You’ve finally decided that you will be breastfeeding your baby. Yes, it is a decision. As you may well know by now based from the experiences of other mothers that breastfeeding is not easy. There will be pain and there will be hardships that sometimes you would just want to give up. But the advantages of breastfeeding for your child far outweighs the cons. Let us outline some breastfeeding essentials in this post.
Breastfeeding Essentials: The Pros
There are a multitude of benefits both for the mother and the child if you breastfeed. Here are some:
- The colostrum — the sticky yellowish milk that comes out the first few days of breastfeeding — is the most nutritious food that your child can get. It contains antibodies that your newborn needs in order to prevent acquiring sickness not only during his/her first few days, but as he grows up.
- Faster healing for mommy happens when she breastfeeds. When your baby nurses, your body releases oxytocin, which is responsible for uterus contraction. It can hurt at times when you’re nursing and your uterus contracts, but the contraction stimulates healing in your uterus, making it go back to its normal size in just a few weeks.
- Lean bodies for both mom and baby. Women who breastfeed lose weight quicker, allowing them to go back to their pre-pregnancy bodies. Breastfed babies are also less likely to be obese.
- Delayed ovulation which means delayed menstruation. Women who breastfeed usually start getting menstruation around six months to one year after birth due to nursing. That’s like free birth control!
- Less expense! This is an overlooked matter, but if you are on a budget, it is a necessary factor. Formula milk costs somewhere between $50 to $200 a week. If you breastfeed, you can allocate this expense to something else, or maybe save it for future use.
- Breastfed kids are healthier kids. They are less prone to common illnesses and they have leaner, more active bodies. They are also less prone to SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), cancers and chronic illnesses.
Breastfeeding Essentials: The Cons
Some would say that there are no disadvantages to breastfeeding, but having gone through it, I know there are a few. It’s just a matter of perspective. But I want to be perfectly honest here so I am sharing the cons that I, and some other women I know, have experienced with breastfeeding.
- There will be pain. In the beginning when you don’t know how to properly nurse, there will be some issues. Breastfeeding is not just simple about putting your nipple against your child’s mouth. One of the reasons why breastfeeding would hurt, cut and bleed is due to improper latch. Arm yourself with the knowledge of how to latch your child properly in this article. This will reduce the pain.
- There will be leakages. Your breast recognizes a schedule for when it is time to feed. If you have regularly fed your child every 2-4 hours during his first few days, your breast will fill up at this interval. If for one instance you are away from your child for more than the scheduled interval, your breast will start to leak. It’s like there is an overstock of milk in your breasts. A solution to this is to place nurse pads in your bra when you know you’ll be away from your child for more hours than your breastfeeding schedule.
- Your child will bite you. This is inevitable. Sometimes it could be because his gums are itchy when his teeth are coming out, or when he (and you) falls asleep and he suddenly bites down hard unconsciously (even with teeth). For when the child’s teeth is just about to come out, push him against you for a few seconds when he bites until your breast covers his nose. He will instinctively release. Do not try to pull; it will only hurt you more. When his teeth have already grown and he still bites, you might get cuts because of his sharp teeth. In these instances, use a nipple shield. For bleeding nipples, the best medicine is the breast milk itself. Press your nipple to allow some milk to flow out, then allow this milk to air dry.
- It will take sometime before you get full ownership of your breasts. Yep, when you breastfeed, your breasts would seem to be not your property. It will also sag and lose form. When you (or your child) decides that it’s time to wean, then you will be free. And you can use shaping bras or have your breasts lifted to regain it’s form.
- Weaning is a bitch. When you or your child has finally decided that breastfeeding is over, expect that it’s going to hurt. You will have lumps in your breasts and it will engorge like it never has before. You have to go through this in order to tell your body that breastfeeding is over and you no longer need to produce milk.
Breastfeeding Essentials: The Tools
Now if the disadvantages of breastfeeding did not deter you (good!), then where are the tools that you need to arm yourself with when getting ready to breastfeed once you give birth.
- Breast Pump. Pumping milk is good for when you need to store milk for future use. This is necessary especially if you are a working mother. Allowing your hubby to feed your child from the bottle from time to time also helps them bond. You can use a manual breast pump, but if you’re working and want to do something else with your hands while pumping (like maybe typing up a blog post, lol), use an electric breast pump.
- Breast milk storage bags and bottles. After you pump milk, you need to keep them secure and airtight in your freezer to avoid spoilage. Storage bags usually have a space for you to mark so you can indicate the date it was pumped and until when it can be used, which depends on how you intend to store and use your breastmilk.
- Bottle Warmers. If you pump milk, then you need to find a way to warm it up for use. You can always use warm to hot water to thaw the milk, but at midnight when you are too tired, you might end up hurting yourself while stirring the hot water. Bottle warmers have timers for when the milk is warm enough for use so you don’t have to “guess” when the milk is ready. The best bottle warmers are those that indicate when the milk is ready for immediate consumption, which means it is no longer frozen but is warm enough for your child to drink; no nutrients are destroyed and your child will not be hurt because the milk is not scalding.
- Nipple cream. This is used for when your nipples hurt or is cut and bleeding. You can pray that it never happens, but it would be great if you can have immediate relief when it does. Nipple creams are also safe for babies.
- Nipple shield. If you child has teeth and his bite begins to hurt, use a nipple shield to prevent any cuts from happening.
- Nursing pads. This is to prevent breast milk leakages especially when you’re going out. You wouldn’t want some white stain to show up in your breast during a meeting, would you?
- Lactation cookies and supplements. Your breasts might not cooperate at times and would produce very little milk as compared to what your child needs. In order to produce enough milk to feed your kid, you can eat lactation cookies and other supplements. Now different supplements react differently to every individual. We are all unique. What works with one might not work with another. Check this article out on how to increase breastmilk supply.
Breastfeeding is a motherhood journey. I say journey because it has its ups and downs. And as with every journey, if you want to succeed, you need to be prepared. Arm yourself with the necessary breastfeeding essentials and join a support group so you can ask for advice or even vent. Breastfeeding helps you and your baby form a lasting bond. Once this journey is over, you will surely be grateful that you’ve done it.