Let me start off by answering this right away. No, breastfeeding does not have to be all or nothing at all. That means that any breastfeeding is good breastfeeding. And this includes pumped milk if you’re not able to breastfeed.
And, if breastfeeding hasn’t worked out for whatever reason, then the most important thing to remember is that being a mom is not all about how you feed your child, it’s about loving, nurturing and caring for your little one in the ways that work for you and your baby.
I had an interesting conversation the other day with a newborn nurse, who is a lactation consultant, who also provides drop-in breastfeeding support. She said that she would love it if all of her patients could and would breastfeed exclusively for 1 or more years, but the reality is that few were able to do that.
What worked for her and the moms she was counseling was to help them figure out how to breastfeed and/or pump as much as they could while caring for themselves, the other people in the family, working and trying to get some sleep. Her advice was to always let go of any ideas of 100% perfection and leave the guilt behind.
She found that when moms felt that they were successful with any breastfeeding or pumping, they were likely to stay with it longer, which is what we all want, including the American Academy of Pediatrics.
This is a reasonable approach that takes into account that when people feel too much pressure to do something, anything perfectly 100% of the time, it’s too daunting and they very naturally give up.
Feeling Great About What You’re Doing Well
The fact is that any breastfeeding or pumping is good for your baby. So, don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed if you’re not providing breast milk and only breast milk to your little one 100% of the time Find the balance that works for you. It’s more effective and rewarding when moms feel better about their abilities to nourish and nurture their babies and enjoy their little ones than trying to achieve a standard that may not be workable.
My advice: Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breastfeed and pump as much as you reasonably can. Turn around any feelings of “not enough” or I’m not measuring up by focusing on all the things you ARE able to do, because any pumping, breastfeeding or preparing formula is lovely, nurturing and good for your baby
Trust your instincts, get help and information from a lactation consultant and your pediatric care provider when you need to.
If you’d like more helpful tips and information about breastfeeding, check out Nurse Barb’s Personal Guide to Breastfeeding.