When you began breastfeeding, you had your reasons. In fact, with all of the researched benefits, you probably had more than a few. From passing on crucial antibodies for illness prevention to lowering your own risk of disease, it is no real wonder that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months.
But the decision to stop breastfeeding takes just as much research and planning.
Below are the top three real reasons mothers stop breastfeeding. If any of these sound familiar to you, read on to see what top experts have to say about finding solutions and weeding out the common myths. Before you put away the breast pump for good, make sure you know all of your options and the facts behind them.
Reason #1: I Don’t Have Enough Milk
“What evidence shows is that the leading cause of breastfeeding failure is the belief that we don’t have enough milk,” says Corky Harvey, MS., RN, IBCLC, co-founder of Pump Station & Nurtury and Kids in the House expert.
While it is possible to not be producing enough breast milk, this is simply not the case for 95% of new mothers. So why do so many people believe this? Harvey attributes the confusion to a lack of education: on how milk is made, how to get milk production started, and how to maintain a good supply.
All of the important details on breastfeeding, from useful tips to in-depth explanations of anatomy and physiology, can be garnered from baby preparation classes or lactation specialist consultants. Depending on where you live and where you stand financially, attending these specialized classes is not always an option.
Luckily, there are great online resources available on your computer or phone, from video demonstrations to emotional support and medical professionals’ insight.
Reason #2: I Have to Go Back to Work
Maternity leave has become a much-debated issue as of late in the United States, and with good reason. As of now, federal law provides 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 12-month period for parents that have just had a child, but it is not mandated that these weeks be paid. This is known as the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA.
Twelve weeks might not sound like enough time to be one on one with your baby without a job getting in the way, but for some people, so many weeks without income is simply not feasible.
Returning to the office does not automatically rule out the ability to continue breastfeeding. While many people are dissatisfied with the current federal regulations surrounding maternity leave, they can take solace in new measures that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed at work.
“There’s no doubt about it: Breastfeeding when you go back to work can be challenging. But here’s the deal. The new mom at work can pump breast milk. Period. It’s now a federal law. Moms are entitled to a reasonable break time and a sanitary, private space that’s not a bathroom to pump milk in most companies that are over 50 to 60 people,” explains Working Mother magazine Executive Editor Barbara Turvett.
Depending on your state legislature, you may be entitled to more than these barebones allowances, so be sure to check out government websites to make sure your employer guidelines are respecting your rights.
Reason #3: I’m Worried About What’s in My Milk
Breastfeeding is touted as the most effective way to pass on nutrients and antibodies to your young one, but some mothers are concerned what other substances are making it through to their child.
If you’ve been fighting through an illness, your immediate response might be to distance yourself from the baby to protect them from coming down with it. In certain cases for contagious illnesses, this is understandable. Being sick doesn’t mean you have to completely nix breastfeeding, however. In fact, it can be your child’s best source of immunity.
“One of the many wonderful things about breast milk is that the illness does not pass through,” explains Jennifer Davidson, RN., BSC., IBCLC. The reason for this, Davidson says, is that the mother’s body will be producing antibodies to whatever is ailing her, which will go directly to the baby so that he or she does not contract it as well.
“She just needs to wash her hands and maybe not kiss the baby on the lips,” adds Davidson, a lactation specialist.
Having a social life and making time for grownup beverages are parts of life that you do eventually need to get back — for your own sanity. Although you should absolutely prevent exposing your baby to alcohol, that doesn’t mean that you have to choose between breastfeeding or having a glass of wine.
Pump Station & Nurtury co-founder Wendy Haldeman, RN., MN., IBCLC, recommends planning out your pump schedule and storage ahead of time based on how much alcohol you will be consuming.
It’s really about the timing.
“Whatever amount of alcohol is going to be absorbed into your blood, therefore into your milk, will peak in about 60-90 minutes and then will be broken down and leave your body. Essentially, your blood alcohol level is equivalent to your milk alcohol level,” Haldeman explains.
In other words, if you begin drinking around the same time your baby goes to sleep, your body will have cleared the alcohol from your system — and your breast milk — by the time he or she wakes up in a few hours.
If you know you’re going to have more than one serving of alcohol, pump ahead of time to stock up. Refrigerate the clean supply for later. After a few hours you will feel the need to pump again, but don’t keep that milk around.
“Around four hours, your breasts are going to get really full, and you don’t want to give that milk to your baby. So you’re going to pump it out and dump it, and your baby will get the milk that you had previously pumped,” says Haldeman.
Products like Milk Screen are available to definitively check your milk for alcohol presence.
For more information on Breastfeeding, check out Kids in the House top tips for breast milk storage and pumps.
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