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Blog Archive

Prenatal Education and Premature Weaning

October 2018

Prenatal education on breastfeeding should include preventative measures to help women meet their own breastfeeding goals.  Referral information to lactation consultants, community support groups, and breastfeeding-friendly health professionals can mean the difference between a mother weaning or continuing her breastfeeding journey.

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Varied factors lead to premature weaning from breastfeeding, and as many as 60% of women do not meet their own breastfeeding goals. These factors include lactation issues such as pain caused by sore nipples, engorgement, mastitis, or difficulty for the infant latching correctly; psycho-social issues such as inconvenience, fatigue, embarrassment, and the mother's social support circle not being supportive; and milk supply factors including pumping, leaking, and insufficiency.

A 2013 study by Odom, Li, Scanlon, Perrine, and Grummer-Strawn found that mothers set a prenatal goal of ~8 months of breastfeeding. However, mothers who did not meet their own goals breastfed about 1/2 the intended duration. The authors state, "...the large gap between prenatal expectations and duration outcomes for some mothers suggests barriers (clinically confirmed or perceived) that interfere with breastfeeding as long as they desire”, (pg. e730). Although some of these barriers can be resolved through individualized lactation management, the study found that clinical support alone was "not sufficient for ensuring that mothers meet their desired breastfeeding durations.”

One of the larger issues discussed in the study was the challenge many mothers find with the need to return to work and add effective pumping to their breastfeeding routine. Support for employed mothers should come from the healthcare arena, families, and communities as well as employers. I would add that effective breast pumps should be included, as many of the pumps currently on the market do not work well to build and maintain a sufficient milk supply with the return to the workplace.

This study, like many of its kind, was based in the U.S. Those of you throughout the rest of the globe... what are your experiences in seeing mothers meet their own breastfeeding goals? What factors would you say are involved? What could you do in an effort to prevent premature weaning?

Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, RN, IBCLC, FILCA CHC


Professional Development Educator



Odom, E.C., Li, R., Scanlon, K.S., Perine, C.G., and Grummer-Strawn, L.  (2013).  Reasons for earlier than desired cessation of breastfeeding.  Pediatrics; published online February 18, 2013.  Doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-1295

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Last Updated: September 2018