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Thursday, April 23, 2009

THE COSTS OF BREASTFEEDING

A little bit about our family: we eat vegan, use reusable bags for shopping, recycle, and buy things second-hand. We don't own a TV. We use reusable diapers and have only purchased a total of 11 onesies for our baby. EVERYTHING else was either a gift, hand-me-down, or bought second-hand. We use glass baby bottles and are making all of our baby's food.

And I'm really proud of the fact that our little one has only had one bottle of formula EVER. And that was her first night in the hospital. I was too sick and pumped full of drugs to take care of her.

When I was pregnant we decided that we wanted to breastfeed our baby for several reasons: 1) it is what is best, in terms of health, for her; 2) it is natural and a wonderful way for a baby to bond with his/her mom; and 3) it is WAY less expensive than buying formula. Our goal was and still remains to breastfeed the little one until she is one. Then it is ALL OVER.

The other day I was standing in line in the grocery store behind a woman buying formula and realized just how expensive that stuff is. Seriously, that stuff costs A LOT. If we were to buy organic, non-dairy formula it would cost us somewhere between $400-600 per month. That's a lot of money. Breastfeeding is definitely the way to go if you want to save cash. But there are some costs associated with breastfeeding. And they have been weighing on me this past week...

First, its a time commitment and a burden to a mom. You are responsible for milk at every meal and for every snack. This means (at the beginning) sitting down for upwards of an hour EIGHT times a day to get enough food in her little belly. Six months later and she is still nursing six, sometimes seven times a day. Things do move along a little faster these days, but still it is a time commitment.

And then there is pumping. If we're not together for a feeding, I must pump. I.HATE.IT. There is something demoralizing about pumping; something so wrong. I hate it. I hate carrying my pump to school every day. Hate cleaning all the little parts. Hate spending close to an hour a day in a little bathroom filling bottles with more milk. I also hate that I have to get up early each morning and pump after she has eaten (for my own personal comfort). And I really hate that basically you cannot do a single thing while pumping, except pumping.

Another cost associated with breastfeeding is the steep learning curve. It is hard work for the mom and the baby. It took us close to three months to finally get a common groove. It was hard work at first. Had it not been for Laura, our nurse at the hospital, or my mom, who made me tea to drink during the early days and posted notes telling me to relax while trying to get the baby to feed, I think I would have given up before the first month was over. It takes a lot of time and commitment on the part of the mother to get her baby to nurse, to not fall asleep while nursing, to drink from both sides, to get full feeding EVERY time, etc...

And finally, there are physical costs of nursing. Nursing changes the shape of your body. I have never been so top-heavy before in my life. My center of gravity may be forever different and I'm not sure I like that. Nursing is also physically draining. A nursing mom needs an additional 500 calories a day. I just can't keep up. I continue to lose weight (probably has something to do with the vegan diet). My current goals are to stay as hydrated as possible each day and maintain my current weight (which BTW is 12 pounds less than what I weighted at my first prenatal visit). Some people might think losing all this weight is awesome, but I'm worried about what is going to happen when I stop nursing her. I can eat like a carefree teenager right now. Will I ever be able to go back to a disciplined healthy eater?

More physical costs of nursing rear their ugly heads at the beginning... there were the sores and dry skin. There were cuts and blood. It was uncomfortable. They soon went away, but a month later her teeth started to come in and the biting began. The cuts and sores were back. This time with an infection. MISERABLE. It is a dangerous job being a nursing mother!

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm happy and proud of our decision to breastfeed the little one. But after six months of this, I've come to realize that the decision to breastfeed is complicated; definitely not black and white. There are costs and benefits to it. I think the costs far outweigh the benefits, but there still are costs. To say the least, I have learned a lot and been through a lot these past six months. As the next six months roll on by, I'm going to try to treasure all of my nursing moments. And I am looking forward to the day where I can pack up my pump and put it away for a long, long, long time!

2 comments:

WASPy Girl said...

I was at Costco the other day and couldn't believe how much they charged for even the generic brand for formula...in bulk!

I think you should embrace your big boobs. And buy a second-hand hoochie shirt while you're at it. JK!!

Not breastfeeding was sooooooo second wave feminism. Crunchy is cool again.

SARAH said...

I absolutely agree with everything you wrote.

I too am very proud that Ben has never had a formula bottle, but, I have to admit, I'm not sure I'll pump this long with baby #2. It is freaking hard work and a constant annoyance.

And, while I'm NOT complaining about losing the weight easily, the fact that my ass has completely disappeared and I now resemble a jiggly 80 year old man is SO NOT COOL.

I am completely impressed with the baby food making. You go!