Five years. Actually, it’s been a little over five years that I’ve nursed my now not-quite-babies.
During my first pregnancy, I researched online everything from “best car seats for babies” to “best mattress” for a $400 crib and, the stinkiest of them all, “best diaper pail.”
To channel my inner Dr. Seuss, I wanted it all to be the best. Best this. Best that. Best, best everywhere.
I admit, though, I had no clue what I was getting into when it came to my baby’s basic needs – one of the first things he would require right after birth: milk.
I had assumed breastfeeding would come naturally to me and my milk chugger. My mom had done it. My grandma had. Why not me?
But, as I experienced, and, as Amy Casey, a certified lactation consultant at Banner’s McKee Medical Center in Colorado confirmed, many new mothers may think their baby will know instinctively what to do, but it’s not always the case.
“It’s not automatic, but a learned process for both mom and baby,” Casey said.
She said women who learn about breastfeeding prenatally are more successful than those who don’t. In fact, Casey noted that informing pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding is one of the World Health Organization’s 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or older.
So, why am I reminded of my own experience now, a tad ironically, at a stage when I am trying to wean my younger kid?
Aug. 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week, and I came across an informative article in a local Arizona publication by Debi Hill, a lactation consultant at Banner Ironwood Medical Center.
In the article, Hill shares some breastfeeding facts for babies and moms, including:
- Human breast milk is the healthiest nutrition for babies, containing more than 200 vitamins, enzymes, nutrients and hormones that are in perfect balance for the growth and development of a human baby.
- Breastfed babies develop fewer gastrointestinal disturbances, ear infections and allergies.
- Breastfeeding helps the mom’s uterus return to its normal size faster, which results in less blood loss following childbirth and improved healing.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of osteoporosis and lessens the incidence of developing uterine, breast, endometrial or ovarian cancers and cardiovascular disease.
I realize many moms are not able to breastfeed for various reasons, medical or otherwise. But for those who are able to or are considering it, I highly recommend doing so. Based purely on my personal experience, the special bond I was able to develop with my littles, along with practically zero ear infections despite attending daycare since they were both 6 months old, has made breastfeeding something I wouldn’t have missed.
It’s also way more convenient than washing and sanitizing bottles and nipples and what not, especially while traveling.
And there are resources available to help moms.
Many hospitals encourage breastfeeding right after birth and offer support through experts and support groups, before and after childbirth. In this Raising Arizona Kids video, Katie Garza, a breastfeeding mom, shares her positive experience of learning how to breastfeed, with the support of experts at Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center.
Lactation consultants encourage new moms to attend a prenatal breastfeeding class and, for those who will need to pump, to learn more about how to do so ahead of time, to be able to smoothly transition back to work. In fact, the Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover the cost of breast pump equipment. You will want to check your specific insurance coverage details, of course.
My son didn’t latch on for the first three weeks. I am still not quite sure why, but I was persistent about trying as hard as possible to encourage him to latch on. Perhaps to be able to pump less!
Breastfeeding is a definite commitment because you are essentially tied to your baby. But, with all the benefits I have experienced and read about it, I believe it’s a lasting gift I was able to give my children and myself.