In today’s society, mothers are told that “Breast is best.” For many women though, breastfeeding is simply not an option, and they’re being shamed for it.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for both Mother and Baby
Many new mothers choose to breastfeed their babies because of its many benefits to both the baby and the mother. Breastfeeding tends to be a mother’s first choice when it comes to providing their baby with the nutrition they need because breast milk is a naturally perfect first food for babies. Its antibodies protect the baby from illness and boost their immune system. Breastfeeding has even reduced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in babies. Studies have also shown that breastfed babies have better cognitive development and a more emotional connection with their mother. Breastfeeding is also very convenient since it’s available anytime, always the right temperature, and is free.
The antibodies in breast milk protect the baby from illness and boost their immune system.
There are also benefits to breastfeeding that exclusively affect the mother. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, by simply breastfeeding, mothers can burn about 500 calories per day. This will help mothers return to their pre-baby figure much faster, especially if they’re also eating a healthy diet. Another benefit to breastfeeding is that it lowers the risk of contracting breast and ovarian cancer. According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding also provides a 98% protective natural birth control method during the first six months after giving birth, which can be especially important if you’re not planning on getting pregnant again right away.
Some Possible Complications with Breastfeeding
Despite a mother’s best intentions to breastfeed her baby, it doesn’t always work out. First of all, many babies have a difficult time latching, which can be very frustrating for both the mother and the baby. If the baby is not positioned and latched on correctly, breastfeeding can be incredibly painful for the mother, which can lead to sore and cracked nipples. When nipples become cracked and damaged, it can lead to thrush, a type of yeast infection that can occur on a woman’s breasts, as well as on her baby.
Breast engorgement can also occur when a mother’s breast becomes too full of milk and she isn’t able to fully empty it, which can lead to painful blocked milk ducts. If the milk duct is unable to be relieved, it can lead to inflammation of the breast called Mastitis. Mastitis leaves your breast feeling hot and painful, and it’s usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms. If Mastitis isn’t treated properly, it can lead to a breast abscess, which can result in needing an operation to drain it. On the opposite end, many mothers have difficulty producing enough breast milk, no matter what they do to try to increase their supply.
Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast, and it’s usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms.
There are other medical-related reasons why mothers are not able to breastfeed, such as the mother having to take a medication that could get ingested by her baby via breast milk. No mother should have to choose between her health and breastfeeding her baby, especially when there are excellent alternatives to providing babies with the nutrition they need.
Alternatives to Breastfeeding Are Available
For mothers who are not able to exclusively breastfeed and are not taking any medications that could harm their baby, they could use a breastpump to provide their baby with their breast milk in a bottle. That way, their baby is still getting all of the benefits from breast milk, and the mother and baby are still able to bond as she cradles her baby and gives him or her a bottle.
If the mother is unable to produce breast milk, one option would be to obtain breast milk from screened donors via the certified Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Although some of the breast milk’s nutrients are lost during heat pasteurization, this is a good alternative for mothers who are adamant on providing their baby with breast milk.
Baby formula is regulated by federal law and meets the nutritional requirements for growing babies.
A popular alternative to breast milk altogether is formula. There are many different types of baby formula available, all regulated by federal law and meeting the nutritional requirements for growing babies. Although formula doesn’t provide the immune support that breast milk does, and depending on the formula, the price can get quite hefty, formula is a popular and excellent substitute for breast milk. In a 2019 survey by Mamava, 42% of mothers said they supplemented with formula during their baby’s first year.
A Mother’s Choice To Breastfeed or Not Is a Personal Choice
Besides the complications that can occur while trying to breastfeed, there are other non-medical reasons why women choose not to breastfeed — and they sure vary. From simply not being comfortable with breastfeeding because they view their breasts as a sexual part of their body to making it easier for them to transition back to work, women have many reasons why they choose not to breastfeed — and every single reason is valid because it’s her personal choice. New mothers are already stressed enough. They don’t need judgement from others. Mothers need support and reassurance that they’re making the right decision for their baby and themselves.
Whether it’s from medical necessity, supply issues, or simply personal choice, there are many reasons why a mother doesn’t breastfeed her baby. In our society, we’ve been conditioned to believe that “Breast is best,” and that’s ultimately the reason why many mothers feel like a failure if they don’t breastfeed. From the moment women give birth, or even earlier, there’s so much pressure to breastfeed. If breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally, mothers are encouraged to meet with lactation consultants and to not give up on breastfeeding.
While studies have shown that breast milk is ultimately the best source of nutrition for babies, it’s not the only way or the only source. The mother’s health, both physical and mental, as well as her happiness needs to be made a priority. No mother should have to feel shame or guilt for not breastfeeding. It’s ultimately her choice of how she feeds her baby, and it’s about high time society not only respects her decision, but supports it as well.