Of all the newfangled inventions to help the new mother, formula is perhaps the least exciting. Formula feeding has become so second nature that many women do not even consider breastfeeding as a real option anymore. When we are little girls playing with baby dolls we have little plastic bottles to "feed" them with. If you are looking for baby shower decorations or party favors, you are sure to see bottles as part of the standard cliche items. If you walk down a baby items aisle you will encounter anywhere from 6 to 20 different kinds of formula for the many different needs of babies. Each of these canisters of formula ranges from $15 to $30, depending on brand and type, but what they don't tell you before you become a mom is that your baby will go through ONE of these canisters every four to five days. Add to that the price of bottles and other formula feeding paraphernalia and it gets costly. If for no other reason than to save money, breastfeeding becomes an option to consider. I don't know what it was that initially attracted me to breastfeeding, but I have managed to put together quite a list of reasons why breastfeeding is not only cheaper, but easier and healthier for both baby and mama.
Why Choose Breastfeeding?
1. Cheaper... because it's FREE!
2. No bottles to clean and sanitize. I do enough dishes at home, I can't imagine having to keep track of bottles too.
3. Breast milk has the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein necessary for your infant's growth and development, plus the taste is tailored for your specific baby which means you will save time and money on trying to find the "perfect formula."
4. Breast milk is easier to digest for most babies, reducing colic and other digestion related problems. My daughter never had colic and has to date never had any digestion problems.
5. Breastfed babies tend to gain less unnecessary weight and to be leaner, resulting in being less overweight later in life. (Consider European countries and under-developed countries in which the majority of women breastfeed... they are generally much leaner than Americans.) I also want to add that it is important to note "unnecessary weight." My daughter has been in the nineties percentile for her weight since birth, but she is solid rather than fat. To put it into perspective, most babies in the US that are in her percentile are slower to develop. Babies on average should be sitting up unassisted between six and nine months (seven and a half being the average for most babies). My daughter was sitting up unassisted at FOUR months old. Our pediatrician didn't believe me when I told her, so I showed her. She was shocked. I just smiled.
6. Premature babies do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula in both physical and cognitive development.
7. Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, which could actually be a result of the way in which formula negatively effects cognitive development.
8. Breastfed babied get antibodies in the breast milk that help protect them from bacteria and viruses. Studies show that babies who are not exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life are more likely to develop a wide range of infectious diseases including ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses and have more hospitalizations. I will attest to this study! I have been exclusively breastfeeding my daughter for over 8 months now and she has not gotten sick once. Which is amazing considering that both my partner and I have been sick multiple times since her birth. The books and even our pediatrician said that we should expect her to get sick somewhere around 6 times throughout the first year, but she is nothing but healthy and I truly believe it is because she is a breastfed baby.
9. Infants who are not breastfed have a 21% higher post neonatal infant mortality rate in the US, including higher susceptibility to SIDS, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, overweight and obesity, high cholesterol, and asthma. (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2005).
10. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in the breastfeeding mother, and possibly lowers the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.
11. Nursing uses up extra calories, making it easier to lose the pregnancy weight after giving birth. It also releases a hormone into the body that helps the uterus contract back down to its original size which lessens the duration of bleeding after giving birth. This is one of the biggest draws for pregnant women who are worried about losing the baby weight. I don't know how many times people commented on how good I looked for having just had a baby a few months prior. I was back down to my average, pre-pregnancy weight by the time my daughter was 4 months old and I did NOT exercise at all. It's all about eating healthy and breastfeeding!
12. Breastfeeding exclusively (no supplementing with formula) delays the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. You should still take birth control that is breastfeeding friendly "just in case," but after the initial giving birth bleeding had subsided, I did not have a period and still have not had a period and my daughter is eight an a half months old.
13. A mother can give her baby immediate satisfaction by providing her breast milk when her baby is hungry rather than trying to make a bottle. This also makes middle of the night feedings SO much easier! Instead of getting up to go into the kitchen and make a bottle while your baby is crying and inconsolable, you just attach them to the breast and your baby is not only happy, they will drift back to sleep almost immediately. Save even more time and energy by co-sleeping!
14. Breastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet, relaxed time for herself and her baby. This is where breastfeeding becomes something that could possibly change your life. Americans are all about careers and making money and going going going. That's why we have fast food and microwaves and all sorts of modern conveniences that save us time. Breastfeeding will save you time, but it will also teach you how to use your time more wisely. Children do not stay infants forever. Breastfeeding makes you slow down and enjoy your infant while you can. It also gives you time to relax and take a little nap. Most infants will sleep while you nurse, which means you can sleep too.
15. Breastfeeding helps a mother bond with her baby. Physical contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more secure, warm and comforted. It also helps combat postpartum depression by creating a natural, secure attachment. I had a history of depression prior to getting pregnant, which meant postpartum depression was a major concern. While I have had my "blue" moments, breastfeeding and other attachment parenting techniques have helped me avoid feeling too overwhelmed.
There are lots and lots of benefits to breastfeeding and there isn't a day that goes by that I am not happy about making the choice to breastfeed. I work part-time to full-time and have to pump in order to keep my daughter fed and my milk supply up, but it is still SO worth it. I had planned on breastfeeding until Madilyn's first birthday, but now I'm thinking I will just breastfeed until it feels like it's time to stop. She eats solid foods now too, so I'm not always breastfeeding, but at night, when we are all trying to wind down and relax, it really helps to just lay her across a Boppy and breastfeed her to sleep.