Are you still deciding on whether you should or should not breastfeed? Why should we breastfeed? Why is breastfeeding important? Is it necessary? These are one of the first questions that you might ask yourself as you prepare to embark on making the decision to breastfeed. Some mothers experience the from the very beginning, some started with minor or even major bumps and the rest may not find it working at all for them. One thing for sure is that it can be a challenging journey, and it is worth it in the long run. I definitely had my own roadblocks, but eventually, I manage to overcome it with the support and encouragement from my husband, family, and the community.
Let’s first get a basic understanding of why breastfeeding is important and beneficial before we dive into how the average breastfeeding journey will be like.
Women are encouraged to breastfeed their little ones right from the beginning. Breast milk is part of an important component of caring for your newborn baby. Its content provides complete nutrition and helps to prevent and fight infections. It has elements such as proteins, fats, sugars and antibodies and probiotics that can support your little one’s immune system. It is recommended by the World Health Organization to breastfeed your little one until the age of two and possibly beyond. Your child’s immune systems won’t be fully developed until they reach the age of 5 or so. So with the breastmilk, because of its content, it really helps to support your child’s immune system. You will see your little one get sick less often and he or she may also less likely to experience the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
I also notice that my little ones are less fussy and didn’t cry much when she was younger too. The only fuss she would make was probably when she was hungry, wanting to be fed or that when her diaper was pretty soiled and needs an immediate change. She was a “pretty easy” baby to care for and I always feel so blessed because of that. As time goes, I realized making the decision to breastfeed my little one may play a little part in making her a less fussy baby.
Babies by default love breastfeeding. It is in their nature. When I first held my little one right from birth, she was put right away on my chest. And a few moments later she would slowly move her head like she was searching. She was actually drawn to the nipple to breastfeed. Babies already have it in them; to instinctively move towards the source of their food, and probably comfort. It is truly amazing to see how your precious few minutes newborn baby is able to be doing this action we called the “breast crawl”.
Benefit for mothers.
Breastfeeding is not only good and important for the baby, but also good and beneficial for you, the mother. Whilst seeing your little one is getting the complete important nourishment from your breast milk, you as the mother would get emotional benefits and satisfaction from breastfeeding too. You both would bond like no other through this process and it can actually help to boost your confidence and your connection with your little one. I personally felt good during this journey and it doesn’t stop there. It also provides health benefits. Mothers that breastfeed recover faster and easier. According to research, when you breastfeed, you release a hormone called oxytocin. This Oxytocin helps to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding. In the long run, making the decision to breastfeed can lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
How often do we breastfeed?
How often are we expected to breastfeed a newborn? It is a very subjective question because it really depends on you and your little one. For example, in my early days of starting to breastfeed my newborn, for about a month or so I would be up and awake every hour to feed her. I would breastfeed for about 20 minutes to half an hour before we would go back to sleep again. It was indeed a very challenging journey indeed, but I insisted on following it through. So that is the general picture of how it can go for most new mothers. So by then, I understand why some mothers aren’t making the decision to breastfeed due to this exhausting and vigorous phase.
Why they need to feed every hour you might ask? Well, breast milk is easily digested, so your newborn gets hungry often. Do bear in mind that, they should not go more than 3 or 4 hours without feeding including during night time. During the first month too, with this frequent feeding, it helps to stimulate your milk production. Because of the milk production response to a “demand and supply” system. The more you nurse your little one would send a “demand” message to your body to produce “supply” more milk for your baby. In time, you will notice a good flow of breast milk being produced by your body.
Sore and tender
You may experience that your nipple hurts when you started breastfeeding. Your nipples may get sore and tender hence making breastfeeding uncomfortable for you to get on for the first week or so. Be patient, the soreness is normal as your body is getting used to breastfeeding. I experienced engorgement with both of my breasts and it subsided as my little one’s suckling becomes more efficient.
I would get help from the breast pump to help me better express my breast milk. When breast milk is expressed, it usually will make the breast feel lighter and better. Others find a nipple shield would help to ease the pain. A nipple shield is a flexible silicone nipple that is worn over the mom’s nipple during feeding. I also used a nipple shield for just about a week after my breast milk comes in and just until my body is adjusted and as the pain eases. Another simple home remedies recommended by other breastfeeding mothers to soothe sore and tender is by using some cabbage leaves. It is said when the cabbage leaves are applied to the breasts between feedings, it helps to reduce breast inflammation and relieve the pain.
However, if you experience excruciating pain and it doesn’t subside no matter how many methods you tried, do get help from your doctor or an experienced breastfeeding counsellor. They may able to get to the root of the problem and advise you accordingly.
Sleep when the baby sleep
As your little one gets skilful and older, they will get longer between feedings. In the case of my baby and me, I carry on to exclusively breastfeeding every two or three hours until she reaches the age of two years old. My body eventually adjusted to the time of having short sleep and naps. “Sleep when the baby sleeps,” they said, and that’s what I did. It was tough as being a full time stay at home mother without a helper, chores aren’t going to do itself.
I felt guilty for not doing my home duties, but eventually, it comes to my senses that my little one is growing up so fast, like in a blink of an eye. So I learn to let it go so that I am able to embrace my little one growing up. I learn to ask for help. So, do not feel guilty to ask for help whenever you need it. Be it from your husband, partner, family or friends.
At the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, you may also experience tummy cramps while breastfeeding. I had one of the worst “period” cramp-like pain for almost a month or so of breastfeeding. It was a very confusing phase for me as I was already trying to adjust to the lack of sleep, then I had to cope with the pain that at times felt unbearable for me. It was probably one of the events that made me question if I had made the right decision to breastfeed with all the roadblocks and bumps I faced.
My breastfeeding counsellor insisted that it will just be a phase and eventually will go away. These periods like cramps during breastfeeding actually promote uterine involutions. In simpler words, involutions mean a process by which the uterus is transformed from pregnant to a non-pregnant state. It is part of the postpartum healing process in our bodies after giving birth.
I was lucky to have support from my husband and my breastfeeding counsellor. I am glad that I stayed on course and just simply preserver through the challenging bumps. Understanding the causes of the discomforts that I experienced help me to look beyond what is that I wanted to achieve from this journey rather than what is only happening at that moment.
Maintain good nutrition and hydration.
It gets easier as the months pass by. Your body would have adjusted by then and the normal effects of breastfeeding kick in. You will get extra hungry and thirsty more often than usual because when you breastfeed, your body is working hard to produce milk. Milk production takes up a lot of energy, processing the food and water intake your body has consumed. Keep it a habit to replenish what your body has lost to maintain good nutrition and hydration. I always keep a bottle near me so whenever after I breastfeed, or whenever I feel like it, I would just chug down as much as I could to keep hydrated.
Lost calories and weight
Breastfeeding works similar to burning calories too. Yes, breastfeeding burns calories when we produce breast milk for our little one. Isn’t that great news? When you breastfeed, you are using the fat cells that have been stored in your body during pregnancy. What a convenient way to lose weight by just being stationary. When I was pregnant with my little one looking and feeling as huge like a whale, it dawned on me if I am ever going to lose the extreme weight I gained. Fast forward a year later, breastfeeding actually played a major role in my losing weight. It got me into great shape and I receive actual compliments on how good I looked. Looking even better than my pre-pregnancy days. Certainly, making the decision to breastfeed was the right choice for me.
Period free days
During your exclusive breastfeeding days, it is also normal to be period free for 3 months or more. This phase is called lactational amenorrhea. This happens because of hormones that hold of your menstruation from coming back. The more you breastfeed, the more your little one will depend on you for nourishment. He or she gets all his nutrition from you. I was period free for almost two years when I was exclusively breastfeeding my little one. It was when I started on birth control shots that my period came back. However, one woman’s body is different than the other. Some mothers may have their period resume when their little ones start to wean off from breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding saves money.
Without a doubt, breastfeeding saves a significant amount of money. My husband and I are pretty sure we save thousands of dollars from buying formulas for the first two years. This point alone helped me in making the decision to breastfeed. We really didn’t know till now how much amount of formula would cost us.
I tried to introduce some formulas to my little one when she turned a little over one year, along with her meals but she totally rejects it. And I was not pressured on the formula as I would just breast pump my breast milk if I needed to have that extra milk along with her meals. I still strongly believe that it is for sure better than formulas. We waited for another year to try again so we can introduce to her the varieties of drinks that she is able to have. So in between that 2 years right from her birth we really do save a significant amount of money.
I can summarize that making the decision to breastfeed was quite challenging, but it was all worth it. The pain and frustration are temporary, but the lifelong health benefits of breastfeeding will last a lifetime. It challenges me as a person too to be committed to nourishing my little one so she receives the best nutrition to support her immune system. I love, especially the bond that I now have with my little one and in the hope that she would cherish it as much as I do when she grows up. And I love how smart and confident that breastfeeding experience has made her.
Last but not least, I hope this gives you a picture of how a breastfeeding journey can look like. Subsequently, helped you in making the decision to breastfeed. Or if you are here looking for some similar experience to share with. It is important that we support each other through this challenging journey. Breastfeeding helps our community be a healthier place.
What does breastfeeding do to your body?
There are pros and cons of what breastfeeding can do to your body. According to research, when you breastfeed, you release a hormone called oxytocin. This Oxytocin helps to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding. Read our article to find out more.
Is breast milk really better than formula?
I strongly believe that breast milk is better than formula. Breast milk provides health benefits that will last a lifetime. And the bond you create while breastfeeding is priceless.
Are breastfed babies more attached to their mothers?
Whilst seeing your little one is getting the complete important nourishment from your breast milk, you as the mother would get emotional benefits and satisfaction from breastfeeding too. You both would bond like no other through this process and it can actually help to boost your confidence and your connection with your little one.
Are breastfed babies happier?
My little ones are less fussy and didn’t cry much. The only fuss she would make was probably when she was hungry, wanting to be fed or that when her diaper was pretty soiled and needs an immediate change.