Why We Feel Grief, and How We Can Work Through These Thoughts and Feelings
Even before we take steps to grow our family through the addition of children, we conjure up an idea of what our journey into and through motherhood will look like. A major stage of this journey is our time spent breastfeeding. In this fabrication of our future, breastfeeding will be biological nursing, and it will be bliss. Potentially it is because breastfeeding is the natural manner or method of feeding babies that we assume it will be easy or easy to some degree. Older generations, the mothers who have made this journey before us, leave us to our delusions, potentially because they don’t want to burden or scare us, or because it is such a personal aspect of motherhood.
In reality, not every woman finds biological nursing easy, let alone possible. For some women, our own biology makes nursing difficult. Take inverted and elastic nipples for examples. Other women might find it uncomfortable. Still others might have experienced trauma that inhibits them from feeding their babies. All of this focuses on one side of the partnership that is breastfeeding. Babies might have an aversion to nursing. They might have tongue or lip ties that make latching difficult. There are a multitude of reasons why a mother and baby might not be able to establish nursing and none of them are their fault.
Let’s be honest, if it were easy, we wouldn’t need pumps, and BeauGen wouldn’t exist. Our own team members have had struggles with nursing: Click here for our Founder’s Story, and here for Team Member Maggie Schott’s personal experience with deconstructing this illusion.
So, It’s Normal to Feel Grief If I Can’t Breastfeed?
Yes, absolutely! When we put our hopes and dreams into something so personal, and it doesn’t work out for us, there is nothing more natural to feel than some extent of grief.
Many mothers experience some degree of loss, let down, grief, or failure. Others still experience an emotion that they can’t quite identify. If you are able to feed your baby by other means, it can be more difficult to place, or even validate these feelings.
If you feel isolated or alone in this experience, you are not. We see you, and we’re here for you during this process.
Should I Still Be Feeling This Even Though I’m Able to Feed My Baby Breastmilk?
First of all, congratulations on making breastfeeding work for you and your baby. Pumping isn’t easy. It’s not cheap. And it requires some serious dedication.
While we consider pumping a form of breastfeeding, we don’t gloss over the fact that many who pump wish they could have nursed, or nursed to some extent. While you are meeting your baby’s nutritional needs, you may still feel like your breastfeeding journey is less than it would be if you could have nursed. You may also feel that your journey is marked with an asterisk and there are feelings that stem from this sense of “other”.
How to Process and Work Through Your Grief in a Healthy Manner
The biggest piece of advice that we can give to you is: Allow yourself to feel these emotions. Do not push them back down from where they came, or try to keep them at bay. We said it before and we will say it again here, these are natural feelings and the best thing you can do with feelings is to process them or work through them.
The next step is to accept that these feelings of grief, of loss, let down, are natural and rational. Sometimes when we experience an emotion on our journey as mothers, we wonder if this is just because of hormones, or if this is rational? This grief is not only natural, and normal, it’s felt by moms the world over. While you might feel alone and isolated in this experience, you are a part of a global community.
Next, is to sit with these emotions for a bit. Try to identify which emotion you are feeling. Then explore a little deeper. If it’s grief over not being able to nurse, why do you feel grief? Is it because you had hoped to nurse your baby? Okay, that is an instinctive desire for many of us. Now that we can put a name to what we are experiencing and look into why we are here, we can work through it.
Talk to Other Moms Who Have Been There
One of the amazing things about motherhood, is that there is a community of women who have also gone through this journey. While each of our journeys is unique, and beautiful in its own way, there are shared experiences. There are likely women in your own family and friend circles that have had a breastfeeding experience that was different from what they envisioned. If you don't feel comfortable talking to the people in your life about this, there are a number of online communities and professionals who can help. Hearing stories similar to our own have an uplifting effect, and help to show that we aren't alone in our experiences or our feelings.
Speak to a Therapist
We've said it before, but it is especially important here: Speaking to a trained professional can be extremely helpful. Grief is a tough thing to process on our own, and grief over our breastfeeding journeys is no different. Speaking with a therapist can help us validate our feelings and begin to process them in a healthy and progressive manner. With their help, we can work through this experience, and begin to feel proud of the work that we are doing to keep our babies healthy and growing strong.