"I would cry every day," recalls Johnson. "I blamed myself because I thought, 'Obviously, I'm doing something wrong.'" Soon Johnson resented around-the-clock pumping and felt like her relationship with her daughter suffered. Along with her personal grief, Johnson felt bombarded by seemingly helpful advice, which compounded her feeling that her baby's unwillingness to nurse was her fault. "I can't tell you how many times people would tell me that I just needed to do this or that, like put corn syrup on my nipples," she says.
Working with Your Healthcare Provider
"As a healthcare professional, my job is to support women exactly where they are at," says Dr. Joanne Motino Bailey, PhD, a certified nurse midwife who also teaches women's studies at the University of Michigan. "Yet sometimes women feel a lack of support [for their difficulties nursing] from healthcare professionals because the party line is that breastfeeding is best. And even providers can be caught in the trap of not listening to the individual woman about her concerns." Dr. Bailey suggests that you state your concerns clearly to your healthcare provider, and if you feel like you're still not being listened to, "find someone else."
Getting Past the Guilt
Meredith and Johnson both expressed that they still feel the need to justify their decisions to stop nursing whenever the subject comes up. Hearing their stories, Dr. Bailey admits, "Women are often too hard on themselves. First of all, we live in a society that implies guilt on a mother for everything, implies that you should be perfect. The idea is expressed in a variety of different ways, and breastfeeding is just one of them."
"In my own parenting and what I share with my clients is that we all do the best we can given our circumstances." Dr. Bailey continues, "If you take a step back and feel like you're not producing enough milk and you supplement with formula, you need to realize that that is part of making a good decision—using all the information you have at any given moment to make the best decisions you can."
Dr. Feder adds that she "applauds any woman who breastfeeds for even the shortest amount of time."