Why I Wanted to Quit Breastfeeding

quit breastfeeding

Never Quit Breastfeeding on a Bad Day

Before I started breastfeeding, I heard “never quit breastfeeding on a bad day”. I filed this advice away, not because I thought I would need it, but because I thought it was odd so it stuck out in my mind.

You see, pre-baby, my knowledge of breastfeeding was really limited. I’d only ever really seen breastfeeding in pictures. And of course, in those pictures the baby was snug at his mother’s breast as she looked down at him in peace.

I had a pretty harsh wake up call when my son was born and I started breastfeeding. I had so many misconceptions, the biggest of all being that it would be very easy! It turns out my vision of breastfeeding was really idealized. I didn’t grow up around breastfeeding women and not many of my friends breastfed, so I didn’t know any better.

quit breastfeeding

Breastfeeding isn’t Easy!

Breastfeeding is a learned skill for moms, and for many, it is not easy to learn. I struggled a lot with latch issues and pain. Beyond that, since my expectations were so out of line with breastfeeding reality, I also struggled with behaviors that are actually normal, like prolonged cluster feeding, difficulty with overactive letdown, or frequent night wakings. 

But Don’t be Discouraged….

I don’t want to discourage anyone from breastfeeding by writing this list – and I don’t want to be interpreted just as a complainer (but maybe that’s a fair assessment). My aim here is to share a real perspective on breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is on the rise and I hope it returns to being the norm so we can be better prepared to breastfeed our offspring. Had I understood breastfeeding and had realistic expectations, nursing my son up to this point would have been more pleasant and saved me a lot of tears. (If you haven’t begun breastfeeding, I recommend reading 5 Things I’d Wish I’d Known Before I Started Breastfeeding.)

Following is the list of my toughest times with breastfeeding. As I look at the list I realize each item sounds pretty inconsequential, but in the moment I was thisclose to giving up breastfeeding. I was struggling with pain and latch issues on top of the typical sleep-deprived-new-parent feeling so each of these difficulties merited a very teary call to my doula or a sob on my husband’s shoulder. I’m lucky I was surrounded by supportive people.  

quit breastfeeding

11 Reasons I Almost Quit Breastfeeding

  1. When it felt like he was feeding for hours on end, and he actually was
  2. When the pain was so bad I cried each and everytime time he latched on for a feed
  3. When two different lactation consultants told me our latch ‘looked good’ but the pain was still unbearable
  4. When I would wake up in the middle of the night so hungry I would eat an entire pizza (see my healthy snack alternatives)
  5. When I sweat uncontrollably and experienced hot flashes at the start of each feeding
  6. When we went through the phase where he’d claw at my breasts while feeding and actually draw blood
  7. When I pumped at 3am, got enough milk for a whole bottle, and then spilled it all on my bed
  8. When I was frustrated with pumping daily at work
  9. When he started teething and bit my nipple for the first time (and second, and third)
  10. When he continued to wake up several times per night to nurse after his 1st birthday 
  11. When I had to be sure I was wearing clothes that I could breastfeed in every time we went out together

I Have Continued to Breastfeed!

16 months into breastfeeding my son, I can say the benefits and positive moments certainly outweigh the challenges, but it wasn’t an easy journey. I am amazed at myself sometimes – I’ve gone from actively telling people how much I hate breastfeeding to actively telling them how much I love it.

I am proud of myself for sticking with breastfeeding. My own stubbornness was a big factor, as well as willingness to seek help and learn. But, I truly believe more education and information up front would have set me up for better success, and kept me away from the brink of quitting so many times.

natural term breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my Toddler

This is the main reason I created this website – to help share information on breastfeeding and offer support to anyone else who is struggling. There will always be challenges, but the more we talk about breastfeeding the more we can normalize it and ensure everyone is better informed.

Have you struggled with breastfeeding? What made you want to give up? Share in the comments below!

Just getting started with breastfeeding or working on it long term? These articles may help…

breastfeeding benefits breastfeeding positions breastfeeding support

extended breastfeeding manage breastfeeding pain 5 Things I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Emily, excellent post! Congrats on pushing through your nursing challenges and making it to 16 months! I am particularly happy you got to the point where you started loving breastfeeding. There is no joy quite like it, hey?
    You are so right in saying that knowing certain things upfront can smooth the path to happier breastfeeding. I was fortunate in that regard. My Antenatal teacher was one of the top IBCLC’s in the country. Knowing upfront that nursing would be my full time job for at least the first 6 crucial weeks of my son’s life, saved me a lot of heart ache, frustration, and nipple pain. I got the support I needed and was able to relax and feed my boy on demand (which yes, often felt like ALL THE TIME). We are still enjoying a happy, healthy nursing relationship now (he’s 3).
    Thoroughly support what you’re doing. Sharing your article on social media.

    1. Hi Lauren, Thanks so much for the support. That’s awesome that you’re breastfeeding your son at age 3! I plan to breastfeed to natural term and I’m really excited at the prospect – and amazed at myself at the same time because I struggled with breastfeeding so much at first. I love how you said that knowing up front that nursing would be a full time job for the first 6 weeks saved you a lot of frustration, etc. That is such a good point! I hadn’t thought of breastfeeding quite like that and it is a great way to conceptualize the start of a breastfeeding relationship. Thanks for your support!

  2. Can you tell more about when he woke up several times per night to nurse after turning one? I’m worried about that amd biting. I think I have a good handle on everything else.

    1. Hi Andrea! I have to admit that my son is now 17.5 months old and still not sleeping through the night. It is my personal choice not to sleep train him and I am struggling a lot trying to night wean, so for now I just go to bed really early to compensate for being up often in the night. For a while he was sleeping pretty well and my husband would soothe him sometimes when he woke in the night – I thought he was ready to stop nursing at night and sleep through on his own but perhaps due to teething or a developmental leap he became inconsolable by my husband but just a few minutes on the boob and he’d be right back to sleep. Sorry I’m kind of just rambling here – trying to manage his night waking and my lack of sleep has been a struggle for some time now and unfortunately I don’t have a clear answer. Regarding biting I can share sound advice (you can see a post here – http://freshmilkmama.com/breastfeeding-and-teething/).

      For sleep, I am choosing to still wake up and nurse my son when he needs it. Many of my friends with kids my son’s age have engaged in a form of sleep training, for the most part with a lot of success. The trouble is it usually involves tears and I’m not comfortable with ‘crying it out’, and I don’t have the patience to hold him or soothe him for hours in the middle of the night when I know a few minutes of boob will quiet him down. I am trusting that he will sleep through and night wean when he’s ready, so for now I follow his cues as much as I can.

  3. Thanks Emily. That’s all good advice. I am lucky enough to be a stay at home mom to my two kids for the next couple years. So if I am needed for nursing and cuddles at any hour…I am happy to oblige. It’s tough but I may never get to experience this again. So it is very worth it to me. If you want to keep in touch send me an email. Andrea.janosik@yahoo.com. Thank you again.

    1. Hi Andrea, thanks for the kind words. I’ve begun working from home and I have to say it makes it much easier to continue breastfeeding. It is much easier to oblige for the nursing and cuddles anytime, now. You’re so right, our kids are only young once and this time with them now is precious. 🙂

  4. I love this article!! My son is now 7 months old and im still going strong. I struggled at the beginning and there were two specific days where i wanted to quit because the pain was almost unberable. Everytime my son would cry because he was hungry I cried too because I couldnt believe he was hungry… again! And cluster feedings were so exhausting! Now my son is teething and does bite me every now and then but im staying strong. Even with the struggles, pain, and being harrassed when I returned to work and needed to pump, im not giving up. I love breastfeeding my son!

    1. It is great to hear that you love breastfeeding so much! I really disliked it at first but have also come to love it and I’m proud I stuck with it so far. Pumping at work can be a whole separate set of challenges, but it is totally worth it. Thanks for letting me know you loved my post. There’s lots of little things that can be tough when breastfeeding but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Great job, mama!

  5. Hi Emily, I love this post! Especially because I have struggled and cried every day so far on my breast feeding journey. My baby is 5 1/2 weeks now and it is a daily struggle of pain and hobbling on. When did it start getting better for you? I have seen 2 LC and still have trouble, my baby has a bubble pallet. I love providing food for my baby. Right now I am alternating pumping and breast. Basically I breastfeed until I absolutely can’t stand it because it feels like razors are cutting my breasts, then I pump for a few times, then back to breast. Anyway, Thanks for sharing your journey!

    1. Hi Natalie, Thanks for saying you loved the post. I definitely cried daily for a while when I started breastfeeding. I also did exactly what you did with feeding directly and then pumping and bottle or cup feeding when I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. I remember the stage around 5-6 weeks when it was super painful to breastfeed. From there, slowly but surely, things started getting better. I’ll be honest, it was a very slow process, but the struggle paid off and by 5 months I was comfortable most of the time and by 6 months I remember comfortably breastfeeding my son anywhere and everywhere, almost completely pain free. I also saw two different LCs and they were both very helpful and supportive, but at the end of the day I had to do what felt right for us – e.g. they recommended no bottle and only cup feeding. Cup feeding wasn’t working great but bottle was working wonderfully so we did that and everything worked out. You got this!

  6. I love this post! I’m only 4 months into my breast feeding journey but I am finally loving it. This is my second baby and I was unable to breast feed my son. We struggled for a very long 8 weeks and it just didn’t work out. I almost feel guilty that I am able to breast feed my daughter but I wasn’t able to give my son that. Those feelings are getting better now! I almost quit with my daughter after, like you said, crying in pain every time she latched and after a terrible bout of mastitis. I’m glad I didn’t quit though! I love it more than I ever thought I would.

  7. I’d also thought breastfeeding was as simple as putting your boob in your baby’s mouth and she’d feed n sleep… Got a huge slap when my daughter was born. Almost quit in the first couple of weeks because she just didn’t seem to get full. My mom was great support because I’d pump and she would give her the bottle at night so I could sleep.
    Sore, torn nipples went through that at around 9 weeks and I had to pump exclusively for 2 weeks. She also had a nursing strike… It was very hard to keep up and having to wake up to pump drove me nuts.

    Now we are 16 weeks in and still at it. She just started teething and I’m in pain again. I keep at it because I’ve fallen in love with her looking up at me as she feeds. Its challenging but I keep at it.

    1. Congratulations on making it to 16 weeks! It was a bit painful when my son started teething but after that little bump things were fine again. Great job making it through a two week nursing strike, too – amazing perseverance. 🙂
      My son will turn two next month and I breastfeed him morning at night, and during the day if he asks on weekends. I cannot believe I made it this long. What you said is spot on… it is challenging but we keep at it because we’ve fallen in love with nurturing our children this way.

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