I adored breastfeeding. Other than cookin' up an actual human being inside my belly, it was the most important work my body had ever done. I would look at my baby daughter and marvel that she was right on target with the height and weight curves and every bit of nutrition had come from me. From day one, she was an enthusastic and expert nurser. Sure, my nipples were cracked and sore at first, but I never experienced any problems when breastfeeding until she was fourteen months old and I got slammed with a bout of mastitis. A course of antibiotics and some Cirque du Soleil-style nursing positions that amused her mightily unclogged the duct.
When my daughter had a baby of her own, it never occurred to me that she wouldn't be able to nurse him as easily as I had nursed her. Now a new study reveals just how lucky we are that everything worked out fine.
The Majority of Moms Don't Reach Their Goal
Turns out, a whopping two-thirds of new mothers who nurse their newborns are unable to continue breastfeeding as long as they want to, according to research just published in Pediatrics. In the study, conducted by the CDC, pregnant women were asked how long they plan to nurse (the recommendation of the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics is breastmilk only for at least six months). Eighty-five percent of the woman said they planned to nurse their babies at least three months, while in actuality only a third reached the benchmark they set.
If your daughter (or daughter-in-law) is struggling, here are some reasons why women quit. They worry that the baby isn't getting enough nutrition. With a bottle, you can see what the baby's eating. With breastfeeding, you have to rely on more indirect measures. If you daughter is concerned, tell her to talk to her pediatrician about weight gain and wet diapers. Meeting a benchmark for either can boost her confidence. And if your grandchild is still on the way, be wary of taking free formula and bottles home from the hospital, which can be tempting to use if you hit a rough spot. In fact, a group of health and consumer protection organizations have petitioned 2,600 hospitals to stop giving formula to new parents.
Finally, on the flip side, understand that some women do have problems with breastfeeding that prove difficult to solve. If your daughter is one of them, support her in getting advice from a lactation consultant or an organization like La Leche League. But if no answer is forthcoming, be sympathetic and supportive to your daughter. After all, a lot of us grew up okay on formula.