We’re going to discuss two important factors of breastfeeding here: Things to try before you stop and don’t feel guilty stopping breastfeeding.
- 1 Before You Make the Switch
- 2 I’ve Tried Everything, but Breastfeeding Still isn’t Working
- 3 On the Note of Society Discouraging Breastfeeding
- 4 Formula is okay. In fact, it can be great for some
Before You Make the Switch
Before you decide to go to formula, see a lactation consultant. In fact, see one before you have Baby. I don’t remember who it was, but someone had mentioned to me to not worry about seeing a lactation consultant before my little girl was born. Their reasoning was that without the baby, a lactation consultant couldn’t teach much.
That advice was very far from the truth. If I didn’t learn about breastfeeding before Sara was born, I would have given up while still in the hospital. It’s hard, and it hurts.
Learn as Much as You can Before Baby is Born
I read a book about breastfeeding that prepared me well. So when the OB who delivered my baby checked on me the following day and said it’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt for six weeks, I knew better. I knew nipple trauma for over a month was not okay and that something can be done about it.
Had I not read up on breastfeeding beforehand, I would have believed her and given up. Breastfeeding at the hospital was hard and very painful. It took time for Sara and me to figure it out. If I would have thought that was my future for several weeks, that would have been it.
There is no way I would I have continued.
Before your baby comes, learn. Arm yourself with knowledge so you can battle well-meaning, but inaccurate advice.
Nipple Trauma isn’t Normal
Nipple trauma is a sign that something isn’t working right. For the first few days, I personally don’t see a way to avoid it. A good lactation consultant may know how to. But during those first few days, you and Baby are learning how breastfeeding works. Learning how to get that good latch. Meaning sometimes you’re gonna fail.
Even if you have breastfed before, it’s still your new baby’s first time feeding on the nipple. They take time to learn and every child is different. Tricks that worked for previous kids may not work for your new little one.
If after a week, your nipple trauma is still getting fresh wounds instead of healing up, you need to book it to a lactation consultant. You shouldn’t be getting fresh wounds anymore. That’s not normal and can be fixed.
Why the 6 Week Advice is Wrong
People say it takes 6 weeks for breastfeeding to stop hurting because that’s when the nipple calluses to protect against pain.
Nipples don’t callus, ever.
The pain ends not because the nipple has hardened, but because Baby doesn’t need help to feed. They have learned how to do it efficiently. When a baby feeds efficiently, that also means no pain for you.
Sara feeds without hurting me. But my nipples are super sensitive. When she’s feeling rambunctious and hits my nipple, it hurts. When my breast pad isn’t sitting just right in my bra and my nipple rubs the bra instead of the soft pad, it hurts. When I towel off after a shower and the towel hits my nipples, it hurts.
All kinds of slight things cause my nipples to hurt. Things that never would have before. They are more sensitive than ever. They haven’t hardened. Sara has just learned how to feed efficiently, meaning no pain for me when she eats.
In the beginning, I had to help her feed well. But now that she can do it on her own, I don’t have to do anything. And that’s what happens around six weeks. Babies figure it out and don’t need any more help. It’s not the nipples callusing.
So seeing a lactation consultant before that time can help you learn how to help your baby feed efficiently. Eventually, they will be able to do it without your help.
Another common concern with breastfeeding is not being able to produce enough. Most women are able to produce enough for their baby. But we’ve lost general knowledge about breastfeeding and don’t always know how to fix a low production or we perceive low production when there is none.
In America, our fix is usually to go to products. There are many on the market that claim to help boost production and many women who claim they work. The research is a bit mixed. Lucie’s List does a pretty good job discussing the products that can be prescribed and the herbal favorites.
But most women don’t need those products. An understanding of the mechanics of breastfeeding and having confidence in that knowledge will create the same effects as any supplement and without the potential for harmful side effects.
If you want to learn about the mechanics, read this book from my book list. It contains all that information.
I’ve Tried Everything, but Breastfeeding Still isn’t Working
That’s okay. Make the switch to formula. I believe anyone who wants to breastfeed should do everything they can before moving on, but that doesn’t mean moving on is a bad thing.
Notice how I don’t say giving up? The term ‘giving up’ has a negative connotation to it and can add to the guilt. It’s like we’re giving up on what’s best for our baby and that’s not true. What’s best for our baby is not breastfeeding, it’s being fed.
My Feeding Story as a Baby
I share this story to demonstrate you don’t have to breastfeed for your child to thrive.
My mom didn’t try to breastfeed. After everything they went to to get me to eat, she regrets not trying because it probably would have not been so difficult. But hindsight is 20/20, and she did just fine.
My family gave me formula to start with, but I didn’t keep that down. I projectile vomited everywhere. Apparently, I was keeping enough in my stomach to gain weight, but throwing up all the time was problematic.
The doctor had my mom trying many different things, including soy milk. Eventually, she ended up using goat’s milk at around 2 months. I kept that down better and didn’t vomit all over the place.
But it wasn’t easy getting goat’s milk. My mom had to drive about 45 minutes to find a farm where she could buy it from.
The goat’s milk smelled awful and even worse as spit up. My mom supplemented with baby cereal so I wouldn’t have to drink so much of it. Eventually, I moved onto solids and ate like a normal child.
My mom never breastfed me and even had a hard time feeding me. And guess what? I have been able to thrive in life just fine.
I graduated with a BA in Sociology less than two weeks before my daughter was born with an almost 4.0. While I was in the Navy, I was a top-notch sailor. I was one of the subject matter experts in my shop and held several additional duties. I always got the highest advancement recommendation during yearly evals. I am happily married starting my own family.
You know who else wasn’t breastfed? Most of the population born in the 20th century. It’s hard to pin down the dates of when breastfeeding was discouraged, but a google search shows it was much of the 20th century. Even if it’s not the whole century that saw a discouragement of breastfeeding, there are still generational gaps where it occurred.
Entire generations weren’t breastfed but society continued to move on.
You can feed your child formula and still raise them so they can thrive. Not being able to breastfeed is okay. Babies need nutritional food (whether formula or breast milk) and happy parents far more than they need everything to be done perfectly.
On the Note of Society Discouraging Breastfeeding
We’ve lost family knowledge of how to breastfeed. Generations who did it successfully passed on and the new generations were encouraged not to by the medical community. Now that we are picking up the practice again, we have to relearn as a society how it works.
That’s hard work. When an individual woman struggles to breastfeed it is not her failure. It is a reflection of our history with breastfeeding. We’ve lost skills and need time to get them back. Until we get to a point where we are familiar with breastfeeding again as a society, it’s going to be common for people to struggle with it.
As moms, we can’t beat ourselves up over something that isn’t our fault. Parenting has enough pitfalls for us to stress over. We don’t need to add the guilt of not being able to breastfeed to that list. It’s a skill that is going to take time to come back. And babies are able to thrive on formula.
Formula is okay. In fact, it can be great for some
I’ve seen a lot of women post online about their guilt over not being able to breastfeed. Breast milk is a wonderful thing. But if it comes at the expense of your child eating enough and/or your mental health, it’s no longer a good thing.
If you’re one of those moms beating yourself up over not breastfeeding, it’s okay. You’re not at fault. You’re not failing your child. Your child will still thrive.
I’d appreciate any thoughts, questions, or concerns you have on this topic. Please comment below.