All I'm saying here is that when I was pregnant (both times) I really wanted to breastfeed because of all the "good for baby" stuff that you read. With Zuzu, I was lucky enough to be able to do so successfully. And then I discovered some unexpected benefits that were not widely advertised, but contributed to making breastfeeding really kick ass. SO HERE THEY ARE IN LIST FORM.
Seven Surprising Perks of Breastfeeding
I know, it totally surprised me, too.
I did not expect breastfeeding to be especially pleasant or enjoyable, but there is an amazing hit of hormones that are as good as or better than any kind of exercise endorphins. So peaceful, so relaxing. Anxiety and annoyance melts away. It's the easiest way to fall back asleep I've ever found.
(2) The power trip. Breastfeeding was absolute magic for curing almost anything that ailed the bebe. Milk drunks babes are the best and for the first few months of Zuzu's life, there was nothing a boob couldn't fix!
(3) The lounging. It's the perfect excuse to spend a lot of time sitting down. No pressure to do stuff. No laundry. No emptying the dishwasher. No making dinner (haha, that's what husbands are for). Nothing to do but feed the baby, talk on the phone, watch TV, read, text. I got so much reading done and indulged in my favorite TV shows.
(4) The psychological benefit. It was healing for me, after losing a baby that my body was supposed to be nurturing and protecting, to be able to fully provide for a baby and watch her grow healthy and strong and chubby just from the milk that I could provide. I grew a healthy baby and then I fed her with nothing but my body for 6 whole months--it blows my mind!
(5) Work breaks. Pumping is a pain the butt, but it was also a great excuse to lock my office door and browse Pinterest or read blogs, uninterrupted. (I know not everyone working mom has the luxury of an office door that locks, which can make pumping even more annoying--and sometimes nearly impossible. If you're pumping at work, be sure you know your rights.)
(7) Peace of mind. It eased my anxiety about whether the baby was eating well. Unlike some babies, who start strong with the baby food and then become picky toddlers, Zuzu was super slow to want anything but breastmilk. She was at least 9 months old before she ate enough food to count for more than just tasting it. I was a little worried about this, but I also knew that she didn't really need anything but breastmilk for the first year, so anything beyond that was kind of a bonus. She has a good appetite now, but it's like a reassurance for me that my efforts at a balanced, healthy diet for her are boosted by a breastmilk nightcap (and morning wake-up).
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Zuzu is now 13 months old and we are still doing the breastfeeding thing. I'm shocked by this because even though I qualify as a crunchy hippie in some ways (I meet somewhere between 7 and 9 of the criteria on this list), I never expected to nurse her much past one year. But here we are at 13 months and counting. Every time I think she's losing interest, she changes her mind again. We're down to two times a day--first thing in the morning and before bedtime--and that system is working for us right now, so I guess I'll just see how it goes. I don't mind it, but it's not as peaceful as it was when she was a bitty babe (no biting, thankfully, but plenty of squirming). So we'll just see how long this goes on... (Plot spoiler: Not to kindergarten!).
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I feel compelled to add that I don't want any of this this to come off as insensitive to women who struggle with breastfeeding. I say this because I know how fortunate I am that it was relatively easy for me. Early on, I was kind of stressed out about whether I was doing things right, and I went to a support group where moms shared struggles and challenges that would have completely defeated me. I can relate to the desire to want to have the "perfect" newborn experience, and I know I would have been devastated if breastfeeding hadn't worked out for us. I also know that Zuzu would have been FINE. I guess what I'm saying is, I know I'm really lucky in this regard and I'm not taking that lightly.
As for the downsides of breastfeeding, let me confess that I might be secretly ignoring all my feminist sensibilities and dreaming of a restorative boob job. I'm just saying breastfeeding can be, uh, transformative in some not-so-fabulous ways, too...