As a nurse practitioner and mother of three, few things stand out more than breastfeeding when I reflect on my motherhood journey. It is hands down one of the most rewarding yet most challenging experiences ever. This is doubly true in the beginning. Oh Lord, how I thought that I would not make it. Oh, how I contemplated giving up a million times! Oh, how discouraging it was when the thought of latching brought tears to my eyes. I am telling you, pregnancy was a breeze compared to the early days of breastfeeding. It’s no wonder that those of us who were born during the periods of the formula uprising likely dined on Enfamil or Similac! Nevertheless, I persevered. Below, you will see my top 3 reasons why.
1. I believed in the benefits for my babies. Breast milk is the most ideal nutrition for a baby because it comes from you and it contains EVERYTHING that a baby needs for the first 6 months of life. The composition of breast milk even changes to meet the baby’s needs. How amazing is that! Also, breast milk contains antibodies (protective blood proteins that help your body fight infections) that help your baby build immunity (ability to resist infection and disease). Breastfed babies are less likely to have infections such as ear infections, upper respiratory infections, and more! I breastfed (and by breastfeed I am talking about through latching and pumping for a bottle) my oldest son for 9 months before weaning him. I continued to pump and he was able to get breast milk until he was over a year old. He has never had an ear infection. He is my child that has been sick the least of all my children through the years. I attribute some of this to breastfeeding. The benefits can go on and on but these are the ones that meant the most to me.
2. I believed in the benefits for me. Have you ever noticed the body of a mom who is breastfeeding? For many moms, things just seem to fall back into place. The “baby fat” isn’t quite as noticeable. In addition to helping you lose weight (not all women lose weight), breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of postpartum depression, may delay the return of your monthly cycle and my personal favorite, reduce the risk of diseases such as ovarian and breast cancer. Breastfeeding can also help lower your risk of developing conditions such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and high blood pressure. I am a witness here! My blood pressure was much better when I was breastfeeding! Amazing right?
3. It is cost-effective. Have you seen how expensive formula is? Peruse the aisle the next time you are in the store just to check it out and then do a quick calculation of what it may cost to go through two cans of formula powder or six containers of ready to feed formula in a week or so. It can add up quickly! Now, I would be leaving out the obvious if I didn’t mention that though breastfeeding is a definite cost-saving, it is not always a time saver. So it is up to the families to do what works for you! I did love the idea that we were saving money as long as I breastfed and even when I supplemented.
These things are not to say breastfeeding doesn’t have challenges because it definitely does. My middle child was not the best breastfeeder. I attribute a lot of this to the fact that he had pathological jaundice (a condition where yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes happen within 24 hours of birth due to increased bilirubin levels which could be caused by liver disease) as a newborn and supplementing was encouraged to get him to have more frequent bowel movements while my milk was coming in. Bowel movements and phototherapy (light therapy) are the treatment for this condition and aids in the bilirubin levels going back to normal. In the end, I mainly pumped for him because latching proved counterproductive for us both.
With my youngest, breastfeeding was challenging because she couldn’t seem to get enough milk when she nursed. I mean I could nurse her for an hour and she could have only gotten an ounce! That was so discouraging. My milk supply suffered and I had to pump in order to be sure she was adequately fed and to help increase my supply. However, despite all the ups and downs of my breastfeeding journey, I am thankful for the opportunity to have done it. And though I sigh deeply sometimes at the thought, if I had to do it all over again, I would. Oh, but don’t get any ideas! Our infant years are behind us, we are happily and gratefully retired.
August is National Breastfeeding Month! A time to celebrate with families and to promote awareness. Breastfeeding can provide an inexplicable bonding between mom and baby. Not to mention comes in handy in the midnight hours when you can feed without getting out of bed. If you are in awe of how the body works like me, you may find yourself completely fascinated with how your body can adapt and create food for another human. God’s design is amazing!
High five to all the breastfeeding moms and aspiring breastfeeding moms out there. Hang in there as long as you can and try not to feel guilty when you need to let it go! Every bit of what you do for your baby is wonderful. High five to all the moms who chose not to breastfeed or cannot breastfeed. I am sure you made the best decision for you and your baby and you should stand firm in that! My advice to all moms who want to breastfeed is to give it a thorough try and get positive support. My advice to all moms who are not sure about breastfeeding or who do not want to breastfeed is to also give it a try. Even a day or two benefits the baby and you. If you take it one day at a time, you may find that you can make it another day and on and on. Positive support goes a long way! This support can come in the form of support groups, lactation consultants and nurses, other moms who have been where you are and your partner. Get it how you can! Above all, I know we often hear breast is best but really, fed is best! Do what you have to do!