Breastfeeding seminars

5 reasons why to say “Just breastfeed!” Doesn’t help breastfeeding challenges

“Why don’t you just breastfeed?” It’s a sentiment mothers have been hearing for decades. And it has only intensified in recent months as the infant formula crisis continues. Aside from reigniting unnecessary debates about breastfeeding versus formula, this conversation does nothing to help moms navigate the postpartum experience, a time when so many already worry about their ability to feed their babies.

Breastfeeding isn’t always easy. In reality, according to the NIH, 92% of families struggle to breastfeed in the first two weeks after returning from hospital. Many families do not have the time, resources, support or physical ability to breastfeed their babies. And for many of these mothers unable to breastfeed, the ensuing mental anguish and guilt becomes an additional burden to bear.

Related: AAP Now Recommends Breastfeeding Beyond Age 2 Due to Benefits for Baby and Mom

Saying “just breastfeeding” reinforces the disconnect between our breastfeeding expectations and the lived realities of so many families. While 85% of American families want to breastfeed their babies and initiate breastfeeding at birth, according to CDC, so many of them fail to achieve their goals. In fact, Motherly’s 5th Annual State of Motherhood Survey found that among mothers who either did not breastfeed or did not meet their breastfeeding goals with their last child, 38% indicated that ‘they were not physically able to breastfeed their child and 35% said they had to return to work and found it difficult to pump, maintain supply etc. And according to the general surgeon, misaligned expectations are the number one reason families stop breastfeeding in the first two weeks of a baby’s life. Breastfeeding success often depends on external factors, such as social support and flexible working hours, so statements such as “just breastfeed” can be an oversimplification and unfairness of a complex process.

Here are 5 reasons why saying “just breastfeed” isn’t helpful:

1. For many parents, breastfeeding is not easy

The parent who intends to “just breastfeed” may have struggled with breastfeeding in the past and are now breastfeeding or exclusively formula feeding. “Just Breastfeed” rejects the struggles a family might have already endured and perpetuates the myth that breastfeeding is easy for everyone.

2. Breastmilk is not the right choice for all families

When it comes to feeding babies, breast milk is considered the gold standard in terms of food. Breastfeeding is not only an incredible opportunity to bond, but it also offers important preventative health benefits for two people: mother and baby.

That said, breastfeeding is not the right choice for all families. There may be medical reasons (a parent who is undergoing chemotherapy or needs to take medication for another condition, a child who needs a specialized formula or has a metabolic condition), emotional reasons (history of abuse reasons, lack of family or partner support) or logistical reasons (the family does not have access to education and factual information, a job that makes breastfeeding or expression difficult). And for some families, breastfeeding just isn’t for them.

Related: Moms Don’t Breastfeed for So Many Reasons — and It’s Time to Stop Judging Them

Feeding decisions are extremely personal and the reasons for using infant formula are both varied and valid. Whether a family is breastfeeding, giving formula, or a combination of the two, they owe no one an explanation.

3. Our work culture doesn’t encourage breastfeeding success

The fact that the United States does not have universal paid parental leave makes it even more difficult to establish breastfeeding before returning to work. Once back at work, even though pump breaks are mandatory and protected by federal law, in many jobs, breastfeeding quickly becomes unsustainable.

On average, working mothers pump two to three times a day, aiming to spend 15 to 30 minutes in workplace breastfeeding rooms, if available. That’s almost a full day’s work every week! Without policies such as paid parental leave and support for expression at work, it is not possible for many working parents to devote time to protecting and maintaining the breastfeeding relationship.

4. Breastfeeding is not free

Breastfeeding is only free if a mother’s time is worthless. Moms often spend nearly 1,800 hours feeding or expressing milk during their baby’s first year, roughly the same number of hours in a full-time job. Not to mention, there are also physical and mental health costs related to lack of sleep, clogged ducts, cracked nipples, and mastitis to judgment received from strangers, concerns about proper baby nutrition, and loss time and bodily autonomy.

Related: No, Breastfeeding Isn’t Really Free

Even when breastfeeding is going well, it requires supplies, from breast pumps to bottles, milk storage bags, nursing bras, nipple creams, and more. When things aren’t going well, you often have to work with a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), hospital-grade pump rental, supplements, doctor visits, prescriptions and more. Even though the Affordable Care Act states that almost all insurance plans provide breastfeeding support, counseling and materials for the duration of breastfeeding, it is significantly below its stated goal and many families continue to pay for essential breastfeeding care out of pocket. Families with HMOs do not have access to IBCLCs as part of their insurance, and families with PPOs also struggle to access insurance-covered consultations.

5. So what should we do to help families?

One of the most important things we can do is what we’re doing right now: talking about breastfeeding. By demystifying lactation and the postpartum period as a whole, we can help parents make informed choices about how they care for themselves and their new babies.

Lactation can lead to a steep learning curve. Latching on confidently and comfortably, understanding your baby’s hunger cues, caring for yourself and a little human being in the midst of major life and body changes, is a skill set that many us just can’t learn in 10 minutes postpartum. hospital visit. That’s why, if you’re expecting your baby in the coming months and planning to breastfeed, it’s a good idea to contact an IBCLC now. The postpartum period can be a vulnerable and challenging time, and you may be more comfortable inviting an IBCLC into your space once you’ve already established a meaningful connection and a prenatal breastfeeding consultation. can prepare families for success.

Related: That’s Breastfeeding: Living Your Life in 3-Hour Increments

Every breastfeeding journey is different, but it doesn’t have to be lonely. Every parent deserves a support system to weather the inevitable ups and downs of lactation. One of the most important factors in breastfeeding success is support, whether it’s a partner, co-parent, devoted friend or family member. or a lactation consultant. This support can be as simple as fetching water or taking care of household chores such as changing diapers, providing bottles and even practicing skin-to-skin contact while mom rests.

When it comes to parenting, you deserve all the help you can get. And with an Expert Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) on your care team, you’ll have the confidence to tackle any lactation challenge that comes your way.


Motherly designed and administered the State of Motherhood survey through Motherly’s subscriber list, social media and partner channels, resulting in over 17,000 responses, creating a clean base and unweighted of 10,001 responses. This report focuses on the Gen X cohort of 1,197 respondents, the Millennial cohort of 8,558 respondents, and a Gen Z cohort of 246 respondents. Edge Research weighted the data to reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of America’s female millennial cohort based on US Census data.

This story is part of The Motherly Collective network of contributors where we feature stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their views with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and providing expert-led content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you would like to contribute to The Motherly Collective, please email [email protected]