June 6, 2022
Is Breastfeeding Better For Your Baby?
Written By: Lexi C
I was three months post-partum when we found out I was pregnant with baby number two. It didn't matter how much (or what) I ate or how often I pumped (or prayed); my milk supply continued to drop. My body simply couldn't keep up with running a human (who was also growing a human) and feed a third. It was my body's way of saying, "Twos a party, threes a crowd, and I don't do crowds."
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, but sometimes that just isn't possible. As my milk supply dwindled, we supplemented with formula mixed with milk I had pumped and stored when my supply was ample. By month five, we had burned through our reserves, and our firstborn was on a full-formula diet. And guess what...she's incredible.
There is no doubt breastfeeding has undeniable benefits for both you and your baby but it's not an all-or-nothing deal. Here's what to know about breastfeeding to help you figure out the best plan for you and your baby.
Breast milk is the most natural way of feeding your baby. Your body was literally built to produce this dynamic form of nourishment, specifically for your baby. Breast milk, especially Colostrum (referred to as "Liquid Gold" in our house), is the ideal first food for your baby. It helps your baby's digestive tract develop and is loaded with antibodies to help your baby fight off illnesses and diseases. Breast milk is also easier for your baby to digest than formula, which may help reduce gas and colic...which means a happier baby and a happier YOU.
It's Good for YOU
That's right. That sweet little baby isn't the only one reaping the benefits here. Breastfeeding is miraculous for Mamma too! When you nurse your baby, your body releases Oxytocin which promotes those feel-good vibes and naturally reduces stress. But that's not all!!! This magical hormone reduces bleeding and encourages uterine contractions (which help shrink your uterus back to its normal size), leading to a quicker recovery after giving birth.
And what about that extra caloric burn?!? Yes, some mammas see those extra lbs. effortlessly melt away when they breastfeed and some, like me, do not. The best approach is to eat a healthy balanced diet, get good rest, and if your body becomes a fat incinerating lactation machine...lucky you!
It's Totally Portable
As a society, we've come a long way in normalizing breastfeeding; after all...it's one of the most "normal" things you can do. Your breasts can deliver the most perfect nourishment served at just the right temperature anywhere, anytime. No bottles to sterilize, heat up, or clean! There are tons of versatile and stylish options out there to help you discreetly feed your baby (if you're a little more on the modest side) and look good while doing it. One of my favorite nursing covers could be worn as a scarf and used as a car seat canopy! Multi-tasker for the win!
Formula is expensive. If you choose to breastfeed, there IS such a thing as a free lunch...and breakfast...and dinner. So, if it works for you, take this time to bond with your baby. Trust this momma of two toddlers; mealtime will never be quite as magical as in those early days.
Breastfeeding is not always easy, and depending on the circumstance, it may not even be an option, but a fed baby is best - no matter what the journey looks like.
It's All You, Mamma
What to know about breastfeeding? If you choose to do it exclusively, you (and your breasts) are on call 24/7. It can be exhausting, especially in the beginning when you are feeding every 2-3 hours. Sometimes it will feel like it's pretty much ALL you are doing. Consider pumping your breastmilk to give yourself some freedom while also allowing someone else to bond with your little one over a meal.
It Can Be Painful
Getting your baby to latch is one thing. Keeping things flowing is another. Breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, mastitis, and sore nipples are common issues that come with breastfeeding. None of them are super comfortable, and some are downright painful. What can help? Drink plenty of water, nurse often, REST, and invest in a good nipple cream, like Nemah's Renewing Nipple + Lip Balm. If you have redness or tenderness to the breast or have a fever or flu-like symptoms, you could have an infection and should contact your doctor.
It Requires Restrictions to Your Diet
Like it or not, if you are breastfeeding, there are things you will have to go without. Obvious concessions include caffeine and alcohol, which can be harmful to your baby. However, your baby may not share your affinity for a good cheese plate. So, if you are nursing, be prepared to curtail your diet if things aren't sitting well with your little one's developing digestive system.
It's Not Always Easy
My sister is a natural-born breastfeeding mamma. She (seemingly) effortlessly fed her babies without batting an eye while making dinner and arranging flowers. Okay, maybe not all simultaneously, but you know the type. That was not the case for me. What to know about breastfeeding is that it isn't easy for many women. The added expectation that we should be able to do this "natural" thing doesn't make any of it any easier. The good news is that there are loads of resources to help discouraged mammas. Enlist a lactation specialist or join a breastfeeding support group. You are not alone!
Remember, Mamma, whether you breastfeed for a day or a year or skip it altogether, YOU are doing a remarkable job, and a fed baby is best - no matter what the journey looks like.