Breastfeeding has been getting much more attention recently. But why is it so talked about of late? Why does breastfeeding facts so much that government programs, like WIC, food stamps, and Planned Parenting, actually have lactation consultants on hand, breastfeeding seminars provided free, and even incentives for breastfeeding?
Besides the fact that it is cheaper (since it is free), breastfeeding has proven to be the healthiest thing for a baby. In a society plagued with various diseases, cancers, and obesity, research has proven that breastfed babies are healthier, skinnier, and are more resistant to disease. And especially with medicine looking like it’s moving towards socialism….well we won’t get into that. Basically, everyone wants children to be as healthy and well-adapted as possible. And breast milk provides this possibility from birth.
Yet there is still a lot of confusion regarding breastfeeding. thus, with my knowledge base in and a degree in human development, and my husband’s in medicine, as well as our practical experience of being parents to two fully-breastfed sons, I will try to eradicate these myths, providing real information on babies and breastfeeding.
I can’t fully breastfeed, because I don’t make enough milk for my baby.
Truth: Our bodies, as mothers, work like basic economics: supply is based on demand. Mothers with little nutrition are even able to sustain an infant, as the body is wired to sacrifice self before infant. However, if there is no demand, there will be no supply. Thus, the idea of supplementing breast milk with formula, juice, or water, actually decreases milk supply, as the baby does not demand as much, and causes the baby to need even more supplementation.
Babies should be scheduled to feed every three hours. In between this time, pacifiers and other means of calming should be used.
Truth: Babies grow at differing rates, and metabolize milk at differing rates. While a schedule can help the mother to understand her baby better, amounts of feedings and time in between feedings should be flexible to the baby’s demand. During growth spurts, a baby may demand milk every two hours instead of every three. In staying with the baby’s schedule, milk production will increase with the increased demand, leading to longer, more productive nursing.
Sucking on bottles helps babies learn the sucking required for breastfeeding.
Truth: The muscles required to suck a bottle nipple and those used while sucking a real nipple are different. In fact, often whatever the baby is introduced to first is what it prefers. Thus, if a nipple is first introduced a baby tends to prefer and suckle a breast better than a bottle. The converse is also true: if a bottle or pacifier is first used, the breast tends to be more difficult for a baby to suckle. This is why the first skin-to-skin latch in the hospital is so critical.
You have to nurse on both sides to keep up milk production.
Truth: While it is important to nurse often and on both sides, single breasts can be alternated during feedings. This is especially important for women who frequently get mastitis, have an over-productive milk supply, and/or a forceful letdown. If you feel like your baby is choking constantly during feedings, spits up a lot (more than 2 TBSP) and frequently, and you often leak, you most likely have this tendency.
Emptying the entire breast of all of its milk is key: if the baby is switched to the opposite side before the breast is empty, it is missing the nutrient-dense hind milk left at the end of the feeding. Foremilk is what it felt heavy in the chest during a let-down. It is watery, less calorie- and vitamin-rich. Thus, if necessary, one empty breast is better than two half empty ones (or should I say half-full?). Just remember to rotate breasts each feed.
While pumping is a means to continue nursing after one has returned to work or is otherwise unable to nurse, it does not match the actual baby’s suck. If a mother wants to maintain her milk supply while pumping she must remember to stay on schedule with her pumping (at least every 3 hours), pump for plenty of time on each breast (15 minutes is recommended), and use a pump that is high grade and electric. Medela and Avent are the two strongest electric pumps on the market that are most similar to baby’s sucking patterns, but even using these, baby-stimulation is still needed. If a baby is not able to nurse at all (because of prematurity or disease), a hospital-grade pump is necessary to maintain milk supply.
Breastfeeding takes work, patience, and time, but is the most beneficial food a baby can receive. Beyond its nutritional value to the baby, breastfeeding is a means of providing secure attachments between mother and baby and also helps mothers lose their pregnancy weight gain. So, get informed. Debunk these nursing myths and provide for your child what nature intended: breast milk is the best milk (for a growing baby).