Thursday, June 11, 2009

Is Breastfeeding Confining, Time-Consuming and Tough?

Q: People are telling me that nursing is confining, time-consuming and difficult. Is it?

A: Yes. So is being a parent, but you’re doing that. I don’t know of a way to mother that won’t take up a lot of what used to be your time, unless immediately post-partum, you hand the baby to a trusted person and then leave the room, never to be seen or heard from again. If that’s the relationship you’re looking for, get a cat.

Nursing is only confining if you let it be. Once you learn to nurse in public (see my Rules of The Road post for tips), you can go anywhere, and I mean, anywhere. It’s actually less confining than formula, because you can decide to take off to Mexico on Friday at noon and be on the road by 2 (been there, done that). A 10-hour delay in a third-world airport is no biggie (yes, we’ve done that too) nor is a snowstorm or earthquake or hurricane (thankfully, haven’t done that). You can feed your baby anywhere (and if the situation were really dire, you could also feed everyone else trapped in the hut with you).

Time-consuming, yes, but so is washing and prepping bottles and shopping for formula and going to the doctor (statistically, formula-fed babies get sick more often. That doesn’t mean that your particular baby will, or that your breastfed baby won’t, but chances are he’ll follow the norm). Not to mention that, there are worse things to do with your time than being forced to sit in a rocking chair and get the hormonal buzz that comes from nursing. And once you figure out how to nurse in a sling, you’ll be unstoppable. (Buy one from us!)

Difficult? I got a question for you — wasn’t sex kind of tough to figure out the first time? And maybe even the second. But you clearly persisted enough to become a mom. There are two people who need to learn to nurse here, one is you, and the other is baby. And he’s also learning to breathe, to poop, to live in a non-liquid environment. His schedule is full. He may be having a tough time too. So be patient. One thing is true: done correctly, nursing should not hurt. Get help if it does. It could be that baby’s lips aren’t pouting in a fish-face shape, or he has thrush, or a short frenulum or any one of a gazillion little things that an experienced lactation consultant or doctor or LaLeche League leader would notice. Read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding for troubleshooting.

And remember, even one day of nursing is beneficial to your baby. So try it for one week. Then another. And another. Go as long as you can, and you’ll reap a lifetime of benefits. After all, you can always go from breast to bottle, but the reverse is a really tough road.


Anonymous said...

Nursing was one of the best experiences in my life for all 4 of my children. I worked full time and would schlep my pump everyday into NYC on a bus and pump 3x's a day in a supply closet w/my first 2. I would do it again in a second.

Roxanne Beckford Hoge said...

Well my hat's off to you! I am always extra impressed by moms who pump -- it's adding a degree of difficulty akin to a triple Salchow. You're a real trouper!

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

Great post! I made some similar points in a response to Hanna Rosin's "Case Against Breastfeeding" a while back:

Cidalia said...
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Cidalia said...

I will never be comfortable breastfeeding in public. I have no problem with other women doing it, but I guess I'm just too modest to myself. And covering up is not always an option. My daughter would freak if her head was covered.