Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Seven Surprising Perks of Breastfeeding (Perkiness Not One of Them)

Disclaimer:  This is a post about breastfeeding that is intended to be nothing more than a reflection of my own experience. I hope it's not controversial because it's certainly not intended to be.  I am personally not invested whether you breastfeed or not, although I'd generally recommend it just because it was (is) a great experience for me.  We all know that they say "breast is best" but the truth is that for a lot of people, for a lot of difference reasons, formula can be the best choice.  I totally respect that, especially because I know many women struggle with a lot of guilt about that choice.

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

(1)  The hormone rush.  After it stopped hurting and stopped being just-barely-tolerable, it got comfortable and then it got super easy and then it will seriously be kind of the coolest thing ever.

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.)

(6) Good eating.  Breastfeeding gave me an amazing appetite.  (And evidently burns a lot of calories too).  To be perfectly honest, I haven't worked out regularly since Zuzu was born.  And I'm back in all my old clothes, in spite of the fact that I have also been hungrier and eaten more than ever in my life except for my brief stint on swim team in high school (before practices got in the way of the spring play and I dropped swim team for the stage).

(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).

# # #

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!).

# # #

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...


  1. While I struggled with my milk supply, I am grateful I was able to breastfeed as long as I was for many of the same reasons you mentioned. I think your list is great and am glad it's been such a good experience for you. I hope i get the chance again. Just remind me I said that when my nipples are cracked and bleeding.

  2. Breastfeeding has not always been easy for and continues to have difficulties, but nights like tonight when B nursed great, feel asleep and transferred to bed asleep--ahhh, heavenly!

    At almost ten months, we are getting better but still on the slow boat with solid food and Zuzu gives me hope. :) I also remind myself that there is nothing that B will eat in his entire life that is better for him than breastmilk!

    When we decide we are done having babies, I might be picking up extra shifts to pay for a little extra plump and lift. I used to think it was so vain and then when my breasts deflated after Bear died, I realized how much my comfort in my own skin affected my comfort and confidence in myself. And for that, whatever helps is the way to go!

  3. BIRTH CONTROL! (Uh, for me, at least...I hope!) Not just of the hormonal/no cycles variety, but in the "I've had a baby on me all day today, get away." variety as well.

    To be fair, the downsides are: Teeth!, middle of the night wakings (still!), and the guilt and stuff with weaning.

    Still, I'm glad it has worked out for you. It was SOOO much easier the second time around.

  4. Can't wait to breastfeed and have that bonding experience as well, and the awesome calorie burning again. I agree almost on the whole boob job thing, although I'd probably never do it, but the pump had made them pretty ummn saggy ugly, and haven't even breastfed yet.
    Glad it has gone so well for you.

  5. I am so getting a boob job in 5 or 10 years. I had a women;s studies professor in PhD school who called me a feminist with a checkered past (pageant queen, nanny, cosmetic salesgirl, etc), this will confirm her suspicions.

  6. We made it to about 14 months before Grace lost interest/her biting made me lose interest. I think you are doing so well.

    And Zuzu is clearly THRIVING on it. :)

    As for boob jobs, I'm all in. I used to joke about it, but now I'm 99.9% sure I for real want one (and a tummy tuck...) because I don't want to be looking down at these saggy things for the rest of my life, lol. Scott feels we should start saving to get them done in a few years- seems reasonable to me. Don't know why he thinks it will benefit him at all, but there you go! ha!

  7. I told you that you would love it! Also, if you think you want a boob job now...just wait until there is no milk left in there. At least that fills them out. 10 year ago, I would have laughed at the thought of a boob job. I'd gladly take one now if someone wanted to pay for it! Glad Zuzu is still going strong! Both my boys were around 14 months when I pulled the plug. We could have easily gone longer, but I knew it was time for them to move. Glad you have had such a positive experience! It really is the best! p.s. on a funnier note..I pulled out my bras from the past 5 years ago to make a case to my husband. They went in this order: C, D, DD, F (wtf??) DD, D, C, training bra (not sure the size b/c the tag is gone but that's literally what it looks like). I'm not even kidding!

  8. We really struggled for the first week this time around and I was surprised by how emotional I was about it. in the past I've been pretty practical, assuming that we'd do formula if breastfeeding didn't work out and we've always supplemented with formula near the end of the first year. I am glad we were able to work things out because, like you said, breastfeeding is kind of awesome. I'm glad you have had such a good experience too!

  9. scratch that, the biggest one was a G! That is some serious boobage for someone of my stature. And I wonder why they look they way they do now. So sad...

  10. I really struggled with breastfeeding at first, but I stuck with it, and ended up doing it until my daugher was 18 months! And I did this for all the reasons you stated here... and because it was good for her. My daughter is four now, and I still miss it!

  11. Breastfeeding rocks. Henry is still going strong too and I am already mourning the day he weans b/c I know it is my last baby (sniff, sniff).

  12. I'm with meganalisonsmith.

    I have way too many bra sizes at this point and now no boobs (though they're increasing again...) that sports bras are the only thing I wear. Everywhere.

    Don't think I'll ever get a boob job because while mine are no longer cute and perky, they're at least not big and saggy. There's just nothing there. Training bra. Hah. Wish I wasn't kidding either. :/

    Pretty sure that breastfeeding or not (though I imagine bf makes it a bit worse), any mom who has birthed a baby understands the sag. All of us fill up with milk and are deflated at some point, causing the boobs to lose their umph.

  13. Just had to add, days like naptime today when B ripped and clawed at my nipple and shirt and thrashed himself about shrieking, eating in 30 seconds increments...still worth it, not heavenly.

  14. G and I had a shit time of it for let's say her first...six months. At least. After it became less about her survival depending on my breast milk and more about a decent way to get fluids and get groggy for a nice nap we did very well.

    I'm an obsessor, I'll look back and think of all the things I could/should/would do differently if the opportunity arose, but G stopping nursing is not one of them. My husband was making some 'how much longer do you think' noises, which looking back now I'd tell him to suck it in a rude way, but at the time I shrugged and said; we'll know. G stopped nursing, on her own, at 16 months. The boob was there and offered, and she was like; Nah, I'm good. And drifted off to sleep without it. I still rock her to this day, so I don't miss the quiet drifting love we had together before bed, I still get it. And I'm VERY content with how nursing ended.

    That being said, I'm one of the lucky ones who don't lose one ounce of weight while nursing no matter what you do, so after the initial loss of weight during childbirth, I held onto all of it until she stopped nursing. I was a little bitter, just fyi. Especially since my sister, who gave birth 7 months after me was like; Oh, I'm losing tons of weight! Nursing burns calories you know! AHHHH!! I've forgiven her for that.

  15. Also I totally feel meganalisonsmith and Brandy's pain. I went from a 36 F when G was born to a 34 B. On a good day. The girls aren't looking too very pretty either. It is what it is I guess.

  16. From the girl whose dream job is to be a Lactation Consultant, I LOVE THIS post. I feel for the Mom's who so badly want to breast feed, but can't. It honestly breaks my heart. For me, breastfeeding was the most natural and amazing thing, and I wish that everyone could experience it. And I totally agree that there is this amazing feeling to know that you alone are continuing to grow the baby on the outside, and all of the those pudgy rolls came from your boobs!

    T was 20 months when I stopped her feedings completely. Like C, we were down to morning and nights, but throwing tantrums in public where she would loudly scream for "mommy milk." Which isn't really cool...

    As for the boob job...totally worth it for me, but I get why it is totally not for everyone. But, I wasn't in it for the big fake boob look. Mine was more just to be myself again. I had NOTHING but hanging skin left. Literally, my sternum stuck out further than my deflated balloons, and in order to resemble boobs, I stuck them in a very padded bra that they would fall out of if I bent over. I viewed it as my "reward" for giving my body to other human beings for such a long time (between growing them and feeding them!) So, I went with the size that I had before I had kids, and really, if I didn't tell people, they wouldn't know. Right?? ;)

    I will admit though, that I can be judgmental towards breastfeeding. If you can't produce milk, that is one thing. But if you can, and just say, "oh, i'll try, but I'm ok with it not working," chances are, it won't work because your heart isn't really in it. It definitely takes commitment and pain and time, so if you aren't willing to put in those things, don't even act like you are going to try.

    So happy that you and C have made it this far!!!

  17. oh, and I forgot to mention that now my girls are OBSESSED with boobs, so, that is not so cool.