By Brooke Faulkner
No, I Don't Breastfeed Because It's Easy
In addition to being a personal decision, breastfeeding is largely a financial one. The benefits of breastfeeding are indisputable: bonding, nutrients, being confident in the milk you feed your baby; most mothers can think of over 100 reasons to breastfeed.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple in American society. Somehow, society has developed an unhealthy habit of undervaluing mothers and taking them for granted. Breastfeeding in particular is an under-appreciated practice of motherhood.
As a result, choosing to breastfeed their babies can cause mothers to make sacrifices. Mothers go through mental and physical hardships to feed their child naturally. Financial difficulties are even more overlooked.
Recognizing mothers’ dedication and giving them credit for their work is the first step to getting on a better track as a society.
Here are some assumptions society makes that underestimate the sacrifice mothers make in order to provide what they think is best for their family, and the realities mothers face when choosing to breastfeed.
Assumption: Breastfeeding is free
Reality: There is truth to this assumption. A mother’s body does naturally make food for her baby, and this technically is cost-free. It’s like a vending machine, but instead of inserting a dollar every time your baby wants a drink, your body is designed to release milk when it senses your baby is hungry. The baby’s cries act like the dollar, and while they may take a toll on your sanity at times, they unfortunately have no monetary value. However, as all breastfeeding moms know, it has its price.
Even though the process of producing milk is a natural bodily function, it requires an extra intake of about 500 calories per day (another requirement from the bodily vending machine). That means extra groceries for mommy, and money on the breastfeeding tab.
In addition, breastfeeding can be painful. To ease the pain, many mothers choose to buy breastfeeding bras, boppy pillows, nipple cream, lactation supplements, and more. They’re not cheap. Add that to the cost of milk containers, coolers to store milk, cover-up shawls, and other necessities, many breastfeeding mothers can spend upwards of $1,000 to breastfeed their baby for one year.
Health problems that may arise, such as mastitis, can also be financially burdensome.
Assumption: Breastfeeding saves you money
Reality: People get this idea when, in addition to assuming it is free, they don’t consider a potential loss of income. The previously mentioned $1,000 does not consider the potential loss of a second income as some mothers are unable to work after giving birth.
As mentioned, many companies are not understanding of the difficulties and time essential for taking care of a newborn. With many companies not allowing any substantial amount of time for maternity/paternity leave and many work environments being unfriendly to breastfeeding mothers, it is a taxing task for mothers to undertake.
Some mothers, such as household providers, single parents, or parents who simply depend on a dual income, don’t have a choice but to go back to work. Mothers may have to opt out of breastfeeding to be able to care and provide for their baby. Many need to undertake the challenge of figuring how to balance work and breastfeeding.
Those lucky enough to have the means to stay at home and take a longer break from work may have to downsize and make economic adjustments in order to do so. Taking time off work to breastfeed full time for a year results in a loss of at least $20,000, and most likely a lot more than that.
Assumption: Breastfeeding is one long stay-at-home party
Reality: Well, it can definitely be long. Physically taxing and mentally demanding, not to mention painful at times, strictly breastfeeding your child can demand that you feed every four hours during the day and every six hours during the night. The mental strain from lack of sleep is usually tremendous. Staying home for all or most of the day can also cause mothers to feel isolated and lonely. It is rarely easy to go on an outing with a baby.
Assumption: Breastfeeding is free birth control
Reality: Breastfeeding can be an effective measure of birth control. It can be up to 98-99.5 percent effective for some women, and this can last up to six months or up until a mother resumes ovulation and menstrual cycles. However, for this to be effective, this method of birth control demands strict and continuous breastfeeding throughout the day and night, at minimum every 3 hours.
While breastfeeding is the obvious option for many mothers, it is not as easy, or financially viable as society makes it seem. The cost of breastfeeding a child for one year can be pricey, as well as demand a good portion of a mother’s mental and physical health -- appreciation from society for all that dedication that mothers take on is long overdue.