So you’re thinking about quitting breastfeeding?
First of all, it’s important for you to know that pretty much ALL mamas have thought about quitting at some point.
Second of all, whatever you do decide to do, you are a great mother. Breastfeeding or not.
Don’t allow guilt to cloud your decision, or let the early months with your baby make you feel sad.
Make the decision because it’s the right one for you.
Having said that, if you are feeling like you want to quit, but aren’t sure if you’re really ready to thrown in the towel, then reading these tips may help you stick at it a little longer.
Breastfeeding is one of the hardest elements of having a newborn baby to care for. It does not necessarily come naturally to every mother.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons that might be flitting through your mind.
Cons of breastfeeding
You’re tied to baby 24/7. In the early weeks when there is no clear routine, you and your baby will be attached at the hip, or more accurately the nip.
Only you can do night feeds. You’re exhausted and just want to sleep, but the baby wants to feed every two hours.
Nipple pain. Once the latch is perfected, breastfeeding does not hurt. But in the early days when you are both getting used to it, sore nipples are an absolute killer. It feels like a razor is being taken to your boobs.
Pain of blocked milk ducts. A blocked duct leaves a dull, aching type pain in the breast that is nearly impossible to ignore.
Potential for getting mastitis. If you are unlucky enough to get mastitis it can leave you feeling as if you’re fighting the flu.
Cluster feeding is relentless in the early weeks. Cluster feeding is where your baby feeds on and off for hours at a time. It tends to happen in the evenings and can make you feel utterly drained.
It can make you feel exhausted. Breastfeeding takes energy out of you and it can leave you feeling very tired.
You can’t drink booze. You can have the odd glass, but drinking large quantities is a no-no as it passes over to baby through your milk. When you’re tired and stressed, a glass of wine looks even better than ever before, plus you’ve just spent nine months going without.
Pros of breastfeeding
Breast milk is perfectly balanced for baby. Your milk packed with water to keep the hydrated, proteins, essential fatty acids, carbs, minerals and vitamins.
Breast milk helps to boost your baby’s vulnerable immune system. Breastfed babies in general get fewer infections than formula-fed babies. Issues such as gut and ear infections are less common in breastfed babies. This is because mama passes on antibodies and immune cells through breast milk to baby.
It helps to shrink your uterus back to normal after birth. Do you cramp on letdown? That’s your uterus shrinking back to normal size. Breastfeeding releases a hormone that helps to contract your uterus after birth.
It’s cheaper than formula feeding. No need for bottles or sterilisers or buying a new box of formula every week, just whip out your boob and you’re ready to go.
Breastfeeding burns extra calories.
It’s easy to feed on the go. No need to pack any bottles and formula, just take your baby and go!
Despite all of the pros and cons of breastfeeding, this decision is likely to come down to one or two key issues you’re having with feeding your baby.
The first is that you are utterly exhausted with the relentless of breastfeeding. The other is you may be concerned you are not producing enough milk and so your baby is not getting the calories they need.
Let’s address those issues, plus a few others you might be having, with these top tips to follow that may help you stick with breastfeeding:
Stop doing anything else
Are you trying to squeeze too much into the day?
Looking after a baby is relentness, not because you’re doing anything wrong, but because it just is!
They need feeding and attention constantly, and so if you’re trying to do other things such as cleaning, work and seeing people, then you’re probably trying to do too much.
Put feeding your baby first and surrender to the fact that some days you may feel that feeding your baby is all that you manage to do.
Speak to a healthcare professional
What are your key concerns about feeding? Putting those to a healthcare professional could really put your mind at ease and help you solve the issues you are having.
If you are worried about whether your baby is getting enough milk then discussing your current feeding routine and your baby’s health will help.
Your doctor or midwife could explain how you might change your feeding routine, and advise you in introducing a bottle of formula here and there to help you get through the tougher days.
Speak to a lactation expert
There are many experts who you can enlist in helping you perfect your breastfeeding latch and any other issues you are having.
In the UK, La Leche League has a lot of local clubs staffed by volunteers who can offer free advice and support to mamas who are struggling to breastfeed.
Many community centres offer free breastfeeding drop-in services, so ask your midwife if she can recommend any services local to you.
There is free help out there. If you’re on the verge of quitting, speak to the experts! They may just give you the extra information you need to solve the problems you’re facing.
Keep an eye on the key signs that baby is getting enough milk
The trouble with breastfeeding is that you have no idea how much milk is actually going into your baby. This can make it very tempting to go for bottle feeding as you can count the ml your baby is ingesting.
If your baby has lost a bit of weight after birth, then you may be particularly concerned that they are getting enough calories.
Keep an eye out for the key signs that your baby is getting enough milk. These include:
- Three to four dirty nappies a day and four wet nappies a day.
- Active and kicking during awake hours.
- Seeming satisfied after a feed.
Take your baby for additional weigh-in appointments if you are really concerned, as this can give you an idea of whether you are on the right track.
Boost your supply
If you think your baby is not getting enough milk, then you can take steps to boost your milk supply within days.
Make sure you are eating three well-balanced meals per day. You need your calories in order to help your body produce the goods.
Drink plenty of fluids and make sure you are well rested, or as well rested as you can be.
Make yourself a comfy breastfeeding station for when you are feeding, as this will help you to relax and that will improve your milk supply.
Grit your teeth through the pain
If you have sore nipples then every time you put your baby to the breast can feel like you’re being stabbed in the boobs. It’s so painful, I remember it well.
However once your latch is corrected, your nipples will heal very quickly.
Pain may also come from cramping when your letdown occurs. This is your uterus shrinking back to its normal size, and this pain will go away after a few weeks.
The actual letdown can also cause some discomfort in your boobs. For me it felt a bit like an electric shock.
All of this pain can make you very unhappy at the thought of your baby’s next feed, especially if they are cluster feeding.
So how can you cope? Find a way to take your mind elsewhere when feeding, so that you aren’t braced and tense for the pain to hit. Curl your toes, grit your teeth and push on. It does not last forever.
You can also try using nipple cream to help your nipples heal, and let them air as much as possible.
Take a nursing vacation
Shut the door to visitors and stop cleaning or cooking. Do nothing but nurse your baby for an entire weekend.
This can help to boost your milk supply and gives you a mental break from all of the other pressures you might be thinking about.
Consider expressing feeds
If your nipples are really sore from feeding then you could try pumping as a way to express your breast milk.
Exclusive pumping is extremely time-consuming and it’s not for everybody. However if you still want your baby to have your breast milk but you’re not keen on them latching on, for whatever reason, this is a good option.
You could also combine pumping and feeding your baby directly. This will mean you have bottles you can give to your partner or relatives so they can help out with feeding the baby every now and then.
When other people feed the baby, you should take a rest and nap as much as you can.
Use a Haakaa
If you feel like you already have zero time to keep up with everything else, let alone pumpking, then try a Haakaa.
You put this manual breast pump to the opposite breast to where you are feeding your baby and it collects the milk from the letdown.
You can pop this milk in a bottle in the fridge after each feed and after a few days you will hopefully have enough to offer your baby in a bottle for a feed, giving you a brief respite.
Try nipple shields
Nipple shields are plastic moulds that you place over your nipples for feeds.
The idea is that they protect your nipples if they are particularly sore. They can also help if you have inverted nipples and your baby is struggling to latch on.
Breastfeed while laying down
Curl up in bed and get comfy when feeding your baby. If you’re still just a few weeks postpartum then you’ll need all of the rest you can get.
Remember to practice safe sleeping if you are going to co-sleep in order to reduce the risk of SIDS.
Unclog blocked milk ducts fast
Clogged milk ducts are so painful! Deal with them fast before they have a chance to get infected.
You can unclog your milk ducts by gently massaging the area when feeding your baby. Put your baby to the breast as often as you can and try hand expressing some milk while in a hot shower.
You can prevent clogged ducts by feeding frequently, not skipping feeds, and making sure each breast is drained properly at each feed.
Clogged ducts can also be caused by overuse of the pump between feeds, so be mindful if you are creating oversupply that you cannot keep up with.
Remind yourself that it all gets easier after six weeks
Right now breastfeeding feels impossible and exhausting and overwhelming.
But there does come a point when it gets easier and you will reap all of the benefits of sticking at it.
Six weeks might feel like forever but it’s actually not that long. Make adjustments elsewhere in your life and just focus on feeding and resting as much as possible for the first six weeks.
Do not be influenced by other people’s opinions
If you are having doubts about breastfeeding then you’re probably getting opinions from other people left, right and centre.
When it comes to babies, everyone has an opinion and a story that makes them an expert on the subject.
This is your body and the only person who should have any influence on the decision is you! Discuss your feelings with your partner, but ultimately the decision rests with you.
Find a way to make cluster feeding manageable
Cluster feeding tends to coincide with growth spurts. It can feel exhausting, especially as it happens most often in the evenings when you’re ready to just go to bed.
Find new ways to make cluster feeding more manageable for yourself and surrender to it.
You could make sure you are comfortable with a good breastfeeding station that has all of the things you need for your comfort. You could also try getting into bed with your baby so you can doze while they feed.
Ask your other half to take the baby for a few minutes here and there so that you can get a break from the feeds. Often when your baby is only on you, they will automatically seek out your nipple just because they find it so comforting, not necessarily because they are starving hungry.
Lower your expectations of normalcy
Things aren’t going back to the way they were. Probably ever!
This is your new reality now, and while it will get easier for a while, you really need to stop putting lofty expectations on yourself to just go back to normal.
If you’re used to being a highly active and busy person then this can be a tough one to swallow.
Rest assured, that everything gets easier once the baby is sleeping better and they aren’t feeding so frequently.
This phase will not last forever, so place all of your focus on caring for your baby and leave chores, work, exercise and hobbies to one side for a short while.
Never decide to quit on your worst day
If you are in the pit of despair and feel like you cannot take any more, do not make your decision right now!
Never make such a huge decision on your very lowest point. Take a night to sleep on it and return with a clear head.
Taking a walk to get some fresh air can help to clear your negative thoughts and help you look at the situation is an more objective way.
If after all of this you still decide to quit breastfeeding, never ever beat yourself help! Remember you are an amazing mother, and there is so much more to motherhood than just breastfeeding.