Before Evelyn was born nearly two years ago I never gave much thought to breast feeding. It seemed to me like most moms started out with nursing and then eventually transitioned to formula. So, when my best friend Laura had a baby six months before Evelyn’s birth I looked to her as an example. She set out to feed her daughter for an entire year, and as she showed me it quickly became a regular part of her daily mothering routine.
Laura encouraged me to nurse Evelyn for an entire year, and in turn I encouraged my sisters to do the same for their babies. I know they will encourage their friends in the same way. I think its pretty cool that the support Laura gave me had a ripple affect that has helped my sisters and now countless others. As women, we are all in this together, right?!
I know the choice to nurse or bottle feed can be very divisive. Women have lots of reasons for switching to formula, and I want to be very respectful of those reasons. However, I find that there is a lot of support for women who choose formula, while those of us who choose to breastfeed are often left on our own. For example, our pediatrician’s office offers me free formula samples whenever I stop in for an appointment, and the hospital tried to give me a “gift pack” of formula with each baby. To each generous offer I have to say “thanks, but no thanks.” Nursing is challenging (especially the first couple weeks), so these seemingly harmless offers can be quite tempting to exhausted new moms. To those moms worried that their bodies aren’t producing enough milk or worried that their babies aren’t latching on correctly I say: hang in there, sisters! YOU CAN DO IT.
This blog post is about encouraging women who want to breastfeed; it is not about discouraging women who choose to formula feed. I hope the difference is clear as I don’t want to offend anybody. After all, we’re all just doing our best to keep our families happy and healthy!
So, here are my reasons for choosing to nurse my babies for a year:
1. Breast milk is a healthy choice. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding can decrease the incidence of severity of conditions such as diarrhea, ear infections and bacterial meningitis. Some studies also suggest that breastfeeding may offer protection against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), diabetes, obesity and asthma.
2. Breast milk is free. My Aunt Hope pointed this fact out to me when I was pregnant with Evelyn, and it stuck with me ever since. I have never bought formula, but based on my research it costs approximately $1300-$2000 for baby’s first year. Yikes! And, think about the extraordinary amount of waste generated by all those formula containers. Breast feeding is the eco-friendly choice!
3. Nursing is a great way to lose the baby weight! Its three weeks after Mack’s arrival and I am already wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans. And after Evelyn’s birth I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in less than 6 months. I think mothers gain weight during pregnancy to store up extra calories specifically for the creation of milk. It makes perfect sense!
4. Nursing is super convenient! I can’t imagine fumbling with a bottle and messy powdered formula at 3 am. And I’d guess that packing up bottles every time I left the house would be super annoying. Breast milk is always readily available at the perfect temperature.
5. Support is available – just ask! Nursing Evelyn was very difficult for me for the first several months, but I stuck with it. Things started off great with little Mack, but I quickly ran into a few problems. So, I called Jane O’Connor with Lactation Associates and in one hour she fixed every problem little Mack and I had. She was so patient and kind and encouraging. At $160 it was a pricey session, but well worth every penny (and still far less than using formula!). If you run into problems nursing your baby, simply ask someone for help. Your doctor can likely recommend a trusted lactation consultant in your area.
6. You can still have a life and breastfeed. Thanks to breast pumps, many women go back to work full time, meet up with friends for dinner or hit the gym knowing that their babies are still being fed the most perfect baby food. For working moms, this is a big sacrifice of time and energy during a busy day, but they make it happen. My sister Meghan is a great example of this. Twice a day at work she switches on her pump while taking care of other tasks in her office. She is an inspiration and source of encouragement for me!
7. It gets easier and less time consuming. A new baby nurses 8-12 times per day. At up to 20+ minutes per feed, that can be a big time commitment. But, rest assured that as your baby gets older he or she gets more efficient at eating. Plus, around 6 months of age you’ll start introducing solid foods which will reduce the number of breast feedings your baby needs. By the time Evelyn was a year old, I was only nursing her 3 or 4 times a day for just a few minutes each time. Hang in there!!
8. You have the right. All but three states have laws protecting women’s right to breastfeed in public. With that said, I can’t say that I am about to whip out my boob in a public place or with people with whom I don’t feel comfortable. In those instances, I rely on my Hooter Hider to give me the freedom to discreetly nurse my baby.
9. Its a nice way to bond with your baby. Enough said!
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