Articles - What Happens When You Can't Breastfeed?
Is it Relief or Heartbreak?

What Happens When You Can't Breastfeed?


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Is it Relief or Heartbreak?

This information is shared from The Australian Breastfeeding Association.

The latest research shows that 9 out of 10 women start out by breastfeeding their babies. Most women want to breastfeed. Unfortunately, despite our wishes, hopes and efforts, sometimes breastfeeding doesn’t work out.

If you are reading this and your breastfeeding experience was not all you hoped it would be, please know that ABA is here for you. Many ABA counsellors have experienced breastfeeding challenges themselves — indeed, it is often the reason why they trained to become a counsellor in the first place. ABA provides unconditional support, no matter what your parenting decisions are.

Breastfeeding "Failure"?

Many mothers feel a deep sense of loss when they are unable to breastfeed, either at all or for as long as they had planned. This is natural. It is important to allow yourself to feel those emotions. However, it is equally important not to think of yourself as a failure. You may not be satisfied with your experience and things may not have gone as planned, but you absolutely do not fail when it comes to breastfeeding. Even if your child breastfed for just one day, this is a precious gift and something to be proud of.

It is also common for mothers to feel guilty. It seems as if guilt has become an ‘occupational hazard’ of being a mother. Instead of feeling guilty, perhaps mothers should be feeling angry. Why is it that almost all women start out by breastfeeding, but less than half of babies are fully breastfed at 4 months? In many cases, it is because their mothers did not get the right information and the right support, at the right time. That's how the Australian Breastfeeding Association came about — 6 women who recognised the need for community-based, up-to-date breastfeeding information and support.

Alternative Options to Breastfeeding

Babies under 12 months require breastmilk or formula to grow and develop. If you are not breastfeeding your baby, you may:

  • Express breastmilk
  • Use donor milk
  • Use formula
  • Use a combination of any or all of the above.

Sometimes a mother decides to resume breastfeeding after a break. With patience and determination (and a cooperative baby), a mother can often rebuild a milk supply very successfully. For more information on relactation, contact an ABA counsellor or see our Breastfeeding: and relactation booklet, sold through the Australian Breastfeeding Association.

The About Birth Perspective

For some mothers choosing not to breastfeed can be a very positive decision for many reasons. It is important to always look at the overall mental and physical health of mother and baby and support them to make choices that feel right for them. Choosing to bottle feed because it feels a good choice for a woman can bring a lot of relief and comfort and that is also something to be supported. 

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