Breastfeeding is a choice that no one can make for you. It's a special aspect of motherhood that literally only you can decide to partake it. It can be an amazing time of bonding between a mom and baby, but it can also be very hard work. (Though, to be honest, what part of pregnancy and motherhood isn't hard work?) If you're planning to breastfeeding your baby, or even if you're on the fence between formula and nursing, there are a few questions to ask before you start breastfeeding that will help clarify the "how" and "why" for you.
For many moms, breastfeeding is their first and only option. But for others, formula feeding has definite up-sides. No matter where you fall on the breastfeeding-formula continuum, it's important to ask questions that go deeper than just how you feel in order to decide what will be the best option for you and your baby.
Obviously, it's impossible to know how breastfeeding will go until you give birth. For example, many babies that are born prematurely are unable to breastfeed at first, which could put a damper on breastfeeding at all. Other babies latch on right away with no difficulty. But having a plan in place, much like developing a birth plan, can give you confidence when the time comes.
1. Why Do You Want To Breastfeed?
Breastfeeding, like every aspect of motherhood, takes a lot of energy and time. It may or may not come easily for you the first time around. But either way, it's important that you're nursing your child for the right reasons — not just because it's something society tells you to do. Because you're the one who is going to have to nurse your baby, not anyone else.
2. Do You Plan To Pump?
Using a breast pump can be a convenient way to breastfeed your baby without having to physically nurse all the time. It allows you to be away for longer periods of time. Many moms decide to pump exclusively in order to go back to work. While you can certainly don't have to pump exclusively, even saving an occasional bottle for later can be a huge help. If the price tag is a bit intimidating, many insurance companies will cover the cost for you.
3. How Will Nursing Fit In To Your Work Schedule?
If you do plan to go back to work, it's important to make a plan for how breastfeeding will fit in to your schedule. After your maternity leave is up, will you pump for the hours you're away? Do you have a job that you can take your baby with you? There are usually many options available to new moms and worrying about making it work with your job shouldn't stop you from breastfeeding.
4. Are You Ready To Put In Extra Effort?
Especially at first, breastfeeding can take lots of work. It's not as easy as formula feeding, but with a little time and patience, your baby and you will work together to figure it out together. After you've been at it for a while, it will feel like the most natural thing in the world, but be prepared for a bit of a learning curve at first.
5. Do You Know About The Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Your Body?
According to La Leche League, breastfeeding has many benefits for mothers, both short and long term. Short term benefits include bonding with baby through the instant release of oxytocin, longer delay of your menstrul cycle, and quicker weight loss. Long term benefits, according to Parents, lower risk of ovarian and breast cancers, stronger bones, not to mention the amount of money saved (an estimated $1,733.75 per year, according to The Simple Dollar).
6. What About The Benefits For Baby?
The benefits of breast milk for babies are even more extensive than those for nursing moms. According to Women's Health, breastfeeding gives babies a heightened immune system, lowered risk of asthma, childhood cancers (according to Time magazine), childhood obesity, ecxema, respiratory infections and much more.
7. Will You Have Support?
While it's certainly possible to breastfeed without it, having a good support system can make it much easier to manage. Will your partner help out in other ways, since they can't feed the baby for you? Is there a breastfeeding support group or lactation consultant in your area who can help with "technical issues" and offer support? Even though breastfeeding is ultimately between you and your baby, it can be a huge relief to have a few people on your team.