Q. I've been breastfeeding for two months and want to stop. I know lots of women love it, but I just don't. However, people around me, including my doctor and some women in my mother's group, are making me feel guilty. Am I totally selfish if I do this?
A. This is a topic that makes many women turn white. One of our dearest friends, in fact, discovered like you that breastfeeding just wasn't for her; in her case, she was never able to produce enough milk. Yet the "Breast Nazis" made her feel that her daughter would be doomed to a life of poor health and disaffection if she didn't nurse for at least six months. Rather than trust her instincts -- which were telling her it was a lost cause -- she succumbed to their pressure and for three months did everything from regular acupuncture sessions to turbo pumps to allowing a lactation consultant to tape a tube carrying formula to her breasts in an effort to simulate breastfeeding. She was miserable. And so was everyone around her. With hindsight, our friend is positive that her daughter, who today is fully bonded to her mother and has had barely a cold in six years, would have been far better off if Mom had just thrown in the breastfeeding towel earlier.
Look, there is really solid scientific support for breastfeeding your child, so if you're opting out because it's inconvenient or pumping's a bore, we'd recommend thinking a little harder about your choice. But if you've given breastfeeding a fair shot and it's just requiring mountains of energy to keep it going, we wouldn't sweat stopping. As much value as there is in nursing, there's also great value in being a happy mother who looks at her child with love, not fear of the next feeding.
Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead are the authors of The City Parent Handbook: The Complete Guide to the Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Raising Young Kids in the City (Rodale).
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2005.
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