Setting realistic breastfeeding goals

According to a 2016 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services, four out of every five infants born in 2013 started to breastfeed at birth. Half of these babies were still breastfeeding at six months. Nearly one-third were still breastfeeding by their first birthday. While these numbers show that initial breastfeeding rates are high, they also show that a lot of women stop breastfeeding before the (at least) six-month mark that many experts and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. 

The purpose of setting a breastfeeding goal isn’t to make your breastfeeding experience more rigid. It definitely isn’t about making you feel guilty if you aren’t able to meet your goal. Breastfeeding goals are intended to give you some motivation to push through the potentially difficult first few weeks or months of breastfeeding, so that you can breastfeed Baby for at least the minimum recommended time, or longer. 

What makes a good goal?

There are a couple things to consider as you think about your breastfeeding goal.

  • Keep it specific: It’s great if your goal is to breastfeed, but try to include more detail – for how long, exactly?
  • Keep it small: Breastfeeding for a full year would be an amazing accomplishment, and setting this as a goal absolutely works for some women. But for others, even two months of breastfeeding is too overwhelmingly long a goal. Consider your day-to-day life, and try to make a goal that is attainable.
  • Keep it positive: There’s no point in setting a goal that bums you out. Instead of telling yourself that you won’t consider formula until you’ve been breastfeeding for six months, tell yourself that for six months, you’ll give breastfeeding a try.
  • Pass it on: Don’t keep your goal too private. Tell other people you feel comfortable with so that they know how they can best support you, and so that you can reaffirm your goal to yourself. 

What happens if I don’t meet my goal?

If you don’t meet your goal, you should still be incredibly proud of yourself for doing as much as you could to breastfeed Baby. Breastfeeding can be tough, and any breastfeeding is better than none. Staying flexible about your breastfeeding plans will help ensure your peace of mind right now.

What are some ideas for my first goals?

Whether or not you choose to set goals is entirely up to you. If you do decide to set some goals, congratulations! Here are some ideas that you’re free to try on for size.

  • Take a lactation class before Baby arrives
  • Breastfeed within an hour after Baby is born
  • Breastfeed for the first six weeks, two months, six months, etc. 

The best way to ensure that you meet your goals

One of the best things you can do as you start breastfeeding is to get as much support as you need to keep going. Whether it’s a partner, a family member, a friend, a lactation consultant or all four, you should never second-guess reaching out to someone if or when you need their help. Breastfeeding can be tough, especially in the beginning, but if you keep an open mind and allow you and Baby plenty of mistakes, you’ll be able to figure out what’s best for the two of you at any given moment.

  • “Breastfeeding Rates Continue to Rise in the U.S.” CDC. US Department of Health and Human Services, Aug 22 2016. Web. 
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 129(3). Web. Mar 2012.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Breast-feeding tips: What new moms need to know.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Nov 2016. Web.
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