KUSA — August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, with the first week designated as World Breastfeeding Week.
The goal is to celebrate breastfeeding and build awareness and support.
Health and scientific organizations — such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) — recommend feeding only breast milk for the first six months of a baby’s life.
As a mom of two, who breastfed both my boys for about a year, I wanted to share what I’ve learned through my experience.
1) It’s not easy.
It seems simple enough. Baby is hungry, mom produces milk to feed baby, all is good. It’s not quite that easy. Both of my son’s struggled to latch at first, leaving everyone frustrated. I remember crying at times with both boys, thinking I’d failed as a mom because I was unable to meet their needs.
We ended up needing to supplement with formula for the first few weeks. Eventually, we got the hang of it, but it definitely took some work.
2) It can be painful.
With both boys, especially in the first few days, I was very tender and raw. Newborn babies need to eat about every two hours, so there’s not much of a break for skin to heal in between feedings.
You can also end up with a painful breast infection known as Mastitis. (I got one with both boys) And if you wait too long between feeding or pumping, you’ll know it. Engorged breasts can be very painful!
3) It takes planning.
If you plan to exclusively breastfeed, it takes a fair amount of planning. For example, newborns need to feed often. If you plan to leave your infant for even a few hours, you have to make sure you’ve pumped enough milk so they can eat while you’re gone, or you’ll have to take them with you.
You need to remember to take your pump. It seems silly, but pumps have a lot of small parts and it’s easy to forget one. My husband was my hero when he was able to drop off the parts I had forgotten to me at work, but there were times I had to go an entire day of work without pumping. That was unpleasant.
4) Public breastfeeding is sometimes necessary.
There’s always a great debate about public breastfeeding, but after having breastfed two babies, I can tell you it’s necessary. Babies need to eat and eat often. There’s no way you could possibly plan to be at home every time they need eat. It’s inevitable at some point you’ll need to feed them in public. Just recently it became legal to do in all 50 states.
5) Pumping is the worst.
I returned to work after having both boys, which of course meant I had to pump so that they could eat while I was not around. I’m lucky enough to have an accommodating workplace, but that doesn’t mean pumping is fun.
The machine is awful sounding and funny-looking. And then there are all those parts to clean and sanitize. Plus, you have to deal with labeling and storing. It’s a real pain.
6) It’s time-consuming.
If you breastfeed, you don’t have the high cost of formula, but what you save in money, you may lose in time. (Note I have never formula-fed infants, so I can’t speak to how time-consuming that is.)
If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you have to pump as noted above. When my babies were young, I had to pump at least twice a day to make sure they had enough to eat while I worked. Each session is about 20 minutes. Then there’s the packing and unpacking of the pump each day and cleaning all the supplies and bottles. You also have to prepare bottles or freeze any milk you think might not get used within a day or two.
7) It’s cheaper than formula, but it’s certainly not free.
Yes, you don’t have to buy formula, but you will need to purchase other items. Unless you’re around your infant 24/7, you’ll still need bottles. And if you need bottles you also need bottle brushes, a drying rack and maybe even a bottle warmer. You’ll so need to buy bags to store frozen milk.
You’ll need a breast pump. They’re supposed to be covered under the Affordable Care Act, but often times only the lower-end models are covered by insurance. Some women do not have insurance.
8) It can be a choice.
I had always planned to breastfeed, and before having children wondered why someone would choose not to do it.
Now though, I’ve realized it’s hard work. It’s not for everyone. Workplaces are required to be accommodating, but many women have jobs that would make breastfeeding a challenge. (Think of ER doctors, nurses or police officers out on patrol.)
Plus, some mothers cannot (or should not) nurse their children, according to Very Well Magazine.
“It may be that a mother can’t produce a healthy breast milk supply, or perhaps she has to take a medication or undergo a medical treatment that isn’t safe during breastfeeding,” the magazine says.
9) It’s worth it.
Sure you may have read all the previous 9 items and thought why would anyone do that? It’s totally worth it! It’s a great bonding experience with your baby, and it’s amazing to think your body is providing all of the nutrition your baby needs.
While I am glad to be done, I admit I was emotional when I recently wrapped up breastfeeding my 1-year-old (we were down to one feeding a day) because he started biting me.
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