I want to say upfront that I’m not writing this in order to pass judgement on those who chose not to breastfeed (and certainly not on those rare women who cannot breastfeed). I just want to talk about the greenest, healthiest, cheapest and easiest way to feed your baby, for those of you who are still working out what you want to do.
My mom claimed that she had no trouble breastfeeding her children, and had no need of a lactation consultant or any advice. For all of the real women out there, I urge you to discuss nursing with any women you know who have nursed, with your doctor/midwife, and when you have your baby, with a lactation consultant. Also, check out a La Leche League meeting, even if you are still pregnant. There is loads of information and support there.
For most women, especially most women in industrialized, first world countries, there is a learning curve to breastfeeding. Its hard to get the baby in the right position, you’re not sure how to get them to latch on properly, it can hurt (it hurts more for some women than it does for others, it didn’t hurt too bad with me, for example, but I have friends who described excrutiating pain). But everyone tells you to hang in there for three weeks before you decide to give up, and they’re totally right. Three weeks seems to be the magic number, everything seems to fall into place after that.
All of the sudden, it just becomes the easiest thing ever. I’m always amazed to hear women say, “breastfeeding was just too hard”. Whats hard about it? If given the choice when my son starts crying for food, do I want to get up, walk into the kitchen, warm up water, measure out formula, mix the formula, make sure its not too hot, then feed him, or do I just want to pull my boob out and stick it in his mouth. Hmmmm. Choice number two seems a lot easier to me. And when I’m going out with my baby somewhere, I’ve got enough things to cart around. I don’t want to be bringing bottles and crap too. Afterall, I have to carry around my boobs no matter what.
A lot of women are aprehensive about breastfeeding in public, and I can sympathize. At first, I went into bathrooms or tried to hide under a blanket too. But eventually, I figured out how to keep pretty well covered up just by selecting certain clothing and holding my son a certain way. Do people know what I’m doing? Probably. But who cares? They can’t see anything, and if they think there is something obscene about feeding a baby, they are a pervert who needs to seek mental help and not push their repressed or guilty negativity on me and my son. Those perverts are the ones who need to hide themselves away from society, not us mothers who are simply feeding our babies the healthiest food available to them.
Ease of use is probably my favorite thing about breastfeeding, but there are lots of other benefits. First and foremost, you would have to be blind, deaf and living under a rock to not know that breastmilk is the best food for your baby. Just nutritionally speaking, there is nothing on this planet that is better for babies. In fact, numerous studies have linked formula to adverse health conditions such as asthma. Breastmilk, on the other hand, has been linked to nothing but improved health. I’m sure you’ve been inudated with information about it. If not, you can surely find information on it anywhere where you can find information about being pregnant or raising a child. Its everywhere. And with all the benefits of breastmilk I have read about, I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t be drinking it. Seriously. The stuff is uber good for you. Especially if you are a baby.
Not to mention, breastfeeding helps you to lose the baby weight. It takes a lot of energy to make milk, which is why you have to eat more calories to maintain your milk production. If you have a lot of baby weight to lose (like I do, 50 down, thirty more to go) you could, say, only add 400 extra calories to your daily diet, instead of the recommended 500, and watch the weight drop off. The only time you will eat more than usual and still lose weight is during nursing. Or if you have some sort of terminal disease. I think we’d all rather nurse.
Furthermore, has anyone looked at the price of formula lately? Its outrageously expensive. Especially when you consider that there is a free alternative hanging off your chest. Did I mention that alternative is better for the baby than formula is?
Breastfeeding is awesome! I love it! Its a nice way to bond with and cuddle with my son, its the easiest and cleanest way to feed him, and at night, when he wakes up to eat, all I have to do is scoot him over, latch him on, and fall back asleep. Easy as pie, doesn’t take more than a minute. Thanks to breastfeeding and cosleeping (I’ll write about that later), I’ve been getting pretty much a full nights sleep every night since my son was two months old.
If nothing else, breastfeeding is super green, because theres no food thats more local than the milk strait from the tap.
Of course, going back to work can be challenging to breastfeeding. Employers don’t always make it easy for you to pump, it can be difficult carting all the stuff for a pump around, and there’s no garunteeing that you will be able to pump as much as your baby needs (I can’t. A pump is not as efficient at removing the milk from your breasts as a baby is, so you don’t get as much out with the pump. Also, your milk production works on a supply and demand basis, and your body may adjust to making less during the work day, as mine has done. We supplement with formula while he is in daycare during the day). I encourage you to work through it. I work through it because I know if I stop nursing, I’m going to have to cut a lot of calories out of my diet to lose the rest of this baby weight (and I love to eat). Also, I like the time I spend with my son while nursing.
Here in Colorado, Gov. Ritter recently passed a law saying that employers have to provide a place other than a bathroom stall for nursing mothers to pump. Check the laws in your state, there may be something similar. If nothing else, continue nursing in the evenings. Nursing is a special time between you and your baby, and it provides not only nutritional benefits, but also emotional benefits.
Well, it took me all day to write this post today, because I’ve been very busy at work. Now its time for me to go and pick up my son from day care, so I can “feed him the boobie” as we like to say around my home. If you have anything to add about breastfeeding, post it in the comments!