Friday, February 22, 2013

Motherhood Confessions: I Love Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant, breastfeeding for me (like many women) was not even a question. I don't entirely know why, but it was one of the few aspects of baby-related care that I didn't even think twice about. Sure, I was worried that - for whatever reason - I wouldn't be able to do it, but I used the phrase "I'm planning to breastfeed" as a placeholder for "That kid will be on the boob the second she's born".

minutes after london claire was born.
literally, minutes.
amazing doesn't even begin to describe it.
My heart breaks for those that want so badly to breastfeed and can't, for a variety of reasons. I now know, thanks to the breastfeeding group I'm a part of, that there are many many factors that can prevent / inhibit the ability to breastfeed and my heart really goes out to you mamas who experience any / all of those. I truly admire your strength and tenacity to keep going, or to know when the right time is to seek other options.

We are so blessed that breastfeeding came relatively easy for both of us. There were days (still are!) that it hurt like hell. I've had to combat supply issues London's appetite with some herbal supplements and depleting my precious freezer stash. Getting a pumping schedule down when I returned to work wasn't exactly a walk in the park. But really, when I see what other women have gone through, we've gotten off easy.

Of course, I didn't know that would be the case going into it. Nor did I know half the battles that breastfeeding mothers face. So why was I so adamant about breastfeeding? After six eight* months and zero ounces of formula, I'll tell you why I think I made the right decision for my family, and why I'd happily make it again if we have another child.

*sidebar: how sad is it that I started this post TWO MONTHS AGO?!

So Why Do I Breastfeed?
  • Intimacy It is instant, and consistent, bonding with your baby. They put London on my chest immediately after she was born. IMMEDIATELY. Cord still attached, covered in ... stuff ... naked as a little jaybird (the cutest little naked jaybird you ever did see, of course). They delivered her from my body, laid her on my chest and she was silent and calm. When I placed her near my breast she immediately knew what to do. And from that moment on, it has been a solace for both of us. It's a time that no one else gets to share, and it's so intimate that I feel the urge to just stroke her soft skin or kiss her hands & face constantly. 
  • Comfort Those first few weeks when I was exhausted and hormonal and had not a clue what I was doing, I could always count on the early morning nursing sessions to cheer me up (read: allow me the emotional release I needed to sob great big alligator tears onto my sweet baby's head). Holding that sweet tiny baby, watching her drift off to sleep "milk drunk" with a half smile, and knowing that you are sustaining that sweet life all by yourself - there is nothing like that feeling. I would just sit in the recliner and weep over how wonderful it was. Now that she's older, that intimacy continues, as she looks up at me and strokes my face or hair, like she's just making sure I'm still there. Heart. Melting. It's extremely calming for London as well. If she's hurt or sick (ie: just got a vaccination), or way over-tired, sometimes nursing is the only thing that calms her down.
milk drunk, sleepy smiles
  • Weight Loss It is a great way to burn calories. Supposedly you burn an extra 500 calories a day while breastfeeding. Well, London takes 28oz of milk at daycare plus 3-4 nursing sessions, so by my logic, I'm burning like an extra 1,000 calories. At least I eat like I am. I eat more than I ever have in my life, and I'm 12 pounds lighter than before I got pregnant. Did I mention I have not worked out one bit since the baby was born? I was more active at 9+ months pregnant than I am now. And yet all my pants are too big! Of course the downside of this is that when I stop breastfeeding, it's all going to pile back on. Which is why I'm just planning to nurse her through college.
  • Cost It's free! A girlfriend of mine had to stop breastfeeding around 6 weeks and she said she spends about $50 a week in formula. That means, to date, I've saved my family nearly $2,000 by breastfeeding. My breast pump was a gift from my very generous mother, so if you tally up the costs of freezer bags, breast pads, and other nursing accoutrements, it's probably less than $100 total. That is insane.

    Unrelated to breastfeeding, but we didn't have to buy diapers until London was six months old, thanks to the generosity of friends and family. Needless to say, this having-a-kid thing has been pretty inexpensive so far. You know, minus that whole daycare-payment-that's-the-size-of-a-mortgage thing.
  • Convenience I always have London's food with me. It's always ready to go. No heating water, pre-distributing formula powder into tiny little tupperware and finding space for them in our already-too-full diaper bag. No worrying about throwing out a bottle if she doesn't drink it that day. I don't even know all the ins and outs to formula, but I am certain I would've forgotten to bring it somewhere about 4,506 times by now. Need proof? The other day, I forgot to bring bottles to daycare. You know, my child's sustenance that I work so hard each day to provide? Yeah. Left it in the fridge. Good work, mom. It's also way more convenient to travel while breastfeeding ... minus the part where they make you taste your breastmilk to prove it's not explosive. Yeahhhh that happened.
  • Health Benefits I'm not a doctor, but I've had plenty of them tell me how good breastfeeding is for my baby. When she had her first ear infection and was so miserably sick, the pediatrician told me, as he was writing a prescription for an antibiotic and I was nursing my girl, "You're already doing the best thing you can for her". What an awesome reassurance! When she was pretty new, this article was shared with me and I've clung to some of the statistics like a life preserver when things got rough. My favorites? "By breastfeeding for at least three months, you have given your baby a 40% reduction in the risk of asthma if you have a family history of asthma" (which I do - both my brother and sister have it) and "By giving nothing but your breastmilk for the first four months, you have given your baby a strong protection against ear infections and respiratory tract diseases for a whole year". There are a ton of additional health benefits, a lot of which are cited in that article.
chubby baby arms from a healthy happy baby
  • I'm Selfish Breastfeeding gives me and the baby an excuse to get away. When we're at a family gathering and things are just a little too loud and chaotic, we get to dart away to a quiet room and have time to decompress. If I want to steal her back from a well-meaning family member who's been holding her too long for my liking, I tell them she has to eat and no one (especially men) asks any questions. Even at work, I get to spend 30 minutes 3 times a day thinking about my baby. Especially when the baby is tiny, people want to hold him / her constantly and it can be a nice break for the new mother for awhile. But then, it's like "Hey, that's my kid, give it back" and breastfeeding totally gives you the right to do that. 
I hope this can be an inspiration to future mothers - I'm happy to talk about the benefits of breastfeeding and the challenges and joys you might face. I also have a great group of women in the Triangle who meet as a breastfeeding support group, if anyone is interested.
the sweetest moments are when she falls asleep in my arms
skin to skin
each time it happens, I worry it could be the last
so I hold her for just a few minutes longer than I should.
I'm sure there are thousands of other reasons that I, or billions of other women, breastfeed. What are some of your favorite reasons?

And for moms who choose formula, I'd love to know your reasons for making that decision! I know it's not always a choice, but I also know that some women are just as adamant about NOT breastfeeding as I was about doing it - so if you're one of those women, please chime in and educate me!


  1. Sigh. Yes, to all of the above. I knew our last time was our last time (long story, coming soon) and I cried and cried. It's just such a sweet time together and there's nothing like it.

  2. I miss breastfeeding :( I did exclusively for 2 months, but we learned that he needed way more than I was able to produce at one sitting. I tried doing both formula feeding and breastfeeding but I just dried up without all the stimulation I didn't have, plus I had a lousy pump. Hopefully if we have another one, I will try and breastfeed exclusively,

  3. I LOVED it! We were also blessed with a really easy (well, not always, but, you know how that goes!) bfing experience. I had a great support of twin moms who were successful with it and told me the good bad and ugly before I started. I was so happy that I was able to for 5 months! Glad your still at it :)