Excerpted from my exclusive interview with Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and a breastfeeding medicine specialist.
When I struggled with the pain and difficulty of breastfeeding, I also struggled with an intense fear of “failure.” People told me the pain was normal, but I couldn’t believe such pain would persist week after week (until week 6 when I got mastitis, and then still lingered until week 12). Questions plagued my nights and days: Would I have to throw in the towel and give up? What would people think? Would I look back with regret? Would this decision affect my baby’s growth and development? Why couldn’t I just DO this? What was wrong with me? I was afraid to go on. I was afraid to “quit.”
Fortunately, I decided to seek help from various sources. I consulted with La Leche League in CT (they have a new website!) – and Carol from LLL was so helpful and supportive. But the turning point for me was when I got help from a breastfeeding medicine specialist, Trisha Ludwig. She was the one who identified my baby’s tongue tie, and helped direct me to getting that resolved.
But not every mother is able to get help in time, and there are many moms I have talked to that say they stopped breastfeeding way earlier than planned. Many have told me they feel mixed emotions about this decision. My heart goes out to them.
The first and most important thing to know if you have tried and had to discontinue breastfeeding before you would’ve liked to is:
In our society, mothers are set up for failure by a culture that is under-educated and perpetuates misinformation about breastfeeding.
Trisha, the certified nurse midwife and breastfeeding medicine specialist that helped me with my breastfeeding issues says, “Women are committed to being such good mothers, and they know breastfeeding is best. Guilt and frustration is exacerbated by the fact they don’t understand the failure, why it didn’t work.”
She maintains, “It’s never the fault of the mom and the baby. Ultimately, it’s the fault of our culture that sets moms up for failure. It’s not even necessarily the fault of health care providers, but our culture of medicine where breastfeeding is not something we are all educated in or have the resources and time to deal with.”
So, what do you do when faced with stopping breastfeeding earlier than planned due to persistent difficulties? Trisha says, “If mothers are told by their OB/GYN at six weeks that ‘breastfeeding is just not working for you and you should just stop,’ and that woman was committed to breastfeeding, she is going to bear emotional distress over that.”
For woman coping with a sense of loss over not being able to continue breastfeeding, Trisha offers this comfort: “When a woman is in that state and is deciding for whatever reason that she has to give up breastfeeding, there are two rules:
- Feed the baby. It doesn’t matter ultimately how you feed your baby. The most important thing is that you feed your baby so the baby can thrive and grow, regardless of what you’re feeding your baby with.
- Mother the mother. If the mother is not feeling good about what she’s doing and it’s causing too much stress and frustration in her life, it sometimes makes more sense to eliminate that sense of stress, so she can just focus on being the mother she wants to be.
If you can breastfeed and still honor these two rules, that’s great. If you decide that in order to honor these two rules you need to stop breastfeeding, then you’ve still done the best thing for you and your baby.”
Trisha encourages moms to sit down with somebody and go through the history of what happened, how it happened and how the mother got to where she did. “If she could speak with someone who could help her understand how she got into that situation and how to prevent it in the future, she could feel better.”
So, moms – I KNOW you can continue to breastfeed! The first week or two (or more!) can be very difficult. I urge you to talk to family, friends, other moms about the difficulties (or fellow bloggers!). Most importantly, I suggest if you’ve come to the end of your resources, seek the help of a breastfeeding medicine specialist who can thoroughly examine your situation. I know for me, it made the difference between breastfeeding and not breastfeeding. I hope by sharing my experiences, I have helped and encouraged you to get through the difficult moments!
This post brings the Latch On! Breastfeeding Awareness Event to a close. There will be one more giveaway tomorrow. I hope you have enjoyed the stories, insights, tips, and reviews/giveaways. If you have any questions about my experiences with BF-ing, please send me an email. I am NOT a medical professional, but I would like to support and encourage you!
In closing, what encouragement can YOU offer moms who deal with the emotional pain of discontinuing breastfeeding earlier than planned? Share your words of comfort with us!