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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

5 Myths and Realities about Breastfeeding

The pendulum swings back and forth on breastfeeding, and I'm sure you've noticed it's "in" again. Not that you should make your child-rearing decisions based on trends, but you're in for a lot of grief if you try to go against the flow. If you're like most mothers, you've decided to breastfeed because you believe it's the best thing for your baby, not because it's the thing to do--but where you run into trouble is when you have difficulty breastfeeding and start considering other options. That's when the "nipple nazis" attack. The breastfeeding propaganda is everywhere, trying to guilt you into persevering with breastfeeding, even when you're about to lose your ever-loving mind. A few of the arguments:

1. It's natural.

Yep. So's menstruating. And I think most of us would do away with it if we could. 
Breastfeeding might be natural, but that doesn't mean it's easy. For many women, it's not. It's frustrating, exhausting, and damn near impossible. Natural is not synonymous with enjoyable.

2. It's painless.

Bahahaha! Yes, if done correctly, breastfeeding is apparently painless. But unless you're blessed with a wonder baby, you and your little one will both be facing a steep learning curve, and while you're getting the hang of things, it hurts. Sometimes a lot. You've probably been pretty kind to your nipples over the years, but those days are at an end.

3. It's convenient.

Yes, it's easier to whip out a boob than to haul around bottles and formula. In the long run. But while you're still getting the hang of things--which can take weeks--you're basically a 24/7 dairy. By the time you get baby latched on, wake him up 4 times after he falls asleep, burp him, etc., each feeding session can take up to an hour--and you're supposed to feed newborns every 2 hours! This is the time that the bottle might be most tempting--10 minutes and done.

4. It helps you bond with baby.

I really, really want to believe this, but I feel like I spend most my nursing time fighting with my baby--to latch on, to stay latched on, to stay awake, and to keep nursing after he's gotten the "easy" milk and has to work harder for the good stuff. Crying and pleading do not make me feel bonded to baby.

5. It's cheaper than bottle feeding.

That's only before you factor in the therapy and depression medications necessitated by your feelings of failure because WHY WON'T THE BABY NURSE RIGHT?!?

I say none of this to discourage anyone from breastfeeding, only to add a dose of reality to the most popular arguments used by those determined to make you feel like crap when your baby doesn't latch onto your breast seconds after birth and stay there until he's 18. 

Despite these difficulties, my baby and I are still working on breastfeeding ourselves--we have good days and bad days. And I think we could all use a little reassurance that what we're going through is common, if not "normal," and most importantly, that if and when we decide to switch to pumped breast milk or formula, we're all still  good mothers, doing what's best for our babies.

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