Breastfeeding benefits moms as well as babies. Most of the information out there is guilt inducing about how good it is for your baby to be breastfed.
Which really just makes those moms that genuinely cannot breastfeed feel terrible.
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However, for those that choose not to breast feed, did you know it is not all about the baby? There are real benefits for moms too.
1. Breastfeeding and mothers mental health
Immediately after the birth, the oxytocin from breastfeeding also helps contract your uterus back to it’s normal size and slow the bleeding.
Breastfeeding hormones are even thought to help reduce the impact of stress and sleep deprivation upon the body.
On the flip side, when women are unable to breastfeed as they had expected their mental health can be badly affected.
Having a difficult breastfeeding experience and feeling forced to stop can leave women feeling devastated, grief stricken and very, very angry.
Education about breastfeeding before your baby is born is the BEST thing you can do to help ensure that your breastfeeding journey goes well. The Breastfeeding course from Milkology is super easy to understand while being in depth enough to be really helpful. Check it out here.
2. Cancer prevention
Breastfeeding reduces the risks of maternal female related cancers (1). Women that breastfeed the longest, have the lowest risk, but even feeding for as little as 6 months has an impact on womens cancer rates.
3. More sleep
Breastfeeding moms report getting better sleep as you can latch baby on and relax while lying down. If breastfeeding is combined with safe bed sharing, the effect on sleep is significant.
Families that bottle feed have to get up in the night to make a bottle, wait for it to warm and then feed baby. Baby needs the bottle held while she is drinking it.
By then end of the bottle the parent that is feeding baby is pretty much wide awake and has to resettle both them self and baby back off to sleep.
4. Breastfeeding burns calories
While this may not be the main reason that a woman may choose to breastfeed, it is a nice added bonus.
If you have insulin resistance, or PCOS, you may find that the carb cravings that come with breastfeeding may actually make you put on weight (like me).
BUT if you can stick to a low carb diet, your baby will help you burn a whopping 500 calories a day while you are exclusively breastfeeding.
5. Breast feeding is Convenient
Whether you are out and about, or staying home, breastfeeding is so convenient. No bottles to heat up, or sterilize, or milk powder to buy.
It is so easy to whip the boob out and pacify a crying baby wherever you are.
There is the one down side that you cannot hand your boobs off to a husband or friend or the day care.
This is when doing both breast and bottle feeding can give you the best of both worlds.
Breastfeeding is better for baby
Nature got it right, our milk production varies from day to day, even from different times of the same day depending on what your baby needs.
Your breast milk can give your baby the antibodies she needs to fight the cold she has, and can pass on immunity to a range of illnesses.
Babies that are breastfed experience less obesity and less allergies later in life. Their gut biome is more diverse and resilient and for all these reasons the World Health Organization recommends that you exclusively breastfeed for 6 months and that you continue to breastfeed until at least 2 years of age.
When Breastfeeding isn’t going well
All is not roses in the breastfeeding world. I am the biggest advocate for breastfeeding, however all of my babies have needed formula in the first month or two.
It turns out that not all women can actually make enough milk to feed their babies. I found out the hard way that my PCOS meant that my milk doesn’t really come in without medication called domperidone to help it.
My baby ended up back in NICU severely dehydrated, extremely jaundiced and had lost 1 full pound in weight by day 4.
I had told the midwife that she wasn’t drinking/swallowing and they brushed it off as first time mom worries.
Until I told her she was yellow like a The Simpsons’ baby and hadn’t wet her diaper in 24 hours. This got the midwife’s attention and she called us back in to the hospital.
I have had a friend whose baby had a really high pallet and he shredded her nipple so bad it nearly fell off.
I have another friend that kept getting recurring thrush infection in her breasts so every time baby latched it felt like shards of glass in her breast.
The Power of Support in Breastfeeding
When breastfeeding goes bad, it can really go bad. Do you know what though, each of these ladies persevered because they had help and support, and each of them went on to successfully breastfeed.
I have visited many moms where breastfeeding just isn’t working for whatever reason, and at the end of the day, a fed baby is a happy and thriving baby.
The balance is knowing when to stop pushing and when to accept that formula can have its place and to be OK with that.
Even back in the day, some women couldn’t breastfeed. The difference was there was less taboo around the whole thing, and other mamas in the village would help a mama out and feed the baby for you.
It is better for the whole tribe that the baby gets fed, and they would all support each other so that the baby grew healthy and strong.
The Take Home Message
Ideally, everyone would breastfeed their baby exclusively. Science shows it is better for both the mom and the baby.
Except when it isn’t. If breastfeeding is really affecting your mental health and your bond with baby, it is OK to swap to formula. It is OK to ask for help.
We are social animals, we are designed to help each other out when we are struggling. Let go of the mama guilt. A fed baby is a happy baby. Fed that baby mama, and love her to pieces.