One of the few certainties that I had was that I wanted to try to breastfeed for as long as I could. For the two years that followed, my son and I enjoyed a fulfilling nursing experience that I think back on fondly. However, for some moms, nursing is simply not possible. This can mean that it is ruled out from the start or that a few months into nursing mom and baby realize that nursing is not suitable for them.
There is a huge stigma around mothers that choose not to nurse for whatever reason. It is assumed that they are lazy or just don’t want to make them a less than ideal mom. The truth is that a mom should be able to evaluate her life, the lifestyle of her family, her needs, and the needs of her baby to determine if breastfeeding whether or not it is practical to continue.
While it is an experience that I will be grateful about for my entire life, if I ran into an issue that caused me to stop, I would never risk the health of myself or my baby to continue in the name of righteousness. On the flip side, for moms struggling with deciding if they should power through the sore nipples and engorged breasts, there are some legitimate reasons why they should consider continuing as long as they can.
20 Stop: The Soreness Doesn’t Improve
Starting a breastfeeding journey is not an easy choice. In the first few months, it will mean learning the baby, what they like, how to help the baby latch and nurse successfully, and creating a schedule that doesn’t include having a little human attached to you at all times. Outside of helping the baby to get used to nursing, it is a mission to help your body get used to the change as well. This means sore, raw lady parts, postpartum contractions, and engorgement. While all of that is normal, there may be a point where the pain is too much. If you are constantly nursing engorgement, raw nipples that don’t seem to get better, and full on pain; it may be time to consider formula so you don’t build a resentment towards your baby and the entire process.
19 Stop: The Baby Refuses To Latch
From the moment your baby is born and you decide to breastfeed, the journey of establishing the right latch will begin. There could be plenty of issues that cause a latching delay such as the baby being tongue-tied, having nipple confusion, a cleft lip or palate, among many other problems. Some of the problems can be resolved within the first few days after birth and many moms and babies go on to have a pleasant breastfeeding experience.
However, for other babies, the latching problems can be the thing that comes between them and nursing on a more permanent level.
Further down the line, if your baby is nursing and drinking from a bottle, they may develop a latch problem that wasn’t there before like nipple confusion. Talk to a lactation consultant to see if the problem is reversible but if it is not, it may be time to research formula options or go with exclusively pumping.
18 Continue: Mom Has Plenty Of Milk
A major reason for stopping nursing is because of milk supply depletion. Sometimes, moms are able to use home remedies and lifestyle changes like nursing more often or incorporating natural herbs that can help to boost supply. The truth, however, is that this doesn’t always work which causes supplementing when moms aren’t exactly ready to end their breastfeeding journey with their little one. On the flip side, there are moms that have a high supply with a low maintenance required. If your supply is plentiful and you want to continue to nurse your baby, you should definitely continue. If you run into the issue of wanting to wean your baby from nursing while still utilizing your breast milk, consider taking advantage of your milk supply and pump it to offer in a bottle or sippy cup now or in the future.
17 Stop: Milk Supply Is Dwindling
One of the most common concerns when it comes to breastfeeding is maintaining a sufficient supply. Moms, experienced and new, constantly worry about how their lifestyle, body, or diet will change their milk supply. When relying solely on breast milk to feed your child, it is totally understandable. The problem is when moms are determined to make breastfeeding happen, the dwindling supply can go unnoticed or they will assume that it will bounce back.
If your supply is dropping drastically and none of the remedies are helping, it may be time to switch to formula.
You can still nurse but formula will likely become the primary source of nutrition for your little one which is totally ok. Speak to your doctor or a lactation consultant before totally giving up if nursing is very important to you as there may be options that you haven’t tried. However, if you feel like your supply might be gone forever, it’s time to stop.
16 Stop: The Baby Has GERD
Whether breastfeeding or formula feeding, babies have to adjust to the milk and how their body processes it. With that will come a few bumps in the road in the beginning stages. One of those issues includes GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD is a more serious form of acid reflux that happens with newborn infants that are both formula fed and breastfed. According to La Leche League, GERD should be diagnosed by a doctor but some of the symptoms can include excessive spitting up that seems painful, gagging or choking, and poor sleep due to discomfort when being laid down. While there are some diet changes that moms can make to change the composition of their milk like cutting dairy and sugar, sometimes there is nothing that can be done. Some breastfeeding moms have to resort to formula due to GERD that is not being relieved despite their efforts.
15 Continue: The Baby Relies On Breastmilk
When your little one is still within the newborn stage, or even under a year old, they rely on milk to gain their nutrition to grow and thrive. According to C.S Moss Children’s Hospital, babies need breastmilk or fortified formula for the first 12 months of their life. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with cutting nursing short and using formula as your baby’s main source of food when they are under a year old, it is advisable to breastfeed if you are able to for as long as your baby relies on the milk. Since your little one needs milk, whether it is formula or breastmilk, in order to thrive and if you are still able to nurse, it is best to go that route.
Breast milk provides your baby with antibodies that formula can’t. It is also cost-efficient and tailor-made just for your little one. They rely on it for good reason.
14 Stop: Mom Is Expecting A New Baby
One of the wonderful parts of breastfeeding is that it can help bring the uterus back down to its original size as the body will naturally contract to help the process along. However, if you become pregnant with your next child while still nursing, this can become an issue quickly. Oxytocin is a hormone that is released during pregnancy that alerts the body to go into labor by starting contractions. During breastfeeding, small amounts are released but typically not enough to cause a pregnant mother to be thrown into labor. However, there are some cases where it can happen and breastfeeding should be discontinued. According to American Pregnancy, women that are high risk or carrying twins run more of a risk of going into early labor if breastfeeding during pregnancy. If you are not ready to give up breastfeeding, discuss your pregnancy with your doctor and alert them to your plans.
13 Stop: The Baby Is Hungry After Nursing
It can be difficult to tell how much milk your baby is actually drinking. There are tips that the nurses give you like listening to make sure your baby is drinking, allowing them to nurse for 30 mins or more, and checking their wet diapers. One of the best tools is paying attention to if your baby still seems hungry after you’ve already had a full nursing session. Since small babies can’t tell you when they are hungry, some of the hunger signs after being fed include smacking of the lips or sucking on hands, wailing, restlessness, and an overall sense of being uncomfortable. Older babies may grab for your tata or latch and re-latch continuously. If this seems to continue, it may be time to consider supplementing with formula to stretch out your breast milk and nursing journey as long as you want.
12 Continue: Nursing Fits Easily Into Mom's Lifestyle
Another roadblock when it comes to nursing is being able to fit it into your lifestyle. Your lifestyle can make breastfeeding difficult for many different reasons. This can mean being a full time working mom, having to travel often, dealing with health issues, and the list goes on. When you are away from your baby for long stretches of time, your supply can suffer and your baby may deal with nip confusion between you and the bottle. However, for some women, their lifestyle is ideal for breastfeeding. Whether you are able to stay at home with your baby often or you’re not dealing with any health issues, some mom's lifestyles are perfect for breastfeeding over others.
If that is you, take advantage of the ability to breastfeed your little one for as long as it makes sense.
11 Stop: Mom Has Reached Her Nursing Goals
Being able to breastfeed a baby means something different for every mom. For me, I had a 1-year goal in mind but it wasn’t set in stone. If I went longer, as I did, I would be pleased with that as well. For some moms, their goals can be 6 months or even just 3 before they are ready to end breastfeeding and regain their independence. While I’d be lying if I said women that have breastfeeding goals under a year are not judged, because they are, there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals that fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you work far from home at a stressful job, breastfeeding may be one more thing you just can’t swing. It is ok. If you’ve reached whatever personal goal you have thought of, it is totally fine to cut the nursing journey where it is.
10 Stop: The Baby Has Unavoidable Food Allergies
Breastfeeding is an extension of pregnancy because of the limitations that are required when it comes to physical activity, independence, and diet.
At some point during breastfeeding, you may realize that your baby is reacting negatively to your milk.
This can present itself as acid reflux, constipation, or excessive gas. All of this can be troublesome for a little baby and the mom. After trying everything and driving yourself crazy, your doctor may tell you that your baby is having a reaction to foods that you are eating. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the most common food allergies include dairy, eggs, nuts, peanuts, soy, and wheat. If your diet is heavy in one of these and your baby is experiencing trouble when nursing, head to your doctor. They will advise a food diary to try to narrow down which food is causing the issue. However, if you are not able to eliminate the particular food group from your diet for health reasons, consider a formula option that can fulfill your babies needs.
9 Stop: The Baby Deals Is Dealing With An Illness
When a baby is first born, they can be faced with many possible illnesses for a number of reasons. This can range from a common cold within the first month or other, more serious issues that have to be managed by a physician. Either way, this is the time your little one needs to nurse the most. For starters, nursing is comforting for your baby and being able to be close to you like that makes the feel at ease. Secondly, your breast milk contains antibodies from you that your so powerful that they almost seem like magic. There are stories of people using breast milk to fight colds and even pink eye. The antibodies will only help improve your baby’s illness rather than harm them. It will make a tough time a bit easier.
8 Stop: Mom Is On Medication
There are certain health issues and long-term illnesses that require medication. When breastfeeding, it can be possible to forgo the medication sometimes but depending on the circumstances, it is not advised to discontinue medication in order to nurse. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, not all drugs transfer into a mother’s breast milk but the mom should still be sure to be transparent about all of the medications she is taking, including herbal meds, when speaking with her child’s pediatrician.
The AAP also says that some of the most concerning and troublesome medications include antidepressants, pain management medications, and medications to treat substance abuse and smoking.
When it comes to these medications, it might not be feasible to stop taking them. In this case, it’s best not to compromise you or your baby’s health in the name of breastfeeding.
7 Stop: The Baby Is Over One And More Interested In Food
Plenty of moms breastfeed after a year is up. By the time your little one has reached a year old, they are eating real food and some babies might be quite enthusiastic about it. Solids start to take up most of their mealtime and the room in their bellies. Breast milk can start to look less and less appealing as food starts to become more interesting. At this age, many kids decide to self wean as they don’t see the need for nursing anymore. If not, many 1 year old children start to nurse less and less over time. While this is not the standard, it is definitely a possibility. If this is your child, don’t force them to nurse if they clearly don’t want to and would rather eat food. You can still pump and offer milk in a sippy cup or offer an alternative.
6 Continue: Mom And Baby Enjoy Nursing
When I decided to nurse my son after his birth, the other moms around me told me how much of a commitment it would be, how hard it could be, and how it would require a lifestyle change. All of the added advice worried me as it made me question my ability to breastfeed as long as I wanted to. What many experienced moms neglected to tell me was how connected I’d feel to my baby. Through all of the pain of sore nipples and overly full breasts, I enjoyed being able to nurse my son for as long as I did. We created a bond that is still so special to me. If you and your baby are able to get through any difficulties in order to still have a healthy and thriving nursing relationship, continue as long as you can. You will look back on that time, no matter how long or short it is, and be happy you stuck it out.
5 Stop: Mom Is Simply Over It
Guess what? Some moms enter a breastfeeding journey thinking that it is right for them and, a few months in, they change their minds.
There could be a million reasons why you decide that breastfeeding is not right for you anymore. From lifestyle changes to a growing family, the mom is the person the bears the burden of nursing and it can be an added responsibility that she simply does not want. That is totally understandable. There is a stigma against women that choose not to breastfeed but the consequences of continuing nursing when you are over it are far worse. Your baby will be fine and you will be fine if you decide that breastfeeding is not for you and you want to choose a formula. Talk to your doctor about the proper way to wean that is age appropriate for your little one and ask for tips to dry up any supply you may have left.
4 Stop: Failure To Thrive
When a baby is first born, the parents are told the baby’s weight and length. After the first few weeks, it is totally normal for the baby to lose a few ounces to a pound. According to Naturopathic Pediatrics, babies lose up to 7% of their body weight after birth. However, if you go for a checkup and your little one has not started to regain their weight a week post birth, they may be deemed failure to thrive. This means that the baby is not gaining weight and other medical reasonings have been ruled out. If mom has a low supply and baby is not getting enough food, they simply will not gain weight. According to Stanford Children’s Health, this is a common reason for moms to terminate breastfeeding as a fed baby is always more important than a breastfed baby.
3 Stop: There Is Resentment
Less of a physical issue, but just as important; resentment is common and normal when it comes to breastfeeding. Ask any mom that has nursed her baby, even if it was just for a month, and she will attest that it is a huge time and lifestyle commitment. It almost feels like an extension of pregnancy when you consider the limitations that are involved. When the baby is little, something as simple as a Target trip can be an issue because the baby needs their mommy in order to eat. That is stressful to say the least and some moms feel trapped or a sense of resentment towards their baby or spouse. If the feeling of being trapped is suffocating you and breastfeeding is no longer the rainbow filled experience it started out as, you have every right to stop.
Feeding your baby shouldn’t feel like a burden that starts to weigh down on your psyche.
2 Stop: Dealing With Postpartum Depression
After having a baby, a mom’s hormones drop drastically. The plummet from an unbelievable high to average, or even below average, levels. Outside of the physical consequences of that, there are emotional imbalances that can happen. While the hormone drop is normal, some moms experience postpartum depression after having a baby. According to the CDC, 1 in 9 women experience postpartum depression which means it is incredibly common. When you are dealing with such a delicate situation, it is vital that you take care of yourself. This means taking the prescribed medications and maintaining a low-stress lifestyle while avoiding triggers as much as you can. So what about breastfeeding? When it comes to nursing, the stress of the journey can cause your depression to persist and the antidepressants can possibly crossover into your milk which can be harmful for the baby. Talk to your doctor and create a plan of action to determine of managing your depression while nursing is possible.
1 Stop: Breastfeeding Is No Longer Fulfilling
There is a very aggressive attitude around breastfeeding. Those that are for it leave no room for error and those that are not for it are annoyed by the nursing crusaders. But, the truth is that it’s not so black and white. I breastfed my son for 2 years and it started out wonderfully. The bond that is created is absolutely unlike anything else. However, after a year and a half, that feeling of it being unfulfilling started to creep up on me. After a while, I realized that my son was ready for it to end and I was too. I no longer felt the bond and started to feel more annoyed than anything. My son was nursing less and less because he wasn’t getting any fulfillment out of it either. While I am pro-nursing, I understand that it’s not always sparkling sunshine and eventually it will become unfulfilling and end.