Yes, breastfeeding is super beneficial for baby and for our emotional bond. I support that. And those reasons are big reasons I chose to try breastfeeding and continue to do so. But a lot of my reasons for breastfeeding are largely for my own benefit.
That said, I would argue that doing things for yourself and taking care of yourself is not “selfish,” despite the blog post title. In fact, taking care of yourself is very important. Motherhood does not equal martyrhood.
Here are my top six “selfish” reasons to breastfeed:
1. It’s Cheap
I cannot argue with free. I so desperately did not want to shell out money for formula when I knew I could make breast milk for free. Sure, there’s some stuff to buy, like a pump, breast pads, and pump accessories, but a pump is generally free under the Affordable Care Act and breastfeeding supplies and professional support are covered as well, or at least are tax-deductible medical expenses. And those items don’t cost nearly the estimated $1,500 to $2,000 sticker price formula feeding racks up. This doesn’t even include the medical costs that are typically associated with an exclusively formula-fed baby that, according to a report by the United States Breastfeeding Committee, can amount to $331-$475 per never-breastfed infant for lower-respiratory illness, otitis media (ear infection), and gastrointestinal illness. Here’s some more on cost benefits. Because of this, I never hesitated to buy what I needed to make myself comfortable, like nursing tank tops and a nursing stool, because I would have had to buy a whole hell of a lot of tank tops to come close to those prices.
2. Peace and quiet/secret weapon
Any time my son started crying, breastfeeding brought instant calm and peace to the situation. A baby cannot cry when he is nursing. This was such a life saver in many circumstances when the screaming threatened to rob me of my last threads of sanity. Especially now that we are into the emotional roller-coaster that is the toddler years, there are bound to be lots more tears (like that time at the library when he couldn’t figure out how to climb into the little chair and he went screaming across the room to fling himself against the wall and cry in the corner). Most times he just needs a few words of encouragement and a hug to get through those moments, but for the big moments, nursing is always a sure-fire way to help him calm down. It’s the perfect back-up option to any situation.
3. It helps me to chill out, too
Every evening when my son and I get home, the first thing he wants to do is nurse. Aside from maybe being able to get him to take off his shoes when we walk in the door, he makes a bee line for our nursing spot while asking for milk. In our house, we call it “happy hour.” At first, I kind of thought it was a bit of a drag. I just wanted to get started eating dinner on most nights. But then I found that I, too, appreciated that chance to stop, sit down, reconnect and just chill after a busy, long day apart. It helped me learn to relax and breathe. Studies have found that the release of oxytocin helps lower mom’s stress level. I could feel my own blood pressure and stress level lowering and it gave me a few quiet moments to cuddle with my son. And the way he would look at me as he nursed said it all – “I missed you today, mama.” It’s heart melting, really, and makes me feel so glad to be his mom.
Also, back to those toddler meltdowns, nursing is a great way to not only help him relax, but also it gives me the chance to stop, relax, regroup, and then try again. This is so good for me, because the last thing we need is for me to rise to the occasion and for both of us to meltdown.
4. Weight loss
I am not good at prioritizing my work outs. I never have been. That’s mostly because I tend to rank sleep over workouts. And it’s not my goal to have wash board abs or become a swim suit model. I do want to be moderately healthy and fit. But, because I am naturally slender, I gained nearly 40 pounds during pregnancy, with only about six pounds of that being baby. But, the beautiful part is, breastfeeding burns calories – about 500 per day. Nature builds you up specifically so that there is lots of extra with which to create breast milk. It’s a brilliant system, really. For me to be able to just focus on being a mom and getting some light to moderate exercise, like a short walk daily, and have that be enough to drop all the baby weight was such a bonus. Most breastfeeding moms lose the weight faster than formula-feeding moms – studies have found they have a larger reduction in waist measurement and more fat loss by the end of the first month than formula-feeding moms, and they achieve pre-pregnancy weight earlier. Yay!
(Remember to continue to eat healthy and take care of yourself while breastfeeding, because your body will make perfect breast milk for baby at cost to you if you’re not getting the nutrients you need.)
When my son was first born, he would not latch, so we did all bottles. This was a combination of formula and expressed breast milk. And oh, the prep work! I recall vividly all the bottles to wash. And then every evening, after a long day of pumping and caring for a newborn, I would gather together bottles for the night feedings. I would bring up water, clean bottles, formula and a cooler in which to keep mixed formula. Then the next day, I’d haul it all down stairs to be washed. And the washing seemed to never end. When he learned to latch, the most amazing part for me was not having to do all this prep work. I just went upstairs and went to bed. Granted, as a working mom, there was still some bottle prep, but that was a reasonable amount of washing and it was only during the week, rather than having to deal with the bottles that come from around-the-clock feeding of an infant.
Also, I really enjoy lazy Sunday afternoons when we get to curl up on the couch together to nurse and read a book. It’s wonderful rest and good bonding time.
6. Health prevention
Especially with a history of breast cancer in the family, it’s good to know that breastfeeding could possibly reduce my risk for breast and ovarian cancer. What’s cooler than that?
Do you have “selfish” reasons for breastfeeding? Leave a comment about it.