I always planned to breastfeed my children, largely because my own mother breastfed my brothers and I when we were babies and talked about the special bond it created. I never considered doing anything else. And so when I went into labor with my first daughter, I let the nurse know that I planned to breastfeed immediately after giving birth. Armed with an arsenal of facts about breastfeeding and the stories from my mom, I held my five-pound, 11-ounce daughter up to my naked breast and realized that I still had no idea what I was doing.
What I assumed would be a natural, easy, and fulfilling experience turned out to be as difficult and exhausting a journey as it was a beautiful one. Like most aspects of motherhood, breastfeeding comes with it's own set of challenges, no matter how easily or (or not so easily) it comes.
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and, although mothers (and the public in general) have taken huge strides in the right direction to normalize breastfeeding, there is still a lot of work to be done. Stories of mothers being harassed for nursing in public, cases where moms give up nursing too soon because they lacked support, or even hospitals that push formula as the norm to new moms pop up all too often. More than just raising awareness about the importance of breastfeeding, this month is crucial for encouraging people of all genders, ages, races, orientations, and demographics, that they can and should support breastfeeding, regardless of what they chose to do for their baby.
1. Breastfeeding Moms Sleep More
You probably don't feel like it, but it's estimated that breastfeeding moms get an extra 45 minutes of sleep per night, according to a study in the Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing.
2. Working Moms Who Breastfeed Miss Less Work
Believe it or not, because of the sickness fighting benefits of breast milk and the fact that breastfed children get sick less often, a nursing mom is less likely to call into work, according to a study on the economic benefits of breastfeeding.
3. Breastfeeding Reduces The Risk Of Breast Cancer
4. Breastfeeding Can Save Your Family $1,200 To $1,500 Each Year
Although breastfeeding isn't completely free (if you plan to purchase things like nursing bras, a breast pump, bottles, etc.) it's definitely going to save you a bit of cash. According to the Office on Women's Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average amount a breastfeeding family can save from not buying formula is anywhere from $1,200 to $1,500 in the first year.
5. The Top 10 Countries With The Highest Breastfeeding Rates Might Surprise You
According to The Richest, the countries around the world with the highest percentage of mothers who nurse their babies includes Madagascar, Bolivia, Egypt, Uganda, Eritrea, Peru, Malawi, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Rwanda at number one where more than 90 percent of mothers exclusively nurse their babies.
6. Your Breast Milk Changes Tastes Depending On What You Eat
Breast milk is never boring. It changes constantly depending on what you've eaten, the time of day, and the nutritional needs of your baby, according to Kid Spot.
7. Your Right Breast Probably Produces More Milk Than Your Left
According to Health Foundations Birth Center, about 75 percent of women produce more milk on their right side, regardless of how frequently they nurse on the left side.
8. Breastfeeding Rates Among Mothers 30 And Up Is Significantly Higher Than In Younger Moms
Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the percentage of moms who breastfeed increases greatly in older moms. Only about 43 percent of moms who are 20 and younger breastfeed while 65 percent of moms aged 20 to 29 breastfeed. Moms over 30 have the highest breastfeeding rate, at over 75 percent.
9. It's Legal To Breastfeed In Public In 49 States
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 49 of the 50 states have legislation in place protecting (or at least allowing) breastfeeding mother's right to nurse their child wherever they please.
10. Extended Breastfeeding Isn't The Norm In America
USA Today reports that in most other countries, the average age of weaning is between three and five years.
11. Extended Breastfeeding Has Numerous Benefits For Your Child
12. You Can Get High Off Breastfeeding
Well, sort of. According to La Leche League International, breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which relaxes both baby and mom.
13. Breastfed Babies Are More Independent Later In Life
Despite the popular myth that babies who breastfeed (especially longer than one year) are more dependent on their mothers, Breastfeeding Inc. noted that breastfed children are usually more independent and more "secure in their independence."
14. Breast Size Makes No Difference
Whether you have big or small breasts makes absolutely no difference in the amount of milk you can produce, according to The Bump.
15. Successful Breastfeeding Reduces Risk Of Postpartum Depression
A study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine reported that there is less of a chance of her being diagnosed with postpartum depression due to the release of oxytocin when a mother breastfeeds. However, if breastfeeding isn't going well for a new mom, there are also studies of an increased risk of PPD.
16. You Can (And Should) Breastfeed When You're Sick
In the vast majority of cases, it's safe to breastfeed even when you have a fever or cold, according to Baby Center. In fact, doing so will actually help protect your baby against getting sick, because of the benefits to baby's immune system in your milk.
17. Your Milk Has A Unique Scent
Each mother's milk smells differently, and a baby can tell the difference between his mother's milk and another mom's by the time they're two weeks old, according to Parenting.
18. Breast Milk Can Heal
19. Moms Whose Own Mothers Breastfed Them Are Much More Likely To Breastfeed
The cultural mindset surrounding breastfeeding largely influences mother's choice to breastfeed or not to breastfeed. According to La Leche league, mothers who were breastfed themselves are more likely to breastfeed. Similarly, mothers whose friends or family nurse their own babies are more inclined to breastfeed.
20. Mothers Who Work Full Time Are Less Likely To Breastfeed Longer Than Six Months
Although the reasons behind this make sense, and the lack of proper maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks is responsible, studies published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine show that moms who work full time don't nurse as long as mothers who work outside the home part-time or are not employed at all.
21. Breastfeeding Reduces Risk Of SIDS
Though not much is known about the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it is believed that breastfeeding can diminish a baby's risk. According to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, SIDS reduction is one of the many benefits of nursing that is hard to ignore.
22. Breastfeeding Also Reduces The Risk Of Obesity
Although the reason behind the findings aren't fully established, there are studies linking breastfeeding and lower risks of obesity according to The World Health Organization. It may be difference in insulin levels and pancreatic activity, or a difference in the protein and energy metabolized.
23. Breastfeeding Even Reduces The Chances Of Developing Allergies
The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology suggests that breastfeeding may decrease "eczema, wheezing, and cow's milk allergies" as well as protect them against other irritants and sicknesses.
24. Breastfeeding Burns Calories
It's a lot of work for your body to produce breast milk. So much so that you burn about 20 calories just making an ounce of milk, according to Shape.
25. It's Rare To Have A Low Milk Supply
Although most moms fear they're not making enough milk for their baby, it's actually very rare, according to Mayo Clinic. Most moms make more than enough for their babies, and if you are worried that you have a low supply, there are lots of ways to increase your milk supply that are worth giving a shot.
26. You Don't Have To Give Up Alcohol When Breastfeeding
But you should take precautions. According to Baby Center, alcohol enters your breast milk the same way it does your bloodstream. And although the percentage will be very low, it can affect your baby's eating and sleeping if you're not careful. That said, you can nurse as you normally would if you're only planning to have a glass of wine or one drink.
27. LGBTQ Mothers Can Nurse Their Babies
There are countless stories of parents in the LGBTQ community who breastfeed their children, either the parent who carried the child will nurse, or in some cases, co-nursing is encouraged and practiced.
28. Breastfeeding Might Hurt, But Not Forever
It's a common myth that breastfeeding has to hurt. Though it may cause discomfort or pain, especially at first as your body adjusts to your milk supply and your baby's latch, the pain should cease as you and your baby get the hang of things. Experiencing pain is a sign that something is off, or that your body needs time to adjust, according to Parents.
29. Breast Milk Can Prevent Tooth Decay
Because of the antibodies that prevent dangerous bacteria growth, breastfeeding has been shown to help children have healthier teeth, according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
30. Breastfeeding Wasn't Always The Norm
At least, not in the United States. Breastfeeding rates were at their lowest during the '60s and '70s when formula manufacturers were being "aggressively marketed" to the public, according to an article from the Journal of Perinatal Education. The Journal of Nutrition reports that a mere 22 percent of moms breastfed their babies in 1972.
31. But The Stats Are Slowly Changing
By the '90s, the benefits of breastfeeding were being rediscovered, and breastfeeding has been on the rise, however slowly, ever since, the Journal of Nutrition reports.