Monday, August 25, 2008

Singing the Praises of Breastfeeding

I'm sure this won't be my last entry on the experience of breastfeeding, but I do have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

Breastfeeding my son has been wonderful. I never imagined that the simple act of nourishing a child could be so emotionally fulfilling.

Sometimes I ponder why more women don't even begin to try and breastfeed their newborn child. Are women that irresponsible that they can't take a few minutes to do a simple web search to find out the pros and cons (if there even are any) of breastfeeding? Case in point: I have a cousin who recently gave birth to her first child, a son. She didn't even attempt to breastfeed, citing that she'd heard it hurts your nipples. Seriously? Because it might hurt? Perhaps I'm being extreme, but pregnancy isn't pain free, and certainly childbirth doesn't come without some amount of pain; even a medicated birth isn't free of pain altogether. Why would you have a kid in the first place if you were worried about pain?

Does breastfeeding hurt? It can, at first especially. But that is usually resolved within a few days or so, and with proper latch-on techniques. They have all sorts of gunk out there to smear on your nips to keep them in good shape for feedings. Lanolin, for example. Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff in order to assist women with their first feedings. But honestly, babies have an instinct to suckle at the breast. My child, once he got going with it, latched perfectly, by instinct. I'm sure in premature or low birth weight babies, this could be more of a challenge, but it wouldn't be a battle fought and won without significant rewards.

Another mother I spoke to said that she doesn't breastfeed because she "wanted her body back" after the child was born. Once again, why would you have a kid at all if you expect it to be 40 weeks and then - zip! Back to normal! Nothing goes 'back to normal' after you have a child, breastfeeding or not.

Even adoptive mothers can breastfeed. Allowing baby to suckle stimulates milk-producing hormones in the new mother and after a few weeks, mom can produce some milk, but in most cases not enough to completely sustain baby. This can be accomplished by use of a Supplemental Nursing System, and a whole lot of love and patience. The closeness and attachment between mother and child I'm sure would outweigh the inconvenience of using a supplemental nursing system.

We are not talking about what's easiest or most convenient for the here and now. We are talking about actions that provide overwhelmingly significant long-term benefits to baby and mother, the greatest of which being the incredible bond that's formed between the pair.

Here are a few quick bullet points on the physiological benefits of breastfeeding:

For baby:
  • Protects against many illnesses & aids in the development of immune system
  • Lowers risk of allergies, asthma & ear infections
  • Lowers risk of SIDS & life-threatening diarrheal infections
  • Lowers risk of diabetes & obesity in children
  • Enhances vaccine effectiveness
  • Babies who breastfeed may have higher IQ!
For mother:
  • Helps shrink uterus after birth
  • Helps protect against postpartum hemorrhage
  • Reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Helps mother lose weight
  • May prolong return of menstruation and fertility
  • Since breastfeeding is free, encourages pocketbook stability!
A more comprehensive list of benefits can be found here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Just wanted to add, breastfeeding can burn up to 500 calories a day - what easier way to get in shape!!