We have all heard the slogan "Breast is Best". Culturally, we are making strides with understanding mothers' rights and accommodating breastfeeding mothers who at times need to feed their babies in public and/or pump at work. While there is still work to be done in this arena, shedding light on the benefits of breastfeeding has been a wonderful recent cultural shift for us.
"Fed is Best" is the latest slogan in circulation and I am on board with it! While I wholeheartedly understand and appreciate the benefits of breastfeeding one's baby (for mother and child) I am also aware that it doesn't always work for mother or child and we need not shame a mother who is doing what she feels is best for HER baby. I believe in empowering a mother to make her own informed decisions about how she (and her partner, if applicable) will raise her/their child. This is not an article to impose any beliefs. I am offering information from various sources as a non-professional for mothers or mothers to be who are breast feeding and having trouble or who are curious about it and want to learn more.
Who are "They"?
There are two sources from professionals where most of the factual information regarding breastfeeding comes from. When you hear "It is suggested that..." or "It is recommended...", these statements are from the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
"WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is 6 months old. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond." (from WHO website)
"The AAFP recommends that all babies, with rare exceptions, be breastfed and/or receive expressed human milk exclusively for the first six months of life. Breastfeeding should continue with the addition of complementary foods throughout the second half of the first year. Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired." (from AAP website)
If you are an evidenced-based research person then these are your sources and above is what "they" recommend as the most beneficial way to feed one's baby in the first year or two of his or her life.
There are many benefits to breastfeeding, some are related to health and some have more of an emotional component. Some mothers may not find the emotional benefits relatable as one person's cup of tea is not always another's.
- "The nutritional and immunological components of breast milk change every day according to the specific, individual needs of a baby" (Like a Mother by Angela Garbes)
- Easily accessible/less expensive option.
- Promotes bonding between mother and child.
- Lowers risk of infant and childhood disease/supports child's immune system.
- Lowers risk of childhood obesity.
- "When you're breastfeeding, the emotional experience of being able to give your baby exactly what she needs- nourishment and cuddling- can feel tremendously gratifying." (Alexandra Sacks M.D.)
Things You May Not Know
Below is a list of helpful information and facts that may be good to know as you begin your breastfeeding journey:
- Your baby does not need any milk supplementation within the first 24 hours of his/her birth. Your goal is to stimulate your supply, but baby has 24 hours before needing to ingest anything.
- Pain is a common but not NECESSARY component of breastfeeding. Pain is a sign of poor latching.
- More intake equals more milk production.
- Your insurance carrier may provide you with a breast pump.
- You can rent a "hospital grade"/"multi-user" pump from the hospital.
- You are legally permitted to pump while at work.
- There is more than one way to hold your bay while you breastfeed:
-Traditional cross-cradle hold: belly to belly
- Clutch/Football hold: baby's body wrapped behind you
-Chest to chest: mama leaning back in a chair, baby face down on breast
-Side-lying: mama and baby lying down
- Take classes/read breastfeeding books while you are pregnant.
- Hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth.
- Make sure latch is correct. Disengage and retry if there is pain.
- Utilize the lactation consultant in the hospital and/or find one in your area (see resources page).
- Breastfeed every 2 hours in the beginning to establish latch and milk supply.
- If you can, refrain from pumping, pacifiers and use of bottles before baby is 6 weeks.
- Have a designated feeding area in your home that is quiet and dimly lit.
I personally found breastfeeding my two babies (now children) to be a very pleasurable and connecting experience. Unfortunately, I did not know that cracked, bloody nipples did not HAVE to be part of the equation and suffered through it until my babies developed a better latch after the first few weeks. The above information is a fraction of what is out there and available. I am not a medical professional and some of the information is fact-based while some is opinion-based. If you do feel that breastfeeding is your and your baby's path, please know that you have resources and people to help you succeed- you do not have to muscle through it on your own. Proper support is key to having a successful outcome.
The beauty is we are able to CHOOSE how we feed our babies. It is one of the first of hundreds of thousands of decisions we make about their well-being. We must feel confident and supported in whatever choice we make about feeding as it will set the tone for how we continue to approach our decision-making for and with our children. Let's first and foremost SUPPORT each other with love and respect as mothers trying to do our best for our babies and children. Put the judgement aside and recognize that we all love our children and want what is best for them.