9 Disadvantages of Breastfeeding People Usually Don't Talk About
There are many purported benefits of breastfeeding. It's nature's way and studies do suggest mother's milk can reduce the risk of infectious diseases in the short-term.
However, people are rightly questioning whether it is really necessary - especially when there are many (often unspoken) disadvantages of breastfeeding.
This article isn't to deter would-be breast-feeders, but it will take an honest look at 8 cons of breastfeeding that mother's commonly experience.
So, let's get right to it...
1) Restrictions on Diet and Vices
Breastfeeding is not inherently good for the baby, it all depends on what you yourself consume.
That means continuing most of the dietary restrictions you've been keeping to during pregnancy.
No drinking alcohol, no smoking, and many prescription medications should also be avoided. All of these can be transferred to the baby in some form, causing developmental issues.
It also means eating a generally well-rounded diet, to pass on that goodness.
If you eat a terrible junk food diet, the concentration of vitamins in your breast milk will be lower. Vegans are also at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency and may need to supplement this for general health, but to also ensure the breastfed baby doesn't become deficient too.
Some mothers understandably find all of this difficult.
After all, they've just gone 9 months with restrictions and made It through the pain and stress of childbirth.
For some who require certain medications, it's not even a choice.
Note: Experts recommend that alcohol intake should be restricted to a maximum of 3 glasses of wine per week, spread out (i.e. not all in one night), while cigarettes should be avoided altogether. If you find this difficult, breastfeeding is not for you. Period.
2) Breastfeeding Hurts
Let's face it, breastfeeding can hurt and is often too much for mothers that have been through so much already.
Sore and cracked nipples, engorged leaky breasts - it's just not fun, and that's before the baby gets their teeth!
Adding further pain to an already stressed and tired mother probably isn't the best bonding solution, no matter how much people claim breastfeeding is a 'special connection.'
Then there are those rarer cases where the baby is born so early that they are too weak and their mouths are too small, or they otherwise can't physically take to the breast. Mothers who want to breastfeed in that scenario need to become acquainted with the breast-pump, which brings its own form of discomfort.
Sometimes other painful complications can emerge such as blocked milk ducts, which can then lead to mastitis - inflammation of the breast that can cause infection.
This obviously isn't good for the mother or baby.
3) Breastfeeding in Public is Awkward
First off, no mother should feel awkward or embarrassed to breastfeed in public.
It's perfectly legal in most US states (and generally ignored in those where it isn't), and it's the most natural thing in the world. Anyone who says otherwise should be ashamed of themselves. It's not difficult to look away and mind your own business.
However, that doesn't mean those negative feelings don't exist. Whether it's socially acceptable or not, some mothers simply aren't comfortable and if that's your personality, then such awkwardness is one of the main disadvantages of breastfeeding in public.
Of course, there are some solutions to make the process more discreet. Nursing covers, for example, shield both you and your baby from the outside world. But, there may be a time when they outgrow them.
You can also plan in advance and pick the best spots where you can be comfortable and discreet, but that isn't always practical.
4) It Contributes to Breast Sagging
While you may feel the benefits of breastfeeding trump any aesthetic changes in the size or shape of your breasts, many mothers are disheartened when they are left with saggy and discolored breasts, along with stretch marks and other differences.
This is most noticeable once breastfeeding has stopped.
If you're someone whose confidence is easily knocked by such things, then you'll definitely consider this a disadvantage.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that it's not just breastfeeding that causes these changes - in fact, pregnancy itself is the primary culprit. Growth and milk production happens regardless of whether you actually choose to breastfeed. However, breastfeeding is certainly a contributory factor.
The main reason is that when the breasts increase in size during pregnancy, the skin and Cooper's ligament is forced to stretch and cannot easily go back. Additional stretching occurs with full milk ducts and prolonging this with breastfeeding makes the Cooper's ligament lose elasticity.
Fortunately, there are some preventative measures that you can take to reduce sagging from pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Make sure to wear well-fitted supportive bras at every stage, maintain good posture during breastfeeding (along with a breastfeeding pillow to prevent slouching), and exercising as soon as you can, will reduce weight (some of which contributes to sagging).
5) Feeding is More Often and Harder to Measure
Another disadvantage of breastfeeding is that it has to be done more often because it digests faster - about every 1.5 to 3 hours.
This can be inconvenient for the busy mother and adds to the stress of getting up in the night.
Baby formula is also more dense overall and more can be taken in one go because of the practicality of a bottle.
It also obviously doesn't take the physical exertion of breastfeeding. In fact, it doesn't necessarily even require the mother.
There's nothing stopping dad getting up and feeding the baby their bottle instead. And, as much as breastfeeding is a chance to bond, bottle-feeding is also a chance for the father to bond with the baby as well.
Using formula is also easier to measure. When breastfeeding, it is difficult to know how much the baby is getting, whether it's enough or even too much. This can be a constant worry for first-time moms.
6) Sexual Issues
Pregnancy can cause all sorts of problems in the bedroom, not least that some men are put off by the idea altogether.
However, less known are the problems that can occur afterward during breastfeeding.
Libido can be dampened considerably because breastfeeding reduces the production of the hormone estrogen.
A lot of women will simply not be in the mood while breastfeeding. This can also cause vaginal dryness, making the physical act itself more difficult, even if you get over the first hurdle.
Furthermore, because a lot of medications interfere with breastfeeding (birth control included), you are more limited in your birth control options. For example, birth control that contains estrogen interferes with the production of breastmilk itself. This means switching to condoms, which isn't always palatable in a long-term relationship.
Of course, these are all issues that can be overcome with some patience, but it is still a disadvantage worth considering.
7) It's Hard to Transition
One issue with breastfeeding is that if you start, you have to be committed.
It can be very difficult to transition a newborn to a bottle or to switch back and forth between the two.
Once they've experienced the natural way, they tend not to want anything else.
This means it's going to be difficult to hand the baby off to dad so you can have a rest or to leave the baby at home with grandma while you have a date night. They will want to be breastfed.
This might even be seen as one of the disadvantages of breastfeeding for the baby themselves - even if the dad wants to help you out and bond with them, they can't.
When you breastfeed, you are always on call, especially during those first few months. You need to be available whenever the baby demands it, day or night - all of which is exhausting and can be extremely limiting on other aspects of your life.
8) It Can Be Difficult to Get Started
The very fact that breastfeeding is natural can put immense pressure on new mothers who find it difficult to get started.
They wonder why they can't get it right and why it's so stressful.
Unfortunately, not every baby latches on right away or feeds well.
There is a technique to learn (e.g. it's not advised to do it while lying down or to breastfeed for too long per session), and even then, some mothers can just have a tough time of it.
It also doesn't help when midwives try to encourage breastfeeding for those that don't want to do it.
9) It Can Get Worse as Time Goes On
There are different stages of breastfeeding.
The World Health Organization recommends that babies are to be nursed exclusively for 6 months and then breastfed alongside formula and other foods as time goes on, until discontinuing breastfeeding at two years.
The disadvantages of breastfeeding after 2 years begin to mount up and there is little evidence of any benefits at this stage anyway.
Firstly, the inconveniences will only continue. You might be able to make sacrifices for 6 months but beyond 2 years?
Furthermore, if there was any awkwardness in the beginning, this will only increase when breastfeeding an older child - something society has not really embraced.
This article has mostly focused on the disadvantages of breastfeeding for mother, but there are also some psychological cons of breastfeeding a toddler, based on attachment and eating. The child themselves will find it harder to wean exclusively on to solid foods and might also find it harder to become independent in general.
Wrapping It All Up
Ultimately you will have to weigh up the pros and cons as they pertain to your own life.
There are some disadvantages of not breastfeeding, such as a slightly higher risk of infectious diseases, but in the modern world with good healthcare and quality baby-milk formulas, the risk is still low.
Sure, breastfeeding can be an all-natural and effective form of bonding, but that's no good if it's difficult, hurting you, and stressing you out.
Did you breastfeed or choose not to? Let us know why in the comments below!