Why SHOULD you breast-feed?

We often hear from women how hard it is/was to breast-feed. Some of these well-meaning women may have been there themselves, but many never gave it a go OR approached it with little to no knowledge or desire. You can look up the benefits of breast-feeding and any medically based site will tout it's benefits. We all KNOW that breast-feeding your child is the best thing you can do for them, but here's some reasons why you should straight from the mouth of a mother.

Why do I think you might care what I have to say? Well, I've been on BOTH sides of the fence. Actually, I've been on both sides as well as balancing ON the fence. I have only recently been able to come to terms with some of the guilt I feel over my past choices, and I would HATE for any other woman to have to struggle with the guilt I did simply because you, like I, were uninformed.

So, here are my personal reasons on why *I* think *you* should breast-feed your baby(ies).

  1. It is the biological norm- your baby's tummy is designed for consumption of breast-milk. A baby's digestive tract is sensitive and it is susceptible to bacteria. The phrase "breast is best" isn't really the best term, it should be "breast is normal", because it's the STANDARD for optimum infant health.
  2. It's FREE!- When I informed my husband that I would be breast-feeding our son come hell or high water, his reaction was simple "Cool, because formula's freakin' expensive!". It wasn't until I educated him more, during my pregnancy, on the benefits of breast-feeding, and even after watching his son thrive on my milk, that he looked at it for it's many other benefits. To him, in the beginning, it was simply enough that we would save, literally, THOUSANDS of dollars by breast-feeding.
  3. It's easy- it might not always be easy in the beginning, and yes, many mom's DO face hardships with nursing (though many can be avoided with good education on nursing and/or professional help from an LC) but once you've established your nursing relationship, NOTHING is easier than expose breast and attach baby. That's it, you're done! No lugging around powder, sterile water, clean bottles AND a baby! Boobs are attached, portable, and always ready to go!
  4. It's soothing- and not just for baby! Yes, it's true, breast-feeding will calm a fussy baby or whiney toddler like nothing else can, but it is also quite comforting and soothing for mom, both metaphorically as well as literally. When you nurse, you release oxytocin (the feel-good bonding hormone) and seratonin (the sleepy one!) which puts you (and baby) in a state of goo-goo-ga-ga lovey bliss!
  5. It HELPS PPD- Breast-feeding can help keep PPD (Post Partum Depression) away as well as help it to be less severe. In the event that you still experience PPD to the point of needing medication, there are medications you can take while nursing that will not hurt the baby.
  6. It's educational- What? How is breast-feeding educational? Well, let me tell you! When yo breast-feed, other people will inevitably see you doing it! If you have older children, they will undoubtedly be around as you feed the baby, and if they are anything like mine, they will ask questions! This is the PERFECT time to share the beauty of breast-feeding with your children. Remember, they are the future! You can also educate OTHERS by breast-feeding. If you are breast-feeding in public, there may likely come a time when someone confronts you about it (either positively or negatively) and BOTH circumstances can prove benefitial to their breast-feeding education! If it's a negative reaction (usually pertaining to whether you are in the right for breast-feeding in public) you can give them a legal education, as almost every state has a law for breast-feeding mothers, and to my knowledge, NONE have a law AGAINST it! I carry a copy of my state's legislation in my wallet. If it is a POSITIVE encounter, you can perhaps tell an inquisitive person WHY you breast-feed, encourage them to keep going (if THEY are breast-feeding) and all in all, give them exposure to breast-feeding which is helping to remind people it's NORMAL.
  7. It's fun- it really is! Especially as your child grows, breast-feeding can become acrobatic and humorous! As you gaze down at your little one suckling away at your breast, you get smiles, giggles, and even the occasional game of peek-a-boo as your baby hides in your breast. Sometimes, the world just melts away as you enter your own little world.
  8. It eases baby to sleep- Instead of resorting to possibly damaging methods like CIO (Cry It Out) or having to spend hours rocking, singing or DRIVING to get your baby to go to sleep, you can simply lay with and nurse your child into a peaceful state of slumber. Granted, all babies are different, and what works for one might not work for all, but I have yet to meet a breast-feeding mother who couldn't simply lay with and nurse her little one to sleep, even into the difficult i'llkickandscreamtogetmywayandavoidbedtime toddler years.
  9. It's bonding- You hear it all the time, and if you are or have been a formula/bottle feeder, it may jab you the wrong way, putting you on the defense to say "I'm BONDED with my baby! You can bottle-feed and bond ALSO!". Well, no one said you CAN'T bond with a baby despite bottle-feeding. The difference is HOW you bond and how WELL you bond. Breast-feeding gives you skin-to-skin contact, something very essential to newborn bonding. There is no other choice, if you breast-feed, you WILL be skin-to-skin with baby. Also, your breasts are attached to you, meaning there is NO option for NOT holding your baby when you feed them. Even when laying down, you are in contact with your baby. I know many bottle-feeding mothers that SWEAR they have never bottle propped, but truth be told, you WILL do it at some point, it's undeniable. It doesn't mean you ALWAYS bottle prop, but you will be much more inclined to do so, especially when you're trying to get things done and the darn baby just doesn't understand you can't drop everything for them right now! And let's not forget, baby's do learn how to hold bottles, and while they can also hold breasts, they can't exactly do it ALL on their own! Feeding is a very important time for baby, it is important that they are held, so even if you aren't nursing, please, hold your baby.
  10. Your child will thank you- I have actually thanked my mother for breast-feeding me. I think it is so wonderful that she made the little sacrifices in order to provide me with the best start in life. She breast-fed me EXCLUSIVELY for my first year of life. I am so happy to know that my mom held me and cuddled me and comforted me, just like I do my son, while also providing me with the most nutritious food for me! I just recently spoke with my friend who discovered she was bottle-fed and when she asked her mom why, she said she just "wasn't comfortable doing that." My friend's response was "Gee, THANKS, mom!" (obviously she was being sarcastic). If your child is still young, they will thank you each time they nurse, just by gazing at you with that intensity, rubbing your breast as they fall to sleep. If your child is a toddler nursing, they may thank you verbally, with something like "Thanks for giving me your yummy milk, mommy!". Even if you're never given a verbal thanks, the appreciation will be there, at some point. You will know, just watching your child thrive off the milk you provide for them, that they are thankful. They are thankful they have a mommy who cares, a mommy who loves them, a mommy who sacrifices to give them the norm, the standard, the best.
If you choose not to breast-feed, I hope that you (and your child) never suffer any guilt from the decision. I say that from the bottom of my heart, having been in a position of regret. If you choose to breast-feed, make sure you have a system of support. Educate yourself in pregnancy by reading books like "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" (put out by LLL) or "So That's What They're For", join a group like La Leche League (membership is not required to attend meetings or even borrow from the library) and make sure if birthing in the hospital you have in your birth plan that you wish to see an LC immediately following birth. Arming yourself with knowledge PRIOR to having your baby will help you feel more confident and will also help you counter any difficulties that may arise early. It is a selfless act to breast-feed, and your baby will benefit greatly from your choice to do so!

(cross posted with http://savebirth.blogspot.com)

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