In the United States, there is a lack of agreement when it comes to breastfeeding in terms of initiation and duration. “Approximately 83% of US infants initiated breastfeeding; however, only a quarter (24.9%) were exclusively breastfed through six months as recommended by clinicians.” The result is that it “minimize[s] the protective effects of breastfeeding on maternal and infant health outcomes.”
So what does this all mean to women, infants, and society as a whole? “Estimates from 2014 show that suboptimal breastfeeding rates cost the US $3 billion in maternal and pediatric medical costs and $14 billion in premature death, a costly expenditure that could be offset by increasing the number of women who breastfeed in accordance with national recommendations.” So it is important to explore ways in preventing early breastfeeding cessation.
“In 2010, an estimated 6% of infants born to women less than 20 years old were exclusively breastfed at six months, nearly half of the rate for infants born to women 30 years or older (17.9%).” I was one of the women in the 17.9%. There are many reasons why women stop exclusively breastfeeding, such as “physical discomfort associated with lactation” and the “overall lack of intention to breastfeed resulting from plans to return to work”.
Well this is my personal story…
Have you heard of exclusive breast pumping? It’s what I did for about the first month of my son’s life. I felt very alone in the process but had a shimmer of hope when I finally stumbled across the phrase “exclusive breast pumping”. I thought to myself, “Oh, this is actually a thing! Maybe I can really do this!” Of course, it wasn’t by choice.
First, there was the problem with my son latching on. Second, it was because I became so obsessive about knowing exactly how much milk he was getting and making sure it totaled to at least 25 ounces per day.
What made me become so obsessive? He was losing weight and had not gotten back up to his birth weight. We were going in for weight checks at the doctor’s office every week. And every week that the number on the scale didn’t climb, I deflated. I mean, I had tried so hard that week! “Studies have estimated 8-16% of women will have depression—with the majority of diagnoses occurring during childbearing years.”
He was getting the 25 ounces. I did the whole long process every feeding – try to latch, nope not going to happen, heat up the stored breast milk to bottle feed, now sit and pump for 20 minutes, store milk, clean pump, rinse and repeat. IT. WAS. EXHAUSTING. And what did I have to show for it? A disappointed doctor telling me to drink more water and that my baby was going to be diagnosed “failure to thrive”.
So now that I’ve painted that picture for you, let me paint the picture of my “tracking” system. During that month, you would always find a little piece of paper and pencil at the edge of my kitchen counter, right next to all those drying bottles. And on that paper, I religiously wrote how much milk I pumped and how much milk my son drank. Throughout the day I was constantly adding numbers up in my head. “Oh goodness, it’s already 1:00PM, has he taken at least 12 ounces so far?” And “Ahh, I’m behind on pumping! I’m not making enough to keep up. I can’t even produce enough to start building a supply for when I go back to work!” And the dreaded, “Crap, I didn’t write my numbers down. How much did he drink?”
And that’s why I wished that I had a way to track all my numbers on my phone. It was always with me so I could have entered my numbers in wherever I was feeding or pumping. And I didn’t like all those little pieces of paper cluttering up my counter so I would throw them away after a couple of days – which meant I lost the old data. If I stored it in on my phone, I could quickly see my history and maybe even chart the progress.
And that’s why we created the ThriveBaby app. But we wanted it to be so much more than just tracking ounces of milk. We wanted it to allow parents to set goals and see how their baby was progressing, track activities like tummy time and naps, document wet and dirty diapers (these are all things the doctor asks about!), and be connected with a strong social network of friends and other experienced parents.
Wallenborn, T., J., Joseph, Anny-Claude, & Whitney. (2018, November 01). Prepregnancy Depression and Breastfeeding Duration: A Look at Maternal Age. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jp/2018/4825727/