I don’t think I’ve really talked much about this topic, but I really do feel quite strongly about it, so I want to get it out there… Breastfeeding is amazing! It’s practical, healthy, and beautiful. I wouldn’t go back on my decision to breastfeed my daughter for anything in the world. Of course, I know I am lucky to have a year parental leave so that I didn’t have to worry about working and daycares, etc. and also, it doesn’t come as naturally as one might think it would… It was quite a bit of work to get everything right in the beginning, but it is so worth it.
First of all, breastfeeding is super practical. If the baby is hungry, you just need to find a place to sit down. No warming things up or mixing powders. You don’t have to remember to carry stuff with you, except a cover, and even that is optional. (Most women in Germany don’t use covers; the only ones I’ve ever seen were foreigners)
Secondly, breastfeeding is super healthy, both for mom and baby. It gives the baby a life-long boost in their immune system, and it also helps the mother with her immune system. We have spent the last 6 weeks in Mexico, and I haven’t been sick even once! Olivia had the sniffles for a few days, but it was very mild. Normally when I come to Mexico I get the infamous stomach illness (usually salmonella) pretty badly no matter how careful I am. This time not at all, and I have been eating everything, even lettuce! Unfortunately my husband was not so lucky… He has been sick three times so far, each time being stuck in bed for several days. Poor guy doesn’t get any of the immune system boosts from breastfeeding.
Lastly a word on nutrition. I know there are a lot of myths floating around out there about how the nutrition in breast milk is not sufficient after the baby has reached 6 months. I did a little research on this and couldn’t find any evidence to support that. It seems people are mostly worried about iron, since there is very little iron in breast milk, and the iron stored in the baby’s body from birth supposedly depletes by 6 months. But breast milk is tailored to the human body, and the small amount of iron it contains is actually absorbed very efficiently by the baby, (50-70% as opposed to iron-fortified cereals or formula which is only absorbed at a rate of around 10%. ) You can read more about it here if you are interested.
Other people say that there simply isn’t enough milk after six months and that the baby will be hungry if you don’t feed them something additional. This isn’t true, either. The way the body works is that the more a baby eats, the more milk is produced. There is a delay of a couple of days, so that when the baby hits a growth spurt he will be eating a lot more often because he is hungry. A few days later, the mom’s body catches up and there is more milk. As you start to wean, the milk production goes down accordingly, since the baby is eating less often. But if you continue breastfeeding, there will continue to be milk.
I breastfed my daughter exclusively until she was 7 months old, and then continued to feed her about 90% breastmilk until 11.5 months. (She has suddenly decided that she likes to eat more solids). She has been at the very top of the weight charts since just a few days after she was born, even though her birth weight was exactly average. She has always been very healthy, and people are constantly asking me if that is really all from breast milk. The answer is “yes”! I know that not every breastfed baby is super healthy or super big like mine, and they don’t have to be, either. But if you are looking for proof that exclusive breast milk is enough for a baby to thrive on, my little girl is a great example.
(here is my little chunk, talking to daddy on Skype)
Of course, as with all things, there are always exceptions… Every woman is different; every baby is different. Some women really don’t have enough milk or can’t breastfeed, and obviously that is ok, too! But if you have been breastfeeding successfully and your baby doesn’t want to eat solids when they turn six months old, don’t worry about it! They are getting everything they need from you.
We moms have enough to worry about already without people telling us that our babies are undernourished. What a way to sabotage the beauty of the female body.