Breastfeeding is not Special

Breastfeeding is undoubtedly one of the most natural acts a mother and child can share ….. but shark attacks are natural too and no one expects us to enjoy those!

Breastfeeding is not Special

Breastfeed they said. It will be special they said…..

But it wasn’t. It hurt!

A peasant woman breastfeeding an infant
Breastfeeding Image 1653.
License: Creative Commons CC0.

The messages we give women about breastfeeding don’t always match up with the experience itself. Breastfeeding is a way to nourish a baby, it has multiple benefits to both mother and child, but “special” isn’t a reason to breastfeed.

The benefits of breastfeeding include helping develop a full immune system (not to be confused with stopping children from catching colds). Breastfed babies have fewer allergies than their formula fed counterparts, healthier gut flora, a lower SIDS risk. Fewer breastfeeding mothers encounter postpartum depression, and some types of cancer.

Breastfeeding is FREE! You don’t need to buy bottles, sterilising equipment, once you’ve fed your baby you can do whatever you want you don’t need to wash anything, store anything (once you put the boob back in your shirt that is ….) So breastfeeding benefits the whole family! But that doesn’t make it special.

Breastfeeding can be time consuming in the early days, babies frequently feed for hours at a time. Breastfeeding can be hard to establish because women and babies need to LEARN how to do it, despite it being natural. Breastfeeding is undoubtedly one of the most natural acts a mother and child can share ….. but shark attacks are natural too and no one expects us to enjoy those!

Breastfeeding is no more special than giving your baby a sandwich. Sure you will sometimes gaze into their little eyes and have a moment of pure joy, connectedness, love that knows no bounds, but it’s entirely possible that a mother feeding her baby from a bottle with artificial milk will feel that same way. That’s how we love our children. It’s normal.

So look into breastfeeding, after all it IS natural, and it IS beautiful, it has immeasurable health benefits to both mother and infant, and it’s fully costed at the outset  ….. but it’s just normal baby feeding. Besides, setting aside two years to do something “special” can seem pretty impossible! On the other hand, if we frame breastfeeding as NORMAL rather than special, it doesn’t seem such a challenge.

etching of woman breastfeeding infant, lying down
A woman lying down breast-feeding her baby. Credit: Wellcome Images | CC BY 4.0

I recommend making a breastfeeding plan (it’s as important as a birth plan). Know the signs of low supply vs the signs formula culture has imprinted on our brains (fussy baby, frequent feeding, not sleeping through the night, not being able to pump – ALL of these are normal, they have nothing to do with supply).

Tell your family how you need to be supported while you establish feeding. Set yourself up to feed successfully by having realistic ideas of breastfeeding, not by imagining hours of  beauty, peace and connection.

Breastfeeding isn’t special, it’s NORMAL! Commit to providing your baby with normal food.

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