Be aware that August was National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Posted by admin on September 7th, 2009 filed in Baby, General, Nursing, Parenting

I don’t think whoever declared it National Breastfeeding month did a very good job of promoting it if I didn’t know it was Awareness Month until just a little bit ago.  Here, I’ll help with awareness in a series of blog posts:

I’m a fan of breastfeeding, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s for everyone.  When I was pregnant with Beren, I was surprised at the pressure I felt from all the healthcare professionals involved to do the “right” thing and breastfeed my baby.  One nurse at the hospital where I had Beren actually threatened to give him a bottle if I didn’t wake him up and feed him right away.  It was especially confusing for me because almost all babies I saw while pregnant were busy drinking bottles of formula.  It’s like all the books and doctors demand you commit to this and take it seriously, but no one actually expects you’ll be able to stick with it.  I think support and encouragement are a big part of feeling good about breastfeeding.

There are choices out there, and each family has to decide what is the right thing for them.  Nursing is right for my family.  It would not be the best choice for many other people.  Obviously, adopted babies and ones without biological mothers depend on formula.  Mothers who hold a  full time job are signing up for a lot of extra work if they don’t use formula.  Breastfeeding can be painful and frustrating, so there are many mothers who are happier, and, therefore, better parents if they just prepare a bottle.  With all the problems with nudity in our culture, it’s not surprising that some women are just uncomfortable having a baby sucking away at their breasts.

I hate this idea that formula is poison or that you are somehow not acting in your child’s best interest by feeding them anything but breastmilk, which a lot of people will have you believe.  How many exclusively breastfed babies do you actually know?  How many of you were never given a drop of formula?  See?  I think babies who take a bottle do just fine in life.

I am thankful that formula is available because it is a great option for many people.  Think of those babies even a hundred years ago that didn’t have mothers to nurse from and had to try to thrive on other things.  Formula saves lives. But, this isn’t formula awareness month, so I should probably talk about breastfeeding.

There are all the textbook reasons to breastfeed.  The baby digests milk easier than formula.  Breastfed babies have a lower rate of childhood obesity.  They get fewer ear, respiratory, and urinary tract infections.  Fewer women who have children and breastfeed develop breast and ovarian cancers than ones who have children and do not breastfeed.  Milk production burns about 500 calories per day, which helps the mother lose weight quickly.  Seriously, I still eat all the time and I’ve lost over 30 pounds without trying.

My favorite benefit is that breastmilk supplements the baby’s immature immune system.  When anything bothers the mother’s body, she quickly makes antibodies to put into the milk so the baby will be able to fight it off too.  If a mother’s exposed to something, chances are the baby is too.  Beren was 1 year and 2 months old when he had his first ear infection.  He didn’t get sick again until after he was weaned.  I think a lot of babies get sick much more frequently than that.

Besides all of the stuff any Le Leche League member will probably be able to tell you, there are less tangible benefits.  I think the real reason I like to breastfeed is the bond it creates with the baby.  There are plenty of other ways to bond with your newborn, but this one just feels right to me.  I feel connected to Magdalena.  I can usually even tell if she’s awake or asleep without looking at her.  She clearly enjoys nursing.  When I pick her up in the morning, she’s like, “Hey!  It’s you!” and then she happily nurses.  She looks like someone just made her a perfect cup of coffee that was the right flavor and temperature, and she gets this every morning.  I don’t like coffee, but in my time as a barista, I’ve handed a lot of people their first cup of coffee in the morning and I know that satisfied look they get.

Breastfeeding is less effort for me than formula would be.  I don’t have to buy, measure, or prepare anything.  If I’m sleeping and Magdalena wakes up hungry, I don’t even have to be completely conscious to feed her.  Plus, breastfeeding is free.  I don’t know how much we would spend on formula in the first year, but I don’t think it’s cheap.  A big part of why I choose to breastfeed is that I am completely uneducated on all that is formula.  There are so many varieties, they all do different things.  Then there are all those bottles, and the washing of the bottles, and, later, the weaning from the bottles.  How would you know how much to give the baby?  Just thinking of having to learn all that makes me sure I made the right choice for me.

So if I don’t think formula is the devil, why don’t I give the babies some instead of nursing sometimes?  Like I said, stubbornness over finding the right formula is a big factor.  Other than that, lactation has kind of a delicate balance that you don’t really want to mess with.  Since I didn’t know much about what nursing is actually like before I started doing it, I’ll assume most people don’t know either.  Stay tuned for more breastfeeding posts where I explain it all.  What is it like to lactate and nurse?  Do boobs = sex?  Why don’t I use formula?  Hopefully I will get around to writing about this and you will learn the answers!

One Response to “Be aware that August was National Breastfeeding Awareness Month”

  1. jo Says:

    Yay! Great post! I think we should all talk more about boobs and breastfeeding! I did not know the first thing about breastfeeding when I became pregnant.

    Even after reading tons of information on the subject, I still had a lot of problems when Abby was born. Everyone tells you that if you do breastfeed, you won’t have to go through the trouble of washing bottles. However, if you have problems, and don’t figure out how to address them properly, you can end up like I did, not only breastfeeding, but also doing endless pumping and sterilizing and washing, and applications of cabbage leaves to the giant concrete basketballs that used to be your tiny breasts.

    I think the thing that helped me the most was a breastfeeding support group. The woman who taught the class at Mon General sure wasn’t much help, either with the class or when I called her. (My biggest troubles came right over the Easter holiday which apparently fell outside her “Oh call me anytime!” policy)

    Hopefully, most people don’t have as much trouble as I did! I think if I had joined the breastfeeding support group BEFORE giving birth, and gone to a meeting and watched some women breastfeeding, that might have helped me figure out how to express extra milk manually and not get the pumps involved.

    I agree with you that the immune system boost is the best advantage of breastfeeding. It was so painful for me, that it didn’t help me bond until 6 weeks in, when things magically started to work. And then it was wonderful.

    Abby ended up doing all three, just breastfeeding, breastfeeding and formula, and then just formula. I would have preferred just breastfeeding, but she thrived and did very well on the formula too.

    Thanks for the post! Since so many of our mothers encountered just the opposite advice and were talked OUT of breastfeeding, they may not be able to help us with their own personal experiences, so it is very important for us to share our stories.

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