Guilt

Why do I feel guilty?

Some mothers feel guilty about breastfeeding. They may want to breastfeed exclusively but can’t, they may feel guilty about deciding not to breastfeed, or feel guilty about returning to work and not being able to express. To prevent guilt, mothers should obtain good information from their health-care providers and make decisions that work best for themselves and their families. It can take some time to work through this difficult emotion.

A) Describing guilt

There are many reasons why mothers may feel guilty about how they are feeding their baby. For example:

B) Addressing guilt

Some ways to deal with the guilt are to:

  • Ensure you get good answers to the questions you ask health-care providers.
  • Talk about your feelings with family, friends, and health-care providers.
  • Allow yourself to feel positive about all the good things you have done for your baby.
  • Remember there are no perfect parents but many wonderful ones doing the best they can.
  • Try to let go of the guilt and other negative feelings.
  • Accept that this process can take some time.
  • Be kind to yourself. 

Breastfeeding may be the first of many things that do not go as planned in your new life as a mother. Try to be flexible and celebrate the successes you have had along the way.

Some mothers find that their feelings of guilt are worse when they are around other mothers. The reality is that there are very few mothers who don’t have problems of one sort or another.

References

Ayton JE, Tesch L, Hansen E. Women's experiences of ceasing to breastfeed: Australian qualitative study. BMJ Open. 2019 May 6;9(5):e026234

Bresnahan M, Zhuang J, Goldbort J, et al. Made to Feel Like Less of a Woman: The Experience of Stigma for Mothers Who Do Not Breastfeed. Breastfeed Med. 2020 Jan;15(1):35-40

Jackson L, De Pascalis L, Harrold J, et al. Guilt, shame, and postpartum infant feeding outcomes: A systematic review. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Jan 24:e13141