Monday, March 12, 2012

On Breastfeeding part 1

Breastfeeding is back in the news; the AAP has issued a new statement saying that breastfeeding is a public health issue. For many advocates it's an "about dang time" statement and for many opponents it is more like "it's a choice don't get all up in my grill" statement.
Breastfeeding is a passion of mine. I truly believe that most women who do not breastfeed are doing  so because of lack of support and real education. Yes, there are some women who cannot actually produce milk, but the instances of that are rare. What happens more often than not is that women are misled and made to second guess their choice and made to feel as if their body doesn't actually work as it should. Human babies were made to take in human milk, and human mothers were made to produce that milk. For so so long in human history there was no choice to do something else, you either nursed the baby or it died. If you could, you might get a family member or a friend to help wet nurse your baby if you could not make enough milk, but really there were no shops full of 50 different brands of formula, it was breastmilk or nothing.
I have been pondering this issue for awhile now. It seems like so many women believe they are incapable of making milk or making enough milk, I think that a major factor in this idea that their body doesn't work right is the very poor education many people in the medical field have of the workings of the breast and how exactly breastfeeding works.
It is a demand and supply thing. The baby nurses and your body goes "OH! we need to make some milk." The next feeding there will be more milk. The closer the feeding are together the more milk you make. If the feeding as timed or scheduled you make less milk, because your body thinks "OH! we don't need much milk here." That is why it is import to allow the baby to nurse when ever they show signs of hunger, and crying is a late sign. A crying baby can make it very difficult to get them to latch on, they may refuse to nurse or may tucker out before they are full (because crying is hard work).
Supplementing with formula or any other beverage undermines breastfeeding because it again is a demand and supply thing. If you give a bottle of formula before a feeding or "top the baby off" they will not stimulate more milk to be produced... so you get the illusion that you do not have enough milk which can lead to more supplementing and continued decreased milk production.
Another issue that can come up is night feedings. For me it was never an "issue" because we had the babies in bed with us. There is alot of press about how bad this is, but honestly it doesn't make a heck of a lot of since. There were no nursery caves, early peoples didn't have time to make HUGE "houses" to make sure that their baby had their own space so they could be "independent", that just isn't a reality. The thing is, although we all know your baby isn't going to be eaten by a lion, your baby doesn't know that. They sleep better, have a decreased chance of SIDS, and have a better chance of successful breastfeeding if the sleep with you. NOW if you are worried about the baby sleeping in your bed, there are co-sleeping cots that push up against your bed and the baby sleeps in it's own space while still being super close to you. Other people choose to have a crib in their room, but not actually up against their bed (better then down the hall behind a closed door). Personally, I have felt, those are all just devices that people want to sell parents that they don't actually need, BUT if it makes it easier for you to transition then do it. Why is baby sleep even related to breastfeeding? Because babies eat at night. There are some babies who will sleep through the night fairly young, but most babies get up at least once a night (usually more) to nurse. Their tummies are small and breastmilk digests well and quickly, so they get hungry.
I guess the biggest thing is to follow your babies lead. They are so little, they are not trying to manipulate you. They want to be close to you, they want and need breastmilk. That is how they were made; that is how, as a mother, you were made.

Some great reading:
Feminist breeder
Analytical Armadillo
The Alpha Parent
Anything by Heather Cushman Dowdee

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