Every mother wants the very best for their child, and they all know just how important breastfeeding is; so, what happens when a caring mom decides it’s in her and her baby’s best interest to stop breastfeeding? Everyone who has been wised up to the benefits of breast milk will judge the poor mom as an uncaring mother, which is unjust in so many ways.
It is common knowledge to all who know a little bit about breastfeeding that babies should be breastfed for up to one year. This time frame allows for a strong immune system to be built up, and anything short of 12 months of breastfeeding is considered unacceptable.
This perception is wrong as it can cause harm to mothers who really want to breastfeed but can’t for valid reasons. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for breastfeeding, and I value the benefits of mother’s milk, but we have to remember, there are two lives that both require the very best treatment so both can function normally, allowing for a healthy mother-child bond to flourish.
Besides the big changes that pregnancy brings on, childbirth can be a turning point for some mothers. It can be traumatic for many mothers. For some, the recovery can be slow with complications that can be triggered for any number of reasons.
Mothers will experience emotional highs and lows as they deal with hormonal changes and their innate concerns about taking care of a new life place a lot of stress on them. On top of this, some mothers will have to deal with being labeled a bad mom because they opted to rather look at other feeding alternatives.
I’ll take you through some reasons why some mothers stop breastfeeding before the 12-month milestone is reached.
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Not all moms are privileged enough to be stay-at-home moms, and only very few countries offer a full year of maternity leave. Working moms will usually qualify for three months of maternity leave and wait until the last minute before using this benefit. When working moms go back to work, many will use a breast pump during the day so their baby can still be fed on breast milk by bottle.
However, in many circumstances, this isn’t always possible, and as a result, breast milk production is affected and will begin drying up. In such situations, mothers have to make a difficult choice of either resigning from their employment to breastfeed their baby or to stay employed and switch over to formula milk.
These moms are still very concerned for the well-being of their little ones and have to think beyond the moment to what’s best for the family in the long run. Single moms mostly do not even have the luxury of choice; they simply have to stay working to take care of their baby.
Postpartum depression and postpartum preeclampsia
A drastic hormone drop after childbirth can cause depression, and this a fairly common condition. Postpartum preeclampsia has to do with high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine. Although not as common as postpartum depression, it is very dangerous and, if not treated, can cause death.
Added to this mix are postpartum complications that affect mom’s health, and most complications require medical intervention as many complications can lead to death.
All these conditions will affect both the quality and quantity of breast milk production. Discussions with your doctor about treatment and medication may result in you not being able to breastfeed due to medication that may filter into your breastmilk and negatively affect your baby.
Postpartum depression is major depression and should not be seen as having the baby blues, which is a more common and entirely normal response to the overwhelming changes all mother experience.
Low milk supply
There are many reasons why a mother’s milk supply will begin dwindling, and most breastfeeding moms will question whether they are indeed producing enough milk for their little one’s ever-growing needs.
As a way to remedy low milk supply, mothers should continue breastfeeding but may need to include formula feeds in between breastfeeding to supplement their baby’s food supply. There is nothing wrong with this, just as long as your baby is getting the necessary nourishment.
However, attempts should be made to monitor and increase breast milk production, and a visit to a lactation specialist is a recommended starting point.
Infants may have problems latching onto mom’s breast, and there could be a number of reasons for this. A cleft lip or pallet will make it difficult for your little one to latch on because feeding requires the correct suction that still allows your little one to breathe through their nose. If mom has inverted or flat nipples, latching on will be more difficult for the little one but will not prevent feeding.
Correctly positioning your baby to breastfeed is important as incorrect positioning leads to sore and cracked nipples that can be very painful. If you are experiencing nipple and breast pains, it’s best to consult with a lactation specialist so the cause can be identified.
Pain associated with breastfeeding is one of the reasons why some mothers decide to stop breastfeeding, and it is also the reason why some moms begin resenting their baby.
Before resentment becomes firmly rooted in your attitude towards your little one, seek help, and if remedies do not work, then rather switch to formula and maintain your healthy bond with your baby.
GERD and other dietary complications
GERD is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is a more intense form of acid reflux and affects young infants who are breastfed as well as formula-fed.
Mom’s diet plays a big role in the composition of her breast milk, and certain foods like dairy products, sugar-rich foods, eggs, nuts, soy, and wheat are often associated with cases of GERD or normal reflux issues.
However, sometimes mothers will change their diet to compliment better milk quality, but it might not help. The only way to deal with the condition is to stop breastfeeding and use a formula that is more compatible with your baby’s needs. It is a serious condition as it affects your baby’s feeding pattern, and you must have your pediatrician address the issue as soon as possible.
Pregnant while breastfeeding
This is fairly common, and nothing to be frowned upon; however, falling pregnant while you are still breastfeeding does pose some risk.
The hormone oxytocin is released by your body to go into labor, and small amounts of oxytocin are released during breastfeeding. The amount is not enough to cause you to go into immediate labor but may increase the chance of premature birth, especially with moms who are expecting twins.
It is best to discuss the issue with your doctor so you can be aware of what to expect. The recommendation might be to stop breastfeeding through slow weaning off process.
Should I be concerned if my baby is not gaining weight?
Babies will lose about 7% of their body weight in the first week after birth but will then steadily gain weight thereafter. If your baby is not gaining weight, their failure to thrive could indicate that they are not getting enough breast milk or that there is possibly an underlying health condition.
Either way, weight gain is an important indicator that your baby is thriving, and if the gain is interrupted, then it is best to consult your doctor and or a lactation specialist. This is usually a sound reason, to begin with, formula, but you need to find out what the reason for your baby’s weight loss or stagnation is.
I’m back at work and find it embarrassing to use a breast pump. What can I do to maintain my milk supply?
This is fairly common among younger mothers and those who are not afforded a private room to express milk. Let’s face it, from a hygiene perspective, the bathroom is not the ideal place to do this. Breast milk production operates on a supply and demand basis, and when milk is produced and not used, it will cause you pain, and your supply will begin slowing down.
Speak to a decision-maker at work so a private room can be designated for you to use. Put the embarrassment aside and focus on the goodness you are providing your baby. But if the situation becomes unbearable and your job is your lifeline, first speak to a lactation specialist before you consider moving over to formula.
Can I still breastfeed if I get the flu?
It depends on the severity of the flu and the medication you are or will be taking. You should let your doctor know about your condition and that you are breastfeeding as well.
Your body will pass antibodies on to your baby through your milk that will strengthen their immune system, so if your illness is not too severe and you feel you still have the energy to breastfeed, obviously with your doctor’s approval, then you’ll be doing your little one a great service.
We are all infatuated with milestones, and reaching them every step of the way is the expectation. Rather think beyond what is considered normal to what is practically the best solution for two unique individuals; mom and baby. Each of you has wants and needs that maybe cannot be met under various circumstances due to financial, health, or other restraints.
As a mother, do your very best to breastfeed for as long as you possibly can but if you need to stop for whatever reason, then do so without guilt. As long as your little one is healthy and growing to expectation, then all you need to do is supply the love and care that every child needs and deserves. Enjoy the special time you will be bonding with your little one and follow your heart but always get a second opinion from your doctor.