Deciding to stop Breastfeeding

Jul 19, 2021

Everyone chooses to breastfeed because they know the health benefits and want to give the very best to there baby. Parents take classes, read books and research all the do's and don'ts of becoming a parent. With so much information circulating on the internet what about when a mother decides to stop nursing? Each mother has their own goal in mind when wanting to nurse and ultimately decides this early on. The AAP & WHO recommend 1-2 years of breastfeeding and there is plenty of research to support the health benefits of extended nursing. One study showed if a baby nurses for a minimum of 2 years then this could greatly decrease the risk of breast cancer by almost 50%!! This was actually a study that  helped me set my goal with my second baby. I nursed my first for about 14 months but always felt our ending was forced and not so gentle. I mourned that experience and in fact beat myself up about it for years. You see, I was told that if I continued nursing him for too long that this would cause emotional issues and that it would have long term effects on him. What a concept right? That could not be further from the truth. In fact there are studies that show extended nursing helps create more confident, independent and secure people.  So when I had my second baby I was determined to nurse longer and my goal was 2 years. Although we continued nursing until he was 5, I was happy and content with allowing him to choose when he was done. Which brings me to my point. Mothers have different goals and expectations of breastfeeding and it's important that they feel supported and comforted in which ever route they choose.  I've worked with thousands of families over a decade and each mother is different and each breastfeeding journey is different. For some mothers, breastfeeding comes easy but for others not so much. Making the decision to stop breastfeeding is a decision the mother should make if she feels this is whats best for her and her family. We live in a world of judgement and criticizing and  this can make it very difficult for a vulnerable mother. I'm not only say this as an IBCLC but as a mother who has felt the pressures of needing to have everything perfect and never making a mistake. It' not fair to parents especially if they are doing there best. Yes my goal is to support, promote and encourage breastfeeding for all but I am also an advocate of choice and doing what is best for you. Here are a few examples of why some mothers may need to stop breastfeeding. 

  • If breastfeeding is negatively impacting your health or happiness.

This is crucial! Breastfeeding should be enjoyable and make you feel happy. In some cases mothers may have an aversion to nursing for hormonal reasons and this could be causing stress or even depression. It's ok to talk about it and understand they are not alone. It's actually more common then many people know.

  • You have a medical condition and need a medication that is not compatible with breastfeeding.

Again, mothers are encouraged to do what is best for them and their family. I always say, "Mom must take care of her before she can take care of her family". Healthy mom= healthy baby and family

  • You have diagnosed low milk supply 

There are conditions that in fact can prevent a mother from producing enough breast milk such as underdeveloped glandular tissue. This is something that can effect women and would typically be diagnosed by a medical professional or an IBCLC from doing a thorough reproductive and health history. Other concerns that can impact supply would be certain surgeries or hormonal issues.

  • The baby has certain health or medical condition that prevents them from nursing.

A small percentage of babies are actually born with a condition that does not allow them to breastfeed. This would be diagnosed early on through blood test but it is in fact a serious medical condition. Some other issues would include anatomical issues that the baby has including cleft palate/lip, tongue ties etc. Sometimes these issues are so severe and difficult to nurse with that the mother chooses to stop so that feedings are more relaxing and not stressful for both. 

  • If you have a job that will keep you away from baby for long periods of time.

Although pumping is recommended and encouraged for mothers who are returning back to work some mothers have jobs that are extremely difficult to do so. The affordable care act required employers to provide a space and ample time for pumping mothers going back to work. Some moms, trying to find the time and space in a busy work environment to pump—on top of transition back to work after weeks away—feels overwhelming or even impossible. 

So the moral of the story, is remember that breastfeeding should be enjoyable, attainable and what works best for you the parent and your baby. Weather you choose to bottle feed right from the start or breastfeed for 5 years, enjoying this time as a parent is what's important. Talking about how you feel and finding support either from a professional or other parents can really help you feel better about your decision.