Mother holding baby.

Guilt Over Not Breastfeeding

Can't breastfeed Nov 15, 2022

Sometimes a decision has to be made to stop breastfeeding. You need to do what is right for you and your baby, and don't let anyone make you feel guilty about it. There are circumstances where there are no other options. Let's put the mental health of new mothers first.

Stop Beating Yourself Up

Sarah's story

"I felt incredibly depressed after being unable to breastfeed my twins. They were my first babies, and I never considered that the fact that I had inverted nipples (not just flat!) would have an enormous effect on my ability to feed, let alone feeding twins born at 37 weeks.

The girls were not strong enough to even attempt to pull my nipple out. I expressed miserably for four months. Fortunately, I had an oversupply. My time spent feeding, including expressing, was 18 hours out of 24. I was exhausted.

With your first baby, you have no idea what is to come and, therefore, no idea what questions you should ask pre-birth about an issue such as mine! With my subsequent pregnancy, I researched everything about inverted nipples. I discovered I could break the ligaments and draw the nipple out during my second pregnancy: something I had never heard of and no midwife had educated me on, even after having the twins.

My experience with my third bub was so fulfilling as he latched onto my 'new' nipples, and everything worked. The thing that got me through my inability to feed the girls was a friend who said: "make the firm decision to formula feed, stop beating yourself up and do what is going to get the girls and you to a happy place without feeling guilty." This was the best advice I had ever heard, and I will remember it forever. Stop guilt-tripping mothers."

My Family Ridiculed Me

Annie's story

"I searched the web for anybody who has had a similar dilemma as myself and could not find a single article. Back throughout my pregnancy (first pregnancy), I realized that my breasts were not swollen, but I didn't fret a great deal about it. What does a first-time mommy know? All I knew was that I couldn't wait to experience holding him and breastfeeding him for the first time.

The doctor and nurses reassured me a day after he was born that my milk would start coming in after the third day, so I waited, but nothing happened! The worst part was that everybody was still expecting me to breastfeed my child, saying, "there was no such thing as a woman who cannot breastfeed or doesn't have milk."

I can remember lying on the hospital bed crying through the night with my baby, he was hungry, and every time I called a nurse to help, they would bring me 40ml of formula milk. I tried breastfeeding for two months, but he stayed hungry, so I had to start feeding him formula and trying to breastfeed him.

I asked the doctor for help, and she put me on tablets to help me produce milk. Later I started using the pump to see how much milk was coming out. The most milk I could get out in a day was about 100ml. After about three months of trying, I stopped entirely. I was depressed about this, but my husband made me feel better by saying that it was best if I stopped worrying about it and just began feeding him formula.

My family ridiculed me and told me how unhealthy it was to stop breastfeeding, even though they knew I had struggled. Even our pediatrician, when asked if my baby was still being breastfed, said that most mothers give up too fast! I felt terrible - I felt like there was something wrong with me.

I feel that there should be more info for moms, especially first-time moms who feel insecure and don't know what to do and how to do things properly. I want to have another child, but I can't bare going through the same thing again.

For me, breastfeeding is essential, and I think it does help a lot for bonding with your child because I felt very distant towards my baby in the beginning. I can't imagine being able to breastfeed and then deciding not to. It's such a precious gift that most people take for granted.

baby bottle feeding
Mother bottle feeding her baby - Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

I Never Got Any Support

June's story

"I gave birth three months ago and wanted to breastfeed exclusively. I did not buy a bottle or formula and brought my baby home. After a week, I realized that my baby was not gaining any weight and that I was only producing about 6 ounces daily.

I worked with lactation consultants to increase my supply and went on drugs to increase my supply. I felt so guilty when I finally had to give my baby formula. I'm still using an SNS system to stimulate milk production, but my body doesn't seem to want to produce milk.

I never got any support, and everything online always gives the impression that if you want to breastfeed, you can. But it doesn't always work out that way. I feel like I am the only one with this problem."

I Felt Guilty for 33 Years

By Caren

"Years ago, I tried everything, including pumping, and could not breastfeed. My daughter just had her first baby, so after a lot of research, she would breastfeed and pump in between to increase her supply.

We used a powerful pump, and after one month and less than 1oz a day, she decided to bottle feed and add what little she gets with pumping to the formula. So as all of you have discovered, some people do not produce enough no matter what they do. I felt guilty for 33 years. No more. Thanks for the post!"

Not What Being a Mother Is About

Fifi's story

"I felt and in some ways still feel a sense of guilt for not being able to breastfeed my first child. I was living in a very stressful situation when I gave birth.

I could not produce enough breast milk, only 1-2 ounces per feed. Even though I pumped all the time for weeks and took herbal supplements, some part of me still feels I did not do enough. It's like a dark area for mothers, with the emphasis on trying harder and the presumption that you are not doing enough if you cannot increase your milk supply.

My postnatal midwife was great, saying worrying about increasing milk, spending a lot of time doing this, and being stressed were not what being a mother is about. Even though my son is healthy and alert, I still worry that I did not give him the best start and whether we will be close when he is older, even though I feel a deep bond with him."

Sane Mother Over Breast Milk

Stacey's story

"I felt the same way regarding the guilt I put myself through. I felt like I was driving myself to the point of lunacy. And for what? I think my daughter appreciates having a completely sane mother over breast milk.
I believe there is a difference between breast milk and formula, of course! The research is there.

When I changed to formula and felt these feelings, a friend said, 'Hon, it's not like you're starving her.' And that's right. Baby is eating and is healthy and happy, and so am I!

I struggled for three weeks. And no one could help me. No one helped me at the hospital, two nurses and a lactation consultant visited me, and it was futile in the end."

baby feet, baby hands, black and white
Baby's feet and hands - Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

My Baby Was Starving

Jayna's story

"I gave birth to my son five weeks ago today, and throughout the entire pregnancy could not wait to breastfeed my baby.
When the time came, and he was born, he latched on immediately at the hospital for the first time, and I could not have been happier.

Then came the next feeding at the hospital, and he latched on for a minute, then screamed and screamed and refused to latch on again.
I asked a nurse for help, who tried a couple of positions with me (none of which took) and then said I should change his diaper and try again and left the room with no intention of returning.
I was left in a room with my screaming baby. As a first-time mom, I had no idea what to do but kept trying.

The horrible guilt set in at that moment when I could not provide for my baby, and he was screaming in hunger. I tried and tried, and he refused to latch, spending hours with him at my breast screaming, but I was determined that this would work out.

We took him home the next day, and I sat on our couch with him for an entire day, trying to get him to breastfeed. He still would not take to the breast. At this point, I had no idea what to do. All I knew was that my baby was starving, and I could not provide any milk.

Eventually, I broke down and gave him some formula, and he gobbled it down and fell to sleep satisfied. So I thought I would supplement with formula and keep working on breastfeeding, but he never took, spending all his time at the breast screaming his little lungs out for hours.

The guilt was overwhelming at the time, and I would sit and cry. I attempted to look for support online, but everything made me feel worse, with sites telling me I am lazy and won't work hard enough at it, making me feel even less of a mom.

I am happy to have found this site. Today I have decided to stop attempting to breastfeed.

My milk supply is so low that I can't produce 1 oz, and I return to work in 2 weeks. My baby is healthy and thriving. He has been gaining weight, as he should, and is a happy baby boy.

Even though the guilt is still there, I have accepted that breastfeeding did not work for me with this child. If you are having problems with breastfeeding or are unable to, please don't let the guilt and depression cloud and consume those precious moments with your baby.
I could not enjoy some of those moments, and I regret that. The most important thing is that your baby is fed, growing, and happy."


If you need breastfeeding support, please contact a breastfeeding helpline in your country.

Other breastfeeding support articles.

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