Any woman who has ever had a breastfeeding challenge or has breastfed longer than than someone else deems ‘normal’ has been asked this question at one time or another.
“Why are you still breastfeeding?”
Sometimes this question is passive aggressive with undertones of “I can’t believe you have breastfed your baby for THIS long.” Other times it comes from a place of love meaning “You seem like you are in pain... are you sure you still want to try this?”
Regardless, if you are anything like me, the snappy comeback or educated response that I SO desired to say only comes after the situation is long gone and I am kicking myself for not defending myself and my choice to breastfeed the way I wanted to.
Well, ladies... look no further!
Here are some handy, snappy (evidence-based) comebacks that you can tuck away in your back pocket, only to whip out at the most appropriate times, pun intended! (P.S. These comebacks also work if someone asks why you are STILL exclusively pumping!)
Top 10 Comebacks to Answer the Question: Why Are You Still Breastfeeding?
1. “It’s the perfect food for my child. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!”
- Babies can digest human milk more easily than the milk of other animals, probably because human milk contains an enzyme that aids in this process.
- Breast milk forms softer curds in the infant's stomach than cow's milk (the basis for most formulas) and is more quickly assimilated into the body system.
- While it contains less protein than does cow's milk, virtually all the protein in breast milk is available to the baby. By contrast, about half the protein in cow's milk passes through the baby's body as a waste product.
- Similarly, iron and zinc are absorbed better by breastfed babies.
2. “Breastmilk doesn’t lose it’s nutritional value. Can you say that about the food YOU eat?”
- Even at a year, breastmilk continues to pack a powerful punch for nutritional value.
- In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:29% of energy requirements
- 43% of protein requirements
- 36% of calcium requirements
- 75% of vitamin A requirements
- 76% of folate requirements
- 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
- 60% of vitamin C requirements
Dewey KG. Nutrition, Growth, and Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Infant. Pediatric Clinics of North American. February 2001;48(1), from Kellymom.com Breastfeeding Past Infancy Fact Sheet
3. “Breastmilk protects against disease for my baby. Don’t you want my (our) baby to be healthy?”
- Because the mother makes antibodies only to pathogens in her environment, the baby receives the protection it most needs-against the infectious agents it is most likely to encounter in the first weeks of life.
- Here are a few ways that breastmilk helps make a healthy baby:
- Breastfed babies also have less diarrhea and fewer gastrointestinal infections than babies who are artificially fed.
- Six months or more of exclusive breastfeeding reduces risk of food allergies.
- Breastmilk decreases a child’s risk of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis in adulthood.
- Breastfed babies have lower risk for developing recurrent wheezing when they are older (age 6 or more) – asthma
- They have less reflux
- They have less eczema
- Breastfeeding protects baby against respiratory infections
- Women who were formula-fed as infants have higher rates of breast cancer as adults. For both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer, women who were breastfed as children, even if only for a short time, had a 25% lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who were exclusively formula-fed as infants.
4. “There are incredible health benefits for my breastfed baby. Do you really think it’s wise to limit my baby’s intellectual and physical potential?”
- Breastfed children have higher IQ
- Breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk of SIDS by 50%
- Breastfeeding protects baby against vision defects. Breast milk is generally the main, if not the only source, of vitamin A during a child's first 24 months of life (or for the duration of breastfeeding).
- Suckling at the breast is good for a baby's tooth and jaw development, as the constant pulling at the jaw muscles promotes a well-formed jaw and healthy teeth.
5. “Breastfeeding improves my overall health. Who’s going to cook all of the meals and take care of the home if I’m not healthy? (I know...super snarky!)”
- Breastfeeding decreases mom’s risk of postpartum hemorrhaging as it stimulates contractions to shrink he uterus back to pre-pregnancy size.
- Breastfeeding reduces mom’s risk of osteoporosis
- Breastfeeding reduces mom’s risk of anemia, as breastfeeding postpones the return of menstruation for many women.
- Breastfeeding reduces mom’s risk of breast cancer. Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent. The reduction in cancer risk comes in proportion to the cumulative lifetime duration of breastfeeding. That is, the more months or years a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk of breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.
6. “Breastfeeding promotes mother/infant bonding and emotional well-being.”
- Babies feed for about 45 minutes per time in the first few months. This is nature’s way of making moms sit down and relax and promote her postpartum healing.
- Breast milk actually contains chemicals that suppress pain (endorphins). This is the perfect remedy for a child who accidentally hurts himself and is in need of some pain relief and comfort. It's like having a boo-boo-healing superpower!
- Babies can also feel the warmth of mom's skin, take in her scent and hear her heart beating. This helps to neurologically center thebaby after birth and help him/her adjust to the outside world.
- Breastfeeding also decreases a mother’s risk for postpartum depression.
7. “Breastfeeding can promote a positive relationship between mom and a supportive partner.”
- Partner support is crucial during breastfeeding, especially when there are challenges along the way.
- In the beginning, when baby is pretty much just eating and sleeping, mom and her partner can spend this time together, hanging out while the baby is feeding, getting to know one another as parents, not just partners.
- This is a great time to reconnect with your partner as the both of you get to know your baby, as this is a new time for your family.
- You are also a team during this time. Partners can make sure that all visitors offer positive breastfeeding comments, especially when breastfeeding is a challenge. No sabotaging comments allowed!
8. “Breastfeeding is definitely more convenient and less expensive than formula. I thought we were on a tight budget!”
- Breast milk, in any supply, is free. Ready-made formulas can cost families $800 to $1800 per child, annually.
- Nipples, bottles, bottle brushes and bottle bag inserts are additional costs, as well.
- Breastfed babies are ill less often, meaning that their parents miss fewer days at work and spend less on prescriptions, doctor's visits, and hospital stays.
9. “Breastfeeding, just like parenting, has bumps along the road and I won’t quit on my worst day.”
- As all thing that have to do with parenting, what works some days, doesn’t work on others and most things don’t go smoothly as planned.
- Your baby is born with a personality and a style that requires becoming familiar with and understanding.
- What works for some babies and children may not work for yours, so seek support anywhere you can find it: friends, family, lactation consultants, websites, Facebook groups, physicians, etc.
- Don’t quit on your worst day. Let 24 hours pass to gain some perspective and reach out for help during that time.
- Have an IBCLC evaluate your situation and provide a plan for overcoming your challenge.
10. “I promise you that my child won’t breastfeed until his high school graduation, but if he did, he’d probably be the smartest, healthiest graduate there!”
- Ok, maybe that’s a little too sassy, but you get the point. It is your choice to breastfeed for as long as mutually beneficial for you and your child. Every drop of breastmilk your child gets is liquid gold and you are a superstar for producing that for him/her! So stay strong, mama, and know that your ‘breast friends’ have your back! Happy nursing!