If you are a mom or considering becoming a mom, you’ve likely heard about the benefits of breastfeeding your baby. In the past few decades, breastfeeding rates have risen steadily. This is likely due to the increased understanding of breastfeeding by medical professionals. Also, organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, WHO, and the Le Leche League have been working hard to promote breastfeeding and support breastfeeding mothers.
There is no doubt that the rising rates of breastfeeding are a good thing. However, there are some circumstances in which breastfeeding may not be the best choice for you or your child. Always consult with your OB/GYN, midwife, or pediatrician if you fall into any of these categories or have other breastfeeding issues. Choosing whether or not to breastfeed your baby is a personal choice. But that doesn’t mean you have to face any obstacles by yourself!
Mom has a virus that can pass through breastmilk.
An example is if a mom has been infected with HIV (or has AIDS). Or with tuberculosis. Or human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or type II. These moms should not breastfeed their babies because these viruses may pass from them to their babies through breastmilk.1
Moms taking certain medications or treatments.
Mothers taking cancer chemotherapy medications, or those undergoing radiation treatment, are advised not to breastfeed. Also, moms taking certain migraine, anxiety, or sleep-aid medications may be unable to nurse their babies. In general, moms taking medications of any kind (even over-the-counter) should check with their pediatrician before breastfeeding their baby.2
Baby is diagnosed with galactosemia.
Galactosemia is a rare genetic disorder. It inhibits the body from digesting a simple sugar called galactose, which is prevalent in breastmilk. Babies with galactosemia must be fed a strict diet free of lactose and galactose.3
Baby is failing to thrive.
A failure to thrive is a term used to describe inadequate growth or the inability to maintain growth and is a sign of undernutrition. Many different things can cause a failure to thrive. In some cases involving breastfed infants, the cause may be that they are not getting enough calories from milk through breastfeeding. In these instances, babies can usually overcome the underlying reason for their failure to thrive with the help of qualified experts (like a lactation consultant or a pediatrician). Still, in some cases, it may be best for both mom and baby to start supplementing with formula. Only you and your team of experts can determine what course of action is best for you and your baby.4
When it’s all just too much.
For some moms, breastfeeding can be one of the most challenging experiences of their life. As much as they want to breastfeed, it just doesn’t go as they planned. Moms can experience many difficulties that can make breastfeeding intolerable. This includes recurrent mastitis, cracked and bleeding nipples, a low milk supply, severe postpartum depression, etc. Although moms can overcome most of these hurdles with proper support from a lactation consultant or doctor, sometimes the struggle is just too much. Mom guilt can overwhelm you when you feel like you’re failing at something you think should come naturally.
While breastfeeding is a natural process, that does not mean it always comes naturally. It can be a hard thing for you and your baby to learn to do properly. And while it certainly is worth it to try your best to breastfeed your baby for as long as you can successfully, it is not worth it if it will spoil the joy of motherhood.
Listen, mama: if it is just too much for you—STOP. If you miss the incredible wonder of mothering your child because you’re consumed by guilt, stress, or angst over breastfeeding, just let it go. The most important thing is feeding and loving your baby. And if that means you do it with formula or in a bottle, so be it. Give yourself grace, and give your child what they truly need: a full belly and a relaxed mama.