Breastfeeding is a rough journey for many women. Poor latching, pain, mastitis, cracked nipples, clogged ducts…the list goes on.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, and continued nursing to 12 months or later! But most women have stopped nursing long before their baby is 6 months old. I believe a lot of women get discouraged and give up breastfeeding because they don’t know how to overcome certain breastfeeding problems or don’t know where to turn to for help and support.
But breastfeeding is SO good for babies. So before you throw in the towel and reach for that can of formula, try these ideas:
Drink More Water
Most Americans are dehydrated most of the time: too much coffee and sodas, not enough H2O. It makes a lot of sense that you won’t be able to produce milk for your baby if you aren’t even drinking enough to hydrate yourself properly.
So put down the Diet Coke and drink a few extra glasses of water throughout the day! Set alarms for yourself on your phone if you have trouble remembering or get a fruit infuser water bottle if you don’t like the taste. Whatever it takes to get your intake up!
You might be surprised at how much doing this one thing can change the course of your breastfeeding journey.
Don’t Worry So Much About Your Milk Supply
This is the most common reason I hear women give for why they stopped breastfeeding. But most women are wrong when they assume that their baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Don’t judge your supply by how full your breasts feel. Once your milk supply is established, it’s normal to not feel nearly as full as you did in the days and weeks immediately following giving birth.
How much you can pump is also a bad indicator of how much milk you’re producing. A baby is way more efficient at sucking than a breast pump. So even if you only pump a few drops at a time, your baby may still be getting all they need!
Also, a fussy baby is not necessarily a hungry baby. They may be tired, gassy, or overstimulated. Sometimes babies just cry and you won’t be able to figure out the reason. That’s okay. Just don’t be quick to blame your milk supply.
Sometimes a newborn will want to nurse what seems like constantly. This is normal and doesn’t mean they aren’t getting enough from you! Each of my babies went through a phase where they were breastfeeding almost every hour throughout the day, sometimes for half an hour or more at a time!
Let wet diapers be your guide! As long as your baby has several wet diapers a day, they are getting adequate milk. Check out this chart for a more detailed guide!
Ask For Help
Many women stop breastfeeding for the reasons I mentioned above: pain, infection, poor latch, etc. If you run into the problems like this, I encourage you to reach out for help!
Postpartum support is abysmal in the United States. Your doctor may not even know how to best help you.
So be your own advocate! Check to see if your health insurance will cover a visit to a lactation consultant. If not, you might consider paying for one out of pocket! It will still be cheaper than paying for formula :). Check out the International Lactation Consultant Association’s website for more information.
Try joining a local breastfeeding support group as well. The La Leche League has thousands of leaders and groups all over the country, check to see if they have one near you. Many of them have Facebook groups where you can ask experts and other moms about any issues you may be having, as well as monthly meetups in person!
Sometimes it truly isn’t possible to continue breastfeeding. So if you’ve tried everything and it’s just not going well, don’t feel bad about turning to the bottle. And the end of the day, fed is best.
But I suspect that with a little extra effort, encouragement, and support, you’ll be able to continue breastfeeding as long as your baby needs you to!