Long before I was a mother, I made up my mind that I was not going to breastfeed. I had been formula-fed as an infant in the 70’s (long before breastfeeding was “en vogue”) and using formula just sounded so much more practical!
Then, I became pregnant. As I began to more seriously consider feeding options, I felt that I might want to just give breastfeeding a chance. Several friends had successfully breastfed their children and, although I wasn’t familiar with the logistics of it, I thought that it was probably worth attempting. I also read something that really stuck with me: other than the act of childbirth itself, breastfeeding is one of the most green, natural acts that a human being could possibly participate in.
Of course! How could I not have thought about that before? Not only does formula present issues with packaging (in terms of both chemical leeching and producing waste), but it also might pose medical risks to the infant’s immature intestinal tract and increase the baby’s lifelong risks for health issues ranging from obesity to cancer. Not to mention the cost! Estimates that I saw ranged from about $1500 to $5000 per year depending on the type of formula required.
My mind was made up. I would at least attempt to breastfeed.
The first days after my son’s birth stretched into weeks and he slowly gained weight as we painstakingly learned the process of breastfeeding together, one feeding at a time. As most new mothers know, I felt that all I did was feed him. Each session lasted about 45 minutes (including the several that fell in the middle of the night) and, by the time we finished one cycle of feeding, changing, and a nap, it was time to start all over again.
I believe that it was around 3 months of age when I suddenly realized that neither one of us seemed to have to think much about what we were doing anymore. We finally had it down pat.
This was my experience and I know it’s not the same for everyone. Some women do have medical issues that prevent them from producing enough milk, although I have also read that many women who think they may not be producing an adequate amount actually are.
I will not use this post to enumerate the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child as those are widely publicized and probably very familiar to you already. What I will say is that breastfeeding is definitely not for the faint of heart. Above all else, it requires a commitment to work through the initial physical pain and the worry that your baby is not “getting enough” or that you are losing your supply. I still need to plan out when I need to pump to maintain my supply (when I will be away from my son) as well as the logistics of freezing, refrigerating, and thawing appropriate amounts of milk for daycare.
Just recently, we passed the 10 month mark and are still going strong. Personally, I will plan on continuing several feedings a day of breastmilk until my son turns a year old and, despite any preconceived notions I once had about breastfeeding (like “I will definitely be done by 12 months!”), will likely continue one or two feedings a day for several months thereafter as long as he is interested.
What was the experience like for you? Did you choose to breastfeed, or no, what were your reasons?