Breastfeeding a baby is a very personal choice. It’s something that every mom needs to decide on her own and figure out what works for her as parent, as well as for her entire family.
I breastfed all three of my children and do think it’s one of the greatest things a mother can do for her child, but I also know the very real struggles it entails and can understand why some women choose not to do it (or simply cannot do it).
This post is not here to discourage or bash you for breastfeeding or not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, but there are times when it’s not so wonderful and I want to shed some light around the real hard truths and numerous benefits that come with breastfeeding.
Read MORE: The Breastfeeding Anthology: 16 Nursing Moms Tell-All
Breastfeeding for the first-time.
As a new mom I remember feeling a sense of pride, knowing that I was nursing my baby and giving him the best food he could possibly have. After all, the “breast is best” slogan was everywhere: from doctors’ offices to baby books. That’s what our breasts were there for after all.
But then I think back to all the pressure it added. The recommended feeding schedule: Breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months; Breastfeed in total for at least 1 year.
Even when I was exhausted, overwhelmed, losing sleep feeding baby hour after hour every day. I had to keep going. But I couldn’t just stop and give baby formula…because then I was losing and would have to admit to using formula. Maybe a warped way of thinking, but I had put this label into my head…if I didn’t follow the “rules” I was somehow losing and my baby wouldn’t be getting the proper nutrients.
But of course, this is just my story. And while I decided to carry on and keep at it, looking back now, I know that if I hadn’t gone for as long as I did, it would still be okay. Because not everything about breastfeeding is best for everyone.
The benefits of breastfeeding
If you’re a first-time mom or mom who is considering breastfeeding for the first-time, you might be honestly asking WHY is breastfeeding your baby so important? And it’s a good question to ask. Below are some pros we gathered to help you make an informed decision.
Breastfeeding has amazing health benefits for baby
The most obvious reason to breastfeed your baby is this one. It provides an incredible amount of health benefits for your baby now, and in the future. Your breast milk is made up of the perfect mix of antibodies, vitamins, fluids, and fat to help with your baby’s growth so they stay on track in their development as a baby. It even changes as they get older so that they get exactly what they need at all times! If your baby gets sick, your milk even changes to help them fight it off and get better quickly. It contains the perfect mix of substances to help fight off diseases and infections quickly to keep baby healthy. These substances, unfortunately, cannot be reproduced by man and are only available through mom’s milk.
Breastfeeding is more affordable.
While this is not THE reason mothers choose to breastfeed their baby, it is a huge benefit to breastfeeding your precious little one. When you add up the cost of bottles, formula, water, electricity, and any cleaning supplies you need, it can get costly! Also, if you buy any extra tools to help make transport easy, that’s even more you’re spending. But with breastfeeding, it’s essentially free. The only thing you need to do is make sure you’re well fed to pass on those nutrients to baby. If you’re a working mom, you may need to purchase a pump and bottles, but you don’t have to purchase the formula and that alone can save a huge chunk of money that first year baby is born!
Breastfeeding can be much more convenient.
I touched slightly on this in the last point, but it is usually super convenient to breastfeed your baby. Depending how comfortable you are, you can just stick baby to the boob while you’re out at the store or seeing family, with no preparation required. No need to comfort your screaming baby while you get a bottle ready because it’s always available! Not to mention how much easier it is at night when you’re a mom zombie trying to care for your child. It’s so much easier to pull the boob out then to prepare a bottle while they scream and you’re half asleep. All around, it’s so much nicer to always have the food supply there and ready to go.
Breastfeeding creates more bonding experiences.
Now, I’m not saying that bottle fed babies don’t get bonding experiences, they do. But, there’s a different opportunity for bonding with breastfeeding then there is when they’re bottle fed. They come into this big scary world with new sounds, smells, and sights. They’re terrified. The bond of mom and baby being close helps them to make the transition feeling warm, safe, and protected. Bottle fed babies can get this bond too, just not in the same way. They aren’t quite as close when they’re literally attached to you while they feed. It creates a closer connection and bond.
Breastfeeding helps mom lose weight faster.
This is probably one of my favorite benefits of breastfeeding. It helps mom lose weight faster because she burns calories while she feeds. It also shrinks the placenta at a quicker rate, delays the return of mom’s cycle to keep iron in the body, and keeps mom’s bones nice and strong. All of these things put together on top of the fact mom HAS to eat healthy for her baby, and she essentially loses weight much faster when breastfeeding her baby.
Cons: The Disadvantages of Breastfeeding
And with all the amazing benefits that come with breastfeeding, so are the challenges. It is a hard truth to admit, but many mothers cannot successfully breastfeed. And those that do, face the daily challenge of being the only one who can comfort baby or a sense of overwhelm from the many demands it places on mom. Below are the top disadvantages breastfeeding can have.
Breastfeeding can be physically challenging for mom.
While there are all these amazing benefits for both mom and baby, it can also be very physically challenging. There’s tongue ties, lip ties, nipple pain, mastitis, and other things to worry about. When your milk comes in, it can be very painful and not everyone can handle that. They’d rather just bottle feed, and that’s okay! It’s hard to make sure you’re doing it right especially when you add in that you need to make sure you’re producing enough milk, not too much, and that baby is gaining weight appropriately. It’s a hard experience to go through for some women and it’s completely understandable.
Breastfeeding can only be done by mom.
Breastfeeding is absolutely exhausting sometimes – especially in the first weeks of life. They’re feeding around the clock and you just need a break. You want to be able to sit without a baby attached to you, or even take a shower or take a nap undisturbed. Those things can be very hard to do when mom is literally the only person that can feed the baby. Sure, she can try and pump some milk but that may not always be possible, especially if you want to avoid nipple confusion in the first few weeks.
Breastfeeding can make it impossible to get baby to take a bottle.
A breastfed baby is going to LOVE her boob, and some babies refuse anything else. They don’t want a bottle, plain and simple. If mom wants a date night or send her for an overnight with her grandmother, it’s just not possible while she’s breastfeeding. The only way she is getting away is if she leaves as soon as baby is fed, and comes back before she is hungry again.
Breastfeeding can be hard to deal with while in public.
Some women are fantastic about this and have no shame at all. But for others, it’s humiliating to even think about breastfeeding in front of others. There’s people out there who will glare, tell you to do that in the bathroom, or that it’s disgusting you’d be doing that. There are some real nasty people out there! Some use a cover, but not everyone is comfortable to do it at all. They’ll wait til they can get to their car or somewhere else to do it away from others. This makes it hard when a baby is hungry and wants it NOW. And again you may be nursing a baby who just refuses to take a bottle.
Now that you have some idea on the real truths of breastfeeding, I hope it will propel you towards the direction that is best for your family and baby. Whether that’s breastfeeding for the first few months, pumping, supplementing with formula or doing the bottle all the way. Whatever you decide, you are making the right decision!You may also like:
Ana, a mom to three rambunctious little boys, has supported thousands of women throughout their pregnancy and motherhood journey since 2012 as a prenatal and postpartum educator at MommysBundle.com.