Breastfeeding—it’s a woman’s built-in system for nourishing her baby. It provides complete nutrition, and it’s an inexpensive and convenient feeding option. ACOG recommends that infants be breastfed for the first six months. Unfortunately, people in the US have not whole-heartedly embraced breastfeeding, making it a constant source of debate, controversy, and awkward pauses. But I say enough already. It’s time to move beyond thinking that breastfeeding is odd, taboo, or indecent.
Breastfeeding helps babies build strong digestive and immune systems and may protect against respiratory infections, some childhood cancers, and obesity. Breastfed babies often have less gas, constipation, and diarrhea, fewer feeding problems, and less illness than do formula-fed babies. Women who breastfeed may lose weight faster, experience less stress during the postpartum period, build stronger bonds with their babies, and have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer in the future. Exclusive breastfeeding can also temporarily stop ovulation, lowering the risk of pregnancy. However, it is not a foolproof method of contraception. Women who want to avoid pregnancy should discuss birth control options with their ob-gyn to be on the safe side.
Overall, the benefits of breastfeeding are great, and the vast majority of women are able to breastfeed. But even though breastfeeding is a natural process, it’s not always intuitive. That’s why it’s a good idea to let your doctor and health care team know your breastfeeding plans before you deliver. They will help you start and support your breastfeeding once the baby is born. For some, learning how to nurse takes time, patience, and practice.
Women may also face logistical or workplace-based obstacles to breastfeeding. ACOG continues to advocate for employers to provide designated spaces to facilitate breastfeeding moms. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to talk to your coworkers and other moms who have breastfed and share strategies for how you can make breastfeeding work at work.
If you’re pregnant, consider giving breastfeeding a try. If it’s not the best choice for you and your baby, that’s OK. But who knows? You may be surprised to find that it comes…naturally.