I am lucky enough to be a full-time stay-at-home mom to my baby boy. This allows me certain “luxuries” that I consider myself blessed for. I get to watch him grow up every day and see every single milestone, hear every new babble, and smell every diaper. I am there for him whenever he needs me, even in the middle of the night. I also get to exclusively breastfeed on-demand; meaning that he has never had formula or even a bottle of pumped milk, and I feed him whenever he wants/needs it.
This approach is not for everyone, and I realize that not everyone is capable of doing this either. I want to acknowledge that this post is only to share my experiences in hopes to help any other moms in the same situation or to give any moms-to-be some idea of what it can be like. This post is not to tell anyone that this is what they should do. I believe that as long as a baby is fed, and mom and baby are happy, then who the #$%& cares how you do it!
It seemed a very easy choice for me to want to breastfeed. Of course I had no idea how I would feel when the time came to actually do it (and to be honest I was scared for my nipples’ safety and scared that it would hurt beyond what I would be able to handle at first). I knew that I really wanted to exclusively breastfeed, but I also realized that life does not go according to plan and I promised myself that I would be open to other methods if it would end up being better for me and baby. After reading about the many benefits of breastfeeding, for mom and baby, I believed that it was the way to go for me. I was actually shocked at how many benefits there were!
Some of the benefits to breastfeeding that I found were honestly quite amazing. The very first milk your baby gets is colostrum which provides them with all kinds of health benefits and a boost for their immune systems. Mom and baby bond while breastfeeding, which was important for me. Breast milk can change and adapt to what your baby needs; for example, if they are sick then it will provide your baby with what they need to help fight it and can pass any immunities from mom to baby. Babies are also comforted by breastfeeding; sometimes they may not be hungry but they still want mom. Breastfeeding helps mom lose the baby weight quicker, and it also helps your uterus shrink back. There also seem to be many health benefits for babies who are breastfed, such as fewer ear infections for one example.
One of the best benefits would of course be that it is FREE! Exclusively breastfeeding means that you do not have to buy bottles, formula, or items for pumping such as milk storage bags. There are so many expenses with a new baby that any means to save money is greatly appreciated. You also don’t have any hassle of preparing bottles, worrying about bringing bottles and formula with you in your diaper bag, or have to worry about pumping and storing milk. From what I have heard from other mom’s experiences, a lot of time and preparation is needed when pumping to ensure that you have enough milk for your baby (and let’s face it, you could be using that time for something else, like SLEEP).
Now all of this is not to say that breastfeeding does not have its downsides as well… It means that I am the only one who can tend to baby in the middle of the night. Because he does not take a bottle, there is no replacement for mama at night time. Or any other time for that matter. He needs me close to him so that he can eat when he needs to. I can’t just take off for the whole afternoon and leave him with a babysitter. And I also had to overcome some physical discomforts when getting started and baby and I were both learning how to breastfeed over the first few weeks.
First, I was severely engorged when my milk supply came in; like someone was blowing up a balloon until it would pop (I felt like I got Dolly Parton breast implants). My boobs were so rock hard with milk and so huge that I was in physical pain; they were just in the way making it hard to hold baby properly and also difficult to get him to latch on. Second, because I was so engorged I got mastitis (a breast infection) and had to take antibiotics. Then, it was my suspicion that because I had taken antibiotics (and because they mess with your good bacteria), it aided in baby and I getting thrush which is basically a yeast infection on your nipples and in baby’s mouth. Thrush is very painful for mom and it took forever for it to go away completely because mom and baby can keep passing it back and forth. Imagine that your nipple is so sensitive that using a towel to dry off from the shower feels like sandpaper. And lastly, because he may not have been latching properly, he actually tore my nipple. It’s as bad as it sounds… Imagine trying to let a wound heal when you have something sucking on it every few hours. Let’s just say that a nipple shield turned out to be a lifesaver and let me continue to breastfeed through it.
I am sure you are thinking, why would anyone want to go through that, or continue to breastfeed though it? Because I knew it was what I wanted, and what I thought was best for me and baby. Once the first few weeks passed and baby and I became pros at breastfeeding, it is now a painless and enjoyable time that we share. It gives me such a special and irreplaceable bond with my son. I have learned his cues for when he is hungry, I have learned when he just needs me to be comforted, and when he needs me to sleep. It has become effortless, just another part of our daily (and nightly) routine. Exclusively breastfeeding may not be for everyone, but it is right for me and our family. If you want to breastfeed but are unsure of what to expect, all I can say is that it is hard in the very beginning, but you can do it if you want to!