Ultimately, you have to find what works best for you! I hope nobody rips you to shreds, because this is a very personal decision.
Having said that, there is a preponderance of medical evidence that supports breastfeeding in the literature.
Here are some lovely excerpts that kept me going…
If you nurse your baby for the first few days after birth, he will get a healthy dose of colostrum. Its main function is to protect the newborn from infection by coating the baby’s intestinal tract and acting as a barrier to prevent the invasion of harmful bacteria. It protects your baby from illnesses that you have been exposed to, as well as illnesses that he may be exposed to. So if you breastfeed for a few days, you are doing your baby a great service!
Sometime between the second and fifth day after your baby is born, your milk will change from colostrum to transitional milk, which is thinner and more plentiful. This milk also contains important antibodies. The protein in breast milk is much easier to digest that the protein in cow’s milk or formula, making your baby less likely to suffer from digestive problems such as gassiness, rashes, and colic.
Breastfeeding during these early days is helpful for you as well as your baby. Breastfeeding helps you develop a special closeness as you get to know this special little person who has entered your life, and also helps your body recover from childbirth more quickly by releasing hormones that contract your uterus and reduce post-partum bleeding. So if you breastfeed for a couple of weeks, you are doing you and your baby a great service!
If you nurse your baby for 4-6 weeks, you will be helping to ease his transition through the most vulnerable part of his infancy. Babies who are breastfed have lower rates of many illnesses, including digestive and respiratory problems, pneumonia and meningitis, and SIDS. So, if you make it 4-6 weeks, you’ve really given a great start for your baby!
If you nurse for 3-4 months, your baby will be much less likely to develop ear infections. Studies have found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for at least four months had half as many ear infections as formula fed babies.
Nursing can help you lose the extra weight you put on during pregnancy. Mothers who breastfed lose more weight by the time their babies are 3-6 months old that formula-feeding mothers who consumed fewer calories, because breast milk production mobilizes the fat you stored during pregnancy. Think about how nice that would be for you and your baby!
If you nurse for 6 months, your baby will be much less likely to have problems with allergies, since at around that time, your baby’s intestinal tract begins to produce antibodies which coat his intestines and protect him from foreign proteins and allergens.
Most mothers who exclusively breastfeed for six months will not have a period during that time, and rarely ovulate. Helps moms build up needed iron stores and prepare for future pregnancy. Admirable goal 🙂
If you nurse for 9 months, you will be helping him through one of the most important developmental periods of his young life. Babies between 6 and 9 months go through so many changes – sitting up, teething, starting solids, crawling, pulling up, and more.
Lots of research points to the beneficial effects of breast milk on a baby’s intellectual development. Breastfed babies score an average of 8 points higher on IQ tests than formula-fed babies, and this seems to hold true even when things like parent’s educational and socio-economic backgrounds are factored in. So making it 9 months is great for your baby!
f you nurse for a year, your baby will receive health benefits that last a lifetime. Long-term nursing protects against ulcerative colitis, diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s disease, obesity, and high cholesterol in adulthood. Babies who are breastfed for a year or more are less likely to need speech therapy or braces later in life.
All of this is evidence based, but the take home message is that if you even breastfeed for 3 days you are providing a benefit to your baby 🙂 And if you can’t do it, you can’t do it, but you’ll certainly make the decision based on what’s best for you, your baby and your family!
ETA I read the Atlantic article. It was enjoyable, but most of the evidence she cites is quite old.. I think the most recent was from 2005… there’s a reason for that. Because newer studies are having larger effect sizes and better design. Plus the cumulutive weight of consistent outcomes points to the findings being a real effect:)