Letting Go of the Guilt About Not Breastfeeding During Postpartum Depression

breastfeeding problemsIn 2008, Lisa Sniderman wrote a compelling piece for Postpartum Progress about how she quit her bipolar medications so that she could breastfeed after the birth of her daughter, and ended up being hospitalized for severe postpartum depression. She wrote about what a painful decision it was for her to stop breastfeeding so that she could get the care she needed. Lisa has recently had another baby and is sharing with us how, this time, she let go of her guilt about not being able to breastfeed.

I’m a postpartum depression survivor who braved it and had another kid. Along the way, I even survived two years of fertility treatment and three miscarriages. And guess what? NO depression this time around. I am deliriously in love with my kids and my life. Turns out newborns are enchanting. Who knew? The first time around, I was too consumed with postpartum depression and guilt to notice. Now my stomach does giddy flip-flops whenever I cuddle my son. I could do without the sleep deprivation and 20 extra pounds, and I wish a trip to Costco didn’t take all day, but I’m able to take these things in stride. That amazes me.

I don’t attribute this outcome to dumb luck. We went into pregnancy #2 with a solid plan. I stayed on my full dose of antidepressant throughout the pregnancy, and started on a mood stabilizer immediately after giving birth. As a result, I bottle-fed my son from the beginning and never looked back. I made this decision peacefully before I even got pregnant this time, even though I strongly support breastfeeding in general. I did my best over the years to find other treatment options, and they just didn’t work for me. As I watched my first baby become a toddler, then a highly verbal preschooler, I discovered that it is a mother’s guilt– far more than her chosen feeding method– which presents the true barrier to emotional bonding. Once I resolved that guilt, I began to mother my child from my heart, if not from my breasts. It would have been nice not to have to choose between the two, but I made the right choice.

In fact, I’d venture to say that getting effective treatment for serious mental illness is always the right choice. For the baby as well as the mom.

Four years ago I was locked into a recursive loop of self-hate that left me unable to respond to my baby. Medication and therapy helped unlock the loop and reclaim my maternal wisdom and instincts. Getting my own needs met has enabled me to gladly and willingly make sacrifices for my children, instead of experiencing those sacrifices as misery and depletion. For example, in January I used up all my vacation time to help my daughter with a potty-training “immersion” program for kids with bowel conditions. We stayed at home and practiced over and over again for three weeks. Some days we both fell asleep after dinner, totally exhausted, and started again at dawn. I never once yelled or showed impatience — I provided the supportive presence she needed to work through the challenge. When she finally got the hang of it, I was so proud of us both that I cried. My therapist remarked, “This was your version of the breastfeeding experience.” She was right!

It really bugs me that our culture tends to view a mother’s self-care and mental health as some sort of luxury, when in fact true selflessness cannot occur in their absence. You have to possess a whole self in order to set it aside. In the throes of PPD, struggling to make a decision about my meds, I thought comments such as, “A happy mom means a happy baby,” and, “You have to put on your own oxygen mask first” were just well-intentioned platitudes. Four years later, I see how profound these statements really are. My daughter doesn’t stay up nights wondering why she wasn’t breastfed, but she sure notices when I am emotionally unavailable. My infant son can already tell the difference between a forced smile and a genuine one, between a feeding that is rushed and one that is attuned. Kids are amazingly perceptive that way. They learn how to regard themselves and their world by watching our faces and witnessing our actions. What we say doesn’t matter much if we’re hypocrites about it.

I still do feel sad at the loss of the breastfeeding relationship. But sadness is different than guilt. It’s a productive emotion that can be worked through. It doesn’t paralyze me. While I support a pro-breastfeeding culture, I don’t see anything positive about creating guilt in women who fail at breastfeeding, for whatever reason. This guilt is unproductive, and can be very disabling. I know that breastfeeding– when it works out– is an incomparable gift to both mom and baby, something that is worth a lot of sacrifice and time. However, a mother’s mental health is not an acceptable sacrifice, and that’s where a lot of depressed women get confused and stuck. It’s not hard to understand why.

In our society, “breast versus bottle” can be shorthand for “mother versus mother.” Breastfeeding has become an issue of individual morality, not just a policy and public-health concern, and I think that’s a mistake. Total strangers malign each other’s character, both in the media and in real life. No matter what a mother does, she can be sure someone will disapprove. Added to this, of course, is all the stigma and misunderstanding that surround postpartum mental illness. The fallout from this combined storm is the private suffering of individual mothers. If you are suffering with postpartum mental illness, I hope my words give you the courage to make the best treatment decision for yourself, whether or not it involves exclusive breastfeeding. Each mother is the expert on her own subjective experience, and she is the one who has to live it. Once I recognized this truth for myself, I stopped caring so much what other people think.

I know in my gut that my kids are lucky to have me as their mom. At its core, parent-child attachment is based on the parent’s responsiveness to the child’s needs, respect for their unique personhood, and ability to assume their point of view. Because my mothering has these qualities, I consider myself an attachment parent even though I bottle-feed. (Heck, I still use a sling and cloth diapers, because for me it isn’t all-or-nothing. I do what I can, and I don’t do what I can’t.) I am in love with being a mother. For me, that begins and ends with taking care of my mental health. Oops, I hear my son beginning to cry, so I’m going to hold him close as I feed him a bottle. What a wonderful experience for us both!

Photo credit: © onoky – Fotolia

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. I LOVE this post. As an expectant mom who is contemplating breast vs. bottle after having a terrible experience w/ breastfeeding the first time around, this is absolutely refreshing to read, and you just said it all perfectly.
    My struggles with breastfeeding my daughter, and the sleep deprivation that accompanied those struggles, coupled with unbearable guilt are something I do NOT want to experience again.
    This time around, I'm really thinking hard about all my options, and one thing I've considered is just bottle feeding from the get go because I know I would be able to work out a manageable sleep plan/baby duty shift during the night hours with my husband. I know that having good sleep will help tremendously to either contribute to the prevention of further PPD/anxiety or at least hopefully lessen the intensity.
    I still haven't made up my mind. I'd like to try breastfeeding this one, just in case it's a much easier experience, but I applaud you SO much for taking this stance and speaking up about how important the mental health of the mother is.
    It was so inspiring to read that your experience this time around has been completely different. I am so happy to read that, and it gives me a lot of hope for myself. Thanks you for all that you wrote.

  2. what a well written post! THANK YOU for speaking up for moms who are unable to breastfeed. Guilt can be paralyzing and it is so unnecessary.

  3. I am the mother of a 13 month old and a one-week old. I tried to breast feed my first. It lasted a week until the anxiety and the panic were so overwhelming that I had to go back on my xanex. I was willing to give up breastfeeding for the meds. I figured a baby being fed a bottle by a stable mother was better than one being breastfed by a basketcase.
    The choice wasn't the hard part. It was the resulting guilt AND constant constant questions from nosy friends (and strangers!) about if I was breastfeeding. Why it mattered to them, I'll never know.
    Once pregnant again, the questions began again. Are you going to breastfeed? they'd ask. (I never did have the guts to retort "Why do you care?" but damn, did I want to.)
    Even in the hospital as I was telling the nurses he'd be exculsively bottle fed, it bothered me to say it outloud. I went back on my xanex with in 24 of birth. I knew it was the right choice for me. Yet, that "I'm inferior as a mother b/c I'm using formula" voice was still in my head.
    Then today, I read your post. I need to print it. I need to read it every day. I need to read it as I call my therapist and med manager today and tell them that I am not ok. The PPD after my 1st which became Antepartum depression with the second is now back to PPD and PPA.
    Last night, I was crying to my husband that I don't know anyone who "gets" it. Well God answered my prayer through your post today. All the doubts and fears and my head, the anxieties and the frustrations…. you brought them all into the light and gave language to the foggiest and most difficult parts of my thoughts.
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  4. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Just make sure you are communicating openly with your doc. It may be that you don't even have PPD/anxiety this time. And if you do, the symptoms may be lessened by whatever treatment plan you are following. Please know that whatever choice you make, we support you.

  5. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I'm so glad you were here to read this today. Please know we DO get it. Totally.
    You are not alone.
    – K

  6. Jeez,
    this WAS my story, too. Bipolar. PPD (oooo, with a little psychotic break thrown in for good measure), couldn't breastfeed first son b/c there I couldn't make any milk, none. Enter the wailing and slashing of useless breasts. Ah, PPD. Those were the days.
    Lisa, I did the same thing as you for child #2. Lots of pre-planning meetings with all sorts of professionals and we figured out what meds were right for me to take during the entire pregnancy (Seroquel and Lamictal) and to start LIthium 3 weeks before birth. Funny enough, I DID make milk with my second son, so much that I couldn't be near him for a week when he was hungry b/c I had to get my milk to dry up. It was poisoned with Lithium. That broke my heart. I longed after breastfeeding for years, but then once I finally made milk I couldn't share the experience. I wanted to explode; instead I listened to everyone around me b/c I had agreed to put my faith in them during the postpartum period.
    Healthy mom = healthy family. My older son would have known if my mood was wonky from not taking my meds and would have blamed the baby. My baby didn't care who fed him or how as long as it was warm and he was snuggled. I had only 3-4 days of crushing PPD about a week after the milk left, but then it was gone.
    I LOVED this post and will go retweet the link right now. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Even though that period is years behind me, it's still nice to feel not alone.

  7. (Re-)Creating a breast-feeding positive culture should NOT mean putting down other women for their needs or choices.
    A successfully-adjusting parent is ALWAYS the right choice.
    I do think it is wonderful that you mentioned your attempt to find alternative medications–while this can be done some of the time, certainly it is not an option all of the time.
    To those who are able to breastfeed, it can be part of the healing process–and I promise the nursing does get much as the baby gets older.
    However, this post a very important reminder to take care of yourself so you can enjoy your life and your family for many years to come.
    Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation and for supporting all women, especially those who are suffering from PPD.

  8. Wow wow wow. This is an incredible post, but I felt a wave of anxiety reading it because I know you are so right and that breastfeeding my next child might not be an the best choice if it means avoiding going another round with the darkness, and yet I can't quite imagine not doing it.
    That said, reading your positive experience with your newborn makes me so SO hopeful for the future. Thank you.

  9. Thank you for the support! I'm currently still doing the meds during pregnancy and hoping for the best – just want to be prepared and explore my options for what I want to do postpartum. I have a great doc who knows my history and is on board – ready to screen and ask the tough questions. That reminder that it may not happen this time is so encouraging to hear.

  10. It was good to hear your experience – I'm so sorry you're feeling that guilt. I hope that by you talking about this and getting support you will be able to see that you are doing an amazing thing by making sure your mental health is intact so you can be an effective mama and enjoy your babies. And, can I just say I give you some major props for caring for a newborn and another young baby? Hang in there – this is a great place for support – as is the PP Facebook page. I wish you the best!

  11. This is super encouraging to hear, too! Another mama who is putting your mental health first – I am SO happy for you that you were able to figure out what worked. I'm sorry for the feelings of loss about not breastfeeding. I just think it's awesome that you ladies are willing to put it out there and share your experience. It's very inspiring.

  12. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Yes, it's so important for people to know there are options. For some, therapy is enough and they can continue to breastfeed. For others, they may be on a medication that has been deemed "okay" for breastfeeding. For others, it may be that they can't breastfeed for some reason or that they feel better if they don't. The thing to do is find out the options and do what works for your family.

  13. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I hope you know that breastfeeding will still be an option. It isn't always necessary to stop in order to also receive treatment for PPD or related illnesses.
    – K

  14. Heidi,
    I cried when I read your response. I am SO glad I was able to help.
    Funny, I just got a visit from my best friend Mo today. She was so supportive and full of praise for how I'm managing with two kids. Just for the record, she is a La Leche League member who's nursing a toddler, and sometimes she needs me to remind her how special that is because she questions a lot of her parenting decisions and looks to ME for guidance! I think it's individual connections between mothers that put a lie to this idea that we're in some sort of competition or catfight. I'm glad to have created a connection like that for you.

  15. I had PPD after the birth of both children. The first time I began AD during the first week postpartum after I began experiencing intrusive thoughts. I decided to forgoe breastfeeding. As a result, PPD ended there. I weaned off AD six months before getting pregnant with second. I thought I would be ok and chose not to resume AD after the birth of my second, even though I began having intrusive thoughts. I so badly wanted to breastfeed the second because I missed out the first time around. I felt so guilty. I had many problems breastfeeding my second. I wasn't producing enough milk, baby was constantly crying, and I ended up with mastitis. Not to mention the tremendous lack of sleep. I didn't sleep a straight 4 hours for the first couple of months. Sure enough, the PPD got worse, way worse than the first time. Insomnia was my first sign and a wake up call to start the AD again, along with Xanax and Ambien. As a result, I had to stop breastfeeding. My second experience with PPD was much, much worse because I failed to take AD early on due to my guilt over breastfeeding. Looking back I would have gone back on AD right after birth. Hindsight is 20/20 but I still wish I would have let go of the guilt back then so that I didn't go thru that terrible period of darkness. I'm so grateful I pulled thru but it makes me really angry when people judge mothers who don't breastfeed.

  16. mrwiffles@aol.com says:

    Very true. In fact, from what I have read, there are very few meds that are completely "verboten" during breastfeeding. I was wracked with guilt at first and resistant, but glad i got over that. It is totally possible to breastfeed while on antidepressants ( I did it and have two happy healthy children)! Its a choice, just as taking meds during pregnancy is, but my Doc made me feel so much better by saying, in essence, "A happy Mom is the most important, as it makes a happy baby". A Doctor who knows the right meds for pregnancy or post partum breastfeeding, and is willing to discuss with you, is what is needed. I am happy I chose to keep breastfeeding and to take the SSRI!

  17. mrwiffles@aol.com says:

    Wonderful article, and wonderful replies. Way to go Mommies! 🙂

  18. mrwiffles@aol.com says:

    PS: Doesn't mean that the choice NOT to BF, is not equally valid. Its your choice and your mental health. 🙂

  19. Just to clarify, my medication is one of the very few that is "verboten"– there have been clinical cases of newborns becoming dangerously ill through exposure via breastmilk. In a way, that made things much easier for me. I think what's harder is that there are other medications (SSRIs, most tricyclic ADs) generally considered "safe,"… but there are no longitudinal studies showing what happens to babies exposed to these meds in the long term. No one can conclusively say that there is no risk whatsoever, and that can be scarier for some moms than for others.

  20. Amazingly well-written and so conscious of every mother who might be struggling, breastfeeding or not. I had a miserable time with my first son, and I'm convinced it played a huge part in the development of my PPD. With my second son, I knew I wanted to try again, but I went on a low dose of antidepressants from the beginning, and I gave myself a free pass out of breastfeeding if I didn't feel like it was the best thing for my family. I made it to six months, when I had to change my medication, and I was completely happy with that.
    My favorite thing you said: Mental health is not an acceptable sacrifice. The world needs to hurry up and reach this conclusion so we can all go on with our days without all the guilt.
    Thank you for a beautiful post.

  21. I love what you said. Breastfeeding tends to be a huge topic in my PPD support group and we all feel that society puts this pressure on mothers when there is already so much. When my 4th son was born and he had health issues I was told the "best thing" I could do for him was to breastfeed. I had not done it with the previous 3 (a decsion I was fine with) and had not planned to do it for the 4th. But when the docs said it was "the best thing" I could do for my son who was hooked up to machines and having test after test run it seemed a no brainer. Since I couldn't be in the NICU around the clock (though I tried) I pumped, when he finally came home I tried to breastfeed but was not successful at all. I tried pumping and then giving it to him but I could not produce enough which led to my depression getting worse. This was the best thing I could do for my son, breastfeeding was they only way Icould help him and my body wasn't helping me do it. What good was I? What a terrible mother I was for letting my son down by not providing him with what he needed to get strong and get better. I felt like a failure of a mother. A year and 1/2 later I still remember the pain and guilt I felt for something I really had no control over and it brings tears to my eyes. But with the help of my support group (a wonderful bunch of moms!) medication and therapy I relize that my little man is strong, healthy and happy and I am the reason for it!

  22. Lisa…thanks for your helpful and healing insights into this truly difficult choice around breastfeeding the second time around after having a postpartum mood disorder with a previous child. I'm pregnant again after having suffered postpartum OCD with my son almost 2 years ago and have been having a hard time sorting out the whole breastfeeding plan. Knowing that if I give it up, I can take xanax right away, get a night nurse, and have all sorts of support to try to manage the dark side of the postpartum time for me.
    Thanks for reminding me that you mother your child from the heart, with or without your breasts!
    And thanks to Katerine for all the amazing resources you bring us.

  23. Michelle S says:

    As I've posted here before, this was a HUGE issue for me. I gave up bf'ing after two weeks because (1) DD was not getting enough and was constantly hungry and upset; and (2) the so-called supplemental feeding system that the LC recommended was wearing me down physically and mentally (and without accomplishing anything). I switched to formula because my baby needed nourishment, and I needed to maintain at least a minimal level of physical and mental fitness if I was to take care of her. I made that decision with no guilt at all, because I knew that my baby's needs by far outweighed anyone's ideological interests. I did however feel enraged over the vicious criticism I received. I felt outraged at my LC's merciless willingness to sacrifice my own and my baby's well-being to advance her sacred cause. Ten years later, I still feel outraged over this. I'm glad to find voices of reason on this subject on this site and some others, but sadly, the voices of the zealots are so much louder.

  24. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Of course. I just want to clear up the misconception some people have that you can't breastfeed AND be treated for PPD at the same time. This leads some women who have PPD and want to breastfeed to avoid treatment altogether for their illness. That's not necessary.

  25. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I'm so sorry you had to go through that, Ann. Honestly when it comes to the whole breastfeeding debate, the old adage "you have to put your oxygen mask on first" really makes sense.
    I don't know how we can expect women to completely sacrifice their own health just for BFing. Yes, it's important. But if you can't do it, you can't do it.

  26. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I'm so sorry for your experience Sarah. I can only imagine how awful you must have felt. At the same time, I'm thrilled you found a group of supportive people that helped you great through it!

  27. Add me to the list of people who are a) crying while reading this and b) need to print out a copy and post it on their bathroom mirror.
    As you may or may not know, I've spent the last 2 years being an "advocate" of sorts for those who can't (or choose not to) breastfeed, and are made to feel like lesser moms b/c of it. I struggled with breastfeeding for a myriad of reasons, but my PPD cast a pall over it all and even if I had not experienced the physical complications my son and I had with nursing, I still believe formula feeding would have been better for my mental state. My depression was so tied up with body-image issues (always has been – I was anorexic for many years) and breastfeeding magnified all those issues. It was pure hell.
    But here's the thing – even though I write about these issues all day long, now that I'm expecting my second child in 10 weeks or less, I'm panicking again. Somehow, the guilt and worry still sneaks in… maybe I won't have PPD this time (although considering my depression has been way worse during pregnancy this time around, so much so that I've stayed on my meds rather than weaning off them like last time, I kind of doubt I'll be so lucky); maybe breastfeeding will go well… the voices just won't stop. But then another voice says, come on, FFF. Man up. You KNOW that by bottle feeding from the start, you can have no worry about taking your meds, and getting the self-care you need to be an attentive, attuned mom this time around. My daughter may not get breastmilk like my son did, but she WILL get a happy, emotionally available mother… isn't that worth something?
    Anyway, thank you so much for this. It's an amazing and much-needed post.

  28. mrwiffles@aol.com says:

    My reply was actually meant to follow my own comment, so as not to step on any toes of any Moms who choose not to BF while on medication. I did not want to seem to be saying you SHOULD do it if you don't want to (anymore than I'd encourage the reverse) .
    I had PPD/OCD for #1 (that actually started in pregnancy– and went off the cliff afterwards). I went on Zoloft for about 6 months post partum. Had a cruddy Doctor, but I did not know the resources out there. For #2 I started experiencing anxiety/insomnia symptoms in third trimester and I really did not want to go back on medication while pregnant, but my OB was sensational and he helped me find a wonderful Doctor who encouraged me to go with my "gut" and take the medication if needed. She had all the info to reassure me and help me make the decision. She prescribed me a medication to help with sleep also. I also did LOTS of daily mindfulness meditation and some supportive therapy that was an adjunct to that. I had a wonderful happy healthy baby girl #2, anxiety faded away and no PPD. I even went through the death of my Mother in law the same day as the birth and got through it fine. It was a totally different experience with # 2.
    I am so glad I chose to take the medication and I did breastfeed, and am so happy I did! We both loved breastfeeding so much we are still doing it at 2 1/2. 🙂

  29. mrwiffles@aol.com says:

    That's why I wanted to clarify my last post. I totally understand why a Mom would choose to forgo breastfeeding due to medications. I just wanted to put it out there that it might not be necessary to stop for those who were considering options. But, I do agree, its a "risk/benefit scenario and its the Moms choice, always.

  30. mrwiffles@aol.com says:

    A successfully-adjusting parent is ALWAYS the right choice. Amen!

  31. Love across the wi-fi to all you moms! I am so touched to find how deeply my words resonated.

  32. What a wonderful post and such an important topic. As the only breastfeeding organization that is shifting the focus off the "breast vs. bottle" debate and on to the BARRIERS that keep moms from making an informed decision, achieving their personal goals, and feeling good about it (whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months, 2 years or not at all) we applaud the service you are providing. Here are some useful resources:
    Expecting moms who are wondering if their meds are safe to take while breastfeeding should consult The Infant Risk Center founded by the leading expert, Dr. Thomas Hale: http://www.infantrisk.org/ Unfortunately, most doctors and pharmacists are not aware of this very new resource and more often tell moms erroneously that they can not breastfeed on the medication they are taking.
    A great resource for moms who are grieving the loss of a breastfeeding relationship is http://www.mobimotherhood.org/MM/default.aspx
    Finally, we hope that moms will join together to demand that donated milk from a registered donor milk bank can be made available and covered by insurance for all moms whose need to take medication precludes them from breastfeeding. Help us spread the word, educate your hospitals and physicians–unless parents demand it, nothing will change. Donor milk is especially critical for compromised infants and preemies, it can be life-saving! Although Bestforbabes.org can not endorse it because it is not regulated, some mothers have had great success with milkshare.org to obtain donated milk.
    As a mother who suffered from severe PPD, thank you again from the bottom of my heart for helping to end the horrible cycle of pressure, judgment and guilt that keeps all of us from being the best moms we can be.

  33. Amber @Beyond Postpa says:

    Thank you, thank you! This is SO helpful.

  34. I love *love* love this post. People are always harping on about how breast is best and yes, in many circumstances, it is. But it is not ALWAYS the best decision for every mother-baby pair, and this is just one example of that. I applaud you for realizing that your health was a fundamental aspect of your parenting and for being able to formula feed your child without guilt for the overall well-being of your family. And I am so glad to hear that this time around, you had no postpartum depression to speak of.
    Congratulations on the health and happiness of you and your family =)

  35. As well, an earlier commenter (Candace) said that re-creating a positive breastfeeding culture should include refraining from putting down the needs or choices of different mothers.
    I just wanted to give that a HEAR HEAR. Or an AMEN. Or something like that.

  36. Thank you, Bettina, for mentioning donor milk! I was so frustrated to find that there are no milk banks in my state and that even if there were, the average cost of donor milk is prohibitive.

  37. Lisa,
    There aren't many studies on medications and breastfeeding because of the dangers of purposefully testing the meds on babies. So, it gets left up to the individual mom (and doctor).
    However, there are risks to formula feeding as well since it is not the ideal infant food, and because of risks with contamination.
    As a general rule, it is good to refer to Dr. Hale's book (Medications and Mother's Milk) and search out others with experience, both personally and professionals, so you can feel good about your choice.
    As has been said here, making good choices that you are at peace with will mean a calm, happy mommy who doesn't carry the guilt.

  38. Thank you! Glad to know I am not alone!

  39. Along with many other women; this post was very refreshing to read. I do feel that other moms; especially doctors have very strong opinions. My experience after giving birth and still at the hospital was very depressing. No sleep, my nipples were so sore I cried every time my baby latched on. The nurses were very strict on their own opinions, or what they thought was right; to the point it made you feel guilty just thinking of possibly bottle feeding. It wasn’t a choice. I was very depressed for the first month. I cried and felt absolutely horrible. My baby cried and cried becuase later to find out she wasn’t gaining weight from not getting enough breastmilk. I had to make the decision to bottle feed her. Even though every doctor lived in some kind of reality that I had to only breastfeed that it would get better, I couldn’t understand how long they truly wanted me to go with her not gaining weight. She was already a pound under her birth weight. So I followed my own gut and gave her the bottle. Amazing! She was a new baby. She is coming up on 2 months and I have been giving her as much breast as I can becuase of the guilt society has placed in me. I love this article becuase not every women can breastfeed. Today is very different, whether it’s the full time job, or health or simply just need to be in better mental space. Yes it’s amazing to breastfeed, but it’s more amazing when your baby smiles back at you because your happy and have the energy to be with her and give her love. Go with what works for you, not what others think is best. Thank you for mothers with open minds!

  40. I needed to read this article tonight. I struggled with postpartum anxiety with my first and am now finding myself in the same place with my second. I also had a hard time with breastfeeding, my body couldn’t produce the amount my kids have needed. I think the pressure of breastfeeding feeds into my anxiety. I needed to be reminded that it’s okay.

    Thank you for this!

  41. Thanks so much for this, Katherine! I tried breastfeeding but wound up using bottles after a few weeks and it made a huge positive difference in my daughter’s health and my well-being. I never felt super-committed or super guilty about it. I know every mom wants to do the very best thing for her baby, and I think it’s very brave to know what that is and act on it. Bravo!

  42. Nicole Alvarez says:

    Thank you oh so very much, for sharing your experience. After a few months of guilt, your story has brought a smile to my face and acceptance of my choice in to my heart. I have been deeply saddened for choosing to stop breast feeding at 3 months ( my LO is 7 months now). I developed thrush and mastitis at the same time during postpartum and felt as if I was never going to be able to enjoy my baby boy. I had negative feelings towards my child because of the extra pain he would innocently inflict on me by feeding.I got treated and the infection left. However, I developed a negative relationship with breastfeeding so I decided to quiet with hopes of getting to finally enjoy my treasure. I am know trying to get over my guilt so I can be the best mommy I can be for my little dude. Once again thank you so much, your story has truly encouraged me . I really love how you said ” I discovered that it is a mother’s guilt– far more than her chosen feeding method– which presents the true barrier to emotional bonding. Once I resolved that guilt, I began to mother my child from my heart, if not from my breasts.” This gave me comfort.

    Thank you<3
    Hope you have many more amazing moments with your little ones.

  43. great post by a great mum..

  44. Hi there, I hope you can please help reassure me. My daughter was born 5 days ago & after 5 days of trying I have decided to bottle feed. The reason is that I also have a 10 month old son & a husband who works nights. I bottle fed my son as my milk never came in. However, my milk did come in and I have been bf my daughter since. The problem is it seems to be making the whole house miserable! My daughter is constantly hungry, my husband is exhausted after taking care of our son while not sleeping due to a hungry baby crying all night, and I’m so busy trying to nurse, I can’t spend any time with him or our son. Its awful. I’m so tired & hungry all the time I’m constantly annoyed by everything but in particular by my boy for attention seeking. This feels just unforgiveable on my part & I want to go full with the bottle but I can’t help feeling guilty that I’m not trying hard enough. My husband & I have decided this is our last baby, 2 in less than a year is enough! Am I doing the right thing?

    • Emma – It’s such a hard thing. The answer is that you need to do what’s right for you and your family. If that means stopping so that you can be ultimately happier and healthier, then there is nothing wrong with that. More than anything else, your children need YOU. Not your breastmilk, YOU. Many hugs to you, mama.

      • Thanks so much Becky, no matter how many times I say I won’t let it bother me I end up feeling the pressure! I’m very grateful for the reassurance in the face of what feels like an onslaught of faceless advisors and breastfeeding campaigners, who have done their jobs extremely well. My daughter is now thriving & my son is much happier and even went to kiss his little sister yesterday 🙂 Happy New Year with many hugs to you xx

  45. I am 31 weeks pregnant with my first child. I desperately want to breast feed but I have been struggling with bipolar disorder and anxiety for years. I tried to go off medication with close monitoring from my doctor but found that I really don’t function well without it. I decided that being able to breast feed but not being able to be stable wasn’t safe for me. While I really want to breast feed I would feel more guilty if I ended up not even being able to take care of my baby becuase of not being on meds. This post is inspiring to me and makes me feel better knowing I’m not alone in this. Thank you!

  46. Thanks for taking the time to write this <3 it helped me A LOT

  47. Thank you for writing this. I wasn’t even on a medical regimen before getting pregnant and giving birth. I always had envisioned myself breastfeeding and here I am six weeks out and balling my eyes out at 11’o clock at night because of my little guys struggle with breast milk. Right away I wasn’t producing enough milk and made an effort to see a lactation specialist, borrowed a pump from a friend until mine could come, started taking fenugreek and reglan but I still had to supplement. We noticed that our little man had awful diarrhea, bad gas, rashes, and cried all the time so as a test we cut out the breast milk for 4 days and, wow, what a difference. But to be sure the problem wasn’t the combination of the two we started a week of complete breast milk. Within one day all the symptoms came back with a vengeance. And he was pushing the bottle of breast milk away. I’m heartbroken and saddened by it. I’m trying not to let it bring me down but I know I need to speak to my OBGYN about the possibility of depression. I’ve been crying several times a day over this matter and I just want to enjoy my baby. This post is just what I needed to read.

  48. Mary Beth Shirley says:

    I so needed this. I have a 2 and a 1/2 yo and a 1 month old and still struggle with guilt of not breastfeeding. I tried again with my 1 month old, but was only producing an ounce at a time. I figured, I was wasting time and not being able to be there for both of my children. I am also a pediatric nurse, and it makes me sad and guilty that i know breast is best and can’t do it. I also started Prozac for the second time for postpartum depression. With my first, i only needed it for 6 weeks. I am hoping for the same this time around. My 2 and a 1/2 yo is very bright and healthy, so I know deep in my heart i made the right decision not to kill myself over breast feeding. This article is what i needed right now and I will probably reread it many times over the next couple of months to remind myself i am not a failure.

  49. Thank you for this. I’m a first time mom and struggled with Bf from the start. She wouldn’t latch properly and no one seemed to be able to help including 3 LCs. I was in pain from trying to make it hurt, labor recovery and the stress of a newborn I was starting to become depressed. Trying to continue bf made it worse; the pain was so intense and it gave me anxiety to think of feeding her the required 10x a day. I had to eventually supplement bc she was losing weight and then pump. This was all before she was even 2 weeks old. I feel horrible guilt that I didn’t “stick through the pain” like so many bf moms said I should– that I am weaker for not being able to handle it. The expectations of bf and giving my child the “best” was crushing me. However, my Obgyn gave me the option of Prozac and I had to make a decision– continue forcing bf and take the meds or give it up and try to accept alternative feeding methods. I decided to give up bf. I made this decision a few days ago and still trying to come to terms with it.

    • Heather King says:

      Kim, it’s going to be okay. It really is. Look at how hard you’ve tried and how much you have struggled. That’s what you need to focus on. You care deeply and tried hard. That’s all you needed to do. You are meant to be enjoying this time, and you will. You won’t enjoy moving forward with your new baby if you focus on breastfeeding not working out. If you focus on that, there’s a good chance you will continue to feel guilty and sad, and that doesn’t help anyone. You will look back one day and see that your child grew strong and healthy and that what matters is that you are there. Your baby needs a strong and healthy mama too! You are taking care of your baby, the best care of your baby. Hang in there, mama. You are being so brave.

  50. I have recently discovered that I’m pregnant with my first baby and I’m currently turning my options over in my head. I’m on a low dose of prozac and it’s turned my life around. But I read a lot about how formula feeding leads to obesity and cot death and poor immunity and I’ve spent the last couple of weeks torturing myself about what I’m going to do. I always imagined myself breastfeeding and I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that this might not be a reality for me, and if it is, it might have a poor outcome for both me and the baby. This article was helpful, thank you.

    • Heather King says:

      Hello there, and thank you for your honest words. You may want to talk with your doctor about a safe-for-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding medication. You’ve maybe done that or thought about it, but when we’re overwhelmed it’s hard to think straight, so I thought I’d mention it. This is so much to consider, and I’m sorry you are struggling with it. I’m sending you peace, and I hope you have good supporters around you–especially a therapist you trust to help you work through what you really want/need to do. Peace….

  51. I am not a mom. But I am a woman. And I jus don’t understand the reasoning bhind all this guilt. Who set the standards. As long as your kids are healthy, happy and a promising member of society , I think you have been a great mother. We are human being and I am very sure and very positive that you love your baby and want the best for them. What more could a child of a loving mother ask for. Don’t pass the guilt on to your child by being over protective because YOU feel you haven’t done something right or the way society makes you feel for not doing like Suzy next door. Thanks for jus being a wonderful mom and inspir8.


  1. […] Great article for if you do have to stop nursing […]

  2. […] can be extremely upsetting and traumatic for mothers who are unable to breastfeed. There may be guilty feelings as well as difficulties in bonding. It can be disheartening, and I feel that it’s our […]