Inside: Nursing your baby is a beautiful thing. But what about the disadvantages of breastfeeding? Let’s get real about the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding, and what you can do to succeed! Keep reading to discover these honest breastfeeding tips!
Let’s get real. If you’ve been thinking about breastfeeding, you’ve run up against your fair share of naysayers. Those who say it’s too difficult, too painful, too all-consuming.
But let’s get one thing straight here. You can do hard things!
If breastfeeding your child is something that you’re passionate about, then don’t let any obstacle stand in your way.
I breastfeed both my son and daughter for over one year each. I can tell you that there were days and weeks where I wanted to give up. There were days where I did nothing but cry during every nursing session!
But something inside me told me I could succeed! And looking back? I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
Yes, the disadvantages of breastfeeding are real. Breastfeeding doesn’t always look like the light and airy ads you’ll see on every baby gear site. These issues are important. We don’t want to gloss over them.
We just refuse to be overcome by them either.
I hope you’re encouraged by this real-life look at the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding!
The Incredible Advantages of Breastfeeding
Before we talk about the disadvantages of breastfeeding, let’s celebrate the advantages! Nursing your child holds so many amazing benefits for both you and your baby.
These benefits of nursing your baby range from physical, medical, and emotional. Breastfeeding influences and benefits so many areas! Take a look and see:
- Colostrum, your first milk after delivery, provides your baby with antibodies, high protein, and lower sugar for optimum nutrition.
- Your milk changes as your baby grows, providing just the right mix of nutrients for every stage.
- Breastfeeding can calm a fussy baby, or provide comfort or distraction when needed.
- Breastfeeding can help protect your baby’s gut and digestive system, to reduce the risk of allergies.
- Nursing your child helps to lower your risk of breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding may help you lose pregnancy weight more quickly. Breastfeeding burns about 500 extra calories per day!
- Sends hormonal signals to shrink your uterus back to normal size and reduce blood loss after delivery.
- It helps you bond with your baby in a unique way that just the two of you share.
- Nursing helps you feel more empowered with every breastfeeding obstacle you overcome.
- Breastfeeding can help you bond with other nursing moms as you share your experiences together.
- Breastfeeding saves you tons of money, providing one less financial stress for new parents.
Real-Life Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
This topic of breastfeeding reminds me of when my kids learned to walk. Walking is the natural progression from crawling. But do babies just decide to stand up and walk in one day?
No, it takes practice, It takes bumps and bruises and cries and coffee tables in the wrong place at the wrong time. Learning to walk is natural, but it’s not easy.
In the same way, breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
This mindset will help you as you face these disadvantages of breastfeeding head-on! Let’s take a look at these obstacles and how you can overcome them.
Breastfeeding Disadvantage #1: Discomfort and Pain
Pain during breastfeeding is not uncommon, especially during the first two weeks. Sore nipples are definitely a disadvantage of nursing! In addition to the initial soreness of breastfeeding, some mothers also struggle with painful mastitis or thrush.
Honestly, moms who bottle-feed don’t deal with this! Discomfort and pain during breastfeeding is a hurdle you’ll have to overcome if you’re committed to nursing.
Thankfully, I found that after the first two weeks the pain virtually disappeared. My breasts adjusted, and my babies grew to be breastfeeding pros as their latches improved. After two weeks I (almost) forgot about the pain of those early nursing sessions. This disadvantage is something that just takes time to overcome.
But how can you help in the meantime? Use these tips to combat breastfeeding pain and discomfort:
- Massage some breastmilk or cream on sore nipples after every feeding to help heal cracked nipples.
- Practice getting a deep latch every time. If your baby isn’t latched on properly, insert a clean finger in between his gums to break the seal, then try again.
- If your baby can’t seem to latch properly, consider getting him checked at the pediatrician for tongue or lip tie.
- Ask your doctor about a nipple shield to use during breastfeeding. Just be cautious, as these can sometimes reduce milk supply.
- If you have a plugged milk duct, point your baby’s nose toward the plug as he nurses. This will help clear the duct.
- If you can’t bear the thought of another painful nursing session, take a break and pump instead for one session. Feed your baby the pumped milk, then try nursing again for the next session.
- Listen to music or do something that will release endorphins while you nurse to ease the pain.
- Keep a watch out for fever, chills, or red streaks on your breasts. Visit your doctor right away as these are symptoms of mastitis.
- Visit your doctor if you have symptoms of thrush, such as shooting pain or a rash on your nipples.
Breastfeeding Disadvantage #2: Time Commitment
Let’s face it. When you commit to breastfeeding, you’re committing to virtually round-the-clock care and baby duty. For the first few months, you’ll be nursing your baby about every three hours. It adds up to eight nursing sessions a day or 720 sessions in the first three months!
Bottle-feeding moms certainly don’t have it easy, but they don’t share this disadvantage with nursing moms. When feeding time comes, breastfeeding moms can’t easily pass off the task. Breastfeeding is a huge time commitment!
In spite of this disadvantage, I’m still a huge supporter and fan of breastfeeding. Here’s why:
- Nursing gives busy moms an “excuse” to sit down, prop their feet up, and snuggle their baby with no other obligations. Think of it as your mandatory cuddle break every three hours.
- After the first few weeks, nursing sessions get way less stressful. Some of my favorite memories are of watching little toes curl and uncurl as we nursed in a quiet room. Life only gets busier as your kids grow older, take this time to slow down!
- For nighttime feedings, nursing is actually super efficient! You won’t have any bottles to mix or warm, and nothing to clean up in the morning. In fact, at night your milk is higher in melatonin to help promote great sleep!
- After about six weeks, try offering your baby a bottle of pumped milk once a day. Let dad or someone else take charge while you pump to maintain your supply.
- Once you’re confident in your baby’s ability to take a bottle, schedule a date night! With a hand-held manual pump, you can enjoy a break without lugging along an electrical breast pump. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to mean that you’re confined to the house!
Breastfeeding Disadvantage #3: Medication and Food Restrictions
Many new moms worry about food and medication restrictions that come with breastfeeding. While bottle-feeding moms can get right back to their pre-pregnancy diet and medical needs, breastfeeding moms worry about how their food intake affects their new baby.
Most breastfeeding moms need to carefully watch their intake of the following foods:
- fish that’s high in mercury
- caffeine (Coffee, tea, and chocolate are common culprits. Yikes!)
- potentially gassy foods
Breastfeeding moms also worry if their medication is safe to take while nursing. Will medications pass through your milk to your baby? These worries may play a part in your decision to breastfeed.
Avoiding chocolate and coffee may seem like torture at first, but dietary restrictions may not be as devastating as they seem. In fact, according to La Leche League International, no food is off-limits for a breastfeeding mom.
Instead, eat in moderation. It’s ok to have chocolate and coffee now and then. Eating the whole cake or drinking four cups every morning? That may make your baby fussy.
The same goes for potentially gassy foods like cauliflower or beans. You don’t have to rule out a whole food group from the get-go. Just keep an eye on your baby to see if any particular foods cause extra fussiness.
If you notice fussy symptoms in your baby, start a food log. Note down your baby’s temperament and reaction. Keep in mind that foremilk and hindmilk imbalance may play a role in your baby’s discomfort as well! Your diet isn’t necessarily to blame for a fussy baby.
As for medications, research shows that breastfeeding isn’t as restrictive as you might think. You may be surprised to find that many common medications are approved for use while breastfeeding. For a start, check out this list of nursing mom-safe medications.
Breastfeeding Disadvantage #4: Worry About Baby’s Milk Intake
Especially in those early weeks, it’s easy to become anxious about your baby’s health. Is he eating enough? Is he gaining enough weight?
While bottle-feeding moms can easily count up the ounces of formula they baby eats, nursing moms seem to be left guessing in the dark.
Many times, this worry translates to supplementing with formula just to be sure the baby will thrive. There are legitimate cases for supplementing. However, most of this new mom’s anxiety can be solved with a few simple tips.
How can you ease your fears about your baby’s growth and health as you breastfeed?
Use these nursing mom hacks to gain peace of mind for your baby’s health:
- Weigh your baby directly before a feed. Nurse as usual, then weigh immediately after a feed. If the number went up, that’s a good sign that your baby is getting milk!
- After your milk comes in, you’ll be able to tell if your baby is getting milk. Your breast will turn from full to soft as your baby empties milk.
- Empty one breast first instead of switching after a set amount of minutes. Switch to the other side after your baby empties the first side. This helps your baby get plenty of filling hindmilk instead of the more watery foremilk
- Pump for one session to measure how much milk you’re producing. Keep in mind though that babies are much more efficient than breast pumps. Hormones play a big part in how your body reacts to stimulation and produces milk. Your baby is likely removing more milk than your pump indicates!
Breastfeeding Disadvantage #5: Leaking
Leaking is one of those little-talked-about disadvantages of breastfeeding! As your milk regulates, you’ll find you may soak through multiple nursing pads. When you’re caught off guard, it’s definitely embarrassing!
For some moms, even the sound of a baby crying can stimulate let down. When you’re nursing your baby, you may also leak from the opposite breast. Breastfeeding can be messy at times!
Is it worth the stress? Worth months or years of double-lined bras and laundry loads of reusable nursing pads?
Here’s the good news. While you’ll be on constant leak alert in the beginning, most moms see leakage drop off after the first few months. Your body will adjust to your baby’s nursing schedule and produce milk like clockwork on demand. Many moms don’t struggle with leaking in between nursing sessions after the initial hormonal surge.
Try these handy tips to conquer leaks and get your confidence back:
- Use reusable nursing pads at home. They’re soft, affordable, and comfortable but protect from leakage.
- When you’re out, try a disposable nursing pad. Disposables have an extra layer of protection to give you extra confidence when you’re out of the house.
- Keep a few clean cloth diapers on hand when you nurse. As your baby nurses on one side, place the cloth on the other breast to catch any leaks or let-down. Place another cloth under your baby’s cheek on the nursing side to catch and drips before they hit your clothes. These cloth diapers are super absorbent and affordable!
- If you find that you’re leaking long after your baby is weaned, ask your doctor to check your hormone levels. I had a prolactin imbalance after weaning both of my babies which caused continued leaking.
Breastfeeding Disadvantage #6: Isolation and Loneliness
One of the biggest disadvantages of breastfeeding moms is the sense of loneliness or isolation that can come through breastfeeding. While bottle-feeding moms can easily socialize while feeding their babies, nursing moms may have a harder time keeping meaningful relationships with adults.
As wonderful as bonding with your baby is, you also need adult friendships and support! During those late-night nursing sessions, you may feel isolated. It’s difficult when you feel like you alone are responsible for caring for your baby.
Although isolation is a battle for most new moms, breastfeeding moms may feel more of this strain.
I learned the hard way that you have to fight isolation one outstretched hand at a time. Yes, breastfeeding can be isolating at times, but there are so many ways you can stay connected and nurtured as a nursing mom.
Try these tips to fight isolation as a nursing mom:
- Connect with other breastfeeding moms on Facebook or Instagram.
- Start a weekly meet-up with other moms to sit and chat about breastfeeding life.
- Ask a friend or your hubby to stay and sit with you while you nurse your baby at an event or party. Usually, it will only take 20 minutes!
- Make a pact with a friend that you can text each other at any time during the night if you’re feeling alone or overwhelmed.
- Put away your phone to get rid of those temptations to compare yourself to others. Take that alone time to memorize your baby’s face, ears, and toes.
- Buy a wrap-around nursing cover. My favorite nursing cover allowed me to nurse my babies in public without feeling like I had to retreat to a back room. It creates the perfect little cocoon to keep you and your baby cozy and private while you breastfeed.
What are the most difficult parts of breastfeeding for you? Do you have a breastfeeding story to tell?
Share your thoughts on these advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding in the comments below!