Preparing to welcome a new baby into this world can be so exciting but at the same time, nerve wrecking. There is so much to consider from the type of birth you prefer, to creating the best life for this little human for at least the next 18 years. So many questions flood your mind as you try to make the right decisions. As a first time mom, one of the “right decisions” you’ll probably be trying to make surrounds feeding a newborn baby.
As simple as it sounds – breastfeeding or formula feeding or a combination- the choice isn’t always that easy (at least not for me). I’d never given it much thought. Both options were fine to me. I admittedly didn’t know much about the benefits of breastfeeding and quite frankly, I never really thought I could do it anyway. You see, I was never a well-endowed girl and at about 11 years old, I heard a comment (not meant for my ears) that stuck with me for life. “How will she breastfeed her baby?”
Looking back now, it’s laughable because why was that even in someone’s mind at such a young age!? An age where puberty hasn’t even kicked in. Nevertheless, it stuck with me and I just figured my boobs probably wouldn’t be sufficient for a baby. Furthermore, I never saw anyone breastfeeding around me. The norm was to see mothers travelling with a flask of hot water and a tub of formula to keep baby’s hunger at bay. I’m pretty sure at one point I thought that that was the only way to feed a baby.
Some time in my second trimester, my breasts started leaking this yellow substance. At first, I was hysterical because I remember reading somewhere that leaking from one breast without squeezing it could be a sign of breast cancer. Thankfully, I later found out I was leaking colostrum. At that time, I then entertained the idea of at least trying to actively breastfeed. If it didn’t work out, I could switch to formula. Simple. No harm done.
However, all of that changed closer to the end of my second trimester. I started doing some research about breastfeeding and realised that it was highly recommended that it be done exclusively for at least 6 months. I attended a clinic where I was asked about my plan regarding feeding my baby. Without a thought, I said breastfeeding. The nurse asked if I knew the benefits of breastfeeding. I had skimmed over some but what captured me most was the bond it creates with your baby. To feel needed and give something that only I as her mother could give; I wanted that connection.
Apart from the bond it creates, I found some pretty good advantages to exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months, both to baby and to mom. Here are some that stood out to me and helped influence my choice.
Benefits To Baby
- Breastfeeding offers complete nutrition for your baby. Everyone knows how quickly babies grow especially in the first year. Breast milk is packed with every vitamin and mineral necessary for baby to maintain healthy growth and development during that time.
- Breast milk is a newborn’s natural vaccination. With fragile immune systems, babies are susceptible to various illnesses. Breast milk contains antibodies which work to fight off any bacteria or viruses your precious one may get.
- Breastfed babies are more likely to have healthy weight gain and a lower chance of being overweight.
- The chance of SIDS is reduced.
Benefits To Mom
- It’s cheap. Well, more like free. Feeding my baby for free? Why not? Not having to spend money on formula meant extra money to use on something else.
- Moms can lose weight quicker. Breastfeeding burns between 500 and 1000 calories per day so the gym isn’t necessary- at least not right away. Let’s not pretend as if there isn’t immense pressure to “snap back” after having a baby. So, this benefit was a plus for me! I had so many clothes I couldn’t wear during pregnancy just waiting for me to be able to fit them again. And they were the cute kind! And I was low-key excited to start taking pics of my “snap back”.
- Breastfeeding can delay the return of the menstrual cycle for some women. When I learned this, I became overjoyed! I get pretty bad cramps with my period so anything to (naturally) delay pain, I welcomed with open arms!
- It can lower your risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.
My Personal Choice
By now it’s pretty clear that I have chosen to breastfeed my baby. Unfortunately, I can’t say that my choice has always been respected or understood. My journey to establishing breastfeeding with my baby was somewhat rocky in the beginning but seven months later I’m still breastfeeding my beautiful baby girl and she’s doing just fine!
Unfortunately, when my baby was born, I didn’t get to breastfeed her until about 4 hours later so I didn’t get that immediate bonding time. She was losing colour due to the room and me being so deathly cold so she had to be taken away to get warmed up. During that time I had to be stitched up since I had a 2nd degree perineal tear. That process took way longer than I expected which meant I couldn’t hold or feed my baby.
When I finally held my baby to feed her, it didn’t feel quite natural. I’d done my research about various positions, but still it felt weird and I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. I was still very happy to give breastfeeding a shot.
The next 3 1/2 days of my hospital stay were quite exhausting. Not only with recovery but breastfeeding. At that time much harder than I thought and at times I questioned my choice. Yet, I pushed through. Nurses checked me quite frequently to make sure I was producing milk. I was over the moon and would squeal in my head each time I saw milk pouring out when my breasts were checked. My prayers were answered- I was able to breastfeed my baby although I wasn’t rocking double d’s.
As time went on, I realised I started getting little comments, questions and sometimes weird looks regarding me choosing to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months. “Are you sure she is getting enough?” “She’s always feeding. She may not be getting enough” “You should put cereal in her milk. She will sleep longer and you will sleep better”. These comments seemed to be on repeat! I even had one person quite emphatically tell me I was starving my child by not giving her formula. According to her, I needed to give her formula because my milk was not enough. How did she know my milk wasn’t enough!? The audacity had me floored! I politely told her that my milk indeed was enough and my child was gaining weight and meeting all of her milestones which means clearly she was growing and developing nicely. I am pretty sure if there were any concerns, my pediatrician would’ve informed me.
I am not going to lie. It became quite overbearing and frustrating. Many times I just cried. I started to shut down. It’s hard having to defend YOUR choice when everyone else has their own opinion about what you should do with YOUR child and is trying to force their opinion on to you. Then they become so offended when you don’t take their “advice”. Thankfully was husband was very supportive and encouraged me to ignore the noise. Easier said than done. I just wondered and still wonder why my personal choice mattered so much to people. It wasn’t like I was calling them up at night when my baby wanted to feed at the most inconvenient hours. It wasn’t like my child was sick and I was asking them for help with what to do. It was just pure unnecessary comments and unsolicited “advice”.
When my daughter reached about 3 months old, I started getting questions about if I wasn’t supplementing or giving her food as yet because breast milk alone isn’t food. So many times in my mind I wanted to just tell people it’s none of their business. Instead, I would just say she’s not getting anything but breast milk until 6 months. I felt as though whenever I left the house, I could almost be sure that SOMEBODY would question me about my child’s feeding habits.
Then I found a safe place:- a mommy and me group. This was probably the only place I enjoyed going because I knew I didn’t have to mentally brace myself to be bombarding with a hundred questions. We met weekly and other new moms expressed how they too were being criticized for what they chose to feed or not feed their child. Sometimes it was laughable hearing the crazy things that people would say to them. For us, it was all about respecting and supporting each other’s choices. As mamas we already have enough to deal with. We don’t need the extra burden of people’s nosiness.
Does It Really Matter?
Initially, I wasn’t really concerned about feeding my baby breast milk or formula. It really didn’t matter to me. But the more I read and researched about breastfeeding benefits, the more I wanted to try it and stick with it. When I got home from hospital, there was nothing else that felt right to me. I just knew I made a good choice. In the grand scheme of things, keeping baby well-fed is what matters but I wanted to do what I felt was right for me.
Quite frankly, I’m not bothered by what another mother chooses to do with her baby. We’re all just trying to nurture and care for our babies in the way we see fit. Why can’t everyone just be respectful of that? What works for one person may not work for me and what work for me may not be best for another person. So why should I preoccupy myself with something that isn’t my business?
Feed With Pride
Choosing how you’re going to feed your newborn baby does take some thought. In the grand scheme of things, once baby is fed, happy and healthy that’s all that matters. Whether you choose to exclusively breastfeed, formula feed or both, that is up to you and you alone.
I realise that people will ALWAYS have an opinion about what’s best for your child based on what they have done with theirs but guess what!? It’s YOUR CHILD and most importantly, YOUR CHOICE. Whatever decision you make, as long as you are at peace with it, stick to it with pride. Happy feeding mamas!