feeding large

Breastfeeding: Challenges and Benefits

I remember thinking before I was even pregnant that I was going to breastfeed. Once I became pregnant, everyone that asked, I quickly responded that we were going to breastfeed. It wasn't an option.

The Homework

I read books, I attended my local La Leche League meetings before I had my baby, I read online forums, talked with other breastfeeding moms, etc. You name it, I did it, and I thought I was prepared. Then my baby arrived, and I realized that breastfeeding wasn't going to be sunshine and rainbows.

The First 72 Hours

After day one, I was so sore. I didn't know how we would make it; however, we continued applying nipple cream and continued to work at it. We were discharged from the hospital and once we got home it's like everything went down the drain.

We just couldn't seem to figure out how to keep both of us happy. Either I was crying or she was. Luckily, I had an amazing support system who calmed me down and made me realize that my baby was only 72 hours old and neither of us had ever done this before.

The Realization that Breastfeeding is Worth It

Why tell you all that? So you know that breastfeeding isn't always perfect from day one. But the benefits far outweigh the challenges. And, oh, there's so many benefits.

Benefits of breastfeeding for baby:

  • Easily digested causing less tummy pains
  • Contains antibodies to ward off viruses and bacteria
  • Lower risk of hospitalizations and trips to doctor
  • Less likely to become obese
  • Lowers risk of SIDS
  • Lowers risk of asthma
  • Lowers risk of allergies
  • Lowers risk of ear infections
  • Lowers risk of respiratory illnesses

Benefits of breastfeeding for mom:

  • Less likely to postpartum hemorrhage
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Promotes postpartum weight loss
  • Reduces the risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer
  • Delayed menstrual period = natural benefits of spacing children (if exclusively breastfed)
  • Less likely to develop postpartum depression
  • Economically beneficial to the household
  • Less likely to get osteoporosis after menopause

The Unbreakable Bond That Forms

But there's more than that. My daughter is now a month shy of being 2 years old. I never in my dreams imagined breastfeeding this long, but I'm incredibly amazed at this journey we've been on together.

Everything's not perfect everyday, but knowing that I was able to nourish her is incredibly powerful. Knowing that I am able to comfort her immediately when she's sick or hurt, has created an unbreakable bond between us. But watching her nurse her baby dolls, is more powerful than anything, in knowing that I'm instilling in her ideals and beliefs that breastfeeding is normal, something I was never taught.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of 6 months before introducing solids. The World Health Organization recommends that all children be breastfeed for a minimum of two years.

Updated June 6, 2016

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