Since I'm feeling very "Thanksiving-ey," I figured I'd take the inspiration and share the top reasons I'm thankful for the experience of breastfeeding my daughters.
I Know I'm Giving Her the Best – Whatever the studies show at any particular moment regarding immunity, intelligence, nutrition, or whatever the breastfeeding advocates and formula manufacturers are arguing over at the moment, *I* know in my heart that breastmilk is the best thing I can provide for my daughters. My body produces just what my baby needs, exactly when she needs it. I just don't buy the notion that a baby can grow the first six months of their life with static nutrition from a can. Breastmilk is a living organism – a miracle of nature, really. And when I feed my daughter from Day 1 and moving into her third year, I know I'm doing the very best that I can for her.
Mommy Bonding Time – Since no one can breastfeed my baby but me, I'm guaranteed special time with my little one. Sure, there were times when I wished that I could get a feeding off, but there were also the times when I could just scoop up my daughter and have some alone time. Breastfeeding is built-in "downtime" – it forces us to pause in our busy days and literally sit down with our baby and connect. I'd trade any day the "freedom" of formula for the "slow down" of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Changed My Life – Okay, I know that one sounds melodramatic, but in my case, it's true. I always assumed that I'd go back to work after the baby was born. I planned a four-month maternity leave, and never envisioned another path. But oddly enough, it was breastfeeding challenges that changed that course. Right about the time when my leave was ending, things were finally getting good, and all the early struggles were paying off. I just wanted more time to actually enjoy it. My employer's unwillingness to work with me led me to staying home, led me to attachment parenting, led me to entrepreneurship, led me to writing and parent education. I've often joked to friends that breastfeeding is the "gateway drug" to conscious parenting – it certainly was for me.
We all have our own reasons for gratitude toward breastfeeding, big or small. In addition to what I've already mentioned, for me there's also the cost savings, the maternal health benefits, the rapid weight loss and more that I'm sure I'm forgetting. But grateful I surely am. Once, when interviewing with a client, she asked me of what accomplishment I was most proud. I was surprised to hear myself answering, "breastfeeding my daughter." It was one of the few things I had encountered in my life so far that I really had no idea would be difficult, got knocked on my rear, and fought my way back…for my daughter. It was the first time I stood up for my kid against all odds. And it won't be the last.