If you are pregnant or have had a baby of your own, there is a good chance that breastfeeding has been a subject you have spent time ruminating about. And for good reason. Statistics show that in the past 5 years, incidences of mothers who want to breast feed have been on the rise again; for the first time since the 1970’s. Prior to this time, breastfeeding was a natural and ingrained part of childbirth and delivery and mothers since antiquity, never really explored many other options. As formulas became readily available and fairly inexpensive, mothers began bottle-feeding children out of necessity. This also corresponded with the decline the amount of mothers who stayed home after childbirth. The liberation of women professional and otherwise has brought with it its share of changes in the parenting world. And breastfeeding has definitely been one of those things.
The changes have largely been about attitude. While many working mothers throughout history have wanted to breastfeed their children as well as return to work, they have not been granted as many opportunities to do so. Breastfeeding was damned as one of those indecent events which women should only explore privately. The idea of pumping milk during work or storing bottles in the company refrigerator would not have been accepted at an earlier time in history. Also, paternal instincts were becoming more popularized and it was suddenly more common to see dad changing diapers, wearing the maternal apron and allowing mom more freedom during the first few months after birth. This change in gender roles had many women realizing that bottle-feeding would also ensure that they had a partner in child raising and enhanced the capableness of fathers around the world.
Interestingly, as more moms began to bottle feed, pediatricians and other health organizations began to see first hand the importance of breastfeeding a baby and opted to transition a new style of thinking into the picture based on the naturalness of the procedure. Yes, breastfeeding is natural. In fact, it along with sex, is one of the most natural aspects of humanity. And while they are totally separate from one another, a great big world could not condone breastfeeding due to the chance that the human breast or worse, nipple might be seen in public or at work. This is where much opposition came in. There was a group of mothers who felt sort of old school, that breastfeeding should be done at home while a new group was reevaluating the natural health benefits to breastfeeding and lifting their shirts (discreetly of course) on park benches or in restaurants. Breastfeeding is one of those endless battles in motherhood where the two groups seem to have to agree to disagree.
The bottom line is that today, in 2010, breastfeeding is back by popular demand. A recent survey in the Academy of Obstetrics reports that 2 out of every 3 mothers plans to breastfeed and that often, the third mother decides to try breastfeeding postpartum as well. Perhaps this can be attributed to the saying ‘knowledge is power’ or the financial circumstances that the world is currently in. For more than one reason, breastfeeding is important and beneficial.
Benefits to Breastfeeding
Obviously when it comes to breast or bottle, moms must decide what the benefits are. The health benefits to the baby are numerous. In fact, it seems that nearly every medical condition known to infancy is less common in breastfed babies. This can be attributed to the bounty of antibodies that babies consume in breast milk. A stronger immune system means less everything, from asthma to colds. Also, breast fed babies gain weight more quickly because of the perfect balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in breast milk and have much better chances for remaining at healthy weights throughout life. It seems that breastfeeding reduces many risks of diseases and illnesses in adult hood as well. Essentially, breast fed babies are healthier. Chalk this up to nature’s bounty.
Other benefits of course involve cost. Formulas are expensive. So are bottles and other supplies and the time that they take to care for can really cut into your day. If your baby is having digestive issues, specially designed formulas can drain bank accounts and considering they will be drinking these for quite some time can clearly display the financial benefits to breastfeeding. For mom, breastfeeding helps to regular hormones, results in lesser incidences of post partum depression and helps moms regain pre-baby weights.
There is also an element of ease that comes with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is really easy. Many moms who have both breastfed and bottle fed a baby realized that it was much easier and less time consuming to offer a breast. After all, the milk is always there ready and waiting. At night when baby wakes up, there is no stretch of time it takes to prepare bottles and a baby can easily lie with you to breastfeed before being placed back in their crib. Many breastfed moms sleep with their babies and feel no interruption in sleep. While this is not popular advice by health professionals, there are many, many moms who do this without admitting it.
However, with all the benefits to breastfeeding you have to also realize that for many women it isn’t such a breeze.
Disadvantages of Breastfeeding.
For many moms who desire to breastfeed, the whole thing just doesn’t work out as planned. This can be devastating for the mom who had her heart set on breastfeeding. Realize if you are one of those women, that sometimes things just happen and that your baby will be just as healthy. Whether due to infant problems or nipple problems some women just can’t breastfeed. It can turn painful, they may experience recurrent infections, or the baby may just not be getting enough milk. When things are going wrong, breastfeeding is not only frustrating physically but emotionally as well.
Also, a breastfeeding mom can’t just hand baby off to dad or disappear for the day. Sure, they can pump milk but during the first 3-5 weeks, pediatricians don’t recommend offering a bottle for fear of nipple confusion. This means you are literally tied down to the baby at all times.
There are also the sociological problems associated with breastfeeding as discussed earlier in this article. You may be scorned by other mothers for doing it in public or if you are very modest may be troubled by how, when and where to feed your baby when you are not at home. This can cut into the enjoyment of breastfeeding as well as hinder your desire to go out. Similarly, if you want to return to work, you have to gauge your employer’s reactions to breastfeeding. Although legally you cannot be discriminated against for breastfeeding there may be some at your place of work who have an aversion to it. This can make things slightly complicated for a while.
Another disadvantage is the fact that your body will still belong to someone else, much as it did when you were pregnant. You are encouraged to continuously eat healthily, avoid alcohol at all times, and take strides to not eat things that might upset your baby digestively. If you love your Mexican food, this can make you feel like a prisoner. While this isn’t a big deal, there are many women who are excited about having their body back after delivery and breastfeeding can delay that.
One thing to consider as you ponder breastfeeding is that it is best to not get stuck on one idea. One of the problems with all things involving pregnancy is that there are too many moms, with bit mouths who find it necessary to share every gory detail about their own personal experiences. You never know what the future holds for you. Your best friend may have had some horrific breastfeeding experience and try desperately to turn you off of the idea. Another might think it is the best thing in the world and treat you as if you are a bad mother because you aren’t quite sold on the idea. Then, there is your baby. While some come out and naturally take to the breast, others just plain don’t. Rather than make things miserable for you and your baby you should think from a place of ‘what works for you!’
Keep in mind that you may never breastfeed your first two children only to find that when the third one comes along, you want to try. This doesn’t mean you have favoritism for one over the other. You also may be one of the many women who just aren’t comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding, and this too is nothing to be ashamed of. Steer clear of the lactation consultants who often, in the midst of doing their job, will exert high pressure at a time in your life when it is the last thing you need. If you don’t want to breastfeed, for whatever reason, then just say no. If you want to try it and see how it goes then do so, with the realization that there are other healthy options for you and your family that exist. Every child, pregnancy, family and woman are different and have differing views of breastfeeding as a whole.
You will find that breastfeeding in public can be tricky. You have to develop thick skin, knowing that there will be plenty of people left over from the old school world that sees it as some twisted ‘sexual’ act. It absolutely is not. Also, pay attention to what your husband thinks. This is not to say that his idea of right or wrong should apply, but many men do not like the breastfeeding thing for one reason or another especially if it seems to go on for a long time past infancy.
There is no doubt about it; breastfeeding is in fact a healthy option for your baby. Very little can be proven to the contrary, but it is not the ONLY option. Your decision about what is right or wrong for you child is absolutely the one that you need to pay attention to now, and in the future. When it comes to breastfeeding, doing what feels right to you, what works in favor of your family and overcoming all of the sociological pressures sure to come your way is the optimal way to decide. Whatever you decide; be proud and feel confident that you are being the best mom you can be in all the ways you know how.