by Grace Sloop
The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the hassles. A new mother might say, “But I don’t want to stick my boob in a baby’s mouth. He’ll bite me!” Or “I don’t want to take off my shirt in front of everyone!” Well, if you are going to breastfeed, the first part is mandatory, the second part is possible and the third is optional. (Few women want to appear topless in public. You will find most who do working in the adult entertainment industry!)
Okay, so let’s talk about biting. Imagine for a moment being chomped on the boob. Wincing? Good. Your own strong reaction against being bit will encourage the baby to stop biting pretty quickly. Babies are no strangers to the laws of supply and demand. If they bite the supplier, the supply will go away. Not desiring this outcome, any smart baby will shortly quit biting, else Mom change her mind about this breastfeeding thing forever.
With that encouragement in mind, also bear in mind that the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and child are almost too numerous to mention in a short article. For example, breast milk provides inherent protection against several diseases including diarrhea, pneumonia, ear infections, influenza and many more that could otherwise be severe in a baby. The strong sucking action required also promotes jaw strength, which may reduce speech problems and encourages teeth to grow straight. (If you ever had metal-mouth braces for years on end, you can probably appreciate this one!)
In addition, newborn babies can only see 12 to 15 inches from their faces, which happens to be nearly exactly the distance between the mother’s and baby’s face while breastfeeding. This closeness encourages bonding between the mother and child. And while it’s also possible to breastfeed a baby while she’s seated in a car seat or lying in a crib, it is not easy–believe me, I have done it. The most comfortable way to breastfeed a baby is by holding her.
Speaking of which, babies need a lot of holding and cuddling anyway. And though formula-fed babies may be held a great deal too, breastfeeding forces the issue. It also requires more effort for the baby. But that extra effort pays off in additional time spent with Mom that studies now show has both psychological and intellectual benefits for your budding baby.
As for the mother, the benefits of breastfeeding include faster healing from the birthing process and pregnancy by causing the uterus to contract faster. But perhaps even better, breastfeeding can delay the return of your old steady companion, menstruation–sometimes even for months! During this time that you aren’t ovulating, you’ll have some small measure of natural birth control. Just don’t rely too much on it. If you really don’t want to get pregnant again so soon after your baby’s birth, talk to your doctor about birth control methods that are safe to use while breastfeeding.
If you thought that was good, another supposed benefit of breastfeeding is weight loss. Boy, I wish I’d experienced this one, and I breastfed for over four years between two children! So if you happen to see the breastfeeding weight loss fairy, could you please send her my way? Thanks, I could use her. Then again, ever since actress Jodi Foster claimed that nursing melted away her pregnancy pounds, I’m wondering whether this magical fairy might be more generous to wealthy Hollywood actresses with personal trainers than she was to me. Oh well.
True or not, it can’t be disputed that wealth helps. The economics of breastfeeding is simply not an issue to be ignored or lost among the rigors of maternity. Formula is expensive, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program only covers so much. Over that, the parents have to pay the rest, and babies often eat much more than the amount paid for by WIC. That’s if you even qualify for WIC. The costs are obviously far higher if you don’t, which makes Mother’s milk that much more tempting. There’ll never be a meter on breast milk (imagine that for a moment).
While we celebrate that, let’s not forget for a moment all the other benefits of breastfeeding mentioned herein. Preventing disease, nurturing every cell’s growth from brain to belly with perfect nutrition, and even delaying the return of “the curse” (menstruation!), it’s truly a miracle substance that no drug company could replicate and peddle by the bottle. If they could, they’d already be doing it! Rather, it’s specially designed by Mother Nature to nourish one very small and very special person: your baby. And that’s what makes the benefits of breastfeeding truly too numerous to count.