Setting Realistic Breastfeeding Goals
We’ve all set goals before, maybe personal or professional, but can we set goals in our motherhood? What about goals for breastfeeding specifically?
Why is this important for your breastfeeding journey? Outlining your goals and ideals provides a framework to keep you focused and combats the overwhelming idea of breastfeeding long-term with practical steps. Trust me, “winging it” is not a good enough plan.
Let me pause for a second and say that breastfeeding WILL throw you curveballs. We certainly cannot anticipate all of the twists and turns, but having an “end result mindset” will keep you purposefully moving forward through the obstacles you’ll come up against. Also, the key to these goals and ideals is that they are realistic and flexible. Think of them as a guide.
So, where should you start?
First grab some paper because I want you to write these down. Yes, I said write them down. Sorry to be bossy but this is a critical part of goal-setting! Once you jot down these thoughts, place the paper where you will see it daily.
Let’s begin by thinking through your motivation(s) to breastfeed. Be honest. Is it the nutritional and immunological benefits of breastmilk? Is it for the bond? Is it for the weight loss benefits? Or maybe it’s just how you picture yourself in motherhood. There are countless answers here, but note what’s important to YOU.
Next, think about how you can get support to meet your goals. Is your husband a big encourager? Do you have a lactation consultant or postpartum doula to rely on? A best friend who’s successfully breastfed? List these people by name, and make sure they know they’re on your list!
What is your big, long-term, overall goal? If you could just know that you’ll accomplish ___ in nursing your baby, what would that be? Examples: Exclusively breastfeed. Breastfeed for one year. Breastfeed until I go back to work.
Let’s be honest, you’re bound to hit a bump in the road, so how will you feel if your goal isn’t met? And what will you do about it? Disappointment, shame, and sadness are probably among the most common. How will you deal with these emotions? Go ahead and decide now that you will NOT allow your self worth or your motherhood be defined by breastfeeding alone.
Okay, now that you’ve identified your WHY, HOW, & BIG IDEA, let’s dive in a little deeper. For each numbered postpartum stage, jot down your own personal goals and leave room to adjust or add to them later as needed.
**Also, leave a spot for documenting your victories along the way!
- Immediate postpartum phase. This is the first few days to first week after the baby is born. You will likely still be in the hospital or will have just gotten settled back in at home. These goals should be small baby steps. You should operate from a “feed by feed” perspective.
Examples of goals: Learn to get latched correctly each time. Learn the best position for my baby. Nurse as often as possible to help my supply come in and to avoid engorgement.
- Postpartum 2-3 weeks. These goals can come from a “day to day” mindset.
Examples: meet with a lactation consultant to discuss any issues I’m having. Nurse with no or little pain/discomfort. Begin pumping to build a supply.
In my opinion, these first few weeks are the toughest and most trying! Be diligent to seek out help from professionals, have support from friends and family, and be especially kind to yourself during this transition.
- 1-3 Months. You’ll be on a “week by week” mindset. Many moms will find themselves getting into a good routine and putting their baby on more of a schedule by this point. Many will also be going back to work in this timeframe. All of these changes will require you to adjust your goals based on your reality.
Examples: breastfeed while at home and pump while at work. Begin pumping exclusively. Continue to nurse every three hours during the day since the baby is sleeping longer at night.
- 3-6 Months. “Month by month” mindset. Nursing is your new normal! Your baby is likely nursing faster and more efficiently and may be stretching feedings out to every four hours if you’ve begun incorporating solid foods.
Examples: Learn to position my baby differently to account for growth and increasing activity level. Continue pumping to build supply. **Continue doing whatever is working!
- 6-12 Months+. “Month by month” mindset. This is usually the time when you begin to coast. By now you and your baby have established a solid breastfeeding relationship and barring any major upsets, you should be able to nurse as long as you and your baby choose to. Begin thinking about your ideal weaning time.
Are you feeling more prepared yet? Here are some final thoughts to consider as you finish up this goal-setting session:
Expect setbacks. They WILL come, so just count on it now. You might have a relatively “easy” immediate postpartum period and then get hit with something like mastitis during week 3.
Celebrate every single small victory, because they are all leading you to the big victory – your one BIG overall goal you wrote down at the beginning of this exercise. Be sure to document your victories right alongside your goals. This is golden encouragement for later on when you’re in the middle of a rough phase. At every little mile marker you cross, give yourself a pat on the back or maybe even a scoop of ice cream to treat yourself. 😉 You are doing good and hard work!
Keep your long-term goal(s) in the back of your head, but on a day to day basis, operate within the short term, small goals space. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed. Begin by getting through each feed individually. Then when that doesn’t feel so daunting anymore, get through each day. Then, each week and month.
Most importantly, all along the way, remember your WHY. Your own personal WHY is your biggest motivator and will help you stay focused and on track despite the setbacks and hard days. It’s worth it, mama. I promise.
I am cheering you on to meet every single goal, and even if you don’t, just know that regardless you’re getting a big round of applause from me!