now 23 months and I have made peace with it. I know in my heart I tried everything. It just didn't work for us.

HappyAsASandboy Mon 04-Aug-14 22:37:12

You can't do right for doing wrong once you're a mother.

I breastfed my babies until they self weaned at over 2 years old. I was judged for that too. I suspect I'd have been judged for formula feeding if I'd have gone that way.

I was also judged for cosleeping, though if I'd have put the babies in their own room early if have been judged for that too.

I was also judged for keeping them in daytime nappies until they were 3.5 years old, but I'd have been clearing up accidents if I'd tried to train them earlier.

Basically someone somewhere will judge you whatever you do, basically because we all make different decisions. You need to be clear about your own feelings and learn to ignore other people unless you genuinely respect their opinion. Someone close to you, who has seen the situation first hand and seen what you have or haven't tried/researched before making your decision may have a valid opinion; random friends/family/people in a cafe really don't know enough about the situation to be able to judge validly!

Well done for breastfeeding your baby, and well done for making the right choice for you and your family when you felt breastfeeding was no longer best for you all.

mopsytop Mon 04-Aug-14 22:39:27

Please don't beat yourself up! I went through agonies trying to bf. I had a v traumatic emergency theatre birth and couldn't even hold my baby for hours after her birth (they f***ed up the epidural so it went too high and I couldn't move from neck down for hours) which may have played a role. Anyway after six weeks where I basically did nothing bar try to bf/express/top up with expressed milk in bottle, I finally gave in. We just couldn't manage it and I was attached to a breast pump 8 hrs a day, trying to feed her another eight hours a day (and in tears and feeling guilty most of the time because I was trying SO hard but it still wasn't working). Anyway, I felt AWFUL when we stopped for months BUT my little girl was SO much happier! She really thrived on formula. Tbh I think she also responded to me no longer being completely stressed out and upset. I cried when they had a support bf day in my local town or whenever I saw the NHS posters promoting bf for months. Now I look at my two and a half year old, she is a beautiful, bouncing, bright, happy, healthy, well adjusted child. You could never tell she'd been ff. I stopped eventually because I went to see my GP about sth else, he saw I was a wreck and asked, I told him about the bf stress, he said don't tell anyone I said this but the NHS has targets. So they want you to keep bf. Just stop. Put your baby on the bottle. She will be totally fine. You won't be a total wreck. She will be happy that you're happy. As my sister more succinctly put it your baby couldn't give a shite how you feed her so long as you feed her. Please don't spend months beating yourself up about if and feeling like a failure (I was even scared to ff in public in case of being judged). It is FINE to ff your baby! Do what makes YOU the most relaxed and happy. Happy mum = happy baby. In retrospect and with more than two year's distance I actually think that any benefit my baby got from breast mill was probably cancelled out by how worried and stressed I was. Bf is great if it works for you and your baby and of course I'd have preferred it in that case. But if it is not working and causing you grief just stop. Your baby will be totally fine!

OooOooTheMonkey Mon 04-Aug-14 22:41:49

Echoing what everyone has already said really.

My supply dropped as I stopped night feeds and I eventually stopped after 4.5 months and felt horrendously guilty too. I don't feel guilty now, she's 8.5 months and thriving, loves her milk and food and is much happier now she is full and not hungry all the time
.
You will feel better about it soon, there's a lot of pressure to breastfeed. You are feeding your child that's the main thing, it doesn't matter how you do it! Please don't beat yourself up. You did well to persevere so long. You're doing brilliantly. Chin up smile x

mopsytop Mon 04-Aug-14 22:43:17

What is best for baby is happy, relaxed mum. Plus you learn to get over the judging thing as whatever you do, someone will disagree and judge you. We are all different and we all have different ways of bringing up our kids. Now I just do what suits us as a family and I just don't care what anyone else thinks! Much easier and nicer all around!

museumum Mon 04-Aug-14 22:44:09

You know what? I didn't even read your reasons for stopping because they DONT MATTER. You decided it's the best decision for your family so you are right.

The Aptamil advert is NOT telling you to be ashamed. It is advertising formula - they want you to buy it. They only say six months because they're not allowed to advertise formula before that.

Some mothers who breast feed beyond six months also feel that Ad is judging them and telling them they should be "moving on" from breastfeeding.

Please don't let marketing make you feel bad or see guilt, judgement and pressure. Please, be at peace with your decision.

FET14 Mon 04-Aug-14 22:49:33

sleepysleepy - I totally relate to what you posted, but I've only one child so far.

OP - hugs. x

Toohotforfishandchips Mon 04-Aug-14 23:14:55

I have no doubt that you are a fantastic mum and are making the right decision for you as a family. FF is fine and you did great to BF this far. Both mine were mixed FF and BF - that suited us grin

Mendeleyev Mon 04-Aug-14 23:18:10

I'm a l

Mendeleyev Mon 04-Aug-14 23:20:09

Sorry! Long way down the line. Can't even remember when I stopped BF DD1 or 2 (they are 9 and 11). Just do what ever suits you both.

MrsSpencerReid Mon 04-Aug-14 23:31:02

Firstly, you are a great mum as you are putting baby first, it sounds like bf is stressful all round and babies are more bothered about having a relaxed mum than where their milk comes from smile that said, I get where you are coming from, ds1 was a breast refuser from birth, we spent almost two weeks trying to get him to bf, he never latched once I felt so rejected, he took bottle feeds straight away, I expresses for a few months but it was too much with looking after a baby and trying to leave the house! I occasionally get pangs when I feel awful for giving up but he is a happy healthy 2 1/4 year old now, he was the only one out of my group of friends to be bottle fed and you can't tell the difference. Personally, I think they should say "breast is best but formula is ok too" smile

theborrower Tue 05-Aug-14 13:15:18

OP, you've fine a terrific job and you're not a failure, you're really not.

I understand how you feel too, I had such a crappy time trying to BF my first daughter (EMCS, baby couldn't latch, low birthweight, tongue tie, pumping 8-10 times a day etc for weeks) that when I stopped I felt like such a failure. We actually swapped to BF twice a day and FF rest of the time. She wasn't getting a full BF from me - my supply was totally buggered by then - but I enjoyed the cuddles and thought of it as 'every drop counts'. Could something similar work for you?

The stresses of BFing definitely contributed/caused my PND though, and once we had changed our feeding routine I felt less stressed. I've just had DD2 and things started going wrong again so I made the early decision to switch to FF to try and prevent PND again, and I'm definitely much happier.

You need to do the best for you too, and that includes looking after yourself and your mental health. Your baby needs a healthy happy mother.

I hope you find peace with this soon x

blueberrypudding Tue 05-Aug-14 20:14:47

Thanks everyone for your kind words and for sharing your stories - it really helps to know I've not got the only reluctant feeder in the world. All I've heard from family has been: "That's so weird, I've never heard of a baby going off the breast. My two year old refuses to stop breastfeeding!", "Oh that's strange. My son latches on to everything." and "Are you sure you're not just latching her wrong?"

The worst one of all was from my dad: "Maybe she just doesn't like the taste of your breastmilk." Like that didn't just send me into fits of tears.

Had a weird dream last night that someone else was breastfeeding DD and felt off the whole day because of it. Hopefully this phase passes soon and I get over it! I think DH is starting to think I'm loopy.

blueberrypudding Tue 05-Aug-14 20:17:30

Hi theborrower, we tried breastfeeding at night and formula feeding in the day for a couple of weeks, which worked until her four month sleep regression hit, when she started to wake for night feeds completely bright eyed, and she realised I was trying to breastfeed her. sad

museumum Tue 05-Aug-14 20:18:21

I think it will just be the hormones making you feel a bit loopy. It should settle down.

mopsytop Tue 05-Aug-14 20:21:15

blueberry, I think I actually WAS a bit loopy for a while. Don't worry, it will pass smile

hollie84 Tue 05-Aug-14 23:10:55

Only 1% of babies EBF to 6 months.

Honestly, I think no one really cares that you formula feed except you (and I mean that in a nice way!). The vast, vast majority of babies in the UK have at least some formula.

sleepysleepy Wed 06-Aug-14 10:21:14

I think the other thing that's hard to accept is that people with successful breast feeding relationships are never going to be able to understand your issues - because in their case, every problem that came up had a solution. In the situations where bf genuinely fails, or never "thrives", all the simple solutions will have been tried, but won't have worked. I kept wanting some kind of approval for my decision to stop; it was almost worse that I had just enough milk to limp along, but not enough to hold a centile line or make a happy baby (and mother)!

I had a lovely hv who had been to a local education event about failure to thrive, and pointed out that in my (very middle class) area, they were seeing increased cases of babies dropping off centiles as the mothers were so against ff they would not consider topping up or ff rather than ebf for six months. Whilst I accept there are various issues with growth charts, I find it amazing that in some circles, acheving the 6m ebf badge now takes precedence over maintaining good growth. When my last child's head circumference was the only bit of growth being preserved (his weight and height were falling off) I STILL felt bad about stopping. It's simply become a bit ridiculous - even the la leche lady I saw said "just feed the baby"!

smile

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