The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that mothers breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months of age and then alongside nutritious complementary foods until age one (AAP) or age two (WHO). After these ages it is recommended to breastfeed as long as both mother and baby mutually want to. Breast milk is specially formulated to meet all of the nutritional needs of a growing baby, it is incomparable to formula. It even changes as your baby grows.
How breastfeeding works:
There are many scientific explanations for the production of breast milk, but in laymen’s terms breast milk is often referred to as “a use it or lose it” system; the milk must be removed from the breast to be replenished. If baby is not doing so then the milk will “dry up”. In other words, most likely understood by all Americans, breastfeeding is the original “fast food”! Just like a fast food chain, it needs a customer to “buy” or use what it has to offer. If not the restaurant would shut down. Breast milk is readily available and very “fast”; there is no need to purchase and lug around bottles and formula and no need to worry about warming bottles in the middle of the night when half-asleep, even minutes of sleep are precious to a new mother.
Things I have found to hinder successful breastfeeding:
The first time most mothers stop breastfeeding and start some form of supplementation is in the first few weeks when their baby is being “starved”. A mothers milk supply can take a little while to come in (mine cam in at day four, but I have a friend’s that came in at a week and a half). Colostrum is a nutrient dense pre-milk. Babies need this colostrum and can survive on a tiny amount. Here is the biggest thing that you need to know to breastfeed…BABIES CRY! They sleep mostly around the clock in short time spans (generally 2 to 4 hours) and cry to let you know they need something, most often a meal. Babies do not start off sleeping eight hours at night. I hear many mothers say that their baby will not sleep through the night, their growth and metabolism hinder them from doing just that. They need nutrition around the clock in the beginning! Breastfeeding your infant can be enjoyable even in the wee hours of the night, I loved snuggling my baby and just watching him nurse, it is one of the best feelings in the world.
I have many friends who have said they are going to TRY breastfeeding only to come up short. To my way of thinking, breastfeeding should not be something that you try, but something you have put your mind to that you are going to DO. It is a choice only the mother can make for her baby. You have to be willing to put in a little effort to be able to gain the benefits (Yes, I understand that it is not possible for every mothers to breastfeed for a multitude of reasons, I am merely saying that starting with “trying” can give you doubts from the get go. Doubts can often lead to failure, even when success was wholly possible). The support system is crucial. Each baby and mother are different along with each family unit and support. Alot of new mothers are sleep deprived and any sleep they can get is wonderful. Support systems step in to help in the middle of the night and “help” with feedings, the ONLY way a support should help during night feedings is to get baby from his/her sleeping quarters and bring them to mother to feed and then change the diaper and lay them back to sleep. If a support person feeds during the night, then the mother should still pump to help increase or maintain milk supply while it is being established. It is crucial to have an established milk supply before having anyone “help” with feedings. While the help is from the heart and intended to ease the new mother’s responsibility load, it is only hurting the chances at successful breastfeeding.
Benefits to mother and baby:
Benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby have been well documented. My most favorite benefit is the bonding and happiness it brings Jackson and me. But medical benefits are known, such as the ability to recover from pregnancy and delivery quicker, decreased postpartum bleeding, a slight contraceptive property, and decreased chances for ovarian and breast cancers later in life. Another benefit to the whole family is decreased cost. Benefits to baby include, but are not limited to, a protective factor against ear infections and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), decreased childhood illnesses, and a decreased chance for obesity in teenaged years.
Again, this blog is supposed to be a resource to you, if you need support, need ideas, or just need to vent this is the place. Every experience is different, even with each child you have, one can be a breeze and the next the biggest struggle known to man. The biggest thing is just not to give up and know that your body was made to breastfeed!
The bottom line is that breastfeeding has many joys available to mother and baby and is possible for most families if there is dedication, support, and awareness of possible complications. I understand that breastfeeding is not for every mother, baby, or family. I am here to provide support to mother’s interested in learning of the benefits and joys.