The Best Homemade Baby Food

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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13 Comments for this entry

  1. Courtney says:

    Breast feeding my first baby those first couple weeks was one of the hardest things I've done, and it ended up being one of the most rewarding. I, too, made a commitment to nurse for a year, and with the support of my mother & sisters-in-law and friends, it was a wonderful year. With my second baby, it's been much easier. Like you, I try give my breast feeding friends as much support as possible. I feel happy when I know the women I care about are experiencing something as special and empowering as breast feeding. Great post!

  2. Carrie says:

    Great article – way to focus on those who DO choose to breastfeed and support them/us! 🙂 I really struggled nursing my son (my first) – he was a screamer and had trouble latching, he wouldn't nurse for six weeks, but then he latched on fine for the rest of the year! My daughter (my 2nd) is 4 months old now, and she is a great nurser – I plan to nurse her for the rest of the year as well.

    That is a great point about hospitals/peds not supporting us in breastfeeding- why don't they give away nipple shields and Medela coupons/reward checks instead of all that formula!!!

  3. Paige says:

    I'm right there with you on the nursing. I had more trouble with Kinsey and at times now it can be annoying to have to think about where I will be when I have to nurse (especially because I HAVE to leave the house to take Kinsey places) and is it going to be in a bad place where Kinsey could get away from me while I'm with Emmy, etc. But it's SO nice to not have to worry about having food and I LOVE not having to wash all those bottles. I have been pumping and when I do have to wash a bottle it totally bugs me! For me nursing has been the best but I totally agree that for some people it's not such a great option once they return to work or whatever. If formula is a "happier" solution for everyone then I think you have to do what makes the mommy less anxious and happier and so on. Last week I started all the fun solid food stuff. Today I've been steaming and pureeing pears and sweet potatoes. This is why I'm a stay at home mom, right? As for the comment above, my hospital in Houston did give away breast sheilds and lanolin cream and stuff and I got some here in CT too, I find that pediatricians are much more likely to push formula on you here. Maybe it's the proximity to NYC or something. When Em was 4 days old one of the pediatricians from our group wanted me to supplement with formula to get her weight up and I said absolutely not, my milk will come in full force and everything will be fine. Emerson is now 97% down from what she was at her last check-up. Why would she suggest I supplement with formula when I had made it clear I was nursing and nursing only? Anyway, great post, I love nursing, but I know there are some who can't for a variety of reasons and that's ok too. You have to do what's best for you (the mom) and for the sanity of the whole famliy. Since I had such a rough first year with Kinsey I wasn't sure how long I was going to make it with Emerson this time, but it looks like I'm going to be good make it until the cows milk starts. Yeah!

  4. Leah says:

    In one word ….. Refreshing! Thanks for being the voice of all the nursing mothers in the world. Nursing moms unite! 🙂

  5. Eve says:

    Just starting to read your blog…love your article! Nursing was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life! I am so glad I got to experience it with each of my 3 boys! Here's to nursing!

  6. HomemadeMother says:

    Thanks, Eve! You set a great example for all of us by nursing all three of your boys!!

  7. Bernadette says:

    I agree whole-heartedly! My best friend and I were each others encouragement when it seemed the whole world was against the "Nursing" mommas! I had more problems with my In-Laws than anything else! My MIL was upset she couldnt feed the baby (I worked full-time, so I pumped all day long…I wasnt about to pump just so she could feed him on the weekends!!) My SIL acted like it wasnt "cool" and insisted on cabbage leaves in the hospital when she gave birth – she didnt even try breastfeeding. But her son has digestion, and acid reflux like most formula-fed babies I know. So I know I did the right thing by my babies, even if it wasnt "cool" Thanks for the encouragement!!

  8. danielle sell says:

    Hi Maureen et all 🙂 My daughter is only 6 days old and absolutely REFUSES to breastfeed – erupting in bloodcurdling screams each time we make an attempt. She was in the NICU for 3 days so she was put on formula right from the beginning. I’m not opposed to formula feeding (anything to make sure she is fed!) but would like to at least give it a shot. Did anyone else have Boob Screamers? Any suggestions?

  9. Maureen Smithe says:

    Danielle, you are already such a good momma. My daughter refused to latch on, and I was in a state of panic. I relied on a nipple shield for several months. It was not ideal, but once she was a little older she was able to latch on her own and I never had to switch to formula.

    I would STRONGLY encourage you to call a lactation consultant immediately. Most are able to come the same day you call. If you live in the Chicago area, I would very highly recommend

    These first few weeks with a newborn at home are both wonderful and frustrating while your new family adjusts. Just follow your intuition, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

  10. Organicmommy says:

    I think that it’s great that you are striving to nurse for a year! But why stop at a year??!! Please don’t try to put a time limit on breastfeeding. It is the most beautiful, nourishing, comforting gift you can give not only to your baby but yourself as well! I breastfed my son for 2 years and 7 months. He stopped on his own (no forceful weaning techniques here) when I became pregnant with my little girl. He no longer liked the taste of mommy’s milk, so he wanted to stop. I encourage mothers who are breastfeeding or who wish to breastfeed to continue for as long as your baby wants and needs it. Toddlers really benefit from breastfeeding because it is so comforting to them. I remember when my son was almost 2 years old and got very sick with a virus that caused him to vomit quite profusely a few times, and the only thing he ate/drank during those 3 days was breast milk. It was not only his nourishment but also his comfort. Babies/toddlers do not understand why it is suddenly taken away. It is really sad if you ask me that babies are forcefully weaned off the breast. My mother endured such trauma when my grandmother decided that after 1 year of breastfeeding that she “should” or “was supposed to” wean my mother, so she took my mother to her aunt’s house for the night. My mother cried all night wanting her mommy, wanting to be near her in the special way to which she was accustomed. How heartbreaking is that? Don’t let people make you believe that you should put a time limit on your nursing! Be in tune with your baby’s cues and your own feelings! Breastfeeding is such a wonderful thing, and there is no reason to rush it. One year goes by so fast! If you breastfeed for over a year, your baby will be smarter and healthier, and those are the facts!

    If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, don’t give up! I tried to get my first baby to latch on for 7 weeks. I pumped, used nipple shields, and visited my lactation consultant regularly. It will work out if you don’t give up!! Please don’t give up! Help is out there. Know that your body was made to bear a child and produce enough milk to sustain him/her, so don’t doubt your supply and don’t supplement! Since breast milk supply is based on demand, if you supplement with formula, you will not produce enough milk for your baby…so breastfeed exclusively. The more you nurse your baby, the more milk you will make. And don’t underestimate the power of lactogenic herbs, like fenugreek and fennel. There are plenty of really good organic nursing teas that are very good in increasing your milk supply. Just don’t give up on breastfeeding! Stay with it for as long as your baby needs it!

    • Homemade Mother says:

      My daughter really lost interest around 13 months, and my son is reaching the same point at about the same age. Let’s applaud mothers who go for an entire year – that is a great accomplishment!!

  11. Anna says:

    Great article!
    It took my little girl Camila 6 weeks to learn to breastfeed well. The first two weeks of life were the most difficult times of my life. I couldn’t breastfeed my baby well because she had trouble latching. I suffered from sore and cracked nipples. I knew so little about breastfeeding and the problems that can come from doing it wrong. During Camila’s third week of life, I got mastitis and ended up with a breast abscess and needed long-term antibiotics. After my baby turned 2 months, things began to finally settle down. I began to heal and Camila no longer had problems breastfeeding.

    Despite the problems, I consider breastfeeding my Camila one of the most rewarding and beautiful experiences in my life. She is now 14 months and still breastfeeding. I have no plans to force her to wean completely since I know she loves breastfeeding. I just plan on following her cues. If she needs it, it must be normal. That’s the way I see it.

    There is nothing that bf won’t make better, like consoling baby when she falls, or soothe baby when she is tired, or connect with baby when I return home after I’ve been at work all day, and help baby heal when she is sick. Every time I can meet Camila’s needs with bf, I can feel my heart grow bigger and the more connected I feel to her.

    Although I struggled with bf problems that some new moms tend to struggle with, I have no regrets about my choice to bf and will choose to bf my next baby.

    Finally, bf has made me so proud to be a woman and a mother. I have had many academic and professional accomplishments in my life, but succeeding in bf and meeting my baby’s needs trumps the awards and diplomas in my name.

    I am happy to hear other moms are enjoying their experiences with bf too. We need to support bf moms. This article and the readers’ comments are a move in the right direction.

    • Maureen says:

      Thank you for your beautiful and eloquent comments, Anna. Breastfeeding can be hard, but I feel like most new moms go into it thinking it will be a totally natural and easy choice. The fact is that both mom AND baby have to learn how to do it. Sometimes both people get the hang of it right away, which is wonderful! For me, it takes a couple weeks until I feel totally relaxed. I’ve found that its gotten easier for me with each new baby, but there is always an adjustment period.

      Moms just want what is best for their babies.

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