Start your breastfeeding off right with helpful information from non-profit Best for Babes.

Deciding Whether To Breastfeed: A Little Food for Thought

Pregnant woman contemplating breastfeeding
Photo: iStockphoto/fotosipsak

You’ve been fixated on food for months.  One minute you’re ravenous.  The next, you’re repulsed. Mostly, you can’t get enough of those bite-sized brownies, right? Pregnancy does that to you.  Well guess, what– now it’s time to think about what someone else is going to eat.From the very first hour your baby is born, you’re going to be focused on feeding her. You’ll get to know that “feed-me-right-this-instant” wail oh, so well. But there’s a key decision you need to make: breast milk or formula? So how do you decide? There’s a lot to consider.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that moms exclusively breastfeed for the first six months. That means no juice, water, milk or solid foods. After six months the AAP recommends continuing to breastfeed, in addition to solids, for at least 12 months, or longer. The World Health Organization even recommends breastfeeding for 2 years.

But, there is no “right” choice here. Some moms exclusively breastfeed. Some only use formula. Some do a combination of the two. And there are even those who pump breast milk so that another caretaker can give the baby a bottle. Ultimately, you’re the parent and it’s up to you what works best for you and your baby.

Here are some pros and cons of breastfeeding. A little “food” for thought:

The 10 Best Things About Breastfeeding

1. It’s good for your baby’s health. Breast milk has all the antibodies and nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop. There’s a reason it’s called “liquid gold!” Research shows breastfeeding can protect babies from a range of illnesses and diseases.

2. It’s good for your health. Breastfeeding helps you lose weight postpartum and can even reduce your risk of Type II diabetes, ovarian and breast cancers and possibly osteoporosis.

3. Bonding Time: Breastfeeding gives you lots of time to bond with your baby. Who doesn’t love a good cuddle?

4. You can feed your baby anywhere, any time. You can hit the road without worrying about loading up the diaper bag with formula.

5. You don’t have to prepare a bottle. There’s no delay when your baby needs to eat. Just un-snap that nursing bra and get to it.

6. You don’t have to clean or sterilize bottles. Nobody wants to do more dishes than necessary, right?

7. You might not get your period. Breastfeeding suppresses ovulation.  BUT… if you are supplementing with formula and/or solids, and not nursing around the clock, you could start to get your period again. So, remember, breastfeeding is not foolproof birth control.

8. Breastfeeding is frugal. Formula is expensive. You can spend anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per year on formula.

9. Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly. It takes factories to produce formula and trucks to transport it to stores. Breastfeeding is container free.

10. You’ll still have that big-boobed, maternal glow. This is for all the ladies who would like a little natural, shall we say, “enhancement.”

The 10 Most Challenging Things About Breastfeeding

1. No one else can do your job. When the baby is hungry, you’re on duty.

2. Sleep Deprivation. This goes for all new parents. But it’s especially true if your baby doesn’t take a bottle.

3. Pumping breast milk. If you want your baby to have only breast milk, and you need to go to work, or have plans to be away, you’ll have to continue to pump at the times you would normally be feeding. This is necessary in order to maintain your milk supply.

4. Breastfeeding in public. It can take a little time getting used to breastfeeding outside of your home. But once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize it’s really no big deal. You’ll soon become a pro at finding a comfortable place to nurse.

5. Alcohol and caffeine in moderation. Whatever you ingest, your baby gets too, so just don’t go overboard.

6. Leakage. Some women experience breast milk leakage between feedings but that can be easily managed by inserting a nursing pad into your bra.

7. Occasional discomfort. A long as the baby is latched on well, it shouldn’t hurt. But, if something doesn’t feel right (dry skin, cracked nipples, pain), get help right away. Don’t be a martyr.  Find a lactation consultant immediately.

8. You might need help. Find a breastfeeding support group like La Leche League and look on line for breastfeeding websites like Kellymom.com. Get advice from friends who have nursed.

9. Balancing working with pumping. If you are going back to work, and want to breastfeed, you’ll have to find the time and place to pump during the day.

10. Weaning. Yes, that’s right– it can be hard to bring your baby’s nursing days to an end. But that’s a story for another time.

Photo: ©iStockphoto.com/fotosipsak

About Andi

Andi Silverman is the author of "Mama Knows Breast: A Beginner's Guide to Breastfeeding." She is also a digital marketing consultant for Nosy Crow, a children's book and app publisher. Andi blogs at mamaknowsbreast.com and can be found on Twitter @AndiSilverman.

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Which "best thing" about breastfeeding interests you the most? Which "challenging thing" concerns you the most?

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