Breastfeeding may offer several benefits, but it also comes with many challenges. Many women find that breastfeeding is most difficult in the first weeks of the baby’s life and during times of transition. Most women can breastfeed successfully with the right help, however, there are also some downsides to consider.
Advantages of breastfeeding
Some of the most significant merits of breastfeeding include:
- Mother-baby Bonding
Breastfeeding is the proper time when a baby develops a closer bond to the mother and vice versa. It can be a source of comfort. According to a 2016 Cochrane review, breastfeeding could help babies deal with the pain of vaccinations.
For some women, breastfeeding helps them bond with their babies. The ability to soothe a baby with breastfeeding may make some women feel more self-assured in their parenting.
Health benefits for the woman breastfeeding
Most breastfeeding mothers go through lactational amenorrhea, a condition that occurs when their periods stop for at least some of the time that they are breastfeeding. This can be beneficial to women avoiding pregnancy. Women with endometriosis may also welcome the break. Women who do not breastfeed may be more likely to experience postpartum depression, some researchers claimed. It is possible that hormonal shifts relating to breastfeeding may offer mental health benefits, but more research is needed.
Health benefits for the baby
Breast milk is the supreme food for babies because it is rich in antibodies and fatty acids, which aids the development of an infant and their immune system.
A newborn baby primarily gets colostrum, a thick liquid rich in antibodies in the early days of breastfeeding. Colostrum sustains the baby and supports their immune system until the regular breast milk begins to flow.
When a baby breastfeeds, its saliva interacts with the woman’s nipples. Backwash from the baby provides the woman’s body with vital signs about the baby’s health and development.
Breastfeeding is cheap and does not require a financial investment. A woman can breastfeed her baby without any special supplies or equipment. For people concerned about the costs of raising a child, breastfeeding may offer significant savings.
Ease and convenience
It is possible to breastfeed a baby anywhere and at anytime. There is no need to warm up a bottle, pack formula, or make any other preparations. Public breastfeeding is legal in most countries. Once they have mastered breastfeeding, it is possible for women to do other tasks alongside, such as watching a movie or talking on the phone.
Demerits of breastfeeding
Some of the challenges and cons of breastfeeding include:
Adjustment period and pain
The most difficult period for a breastfeeding woman are the initial weeks of breastfeeding. Some women experience issues with milk supply, which can be too high or too low. Others have painful or cracked nipples. Some women develop a severe breast infection called mastitis.
Women learning to breastfeed are also adjusting to life with a newborn, which coupled with inadequate sleep and the constant demands of caring for the baby even at night can be thought-provoking.
Many mums are also recovering from giving birth, so the exhaustion of childbirth recovery can make breastfeeding tougher.
Loss of bodily autonomy
Breastfeeding ties a woman to her baby. Some women may feel that they have lost ownership of their bodies. This loss of bodily autonomy can affect their sex life, self-esteem, and body image. Women who pump breast milk may also feel uncomfortable with this process.
Uneven distribution of parenting work
If another caregiver does not bottle-feed the baby or the baby refuses to take a bottle, the task of feeding will fall completely to the breastfeeding woman.
READ ALSO: 5 Ways on How to Bond with Your Baby
Breastfeeding can be exhausting if a partner or another caregiver does not offer help with other tasks, such as changing diapers, preparing bottles, or household chores.
The unequal distribution of parenting work can lead to resentment in a relationship and leave the person breastfeeding with little or no time of their own.
How long to breastfeed
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life. There is no upper limit for how long to breastfeed an infant. There is no evidence that prolonged breastfeeding is harmful.
Exclusive breastfeeding means no additional nutrition, such as solid foods, juice, or water. After the 6 months, the woman can continue breastfeeding as she introduces solid foods to the baby’s diet.
Lack of social support
A lack of support can make breastfeeding feel detaching and unnecessarily difficult. Some of the issues breastfeeding women may face include:
- Inadequate sleep
- Shaming for breastfeeding in public
- Pressure to stop breastfeeding sooner than they would like
- Judgment from people who oppose breastfeeding
- lack of support from a spouse or partner
- confusion about which activities are safe to do when breastfeeding
- inadequate sleep
- significant loss of time
- shaming and judgment for breastfeeding in public
- lack of breastfeeding advice from medical professionals