By Lyz Lenz
I quit breastfeeding when my daughter was 16-weeks old. I had planned on feeding her for the first year, but when we started her on bottles of pumped milk, she soon began to refuse to breastfeed and despite my best efforts, she quit. I continue to give her bottles of pumped milk, but I have to confess, I want to quit. The arduous task of pumping, which makes me feel like a dairy cow, is taxing, frustrating and time-consuming. I’m trying to take it one day at a time and do what is best for my baby, but I would be lying if I told you that the thought of being untethered from the machine didn’t fill my heart with joy.
75% of women in the United States breastfeed their babies. However, the Center for Disease Control reports that by one year that rate has dropped to only 22%, with the majority of women quitting when their babies are six months. This is despite the World Health Organization recommendation for women to breastfeed for at least a year.
With such undeniable benefits, why do some women quit breastfeeding so soon? In order to shed light on this topic, I spoke to moms and lactation consultants about why women might stop breastfeeding early.
Caroline Cheshire, a mom of three, quit feeding her first daughter because of pain. “It was always a struggle getting [my daughter] in the right position and in a few days my nipples were cracked and bleeding. I slathered on nipple creams. I dried my nipples with a hairdryer. I did everything I was directed to do. All my clothes were stained orange. It became so bad that when she cried to be fed, I broke out in a sweat. At the very worst time, I would hold onto the chair with both hands and my husband with hold her on me. The pain was incredible.” Despite advice from a lactation consultant, Cheshire gave up. When her second child came along, Cheshire tried again and had better luck. When she later gave birth to twins, she was able to breastfeed them both, until she had to quit because of a precancerous thyroid. Said Caroline, “It’s like everything in life. You can only do your best. And never compare yourself to others.”
According to a poll by TheBump.com and Breastfeeding.com, 25% of women who didn’t or won’t breastfeed said they tried but simply weren’t able to. Deonne Benedict, a nurse practitioner and a mom who breastfed, says that in her experience one of the main reasons women believe they can’t breastfeed is because of a lack of milk supply. “Milk supply may decrease—for various reasons, often with return to work or not pumping to keep up supply,” said Benedict and that’s when many women choose to quit. Lyndsay Szymanski President/Owner of Pumping Station and mom of two, quit breastfeeding her first child after her supply took a huge hit. “Which is how I found out I was pregnant [again] in the first place,” she said.