Can’t VS. Won’t Breastfeed

Often times in breastfeeding support groups you will find women who like to constantly preach that there is a difference between not wanting to breastfeed and being unable to. While it certainly is true that some women really don’t want to breastfeed I don’t think that this is EVER an appropriate response to hearing the plight of your fellow breastfeeder.

Breastfeeding is easy for some and difficult for others. Some mothers and babies are able to get the process right away and others take a longer time to even get a good latch down to a science. Some women have flat or inverted nipples that make it hard to achieve a good latch without practice. Other women have what I like to call “gum drop” nipples and do not struggle to get their nipple deep into the infants mouth.

Are you starting to understand my point? There are a number of reasons that someone might struggle to breastfeed and you will never have a complete understanding of the physical and emotional pain that any mother has gone through.

By telling a woman that she could have breastfed if she had tried harder you belittle her experience and any effort that she DID put into breastfeeding. You intentionally make her feel guilty and build yourself up as better because YOU were able get passed YOUR obstacles and breastfeed your baby. This is wrong. We are not all the same. You did not automatically have the same issue as another mother. Your ability to cope, your knowledge of breastfeeding, your support, the time you were able to dedicate to breastfeeding all make your experience very different.

Telling a woman that there is a difference between can’t breastfeed and won’t breastfeed is also just downright mean. You are going to hurt that woman’s feelings and make her insecure. Perhaps now she is going to be even less likely to seek consolation when she struggles with subsequent babies. Maybe now she isn’t even going to try to breastfeeding because the lactivist community was cruel to her and she doesn’t want to associate herself with you.

It only takes ONE lactivist to ruin one person’s view of the entire lactivist community. Do you really want to be that lactivist?

If you want people to believe in your cause is being mean to them really going to make them understand it? My personal experience is that calmly expressing your opinion is more effective than shoving your opinion down a person’s throat.

And maybe instead of criticizing that mother you should offer suggestions for solutions. Ask her what she has tried. Ask her if she has support.

You should NEVER be insulting towards a mother that is trying to share her story and her grief. She is trying to heal from an ordeal that was difficult for her. She is mourning the loss of her breastfeeding relationship with her child.

So remember. There IS a difference between can’t breastfeed and won’t breastfeed.

But there is also a difference between can’t be nice and won’t be nice.

Please don’t ruin the lactivist community for those of us that want to help other women.