Most Moms Don’t Exclusively Breastfeed Their Newborns

Written by:

Maia James

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I was recently surprised to read that, in the United States, only 33 percent of mothers “exclusively breastfeed [their babies] to three months of age…and only 14 percent to six months.”

Considering that a standard maternity leave is three months long, I find it really hard to believe that only one-third of mothers make it that long with breastfeeding.

I have to wonder, though, what constitutes “exclusive breastfeeding.” When Felix was a couple of days old, my pediatrician was worried about his weight and insisted I supplement with some formula. Looking back, I’m sure Felix’s health wasn’t in any danger (he has remained a super skinny kid, and our new pediatrician has never been concerned). At the time I was of course a nervous new mother, and I heeded the doctor’s advice.

Once we had that six-pack of Enfamil in our pantry, it was a slippery slope. I let Daylon give Felix the rest of the bottles over the course of the next month, when my nipples were bleeding on a daily basis and we feared that one was going to come off all together (true story).

So although Felix still nurses like a maniac at 26 months and hasn’t had any formula since he was four weeks old, I suppose that I am one of the majority of moms who didn’t EXCLUSIVELY breastfeed for even three months…in fact, I only made it two days!

For those of you who breastfed…how long did you make it? Did you ever give your baby any formula?

Stay sane,

Maia, Founder & CEO

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  1. Jessica Avatar

    I am a new mom?Baby was born 9/22/15, she is 5 months today yay! Lol I have been exclusively breastfeeding since she was placed in my arms. the hospital where I delivered Saint Roosevelt in Manhattan are really pro-boob. Breast is best! I kept hearing this moto and so though it was excruciating and I cried soooo much I kept trying and working through the terrible beginning of breastfeeding. It’s so much better now sometimes I might add, it’s actually very pleasant. I was lucky to discover that my union allows 9 months maternity leave-of course there’s always a catch- I have no health insurance pass the 6weeks they pay for. It has been a lonely journey, my friends that are moms with children close in age don’t breastfeed and I breastfeed in public haven’t bumped into not One other mommy breastfeeding. Thankful that no one has stopped to say anything negative… Guess I got that New York look lol

  2. Maia James Avatar
    Maia James

    Wow, Elizabeth, what an incredible, inspiring story! First of all, I had no idea there WAS such a thing as a size J cup! ;). Anyway. While I am a vehement breastfeeding advocate, I can't honestly say that I would have persevered in your circumstances. Joshua is obviously a very lucky boy. Please keep in touch!

  3. Angie Avatar

    Elizabeth, you rock! So many moms get upset and heart broken over being unable to produce enough milk, but then simply give up or move on. You worked SO hard to do what you could for your son. I don't think any mom every feels like she does enough, but you are doing so much that is good for your son, despite overwhelming pressures from your life and the world around you. I just wanted to let you know, you sound like a phenomenal person and a wonderful mom. I know how hard it can be to raise a child, and sometimes it's good to hear- even from a stranger on a message board 🙂

  4. Elizabeth Avatar

    I unfortunately had breast reduction surgery 2 years before Joshua was born. I was 38, single and didn't think I'd ever have "my children". I was also a size J. Had I known I'd have Joshua, I would have tried just about anything else to reduce my breast size to fix my back pain. Hindsight… 🙂 Anyway, he lost birth weight rather quickly and the pediatrician was quite concerned (this seems to be a common theme on this post) and told me I could keep breastfeeding, but because of the reduction surgery I probably didn't produce enough milk (the woman at the "Lactation Station" had warned me that it was probably a high likelyhood, so I had prepared myself) and would have to supplement with formula. I have to admit, the only thing I really cared about making sure I did for my son was breastfeeding him, so I left that office in tears, though I wasn't surprised. I hated giving him formula…up until 2 weeks before his first birthday, when I couldn't wait to switch him over to milk (I was lucky enough to find a farm that made the raw "good stuff"). I was elated. AND, that entire year, I pumped every day religiously while at work (even though I only made 2-6oz/day during that time) (I also, unfortunately am a single mother so I HAVE to work full-time outside the home) just so I could keep breastfeeding the little amount I did (for immunity, comfort, and bonding). I do have to admit, in one regard the formula was nice…because he has to go to a babysitter, it was easier to have her make up bottles than worry about transporting and storing the breast milk properly (she "allows" me to be "weird" about my food choices and parenting styles with him, but sometimes it is such a FIGHT). I gave him the little bottle I made each day when we got home, after nursing first, kind of my way of telling him I was sorry he'd been on formula all day and away from me. A few months ago I attended a La Leche League meeting and one of the helpers told me my body was probably so used to the pumping after a year that I could quite and would still produce the same amount of milk. I also went back to co-sleeping (I'd stopped at 9 months after listening to others…) so he could nurse and we could bond all night long to make up for being separated all day. I also started him on solids at 7 months when he became interested so he wouldn't drink so much formula. So…after that long story, what I wanted to say is, Joshua is now 15 months, still breastfeeding and quite happy (and I don't have to pump anymore). I plan to breastfeed him until he doesn't need the comfort anymore and I don't need the bond (wow, that could be a long time! :)) I also think that as long as he has to go to the babysitter we both will need it (not that I plan on doing it until he is 7 or something, just saying, while he's little…). I'd like to stay at home with him and I'd love to homeschool, but I haven't figured out how to work yet…
    Anyway…thank you Maia and Nana for all your wonderful research for things I'm concerned about but don't have time to do on my own!!!!! And I second Eva – you look wonderful in that picture!
    (Sorry, this is my first day reading the blog (3 hours later…) and I think I got carried away in replying…)

  5. Maia James Avatar
    Maia James

    Hey Sara-Because I'm still breastfeeding Felix (he's 2.5), he doesn't drink milk, but for what he gets in the occasional bowl of cereal. I know if you wait until 2 to wean, you don't need to substitute any milk. Before that, I'd look into goat's milk, which I know some people think is better than cow's. If you have access to safe raw milk, that's better than what we can get in our grocery store–organic whole (sometimes grass fed but not always).

  6. Sara Avatar

    My son lost some weight also in the first few weeks, so we reluctantly gave in and gave him some formula to supplement the breastfeeding (I think we gave him formula on five different occasions total). I'm not sure it was needed, but we were also new parents, and didn't want to risk him not getting enough food and actually doing damage to him just to avoid formula being in the picture. He is one year old now, and has not gotten any formula since those five feedings in the very beginning. I do still consider him to have been exclusively breastfed, since it was such a small amount of formula. We haven't started the whole milk yet. I was curious how much whole milk you give your son and when you started?

  7. Maia James Avatar
    Maia James

    Wow, you are a stronger woman than I was! Maya is lucky, and not just because she has a great name;)

  8. ANgie Avatar

    I had heard of pediatricians encouraging supplementing with formula, and had also heard of the "slippery slope" of formula usage. I was scared to death- literally in tears- when my daughter Maya wasn't gaining weight, and not nursing without falling asleep. Luckily, our dr. was very supportive of my commitment to breast feed exclusively, and with a lot of tearful persistence, we got Maya to gain the weight she needed to gain. She is under the fifth percentile for weight, and has always a grazer (I don't think she EVER nursed for the prescribed ten minutes per side), but she's healthy and growing, so we're happy.

  9. Maia James Avatar
    Maia James

    Thanks to all you rocking mommas for your candid and sweet breastfeeding stories. Your little ones are very lucky! And Eva–congrats!

  10. Devon Avatar

    My son is 8 months old and hasn't had a single drop of formula! I'm so proud of this, as no one was really supportive of me breastfeeding. Apparently since I'm a young mom, I wasn't capable of breastfeeding. To this day, I am still being pressured to switch to formula by family and friends. I plan to provide my son with breast milk until at least 24 months-even if I have to pump and put it in a sippy.

  11. Eva R Avatar
    Eva R

    P.S. When I started to introduce "milk" to her, she would only take goats milk. It is easier to digest and is the closest thing to breast milk.

    P.P.S. BEAUTIFUL picture of you with baby. You look stunning 🙂

  12. Eva R Avatar
    Eva R

    I exclusively breastfed my daughter for 21 months. She has never tasted, seem, smelled or touched formula. I used to get the free samples in the mail and I would just give them to my mommy friends that wanted it. I started to feed her solid foods at the end of 7 months. She was still nursing every few hours, whenever she wanted really. She still puts her hand in my shirt til this day and is now 2 years old. I'm sure she would still be interested in nursing had I not weaned her. My body was becoming weak, my immune system wasn't up to par and I had found out I was pregnant with our second. I needed my strength back to build a healthy baby. We are due in the spring, and I will gladly breast feed exclusively again 🙂

  13. Gillian Avatar

    I supplemented from Day 2 because he dropped over 9% of his body weight in his first 36 hours and we were worried that he would keep dropping. (He was 7lbs 4oz at birth, so very very average size.) I continued to supplement. He got one bottle per night so Mama could get 3 hours of sleep at one time. Sometimes the bottle was formula, sometimes it was pumped milk. As of about 3 months the bottle was only formula so I could save the pumped milk in case I needed to be away for a non-bedtime feed, I didn't want him getting two bottles of formula in a day. Now, at 12.5 months, he nurses 1-3 times per day, THANKFULLY no nurses at night, but still gets that formula bottle before bed. The only difference is that I switched to organic formula when he was about 5 months old so I feel slightly less guilty. I am going to introduce milk this week so eventually all his bottles will be milk and we will be done with formula.

    So … no, I didn't EXCLUSIVELY breast feed in the most literal sense of the word. I do feel, however, that for all intents and purposes, I EBFed. I am proud of having made it to 1 year and I want to continue the once-a-day nursings for as long as my son will let me.