Note: For comprehensive education about breastfeeding, meet with lactation consultants and La Leche League. Also, read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.
Breastmilk is the nectar of life, a truly magical thing. Nothing can replace it. Nothing can come close.
Lost in the cacophony of passionate opinions on social media, one may end up misguided.
The aphorism “Fed is best” may have been launched by well-meaning people, but I worry that it may feed into a narcissistic culture that handles fragile egos with kid gloves. “You need to do you! No need to investigate anything!”
“Breast is Best” was always intended to inform people that breastmilk is nutritious and comforting, and that it also has infection-fighting properties for babies. In general, breastfed babies get sick less often, and when they do get sick, they tend to recover faster.
It is rare for a breastfeeding mother to have to choose formula after exhausting all efforts. Lactation consultants have become more readily available than ever before. Many hospitals provide new mamas with these highly skilled professionals during the postpartum recovery period. There are many La Leche League groups all over the world in major cities and smaller towns that are eager to offer their support free of charge. Most breastfeeding issues are typically resolved within days or weeks.
One common issue is tongue tie. A tongue tie prevents the baby from latching in a way that is comfortable for both mom and baby. It can lead to a low milk intake and unbearable pain for mom. Lactation consultants are adept at spotting tongue ties and referring specialists.
There are also potential psychological issues related to breastfeeding. A good lactation consultant is sensitive and compassionate, and equipped with the knowledge and tools to put mom at ease. It is of utmost importance that a new mom has at least one supportive person in her life to lessen the workload of childcare. Those early days of building up a milk supply can be emotionally taxing on a woman who does not have anyone available to bring her food and drinks. If there are other relatives and friends available to come hold the baby or cook meals, or even fold laundry, it will surely help mom and baby. There are ways to manage the challenges that come with hormonal changes and family transitions in the early days of nursing. All new moms deserve to be heard and empowered by lactation professionals and/or postpartum doulas as well as their loved ones.
With emotional support and ample information, a working or stay at home mom can adjust beautifully to breastfeeding. And, once she has been doing it for several months, she will wonder how she ever considered the alternative.
Some folks may remark, “What do you DO when you need to feed your baby when you’re out and about?”
A good response is, “I’ve never left my boobs at home. It’s worked out.”
~ ~ ~
I have never heard any mom claim that she regretted nursing her children.
In fact, those that did not nurse are the ones who sometimes express regret.
It is now undisputed that breastmilk is easier to digest than formula, and it even changes in composition to suit the baby’s needs. Immunity-boosting cells in breastmilk increase when the baby is sick, for example. The milk you pump in the morning will look different from the milk you pump at night, given that baby’s needs change throughout the course of the day.
There are fantastic breastfeeding support pillows that allow moms to relax their arm muscles and maybe even pick up a book or tablet during those long cluster feedings. I personally love My Brest Friend, a firm pillow that stays secure around the body. How easy it is, to simply click a buckle and get baby to latch – as opposed to spending money on formula and getting the bottles cleaned and prepared. (As I type, I’ve had baby latched for an hour on my lap. Both hands free. Nice to not have to hold a bottle!)
It is worth noting that a baby’s sinuses and jaws are more likely to develop properly as a result of the wide breastfeeding latch compared to the smaller bottle nipple latch. On a personal note, I will have to get physical therapy and an ALF appliance in order to rectify the subtle deformities caused by bottle feeding. If I don’t tackle it before middle age, I will be at risk for sleep apnea.
Also note the studies showing the connection between ear infections and formula feeding. I don’t begrudge my late mother, but I was an ear infection kid, up until age 5. Tubes in the ears, and all that jazz. I have a vivid memory of being rushed to the doctor late at night as I cried about my ear. Was it mom’s fault? No – she was a product of her times, and she did not have access to information like we do now. Like many, she was conditioned to believe that breastfeeding was for low-class women.
If only more people knew about the dark history of the formula industry.
It just makes sense to do what’s been done since the beginning of humanity. It is mind-blowingly simple and beneficial.
So why do the other thing?
Is it for the sake of convenience or vanity?
Personally, I don’t think people who value convenience and vanity over most other things should be considering children. I said what I said.
Adjustments need to be made when people choose to have a new baby, and breastmilk should be a Top Three priority.
Now, this doesn’t mean I condone giving parents the sideways glance when they don’t go the breastmilk route. You never fully understand an individual’s unique situation.
But, for the record, Fed By Breast is Typically Best.
I hope that, one day, formula use goes into a serious decline.
Have some as a backup, yes. When your provider gives you formula samples at your 36-week appointment, accept it graciously. It could come in handy if you’re separated from the baby while you’re hospitalized.
That happened to me when Kate was 4 months old. I couldn’t pump my milk and send it to her in storage bags because of the drugs, man. Woo! Morphine! Kidney Stone!
But then, once I was back home, we never used formula again.
Because Fed By Breast for us was Best.