Let's be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding. I love that I have an incredible ability to provide for my children with my body; but I hate that it makes me their primary provider. I think breastfeeding can be a contentious topic, and I’ve found that it often falls into the same bucket as medicated births—with people advocating for breastmilk or formula and criticizing the other. It doesn't help that there are a lot of opinions out there, from medical professionals, moms and everyone else.
There are basic nutrition benefits to breastfeeding, and in addition to containing vitamins and nutrients, breastmilk is packed with antibodies that help babies fight off bad stuff like viruses and bacteria. No one will argue with that. There's also some evidence that suggests that breast-fed babies develop fewer psychological, behavioral and learning problems as they grow.
When I was pregnant with Ryan I planned to breastfeed because I was convinced that it was the healthiest and most responsible way to feed a baby. After Ryan was born I was working full-time (in an office three to four days a week) and I was also attending grad school in the evenings, which meant that I spent a lot of time pumping while I was away from him. We made it about eight months on breastmilk exclusively, then a couple more on breastmilk and formula, and then a couple on formula alone as we neared his first birthday.
Here's the thing about breastfeeding that people don't really talk about—it is physically and emotionally demanding. My journey has been relatively easy. It's been absent of production or latching issues, my boys have happily nursed and steadily gained weight. But still, it has worn me down, and in both of my breastfeeding experiences I have reached a point where I realize I am ready to have my body back. I think motherhood is full of decisions like this, with answers that are neither right or wrong. We just have to trust our instinct and make the best choice possible.
Do you think you might have breastfeeding in your future? If so, here are some things that made my experience a little easier and that might help you too:
- A nipple shield helped Ryan to latch when he was a newborn, and it slowed down the speed of milk for Connor when I had overactive let downs.
- Nursing bras and tanktops made breastfeeding a little more accessible.
- I used the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote, which has a discrete black tote that made commuting with a pump a little more manageable.
- I'm all for multi-tasking and a handsfree breastpump bra let me do just that.
Photo by Emily Goodstein.