I'm resurrecting this post -- originally dated March 1, 2008 -- because today I realized I have nursed both of my children for a total 25 months. And I just learned that if a woman breastfeeds her children for seven years, she has nearly elminated her risk of developing breast cancer. So, in short, this post is serving as a little bit of encouragement for me to keep on milking it for all it's worth. (Though, I think we're going to have to add another baby to this nursing mix if I plan to nurse for 7 years!).
The first night we were home from the hospital with G, my husband John found the baby and me both bawling on the couch at 2 a.m.
G was crying because he was hungry; I was sobbing because I couldn't help G figure out how to get enough milk while using the nipple shield one of the hospital nurses gave me. (The nipple shield is supposed to help the baby latch on; maybe it has some merit, but we found it to be more of a frustration than a help.) To add to the mix, G and I were both tired and frustrated. That night I was seriously tempted to throw in the towel on breastfeeding and give G a bottle. Luckily, John heard our sobs and came to our rescue. I told John to make a bottle full of formula for G to eat. John, however, knew that breastfeeding was something I really wanted to do. He recognized my frustration, denied my request for a bottle full of formula and encouraged me to persevere.
"Tomorrow," he promised, "We'll call the lactation consultant and get help."
Thankfully, after we spoke to Jeanne Cygnus, a board-certified lactation consultant, I never seriously considered feeding G formula again. Though we've had our fair share of struggles (oversupply, engorgement, plugged ducts and soreness), the benefits have most definitely outweighed the hardships. Jeanne brainstormed a top-ten list of reasons why breastfeeding is excellent; consult the list whenever ...
a.) you feel discouraged and ready to give up
b.) you have to explain to your (fill-in-the-blank) why you are still breastfeeding
c.) you feel like a milk machine who barely can keep up with a serial nurser
d.) you leak all over your shirt when a baby cries on TV
10. Save some serious cash -- "With formulas costing anywhere from $150 to more than $400 per month, breastfeeding for the first year can save enough money to buy something you’d REALLY want!" Jeanne said.
Just think, you could make a monthly car payment for what you'd spend on formula. Or you could buy 3 new outfits every month to make up for the lost last few months of pregnancy when you couldn't find anything cute that didn't make you feel like a cow. Perhaps I'm just frugal, but why pay for the milk, when you can get the whole cow for free? (Yes, I just likened myself to a cow, and I'm OK with that. See those last few months of pregnancy were just preparing me for what was to come.)
9. Maintain healthy bones --"Breastfeeding decreases your risk of developing Osteoporosis as you age," Jeanne said.
Minerals leach from the bones during breastfeeding, Jeanne explained. After weaning, your body remineralizes and re calcifies bones making them denser and stronger. A 1994 study of 308 lactating mothers found that those mothers who breastfed for the first six months had bone mineral densities that exceeded those of the postpartum.(1) That's great incentive for those of us who want to be active in our post-menopausal bodies without worrying about fracturing or breaking any bones when we're out bike riding with our grand kids.
8. The smell factor -- "Breastmilk diapers have very little odor," Jeanne said.
You can gently remind your hubby of this when he complains about changing diapers. Additionally, as a cloth-diapering mama, I can assure you that breastmilk poop does not stain the cloth diapers and it washes out of cloth pretty darn easily. And I like my fluff looking nice and bright even if its sole job is to catch poop and pee.
Additionally, Jeanne said breastmilk spit-up does not stain clothing. That's good, because there will be spit up. And you wouldn't want to stain those new wardrobe pieces you were able to buy with all the money you saved by not buying formula now would you?
7. Save your kids from nicknames like metal mouth and brace face --"Breastfeeding develops and strengthens baby’s facial and jaw muscles, resulting in a lower need for orthodontic correction later on," Jeanne said. "Breastfeeding spreads the palate out and helps keep teeth where they are supposed to be."
And just think of what you can do with the money you may have had to spend on braces!
Breastfeeding also helps develop the palate in baby's mouth, Jeanne said.
"There are a lot of sleep apnea problems because [some people's] palates are too high," she added."We've had a couple generations that didn't breastfeed. Palates don't smooth out [as well] when babies are not breastfed."
6. Lessen the risk of your child developing serious illnesses -- "Breastfeeding helps to mature the baby’s own immune system properly, leading to less illness throughout their lives and a much lower incidence of auto-immune diseases such as Lupus," Jeanne said.
One New Zealand study even showed that infants who are exclusively breastfed are less likely to succumb to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; that could help a mama rest a little more easily at night.(2)
5. Promote lean, healthy bodies --"Breastfed babies have a much lower incidence of obesity in adulthood," Jeanne said.
Even the really chubby babies (no one's pointing any fingers, but, here's looking at you, G), have a lessor chance of being obese as adults, she reassured.
4. Spend less quality time with your doctor -- "Babies who do not receive breastmilk have an average of five to six sick visits to the doctor during their first year," Jeanne said. "Breastfed babies average one to two sick visits in their first year. That’s a lot of time saved from sitting in a waiting room!"
I love my doctor more than the average mom probably does, but I don't feel the need to fund his retirement account more than needed. (Half of that reason is because I'd really like him to be around to deliver and care for the rest of our future children.)
3. Have baby, will travel-- "It's easier to travel with baby," Jeanne said. "You have all the food they need, preheated, right there!"
A quick trip to the mall or grocery store is not a major adventure when you are breastfeeding because a mama doesn't have to track down water, warm the water and mix the formula. Simply unsnap the bra, pop baby on and let baby chow down!
2. Save the boobies -- "[Breastfeeding] decreases your risk of breast cancer for every month of your life that you breastfeed," Jeanne said.
That's considerably good news considering the American Cancer Society expected 178,480 women were to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. (3)
1. A gourmet meal every time -- "This food is designed especially for YOUR baby with customized fat and protein levels for your baby’s development and antibodies to the germs in your environment," Jeanne said.
I can't even get that good of a meal when we go out to eat at a fancy-schmancy, $40-per-plate restaurant. Again, the boob juice is free, tasty and nutritious. And don't we as moms desperately seek out that winning combination for our children during all of our meal-preparing days?
1.F. POLATTI, E. CAPUZZO, F. VIAZZO, R. COLLEONI, and C. KLERSYBone Mineral Changes During and After LactationObstet. Gynecol., July 1, 1999; 94(1): 52 - 56.
2.Ford RPK, Taylor BJ, Mitchell EA, Breastfeeding and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Int J Epidemiol 1993; 22:885-890