Someone at an event recently asked me ‘when you look back to your antenatal classes, whats the first thing that jumps into your head when you think about the breastfeeding session’.
Now usually, I censor my inner monologue but on this occasion I wasn’t quick enough – and before I knew it I had blurted out ‘chocolate biscuits’.
And actually, having thought about it a bit more, that is pretty much ALL I can remember. I don’t recall the information we were given about ‘benefits of breastfeeding’. I don’t remember the demonstrations of positioning and attachment. I don’t remember anything, except that there were chocolate biscuits in the tea break.
I knew the ubiquitous mantra ‘breast is best’, as many people do – and also, as many people seem to agree, I wasn’t really sure exactly WHY.
But when it comes down to it, ultimately, the decision that I made to breastfeed came down firstly to finance, and secondly, to stubbornness. And that was a common sense decision – not something that I’d been taught in a class.
Which brings me to benefit NUMBER 1: Its free! Well, unless you count the chocolate biscuit munching requirements that went alongside it (in my case). Then, it costs a packet of chocolate digestives a week. But to be honest, in the early days of feeding the Wee Man, where we were combination feeding rather than exclusive breastfeeding, I was consuming the same amount of chocolate biscuits. So I’d argue that the cost of getting in some biscuit loving is there however you decide to feed your baby 😉
And since money is quite often high on the agenda of ‘things to really think about’ when you are preparing for a baby, I reckon that ‘its free’ is a pretty good incentive for many parents just like it was for us.
And then, when I kept being told that I should just give up because I’d tried my best, the stubbornness kicked in, and I persevered until suddenly one day I looked down and realised that a whole feed had gone by with no pain, no fuss, no frustration. I stared down at the Wee Mans little ‘milk drunk’ face and realised that this was another benefit of breastfeeding – NUMBER 2 – the excuse to sit down and have quiet, restful, uninterrupted snuggle time with my wonderful baby. An excuse to ignore the housework, the requests for visits, the making of dinner, and just enjoy gazing down at the Wee Man’s contented sleepy form.
And talking of sleep, that leads me on to benefit NUMBER 3 – the accumulation of better quality sleep. Because, as it turns out, if you’re breastfeeding at night the oxytocin hormone released by your body will naturally help to relax you and ease you back into sleep once you’ve finished a feeding session. No staring at the ceiling, feeling ridiculously tired but unable to sleep because you’ve reached that point of being ‘past tired’.
This is something that I only realised when I had Bubby D. With the Wee Man, I was terrified of cosleeping and the potential for squashing him and felt that I must feed him in the nursing chair rather than the bed, staying alert and awake before attempting a protracted session of settling him in his moses basket next to the bed. After several months, I gave in, we coslept, and sleep got a bit more plentiful. So when Bubby D came along, we coslept with a crib attached to the bed from day one and every night she fell asleep feeding in my arms. And the difference was AMAZING. Obviously I was tired – because all new babies need to wake regularly when they’re so small as they only have tiny tummies. But I wasn’t boneshakingly, bodywearyingly, sandpaper-eyes-ingly exhausted like I was first time round. And that’s with an energetic toddler on the loose to deal with, too!
So that’s some of the reasons why breastfeeding works for me. It’s different for everyone, and there are many other reasons – improved health outcomes, not having to prepare and sterilise feeds, always having milk on tap, or helping get back to pre-pregnancy size more quickly, for example – why breastfeeding might work for other people.
But for me, the biggest benefit of all? It’s watching my two amazing, inquisitive, energetic children bouncing around and giggling and realising that my body helped make them who they are today. They grew inside me for 9 months, nurtured and protected by my body; and then…they grew outside of me for twice that time nurtured and protected by the milk that my body produced specifically for them. And when you think about it, that’s pretty special.
PS. Lets not forget the biscuits. Its not like I NEED an excuse to eat them, but hey, if I’ve got an excuse that’s all the better!
This post is part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt Day 1 – the theme of which is ‘the Benefits of Breastfeeding’. If you’d like to hear more from some other lovely bloggers about their feelings on the subject, then here are some links you might wish to give a try:
And while you’re at it, why not take a look at the Babasling too – mine provided me with the benefit of hands free feeding second time round, meaning I could interact with the Wee Man whilst keeping Bubby D happy and fed as well 🙂
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