It is World Breastfeeding Week!!! During this week women around the world will share brelfies (breastfeeding selfies), stories, and words of encouragement; through BigLatchOn.org, women will also meet on August 5 and August 6, 2016 to have a public group nursing session (or pumped milk), all in an effort to #NormalizeBreastfeeding and provide the education and community support nursing and pumping mothers need. Yes, #FedIsBest, and I will discuss formula use in another post (I have a love-hate relationship with formula and for several months it was needed to keep my son alive), but for now let’s focus on the miracle that is breastmilk.
Here is what I love about breastfeeding:
- There are a variety of ways to make sure your baby is receiving “liquid gold”: exclusively breastfeeding, tandem nursing, pumping and giving breastmilk in a bottle, syringe, abdominal feeding tube, or SNS, and with donor milk.
- There really is a bond created from nursing. Yes, you can have a bond while feeding your child from a bottle, I’ve been there and done that. However, there is something deeper and more fulfilling knowing their nourishment is coming from your breast (the reason we have them) and having their soft, warm body and fuzzy hair pressed against your bare skin helps keep you in the moment, staring into their eyes and watching their delicate movements.
- Community support! There is a large community of breastfeeding mothers and breastfeeding advocates and educators. I have met many wonderful women through online support groups and breastfeeding community events.
- Nursing Gymnastic!?! Usually after they start crawling, and definitely after they are walking, baby starts moving around the breast more and getting in the weirdest positions. Now at 20 months old, my son likes to nurse with his legs next to my head, while lying on his back, somehow nursing upside down; he also likes to nurse doing Downward-Facing Dog Pose, with his butt in the air, occasionally with one leg in the air. My son’s nursing gymnastics makes me laugh and puts a smile on my face. Sometimes, it makes him laugh too, since he loves being silly.
- For us, I am his comfort. My son doesn’t have a favorite toy or like pacifiers. When he gets hurt, is upset, or needs reassurance a quick hug or comfort nurse (typically just a few seconds) is all he needs to sooth himself. I don’t have to worry about making sure we have extra pacifiers or that his teddy bear is with us. When my low supply was requiring us to supplement, comfort nursing was a wonderful self-esteem booster, since I was having a lot of body-hate at the time.
- No waiting! As long as you aren’t pumping, and breast milk comes straight from the source, it is instantaneous, on demand. It was a pain making sure we had homemade goat’s milk formula prepared and waiting when our son had to supplement. When he was hungry and I was hooked to a pump, it made it even more difficult. When that stage of our nursing journey was over I was ecstatic. He now can nurse whenever he desires.
- It’s free! Well, it’s free as long as you are exclusively breastfeeding, not pumping, or having to take galactagogues (supplements to increase milk supply).
- Breastmilk provides baby with energy in the morning and helps relax them for sleep at night.
- Breastmilk has multiple uses. Not only have I and many mothers I know used breastmilk to nourish our children, we have used it to help heal scratches, eye-colds, sinus issues, ear aches, and skin issues.
- Baby’s source of nutrition and hydration cannot be lost, 100% emptied, or forgotten. If we are outside playing and he gets thirsty, it’s easy enough to nurse him and continue on with our business. I don’t have to worry about packing extras bottles or water for quick trips. My breasts are always with me! I also don’t have to worry about if plastic water bottles have been left in the heat of a car (all plastic leaches) or if we can find clean water to refill our glass/metal bottles.
- Nursing, typically, makes mom happy and relaxed. Prolactin, the love hormone, and Oxytocin, the hormone that makes you happy, relaxed, and sometimes sleepy, are released with letdown.
- Antibodies!!! Our breastmilk creates antibodies, helping little ones fight off illness and/or get well quicker. My son didn’t have his first cold until he was 19 months and it only lasted 2 days, despite hubby and I having been ill 2 or 3 other times. Tips: If you exclusively pump, wipe the inside of your baby’s mouth a few times a day and rub their saliva on your nipples before pumping, to help your body develop the antibodies your baby needs. Even when I was only producing 4oz per day, I knew that little bit of milk my son was getting from me was keeping his immune system strong.
- Breastfeeding decreases Momma’s breast cancer risk! Studies show the longer you nurse, the greater you decrease your chances of developing breast cancer, and if you are genetically predisposed the average age of breast cancer is increased to later in life. Decreased estrogen production and a healthier lifestyle are thought to contribute to breastfeeding’s benefits.
- Unlike formula, breastmilk is constantly changing for our child’s needs. The nutrition levels for a newborn are different than that of a 20 month old. Even the water content can be different depending on the child’s need. This has been a wonderful comfort while my 20 month old has had a decrease appetite due to teething and Texas’s heat. At least I know he is still getting calories and nutrition from me. (I have seen pictures of breastmilk from mothers who tandem nurse a newborn and a toddler, each having one specific breast, and the pumped milk will look different due to the gold hue of the colostrum created for the newborn.)
- Nursing can prolong the return of your menstrual cycle. Yes, some women get their’s back within 3 months postpartum; I was lucky to not see mine return until 20 months postpartum; while I have heard of a few women who didn’t get their cycles back until a few months after they stopped breastfeeding. No matter what, time without worrying about cramping or remembering to be prepared for accidents, is a time we can all be grateful for.
- Finally, I absolutely love when my son looks up at me and smiles while nursing. It melts my heart.
What do you love about breastfeeding?
Bonita, K. (2016, July 20). Increasing Low Milk Supply • KellyMom.com. Retrieved August 04, 2016, from http://kellymom.com/hot-topics/low-supply/
Breastfeeding Longer Seems to Help Protect Against Breast Cancer. (2014, September 4). Retrieved August 04, 2016, from http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20130904-4
Cerini, C. (2013, August 11). Breast Milk: Proactive Immunomodulation and Mucosal Protection Against Viruses and Other Pathogens. Retrieved August 04, 2016, from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/814970_2
Lothian, J. A. (2005, Winter). The Birth of a Breastfeeding Baby and Mother. Retrieved August 04, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595228/