I recently came across a post on the blog Bees and Beans written about guilt vs. regret when it comes to breastfeeding or more accurately not breastfeeding. This is something I’ve talked about for a long time and feel that JoEllen has done a wonderful job discussing the difference and why so often it is regret, and not guilt, that a woman feels when she has been unable to breastfeed. I would add that many moms who have had difficulty breastfeeding and end up bottlefeeding also deal with a lot of grief. Our society, however, doesn’t recognize the emotional impact of breastfeeding and so many moms are left feeling as though there is something wrong with them or that what they are feeling and experiencing is not normal. But it absolutely is!
JoEllen has kindly given me permission to repost her article in its entirety here. I hope you enjoy and appreciate it as much as I did.
Guilt vs. Regret in Regards to Breastfeeding by JoEllen Noble
I deal with this very thing almost every single day at work.
I see it expressed by mothers in online forums each time breastfeeding is the topic at hand.
many mothers state that they feel guilty because they had to stop breastfeeding for one reason or the other. They say that for those of us out there in the trenches desperately working to promote and normalize breastfeeding, our thought-provoking one liners and quotes of encouragement further cement their guilt.
I'm hear to tell you dear mothers, that what you feel is not guilt.
No, it isn’t.
What you do feel is regret, and that my friends, is a horse of a different color.
So what is the big deal in making the distinction between the two?
To truly heal the hurt that we are feeling, we must first find the true cause of our pain. Using the appropriate term starts the road to self-forgiveness and healing.
You see, a person feels guilt when he or she knowingly does something wrong.
If you found that you had to stop breastfeeding due to an unforeseen medical need, did you do something wrong?
No. but you will most certainly feel regret.
Feel regret that you did not get to breastfeed for as long as you wanted. Feel regret that you did not have the support you needed and you grew weary of the constant battle. Feel regret that all other options were exhausted and weaning your baby was the only choice left.
In my job, I work to assist mothers in meeting their breastfeeding goals. For some women, getting colostrum to the baby during the first few days is their only goal and desire. For others, it is making it to one month. two months. three months. So and so forth.
We celebrate the victories, big and small.
What then, to do about those breastfeeding quotes and those feelings of exclusion?
Remember this first and foremost: those quotes are meant to normalize breastfeeding. They are a simple, direct way of getting the point across to those individuals who view breastfeeding as equal to formula feeding and/or who would otherwise not even consider attempting breastfeeding.
But you did attempt it, didn’t you?
Therein lies the difference, friends.
Guilt immobilizes us. It paralyzes us with a negative self-image and tells us that we are not worthy or capable of making the right decision.
Regret, however, gives us the power to pinpoint the problem and say “this didn’t work out and i’m disappointed.” You can change the outcome for your next baby. or for another woman and her baby.
Enough of the self defeat, ladies. You are stronger and smarter than that.