by Tabitha Tucker
OK- So it's superior for the health of baby and mom;
So it’s more convenient; - always ready (pre-mixed, warmed to the precise temperature required, and always just enough) when baby is ready;
So it’s more environmental in that there are no cans, bottles, bottle liners, bottle sterilizers, bottle warmers, production machines, or transportation requirements
So it’s cheaper
Breastfeeding is what mothers and babies were designed to do. I have a really hard time even considering that millions of years of evolution got it wrong and that decades of scientific research can even come close to duplicating what nature planned. Perhaps formula can satisfy the minimal nutritional requirements of an infant. But what about the rest of it? What about the aspect of physical bonding, the health of the mother, the immune system benefits to baby, the mere convenience, the impact on the world as a whole (the world that baby belongs to and will depend on for his/her entire life)? There are just so many benefits to breastfeeding and it is such a source of joy for mother, infants, and families.
Some of the Health Benefits of Breast-feeding:
Health Benefits of Breastfeeding For Baby:
- A perfect balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and sugars in an easily absorbed and easily digested form – great nutrition means great health
- Natural antibodies which provide protection against respiratory and gastrointestinal infections
- Lowered risk of developing asthma and allergies
- Great jaw and teeth development
- Lowered risk of dental caries (which is responsible for tooth decay)
Health Benefits of Breastfeeding For Mom:
- Lowered risk of dental caries (which is responsible for tooth decay)
- Reduced risk of female cancers (including ovarian, uterine and breast cancer)
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Reduced risk of iron-deficiency anemi
Add to these physical benefits the emotional benefits – which are incalculable to both mother and child. Breastfeeding is the ultimate in comfort as well as for post-birth bonding. When baby is sad, scared, overwhelmed, over-stimulated, bored, or just in need of reassurance, the breastfeeding mother has the greatest comfort provider. There is no hunting for blankets or toys or pacifiers – there is only the breast and the baby. What could be more reassuring than to snuggle in together experiencing the physical, emotional and spiritual closeness of one another? And while providing emotional comfort, mom is also supplying baby with amazing, irreplaceable immune protection and releasing hormones within her own body that will build her health! Think of the miracle of it all.
Of course, in all honesty, the breastfeeding relationship, while intrinsically natural and good for everyone, isn’t always easy to establish. But then birth isn’t always easy and look how miraculous that is! I think that breastfeeding has become so difficult because we are removed from it as a society – we simply don’t see it much. Before our babe was born, I think I’d only seen a total of 4 women nurse babies (and no one nurse a toddler). We have become separated from the naturalness of it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t exactly as nature perfected.
If you are finding it difficult, find help. Ask your doctor or check the yellow pages for a lactation consultant or contact La Leche League. La Leche League is a group that offers mother-to-mother support for breastfeeding. They are well worth checking out and can be a fantastic place to meet other moms and tots who have similar views! If you’re experiencing difficulties, just keep in mind your reasons for deciding to breastfeed and know that it will get easier. A great thing about nursing is that it truly does get easier with practice and we fortunately get plenty of opportunity as babies nurse frequently!
- Support: Contact La Leche League
- At least 2 good nursing bras (one to wear while the other is in the wash)
Breastfeeding Nice to haves:
- A good nursing pillow
- Breast pads – reusable cotton pads are best – for comfort and to allow air circulation
- Breast pump
Other products related to breastfeeding:
Slings (fabulous for discreet nursing anywhere, anytime)
How long to breastfeed?
Breast milk is designed to be baby’s one and only food source. For most babies, there is no need for supplementation of anything (formula, rice cereal, etc.) for at least the first 6 months of life and many 8 or even 12-month-old infants do not require additional supplementation and do better without it. You are the expert on your child – trust your instincts. I know of children who were breastfed exclusively (nothing else, not even water) for 14 and even 17 months. Breast milk really is a fabulous, complete food for babies.
Of course, nourished mother means nourished baby. So while breastfeeding, it is very important to eat well yourself. Just as when you were pregnant, you are still feeding your baby with what you are putting into your body. The extra calories required should be obtained from nutrient-rich foods – and organic when possible.
What about weaning you ask?
Anthropologist and cultural breast-feeding researcher Katherine Dettwyler has conducted research that implies children are designed to breastfeed for a minimum of 2.5 years. Her research suggests that children will self wean when the need for nursing recedes (somewhere between 2.5 and 7 years of age). Natural (child-led) weaning is common in many societies and the wisdom of it is supported by many sources. Of course, no evidence is stronger than your child, who will know when the time to wean has come for him/her.
Breast milk has been shown to change not only in quantity but also in quality as the nursling grows. While colostrum is the essential food for newborns, this changes to a thinner milk that is higher in protein after the first few days, and the fat, protein, nutrient and sugar levels change throughout the nursing period to serve the needs of the growing infant, toddler and child. What is important to note is that, while the milk does change, it is not nutritionally insignificant at any age and is always just perfect for the stage your child is at.
The benefits of breastfeeding a toddler are numerous. The comforting aspect of nursing is incredibly important to small people who are exploring their world and their independence, but like to retreat to the safety of mom and babyhood when the world seems just a little too big. It’s also a great way to connect with a toddler who is busy exploring the world and allows for some exceptional quality time. Nursing provides vital nutrients and fluids when toddlers get ill and don’t want to eat, or are just feeling a little particular and not interested in eating. And when those bumps and bruises happen – physically or emotionally – nothing calms and soothes like nursing.
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that mothers nurse their babies for at least 2 years (and however long it is mutually desired thereafter).
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