We all know breastfeeding is important – not just for the child but also for the mother. Not many people, though, talk about how tremendously difficult in the beginning it is to breastfeed. When my daughter was born, in addition to dealing with my own raging hormones and total exhaustion I was also dealing with a wee little one who now depended on me for EVERYTHING! When I added breastfeeding to this, let me tell you s*%t hit the fan. To say that it was painful is a total understatement. It hurt – perhaps even more than childbirth because there was no epidural. I scabbed repeatedly and my daughter tore off the scab and kept going. There were many times when I thought of quitting but I am glad I persisted.
After three months I went back to work and had to use a pump to meet my child’s growing needs. Pumping, I wouldn’t say, is hard but its a pain in the neck. Having to add one additional thing to my day (pumping twice/day, washing bottles), was not exciting at all. I, however, persisted and today at 7 months my daughter is still breastfed.
This is not a post to toot my own horn but to highlight that despite very little support from the system, I have continued to do what I think is right for my child. Research tells us that breast fed babies score an average of 5.2 points higher on IQ tests, are 40% less likely to develop diabetes, allergies, asthma and have better immune systems. The importance of breastfeeding exceeds well beyond these statistics and helps bond the mother-child along with helping the mother lose weight. Studies have shown mothers who breastfeed lose weight faster than those who don’t even if they do not exercise.
Why do I say very little support from the system? Yes, there are doctors and other groups at the hospital and outside who offer support and advice with breastfeeding. Yes, there are some new initiatives being put in place to promote breastfeeding and reduce formula access. Still, a lot of women breastfeed for 3 months and then give up. Why? Because they have to return to work. Despite being the most advanced country in the world, we are dismally behind when it comes to women’s and children’s health. Our system does not offer support to women to stay home for longer than 3 months and engage fully in their child’s development and nourishment. We aim to develop future leaders in math and science at the cost of our mothers. The disability program mandated by the government is often be reduced to a comedic stage show by companies who comply with only the bare minimum.
Whether to breastfeed and for how long should be a mother’s choice. The only thing I will say about that is do not give up because its painful. Go past the first week and things will get easier. Going past three months, though, may not be that easy. And that is not entirely your fault.