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Number One Reason To Breastfeed

August 4, 2010

I posted a question on the pureMotherhood Facebook page a few days ago. I asked, “What do you love about breastfeeding?” Closeness, cuddling and bonding won out. I’ve been pondering those answers since then.

It’s amazing to me how my mood can change in an instant when I sit down to nurse my little one. As soon as the milk starts flowing my mind and body completely relax. And no matter how irritated I was before, it all melts away. I stare into those big, beautiful brown eyes and fall in love. Every. Time. I run my fingers over his tiny hands and sweet cheeks. He is the most amazing thing in the world.

And then it occurred to me . . . the bonding experience is one thing that most women find really important about breastfeeding but it’s not one of the typical “Top 10 Reasons to Breastfeed”. Tragic, because it’s probably one of the most important. I think no one wants to say it because it could easily, deeply offend mothers who don’t breastfeed. Somehow it’s just too personal to say. But don’t women need to hear it?

There are many physical benefits to breastfeeding and those are the ones that are most often highlighted. I just did a quick search on reasons to breastfeed and quickly came up with this list from pregnancy.about.com. Click HERE to see the full, detailed list.

  1. Increases baby’s IQ.
  2. Helps mom lose that baby fat.
  3. Breastfed babies are less likely to die of SIDS.
  4. Reduced allergies for breastfed babies.
  5. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you breastfeed.
  6. Breastfeeding burns calories.
  7. Formula increases the risk of Type 1 Diabetes.
  8. Postbirth benefits are also many.
  9. Cancers decrease with breastfeeding too.
  10. Breastfeeding lowers the risk of obesity.

Those are all great things and certainly are good reasons to choose to breastfeed.

Let’s go back to #8 for a minute. There are postbirth benefits to breastfeeding because when you breastfeed your body releases large amounts of oxytocin. This natural chemical helps the uterus to contract and prevents postpartum hemorrhage. So, it saves the life of the mother, naturally. It also helps to release milk from the mammary glands so a mother may provide nourishment to her baby.

And, this one (complex) chemical promotes bonding between mother and child. It is often called the ‘love’ hormone as it promotes love and trust between two people. It’s the same chemical that spikes in both men and women when experiencing orgasm (it’s all beginning to make sense now, right?)! Moreover, it brings feelings of contentment, reduces anxiety and has a calming effect. The reason you always feel like you need a nap after breastfeeding? Oxytocin has a sedative effect as well.

So, all those physical benefits are great but the bonding between a mother and child is what nursing moms find most important. The problem is you can’t tell someone they won’t be able to bond with their baby if they don’t breastfeed. You’d hurt their feelings or be indirectly calling them a bad mom. And unfortunately you can talk about it ‘until you’re blue in the face’ but you can’t fully understand and appreciate it until you’ve actually experienced it. THAT is why it’s SO important that we make breastfeeding a normal practice in our country. We shouldn’t have to guilt moms into breastfeeding by telling them they can’t bond as well with their babies if they bottlefeed, even if the scientific data backs it up. Breastfeeding has to be normal so that every woman can experience the wonderful benefits of oxytocin for herself.

Question for you . . . What things have you done or do you want to do to help make breastfeeding a normal practice in our society?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 4, 2010 9:42 AM

    I am passionate about breastfeeding, but I am almost as passionate about modesty. I feel like some moms ruin it for others by not considering people around them when they BF. I feel like it turns society off as a whole to the idea of nursing a baby. I feel like some women want to push so hard that it is normal and natural and beautiful (and it is ALL of those things), but the beauty and normalcy of it are lost when it seems like someone is shoving it in your face but showing so much skin while nursing. There are so many options out there for nursing modestly and discreetly.

    This may step on some people’s toes, but I feel like another reason why BFing is not consdidered normal is that some women feel like they can’t do it because of their career. There are many reasons why a woman may HAVE to work, but there are many cases where women put their career ahead of their children by choice. I always imagined I would be a career woman even after having children. I am so thankful that God changed my heart regarding this and thus far has not failed to provide what we need even though it’s been hard without an additional income. I wish others would see that with sacrifice it is possible to stay home with their children, and it is so rewarding.

    • August 4, 2010 10:02 AM

      Thanks for commenting Risha.

      I, of course, am in favor of modesty as well. I have to say that I’ve actually never seen a woman breastfeeding immodestly. In fact, I rarely see a woman breastfeeding in public.

      I read a blog post yesterday that speaks to this issue: http://www.blacktating.com/2010/08/guest-post-bye-bye-breast-burka.html

      This is the part I thought was really good and resonated with me, “This is where I learned to nurse out and about with confidence. I watched the moms with older babies. I saw unspoken communication between them. I saw how a baby might start to wiggle a bit and like Houdini the mom had unhooked her bra, lifted her shirt and latched the baby in seconds flat. It looked effortless and it also looked like there was a baby in her arms – no breasts hanging out, no cover ups – simply a babe in arms. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel that assured. I wanted to look that smooth and at ease. As I expressed my envy at their mastery they all assured me that they too had been awkward. They encouraged me to nurse Phoebe in front of a mirror and I did. I grew confident in my ability to nurse Phoebe whenever she needed. At the next social gathering Phoebe started rooting and I said to Rob, ‘I am going to nurse her here.’ He put his arm around me and kept talking. From there I declined offers for the ‘air conditioned room with a comfy chair.'”

      I was not at all confident nursing Emmett in public because I felt like I couldn’t do it discreetly (modestly). I’m fine with Preston but I actually had to study pictures of women breastfeeding their babies discreetly before I was able to do it on my own. I practiced and practiced with him.

      Regarding careers and mothering – I agree that too many families have put careers/money ahead of family, by choice. Wish I had time to delve into that subject more right now.

      Women also need to know that it’s NOT impossible to continue breastfeeding WHILE having a career. I know several moms that have continued to breastfeed while working. One in particular pumped during the day and breastfed when she was with her baby. She continued to do this until her next baby was born, when she tandem nursed them (she quit working when baby #2 arrived).

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