The Main Reason Mothers Give Up On Breastfeeding (& How to Avoid It)


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If you’re considering breastfeeding, you know by now just how beneficial breastfeeding is both for mom and baby. No one would willingly sacrifice their body as a conduit of complete sustenance for another human without there being some pretty dang compelling reasons why. And on the flip side, there should be very compelling reasons not to, if we choose to go that route.

According to this article published in the New York Times, only 36% of babies are breastfed through to six months, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding through the first year. And to top this, 3 of 4 mothers choose breast over bottle feeding at birth. This means a high percentage of mothers give up breastfeeding very soon after birth. But why?

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Why Do Moms Give Up On Breastfeeding?

Well, there are many “cited reasons” why mothers give up on breastfeeding but they all really come down to combination of 2 factors: exhaustion and low milk supply. After going through a year+ of breastfeeding once already (about to start on the journey again), it’s easy to see why these 2 factors are so interconnected. If you felt like you’re baby was totally satisfied after a breastfeeding session and could be free of an extra appendage on your boob for at least another 2-3 hours before another session began, it’d be a lot less likely you’d feed so exhausted. And if you weren’t so exhausted by constantly having a LO on your boob, you’d probably be a lot less likely to diagnose yourself with “low milk supply.”

The truth of the matter is NOT that breastfeeding is SO MUCH EASIER than a lot of new moms make it out to be. It is a massive yet very admirable commitment. However, according to AAP, the incidence of “low milk supply” as a TRUE MEDICAL CONDITION is EXTREMELY RARE. This can result from various things including Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGF), thyroid problems, and the like. But if you’re just a normal mom with no previously diagnosed conditions, it’s HIGHLY LIKELY that your milk supply is JUST FINE. Yes, mama, you were made for this!

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

So What Then is the Problem?

Well, in short –

“The key to efficient milk production for full feedings is the combination of proper breast stimulation with an appropriate amount of time between feedings. Breast stimulation refers to the intensity of a baby’s suck, which is driven by the baby’s hunger. The strength of this drive is directly related to the time needed for the milk to digest and for absorption to take place. Typically infants fed on a 2 ½ to 3 hour routine have a stable digestive metabolism and demand more milk than babies who periodically snack throughout the day.”

On Becoming Babywise

Full Feeding Vs. Cluster Feeding

Yes, mamas, this means that the concept of continually feeding to increase your milk supply and satisfy your hungry baby may actually be hurting rather than helping you! Continual or “cluster feeding” can actually encourage your baby to be satisfied by a snack instead of a full meal – meaning when she latches, it’s not as intense and when she feeds it’s not as much. And not only does this impact your milk supply, but it also affects the nutrition and metabolic stability your baby needs.

“Babies who snack a few minutes here and there do not derive the benefits that come with full feedings. Snack feeding or clusters of snack feedings work against a baby’s ability to organize and synchronize hunger rhythms. There is also a potential health risk. The more a baby snacks, the less nutrition he receives; the less nutrition he receives, the greater the health risk.”

– On Becoming Babywise

Among the health risk referred to above is insufficient weight gain that can result from only receiving the watery foremilk and not the calorie-dense hindmilk.

Now here’s the kicker – how do you ensure your baby gets a full feeding?

Well, unfortunately it’s not as easy as trying to get your baby to breastfeed longer. Babies are fickle creatures and they do what they want, usually as a result of the patterns and routines they’ve become accustomed to. This is why setting a proper schedule for your baby is so important. And of course here at the newlymoms, we are huge supporters of the babywise schedule.

Photo by kevin liang on Unsplash

The Babywise Method – A Summary

To give you a SUPER brief rundown of what the Babywise schedule is here are some bullet points. If you are familiar with and understand the importance of the Babywise method, you can skip to the next section.

1. Babywise is centered around developing a good routine (aka feeding and sleeping habits) for your child. This is primarily done through a methodology called Parent-Directed Feeding (PDF). PDF is the midpoint between hyper-scheduling where time is the only factor (aka we only eat at this time regardless of whether you’re hungry or not, because you need to be a freaking schedule dang it!) and the “I meet your needs whenever you tell me you need them” approach (aka the just born infant knows best what he or she needs and mom has no ability or ground to use her input and keenly developed/designed intuition in caring for her child). To put it simply, PDF takes into account both the mother’s ability to manage, care for and properly guide her child into a schedule that is best to provide as much sleep as baby needs AND the growing, evolving and ever-changing needs of said infant which may vary in different daily circumstances and general stages of life.

2. The general structure for the Babywise schedule is FEED-WAKE-SLEEP. The baby eats, has a period of wake time and then naps. This is extremely important because it ensures the baby does not get in the habit of being fed to sleep, only to wake very soon after because not enough time was spent being stimulated. It also allows the baby to learn to fall asleep on her own, with minimal intervention from the parents. In essence, the point of FEED-WAKE-SLEEP schedule is to ensure the baby gets a full feed at the scheduled time, spend a sufficient amount of time awake/being stimulated, and gets a full nap/night-time sleep as often as possible. Having a structure like this allows the parent to effectively rule out any factors that may be causing baby not to get a full nap/night-time sleep. Without a structure like this, mom would just be guessing.

3. This FEED-WAKE-SLEEP schedule is modified as baby grows to allow for decreased number of feedings/nap times and longer wake times. It also paves way for babies to sleep through the night fully by the time they’re 7-8 weeks old. It allows hunger and sleep patterns to stabilize, as guided by the well-equipped parent.

Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash

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Free babywise schedule


So, before you go throwing in the towel because you’re exhausted and have diagnosed yourself with low milk supply, do yourself and your little one a favor and commit to a schedule. Remember, the medical condition of low milk supply is EXTREMELY rare. Most mamas have a more than sufficient ability to produce exactly what their babies need, just as God intended. You were made for this!

On Becoming Babywise

Also, be sure to pick up a copy of On Becoming Babywise ASAP, and check out our other resources to help your Babywise AND breastfeeding journey:

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