Every new mother is asked the question, “Are you going to breastfeed?” At first, it may not seem like such a big decision--how much can it affect you or your baby’s future? A new study done at Cornell University has shown that it may relate to your future fertility more than you think.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
In “Intensive Parenting: Fertility and Breastfeeding Duration in the United States,” using 30 years of data from a nationally representative group of women, the relationships between breastfeeding duration and completed fertility and fertility expectations were examined. Cornell professor of sociology Vida Maralani, along with Hunter College professor Samuel Stabler, made many observations about how breastfeeding and expected fertility correlated and found that these relations cannot be explained by personal or family resources.
The study reports that women’s expected fertility did not change depending on how long they decided to breastfeed, but that their actual fertility did. That is, the length of time women spent breastfeeding correlated highly with whether they reached their expected fertility or not.
Women who breastfed for five months or longer are a distinct group. They had more children overall, and were more likely to have three children than two, compared with women who breastfed less than five months or not at all.
Women who breastfed for less than 22 weeks are less likely to reach or meet their expected fertility. And women who breastfed for longer than this were significantly more likely to meet their earlier expectations (expectations were taken at least one year before their conception of their first child) and to exceed them.
Maralani warns that this is not to say that breastfeeding causes a woman to have more children, but rather indicates the link between family preferences and child investment across the life-course. That is, breastfeeding is a significant time investment, and women who are willing to make this investment prefer a larger family and are willing to meet that expectation.
Does this mean that you should be breastfeeding your baby? Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and drawbacks, and that’ll hopefully help you come to your own conclusion in the time frame we illustrate below.
It is said that breast milk is nature’s perfect baby food. The amino acids in breast milk, the building blocks of protein, are well balanced for babies, as are the sugars and fats. There are numerous nutritional and health related benefits of breastfeeding for your baby and for you. Here are just a few of them:
Okay, so we’ve pitched you some of the benefits of breastfeeding. Are there any drawbacks? We found only a few:
While these are not huge drawbacks, there are also instances where a mother simply cannot breastfeed her baby. Mothers who are survivors of breast cancer or taking medications that may adversely affect their baby may find formula feeding necessary.
Whether you breastfeed or not is an important decision, as during your baby’s first year of life, they will triple in body weight, and most of it is coming from your baby’s source of nutrition. Your ability to produce milk also diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. This makes it almost impossible to change your mind about breastfeeding once you have started formula feeding. So it’s better to make this decision sooner rather than later.
As soon as conception is confirmed, you should speak with your doctor about your wishes for feeding your baby. This way you can voice any medical concerns about breast or formula feeding before childbirth, and be prepared for however you wish to feed your baby when you welcome them into the world.
There is a connection between breastfeeding and meeting family size expectations; while this is not to say that breast feeding causes higher fertility, there is a link between family preferences and child investment that cannot be explained by any socioeconomic standing. There are many factors to take into account when deciding whether to breastfeed, but you have to make the decision before childbirth. Trust that whatever decision you make, it will be the right one for you and your new bundle of joy!