Breastfeeding advocates claim the following advantages of exclusive breastfeeding:
- Mom will lose weight faster (I was just at a La Leche League meeting where a mom of a 6 month old was complaining about how her diet and exercise efforts are making zero difference in her effort to lose weight. She has been exclusively breastfeeding her baby since day one, yet whether she pigs out or watches what she eats, she is not losing any weight.
- It will save money. I have personally spend $500 already in trying to fix our breastfeeding relationship. On what, you ask? A baby weight and medical-grade breast pump rental; the purchase of an emergency breast pump to ease engorgement; various supplements to help with yeast and lactation support; medical co-pays for three visits with a breast surgeon to drain breast abscesses; co-pay for nipple cream, a nipple shield and nipple shells to help with sore nipples; a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to supplement baby at the breast; a nursing bra and tank; breastfeeding books; and a nursing pillow and nursing pads (ok, these were a gift so not my own expense). Had I simply opted for formula right off the bat, I would have several months’ worth of nutrition for my little one. As it stands, I’m paying for formula to supplement on top of all the other expenses.
- Baby will have less ear infections. My sister was exclusively breastfed for over a year, and she endured recurrent ear infections.
- Mom has a decreased risk of breast cancer. I recently watched a video discussion of breastfeeding, and one lady on there, who had exclusively breastfed three children, had to then undergo a mastectomy.
- It’s more eco-friendly than formula. In my case, it is not, as I have to pump, and with that comes the use of various plastics and glass. I’ve also had to purchase a kit to go with my rental pump, which now has no home because it doesn’t fit the pump I got through my insurance.
- It’s more convenient. Yes and no. As I ride in the back seat with my baby while hubby drives, if baby gets hungry, I can simply feed her by bottle without having to pull over and get her out of the seat. It’s not an ideal scenario for feeding, I know, because I do generally practice paced bottle-feeding to support the little breastfeeding that we do get to do. But the option is there. Also, being able to bottle feed in public rather than struggling the way we do at home is a huge plus.
- It’s easier. When you’re in pain, what you’re doing does not appear to be easy. Believe me.
- It encourages bonding. Ah, I think this is the one that really got under my skin, as it implies that without breastfeeding, bonding will suffer. Tell this to adoptive moms! I hear this so much that it’s hard to convince myself that all the other attachment practices we do, such as skin-to-skin contact, holding the baby, babywearing, rooming in... that all of these cower in comparison to breastfeeding. Sucks when breastfeeding is the one thing we can’t do. Don’t all the others count?!
I am amazed at how ingrained this notion of “breast is best” has become in my psyche, that in spite of having all of this outlined right in front of me, a part of me continues to grieve and hope we can still reclaim exclusive breastfeeding soon. I get that it’s important, but it’s not more important than my enjoying my baby and simply doing what I can with what I’ve got. This won’t be the only time I’m unable to provide 100% of what my daughter needs. I can’t let that make me question my abilities as a mother.