Friday, August 5, 2011

My Love/Love Less Relationship with Breastfeeding

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and all over my Facebook news feed have been articles and blogs and thoughts and pictures about breastfeeding. I decided to throw my own two cents into the large assortment of breastfeeding stuff out there.

I knew as a little girl that I would breastfeed my babies when I grew up. It was how my mom fed my sister and I, and how all of her friends fed their babies. My mom tells me that I didn't even see a real baby bottle until after my second birthday and I was fascinated with it because it was so strange.

Being a mom that has breastfed my two big kids, pumped exclusively for my birthdaughter and is now breastfeeding my new baby, there are things that I love about breastfeeding, and some things that I love less. I won't say "hate" because really there's nothing I hate about breastfeeding.

In no particular order...

1. I love that it's free. Not only do I like saving money, free is my all-time favorite price. Throw in being a perpetually broke single student momma and free looks better and better. I stopped nursing Hannah when I went back to work when she was 8 weeks old. I didn't have a good pump or good support on how to pump and store, so I didn't. I tried valiantly with the little manual Evenflo pump that I had, but it just wasn't enough. We went to formula, which was about $20 for each large can of powder. The can would last for about 4 days, which meant that we were buying about 8 cans of formula a month. That's $160 a month just to feed one tiny little baby. With breastfeeding I feed and water myself, which in turn feeds my baby for no extra money. Plus, breastmilk comes straight from the tap so I don't need to buy bottles or bottle warmers or anything else to get the food into the baby.

2. I love that it's easy. First, let me define what I mean by "easy" because breastfeeding is not easy all the time, and certainly not in the beginning when mom and baby are both trying to figure out what they're doing. And that goes for first-time mommas and veteran mommas. "Easy" means that I don't have to pack extra supplies and equipment to feed my baby when we leave the house. I don't have to make special shopping trips to buy formula. I don't have to wash extra dishes (bottles) so that I can feed the baby. I don't have to get out of bed in the middle of the night and go into the kitchen, heat water, mix a bottle, and bring it back to my now screaming baby. At 3 am when he's hungry, I sit up a little bit, put the baby on my stomach, help him latch on, and fall back to sleep. There have been entire nights where I've apparently nursed him, but don't even remember it, and when I wake up in the morning he's sleeping sideways on me still latched on. I do co-sleep which I think makes breastfeeding about a thousand times easier.

3. I love that I can feed my baby anytime, anywhere. If we're at the lake, the pool, the children's museum, the movie theater, a friend's house, the farmer's market, the grocery store, the mall, church, or one of a hundred other places, all I have to do is stick baby on the boob. It takes seconds to get him attached and I can (usually) continue doing whatever it was that I was doing before I started feeding him.

4. I love less nursing in public (NIP). Yeah, yeah, all of us breastfeeding moms are "supposed to" love "whipping out" our breasts wherever we are to feed our babies. But the truth of the matter is that NIP can be really uncomfortable for us. People stare, and sometimes give you dirty looks. I swear that others are staring because they're hoping for a nip shot. I'm trying to wrangle a wiggly baby without exposing myself to the world and there's no way a cover works because my baby, like about 99.9999% of the rest of them out there, hates having anything over his head or face. I have managed to get my technique down much better since Baby Boy was born, and I know I had it down with my other two after the first few weeks. But I still live in fear that someone will come up to me and say something rude, or try to kick me out of wherever I am because I'm nursing my baby.

5. I love that, right now, I'm the sole source of nourishment for my baby. I love that I am forced to take breaks to sit down and feed him. That it's just the two of us, staring at each other. I love kissing his little hands and nibbling his tiny fingers while he's nursing. I love talking to him and singing to him. I love the way the weight of his little body feels in my arms and how he curves around my body. I love how we fit like two pieces of a puzzle. I get tremendous satisfaction for every ounce of weight he puts on and every inch he grows because I did that all by myself. I grew his whole self inside me, and I brought his whole self into the world on my own, and on my own I am keeping his whole self alive. It's a pretty amazing feeling.

6. I love less that I'm his sole source of nourishment. Like most anything, breastfeeding can be a double-edged sword at times. Like when I really need to get dinner made so we can all eat, or when I'm trying to email my financial aid advisor and need both hands, or if I have to pee really really badly. Some things just don't mix well with breastfeeding. It would be so super convenient to have one of the big kids mix a bottle and feed him for me. I suppose we could do that, but that's not what I want for my baby. So, I just deal with it. I've learned how to stop doing anything right in the middle so I can feed the baby and then go back to whatever it was I was doing before. I'm also getting much better at typing one-handed.

7. I love knowing that I can keep breastfeeding when I go back to school and/or work. Thanks to the modern marvel of super efficient double electric breast pumps, quitting nursing when going back to school or work is a thing of the past. And thanks to the Affordable Healthcare Act, breastfeeding is now more protected than ever because certain employers are mandated to provide time for pumping and a private location for pumping that is not a bathroom. So when I start school in a couple of weeks I'll be able to take my new BFF, Ameda, with me to school and clinicals and I can pump and store the milk. Then when Baby Boy is at daycare he'll be able to keep getting breastmilk. No formula needed!

8. I love less the whole process of pumping and storing. Pumping, like breastfeeding, can be a lot of time-consuming work. Especially in the beginning when you're still getting it figured out. I started pumping when Baby Boy was 1 month and 1 day old so that I would have a supply in the freezer ready for when I went back to school. Right now there is about 37 ounces of frozen breastmilk in my freezer, enough to last him at least 2 days at daycare, if not 3 or 4. That stash will be added to as I pump while away from him and store it for future use. Pumping can be a hassle. And hooking up to the pump almost always makes me feel like a Jersey cow. And unless I take the extra time to use a hands-free pumping bra or something, I have to hold the flanges onto my breasts for the 10 minutes or so that I'm pumping. Boooooring. However, it's pretty cool to see how much milk you're making and it's extremely satisfying to build the stash in the freezer. I could do without washing the pump parts and bottles, and hauling the pump and the accessories around all over the place, though.

9. I love the health benefits for both of us. Women who breastfeed their babies have a  reduced risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and cervical cancer later on in their lives. The longer a woman breastfeeds, the more the risk goes down. Breastfeeding also burns an extra 500 to 800 calories a day while you're just sitting there! Breastfeeding helps the uterus return to it's normal size after birth and it helps balance out postpartum hormones which can help reduce the risk of developing postpartum depression.

Babies who are breastfed are healthier because they are getting momma's antibodies to fight of infections. That means that momma misses less work/school which makes everyone happy. Recent studies have also shown that breastfed babies have a 73% reduction of SIDS. Breastfed babies are also getting food that is customized specifically for that baby at that time of day at that stage of development. The composition of fats, vitamins, and other nutrients in breastmilk changes throughout the day, during each feeding, and throughout the baby's nursing life.

10. I love less that I don't actually lose weight while breastfeeding. Okay, this one I might actually hate. For a large percentage of other nursing mommas out there, they can eat whatever they want while the pounds melt off of them. Yeah, not so much for me. When I'm breastfeeding I am starving almost 24/7. It's even worse right after I'm done feeding the baby. I'm not a skinny momma to begin with and it's really depressing to see that the weight I lost right after he was born has come back. I'm trying to not eat as much, but it's really hard when I feel so hungry all the time.

So there you have it! What do you love, and love less, about breastfeeding?

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