I chose to stop breastfeeding when my daughter was 16-weeks old. I had planned on feeding her for the first year, but when we started her on bottles of pumped milk, she soon began to refuse to breastfeed and despite my best efforts, she quit. I continue to give her bottles of pumped milk, but I have to confess, I want to quit. The arduous task of pumping, which makes me feel like a dairy cow, is taxing, frustrating and time-consuming.
I’m trying to take it one day at a time and do what is best for my baby, but I would be lying if I told you that the thought of being untethered from the machine didn’t fill my heart with joy. 75% of women in the United States breastfeed their babies.
However, the Center for Disease Control reports that by one year that rate has dropped to only 22%, with the majority of women choosing to stop breastfeeding when their babies are six months. With such undeniable benefits, why do some women stop breastfeeding so soon?
In order to shed light on this topic, I spoke to moms and lactation consultants about why they chose to stop breastfeeding early.
Caroline Cheshire, a mom of three, quit breastfeeding her first daughter because of breastfeeding pain. “It was always a struggle getting my daughter in the right position and in a few days my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I slathered on nipple creams. I dried my nipples with a hairdryer. I did everything I was directed to do. All my clothes were stained orange. It became so bad that when she cried to be fed, I broke out in a sweat.
At the very worst time, I would hold onto the chair with both hands and my husband with hold her on me. The pain was incredible.” Despite advice from a lactation consultant, Cheshire gave up. When her second child came along, Cheshire tried again and had better luck. When she later gave birth to twins, she was able to breastfeed them both, until she had to quit because of a precancerous thyroid. Said Caroline, “It’s like everything in life. You can only do your best. And never compare yourself to others.”
According to a poll by TheBump.com, 25% of women who didn’t or won’t breastfeed said they tried but simply weren’t able to. Deonne Benedict, a nurse practitioner and a mom who breastfed, says that in her experience one of the main reasons women believe they can’t breastfeed is because of a lack of milk supply.
“Milk supply may decrease—for various reasons, often with return to work or not pumping to keep up supply,” said Benedict and that’s when many women choose to quit. Lyndsay Szymanski President/Owner of Pumping Station and mom of two, quit breastfeeding her first child after her supply took a huge hit. “Which is how I found out I was pregnant again in the first place,” she said.
Jill Berry wanted to breastfeed her baby. She notes, “I took the Lamaze class. I assumed I would breastfeed. After a lengthy labor and a difficult recovery from a C-section, the last thing I was able to do was maneuver a baby for breastfeeding. I could barely sit up in bed let alone, switch positions while feeding my infant daughter. Add in two inverted nipples that no amount of pumping could de-invert. Throw in a poor sucking reflex for the baby. And it was a hot mess.”
Berry did her best to pump and breastfeed, but the frustration combined with the pressure of going back to work in four week was a lot to bear. She sought help from a lactation consultant, but was still frustrated. “I quit breastfeeding at the end of my daughter’s 3rd week. Her first bottle? She downed it in about 3 seconds flat. The poor little thing was hungry.”
Lack of support
Jennie Markley had her baby at 11:14 P.M. and her insurance counted that as her first day in the hospital. As a result, the next day was her only full day in the hospital and she was only able to see the lactation consultant for a total of 10 minutes. Markley didn’t know how to get her child to latch properly and ended up doing some serious damage to her nipples.
While they healed she give her daughter formula, and when she was ready to try again, her daughter preferred the bottle. Markley wanted to breastfeed, but she notes, “But between the cost of the lactation consultant visits and the breast pump it was unsuccessful.”
Breastfeeding is a taxing but rewarding journey for both mom and baby. But it’s also a personal one and no matter what you decide, it’s important for all moms to get support. Said Benedict, “Once a woman gets through the first very difficult month, she is likely to go the distance for at least several months.
If she knows up front that the first two to three weeks are going to be hard, and she may need regular lactation consultations for a couple weeks, but that this will be compensated for by greater ease of feeding (and baby benefits) later, she is likely to make it through that first challenging month.”