Tuesday, June 11, 2013

To 'B' or not to 'B'

This post is for my pregnant friends out there, if you are still undecided to “B” or not to “B” (“B” being “Breastfeed”). “B” sounds less conspicuous and more private, so it seems better for a title.  I want to share my very personal experience and maybe make your decision easier. I can’t compare breastfeeding with formula feeding (or “artificial feeding” as it’s called in Russian) accurately, since I’ve only had one child so far and I breastfed her, but I’ll try.  I hope you will accept this post for what it is “a story of a mother who breastfed”. I am certainly biased due to my experience, but I know plenty of mothers who formula fed and they and their kids are just as healthy and happy, so I respect both choices. Also worth mentioning that sometimes there are certain circumstances and even health related reasons why a mother cannot breastfeed. But if you have the option, you may as well consider it at least.
Now having made this disclaimer let me tell you why I endorse breastfeeding:
1.       Why don’t we start right with this point: any baby related literature, books, magazines, different studies, research, and many doctors recommend breastfeeding.  I don’t think I've seen anywhere a statement suggesting that formula feeding is better for your child. As mothers, we all want what’s best for our children, so why not to start from the very early age and do what we can? Volumes of studies have been done and there is plenty of scientific evidence of the benefits for your baby. I won’t get into the details of studies, because I don’t feel confident using medical terms in English (or Russian for that matter) having no medical or scientific background, but I do understand from all the studies I’ve read that breastfeeding is good for your baby (nice and clear!). It can help preventing numerous diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, different infections, etc. And yes, yes I know the statement “it can help…” always sounds so vague and doesn't even sound very confident and real, but from my own experience I can say that Allie only had one ear infection since she was born and it was very minor.

2.       Breastfeeding is good for you, too! First things first: it allows you get rid of loooots of calories. Let’s face it, what other activity will let you burn so many calories while sitting comfortably on the couch and watching your favorite TV show?  So your “baby fat” will go away faster if you breastfeed. Besides, studies have also shown that breastfeeding lowers a woman's risks of getting certain types of cancers and even heart disease.

3.       It’s so convenient! When you go anywhere with your baby, you don’t need to bring any bottles or any formula. All the “tools” are with you! That actually might have been my favorite part about breastfeeding. You always ready to go! Especially it came in handy during doctor’s visits when Allie was getting shots. The shots, of course, always ended in tears, but Allie was then immediately soothed by mama’s milk, without me having to spend any time preparing a bottle.

4.       And that brings us to another important benefit of soothing! It's soothing for both mother and baby. Nothing was as soothing to Allie as breastfeeding. It always, always, always helped. Whether her belly bothered her, or she was teething, or she was restless, or sleepy, whatever it was – boob to the rescue!

5.       It is inexpensive. Breastfeeding is so much cheaper than buying formula, which adds up to a lot. The longer you breastfeed, the more money you save! A pump can be fairly expensive, but actually many insurances cover its purchase, and in any case once you’ve bought it – you’re done. That, a couple bottles and freezer containers are all you need.

6.       It’s also empowering! You can actually say that you are giving something to your baby that no one else can. And yes, of course, you can also give your baby mother’s love like no one else, but breastfeeding is way more concrete and true.

7.       That raved about bonding experience. It’s just between you and your baby; it’s your private moment. It really creates that great bond from the very start. Besides, after the first few weeks of getting used to it, it actually feels very pleasant.

8.       I think there also has to be something said about the whole “organic” aspect and feel of breastfeeding. It is how the nature intended for a baby's early feeding to happen.

9.       “Bragging rights”! Nothing like casually mentioning that “oh yeah, no big deal, but I did breastfeed for over 2 years” (or even more in some cases!). That’s not something I can say, as I didn’t go that long, but I always have so much respect for mothers who did it! The longer you breastfeed, the more health benefits your baby gets.

10.  Easy night time feedings. How about the fact that in the middle of the night, when your baby wakes up to eat, all you need to do is move her to your bed, get her in a comfortable feeding position and continue sleeping. Of course, you need to be careful with your baby next to you, but I found that “ a mother’s instinct” is a very real thing and you don’t sleep the same with your baby next to you. Still you have to be careful, of course.  So no need to get up (given your baby sleeps in a  co-sleeper or cradle next you to), no need to deal with preparation of bottles, warming anything up… Everything is cooked, warmed up and ready to go!

Now since I set out to compare the two feeding options, I have to bring up a few points why I can totally understand mothers who choose to formula feed.
1.     The looks.  Well, let’s get very frank here and admit that breastfeeding does not make your breasts look any prettier when you’re finally done. How important it is for you – you decide.  I mean you will look just fine, but definitely not the same as pre-breastfeeding (I told you I’d be very frank) 

2.       The reason that actually matters a lot and that made me consider several times to stop breastfeeding is this  - it’s all on you! So in a sense, it’s a positive of breastfeeding (you know, oh I am so cool, I make my baby’s food!) but when you are completely exhausted and the last thing you want to do in the middle of the night is get your sleep interrupted and breastfeed, because, you know, it’s always your turn, you really consider switching to formula, as soon as the morning comes and you can go to the store and buy gallons of formula.

3.       Schedule. When you formula feed, then the only schedule you need to watch is your baby’s.  When you breastfeed, you still need to watch your baby’s feeding schedule, but in addition you have to watch yours. Read between the lines: PUMP. You must get the milk out whether your baby ate or not. You can’t fool yourself, you can’t pretend baby had enough milk, you can’t be hoping baby will be up soon to feed, or especially you absolutely cannot go a full work day without 2-3 pumping breaks.  You are on a tight schedule with pumping.

4.       If you have to travel during your baby’s first year or 2 and you are a breastfeeding mother, that’s another situation where you’ll want to stop.  Pumping every 3 hours around the clock while travelling is no picnic. Trust me, I’ve been there… Especially if you are travelling for work! Especially if you are travelling to Europe, where the outlets are different and guess what, the regular plug adapter doesn’t work and burns and ruins your pump charger and you need a plug converter, and you try to explain to a salesman at a local supermarket what you need the adapter for, because surprise, surprise, they don’t normally learn how to say “breast pump” in English classes at school (well, at least it’s not something I learned at my school). Anyway, that’s another story…

5.       It’s a fact that babies who breastfeed, feed more frequently than those who are formula fed. So if you don’t breastfeed, you get longer breaks in between, and more importantly longer stretches of sleep at night!

The conclusion: breasfeeding - 10 points, formula - 5 points. You see which one wins in my book! :)

Here are a few more great resources on breastfeeding:
American Academy of Pediatrics
La Leche Leage International 
National Women's Health Information Center
Baby Center

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