There is no question that breastfeeding is a healthy choice for your baby. But, for a lot of mothers, breastfeeding past the first few months can be a struggle. In fact, in Wisconsin 82.2% of mothers choose to start out breastfeeding, but only 48.8% are exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months.
During those first months of life, there might be times when you question if breastfeeding was the right choice or not. It's important to remember that your own health and that of your baby are your biggest priority. If your primary care provider says that breastfeeding is no longer an option, giving your baby a healthy alternative is the next best thing. Be proud of yourself for putting your family's health first.
For a lot of mothers, knowing what is normal and what is not can be provide reassurance through the breastfeeding process. Here are 4 common reasons why women quit breastfeeding, what is normal, and what is not.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to know if the feelings you get when breastfeeding are normal or not. After a few weeks, you will become more familiar with what it feels like when your milk comes in and when your baby's latch is not quite right.
When your milk "comes in"
Some mothers briefly feel a tingling, "pins and needles," or a flushing of warmth of coolness through the breasts with milk let-down. Others notice nothing different, except the rhythm of baby's sucking
Because your baby still is learning to latch on, you may feel tenderness or pain when he or she latches on. If this happens while you are still in the hospital, ask your nurse to watch you feed your baby. The nurse may have suggestions that will make breastfeeding more comfortable. If it happens at home, talk to a lactation consultant
Think of a suction cup. When your baby latches on, the better the suction he or she has, the better the milk will come out. If there is not a complete suction seal, then your baby could get a lot of air (which can cause discomfort), could be getting less milk, and has to suck harder and longer (which can cause pain to you). If that's the case, a lactation consultant can help you retrain your newborn to latch on in a way that more effectively gets milk while also causing you less pain. Win-win!
Because your nipples are not used to breastfeeding, some soreness can occur. Often, the soreness goes away in a week or so. Contact a certified lactation consultant if soreness lasts or develops into pain. There are several options available that will make breastfeeding much more comfortable.
Because there are no bottle markings on your breast, you have no way of knowing how much milk your baby is actually getting. There are other ways to know if nursing is enough for your newborn. First and foremost, your child's pediatrician will monitor weight gain and tell you what to monitor based on your specific situation. But, in general, after the first week, breastfed babies will:
- Soak 6 or more wet diapers a day with clear or pale yellow urine.
- Pass 3 or more loose, seedy, or curd-like yellow stools a day.
- Typically gain 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce each day up to age 3 month.
There are a lot of reasons why a baby could have difficulty latching on, but one reason might be "engorgement". This happens when your breast is full of milk and feels hard and tight. When your breast is over full, the nipple might stretch and flatten, making it difficult for your baby to latch.
Engorgement can happen early on when your milk comes in and your body is still trying to match milk supply with your baby's needs. It can also happen if you are waiting too long between feedings. The best way to reduce engorgement is to feed your baby often and to let your baby eat when hungry instead of on a schedule.
If you are engorged, you can reduce the amount of milk by pumping for a few minutes or manually expressing milk so that the amount in the breast is less.
If engorgement is the issue, you might need to feed more often or pump milk between feedings. Keep in mind, your milk supply will adjust as your body gets used to your baby's needs, so engorgement will not always be an issue.
There are many other reasons for latching issues, so do not hesitate to call a lactation consultant for help.
How long will you spend breastfeeding? Every baby is different. Some babies guzzle their milk in 10-15 minutes. Others eat every 2 hours for 45 minutes at a time. It's important to let your baby eat until they stop, to ensure they are getting as much milk as they need. If it feels like you are nursing all day long, here are a couple things to remember:
- Babies eat faster when they are older. Hang in there and enjoy the first few months of snuggle time. It will not last forever.
- Even faster eaters go through growth spurts where they need to eat more often or from longer periods of time. These often occur between 2-3 week, 4-6 weeks and again around 3 months old.
Some women find that they enjoy the down time that nursing gives them. Others point out that formula feeding might not take as much time in active feeding, but the time required to prepare and wash bottles makes up for he time they spend breastfeeding.
If you have a baby that spends hours and hours a day nursing, once you have the mechanics down, you might find that you are able to do other things during that time as well. Spend the first 10 minutes watching your baby and spending quality time together, and then check your email, read a book, each lunch, etc. Those of us that have had slow eaters completely understand!
Be your (and your baby's) own best advocate!
The first step to continued breastfeeding is being your own best advocate and taking advantage of the support that is available. When you sense something is wrong, ask for help. Here are several ways that you can advocate for yourself:
- Before your delivery, educate yourself about breastfeeding. Take our online "Understanding Breastfeeding" course to give you a good foundation for your breastfeeding journey.
- Talk with your OB about breastfeeding and create a breastfeeding plan together.
- Choose a Baby-Friendly Hospital, like Fort HealthCare, that has pro-breastfeeding practices and policies in place.
- Reach out when you are confused or worried that breastfeeding is not going well Fort HealthCare has lactation consultants available to help you be successful. You can call and discuss things over the phone or make an appointment to stop by and talk in-person.
- Join a Breastfeeding Support Group for on-going support. The Breastfeeding Support Group at Fort HealthCare meets the last Thursday of the month, 4:30-6pm at Fort Memorial Hospital in the OB Classroom.
- Follow the Jefferson County WI Breastfeeding Coalition on Facebook for more information on breastfeeding. www.facebook.com/Jefferson-County-WI-Breastfeeding-Coalition-2040632042847414
Having the support you need and the confidence to ask is a very important part of your breastfeeding success. Please let us know how we can help your breastfeeding journey.