Guest written and originally published by Maggie Zapp, founder of Motherly Love.
Every loving parent wants their child to grow up healthy and whole and strong and emotionally stable. But how to get there can be a mystery. How far do we pursue a parenting goal that we’ve set for ourselves, and how do we know when to cut our losses and let it go?
Certain breastfeeding advocates will tell you not to ever give up breastfeeding because breast milk is so good for a baby. They aren’t wrong about how good it is for your baby.
But a massive part of parenting, the part they can’t tell you in parenting manuals, is how only you can determine how to prioritize your life. Only you can determine when continuing to try to breastfeed endangers something else of major importance, like your relationship with your baby, or your mental health.
There are so many things that go into decision making in parenting and there is a lot that takes the back burner. For many moms, personal hygiene drops to the bottom of the list in favor of other considerations like sleep and taking care of baby. For others, learning the hard way that putting all this pressure on one’s self to be the super natural mom and doing all the things, can put their mental health at risk as they are run ragged trying to do everything whole foods and natural. Ask me how I know this.
Do we cloth diaper, or do we not? If not, how important is it to us to use natural diapers, or will a generic brand make more sense given our situation? Will baby only be getting organic baby food? Are we making it ourselves, or are we okay with buying the processed packages at the store? And how much do we commit ourselves to any one goal? Are we making hard and fast rules for ourselves, or is there some flexibility, perhaps a lot of flexibility, involved?
How do you know?
A lot of these short-term, temporary considerations can be determined in a pros and cons list, based off what’s important to you, so knowing yourself, your limitations (financial, nutritional, and other wise), your needs, and your wants makes a huge difference. But in the moment, with your baby screaming at your breast while you feel like a complete and utter failure, rational thought is hardly possible, much less a pros and cons list.
When it comes to feeding, breast or otherwise, the maxim is feed the baby because that’s in the long term best interests for your child.
Breast milk is the ideal food for human babies, there is no denying it. But sometimes other considerations have to take priority over the short term ideal. Sometimes what is ideal can’t be the goal without risks. You’ll know your goals need to be re-prioritized if feelings of desperation set in.
Moms should never feel desperate. When they do, their judgment is more likely to become impaired, they will tend toward depression and wild thoughts they wouldn’t normally have, and post partum depression can set in.
If you’re feeling desperate as a mom, you need emotional, and perhaps physical, support. Reach out to other moms experiencing similar difficulties as yourself. Take advantage of baby-holding time to spend time with other moms, even if digitally, since frequently, that’s all moms with newborns can do. Whatever you do, recognize that you need help.
Desperate times are when we take a step back from our wants and needs and relish in the good, be grateful that it’s not worse, and, more than anything, be okay with expecting less than the ideal parenting goal. That’s the hard part.
Learning to be okay with lowering our expectations, and to do it without guilt, without shame, acknowledging that this is what we need and what baby needs in the short term so we can give them what they need in the long term, can be hard to achieve without giving into the temptation to feel disappointed in ourselves.
New and expecting moms will learn to grapple with challenges they never expected, challenges that are utterly unique to their situations in life. Only you can know the details of your situation, but if you always keep the long term best interests of your child in mind, the short term goals that seem to matter so much will be put into better perspective.
When to give up on breastfeeding? When it’s time to give up on breastfeeding. If you are keeping your child’s long term best interests in my mind, you’ll know. And you’ll be okay with it.
Motherly Love LLC is the child of Tom and Maggie, parents of 7 with a long history of triumphs and mistakes. Having gone through the wonder of pregnancy, birth, and babies seven different times, they feel confident about being able to offer innovative products to practical parents who want to facilitate their child’s development and improve family life. Life is crazy. Removing steps in the parenting process, like being able to keep a baby’s shirt clean while he’s eating, can leave more room to spend quality time together. While they embrace the chaos, they also know the devil is in the details. To chat with them, you can email [email protected] or find them on Facebook: facebook.com/motherlylovestore.