Tips for sticking with your breastfeeding goals

Most moms have ambitious breastfeeding goals for good reason.

The overwhelming majority of moms want to breastfeed, according to a 2022 survey conducted by the baby mavens at What to Expect. In fact, only 5% of mothers surveyed said they didn’t plan to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is convenient, cost-effective, and a great way for moms and newborns to bond. In order to reap all the nutritional and health benefits of breast milk, most mothers set a goal to breastfeed for at least six months, the minimum recommended by health professionals.

Many moms face challenges when it comes to breastfeeding.

However, the same survey revealed something that we could’ve told you ourselves: breastfeeding ain’t easy. Like New Year’s goals, the best laid breastfeeding plans can unravel if you run up against difficulties with latching, low milk supply, or negativity from family and friends. However, with the right support and guidance, breastfeeding can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience for both mothers and babies. Consider the following tips for setting and sticking to your breastfeeding goals.

Get to the heart of your breastfeeding goal.

To allow room for a multitude of possible success stories, reframe breastfeeding goals as healthy baby goals. You want to choose the parenting path that is healthiest for everyone. If breastfeeding isn’t working, you can still have a healthy baby. You can even still offer breast milk. By getting to the heart of your breastfeeding goal – that is, having a healthy baby – you can make other arrangements if breastfeeding creates distress.

Prepare yourself for some unanticipated challenges.

Studies show that many mothers stop breastfeeding within the first two weeks postpartum because the experience doesn’t match up to their expectations. On the other hand, some mothers never even try breastfeeding because they have misconceptions about the difficulties they’ll face breastfeeding. Here’s the real deal: breastfeeding can be rewarding in many ways, and many moms – at least 3 in 10 – are able to successfully breastfeed for six months or longer. However, breastfeeding can be a literal and figurative pain. It’s like anything else. It’s going to take a little time to get the hang of it, and until you do, it may feel weird and you may be kind of bad at it. But if you can give yourself time and grace, and you prepare yourself for a few hiccups along the way, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking with your goals.

Be patient. Give yourself time to recover and adapt.

China’s post-partum practice of peiyue (“mothering the mother”) is associated with lower odds of postpartum depression (PPD) and lower severity of physical symptoms. In fact, many cultures have month-long rest periods for moms to recover from childbirth and bond with their babies uninterrupted by other responsibilities. Maybe you can’t get a whole month of bedrest, but it wouldn’t hurt to aim for it if you want to stick with your breastfeeding goal. It’s important to remember that you are recovering from physical trauma, and both you and baby have just been thrust into completely unknown territory. The more time you can give yourself to rest, recover, and adapt to your new role, the more likely you are to succeed.

Address pain and discomfort quickly.

Suffering in silence is not going to get you to your goal. On the contrary, sore nipples, engorged breasts, mastitis, and pain are frequently cited problems when moms choose to put an end to breastfeeding. Part of the problem is that women often underreport pain. I get it. Women have to be strong, and we have to be able to deal with pain. But not when it comes to breastfeeding. In most cases, discomfort breastfeeding is just a matter of finding the right latch and can be resolved with the help of a lactation consultant. In cases where it’s not possible to breastfeed comfortably, as in some cases of tongue tie, the sooner you consult with a doctor or consultant, the sooner you can come up with an alternative plan to achieve your healthy baby goal.

Seek support on your breastfeeding journey.

Did you know that women with friends who have breastfed successfully are more likely to choose to breastfeed? Women whose families are supportive of breastfeeding are more likely to be successful as are women whose partners participated in a program on how to prevent and address common problems with lactation (such as pain or fear of insufficient milk). If you’re having a hard time finding support close at hand, talk with a lactation consultant or look for a local or online lactation support group. You’re much more likely to stick to your goals if you feel supported.  

Fit breastfeeding into your daily routines.

You’ll have more success breastfeeding long-term if you schedule it. Establishing a breastfeeding schedule can help you plan their day around feedings and make it easier to fit breastfeeding into your routine. It’s important to remember that babies have different feeding needs at different ages, so stay flexible and responsive to your baby’s needs. If you’ve got to miss a scheduled feeding, use a breast pump to keep your body on schedule and avoid mastitis.

Consider pumping breast milk if breastfeeding is interrupted.

Breast pumps are useful for mothers who want to give babies the benefits of breast milk but are unable to continue breastfeeding, either because they are returning to work or school, or because they are experiencing difficulties. With a breast pump, you can maintain your milk supply and provide your baby with breast milk even when you aren’t able to be physically present.

It’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

Breastfeeding can be a rewarding experience for both mothers and babies, and it can also be challenging at times. However, with the right support and guidance, you can achieve your goal of giving your baby the healthiest start possible. Be kind to yourself and remember that everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different.