“I’m going to exclusively breastfeed for 12 months”
This is an excellent long-term breastfeeding goal. It is not, however, a fair or realistic goal. Like many other difficult long term goals, it is very important to have short term goals or benchmarks to get through. Mini goals means mini successes! Mini successes equals exponentially building confidence.
Here are the goals we recommend here at Balanced Breastfeeding:
Two weeks. Your first breastfeeding goal is two weeks. Can you survive 14 days of breastfeeding without quitting for 14 days?
You did it! Hooray!! Ok, now move your goal to six weeks (four more weeks). Can you survive breastfeeding without quitting for 28 days?
Yeah you can! Let’s up the ante a little. Your next goal is three months, that’s 45 days from now. Think you can do that?
Sweet you made it to 12 weeks! But damn. You’re back to work now. Right when you were getting a handle on things. (Angry about the shitty maternity leave our country has? Me too, but doesn’t change anything now. Guess we’ve got to fight for our daughters right to actually spend her maternity leave out of the crisis phase of motherhood)
You’re back to work. Hang in there working and pumping for at least six weeks ok? 45 days. You just did 45 days. You can do it again. You know you can. Plus that kid is so damn cute. It gets better after six weeks of working and pumping. Make it through that and you hit 4.5 months. Start solids and give that six weeks one more time and you hit the glorious halfway point: 6 months.
Sweet! 6 months! You achieved what less than 45% of all moms who started breastfeeding are able to achieve (you don’t blame them at all for quitting, right? This shit is haaaaard).
So what’s next?
Many women say, “my next goal is a year.”
Your next goal is to breastfeed for another six months? That’s 168 days, or 123 more days than your previous mini goals. That’s twice the total length of time you have breastfed to this point.
The problem with setting unrealistic, long-term goals without mini short term goals is that if you fall short of those goals, well then….
You feel like a failure.
So, mama. If you set your sights on day 365 and breastfeeding ends for you two on day 315…are you telling me you will still say, “I am so proud of myself for breastfeeding for ten months!”
Nope. You won’t.
Do you know what you’ll say? “Well, I mean, I didn’t get to a year. I really wanted to breastfeed to a year.”
And then I will lovingly “smack” you across the face and tell you stop being stupid. You and I both know what you have been through. It was impressive. You should be nothing less than completely satisfied and proud of every day you lactated.
So, let’s continue to set some mini goals and celebrate mini successes shall we?
If you have made it to six months, your next stop is nine months.
Once you hit nine months (woohoo!), you will need to start asking yourself some important questions that will help shape the next 3 months.
Many moms don’t think about these things. I am suggesting you stop and ask yourself these questions now.
Does thinking about stopping breastfeeding at 12 months make you so sad you’d rather not think about it? Are you looking forward to weaning?
How do you plan on managing your baby’s increasingly annoying behaviors while breastfeeding?
When do you plan to stop breastfeeding? You want to breastfeed for a year, yes I know, but does that mean you will be DONE on day 365 or start to wean on day 365?
Would you like to stop pumping and continue nursing at some point?
Do you have intentions to nurse into toddlerhood? Cool! Are you ready for what that entails?
We discuss these questions and more at the workshop What’s Next. We take the time to stop, reflect on breastfeeding so far, celebrate meeting short term goals, and think about what’s next. This is also an excellent time to take a fresh look at yourself. What do you need to do to improve your own self-care and happiness? What have you been putting on hold for months or even years as you have been growing and feeding this baby with every cell of your body?
Whether you choose to wean before one, wean at one, or barrel right through that one year goal, be sure that you make that choice consciously and deliberately.