I’ve nursed all three of my kids. I breastfed longer with the first two than with the last one but each time I weaned them, the horrible guilty feeling was there. I quit breastfeeding for different reasons with each child and with two of them, I nursed in tears for months.
Was I being a bad mother? Was I depriving my child of magical nutrients he might need? The answer is clearly: No.
When it comes to making the decision to quit breastfeeding your baby, only you know what is best for you and your family. If it’s of any use, I will tell you that making this decision is difficult, but it does not in any way reflect on your ability as a parent. Still, that doesn’t mean you won’t feel like the world’s worst mother because you don’t want to nurse anymore. But you can quit breastfeeding without feeling guilty and beating yourself up for being a bad mom.
Maybe you’re afraid your best friend will come down on you, since she breastfed her child until well after the age of two. Maybe you’re afraid that people will view you as a terrible mother. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll miss that connection—that bond only shared between mother and child.
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Every mother bonds with her child, breast or no breast. There, I said it! The baby will love you for the mere fact that you, and only you, gave him life. With my third child, I had to juggle two older siblings, housework and running a company. I nursed for six weeks and then began pumping. I soon began to dread each pump and nursing session; because breastfeeding takes time, a lot of time. Dinner had to be made, the other two needed help with their homework, I had deadlines to meet and the baby had me sitting on the sofa orchestrating everything.
The truth is that I wasn’t happy. I felt guilty for having bad thoughts about not being good enough to handle a third child. I was also in pain. Physical pain. Nursing didn’t come easy this third time and had its complications. I was seriously struggling.
Read Related: What No One Tells You About Breastfeeding
Then, I had a breakthrough at my 6-month visit to my ObGyn. I practically had to nurse through the entire check-up—yes, legs spread and all—while I cried the whole time! When the doctor finished, he said: “This clearly isn’t working for you. You are letting the hormones mix with your responsibilities and you are stressing yourself too much. There is no room for guilt in parenting. Throw it out!”
So I did. Within three weeks I weaned the baby off the breast, found part time childcare in our home and began to focus on taking care of me. I no longer stayed up until 3 a.m. finishing work, and I began attempting to get six hours of sleep per night. I realized that I had been letting everyone else dictate for me what I should be doing instead of looking at my life and trying to see what would work for me.
It’s important to remember that when you stop breastfeeding, your body will go through a lot of hormonal changes. Do not let those hormones get the best of you and throw you back into the guilt pool. You’ll sink fast.
Feeding times can be just as special. Cuddle your baby, look and talk to him. I’ve learned to focus these brief moments of time on the baby and I’ve been happier since. I no longer sit on the sofa orchestrating everyone and everything; I now ask everyone else to wait five minutes and remind them that they too were once babies.
Breastfeeding will continue to be a hot topic with women worldwide. There are some very passionate people out there who will jump at the opportunity to let you know how they feel. I’m on the practical side of things. If mom is a hot mess trying to keep the family together while nursing; things are just not going to go well in the house.
Deciding when to stop breastfeeding your baby is one of the most personal decisions a new mom can make. Trust your instincts and make the choice that will work best for you and your family. If you are healthy and happy, your baby and your family will all thrive.