A great deal has been written about the benefits for babies — that it’s easier on their stomachs, better for their brains, a boost for their immune system — but very little has been written on the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers. In the United States only 16 percent of babies are still exclusively breastfed by six months, despite the recommendation of all pediatric associations that babies should be breastfed up to one year of age. After three months of age less than 40 percent of babies are still breastfed. The first three months of a child’s life are the most difficult for parents in every respect, including breastfeeding. New mothers are overwhelmed by the demands of their newborn, the initial pain and difficulty they may have nursing, the inconveniences associated with it including pumping in order to separate from the infant and leaking milk day and night. Why should new mothers stick with it when there’s baby formula conveniently located in every grocery and drug store? These are the reasons why breastfeeding is worth it for mothers too:
Even though finding formula is convenient in any store in the United States, whenever parents go out, formula, bottles and often bottled water need to be added to the already heavy diaper bag. If you’re like me, adding yet another necessary item that can be forgotten to my bag is the last thing I want to do every time I leave home.
2. Fewer (to no) bottles:
When my daughter was born, I added bottles and all of their accessories to my baby registry, because that’s what all the registries recommended. While I use bottles when I’m pumping, I use far fewer than I would if I were using formula. If I had returned to work I would be using more, but I would at least be free of bottles at night, on vacations, during weekends and on holidays. That’s a lot less washing to do.
The cheapest kinds of baby formulas cost $60 per month, and if your child has an allergy, that cost can skyrocket to $150 for sensitive stomachs. Breastfeeding isn’t free: it costs mother’s valuable time. You’d be amazed at how many things you can get accomplished while nursing and pumping. Breastfeeding can take all of a mother’s attention the first few months, but as a child grows and gains neck control, nursing becomes something that one can auto-pilot, which aids dramatically in a mother’s ability to multi-task. Breast pumps and their accessories are also a deduction on taxes and many insurance companies cover the whole cost of a pump.
4. Never forget to buy more:
I’m not the most responsible parent. I forget almost everything, and were I responsible for always keeping formula in the house, I would often find myself making frenzied late-night runs to the drug store or supermarket to get more upon discovering an empty canister.
5. Stinky diapers:
When friends switched from breastmilk to formula they had one immediate observation: formula poops stink. Really, really stink. When you’re already handling someone else’s bowel movements, you would like that experience to be as unoffensive as possible. An added bonus of breastfed babies is that these poopy diapers are also much less frequent than those of their formula-fed counterparts. Breastfed babies can go a week without a bowel movement!
6. Extra calories:
I probably should have made this number one on the list. Breastfeeding mothers require five hundred extra calories a day on average. It’s easier to lose weight when someone is mooching that many calories off of your bottom (line) a day. You could do any of the exercises below to burn that many calories, or you could just sit and nurse. Your call, but it seems like a no-brainer to me…
7. Delayed return of period:
The average woman who breastfeeds on demand doesn’t see her period return for over 14 months. Combine that with the 9 months you were without a period, and that’s almost two years without tampons or PMS.
8. Instant soothing:
When my daughter is tired, upset, in pain, or just plain cranky I have an instant solution to stopping the tears. After vaccinations, after I bump her head into the doorway, there’s one easy fix for distress: boob. The appeal of a cure-all for hysterical baby is irresistible for most mothers.