So, for a change, I’m going to focus on the positive things about breastfeeding.
You won’t find these mentioned in the National Maternity Strategy or discussed at a meeting of the National Breastfeeding Implementation Group but here are some of the best bits about breastfeeding.
In the early weeks of breastfeeding my husband would present a dinner plate heaped with food to me and I’d say “is that all?” I was ravenous!
Mothers need to consume about 500 extra calories a day when breastfeeding. Dietitians would suggest a nutritious sandwich made from wholemeal bread with a careful blend of proteins and salads, but most new mothers will verify that finding time to assemble that sandwich is tricky. Particularly when you have to do everything one-handed because the baby is happiest being held.
Guilt-free biscuit eating while feeding baby and drinking tea is one of breastfeeding’s unspoken benefits. If the biscuits are made of oats even better. Oats are considered galactagogues, a food that’s thought to boost production of breast milk — so eating flapjacks, chocolate hobnobs and oatie bars is practically encouraged when you’re breastfeeding.
‘Netflix and Chill’ is a legitimate hobby these days and I would add a sub-category of ‘Netflix, Breastfeed and Chill’. Sitting on the couch, watching telly, eating biscuits (see above) while breastfeeding is some of the most productive work any human will do.
Breastmilk contains the perfect building blocks to grow a baby. Apart from all the tailored and complex proteins, fats, sugars and immunological factors, breastmilk also contains stem cells that can specify to become any cell in the human body. Breastmilk stem cells make their way to various organs in the body, including the brain, and turn into functioning cells. How brilliant is that! All while watching an entire season of Orange is the New Black!
Stepping back from the biscuit barrel and continuing breastfeeding means that losing the ‘baby weight’ can be an effortless(ish) process.
Babies are human hoovers who extract 500 calories every day. Considering that the majority of Irish women exceed the recommended weight gain during pregnancy, breastfeeding is Mother Nature’s way of restoring pre-pregnancy weight.
One benefit of pregnancy is getting a break from periods. Women are unlikely to have periods if they are exclusively breastfeeding and their baby is under six months.
It’s your body’s way of giving it a break and it helps with the natural spacing of children.
Breastfeeding soothes hungry, sick, tired, cranky children in seconds. It is a proven pain reliever and fixes all manner of falls, bangs, scrapes and injustices. It is a most useful mothering device that can be deployed at a moment’s notice!
The emotional charge that comes with breastfeeding can be attributed to oxytocin — the bonding molecule. Every time a mother breastfeeds, her brain is flooded with the hormone, it’s crucial in the production of milk and makes the mother feel happy and bonded to her baby.
Lots of breastfeeding mothers can recall sweet milky moments that almost make them weep with happiness. A baby popping off the boob to give his mama a smile with milk escaping the corners of his mouth, or snuggling looking for the breast and then falling into a deep, contented sleep after a feed, are common happy milky moments.
40 weeks of gestation, hours (or days) of labour and delivery and now growing a baby with milk produced by your own blood cells. It’s hard work. The good news when you’re breastfeeding is that it should be your main job. Hopefully, you’re lucky enough to have a partner who can cook a dinner, or have friends and family to help with housework while you take care of the baby. That’s not to say the other parent or family members have to feel left out. There are plenty of bonding opportunities aside from feeding — bathing and burping, singing and slinging.
Another completely undersold benefit for dads of breastfed babies is that they can often get uninterrupted sleep at night. Mothers feed throughout the night then hand the baby to dad at 6am and go back to bed! The perception that formula feeding families get more sleep is not supported by research.
Being able to head out for the whole day with just nappies, wipes, a change of clothes and your breasts in place offers great freedom and assurance.
I have never had a negative experience breastfeeding in public and have been surprised (and heartened) by thumbs up or words of encouragement from strangers.
An obvious one, but breastfeeding doesn’t require equipment or electricity costs for sterilisation and is an entirely renewable resource.
Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, this list does not reflect the entirety of human experience when it comes to breastfeeding and many of these perks are enjoyed by formula feeding families too.
I just wanted to accentuate the lesser heralded positives of breastfeeding. For the week that is in it!
See WOW! tomorrow for more on National Breastfeeding Week.