If you’re a mama, yes, this is about breast-feeding. A woman’s work; no one else can do it.
In the time-honoured tradition of writing on breast-feeding, I’d like to begin by saying I’m agnostic about this part of the motherhood process. Whether you’ve breastfed your baby till the age of 6, had TIME magazine put you, your boob and your child on the cover OR you plopped a bottle of formula into baby’s mewling maws the moment you were home, away from the judge-y nurses… I think you’ve done okay.
Lots of research says breastfeeding prevents asthma, eczema, obesity… I’ve breastfed three kids. One struggled with being chubby, one has asthma and one has a little eczema. On the other hand, I’ve seen completely formula-fed babies (my siblings and I, friends’ kids) grow into strapping, robust people with high IQs and stomachs of steel. Back to the labs with you, Science!
Pregnant for Baby A, I read all the pregnancy manuals but skipped the breastfeeding bits. It was bad enough that my motorcycle riding, running on the road, power-drilling-holes-in-the-wall-on-a-ladder life had come to a halt. There was no way I was going to exacerbate the impending ignominy of early motherhood by being what a friend called ‘A Major Food Source.’
But in the last month of my pregnancy, quite by mistake, I chanced upon a paragraph that said breastfeeding could burn upto 500 calories. Per day! You’d have to be wiping puke off your shirt and staggering back into the Crossfit arena to burn that. And you could do this calorie burning, sitting on your slowly diminishing arse, while all the matriarchs of the family clucked and cooed about what A Great Mother you were.
Sold! (To the lady in the easy-to-open stretchy shirt.)
So yes. I did it for Me. And it worked. I got super fit, pretty quick (at least the first two times around). And I’m ashamed to say, it was a very rewarding experience. And also super convenient.
Baby-raising is much, much, much harder than you’d imagine. And the propaganda is full of lies! Ask any mama how often she managed to ‘nap when the baby naps’. Or how ‘calming’ Baby Mozart actually is the 398th time you’re playing it. Or how many parents actually manage to adhere to those godforsaken ‘schedules’ that are supposed to ease your life when actually it takes 2 weeks to settle into one, and then baby grows a bit and next week you have to create a new schedule.
So here are some breast-feeding pros:
No late-night zombie-mixing-formula-to-the-sound-of-baby-screaming. No sterilizing bottles. Less colic. (Predictably, Baby A had terrible colic but I’ve had a charmed life.) Definitely less colds and coughs. Almost no medicine while they’re exclusively breast-fed. If you’re lucky you’ll find a paediatrician who will recommend home remedies for you whose medicinal effects get transferred to baby via the feeding. (If not, look online at baby wellness sites. Or best still, talk to the matriarchs. There’s usually a wealth of information just waiting to be put into practice.)
Breast fed babies also tend to blimp up in the most delicious way. All my babies’ first passport photos are 80% cheek, eyes squinched up from all the chubby, like smug, little Buddhas. (Once they start eating regular food though, they normalize. Which is also a good thing.)
Not having to worry about whether you’ve carried enough formula when you’re traveling, or quieting baby on the plane is much easier with The Working-Boob. You can also get some quiet time while feeding, to read or play Angry Birds because hey, you’re multi-tasking.
The down side of course is that evolution hasn’t quite made boobs detachable yet. So baby, especially as he or she gets older, knows where the snack-pack is. And doesn’t care if you’re standing on the road, surrounded by the creepiest men in India-dom. Oh no. He or she WILL grab at you, pull your shirt down, or attempt to feed THROUGH your shirt while your discomfiture increases and at least one creepy man tries to take a photo.
Back-to-work breastfeeding mummies (really, you guys need a medal) will know that unique sensation of their boobs growing during an important meeting. Also, pumping at work and carrying enough breast-pads.
I bought polo-necks, empire-waisted peplum tees, (super discreet because the baby just fits under the tent). I now have several lovely stoles which are also a great way to distract from a post-preg belly and a cosy wrap for when Juniorella falls asleep.
Eventually baby grows up and you may surprise yourself at the sense of loss you feel when the weaning is complete. You may cry a little. But as you put the breast-pump away, buy a set of REAL BRAS with no weird openings and pension off the peplim-tees, you will be elevated with a sense of freedom! Your Working-Boobies can now retire. And if there’s any life in em yet, give them a drink with an umbrella or go for a long run!
(This is an iDiva post: http://idiva.com/opinion-iparenting/working-boobies-an-agnostic-take-on-breastfeeding/23425)