When I was preparing to breastfeed my first baby, I was warned the process could be difficult. It was like every mom I knew had endured some sort of breastfeeding struggle and, as a result, wanted me to be fully aware of what I was getting myself into. I was thankful, yes, but I missed out on a super-important message in the process. I never heard that, despite the challenges, there are more than a few things that make breastfeeding feel totally worth it. I mean, yes, technically there are plenty of facts available about the nutritional and health benefits for baby and mom, the lowered cost, and the added convenience. But I’m talking about the more subtle side effects that we, as new breastfeeding moms, get to experience.
These are the things that don’t always show up in the parenting books, but still play a major role in how the struggle to breastfeed eventually is worth it (at least, it was for me). In those early weeks of postpartum life, I dealt with some significant nursing issues and saw practically zero hope at the end of the tunnel. Each breastfeeding challenge was in danger of convincing me that nursing would never work out or feel comfortable.
Spoiler alert: it totally did work out, and eventually it did feel very comfortable, and here are a few things that definitely helped me get to that wondrous, glorious, enjoyable point:
Seeing Your Baby Settle In & Relax At Your Breast
Yesterday, I saw a mom breastfeeding a small baby on a bench at the park. They looked so cozy and comfortable, I almost said something to her about how she was awesome for breastfeeding in public. I didn’t though, mostly because I didn't want to interrupt, and also because I’m almost nine months pregnant myself, and it would have involved getting up from the blanket I was laying on. Still, seeing that mom and her new baby together made me slightly excited to (hopefully) enjoy a similar routine with my second baby.
To be fair, newborn life affords lots of opportunities for snuggles regardless of how you choose and/or are able to feed your baby. But, on a personal note, I always have room in my day for more. Breastfeeding is a great option for those of us who really, really like being able to reach for our babies and hold them close to our chests every two to three hours, for weeks on end.
The Easy Access To That Baby Head Smell
My partner once joked that bottling up a new baby smell would be life-changing. Can you imagine? Think of all the political, social, and cultural differences that could be softened if we could simply pop open bottles of baby smell for our opposition to enjoy. Until this becomes a reality, at least we have multiple opportunities to smell our own babies’ heads while breastfeeding them.
The Downtime You Have With Your Baby
I know there are all kinds of positions for breastfeeding but, for me, it pretty much forced me to sit comfortably for roughly 20 to 30 minutes at a time, and do nothing else but hold my baby and maybe entertain (OK, definitely) entertain myself with my phone. Without the routine of breastfeeding, I probably would have spent less time watching questionable TV and reading questionable Justin Bieber-related news than I did. Those were simpler times indeed.
Watching Your Baby's Progression On The Growth Chart
A few weeks after my son was born, a college student my spouse and I were chatting with at a picnic commented on our baby’s healthy-looking size. Granted, I wouldn’t expect a young guy in college to be an expert on baby growth charts, but still, it was pretty satisfying to know that, to other people, our son appeared well-nourished and well-fed.
Finally Finding Your Groove
Not going to lie, I can’t leave out the pride that comes when you finally have a breastfeeding routine established with your baby. It was one of the first actual challenges I felt like my son and I overcame together, and it gave me a much-needed boost in my confidence as a new mom.
When Your Baby Stops What They’re Doing To Smile At You
I can’t even. Or, I should say, I couldn’t even. It’s arguably one of the most heart-melting things an infant is capable of doing, right up there with squeezing your fingers and giggling at your face during peek-a-boo.
The Sense Of Accomplishment
Knowing that my baby was getting what he needed, and that I was the one providing it for him, just felt good. I imagine this feeling is not unique to breastfeeding moms, since it’s in the same category as rocking a baby to sleep, or getting him or her to stop crying, or changing a diaper without waking him or her up (mom level: expert). Being a caregiver, especially one that’s fighting a steep learning curve, was a new role for me, and I relished the times it seemed to be going well. Of course, there were plenty of times where it wasn’t going well, but we’ll save those for another day.