We all know that breast milk is best for babies, but can I tell you some of the reasons that I love to breastfeed? You might be surprised by my answer.
It isn’t because it reduces my chance of developing uterine and breast cancer, although that is a definite plus. In fact, the health benefits to both me and my children are pretty amazing. I remember a nurse practitioner praising me for still breastfeeding my oldest at his 18 month check up and encouraging me to continue at least through flu season. I will not lie and say that breast milk is magical and my kids never get ill. In fact, I remember one time my son got norovirus and he was absolutely miserable. The thing is, we all got it and he fared far better than the rest of us. He stopped eating for 2 days but continued nursing and he never got dehydrated. The day that he felt better we actually had to ask his grandparents to come babysit because we were too exhausted and miserable to keep up with the active toddler. Do you know why I remember all of this so vividly even though it was over a year ago? Its because it is the only time in his 3 years that he has had anything more than a runny nose and a cough. There is a reason that my friends encourage their older child to drink a glass of breast milk when they aren’t feeling well. It is a miracle cure! It can help with everything from swimmers ear and pink eye to the flu and possibly even cancer. I don’t have any evidence for the cancer, but I have heard that there are experimental treatments being done now.
My favorite reason for breastfeeding has nothing to do with burning 500 calories a day, although that did help me get back into shape. After my first son I felt like I was eating and drinking water constantly, and yet I lost weight. By my 6 week check up I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and 2 years later I was down 25 pounds. We all know that it is nearly impossible to work out with a newborn so other than breastfeeding I really wasn’t doing anything to lose that weight. I might have been eating a little better, but a lot of that was because of the breastfeeding. I didn’t want to have too much alcohol or caffeine because I was afraid that it would affect the baby. I ate a lot of oatmeal, drank a lot of water, and made myself hot tea because I thought it would help boost my milk supply. In the end I had a healthy supply and my clothes started to fit a bit looser. It was definitely a happy side effect.
My favorite reason has very little to do with cost or ease of formula, although that was the reason for my initial goal of a year. Formula really can be costly. Add that to the amount of work involved in getting up to make a bottle at 3am and I just didn’t want anything to do with it. I knew that doctors usually recommend breast milk or formula for a year before switching to cow’s milk or any other alternative. After a year I did start to give my son cow’s milk, but he also continued to nurse. The only real plus was that I was able to stop pumping and my husband gave him cow’s milk when I was gone. I’m not really sure how much money we saved by not doing formula, but I am grateful for every penny I was able to save for things like family dinners out or days at the water park.
So what is my favorite reason for breastfeeding? It is very simply a wonderful time for me to bond with my baby. It is a reason to stop what I am doing for ten or twenty minutes and just focus on the beautiful little life that I helped create. It is a time to notice his cute expressions or how long his hair is getting. It is a time to listen to music and hold his hand. It is a time to cuddle and tickle. I remember the first time that my son pulled away while nursing and was hit in the face with a steady spray of milk. Moments like that are hard to explain to other people, but still make me laugh when I think about them. Sometimes there are frustrations. This week my baby started holding on to my breast so tightly while he is eating that it hurts. Sometimes he has a runny nose and he cries because he can’t latch on and breathe at the same time. The thing is, those bad times still seem so minimal in light of the good. Despite the initial difficulties, occasional clogged duct and eventual first bite, breastfeeding is worth it. You will never get these moments back. One day you will not be able to soothe his pain with mama milk or get him to sit still in your lap for fifteen minutes without the aid of a television. These are the moments that I will cherish forever.