8 tips to stay motivated with breastfeeding

Flashback Friday: 8 tips to stay motivated when you want to quit breastfeeding

For the first several months of breastfeeding, I felt like a cow, and it had nothing to do with my post-pregnancy body. If I wasn’t constantly breastfeeding, I was pumping. I didn’t realize how often babies need to eat, nor how long each feeding session would take. And at family parties, I was either draped with a shawl cover or locked away in a bedroom nursing my baby. I was a milking machine.

When I was pregnant, I had planned on breastfeeding my baby; I heard about its benefits, wanted to save some serious cash, and hey, it’s nature so how hard could it be? For me, very:

  • Physically, breastfeeding hurt. You would think something so natural would transpire so smoothly, but nothing beats the plugged ducts, engorged breasts and bloody cuts that my poor boobies had to endure.
  • Emotionally, I was drained. I felt burdened with a responsibility that I couldn’t pass off to anyone else. And waking up to feed, every hour and a half to two, was no joke.
  • Long-touted as convenient, breastfeeding also had its own nuances for me. Since boobs don’t exactly know when to turn off, I had to wear these nursing pads to soak up any “leakage.” If not the pads, then I was wearing these ridiculous plastic breast shields. I had to bypass some fun and travel—when I was a bridesmaid for a friend, I had to lug my pump to the bridal shower and couldn’t join in on the girls night out (pumping and a bachelorette party in Vegas don’t exactly mix).

But I did it. My goal was to breastfeed for a year, and I’m the last person who would have believed I actually did it. For someone who wanted to quit every day the first few weeks, I relied on the following motivational tips and tricks to keep me going:

1. Remind yourself about the benefits of breastfeeding
Just when I was ready to call it quits, I would log online and read about the benefits of breastfeeding: better immunity, brain development, healthy source of nutrients, more variety in taste (to potentially avoid picky-eating in the future), and cost-effective. Every choice we make has pros and cons, and when the cons seemed to loom over me, I fought back by reminding myself about the pros.

2. Use a double pump
Seriously. Forget manual, forget single electric. When a mom already has zero time for herself, the last thing she needs is doubling her breastfeeding time because she thought a single pump would do. If I were to do this again, I would gladly pay the extra cost of the double pump for the sheer joy of cutting my pumping sessions in half. Nothing worse than sitting in a room knowing you could’ve been outta here in 15 minutes instead of 30.

3. Set goals, even daily goals
During the first few days when I wanted to quit, I challenged myself and said, “Okay, just get through this one day, and we’ll take it from there.” When that day came and went, I upped my goal: “Okay, now let’s see if you can handle two more days.” This mental trickery kept going until I was setting monthly goals (“Let’s get to six months at least”) before eventually reaching a point where I didn’t need to set them any longer.

4. Find a comfortable way to nurse
The boppy was my BFF. I relied on that sucker to rest and even free my arms while he was nursing. In addition to pillow props, I also tried different positions (I still remember the “football hold”) to see which one felt most comfortable for that moment.

5. Work your partner
Being 100% responsible for your baby’s food intake gives you the right to tell your partner to handle other chores while you feed your baby. My husband made pretty impressive breakfasts, not to mention handling most of the chores and diaper duty.

6. Find support in other women who breastfed
I was thankfully surrounded by sisters and cousins who breastfed their own babies, so I felt completely comfortable calling them up for support, ideas, or just a good rant about how hard this was. Knowing that they breastfed despite similar difficulties gave me gusto to keep trying.

7. Realize that breastfeeding gets easier
I was in a ton of pain in the beginning, but eventually, my boobs adjusted and the pain subsided after a few weeks. At around eight months was when I reached the point where I didn’t feel the need to set goals or dread the impending months still to come (I suppose because I was drawing closer to my goal of one year).

8. Tell yourself that you can always quit
I told myself that if breastfeeding got so difficult that my misery outweighed the benefits I sought, then I quit. I didn’t want to set myself up as a holier-than-thou, breastfeeding martyr if it meant my well-being. Quitting breastfeeding isn’t a sign of failure or that I wasn’t a good mom; it was just the time for me to stop. We all eventually quit breastfeeding; each of us just chooses when that time will be.

Tip #9: Now that you’ve read mine, what tips can you offer pregnant women and breastfeeding moms on how to stay motivated with breastfeeding? What worked for you and what didn’t? If you had a goal and quit before you reached it, what made you quit sooner?

p.s. Thank you for the continued growth of Sleeping Should Be Easy! Readers like you who tweet, like, pin and comment have made this site an amazing community.

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16 thoughts on “8 tips to stay motivated with breastfeeding

  1. This post really hits home with me. The emotional and physical drain was way more than I ever expected. We had poor latch in the beginning and it HURT. I was sore for the entire first month. But, like you, I somehow made it through and I’m SO GLAD that I did. The lifetime benefits for both myself and my child FAR outweigh the burden. I made it to 20 months before I was about to implode, then I knew it was time to end the nursing relationship. I always encourage moms to go as long as possible, as every day you can keep it going helps in so many ways.

  2. A support system rocks! Once nights started to get unbearable with Kira (she hadn’t slept through the night for her entire first 18 months) I cut breastfeeding down to just the morning to give Phil a chance to offer her milk at night. She didn’t want it, like I assumed she wouldn’t, but she stopped relying on ME at 1am.

    #9 – pretend that you ARE holier than thou if you encounter a formula-feeding mommy who wants to know WHY you are STILL breastfeeding your baby?! I found that helped me because it did rehash the benefits and it made me feel like a super momma.

  3. The best thing I did was to take full advantage of lactation consultants. My son was in the NICU for his first two weeks, and they had an on-staff lactation consultant who helped me to make the most of pumping, learn how to properly latch, and so on. She also gave me her number, so that I could call anytime that I had questions. I know that not everyone will have a lactation consultant so easily accessible, but if you can find a way, I found her expertise and encouragement to be absolutely invaluable.

    Also, I agree about the double pump. For serious. Best. Thing. Ever.

  4. I had a crazy oversupply and the lactation consultant shrugged it off and told me to be grateful that it wasn’t an undersupply. But it was making our daughter miserable. I did my own research and discovered block feeding (feeding on one side for a certain block of time regardless how often the baby nurses during that time). This worked wonders for us and in no time my supply regulated and our baby girl had much less digestive trouble. So I guess my tip is to do your own research if you know something is up and you aren’t getting a satisfactory answer.

  5. No worry about recalls, helps you shed those baby pounds (sometimes), *can* act as a birth control in some women, produces “i love my baby and want to bond with him” feelings, lwssens the chance of overeating (not including pumping),

  6. It helped me to have a lactation nurse who would come to my house and check up on me. It made it that much easier. It also helped hearing her tell me to enjoy a glass of wine every now and then!

  7. This is a great piece, telling some of the less- romantic things about nursing a baby and how to stay with it. I misunderstood the title, thinking you meant, “once you’ve decided to quit breast feeding, how not to backslide to nursing again”!!! In fact, you mean quite the opposite. I’m on the fence about weaning my 11 month old, and appreciated the encouragement to stick with it.

    • Mairi, you’re right: the title could be taken as extra motivation on how to quit breastfeeding lol. But yes, quite the opposite! I’ll need to be careful on how to word my titles and may have to rewrite this one 😉 Thanks for pointing it out!

  8. My daughter and I took a breast-feeding class before her first was born. My hubbie said, “Why do you have to take a class to breast-feed? Here’s the breast. Here’s the mouth. Plug it in.”
    But the class was encouraging and informative–even though I’d breast-fed my 3 kids years before.

  9. I’m seriously hating my manual pump for work. What was I thinking?!

    I do, however, use it to pump the non-babied breast when I’m nursing at home when I’m the fullest (mornings; evenings home from work)! So, I’ll keep that sucker for now…

  10. I wrote about this very topic in my own blog recently, and my story went a little different from your, but I learned many of the same lessons. If we ever have another child I have a whole new mindset and experiences to draw from that will hopefully give me a different outcome next time. Even after changing my original plan to nurse for a whole year like you did, I still want to try to nurse a future baby for 18 months. I am glad you shared this. I think more mothers need to share their stories about this so that others can see that there are not just 2 kinds of moms: those who breastfeed without obstacles, and those who just want to use formula. There are lots and lots and LOTS of experiences in-between.

  11. I think I must have been very lucky with breast feeding as other than the first week with my first, I enjoyed every minute of it with both my daughters. My advice would be to breast feed rather than pump whenever you can manage it, that breastfeeding on demand makes the whole breast feeding experience very much harder. After the first week I just fed my daughter every 3-4 hours by the clock, and it went sooooooo much easier. I also limited the feeding time. And sure, my daughter didn’t take enough the first feed and was very grumpy waiting to the next feed but she certainly didn’t mess around feeding that time! We very quickly established a sensible routine where she ate efficiently and i didn’t feel like I had a baby attached to my nipples 24-7 (which will definitely give you sore nipples!) And finally if your nipples get even remotely sore dry them off and put on nipple cream (usually some kind of wax) STRAIGHT AWAY never wait until you get broken skin. You will be in agony if you wait!!!!
    I breastfed my first until 15 months, and my second until 14 months, only stopping when they seemed to be ready.
    Well done for making a year, very few people manage it.

    • Jessica, thanks for these tips. Looking back, my toddler probably could have benefited from feeding on the clock rather than on demand. He thrives with routine and I couldn’t seem to figure out whether he was really hungry, just needed to sleep, just sucking, etc.

      • I also used dummies/pacifiers as well. So if they just wanted to suck they sucked on those. With my first I started with a dummy at about a week old, and with my second I started dummies at about 2 days old (although the midwives did tell me off about it, but it worked very well and I have no problems.) Also breast feeding my second was sooo much easier than when I first started with my eldest. I guess one of you knows what they are doing!

  12. My lactation nurse provides a free weekly 2-hour Mother’s group. I went religiously for the first 6 months. It was so helpful because she was there to answer questions, look at my breasts (when needed), and offer advice. It was also helpful to be with other moms nursing to talk about things we were concerned with or to support each other through the process.

    I really feel that having this support was a big contributor to me nursing for so long. As of today, I’m still nursing Oster at night. All other nursing sessions have been eliminated. It’s been a year and a week. I’m finally ready to stop. I’m looking forward to going back to visit my nurse so she can see how big Oster has gotten and to share with her the success I had with her help.

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