Disadvantages of Breastfeeding: Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain

Whether you just recently found out you were expecting a new addition to the family, or children are still a future far, far away from you, you may be starting to think of your options between breastfeeding and formula. The health of your baby is of utmost importance to you, and you want to ensure you are making the right choice. What’s healthier? Most cost efficient? Convenient? There are a lot of different questions that weigh into your decision.

Breastfeeding has been shown to have great advantages. Mother’s milk carries many nutrients that are essential for baby’s physical and mental development, and can amazingly adapt to what the baby needs if they are sick. There is also something to be said for the level of psychological connection between mother and baby that develops. You don’t have to make bottles ahead of time if you’re going out together, it can help you heal faster and lose weight, and the best part is, it’s free!

As a mother who chose breastfeeding for these reasons, I can say that it has been great for me and my little girl. Seeing all the positives could easily lead a woman to make the same choice, but I would be lying if I said there was no downside. It may seem like it’s all sunshine and roses, but there are some disadvantages of breastfeeding that must be considered when deciding what’s best for you and your child.

The First Few Weeks of Breastfeeding

One thing you won’t really hear from the general public is just how difficult the first few weeks of breastfeeding can be. If you spend time with other moms and ask them to be completely candid, whether they are new moms, their kids are in college, or they have grandchildren, most of them will remember that first moment. I have spoken to many mothers who said they felt like giving up with their first child, but those who have persevered will tell you that if you make it through the first month, it gets easier.

Open Wide, Please

You may feel that you need an engineering degree in order to attain the proper latch for breastfeeding. While you can look at all the diagrams, talk to all the moms, and even attend classes with every lactation consultant available, nothing can prepare you and make you a pro.

Babies may need training to open their mouths wide enough to attain a proper latch; some babies are naturals and some babies never get there. There are also some cases where babies need to heal from a dislocated jaw (depending on how difficult the birth was) before they can latch well.

With an improper latch, you can also run the risk of developing a blocked duct. If a baby is not latched properly, they are not able to optimize milk flow or drain the breast completely.

Blockages can be painful, and if your baby is unable to unblock the duct, you can end up developing mastitis, an infection resulting from said blockage, and will need to see your doctor for antibiotics. Typically, after the first month (if you’re able to push through until then), you can tell what the baby’s eating habits will be like and if you will be able to train them to latch properly.

Is That…Blood?!

disadvantages breastfeedingThe doctor has just placed that beautiful little miracle in your arms and asks if you want to try feeding her. You look at that adorable face, awkwardly try to position her correctly, and then…you nearly jump out of your skin! How can something so small have a sucking power equal to that of a Dirt Devil?

I have found that this initial reaction is quite unanimous amongst breastfeeding moms, even those who have had multiple children. It’s no joke when the doctor advises you that the best pump for your milk is your baby.

With this powerful suction come sore, red nipples, even bleeding and scabs. That’s probably enough right there to turn anyone off from breastfeeding. But, again, if you persevere, your body will adjust, and soon you will notice the scabs have disappeared and nursing doesn’t hurt anymore (until they get teeth, that is…but we will get to that later).

The Water Balloon and The Empty Sack

Whether you decide to breastfeed or formula feed, you will experience the first time your milk comes in. Since your body doesn’t know how much your baby will be eating on a regular basis, typically there is a certain degree of engorgement that first time. Your milk production goes into overdrive leaving you feeling uncomfortable and very…full.

The difference with breastfeeding is that this process happens over and over again (although not quite to the same degree as your body adjusts to how much your baby needs per feeding), filling up and emptying several times a day.

This is what ultimately leads to stretch marks and sagging in the long run. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to prevent this if you opt for breastfeeding, but it’s one of the sacrifices we make for our children (and it’s guaranteed this won’t be the last).

The Months That Follow

Once you’ve gotten over the initial shock of the first month of breastfeeding, you’ve gotten through the worst of it. From here, the main disadvantages are merely annoyances or inconveniences. More than likely, your child will breastfeed for their entire first year, and some will continue until they are 18 months or even 2 years old (although, these kids generally only nurse to sleep at night, not usually for actual food).

Long, Lonely Nights

Parenting with your partner is an amazing experience. You catch a glimpse of your loved one learning to love another and developing a special connection they don’t have with anyone else. Together, you get to see this little person you created together light up when she recognizes her parents. You watch her learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, walk, and even talk, and together you help her grow more and more into a little human of her own.

You share every moment together and become a tag team for dirty diapers and late nights…where dad gets the crying baby and brings her to mom, or mom gets the crying baby and brings her to…mom?

With breastfeeding, obviously, there’s only you when it comes to feeding time. Unless you are pumping and dad can make a bottle, you’re in charge of meal time until she starts eating solid foods. This can be a bit draining on mom, both physically and mentally, but if it’s what you’ve decided for your baby, you will find a way to continue on, despite lack of sleep.

What to Do in Public

While it’s convenient not to have to do too much prep work when it’s time for a family outing, finding a comfortable place to feed in public, for both you and others, can be a bit difficult. Depending on where you live, it may even be discouraged or not culturally acceptable to feed in public, even with a nursing cape.

Even completely covered, you may get some side glances from passersby making you feel self-conscious, while a nod of approval from another mom will make you feel like a million bucks (we moms should stick together, right?).

While there are laws that protect nursing mothers, it is wise to check with establishments in your area for their feelings on public breastfeeding. There are some places that have special rooms for nursing mothers, and others may ask you to feed in your car if possible. Most importantly, do what is best for your baby. Once you’ve spent more time with her, you will be able to anticipate when she will be hungry and plan ahead for it.

Little Vampire

We all love a gummy smile, but obviously, we can’t have a toothless five-year-old. Kids can’t live on milk alone forever, and before you know it you will see the little buds of her first teeth ready to bloom. And once those teeth come in, she’s going to want to try using them! If you thought the first time she latched was painful…you’re in for quite a shock!

Babies can get their first teeth anytime starting between four to six months of age, but regardless of what age your baby gets their first teeth, you are guaranteed to be bitten a few times before they are done with the nursing stage. And the younger they get them, the less they understand that it’s not okay to bite Mommy. It may take a few times of hearing, “Ouch!” to learn that they can’t just chomp down, but be patient and they will eventually learn.

So, Is It Worth It?

That’s a question only you can answer for yourself. There are advantages and disadvantages to both breastfeeding and formula feeding. It’s up to you to decide which is best for you and your little one. There’s no wrong choice, and even if you start with breastfeeding and switch to formula, that’s okay, too. Your baby, and your body, will let you know what’s best.