It’s OK to stop breastfeeding if you struggle with it. I wish someone had told me earlier.

Baby being held by mom
Baby being held by mom Paulo Sousa / Getty Images
  • I had a complicated start to my life as a new mom, triggered by the inability to breastfeed my baby.
  • I tried everything everyone told me to, and all I wanted was to hear it was OK to stop.
  • I share my story so new parents don’t feel the way I did.
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My son was born by an emergency C-section three weeks before his due date. I was mentally unprepared for his arrival, especially because of the feeding challenges we had immediately after.

I look back and wish someone would have told me there were other ways to feed my newborn, beyond my breasts.

Breastfeeding him seemed easy at first. The nurses at the hospital couldn’t believe this was my first baby, calling me a breastfeeding pro. I even attended a class held by a lactation consultant to make sure I was giving both of us the best chance at a long breastfeeding relationship.

Right before being discharged, the hospital’s pediatrician said our son had lost a significant percentage of weight. This is common in newborns, especially C-section babies, but she still recommended seeing our pediatrician to make sure he was growing appropriately. She also suggested adding formula to the mix for added calories.

It was as if she had insulted my ability to mother by saying that. I took it so personally, and now looking back, I have no idea why. I became adamant about making breastfeeding work.

I tracked everything we did – which breast he fed on and for how long, his weight after each feed, every poop and pee he made. Still, he struggled with gaining weight. So I kept going.

I went to breastfeeding classes where I met moms struggling just like me. I saw even more lactation consultants. I drank tea to increase my milk. I fed on demand. I kept tracking all of it and barely slept.

I felt like a failure, which turned into being unable to bond with my first child while he was a newborn.

I wish someone would have just told me to stop – that I had tried, it was OK it didn’t work, and there were other ways of feeding him.

Pumping saved my sanity

One day, exhausted from sleeping two hours at a time, I pulled out the breast pump my insurance had sent me from the back of the closet and decided to give it a try.

Seeing this archaic, yet somewhat soothing, machine suck milk out of my breasts gave me my first feelings of relief, both physically and mentally. I was making sufficient milk, so that wasn’t a problem. I handed my husband a bottle full of expressed breastmilk and our son devoured it. He was hungry. That’s why he was so cranky all the time.

Almost immediately he started gaining weight. At the same time, I started feeling better, like I was in control and hadn’t actually ruined our lives by having a baby.

The lactation consultants I was seeing kept insisting that I put him at my breast so as to not confuse him with the silicone nipple that bottles have. But I was done. I exclusively pumped for six months and when I returned to work, we switched our son to formula.

I fully understand the benefits of breastmilk. I also know firsthand how soul-crushing it is to not be heard when you are struggling with feeding your baby. When August rolls around and I see story after story on Breastfeeding Awareness Month, it takes me back to my early days, feeling unseen and unsupported.

It’s OK to stop. Even after almost four years, I still need to remind myself that I did the right thing.