Giving up breastfeeding is one of the most challenging decisions a new mom can face. And it’s an entirely personal one, based solely on how productive your breastfeeding journey has proven to be.
Society tends to put (unhealthy) pressure on moms to breastfeed, otherwise they’ll be a ”failure”. But I’m here to debunk these ideas and help you understand that it’s okay no matter what you decide.
The first time you start breastfeeding, you can’t really know what to expect, as every mom’s breastfeeding experience is different.
It may turn out that you don’t have enough milk, and you’re not sure how to keep your milk supply up.
Your lactation consultant will keep telling you to try, as there are lots of health benefits to breast milk, but it just won’t work.
Sometimes, the baby has a tongue-tie (which complicates things), and some moms get mastitis, which ends up being extremely upsetting and affects their overall mental health.
Breastfeeding mothers go through a lot of hidden angst and fear that they’re scared to disclose.
Why? Because it makes them feel that they’re not doing a good job.
But you know what? Your personal circumstances should be the only thing affecting your decision on whether to wean your new baby or not.
Not what your pediatrician says and not what society imposes.
Here are 8 things for you to consider before you give up breastfeeding. And remember – this is entirely your decision.
1. You may have been exposed to false information regarding breastfeeding
I breastfed my kiddos, and while it was complicated at times, it all worked out in the end.
On the other hand, a lot of my girlfriends resorted to bottle-feeding, and that worked out great for them.
Why am I saying this?
Because we followed our gut. We didn’t let a third party influence such a personal decision. And you shouldn’t either.
Whether you breastfeed or use a bottle of formula, it’s up to you and your little one. Don’t let inaccurate information affect this personal decision in any way.
At the end of the day, nobody can tell you that you have low milk supply, as that is something only you can know once you’ve given nursing a chance.
This also goes for being told that your milk isn’t good enough.
These are myths that uneducated minds love to preach, but they are completely untrue.
Follow your gut feeling and intuition, rather than inquisitive minds who aren’t privy to your breastfeeding journey.
If you’ve been fed any of these fallacies, know that they’re completely unsubstantiated. You can easily ask around or check on the official WHO (World Health Organization) webpage.
2. Have you given any thought to exclusive breastfeeding?
At times, it simply happens that direct breastfeeding doesn’t prove to be a good experience for either you or your young one, and in those times, it’s encouraged to look into exclusive breastfeeding.
What exactly does this entail?
Exclusive breastfeeding basically means that the little one is fed nothing except breast milk.
During this period, there are no other solids (not even liquids) added to the baby’s diet (water included).
The only exception is situations where oral rehydration is required (or drops, minerals, prescribed medicines, or necessary vitamins).
This is something moms usually resort to when they’re back at work, with no options for their baby to be brought to them for feeding time, and there are no daycare centers nearby.
Sometimes, the baby simply refuses to nurse.
You can try all you want but they’re adamant they won’t latch, which can be confusing and riddles you with uncertainty as to what to do next.
Babies are also sometimes unable to latch due to having been born with a cleft palate, a tongue tie, and in more serious cases – heart issues.
If your situation resembles any of the following, give exclusive expressing a chance – it works out for plenty of moms, and it might just help you too.
3. How old is your baby?
If your baby is a year old or older, you’ll be pleased to know that at this stage, their need for breast milk significantly decreases.
What exactly does this signify?
While there is nothing wrong with thinking about giving up breastfeeding at this time, it would also be completely okay if you continued.
Your child’s nutritional needs are no longer dependent on your milk, which makes the decision to wean a bit easier (at least it did to me).
It still holds certain beneficial values for babies over the age of 1, but they can just as easily go without it.
The WHO (World Health Organization) states that the ideal age to breastfeed until is 2, but hey, your boobs – your decision!
This may leave you uncertain about what to decide, but here’s something to alleviate some of your stress.
At around 15 months, children are in a different cognitive stage, which means that they are now able to form close, strong attachments.
And because of this, weaning at this stage could be that much more difficult.
My intention is simply to let you know that there is no such thing as weaning them prematurely. If you want to breastfeed, that’s great.
But if you believe that using a breast pump could be an ideal replacement, so be it. There is no right or wrong decision. It’s all about what fits your and your baby’s needs.
4. Giving up breastfeeding might mean less sleep for you
I can’t tell you how many times I heard that formula feeding would bring me more sleep and stop me being as sleep deprived.
I mean, don’t ALL moms crave sleep?
This is such a myth that isn’t based on any factual information, so please don’t pay attention if you hear this from anyone.
The truth is quite different actually. I’ve read a lot of research clearly stating that moms who opt for formula feeding are the ones who have trouble sleeping.
Especially in comparison to moms who breastfeed exclusively.
They are the ones who actually get a decent amount of sleep while using formula makes it challenging to go back to a somewhat healthy sleep cycle.
It’s all pure biology.
When there’s a deficit in ”normal’ physiological activity (which is a result of giving up breastfeeding), the mom’s sleep cycle gets disturbed.
5. Formula feeding is a pricier option
This is something you’ve probably already considered, but nevertheless, it should be mentioned.
While giving up breastfeeding is entirely up to you, you should definitely take into consideration the fact that it will significantly affect your finances.
Breastfeeding is free of charge (duh) so when you face a new reality, you’ll also notice a slight change in your spending habits.
All of a sudden, you’ll end up having to buy bottles of formula on a regular basis, which might prove to be more than you can afford at the moment.
No judging, though!
There are a lot of single moms out there who are just trying to do the best thing for their baby, and factoring in this information is important as it can be so overwhelming.
Consider other options if this is not something you believe you can afford. Perhaps pumping sessions are in the cards for you until you get back on your feet?
It’s so important to be informed before making a final decision. I’m sure you’ll do the absolute best thing for your baby, just like all of us try to do every day.
6. This isn’t a race – take it one day at a time
The most beautiful thing about this is that you can take as much time as you possibly need.
Nobody can force you to give up breastfeeding in a day, nor should they.
This slow approach will be extremely beneficial in helping you clear out any doubts about giving up breastfeeding as well.
Take it one day at a time and observe how your young one is taking it, and just as importantly – how it makes YOU feel.
Is this something you want to proceed with?
Is it working for the baby, and does it make you feel hopeful that bottle feeding is the right choice?
It’s also perfectly okay to question your decision. When I was considering giving up breastfeeding, I kept going back and forth as it crushed me to think I might somehow hurt my child by taking the milk away.
But what I realized in the process is invaluable. Just like every mom is different, so is every child, and they don’t all take to your boob.
What worked best for me was mixed feeding (both breastfeeding and using the bottle) in order to maintain my milk supply while working out the kinks of it all.
I took my sweet time and I am so happy I did. I weaned my baby one day at a time, as it was healthier for both myself and my little one.
Babies get to adjust to this new feeding process gradually, and your emotions aren’t all over the place as you didn’t rush it.
And on top of that, this gives you something to fall back on in case formula feeding doesn’t do the trick.
If your baby reacts negatively to it, mixed feeding will soften the blow, as you never completely weaned them in the first place.
7. Having second thoughts is perfectly normal and happens all the time
You’re only human, and you learn as you go.
Nobody is programmed with all the knowledge in the world, and we all make decisions that we are absolutely allowed to regret later on.
And if you made the tough decision and gave up breastfeeding, but changed your mind and want to give it another shot, know that it’s completely doable.
This is something a lot of new moms experience, and it’s called relactation.
This is a process during which a mom decides to take on breastfeeding again, after a significant period of time without it.
It may have been a matter of a few days, or even months or a whole year.
You can totally relax though. This is completely normal and so many moms successfully resume breastfeeding after a break.
I know a woman from work who stopped for a few months but decided to try again.
And what do you know, she did it.
Naturally, she called her lactation consultant who walked her through the process, but the results were great after a few hits and misses.
The thing is, just because it worked well for someone you know it doesn’t mean it’s going to be smooth sailing for you too.
You might hit some bumps, but you’ll get there.
You may still have some milk supply, but in some cases, it’s recommended to continue feeding your baby formula so their health isn’t compromised due to your low supply.
But on the other hand, your milk supply might be enough, and this won’t be necessary.
My advice is to turn to your trusted medical professional, seek advice, and work your way through it.
It’s going to take some time, not to mention patience, but your chances are really good, so don’t give up if this is something you really want.
8. Your feeding preferences don’t define you as a mother
This is the most important thing you should take away from all of this.
Whether giving up breastfeeding is something you eventually go through with or not, it does not reflect the type of mother you are.
There are so many important factors that make a good mom, and how your baby is fed is not one of them.
You trying to find the best solution is a sign of how amazing and dedicated you are.
Whether you decide to keep on nursing, resort to mixed feeding, or opt for bottle feeding, know that your baby is lucky to have you as their mom regardless.
Don’t let anyone (not your partner, friend, or co-worker) make you feel like a failure for making this decision the way you see fit.
This is none of anyone’s business but your own.
So whatever you end up doing, stick to it and take care of yourself in the process.
Your baby needs a healthy, happy mom and that means doing whatever you feel is best for both of your respective needs.
World Health Organization, “Breastfeeding”.
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