In Canada, there is a lot of pressure for new moms to breastfeed. Makes sense, considering all the benefits of breastfeeding. And that breastfeeding is really well supported with one year of (somewhat) paid maternity leave, and great resources such as MSP covered lactation consultants.
But there is also a crap load of bullshit being told about breastfeeding.
With all the good, valid reasons to breastfeed, I have no idea why people and associations feel the need to invent additional ones. Well, actually I get it… “101 reasons to breastfeed” sounds a lot catchier than “96”, right?
While I absolutely support breastfeeding and would recommend seeing a lactation consultant if you experience difficulty rather than throwing the towel, I just don’t like the perfect image that people try to give to breastfeeding. Maybe it does come naturally to some women. But not to all of them. And that contributes to the mother feeling unreasonably guilty when for some reason she wasn’t able to breastfeed.
Here are just a few examples of shameless lies that you’ll read when you search for the benefits of breastfeeding.
1. Breastfeeding is free
Not true. Maybe it’s less expensive than formula. But not free. Breastfeeding mom = hungry mom. And I mean, severely hungry. The nurse who taught our prenatal classes advised us to budget an additional CAD30 per month to account for the extra groceries. I know, we’re far from the budget needed for formula.
But there’s also a pretty big chance that you’ll have to buy a pump. Please, please, don’t follow the terrible advice to buy a cheap manual pump. Buy a good pump, it will make your life so much easier. You’ll have to count at least CAD200 for a good pump. How many cans of formula can you buy with that money?
Why would you need a pump? Well, to start with, you may experience difficulty breastfeeding at first, and need to express milk and bottle feed your infant in order to give your nipples a chance to heal. I had to do that with Big Kiddo.
And maybe you’re one of those terrible, awful moms (like me) who think that they are entitled to leave their nursling for the occasional girls’ night out. Or to have a root canal.
2. Your breasts always produce the right amount of milk
If you’re lucky. Maybe. I remember a period when Big Kiddo would cry every evening for at least an hour simply because he was hungry and frustrated that I didn’t have enough milk. I also remember waking up in the morning in pain with engorged breasts during that same period. My best friend Google quickly reassured me that I wasn’t the only one in this situation.
3. Breastfeeding means more sleep for mom
You’re kidding me right? Mommy breastfeeds = mommy wakes up round the clock to feed baby. Mommy bottle feeds = DADDY can help from time to time and let mommy sleep.
4. Breastfeeding is convenient
Yes and no.
You have to take the plane with your nursling? Yes, breastfeeding is convenient.
You have to take the plane without your nursling? Not that convenient.
You’re stuck in traffic with baby? Convenient.
Although you love your baby, you’d like to go out for a little more than 2 hours sans kid? Feasible with above-mentioned pump and some preparation. The kid in question has decided that bottles were for sissies and will make dad or the sitter pay for the absence of boobs? Well, not the best if you intended on repeating your escape.
5. Breastfeeding is easier
Yeah. That must be why I ended up at the ER when Big Kiddo was 4 days old because he was spitting up blood. Turns out there was nothing wrong with Big Kiddo. The blood that he was spitting up was my blood. From my devastated nipples. After three months of weekly meetings with my (great) lactation consultant, yes, breastfeeding was easy. But here is what I’ve had to do for the first 6 weeks (after a 2 day break to let my nipples heal):
- Start feeding baby with a nipple shield
- Put baby on each breast for 5 minutes without nipple shield
- Supplement baby with formula at first, and expressed breastmilk if available
- Use pump to boost my production and, if lucky, express milk
- Wash bottles because I had followed the really bad advice of only buying two bottles (if I had bought more, I could just have tossed them in the dishwasher and waited for it to do the work for me).
So what now?
Yeah, breastfeeding is best. We get it. Articles that go on and on on the benefits of breastfeeding are just getting old. Somehow I doubt that moms who formula feed do so because they think formula is best.
For a change, here is my advice for moms who find it a challenge to get breastfeeding started, based on my experience and shocking things that I’ve heard.
- Give breastfeeding a try. It may come easily and naturally to you. If it doesn’t, go see a lactation consultant as early as possible. Don’t wait two weeks because you’ve heard that it was “normal” for breastfeeding to hurt for the first two weeks. While common, it’s not normal and means that something needs to change.
- The surgeon who performed your C-section is giving you advice on breastfeeding? Nod politely. Go see a lactation consultant.
- A “lactation consultant” advises you to stop breastfeeding for 15 days to give your bleeding nipples a chance to heal? Nod politely. Go see a real lactation consultant.
- Your nipples are still cracked after a few days of religiously applying lanolin cream? Ask a prescription for All Purpose Nipple Ointment. Lie, beg, threaten. But get it. As explained in the previous link, “mothers with sore nipples don’t have time to try out different treatments that may or may not work”. And by “a few days”, I mean 3 days. Not two weeks.