11 Great Reasons to Breastfeed

Before Bugaboo was born I knew I was going to breastfeed her.  Not breastfeeding just didn’t seem like an option for us.  It was only after she was born and we had such a hard time getting her to nurse that I began to appreciate those who choose not to breastfeed.  I see now that there are valid reasons both to breastfeed and to use formula.  However, once Bugaboo took to nursing, we did breastfeed for the rest of her first year.  If you are on the fence, here are the reasons we chose to breastfeed.

It’s Less Expensive to Breastfeed

I used to think of breastfeeding as free.  I am sure there are some experienced moms out there who are simply able to latch their baby and go.  However, if you choose to breastfeed, there will be some costs involved.  Just because you breastfeed doesn’t mean you pump, but in my experience they go hand in hand.  At a minimum, a new mom will want to pump to help her milk supply come in. She will also want a pump handy for days when she gets engorged.  And, of course, it will be very useful to have a supply of milk on hand for when you want to go out or when you get sick.

  • Nursing Pillow – When you first start out, you want to use a nursing pillow to support the baby while you get used to latching.  Once Bugaboo started nursing well, I realized I could take the pillow away and still nurse.  However, even at a year old, when we nurse before naps I still use the Boppy to help her settle down.  Cost: $30-40
  • Nursing Pillow Covers – In this case, multiple covers is non-negotiable.  Newborns tend to spit up a lot, so you will inevitably find yourself going through more than one a day.  Or you can get the My Breast Friend pillow with a wipeable cover.  These are about $10 each, or $20 in total.
  • Lactation Consultant – My lactation consultant had four children and said she had used a lactation consultant with each.  Breastfeeding is hard work and doesn’t come as easily as it should.  Each baby has different needs.  There are a wide variety of ways to get access to a lactation consultant, and insurance plans will cover these costs at different rates.  I attended three lactation consultations that cost $18 each after insurance, so I estimate $60 for this cost.
  • Pump – Your pump should be covered by insurance and should be free.  However, a good pump will run $200-300 if you want to upgrade beyond what is covered.  I highly recommend Medela brand – they are the leader in breast pumps and know what they are doing.  Their pumps are in the hospitals so your medical team will be familiar with them.  Exclusively pumping moms swear by the Medela Sonata.
  • Pumping Parts – Believe it or not, your breast pump may not come with all the parts you need to get it to work.  And then you will need to buy additional parts as they wear out.  You may need to purchase new flanges if the standard size doesn’t work for you.  A pumping parts kit is only about $15, but if you add in the times you will need to replenish, you could easily spend another $15.
  • Milk Storage Bags – Please do not purchase the Target brand milk storage bags.  In general, do not skimp and save on these.  I purchased Target bags, and three developed holes while in the freezer.  The worst feeling in the world is not being able to use the milk you worked so hard to pump.  In addition, the milk could be dangerous to the baby if the hole had not been discovered.  Lansinoh bags are a better bet.  Now consider how much milk you want to pump and store.  If you are exclusively breastfeeding, you may not need much, so $9 for a bag of 50 is all you’ll ever need.  If you want to build up a six month supply of breastmilk or if you plan to donate milk, you may need as many as 900 bags, or $150 worth.
  • Nursing Bras – However many regular bras you own, you will want to purchase that many nursing bras.  I purchased about four at $30 each, or $120.
  • Pumping Bras – If you are pumping, you will want a good quality hands free pumping bra.  I purchased two because I was pumping so much, but one is probably sufficient.  They cost about $40.
  • Other miscellaneous supplies unique to each individual, such as the Haakaa silicone pump which I found to be very helpful, or Milk Catchers.  These miscellaneous costs may add up to about $20-40.

So the low end cost to breastfeed (if you are not pumping) is $230, and the upper end cost is $780.

Now, let’s consider the cost of formula.  Using a formula requirements calculator from Enfamil, I calculated that we would need 129 powder ounces of formula a month, or six tubs.  I found the formula on Amazon in a convenient six pack (it’s like they knew) for $149.70.  Considering I would need to feed my baby formula for 12 months, that’s $1,796.40 for formula the first year.  Of course, if your baby has an allergy and requires special formula, the cost would be much higher.  In addition, newborn formula can be more expensive as well.

So…at a minimum breastfeeding should save you about $1,000.

(I did not include bottles in this analysis because if you are pumping you may be feeding your baby through a bottle anyway.  Still, a formula fed baby is going to require a lot more bottles than a nursing baby.)

AAP Recommends Breastfeeding the First Year

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months.  They recommend breastfeeding as the primary source of nourishment for the baby’s first year.

In addition, the American Academy of Family Physicians states:

Breastfeeding is the physiological norm for both mothers and their children. Breastmilk offers medical and psychological benefits not available from human milk substitutes. The AAFP recommends that all babies, with rare exceptions, be breastfed and/or receive expressed human milk exclusively for the first six months of life. Breastfeeding should continue with the addition of complementary foods throughout the second half of the first year. Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired. Family physicians should have the knowledge to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding.

Sometimes the “official” medical recommendations seem to change so frequently.  Parents of multiple children say they can’t keep up with the recommendations on swaddling or allergies.  However, the AAP has recommended breastfeeding for many years, and when you consider all the other medical benefits, it’s easy to see why.

Breastfeeding Helps Prevent SIDS

Studies show that breastfeeding can lower the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by 50%!  It has been our policy to do anything we can to keep the risk of SIDS low – such as putting the baby on her back to sleep and not co-sleeping.  So of course we wanted to breastfeed for this reason.

Breastfeeding Provides and Opportunity to Bond

Breastfeeding is a great way to bond with your new baby.  From the moment the baby comes into the world, she knows you as her mom.  She can smell your milk!  She knows to go to you for food and for comfort.  For me, one of the greatest benefits of breastfeeding is seeing my baby come to me with joy in her eyes knowing she is getting ready to nurse.  I love to watch her nurse to sleep, and then I continue to hold her as long as I can.

Even when nursing is hard, breastfeeding allows you to bond because you are in it together.  I learned that when Bugaboo was having trouble nursing.  We were a team trying to learn how to feed the baby.

In addition, I provide comfort to my baby by breastfeeding.  There have been times in Bugaboo’s life where she is clearly agitated and needs a little extra TLC.  Those times, I will nurse her even if it’s not a meal time.  She comes to me and settles down immediately, finding comfort and security in my arms.

Breastmilk Contains Antibodies

If you feel sick, your breastmilk already has antibodies in it to protect your baby.  When Bugaboo was only two months old I came down with a sudden stomach flu.  Despite feeling too sick to want to nurse, I made every effort because I wanted her to get the antibodies in my milk.  Thankfully, she never got sick.  In fact, I continued to nurse her through cold and flu season, and she only had two week-long colds.  Breastfeeding is the way to go if you are going to be exposed to a lot of little children who tend to carry germs around.  If your baby goes to daycare while you work, make every attempt to pump at work so that you can protect her with the breastmilk.

Breastfed Babies Are Self-Regulated

In the first few weeks of Bugaboo’s life, we had trouble nursing.  I was ready to pump full time for her.  However, even though I was getting enough supply by pumping, I wasn’t sure it was for me.  It left me with a lot of questions.  At any given point, how did I know how much to feed the baby?  How many bottles a day would she need, and how much should be in each bottle?  There were online tools and calculators to help me figure it out.  In addition, breastfed babies only tend to eat when they’re hungry, so there is a lower risk of overfeeding.  But if you have a bottle, the baby will generally finish the bottle because she enjoys sucking.  I was so afraid of over or under feeding my baby.

On the other hand, breastfed babies who nurse tend to get exactly what they need.  Their nursing creates a supply to meet their demand.  In addition, they get a mix of foremilk, which is less fatty and high in protein, and hindmilk, which has more fat.  If you ever see a really chubby baby and are worried about his weight, consider if he is breastfed.  The general rule of thumb is you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby.  It’s true, too – those chubby babies lean out as they grow taller and begin walking.

You Always Have Access to Food

Another reason I was eager to get breastfeeding started was that I would never have to worry about running out of food.  It was nice to be able to pack a bottle and take Bugaboo out and about with me.  But some days I didn’t pack enough bottles.  Some days I would pack too many, and the precious pumped milk would spoil!  If your baby is breastfed, you always have the availability to feed the baby if necessary.

Breastmilk Exposes Your Baby to a Variety of Foods

When we had the twins, I encountered a difficult eater – a problem eater even.  We had a lot of issues to work through, some which weren’t resolved by the time she went home.  I vowed that I would start good eating habits from the beginning with my children.

I liked the idea of breastfeeding because it exposed Bugaboo to a wide variety of flavors through the different foods I was eating.  In addition to helping develop her taste buds to be receptive to new and unique foods, I was exposing her to the foods that we like to eat!  So when we moved on to Baby Led Weaning, Bugaboo already had some familiarity with the different tastes.

Breastfed babies do require additional Vitamin D and are recommended to eat foods rich in Iron when they first start to eat solids.  However, I liked taking my prenatal vitamin each morning and knowing that it was also providing essential vitamins to Bugaboo.

Breastfeeding Helps with Postpartum Weight Loss

For me, breastfeeding was like the world’s best crash diet.  Most days I felt like I would eat and eat and eat and still be hungry and still lose weight.  I lost so much weight I could almost fit into my wedding dress again!  Of course, if you are breastfeeding you want to eat nourishing foods that will benefit both you and your baby.  But to be honest, I ate the nourishing foods and was still hungry, so I increased my portion sizes.

You can have 500 extra calories a day while breastfeeding!  Oh the things you can do with that!  (Just be aware – as you wean, those 500 calories will go away, and you will need to adjust your diet accordingly or quickly gain all that weight back).

Breastfeeding Can Provide Natural Infant Spacing

In general, if you exclusively breastfeed your baby, menstruation and fertility should not return for six months.  If you follow the ecological method of breastfeeding, which is no pacifiers or bottles ever and always breastfeeding on demand, you are practically guaranteed to delay your fertility for six months and potentially up to 18 months!

We all probably know of babies that were born very close together.  They could be exceptions to this rule.  However, I believe they are the exceptions that prove the rule – I know a lot of families with children 15 months apart – babies conceived almost as soon as the six month fertility delay was over.

Exclusive breastfeeding really is a great way to space out children, just be aware that your fertility could come back any time and know signs to watch out for if you are looking to delay your next pregnancy.

It’s Natural to Breastfeed

These days, everyone seems to be concerned with the ingredients in the food they are eating and whether their food is natural or organic.  Formula is based on scientific research trying to determine the best nutrients to give a baby.  Given that, formula doesn’t meet the “five ingredients or less” or “can pronounce all the ingredients” tests.

Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed a baby.  There’s little or no environmental detriment or waste (except for pumping bags).  It’s the way babies have been raised for millenia, so we know it’s safe and effective.  A fascinating tidbit I found out was that the Catholic Church has encouraged breastfeeding for thousands of years – even in ages past when I didn’t think mothers had any other option – perhaps for these same reasons.

My thought on breastfeeding is – why fight nature?  As women, our bodies are designed for it.  We trust our bodies to carry our babies for nine months, nourishing them to birth.  Why doubt the continuation of that process and not breastfeed the baby?

No Judgment Here

Look, there are reasons that a woman might not be willing or able to breastfeed.  I completely understand if you just don’t want to breastfeed because, honestly, there’s also a lot of difficulties associated with it.  Still, these are the reasons that helped me make my decision, and I want mothers to be educated on what their options are.  Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, this first year with your baby is special – the good old days!  Enjoy your little moments together.

Did you breastfeed?  What influenced your decision?

Cover photo is courtesy of Modern Hello Photography, in Wichita, KS.

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