When it Comes to Breastfeeding, You and Baby Know Best

For today’s Ask Dr.Mom post, I will be sharing with you a question regarding breastfeeding that I answered for Health Tap. We keep the answers short but sweet there (200 characters), so I will share my original response and expand a bit for you.

Q: When Should I Stop Breastfeeding?

A: There is no “deadline” for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and breastmilk have numerous benefits for you and your child. At least 6 months is desirable and if you can make it to one year, that is even better. That being said, many women may only be able to breastfeed for a few months while some will continue to breastfeed into toddlerhood. The choice is up to you and your baby. Wean on your timeline.

I also like to remind women that any amount of breastmilk that your baby receives is beneficial. I had to keep reminding myself of this when I was struggling with breastfeeding and was left heartbroken when it didn’t work out quite as I expected.

Although exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is recommended, don’t let the guilt overwhelm you if you have to supplement with formula for whatever reason. Keep in mind what is most important: you have a beautiful baby in your arms and you should be enjoying her.

Your sanity, sleep, and health matter too.

I think we can all agree on the amazing benefits of breastmilk. However, we should all keep in mind that we don’t know another woman’s story. We don’t know what difficulties, illnesses, or barriers she may be facing when it comes to breastfeeding.

So, let’s cut each other some slack and be mindful not to judge each other on how we choose to feed our babies. After all, what a new mother needs most is compassion and support.

Did breastfeeding go as expected for you? What challenges did you encounter with breastfeeding?

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9 Responses to When it Comes to Breastfeeding, You and Baby Know Best
  1. Katherine
    May 4, 2011 | 9:39 am

    My first baby weaned himself at 8 months, despite my best efforts, and I went back to work when my second baby was 6 months old and just couldn't keep my milk supply. I'm glad for the time I got. I've had many friends who simply chose not to, since they would be going back to work after 6 weeks, and trying to pump as an anesthesia resident is very difficult.

  2. Erica
    May 4, 2011 | 9:44 am

    Well spoken. I pumped exclusively starting at 2 months and on to 10 months and it was very challenging. I had a tough time of it and I don't think I'll be able to do that again. It's hard to value your own time and sanity when all you hear about is the awesome benefits of mother's milk. Next time I'm shooting for more balance.

  3. Lexie Loo & Dylan Too
    May 4, 2011 | 9:56 am

    Very well said!
    My firstborn was formula fed, even though I had planned on breastfeeding. He was born at 35 weeks, and lost quite a bit of weight shortly after birth. I was so tired after weeks of contractions and bed rest, that I didn't fight the issue. He has always been incredibly healthy, so I don't regret my decision.
    I did breastfeed my 2nd baby exclusively for 11 months. The only reason we stopped is because she self-weaned. I plan on breastfeeding this baby as well, after he/she is born. I do have to say, though, breastfeeding was not as easy as I expected. I actually gave up for one day in the hospital!

  4. AnnaNova
    May 4, 2011 | 12:28 pm

    my son has just weaned at a little over 2 yo… im very grateful we were able to go this far, but i think we both were ready to be done. i am a huge huge proponent of breastfeeding, like you said, any time or any amount is better than nothing.
    i really wish though that women had better breastfeeding support, especially in the workplace. i was determined to breastfeed, so nothing could stop me, even if someone was a little less than supportive, but i know other people would have quit in my position because of all the work-related issues…
    one thing that always breaks my heart is when women could nurse, but don't even want to try. not even for a month, not even for a day. maintaining balance and sanity is important, but so is your baby's health. we all made changes and sacrifices during pregnancy, so why does it stop after the baby is out?

  5. Hello! I'm Kate.
    May 4, 2011 | 12:34 pm

    I was lucky that I was able to do it for a full 12 months & then he was 100% weaned at 14 months.

    I think that it's so awesome when moms try & if it doesn't work it doesn't work. I know too many moms who have needed medication to keep themselves healthy (PPD & such) & they can't breastfeed anymore. I hate it that they beat themselves up!

    Great post today (as usual!)

  6. Liz
    May 4, 2011 | 12:55 pm

    No. I was so set on it with #1, but it just wasn't going to happen. And then all was smooth sailing with #2 (supply-wise), but we were moving from NH to TN, she was already being supplemented due to jaundice, I was already pumping to her her jaundice, and she was already switched to a non-milk based formula. I decided to stop nursing after 3 weeks.

  7. Laura@OutnumberedMom
    May 4, 2011 | 4:43 pm

    Oh, my. It did NOT go as I expected. I read your Heartbroken post, and I heard myself over and again.

    I loved your admonition to cut each other slack and I thought, "And we need to cut ourselves some slack, too." My own expectations were my biggest problem. It wasn't until the fourth child that I figured out how to nurse and supplement without guilt! Important post, Melissa.

  8. Barbara Manatee
    May 4, 2011 | 6:38 pm

    I wanted to breastfeed my twins but wasn't sure how it would go. They were 6 weeks premature and nursing was very hard for them – plus they never wanted to eat together (I think it was so much work for them that they distracted/over stimulated each other).
    I was determined to make it work though and we finally found a system that worked for us. My pump was my best friend. I pumped after EVERY feeding and even still overnight once they stopped waking. I would nurse one and at the same time, bottle feed expressed milk to the other one. The next feeding, I'd switch – whoever had the bottle last got the breast and vice versa. We did have to supplement with formula too since they were so small and my milk took forever to come in.

    My son weaned himself at 8 months and my daughter went to 13 months.

    My 3rd child was BF exclusively through 7 months then nursed through 16 months. It was so much easier the 2nd time around, with only one baby who was FULL term!

  9. Tahnie
    May 10, 2011 | 1:47 pm

    I wanted to breastfeed so desperately that I went against medical advice. I have a rare genetic disease (only 500 in the U.S.) and during pregnancy I had to stop taking the only medication I have to slow down the progression. I knew it would be difficult, but I was determined. To make a long story short, I was never able to produce enough milk for my daughter and I still have a lot of guilt issues associated with it.