When I was pregnant with my first child, I didn’t give much thought to whether I would breastfeed or not. Yet amidst all the parenting books and information I read when I was pregnant, I came across a fact sheet and learned about all the amazing benefits of breastfeeding. And right after I read it, I told my husband that I was committed to breastfeed. No. Matter. What.
I’m the type of person that follows through on a committment come hell or high water.
I’m grateful that breastfeeding was smooth sailing for me after I got some support from the lactation consultants at the hospital. My milk supply was more than adequate—I even had a freezer full of pumped milk—and my daughter even slept through the night by 3 months.
Yet I know not all moms are so lucky.
Moms know breastfeeding is one of the best things they can do for their baby’s health and their own. Like childbirth, it’s one of the most natural things a mother’s body is made for but it doesn’t always come naturally or easily. In fact, studies show only about 50 percent of moms are still breastfeeding at 6 months.
So why is that? Here are some of the reasons I think moms stop breastfeeding.
1. Breastfeeding is a part-time job
Don’t get me wrong, pulling out your breast and putting your baby next to you is much easier than having to get up in the middle night to prepare a bottle.
But breastfeeding takes more time and more patience than bottle feeding. When I was breastfeeding, I always felt like I was “on-call,” especially in the beginning when there are 8 to 12 feedings a day. In the first few months, my husband would wake up to feed our daughter a bottle of pumped milk but I often woke up too to pump so my milk supply wouldn’t dwindle.
If you’re away from your baby, you still have to pump. And some moms can’t go far because their babies won’t take a bottle.
2. Breastfeeding changes your breasts and your body
My breasts are so small I’m barely an A cup. But when I was breastfeeding, I couldn’t believe how large my breasts were—porn-star big.
Because I was producing a lot of milk, my breasts would leak when my baby cried, when another baby cried and when I even thought about my baby. My milk would let down and come out so fast my daughter would often let go of the latch to catch a breath.
Since breastfeeding also causes estrogen levels to be low, sex can be challenging, even painful. And when you do have sex and climax, you breasts can leak then too.
3. Moms have to return to work
I was lucky to be able to work from home when I had my kids and have a babysitter at my house. If you work from home, you’ll probably have more flexibility to feed your baby or pump. Although the Affordable Care Act allows women the time and space to pump at work, the rules vary by state and many loopholes exist.
And what about moms who have long commutes or don’t have a place to pump? Like one of my friends who used to work as a pharmaceutical representative. Since she didn’t have an office and was always on the road, she pumped in her car in New York City parking garages in between sales calls!
4. Feeling sexy goes out the door overnight
There are beautiful satin and lace nursing bras that make you feel sexy when you’re not nursing your baby, but let’s be honest: those soft cup nursing bras and disposable nursing pads are what most moms are sporting.
I wore a nursing bra 24/7 for a year (see #2).
5. Breastfeeding can make you sick
When I was breastfeeding, I had a bout of mastitis and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. Not only did I have a large lump in my breast, but I felt like someone ran over me with a Mack truck.
I also battled a sneaky condition called D-MER and high levels of anxiety and nausea when my baby started solids and when she finally weaned for good.
These are just some of the reasons moms stop breastfeeding. Health, lifestyle, employment, access to healthcare and support networks are different for each woman.
Instead of shaming women for throwing in the towel early, we need to understand the reasons for doing so and give them the support they need regardless of their decisions.
Did you stop breastfeeding before a year? Why?