Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Benefits of Breastfeeding

This weeks theme for the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt is the benefits of breastfeeding.

I've read through some of the posts already live from other bloggers, and I'm impressed and a little intimidated. There are lots of posts with links to great articles outlining all the benefits to mum and baby from breastfeeding. I'll be going in a slightly different direction. 

I have two little girls. The Angry Midget is 7 years and Danger Baby is 18 months. Long story short, The Angry Midget's birth and first few (all) years of life were difficult for me. I had a C-section under general 
anesthesia breast feeding did not go well at all, and I ended up having to supplement heavily with formula. I still "nursed" TAM until she was about 2 years old, but it was more comfort than nourishment that she received

Six years later, I was pregnant again with Danger Baby. I was facing the fears that I would have the same struggles with PPD, bonding, breastfeeding and anxiety that I had with TAM. I tried for a VBAC, but ended up having a second section (at least I was awake for this one) and while it wasn't the birth I had wanted, it was much better than the first one. Breastfeeding started off 
great, and I was over the moon for my baby, no bonding issues this time. 

We faltered a bit in the beginning but eventually we got the kinks worked out and Danger Baby grew and grew. She is slender, but her sister is the same way. Eventually, she put on a bit of toddler chub, and is finally wearing the size that matches her age (though I think a lot of that bulk is her diapers--we use cloth).

Having been on both sides of the breastfeeding fence, I can tell you there are benefits to both, but there are SOOOO many more on the breastfeeding side than on the formula side.


When TAM needed to eat, I would nurse her first to try to get the milk flowing, then when the breast no longer worked, I'd set her down and she would wail until I got the formula and water measured, warmed, mixed and ready to serve. Frequently, the bottle would leak, and she would have more on her clothes than in her belly. When we went out somewhere, I always had to be sure I had enough formula, water, bottle liners, bibs, burp cloths... It seemed the list of things grew every time I took her somewhere. And God help you if I forgot something. 

When DB needs to eat, I latch her on and enjoy some time messing around on FB, or just relaxing while holding my little. No stress about leaky bottles, playing chemist with formula, or if it's too hot or too cold. It's always the right temperature. When I take DB out somewhere, all I need are a few diapers and some wipes. The diaper bag I need with her is so much smaller than the one I needed with her sister simply because I have so much less stuff to drag around. 


Well, I should think that this one just explains its self. Formula isn't free, breastmilk is.

And yes, if you need to pump and bottle feed because you're going back to work, or you would like a night out with the Mister, then there is some cost involved for the pump and bottles, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the cost to formula feed. 

Here in the US, depending on the brand you choose, it can run you anywhere from $15 to upwards of $38 for one can. One can! I'm in the Mid-West, so I can imagine that different parts of the country will have different prices, but that gives you an idea. And those cans don't make as much as you think. We would go through about 3 a week.


This one should be pretty self explanatory as well. 

With formula, there are ways that you can make it more environmentally friendly. You could use glass bottles for instance, instead of plastic bottles with disposable drop in liners. But there is still the production and distribution of the formula and the disposal of the cans that takes it's toll on the Earth. 

The production of your breasts happened years ago, transportation is a non issue, and disposal won't happen for several more decades, so really, is there any question who wins this round?

Health Benefits

This is a big one. For your baby, there really is no equal to what your body makes. Your breasts are AMAZING! They know just exactly what your little needs, and how much she needs. Researchers have tried for years to replicate what your body does, and they still can't get it right because every sample is chemically different. Also, your body passes immune boosters that formula just can't. 

When your baby is brand new, days, hours, minutes old, your body knows just how tiny that little stomach is and produces just enough colostrum or milk to fill it with out overfilling and making baby sick. That bottle of formula doesn't. It just keeps supplying supplying supplying. New babies need to suckle. The breast is the best place for them because they are close to their favorite person in the world. Their suckling will make your brain release oxytocin which will help your uterus contract back down, and also helps in the bonding process. 

In Summation

Look. In the end, how you choose to feed your child is your decision. Only you can make the choice that is right for you and your baby. It's really easy for someone else to stand on the outside and say, "My way is the only way, and your way is wrong!" Just to be clear, I'm not doing that. I've been on both sides of the fence remember? I've had to do the bottle, and I've had the privilege of breastfeeding as well. They both had their challenges and their pluses. 

All I can tell you for sure is I did the best I could with what I had at the time. 

Every mother, regardless of her parenting style or how she feeds her baby, is in that exact same boat. Doing the best she can with what she has at the time.

My hope is that if you were on the fence, and not sure that you wanted to breastfeed, pick up a book about it. Give it a chance. I'm reminded of a quote. I can't remember it exactly, but the basic gist was "Choice without information is not a choice." And this one by Ina May Gaskin: "We women have to not denigrate other women’s choices – we need to honor them. That’s the kind of feminism I want to see. We shouldn’t be making other people’s choices for them."

One of my favorite books when I was nursing The Angry Midget all those years ago was Babies, Breastfeeding, and Bonding by Ina May Gaskin. Sadly, this book is no longer in print, but she has come out with a new book Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding. It's a great resource, and full of not just information, but comfort as well.

If you would like to read more about the benefits of breastfeeding, you could check out the posts on these blogs:

Also, as part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, Juno Magazine is giving away a few 1 year subscriptions. Check them out here:

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  1. Testing to be sure comments are working.

  2. Lovely post. I love the ease of breast feeding once established, I'm sure I'm too disorganised to formula feed

    1. Agreed, Kate. Once you get it down, you're gold. Formula was a total pain. i'm so glad i can avoid it this time. :)

    2. I think I'd find formula feeding very stressful and hard work, so glad I didn't have to!

  3. I think the biggest benefit for me is the time, I don't have to prepare formula, so have time for more sleep in the night, have more time to play with my older daughter even though I am feeding her baby brother.

  4. I actually laughed at that bit you wrote about your breasts not being disposed of for some time to come! You made me momentarily wake my baby!

    For me a huge benefit has been bonding. We had a difficult birth and I struggled to see her as my baby at first. Breastfeeding has been enormously helpful.

    1. I'm so glad you laughed at that! (Though I'm sorry it woke the baby) I was hoping someone would get the joke. :) The need to bond with my first was the main reason I kept at it even though she had to have formula too. I don't know that it really helped us because of the PPD and the major disconnect I felt to not just her, but everyone and everything around me, but I can only imagine how much worse our bond would have been had I not kept at the breastfeeding.

      I'm so happy that you are doing so well with your little nursling! That is wonderful to hear, and truly makes me smile.

  5. This is brilliant. Thank you. As someone who has had to supplement with formula, due to insufficient glandular tissue, I thank you for encouraging women not to be judgmental. I also want to echo how much simpler life would be if I could just breastfeed.

    1. A defective thyroid was also suspected as one of my reasons for production problems. Sadly, it went undiagnosed for years. Hopefully, should you chose to have more babies, you will have better results next time. Having been on both sides of the issue, I can't judge. I admit, I do feel a pang of disappointment or sadness when I go to visit a friend in the hospital and see them giving their brand new baby a bottle knowing full well that they didn't even try. But for ladies on the street, I don't know what path they are walking in life, so I won't make the assumption that they just didn't try hard enough.

  6. Not having to make up formula in the middle of the night. Really enjoyed your post, its not all roses when you breastfeed (My son woke every hour for a feed for the first six months of his life) but it definitely was a wonderful feeling for me

    1. Excellent reason! And you have to be so much more awake to get a bottle together than to just pop them on the boob.

  7. I don't think anyone can argue with the health benefits of brest feeding for both baby AND mum! ... I have to admit though that I also love the fact that I don't have to sterilise all the time :)

  8. The fact that it cures all ills, tiredness, bumps, cross patch moments, everything!

  9. Hehe, love the breast disposal comment. I have images of going and throwing myself into a big stinking rubbish tip when my feeding time is done, with people looking on in bemusement...

  10. I love the fact that you are giving your little one all of that nutition and all of the health benefits for your little one and you are priceless but i have to say i do love that special time you get together and i cant wait to experience it all over again when bump decides to arrive : )

  11. I love this post, short, sweet, to the point and funny :D
    My current favourite benefit is that breast milk adapts to meet my baby's needs and his current stage of development.


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