Mother Knows Best
Only you can decide on the right time to stop breastfeeding. Here are some reasons not to give it up.
Fact: The problem isn’t your milk. Many factors, from an illness or food sensitivity your baby might have to your own overactive letdown, can cause fussiness or vomiting. Often, better lactation management—not weaning—is the solution, Spangler says. For instance, if your baby is fussy and never seems full, try giving him more time on one breast. Spangler recommends nursing on one side until he gives the cue to switch so he’ll get the protein- and fat-rich “hind milk,” which comes in toward the end of a feeding.
On rare occasions, however, your baby may be sensitive to something you ate. If he seems fussy after nursing, consider what you ate a few hours before. If you suspect a certain food, remove it from your diet for several weeks, then reintroduce it to see if it causes a reaction.
But above all, new moms should keep their sense of perspective. “Remember that it’s normal for babies to be fussy and spit up occasionally after breastfeeding,” says Mary Bright, co-founder of Breastfeeding Consultants of Northern Virginia.
Myth: If your baby’s growth rate isn’t average or better, you should wean.
Fact: Ah, the percentile charts. While doctors find them useful tools, it’s all too easy to label a baby as not measuring up. Suffice it to say that some babies grow in spurts, others in a smooth, easy curve. Some may reach the top of the charts their first month and stay there indefinitely; others will never reach the 50th percentile. Rather than use the charts as the absolute indicator of your baby’s health, take cues from your baby. Is he healthy? Happy? Alert? Does he pee and poop regularly? If so, chances are there’s nothing to worry about.
If your baby seems fine but your pediatrician is concerned about his growth, ask her specifically what she is worried about and express your desire to continue nursing. If there is a medical problem, work together to resolve it; if the problem seems unfounded or philosophical in nature, get a second opinion.
Myth: Pregnant women should not breastfeed.
Fact: Breastfeeding while pregnant will not harm the child growing inside you. In fact, in a La Leche League International study of mothers who became pregnant while still breastfeeding, 31 percent nursed through pregnancy and
“tandem-nursed” both children after delivery.
The nipple stimulation of breastfeeding can cause uterine contractions, but unless you’re having a difficult pregnancy or have a history of miscarriage or premature delivery, you shouldn’t need to wean.