7 months ago · lizzie · 0 comments · Sticky
How To Accept When You Need To Stop Breastfeeding
One of the most common issues new mothers face is the stress of knowing when to stop breastfeeding. The guilt associated with having to stop breastfeeding earlier than expected can be very debilitating to a mothers confidence. Breastfeeding is meant to be such a natural part of motherhood and we are told over and over again how important it is to breastfeed.
However….the rules regarding when to stop breastfeeding keep changing!
When I had my eldest daughter (now 10), the World Heath Organisation (WHO) recommended mothers to stop breastfeed babies from a minimum of 12 months – up to 2 years. However, it was not common for mothers to breastfeed past 12 months. I remember other mothers thinking I was a bit strange for continuing to breastfeed my baby at night to comfort her up to her 2nd birthday. Yet now, the recommendation has increased again. Now the WHO recommends mothers breastfeed up to 2 years and beyond.
The Push To Breastfeed has led many mothers to feel stressed when they decide to stop breastfeeding
It can be very stressful when you decide to stop breastfeeding. This may be the result of not having sufficient milk supply, you or your baby not enjoying breastfeeding, falling ill (ie mastitis) as a result of breastfeeding, your baby rejecting your milk, having to return to work and so on. It can be difficult for new mothers to reconcile having to stop breastfeeding. However, if you are unable to breastfeed (for whatever reason) the key things to focus on is the health and wellbeing of your child and yourself during this new phase of parenting.
Having to accept when breastfeeding isn’t working
I was shocked to find I did not produce anywhere near the same amount of milk I had produced for my first child. No matter how much breast pumping, herbal drops or food I ate, my second baby was not putting on enough weight. So I had to accept it was time to top up with formula. I really wanted to keep the closeness I really enjoyed during breastfeeding. So I start with breastfeeding and then finished with formula whilst she held on to the other breast for comfort.
Despite other mothers and ‘experts’ telling me my baby would start to reject my breast, this never happened. She eventually moved to having just bottled formula during the day and breastfeeding for comfort at night. I personally wanted to continue this closeness, but the focus was 100% on what my child needed to be healthy. 100% breastmilk was not getting the job done the second time around. So once I accepted this fact, I knew it was time to stop breastfeeding. This led to a win-win for both of us.
So, how do you know when to stop breastfeeding?
The first things to ask yourself is: “Does my baby need more milk to be healthy?”
If your baby’s needs are not being met with breastmilk, then it’s time to invest in a good quality milk formula. This way you ensure your baby’s health is your number 1 priority.
Analysis of breastmilk versus formula
Many years ago, there was a genuine argument for formula milk being significantly poorer quality than breastmilk. However, now there are particular brands of breastmilk that are very close to the real thing. So you don’t need to worry that your baby will be missing out on essential ingredients. On Babylist.com you’ll find their list of their ‘Best Baby Formulas of 2020’. Similac Advance Non-GMO with Iron and Earth’s Best Organic Dairy Infant Powder Formula with Iron are the two that top their list.
Similac is made with HMO. HMO feeds good bacteria in the gut and contains nutrients to support brain development, eye health and developing cells.
Earths Best is certified organic and non GMO and is designed to be as similar to breast milk as possible. It is also high in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids.
What if my baby is not interested in the breast any more or isn’t satisfied with breastmilk alone?
The primary focus of any parent needs to be on supporting the nutritional needs of your baby. One of the most common complaints of new mothers is baby’s biting them, mastitis, cracked/sore nipples, lack of interest from babies, or gagging on too much milk. These are important issues that need to be addressed.
One of the keys to a happy baby when feeding, is a mother feeling calm and happy herself. Pain whilst breastfeeding is not conducive to a happy mother!
There are many health professions such as lactation consultants that can support mothers who are having difficulty. However, if you have reached a point where you and your baby are just not happy, there is no reason to feel guilty or bad for swapping to good quality formula feeding.
When bottle feeding try to ensure:
- your bottles are always well sterilised
- your milk is well prepared (eg test a drop on your arm to ensure its not too hot)
- do not over dilute the formula
- maintain the same regular nappy checks and maternal health checks to ensure your baby is gaining sufficient healthy weight
- always leave home with enough formula so you can feed your baby when required
What if I have to stop breastfeeding because I need to return to work?
Whilst many work places are much more accommodating to breastfeeding in the office, it is not often practical for a mother to have a carer bring her baby into work in order to breastfeed, or to leave work a few times per day to feed her baby. If you can easily and quickly express milk for a carer to feed your baby, that’s great. However, if it’s becoming stressful, rethink how you can make your life easier and happier for you and your baby.
Pumping breastmilk is an option, however, it us not always easy
Personally, with my youngest child, I spent hours pumping to try to stimulate my breastmilk and I still never produced enough milk. So whilst pumping can be a great option, if it’s quick and easy. It can become very stressful if it takes too long and is painful.
Switching to formula if pumping breastmilk is not an option makes sense in a number of cases. If you find yourself in this position, remember that your primary goal is to ensure your child grows up healthy and strong. The key is to ensure your baby is getting the nutrients required from a good quality formula and that you are both feeling happy and healthy.
If possible, try to breastfeed up to 6 months of age
The WHO highly recommends exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months of age to achieve optimal growth, development and growth and protection from common childhood illness such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. So if you can keep the 6 month mark as your goal, that’s the ideal. However, this is not always possible. So if you find yourself in this position, look for a brand like Similac or Earth’s Best that will provide as close as possible nutrients for your baby.
The key is to focus on your baby’s health, not on being the perfect mum. Take the guide of your health care professionals and seek help when you feel things are not working out the way you’d planned.
If you are feeling distressed about deciding when to stop breastfeeding, make an appointment for a phone consultation or an in house visit to help for mums. You’ll be surprised what a talk to an expert can do for your confidence, happiness and health as a new mother.
Lizzie O’Halloran, Founder of Help For Mums & Author of Perfect Mums