I’ve always said that I’m a lazy mom, and I couldn’t be bothered with all the fuss that bottle feeding would bring. (Seriously, I admire anyone who can put that much effort into feeding a baby!) Breastfeeding has made my life easier in countless ways – and in those cases where it made life more complicated, the benefits to me and my babies far outweighed the burden of the extra effort. So here’s a small sampling of reasons why I would choose breastfeeding every single time:
- Once you get into the swing of things, breastfeeding needs virtually no mental effort. I cannot imagine having to count how many bottles the baby has taken, remembering how many he’s supposed to have, and wondering how much weight he’s gained and by how much I need to increase his milk to make sure he’s still getting enough. With breastfeeding, it’s simple: if baby is hungry, baby drinks till he’s not hungry anymore. All I need to do is learn to read my baby’s cues.
- I don’t need to worry whether the milk is safe, clean or nutritionally adequate – my body takes care of it for me. I never have to worry about whether my teething baby who refuses all solid foods or my toddler who’s on a bananas-only-for-a-week hunger strike will develop a vitamin deficiency: breastmilk fills all the gaps.
- I can feed my baby while I’m half-asleep. Breastfeeding, combined with co-sleeping, is the best way not to turn into a sleep-deprived zombie. Let’s face it: night waking is inevitable, and I’m all for getting back to sleep as soon as possible. Because my breastfeeding baby was right there next to me, I could literally just lift my shirt, put him somewhere in the vicinity of the nipple and drift off back to sleep as he helped himself. Getting up to go find a bottle and having to stay awake to watch baby finish it seems like far more effort. So even though both my boys took quite a long time to sleep through the night, we were all quite happy and well rested.
- It’s impossible to forget my breasts. I’ve always been a bit of a scatterbrain, and with every pregnancy I lost a few more brain cells. I’ve managed to forget diapers, clothes, keys, my purse – you name it, I’ve left it sitting on the kitchen counter while I went to town. (On one memorable occasion, I left my cellphone at the office for an entire weekend!). At least I know that as long as I remember to take the baby, he will be able to eat.
- Breastfeeding is free. Since I’m a real penny pincher, seeing how much money I’m not having to spend on formula makes me smile from ear to ear.
- Breastfeeding gives me the perfect excuse if I want to get away from an intolerable conversation or if I don’t like what someone is doing with my baby. “Sorry, it’s time for baby to feed” works every time.
- Breastfeeding works for everything. I seldom have to wonder why the baby is crying – chances are a quick breastfeed will solve the problem. Hungry? Thirsty? Sick? Hurt? Sad? Overtired? Struggling to wake up? No problem – breasts to the rescue!
- Breastfeeding provides built-in protection against illness. Since both my kids go to daycare (a.k.a. a congregation of germ-bundles), and they both love to put all sorts of nasty things into their mouths while I’m not looking (cat food, anyone?), it’s a relief to know that the antibodies in the breast milk will catch most of the germs. I’m not saying they never get sick, but they get sick much less often that their friends, and they recover from illness a lot more quickly.
All love and smiles? Not quite…
My list might make breastfeeding seem like an effortless dream of joy and sunshine – it’s not. The moment the pregnancy test came back positive, “effortless” was pretty much over forever: kids are hard work, no matter how you choose to raise them. And there’s a definite learning curve to breastfeeding; the beginning can be pretty tough. But I honestly believe that if you persevere for long enough to figure it out, there’s no easier or more rewarding way to feed your kids. If I could go back and do it again, I would not hesitate to choose breastfeeding every time. I hope that someday a few months or years down the line you, too, will be able to sit and think back on how much better life was thanks to breastfeeding.