The most common theme I see with those who aren’t meeting their breastfeeding goals is guilt. Why, when things go wrong is the mother to blame? Why did everyone, including me after a while, automatically assume that I was the one with the problem? In so much I’ve read, breastfeeding failure is blamed subtly on the mother. ‘Ineffective technique’ is one, but it, at least, doesn’t say who is being ineffective. ‘Not trying hard enough’ is by far my least favourite. I swear I see red when someone says that. Sadly, most mothers who feel failure believe that they should have tried harder. It’s unfortunate as many mothers in a bad way with breastfeeding are flailing around blindly, not knowing what the issue is, or struggling in a situation made by someone else, trying to pick up the pieces and playing catch up. And try harder, keep going seems to be the painful refrain beating down on you as things are spiraling out of control. Is it just because we are the adult in the situation? I blamed myself for a long time with the whole laundry list of what-ifs and if-onlys. If I’d known where to get help, if I’d known this, if I’d tried that. And for ages I thought that it was my lack of milk, when now I’m wondering if it was my baby’s problem, not mine, My midwives immediately put me to pumping to increase MY supply. What a terrible solution. That should never be the first resort when intake is not meeting expectations. I suppose it was because even though I’d asked multiple times about tongue tie, when the midwives checked they didn’t know what to look for.
Is it your fault if your baby has a tongue tie that no one around you can diagnose? No. You can’t hold yourself to the same standard as those without problems. There is no try harder with issues that make everyone miserable.
Is it your fault that you aren’t able to make adequate amounts of milk? No. You didn’t personally insert too little glandular tissue, pick your ineffective hormone profile or lose so much blood that your milk never appeared. I certainly don’t think it’s your fault if you’re suffering from low supply after a reduction. I’m not going to say your back pain or other issues are less important than breast milk. Mothering shouldn’t be about suffering. You are a person too.
Is it your fault if you are recommended to use formula for a jaundiced, non-latching, ill baby and it effects your supply negatively? No. You did what was best at an emotional, scary time as recommended by professionals. It may be the professionals were ill informed, but you’ve been put in an unfair position having to question someone trying to help you while your child’s health may be at stake.
I suppose there are those hypothetical people who give up because it’s too hard (as I’ve heard said by many an amateur lactivist), but I haven’t met one yet who wasn’t willing to be honest about that. And those aren’t the ones with the crippling guilt. Often those with the guilt and pain that consumes them are the ones who go far above and beyond. Those grieving the loss of their breastfeeding relationships and blaming themselves often faced problems that needed much stronger support and intervention, and instead of getting it, they blame themselves.
I’m still plagued by what-ifs and if-onlys. I think about what happened and I doubt my choices, my decisions, forgetting in my intellectual analysis what a scary time it was and how much I cried over it. I do still blame myself for not trying hard enough, but regardless of what our problem was it wasn’t anything that could have been achieved by trying harder. I think all we can do is arm ourselves with information for the future.