Breastfeeding gives a baby the best start in life
Breast-milk is full of antibodies from the mother and other essential immune strengthening elements, as well as the perfect balance of vitamins, minerals. Even the simple act of sucking at a breast is healthier than sucking from a bottle. I say this because babies who are bottle-fed are more likely to get ear infections than babies who nurse. The medical world does not fully understand everything that is beneficial in breast milk, but has done the best it can with replicating its nutritional content into formula.
Nursing can be overwhelming, but so can formula feeding
Nursing is challenging because you, the mother, must feed from your own body. This can make your hormones fluctuate terribly, and you need to eat and drink more, and your baby is fully dependent on you. However, I have to tell you that bottle-feeding certainly has its drawbacks too. It is so much easier to carry around your breast when you leave your house, then it is to make sure you have the right amount of formula, and filtered water, and a clean bottle or two. Additionally, spilled and dried formula smells way worse than leaking, dried breast milk.
Nursing is not always easy
My mother nursed all seven of her children. This gave me the outlook that nursing was something normal and easy, and that I would obviously attempt to do it. During my years of doula work and studying to be a midwife I learned that the most important thing to help new mothers nurse, is for them to have social support, ideally from a close relative or friend who has also nursed. Women who’s mothers nursed them and their siblings, are much more likely to nurse their babies. Many believe that nursing should come naturally, but this is not often the case.
Support from family and friends
After the birth of my eldest daughter I quickly learned that while nursing is a natural part of life it is not usually trouble-free, and especially not the first time around. Women and babies need support and expertise with nursing. Every woman and baby is unique and there are myriad challenges of nursing that will be just as unique. Although it is natural, it is a skill that must be learned and practiced by the mother, as well as the baby. There are humps to get over, such as sore nipples, cracked nipples, engorged breasts, thrush and mastitis. But all of these are common humps along the way that women have overcome throughout history. For this reason you need supportive people around you, who know how to help you get your needs met.
At times you will feel you want to give up:
In the present something such as cracked nipples can feel so overwhelming you want to give up. But in the long term these hardships are small dents along the road of parenting. If you get the help you need to overcome nursing difficulties then you will look back and be thankful for it in the future. Nursing will become a piece of cake. If nursing is important to you, please make sure that you have a support person in place before embarking on this journey. If your challenges need professional help, then find a La-Leche-Leage person or a certified lactation consultant.
You may decide that breast-feeding is not for you
If your individual challenges are too great, then you may very well reach the decision that of bottle feeding and/or formula feeding is right for your family. This is okay too. I just want mothers to make informed decisions, and ideally to at least give nursing, with the right support, a try. Even after a strong endeavor, nursing is still not the right path for some mothers and some babies. As I said above, I respect this. I hope you make your decision whole-heartedly and know that you are doing your very best for your child. Do not feel guilty, but just appreciate your ability to make caring choices for your family.