So why is breastfeeding so important and special?
Before I had my first baby, I didn’t think too much about breastfeeding. I just thought of it as something I would have to do. It seemed weird, and I had no idea what it would really be like, but I assumed it would be easy enough because it’s the most natural thing. It’s what these breasts are meant for, right? I would figure it out.
If you’ve never fed a baby from your body, you might imagine that making a list of breastfeeding benefits would be easy to make. Maybe you think it sounds mysterious and vague. If you are currently breastfeeding a new baby, you might wonder if there IS anything to love about it. It’s messy, it might hurt, it demands A LOT of your body and your time, it requires you to wear ugly bras and weird pads in the ugly bras, it has to happen in the morning, afternoon, evening and plenty in the middle of the night whether you feel like it or not. And it has to be YOU who answers the call. This doesn’t sound too appealing!
But breast milk ALSO nourishes our babies and feeds the bacteria and flora in their intestines so that they can be healthy, it gives them immune system support, comfort, and customized nutrition. I’ve nursed my babies through sleeplessness, pain, discomfort, sickness, vaccines, and plane rides. The boob was the ultimate fixer of all things in my house for a little while. Of course, we can find LOTS of other ways to fix and comfort our children, and we all ultimately do, but there’s more……
Once my baby arrived, I realized just how poorly prepared I was. It was NOT easy for me. It did not just come naturally to me or to my baby. We struggled, but we did it. After a couple of months, we got the hang of it, and after another few months, it became effortless and wonderful.
And then I did it again with another baby. Looking back now, there is so much that I miss about it, and there are plenty of things you will discover that make it totally worth it.
Here are MY Top 5 reasons to love breastfeeding
- Quiet time. For many of us, especially at first, nursing demands our full attention and both hands. No TV, no mobile devices, no books, no crossword puzzles. You try to find a quiet place. You have to just sit and focus on feeding your baby. You have to be still and quiet. For me, this created plenty of space for reflection and for getting to know and love my babies. This is not a luxury I offer myself enough anymore, but when nursing a brand new baby, this has to happen many times every day. Of course, as time goes on and we get better at it, we can feed our babies while we’re watching TV, working on our phones, reading a book, and even while cooking dinner or doing housework. I once went shopping with a friend, and she fed her 2-month-old baby while we pushed our shopping carts around the mega-store together! Then later our babies get very curious and might be too easily distracted by other things to eat, and we again have to find a quiet room to get the job done. It’s a great forced reminder that sometimes we just need to be still and quiet and enjoy the little things mindfully.
- Happy baby. Once your baby feeds more easily and is old enough to make eye contact, it will be easy to see that breastfeeding makes babies happy. She latches on, takes a deep breath, then gazes up at your face with a look that shows you how content she is and how loved you are. Amazing.
- Easy. While leaky breasts can be really messy at first, it soon gets much less messy. When your baby needs to eat, there is a breast, that’s it. No bottle parts to wash, dry, or sanitize. No finding, shopping, packing, measuring, mixing, shaking, or warming required. It definitely appeals to my lazy side.
- Total nutrition. I loved knowing that my body was providing complete and perfect nutrition for my baby. No one else could do it as well as I could. Our own breast milk is the most perfect nutrition for our own babies because our bodies even adjust to meet our baby’s needs as they grow and change! The nutritional content of milk changes depending on your baby’s needs. The calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and water content adjust as well as the good bacteria (probiotics), hormones, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. There is so much good stuff in there!
- Protection. Human milk is full of immune cells, stem cells, and antibodies that we’ve collected over a lifetime. As we earn new antibodies while we’re sick and healing, those also transfer into our milk to help our babies in case they get sick too. So I loved to think that all of the wisdom and strength I got from struggles and fights my body had to carry out all my life to combat illness and infection were being passed to my baby. Wow.
- Simple. Breastfeeding does simplify feeding, but it also might help to simplify life. It can seem like a downside to HAVE to breastfeed your baby instead of being able to make a bottle so that anyone can feed him, but being “tied down” by breastfeeding can have an upside. I had to say no to a lot of things because I breastfed exclusively and wasn’t very good at pumping bottles full of milk. It did feel restrictive at first, and I had some resistance to it, but the time I gained with my children was priceless and I wouldn’t trade it. Sometimes, those things I had to give up were things I didn’t want to do anyway, and feeding my baby was a great excuse to get out of some stuff! I soon realized that I was getting time that I needed to cherish because babies grow up fast. Staying home more was a simpler way of life. It gave me more unhurried and undivided moments with my babies. My life looks MUCH different now with tons of appointments, rushing, scheduling, packing, shuttling, and organizing, so I can fully appreciate the little bit of time when I was able to have a simpler life.
There are more wonderful things to say about breastfeeding, but these are my top 5. These are the things that, for me, made all the hard stuff very forgettable. When I was nursing babies and things seemed extra hard, I liked to imagine a time when that was the ONLY great option for feeding babies. How did our ancient ancestors feel about the hard stuff? I imagine that they didn’t think much about it at all because that’s just the way it was. That’s what they knew to expect, and that was the experience of all the other families around. That probably made the hard stuff easier to accept and therefore easier to embrace. Maybe I was born WAY too late.