There is something quite magical about snuggling up with a baby as they nurse. Both mom and the baby are so close, they’re actually connected just like they were before the child was born. It’s something many new mothers want to be able to do, and if there's anyone out there that's anything like me, they’ll assume that because it’s natural that’ll mean it’s instinctive.
Besides, knowing how to hold the baby from day one and feeling confident that the baby will master the breast crawl from birth means moms feel like they've got this whole breastfeeding thing in the bag. And confidence is good, women need that to be able to master the art of breastfeeding. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's second nature.
But like everything, there are always two sides to the story. And while the new baby will be able to crawl up their mommy's tummy and root around to find mother's milk from birth, that doesn’t necessarily mean all newborns will be able to get on and latch without help.
And if a mother goes into it expecting perfection from the get-go, she may be setting herself up for a lot of tears, feelings of confusion, and a sense of failure. The silver lining on this dark cloud is that with persistence and help a mom can get to the place where breastfeeding is easy. And there's no harm in supplementing when the going is tough.
So, from someone who’s been there, here are 15 of the best and worst parts of breastfeeding.
15 Best: It Prevents SIDS
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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS is when a baby who appeared to be healthy dies for no explainable reason. There have been a number of factors that have been identified that can help save baby's lives. Breastfeeding a baby is one of the factors that lowers his risk of SIDS as much as 50%. Although the reasons behind this aren't concrete doctors have theories as to why this is so.
A German study looked at the rates of SIDS in relation to whether or not a baby was breastfed and they determined that when a child is breastfed their risk of SIDS is about 50 per cent lower than babies who are formula fed. The lowered rate was present for babies who were exclusively breastfed and those who were only partially breastfed.
14 Worst: Breastfeeding Can Hurt - A Lot
Whether your child has a poor latch, or you’re sitting incorrectly while trying to breastfeed, or your child has tongue-tie, nursing can be super painful. Your nipples can crack and bleed (don’t worry it won’t harm your child), which makes it feel like someone is sandpapering them every time your child tries to eat.
Your back can hurt from poor posture. Your breasts can become engorged, you could suffer from mastitis, or a blocked duct and catch a fever. None of which makes you feel like continuing to nurse your baby. And the real kicker is that continuing to feed through mastitis can help moms get over it faster. OUCH!
First time moms probably find the first few weeks of breastfeeding the hardest. It's a whole new thing that they've never learned how to do before, and it's not as easy as it seems the first time around, even the second time around might not be easy at first.
13 Best: Breastmilk Is Nutritious
Because of the nutritious value of breastmilk, many organizations, like the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding for new mothers.
Some of the nutrients in breastmilk are lactose, whey and casein proteins, and fat, which are incredibly easy for a baby to digest and for her body to absorb. This is why exclusively breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from diarrhea or constipation. Furthermore, with the exception of vitamin-D, breastmilk contains the vitamins and minerals that newborns need.
Getting the colostrum to the baby is so important because it contains so much of the nutrients newborns need. From the point your body first starts to make breast milk, it produces milk that is specially formulated for your own child. Now that is cool!
12 Worst: Hard To Be Modest
Breastfeeding isn’t very modest, especially when you are just starting out. Once you and your child have figured it out, you’ll be able to nurse without whipping out your boob and trying to navigate it into your child’s mouth. But at the beginning, you’ll be exposed for the world to see.
Or if your child ever decides to be distracted from eating and come off to look at the bird or person who just passed you. There are nursing covers to help with this; however, those have their own problems. Some babies don’t like to be buried while they eat, you might find it more difficult to help your child latch on when you can’t see them, or you might find them awkward to put on while bouncing a screaming child.
11 Best: It Delays The Return Of Aunt Flo
Breastfeeding can also delay the return of your period. Some women who breastfeed don't get their first post-birth period for two or more years. Other women get at least a six-month break. This is called lactational amenorrhea, and it's believed that this happens in part because a newborn isn't ready to have a new sibling to compete with for mom's food.
Women love it because who would really anxiously await the return of their period? No one I know. So if you have a period that you would love a long holiday from, breastfeeding just might be the answer you were looking for. You already have the baby, so what are you waiting for?
Nothing says freedom like never having to wear tampons or maxi pads for month after month. And even if you're the woman who only gets a 6 month reprieve, isn't that better than nothing?
10 Worst: Mom Becomes A Glorious Fountain Of Milk
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It’s not very attractive, but your breasts are going to leak fluid even when your child isn’t nursing. If you hear them crying (or even someone else’s baby) your breasts will let down a little milk, just in case they need it. While they are feeding on one side you could be spewing milk out of the other breast.
If you lie on your stomach to remind yourself what it feels like after nine months, gravity will encourage some milk to come out. And sometimes, for no reason at all, your breasts will just spew milk like the Fountain of Neptune.
Moms that have over produced milk might find thei babies gagging at the breast, and some moms are in such a bad need to feed that once they open the latch, they spew milk all over their baby's face. It's enough to make some moms want to laugh or cry.
9 Best: Breastfeeding Keeps The Baby Healthy
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Even when your baby isn't sick, your breast milk contains white blood cells and the natural chemicals your baby needs to protect them from getting an infection. Then if you or your baby do get sick, your breastmilk will change in order to provide your baby with the antibodies she needs to fight the illness off. Your body knows what to do for your baby and that is just freaky cool.
Breastfeeding also lowers your infant's chances of getting diaper rashes, diarrhea or constipation. Furthermore, breastfeeding will also help your child later on in life, because it reduces her risk of getting type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, Crohn's Disease, and some childhood cancers.
It also helps her body react better to vaccines, which makes the vaccination more effective so your child will be even less likely to get those diseases.
8 Worst: Getting Stuck Under A Sleeping Baby
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Ever heard of breastsleeping? Well, this is a new term for something that babies have always done, falling asleep while nursing and then continuing to nurse while they are asleep. When this happens at two in the morning you will be super jealous.
When this happens in the middle of the day, you’re going to have to pee. And you will be stuck with the dilemma of what to do. Do you bring the baby to the bathroom with you? Do you try to unlatch them and put them down? Or do you hold it in and hope that your little angel doesn’t stay asleep for the next three hours?
Each option has its own risks, and the chances of your baby waking up if you try to go to the bathroom are high.
7 Best: It's Free, Duh!
Sure, you might want to invest in some breast pads and a bottle, but for the most part, breastfeeding is free. If you need to buy formula it can cost anywhere between $60 and $100 a month. If you choose to breastfeed you can spend that money on other things like diapers, an education savings plan, a trip to the spa, or a much needed night out with your partner to keep your love alive.
Breastfeeding is something that also helps mom as well. Breastfeeding means that mom is burning calories and that means returning to her pre-baby weight faster. It also helps mom's uterus contract so it will return to its normal size faster and also helps stop uterine bleeding.
Not to mention that breastfeeding lowers mom's chances of getting ovarian and breast cancers.
6 Worst: Mom Watching What She Does And Eats
When you are breastfeeding you have to watch what you eat and what activities you do because it can impact your child. For instance, if your child is super fussy, it could be because of something that you ate. Also, if you smoke or drink, the nicotine and alcohol can transfer through your breastmilk to your baby.
But that's not the only aspect of your life you need to pay attention to. You also need to watch your stress levels, because if you are under a lot of stress, your supply could go down. If your supply goes down your child to be hungrier and more upset which can lead to even more stress.
5 Best: Breastfeed Is Good For Mom's Health
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Nursing also has many health benefits for mothers. As we discussed above, by nursing, you are reducing your risk of getting certain cancers, like breast cancer and ovarian cancer. You are also lowering your risk for heart disease and diabetes. Breastfeeding also helps you get back to the body size you had before you became pregnant by helping you lose some of the extra weight you gained.
For those who pay attention to calories, by breastfeeding your baby for one day, you are burning as many calories as you would have had you walked for seven miles. Whoa! Also as we looked at earlier, breastfeeding helps new mothers recover from delivery faster, helps your uterus get back to its normal size faster. Finally, breastfeeding can help prevent you from becoming iron deficient.
4 Worst: Mom Is Always On Call
Whenever the baby is crying because she is hungry, you are the answer. If you are breastfeeding, it doesn't matter if it’s three in the morning or four in the afternoon, your baby needs to eat. And, because they have such tiny tummies, new babies eat a lot normally. Especially if they are cluster feeding. And for mommies feeding on demand, that can mean early wake up and midnight feedings.
Sometimes, newborns eat even more than normal when they feel like cluster feeding. This can create problems for moms who need to go back to work or want to get away to give themselves a chance to remember who they were before they became Mom.
It's a hard adjustment to make going from you to mom the milk supply. Mix that with hormones and it's a ripe time for crying and blues.
3 Best: Helps Mothers Bond With Their Babies
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When you breastfeed your child, you are also bonding with her. As she sucks on your nipple, your brain releases the hormone oxytocin or the "love hormone." Not only does oxytocin cause the letdown of your milk, it also eases some of the pain you'll feel because your baby is nursing, makes you feel good and happy, and makes you want to nurse more because you want to feel that emotional high again.
As a newborn, the skin-to-skin contact during feeding can encourage the baby's attachment, steady their heart rate and breathing, help them feel secure, and familiarize them with mom's smell.
Having a secure bond with your baby is the start of a lifelong relationship that will nurture your child and help them to develop healthy and make them more likely to listen to their parents and keep the love alive. What could be better than that?
2 Best: Breastfeeding Is Convenient
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If you are breastfeeding you don’t have to wait for the bottle to warm up, you don’t have to walk to the kitchen to grab the supplies in the middle of the night, you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to find warm water if you go out. You simply unsnap a bra strap, roll a baby onto your breast and away you go.
It's so quick and easy and satisfies the baby almost immediately. One minute there's a starving baby desparate for some food, and the next minute, there's a sleeping fully satisfied baby. It's almost like magic, but it's just the power of mom's breast milk.
And once you see how amazing this is, you'll never again want to have anything to do with bottles, unless you absolutely have to.
1 Best: It Comforts Baby
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Nursing is really comforting to your child. That's part of the reason he sometimes "comfort sucks." This form of non-nutritive nursing has many benefits for your baby. For instance, it decreases his heart rate, it easier for him to fall asleep, and it helps him learn to trust you.
Also, if your baby ever needs a needle, simply smelling your breastmilk will make him feel better. A study in Japan discovered that when babies got to smell their mothers' milk during a routine heel-stick procedure, they were less upset than those who simply smelled formula, some other woman's milk, or nothing at all.
So if you’re ever not there, but you want to be able to help your child calm down place a cloth or small stuffed toy between your breasts for a bit before you go to transfer your scent to it. Then, when you're gone your baby will still be able to smell you and feel comforted by you.
Sources: Parenting, LLLI, Pediatrics, Baby Center, Mayo Clinic