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The Disadvantages of Prolonged Breastfeeding

by
author image Rachel Pancare
Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.
The Disadvantages of Prolonged Breastfeeding
Prolonged breastfeeding can eventually affect a woman's ability to feel independent. Photo Credit Liquidlibrary/liquidlibrary/Getty Images

Most new mothers have heard about the benefits of breastfeeding. In addition to helping you bond with your infant, breastfeeding is a powerful way to protect your baby from illness, especially during the first six months. Breast milk contains nutrients for growth and antibodies to fight disease. Despite its many benefits, some mothers find that prolonged breastfeeding eventually has some disadvantages, including limitations on a mother's schedule and lifestyle, a baby's dependence on the breast, pain from first teeth, critical public opinion and effects on the menstrual cycle. For these and other reasons, some mothers choose to wean their babies after a certain amount of time.

Lack of Freedom

Breastfeeding is an enormous commitment. Mothers who breastfeed have accepted the challenge in exchange for all the potential health benefits for their infants. But after a period of time, breastfeeding can begin to hinder a mother's lifestyle and schedule beyond what feels manageable. Planning around your baby's feedings, fitting in pumping sessions, wearing nursing bras and pads, remembering to pack your nursing cover and all the other inconvenient elements of breastfeeding may eventually influence a mother's decision to wean her baby.

Some mothers have been unable to attend events or have had difficulty returning to work. Some have had to change their diets or monitor the products they use on their skin. Some simply find that their baby is so dependent on the breast that he won't take a bottle from another caregiver. It is important to remember that any amount of breastfeeding has benefited your infant. So if you feel ready to regain some independence in your life, you may decide to end your nursing relationship.

Pain

Pain is another disadvantage to prolonged breastfeeding for some mothers. As much as nursing is a loving, bonding experience for many women, it can also be challenging for those who experience physical difficulties. From sore nipples to cracks and cuts, engorgement, blocked ducts, mastitis, thrush and vasospasm, breastfeeding can bring on a variety of painful conditions that eventually cause mothers to wean their babies. As explained by KidsHealth.org, pain is often a result of a poor latch. But even after women have resolved latching issues, they may find that discomfort continues. Women who breastfeed past the first six months also discover that their babies begin to grow teeth. Babies may bite down while nursing, which can become unbearable and cause a mother to decide to end breastfeeding.

Infertility

According to lactation consultant Becky Flora, writing for Breastfeed-Essentials.com, some mothers may not get their period for weeks, months or even years while still breastfeeding. Even if periods return, they may be irregular if a mother continues to nurse. Some women may consider this a benefit, but others, especially those who wish to conceive again quickly, may want their regular menstrual cycles to return. In the "Health" magazine article "Breast-Feeding or Fertility: A Tough Choice for Older Mothers," Erica Kain explains that "high prolactin (the hormone that causes lactation) levels have a lot to do with the continued suspension of ovulation." Older mothers may be particularly concerned with becoming fertile again if they are looking to have another baby. Since prolonged breastfeeding can delay ovulation, mothers desiring consecutive pregnancies may wish to stop.

Public Opinion

While many women do not worry about others' opinions, some may be affected by the judgments of those around them, particularly family and friends. Breastfeeding has become widely accepted, even in public places. However, a segment of the population finds breastfeeding past a certain age to be inappropriate. For instance, some people believe that if a child is walking, talking and able to feed himself, he should no longer be nursing. It can feel uncomfortable to breastfeed your child when other people are critical. Some women may have trouble dealing with others' reactions and may eventually feel that this is a reason to stop breastfeeding.

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