As a nursing mom, I always referred to breastmilk as liquid gold. I made sure every person who would come into contact with it, like the babysitter, grandparents, and my husband, understood just how valuable it was. Under no circumstances was it to ever be wasted!
Breastmilk isn't free, even in the most creative sense of the word. As special as the experience was, and as honored and appreciative was, and as honored and appreciative as I was to make milk and feed my baby, breastfeeding took a toll on me. For as long as I nursed, I didn't feel that my body belonged to me. I often felt tired and ravenous and undernourished, no matter how much I ate and drank. But also a bit trapped since I could never freely go very far for very long.
We mothers who have enough milk to nurse our babies are indeed fortunate because we don't have to go to the store to purchase formula. But it is a severe understatement to say that breastmilk is "free," and here's why:
It is widely accepted that breastmilk boosts a baby's immune system, protecting them from infections and illnesses. Breastmilk is easier for a newborn to digest. It naturally contains many of the vitamins and minerals a baby requires for brain growth and nervous system development. I do not know a parent who would not pay top dollar for all of this for their child.
Time is money.
From keeping up with my son's requests for nourishment to pumping a couple hours a day, it almost seems like a full time job. The average mother who will exclusively breastfeed will spend up to about 1,800 hours doing so. A full time 40 hour work week, with three weeks of vacation, adds up to 1,960 hours of work time a year. This means he should really be paying me. 🤣
While mothers are skilled multi-tasker, there is just so much one person can get done while they are nursing or pumping. Usually, while nursing, mothers end up trading off other parts of their lives to keep nursing (like sleeping and eating while it is hot!). There is only so much we moms can get done in a day when one of our full time jobs is feeding our baby!
Breastfeeding can be physically strenuous.
Just because a mother makes milk, doesn't mean that her baby will automatically latch or nurse correctly. Many mothers who have enough milk struggle to get their baby to drink it for one reason or another (like my son and his poor latch).
Nursing moms lose simple luxuries.
When a mother chooses to nurse, she also chooses to give up a multitude of luxuries. Sleeping more than a few hours at a time (even if she don't get up to nurse, she needs to get up to pump). She can never be too far away from her baby or a pump. And she has a to stop everything that she is doing every few hours for at least a 30-minute nursing or pumping session.
I know I and many mothers would never trade their time and effort in breastfeeding, but it sure helps a struggling, tired, sore, frazzled nursing mom when her efforts are acknowledged. So, to all you nursing moms, keep up the great work!