Beat the guilt of not breastfeeding

Guilt is an emotion felt by all mothers, but for some it starts a little earlier than others.

One of the biggest causes of guilt for new and first time mothers is the decision to introduce infant formula to her baby.

The outside pressure to avoid formula is immense, and while it’s important for the benefits of breastfeeding to be highlighted, the impact on mums who are unable to breastfeed can be detrimental both to her and her baby.

“A new mum is very vulnerable to criticism and wants to do ‘everything right’ by her baby,” says psychologist Nicole Pierotti (

“If she is unable to breastfeed, I have seen mothers traumatized by the guilt that they feel and it is certainly immense and they feel like a failure, that they haven’t managed to do what other mothers can so easily and they take this on board as self-criticism.”

Guilt about not breastfeeding

Dr Pierotti says many formula feeding mothers avoid going outside their homes due to fear of others passing judgement.

“This one difference alone can alienate and guilt mothers to the extreme.”

“I have seen mothers whose newborn babies are failing to thrive, putting on a tiny bit of weight week after week and struggling,” says Dr Pierotti.

Yet these mothers are determined not to use formula because of its perceived negative image, or because of the extreme views of other mothers.

“Literally their baby is starving,” says Dr Pierotti.

“Their husband is often pleading after the first handful of weeks for them to consider using formula if necessary.

“However because new mums see it as ‘failure’ on their behalf if they can’t breastfeed sufficiently to meet their baby’s needs, they battle on, with a crying baby who cries for hours and hours and fails to thrive.

“Once they do introduce formula eventually – and it may be after 10 weeks and often it is just as a top up after breastfeeding, their baby thrives!”

Mums matter too

Do what you need to for the health and wellbeing of your baby and yourself, you are both important.

“It is better to have a calm and relaxed mother who uses formula than a mother who is stressed and exhausted and anxious trying to breastfeed,” says Dr Pierotti.

“Perhaps try combination feeding first or top up feeds after first breastfeeding.

“In the early weeks and months your baby’s happiness and health is all to do with milk and sleep, so try to work on just those two and get it at a happy combination.”

Guilt about not breastfeeding

Beat the guilt

Surround yourself with people or other mothers who are supportive of you and do not make you feel guilty or inferior for your choice to use formula.

“Do your research and you will see how scientifically analyized and close to breastmilk formula is today,” says Dr Pierotti.

Remember you can still bond with your baby closely using formula.

“Be sure to hold your baby when you give them their bottle, no matter what their age and if they are capable of holding the bottle or not.

“Have them on your lap for the touch and sensory stimulation that this provides.”

Don’t forget, the most important thing you can give your baby is love.

“For every baby that supports the theory of breastfeed babies are more intelligent, there is always a formula fed baby that is also really intelligent.

“Today formulas are the closest replication to breast milk that they have ever been and they are scientifically analysed to a high degree.

“It’s not breastmilk, but it’s great.”