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The Breastfeeding Deal

Last week’s poll focused on breastfeeding: how long you did or didn’t
breastfeed your child. Most moms answered in the “12-18 months”
category, while the rest were all over the map. This was one of the
least-voted polls so far, and I’m guessing it’s a combination of two
things: first, many of us (myself included) are still in the early
stages and haven’t weaned yet. And second, a lot of women feel exposed
talking about how long they breastfed; they fear judgment and lectures.

not here to lecture anyone on her breastfeeding choices. It’s no secret
from my website that I support breastfeeding and believe it’s superior
to formula in terms of physical benefits, ease of access, and financial
cost. Doctors strongly urge you to nurse your child for at least six
months to give your baby the most benefits as far as allergy resistance,
a strong immune system, the list goes on. Since doctors also say that
baby’s primary nutrition for the first year should come from either
breastmilk or formula, my goal with Madeleine was to never need to
supplement with formula; I’d nurse her until she didn’t need it for
nutritional reasons, and assumed I’d be weaning around one year.

That was my choice, though, and I recognize that not everyone has that
choice. I have friends who return to work early on and simply can’t pump
enough to keep up with baby’s demand. So they have to supplement with
formula, and are doing what it takes to feed their babies. I also have a
friend who tried incredibly hard to nurse for six weeks, wearing
fantastic contraptions, pumping throughout the day and night, consulting
lactation specialists, and generally going to lengths that I probably
would not have, but in the end was forced to acknowledge that the
breastfeeding thing wasn’t working for whatever reason and fed her child
formula exclusively. And if you think that didn’t agonize her, or that
she didn’t get crap for it from mommies on a regular basis, you’d be
dead wrong. We do what we have to do for our babies, and if that means
formula it means formula. And we mommies need to support other mommies
in this issue.

If you’re an expectant mommy looking for more
information on breastfeeding, I highly encourage you to read up now. The
Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
  by the founders of the La
Leche League, is a great book with concrete help on latching etc. Yes,
you won’t be able to try the practical side, but you’ll get an idea of
what you should be trying for when your newborn crawls up your chest and
starts rooting around. There are also several great sites for
breastfeeding support; I link to my favorites on my Top 5s page.

you’re still trying to decide what you want to do, here are a couple
things to consider, and I’m assuming you’ve already heard everything
about breast milk’s health benefits for your baby:

1) You
may not have a choice. And if you don’t, please don’t beat yourself up
about it. It doesn’t make you less of a woman, or less of a mother.

Some women worry that breastfeeding makes it more difficult to lose your
pre-pregnancy weight. The biggest determining factor in how quickly you
regain your pre-pregnancy figure is genetics. If your mom took a year to
lose the weight, you probably will as well. There’s no scientific
evidence I’ve found that says your body will hold onto those last ten
pounds as long as you are breastfeeding. It is commonly accepted
scientific fact, though, that breastfeeding requires an additional 300
calories a day from your metabolism. That means you can eat an extra
bowl of ice cream every day as long as you are breastfeeding. Trust me.
I do it.

3) Formula is expensive. Like, crazy expensive. Think
hard about spending that money unless you need to. I know people that
have had to spend $100 a week on it. That’s a lot of money that could be
going in the old college fund.

4) Breast milk is instantly
available anywhere. No mixing, no bottles to carry around, no heating up
in the middle of the night.

5) Some women worry that
breastfeeding will make your boobs sag. Bad news, ladies: it’s not
breastfeeding. It’s pregnancy. Your breasts will swell and put strain on
those ligaments nine months before you give birth. My OB told me that by
birth, the damage is done. That’s why she encourages all her vain
clients (me included) to wear sports bras to sleep in while pregnant if
they want to try to head it off. Again, it’s genetic. Take a look at
your mom’s boobs and you’ll have an idea what you can look forward to.

there you go. I hope, expectant mommies, you choose to breastfeed if
possible. And I hope, moms of babies and toddlers, that you haven’t had
to experience the Mommy Mafia if you were an early weaner or formula

And as for me, with Madeleine right around 12
months now, I hope that weaning’s not as painful (for both of us) as I’m
guessing it will be.


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