Deciding to Stop Breastfeeding

Photo by limaoscarjuliet

Photo by limaoscarjuliet

I’m going to post about deciding to stop breast feeding because I couldn’t find hardly anything at all about deciding to stop breastfeeding on the web. As much information as there is on the web, some topics are very hard to find!

I decided to stop breastfeeding after a month and while I was considering it, I searched the web extensively. While there is a ton of extremely helpful information on breastfeeding on the web, it is all centered around solving any problems you might have, not in making a decision one way or the other.  (And if it is about making a decision, they spend pages and pages telling you how good breastfeeding is for your child.)  There’s also no information about, when you decide to quit, exactly what you are supposed to do.  Stop cold turkey?  Gradually phase it out? I did find three pages of information on stopping breast feeding:

  • Ending breastfeeding.  This poor woman had obviously already decided to stop breastfeeding (a hard decision!) and the expert answering her email first questioned why she’d made the decision.  The expert did answer her question about how to stop breastfeeding and said to gradually wean the baby by cutting out a feeding every day or two.
  • Life After Weaning: Ending the breastfeeding relationship.  This was actually the most helpful webpage.  It’s an excerpt from a book and actually talks about both the physical and the emotional effects on the mother and the emotional effects on the child.  (Note that the emotional effects on the child tend to be largely those that breastfeed for several years.  It doesn’t talk about the effects on an infant.)
  • ending breastfeeding….what happens? This was a very short discussion between moms about what happens.  Like the previous article it suggests weaning slowly and points out that you should never completely drain your breasts if you want your milk to dry up.

Deciding not to breastfeed is a very hard decision because while nobody says it’s wrong not to breastfeed, the minute you become pregnant you are inundated with literature and people telling you how good breastfeeding is for your child and offering all sorts of support. (In particular the hospital staff and nurses were awesome. They were extremely supportive, very helpful and offer all sorts of free services to help and encourage nursing moms.) And when I asked friends and family what they thought everyone was very careful not to say anything one way or the other. Although all offered support either way! And many pointed out that there are plenty of healthy children and adults who were not breastfed.

So why did I decide to quit? It wasn’t health reasons, it wasn’t because I couldn’t nurse Caleb and it wasn’t because Caleb wouldn’t nurse. (Those seem to be the “acceptable” reasons to give for stopping breastfeeding.) I quit for many reasons, although it basically boiled down to the fact that I didn’t like it.  Here are the reasons I didn’t like it, pretty much in order of importance to me:

  • Time. It was extremely time consuming. During the day Caleb wanted to eat every 1.5 to 2 hours.  And he ate for 30 minutes. So that means that 25-30% of my waking day was spent feeding him.  That’s a lot of time! And planning around that is very difficult. (And it’s really hard to pump milk so that you can leave him with someone else for an hour or two when you are already nursing all the time. We ended up using formula in those cases and Caleb didn’t seem to mind going back and forth at all.)
  • Worry. I was always worried he wasn’t getting enough to eat (why did he want to eat so often!) or that what I was eating or drinking might affect him. (How many diet coke’s should you drink?  Probably none, right? So what about the two you just drank?) And it turns out he probably wasn’t getting as much in the afternoon as he wanted because he’s much less fussy now. But the doctor said he was getting plenty because he was sleeping 4-5 hours at night and gaining plenty of weight.
  • Sore nipples. A month is a really long time to have sore nipples. And yes, he was latching on and eating correctly. I think just feeding him 30% of all waking hours made them sore. I’m sure eventually they would have toughened up.

Of course I have doubts and regrets. Most of them centered around the health benefits. Breastfeeding is supposed to help kids’ immunity and decrease their long term odds of obesity. Those are the two I worried about the most. But I’m confident that there are lots of other factors that also influence Caleb’s health and the two of us being happy is one of them! (I realized I never talked to him when I was nursing him except to wake him up continuously and to ask him if he was done yet.  When I feed him a bottle I talk to him the whole time and it’s fun!)

I feel a little bit like I’m airing my personal diary in this post, but I wanted to make the information I found available to others and I wanted to add my own experience and decision to the pool of knowledge so that others might feel more comfortable making a decision one way or the other.