The Pros and Cons of Breastfeeding

Is Breastfeeding Right for You and Your Baby?

Woman breastfeeding her son
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The decision to breastfeed or not to breastfeed is a personal one. There are many good reasons to breastfeed your baby, but there are disadvantages to nursing as well. Understanding the pros and cons of breastfeeding can help you decide what is right for you and your family.

The Advantages of Breastfeeding

There are many benefits to breastfeeding for both mother and child. Here are some of the top reasons to nurse your infant.

Breastfeeding Is Natural

Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby. Your body was created as the ideal way to supply your child with the perfect source of nutrition.

Breast Milk Is the Healthiest Food for Your Child

Breastfeeding provides your baby with a variety of health and developmental benefits. The natural ingredients found in breast milk help protect your baby from illness and disease during infancy. They also continue to provide your child with better health as he or she grows.

Breastfeeding Is Good For Your Health

Women who breastfeed tend to recover from childbirth faster than women who choose not to nurse their babies.

Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of ovarian and breast cancer. It may also decrease your chances of developing rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease as you age.

Breast Milk Tastes Good to Your Child

Breast milk is sweet and creamy, a flavor that is much different and, arguably, better than formula. Also, the taste of the foods you eat is passed along to your baby, which can diversify their diet right from the start.

Breast Milk Is Easy for Your Newborn to Digest

Your body makes breast milk specifically for your baby. It is easier to digest than formula and may help prevent gas and colic.

A breastfed baby's bowel movements are not as smelly. They are also not as irritating to a baby's skin and can reduce diaper rash. Breastfed babies tend to experience less diarrhea and constipation as well.

Breastfeeding Is Convenient

Your breasts are the perfect way to supply your baby with the optimal nutrition at the perfect temperature. There's no need to worry about preparing and heating formula, and there aren't any bottles to clean up after feedings.

Breastfeeding Is Economical

Breastfeeding can save you thousands of dollars. If you nurse your baby, you will not need to buy formula, bottles, and supplies. Breastfeeding also helps keep your child healthier, so it can lower medical costs as your baby grows.

Breastfeeding Is Comforting

A scared, injured, or sick child can be comforted by breastfeeding.

Nighttime Feedings Are Faster and Easier

When you breastfeed, you don't have to make and warm bottles in the middle of the night.

Breastfeeding Is Relaxing

While you're breastfeeding, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that promotes relaxation. It also provides you with time each day to take a break, sit down with your feet up, and spend quality time with your baby.

Breastfeeding Delays the Return of Your Period

Breastfeeding can prevent your period from returning for six months or even longer. Typically, menstruation returns approximately one month after you stop breastfeeding exclusively.

Exclusive Breastfeeding Can Work as Birth Control

If you breastfeed exclusively without supplementing, your child is under six months old, and your period has not yet returned, then you can use the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM) for birth control.

When you meet the criteria and follow it correctly, this natural birth control method is up to 98 percent effective.

You Can Always Pump

Pumping your breast milk can give you a bit more freedom. It can make it easier for you to spend time away from your baby, so you can return to work or do other activities that you enjoy. It can also allow your partner to participate in feedings.

The Disadvantages of Breastfeeding

While there are many advantages of breastfeeding your baby, it isn't for everyone. Here are some reasons women choose not to nurse.

You Have Less Freedom

When you breastfeed, you are always on call. You and your breasts need to be available for every feeding, day and night. It can be exhausting, especially during the first few months when you will be breastfeeding your baby every two to three hours around the clock.

Breastfeeding Can Be Painful

You may have to deal with some of the uncomfortable or even painful problems common with breastfeeding. These include things like mastitis, breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and sore nipples.

Your Partner Can't Feed the Baby

Your partner might want to feed the baby and may feel left out of the breastfeeding relationship.

It Can Be Stressful if You Are Modest

Some women may feel uncomfortable and embarrassed about breastfeeding around others or in public. If you find it difficult to go out with your baby, you might end up staying home more often. This may lead you to experience loneliness or feel isolated.

Breastfeeding Can Be Difficult in the Beginning

Not every baby latches on immediately or breastfeeds well. Breastfeeding might be harder than you think, and you may end up feeling disappointed or discouraged. For some, breastfeeding is a learning process.

Breastfeeding Requires Healthy Lifestyle Choices

You have to think about your diet and lifestyle choices when you breastfeed. Your baby may have a reaction to different foods in your diet. So you may have to stop eating dairy products or other items that you enjoy.

There are also some things that you should avoid like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine which can be harmful to your baby. Stress and other factors can also affect breastfeeding and even decrease your breast milk supply.

Making a Decision 

Breastfeeding doesn't have to be all or nothing. Some women are comfortable with breastfeeding exclusively but it is not the only option.

Some moms partially breastfeed, some combine breastfeeding and formula feeding, and some pump exclusively. Don't forget that you have options and can choose what works for you.

A Word From Verywell

As you continue to decide whether breastfeeding is right for you and your baby, consider calling a local breastfeeding group such as La Leche League to learn more and find a breastfeeding coach before your baby is born.

Though natural, breastfeeding can be hard in the beginning and you will need support to get through the first few weeks. In addition, if you find you cannot breastfeed for any number of reasons, remember that a fed baby is best. Don't feel guilty if need to feed your baby formula.

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