This month marks
36 months 3 years that I have been breastfeeding one of my children. My first son self weaned, while I was pregnant with his brother, when he was 22 months. And now my second son is still nursing at 14 months of age! In this post, I will touch on my breastfeeding journey and bust down common myths I have heard.
When I got pregnant with my first son, Shayne, I knew I wanted to breastfeed without a doubt. I figured that is why I have breasts, why women lactate during and after pregnancy and it just seemed like the natural thing to do, and of course, IT’S FREE! It wasn’t until I started reading books and I took a class that I realized breast milk and breastfeeding is so much more than food or the alternative to formula. Breastfeeding for me has become a beautiful act of bonding and love. I feel so grateful to have been able to supply both of my children with the best nutrition possible. My breast feeding journey has been amazing and I will be quite honest, it has come pretty easy to me. Even though Shayne was born via cesarean section, I made sure to try and nurse him right away when I finally was out of recovery. We had a few latch issues in the beginning and I quickly learned to listen to my gut instincts and listened to his cues. I was able to nurse him just shy of two years when he decided he was done. With Braydon, I felt even more prepared, I had been through it before and knew what to look for when it came to latch issues. He was a bit more eager to nurse and was a pro from day one. The first couple days, we perfected his latch and we have been going strong since.
Of course, I believe that I prepared myself and had realistic expectations and I know this played a huge part in the ease and success I have had. I took a class while I was pregnant that was all about breastfeeding, pumping, how to solve common issues etc and I have read numerous books and articles on the subject. I also had a wonderful support system. My mom breast fed my brother and myself. My husband went to the breastfeeding class with me and learned a lot as well and supported me 100%. I know breastfeeding can be very hard and trying for many moms, especially those who don’t have support. I only hope that the following information will be helpful for new moms who are interested in breast feeding.
I decided to split this into two posts because it is a lot of information!
BUSTING THE MYTHS
“there is nothing special about breast milk, you can get the same nutrition from formula”
Breast milk is probably the most amazing liquid or “super food” out there. It is high in fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, hormones and immune boosters. In fact, when a nursing mother or child is sick or exposed to an illness or germs, the mother’s milk will create antibodies against these germs and in turn the nursing baby will receive these antibodies. Now while formula does contain essential fats, vitamins, minerals, hormones and enzymes they are artificial and not absorbed nearly as well and the enzymes/ hormones while not human to begin with, many are destroyed through processing. The protein in breast milk is also much easier digested while the casein protein in formula can be very difficult for many babies to digest and many are allergic to it at some point or another.
“if I breastfeed, I won’t ever get a break or be able to leave the house”
While it may seem like you are constantly nursing during the first few weeks, it is all worth it and baby is busy building your supply up. The thing with breast milk is that a baby’s body is able to digest it so well and efficiently, that they do tend to eat more often than a baby who is formula fed. Typically, once a breast fed baby reaches the second or third month, they will start to spread out the time between feedings. As far as being able to go out, I personally was not up for leaving my baby the first couple months. I simply would bring my baby with me and wear him in a baby carrier or ring sling. I was able to breast feed him in these and get out of the house. Some mothers choose to pump their milk so they can leave bottles if they decide to leave the house without baby. I do warn mother’s to wait at least 4-6 weeks before introducing a bottle of breast milk to avoid nipple confusion and to be sure that their supply has been established.
“I want my partner, husband, mother etc to be able to bond with baby by feeding him too”
This one always confuses me when I hear it. Not because I think it is a bad reason or an excuse, but because I find it silly that some people think the only way to bond with a baby is by feeding him. My husband would be the first person to tell you he has had no problem whatsoever bonding with our two boys early on. I was working part time with our first so he did get to feed him a bottle a few times but Braydon has never, I repeat never received a bottle. And I would say he is very much quite fond of my husband. Same thing with grandparents. I know my mom feels that she has been able to bond with both of her grandchildren without having to feed them. Other ways I like to suggest to families who are wondering how Daddy can bond in the early months would be: skin to skin contact, changing diapers, letting mom take a shower by herself while he watches baby or baby wearing.
“You must nurse baby no sooner than every 2 hours and no later than every 4 hours”
I was told by the postpartum nurses after my first son was born this. I was told to write down the time and how long he nursed on each side. In fact when I was in the hospital after my csection, the nurse would come in every 2 hours on the dot and if I wasn’t nursing him, she would ask me why and tell me I had to. And if I tried nursing him before the 2 hour mark, I was told I will give him an upset stomach. By his third week of life, I read another book and decided I would watch my baby not the clock and that was the best thing I could do. By the time I had my second son, it made breastfeeding even less stressful because I could offer the breast anytime, if he nursed great, if not, that’s fine too. Another way to think about it, do you eat at the same time every day? Probably not. Why should we expect our babies to wait two hours if they are hungry at 1 hour and 30 minutes? Listen to you baby!
“my baby’s pediatrician said I am overfeeding my baby because he nurses so much”
The great thing about breast feeding: you CANNOT over feed an exclusively breast fed baby. By exclusively breast fed I am referring to the baby does not receive anything else (solids, formula) besides breast milk. And just because this one bugs me so much, I will repeat, YOU CANNOT OVERFEED AN EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFED BABY!
“my baby’s pediatrician says I have to supplement with formula because he has jaundice”
I was told this with BOTH of my boys during their first week of life. And guess what? I did not supplement, I nursed as often as my baby wanted and their jaundice cleared up by their 2 week check. However, neither of my boys had extreme cases of jaundice, as I realize some babies do. But even according to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), who published protocol in treatment of jaundice in breastfed babies, supplementation should only be used in certain cases such as:
i. A clear indication of inadequate intake as defined by weight loss in excess of 10% after attempts to after attempts to correct breastfeeding problems.
ii. Failure in milk production or transfer adjusted for duration of breastfeeding and documented by pre- and post feeding weights after attempts to increase milk production and milk transfer.
iii. Evidence of dehydration defined by significant alterations in serum electrolytes, especially hypernatremia, and or clinical evidence of significant dehydration (poor skin turgor, sunken fontanelle, dry mouth, etc.).
I highly recommend any mother who is told to supplement because of jaundice read the article. The ABM also states that:
Jaundice and some degree of hyperbilirubinemia are normal and expected aspects of newborn development. Breastfeeding is also a normal and expected aspect of infancy and childhood. 53
If you are a breastfeeding mother and are told you need to supplement and are worried about supply, I highly encourage you to seek out a certified lactation consultant.
“my baby’s pediatrician says I have to supplement with formula because according to growth charts, my baby isn’t growing at the rate he would like to see or is below average on the growth charts”
I know firsthand that being slow to grow or below average is not a reason to rush and supplement. My first, once he turned a year, started to plateau and his growth slowed a bit. He also started walking and becoming much more active around this time. We also found out he was allergic to some foods so we were making a lot of changes in his diet and my diet since he was still nursing. I actually ended up switching drs and getting a second opinion and 3rd opinion before finding a dr who supported my choices and said there is nothing wrong with his growth. He was small but he was growing at his own rate and on his own curve. This can happen to many babies. Many drs also use charts for formula fed babies which will show different growth curves compared to breast fed babies. If your baby’s dr recommends supplementation due to baby not growing according to the charts, I would say visit a certified lactation consultant and get a 2nd opinion. A lactation consultant can also do weigh in feeds to make sure baby is transferring enough milk. Sometimes correcting latch is all you need! And last but not least, have a doctor check for tongue tie, especially if baby seems like he is struggling to get milk out or just seems to be having a hard time at breast (fussy, latching/unlatching, painful latch).
Please leave comments if there are any other myths you want addressed and I will add it to PART 2! There are MANY more myths I will be busting in the next post!
Resources I Love:
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The information in this blog is my opinion and should never be used in place of your doctor’s advice.
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