Maybe you’re expecting a baby and hoping to be successful at breastfeeding. Or maybe you’ve already started breastfeeding and it’s been tougher than you expected. Research shows that only a third of women who intend to breastfeed for 3 months or more actually reach their goal.
The rest of them fail.
And I think that’s tragic.
Before I go on: I don’t think it’s the end of the world to switch to bottle-feeding. In a first-world country with clean, healthy water, the benefits of breastfeeding are rumored to be greatly exaggerated.
If you want to formula-feed, that’s totally cool with me. I don’t blame you one bit for not wanting to be the ONLY person in the whole world who can feed that baby every 1.5 hours around the clock.
But by golly, if you want to breastfeed your baby for three months, it shouldn’t be so hard that two-thirds of women who have a desire to do it fail.
Women stop breastfeeding for any number of reasons, but among them are: not feeling like their baby is getting what they need, feeling alone in the breastfeeding journey, and pressure from those around them to quit.
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So here’s are the mistakes women make that result in breastfeeding failure:
Not Trusting Your Body
Think about it: formula wasn’t even an option until maybe 150 years ago at the earliest. All throughout history, it was breast or nothing. If you were wealthy, you could pay someone else to breastfeed your baby, but it was still breastfeeding.
And babies did just fine.
Granted, infant mortality was much higher then, but I seriously doubt that infant mortality rate was related to high breastfeeding rates. I’ve done some research, and there really aren’t any reputable sources that indicate that babies can starve while breastfeeding, in facet, the American Pregnancy Association describes having a low milk supply as ‘rare.’
So I’m not a doctor or anything, but as far as I can tell, mothers not being able to produce enough milk for their babies isn’t nearly as common as many women believe.
Many women think they have a low milk supply because their baby cries a lot and wants to nurse all the time. But the truth is just that babies cry a lot and like to nurse all the time, it’s totally normal. Once you accept the fact that you’re going to be spending a LOT of time sitting on the couch feeding the baby, you’ll be much more likely to continue breastfeeding.
Armed with that information, trust your body as you head into your breastfeeding journey. While you were pregnant, did you question your body’s ability to create this human being in the first place?
Then don’t question it’s ability to feed your baby as well.
You were made for this, so be confident that you can and will breastfeed your baby if that’s what your desire is.
If you start breastfeeding with a tentative frame of mind, if you’re just going to “see how it goes” or “try it out” then you will wind up failing.
Again, there’s nothing wrong with switching to a bottle. But if you truly want to be successful at breastfeeding, you’ve got to have the right attitude.
When my girls were babies, I never once considered using formula. I wasn’t even all that caught up in the “breast is best” nonsense, I just knew I sure as heck wasn’t going to pay $27 for a can of formula. So I just treated it like it wasn’t an option – I pretended like it was the year 1801 and formula didn’t exist yet.
I was confident that I could do it, I trusted my body, and successfully breastfed each of my girls for over a year.
Not Asking Others for Help
Now, I don’t mean to give you the impression that breastfeeding is easy. It’s definitely tough, and I didn’t even have any physical issues with breastfeeding.
For me the hardest part was the loneliness of it all. The lack of support that I had. It was being up for hours in the middle of the night with a screaming baby, knowing that no one was coming to rescue me. It was not being able to get out of the house for even an hour alone without having to rush back because I knew the baby would be hungry soon. It was feeling like I was neglecting my toddler because I had to spend what felt like every second nursing this baby.
Breastfeeding is so demanding of our bodies and our time, so it’s no surprise that moms who lack support struggle to continue breastfeeding when there’s so many other things that we have to take care of by ourselves.
Take an average day for me when my youngest was a newborn, for example: wake up with my toddler (Alayna) at 7 AM after finally getting the baby to sleep at 2AM, only to have her wake again at 4. Try to get breakfast going for Alayna while the dog whines at me for his breakfast.
Now the baby is up! Ignore her for a few minutes while I clean up milk Alayna spilled while she was eating. Now the dog wants out…kick him out into the yard and finally get a second to go get the baby. She’s hungry so I sit down on the couch to nurse her, but now Alayna is finished with her breakfast and wants out of her high chair. Pull the baby off for long enough to get Alayna cleaned up.
Go back to breastfeeding.
Alayna decides that this is an excellent time to go potty and of course she needs helps with that. Move breastfeeding session to the bathroom floor and attempt to provide as much assistance as I can with only one available arm. Is that dog barking to come back inside already?
And that was all before 8 AM.
I think being a new mom used to be easier. Back when multiple generations lived near each other, or even with each other, and there were lots of grandmas, sisters and aunts around to help when a new baby came along. People that could help with the little things like letting the dog out and cleaning up spills that amount to quite a big job when you’re trying to do them all on top of being the sole source of sustenance for a baby. But today, living near family just isn’t always realistic.
Nowadays if you’re lucky, your husband might get a week off, and your mom might come stay for another week. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell wasn’t ready to be on my own with either of my babies after two weeks or even two months.
Even now that my girls are 3 and 1, I find myself quite often wishing that someone would come take these kids of my hands for even, like, 10 minutes.
It’s tough to not have family nearby.
If you want to be successful at breastfeeding, do what you have to do to get the support that you need. On the weekends, ask your husband to get up in the night and bring the baby to you so you can nurse, and then have him take her back to bed when she’s full.
Find friends who don’t have family nearby either, and lean on each other when you need help. See if someone with similar aged kiddos could pick up your older kids for a morning playdate.
Find a church and get involved – did you know that if you’re plugged into a church and you have a baby, they’ll usually set you up to have people deliver meals to you for a few weeks after you have a baby?
Make a list of things that would be helpful to you, and post it somewhere prominent. When people are over to visit the baby and ask if there’s anything they can do to help, confidently direct them to the list. There is no shame in accepting help when it is offered.
If it’s hard for you to accept help, try to think of it in terms of letting them help you so that you can help your baby. So that you can breastfeed successfully. Because really it’s the baby who’s helpless. You’re a mature adult perfectly capable of managing life on your own, thankyouverymuch.
Not Communicating With People Around You
Surround yourself with people who will be supportive of your breastfeeding journey. You probably can’t go out and get yourself say, a new mother-in-law or ditch your opinionated sister. BUT what you can do is talk to them about your commitment to breastfeeding, ideally before you have the baby.
Tell them how important it is to you to be able to breastfeed your baby successfully. Explain to them the reasons why you feel so strongly about it. Talk about what your breastfeeding goals are: do hope to breastfeed exclusively just until you go back to work or do you hope to make it six months before baby has any other type of nutrition? Whatever your goals are, make sure they’re clear to those around you.
Explain to your loved ones how important their support is to the success of your breastfeeding journey. Breastfeeding is hard enough even when you have lots of support, so your chances of success will drastically plummet if your mother-in-law is standing over your shoulder telling you to just ‘give that baby a bottle!’
Make it clear to everyone that nothing but support for your choices will be tolerated.
You may still get negativity from people in your life, even if you’ve clearly communicated with loved ones about what your plans are.
Ask yourself ahead of time what you’ll do when the negative and discouraging comments start rolling in. Come up with predetermined responses to negativity. Something just as simple as, “thanks for your input, but continuing to breastfeed is what I’ve decided is best for my baby,” can go a long way towards shutting down unsupportive behavior.
Remember that no one’s opinion but yours (and maybe the baby’s father, ha) matters when it comes to making choices about what’s best for your baby. If you decide to switch to formula, let it be only because that’s what YOU wanted to do.
Choose to ignore and be unaffected by those who like to think they know what’s right for you and your child.
Good luck, mama. I hope you’re able to enjoy breastfeeding your baby for every bit as long as you want to. <3