Saturday, March 20, 2010

Why Breastfeed?

As a breastfeeding advocate and currently working part-time as a lactation consultant, I may be able to answer this question.

My name is Barbara, I am 24 years old and I am a Health Science graduate from Brigham Young University-Idaho. My emphasis is Public Health and I had the opportunity to do my internship and then keep working for the WIC (women, infant and children) Program at The Eastern Idaho Public Health office. I’ve worked with a variety of clients and many different problems related to breastfeeding. It really is one of my passions. I feel like I was able to help first time mothers, who just like myself, had no idea what was going on when the nurse put that little bundle of joy in my arms. You are expected to feed, love and take care of it to the best of your ability.

I have to add that my biggest accomplishment and joy in this life is my family. I am absolutely crazy for them and I would not change anything. I am a proud stay-at-home mom and I want to be one. :)

I'm going to summarize one of the classes I teach weekly at the WIC office. I feel like this will be a good introduction to the topic of breastfeeding. As we keep the topic going I would appreciate any questions that you might have and if I’m not sure about something, I’ll make sure I’ll ask my experienced co-workers that have worked in this area for way longer than I have. If there’s any way I can help anyone on this issue, I would be more than glad to do so.

So, first of all, a little bit of a background from my experience with breastfeeding. I breastfed my oldest daughter until she was 15 months, until basically I was sick of it and when I found out I was pregnant again. I now have a 5 month old who is as much of a joy as her sister and she is also being nursed full-time. I loved and still love nursing my kids because it provides such a bond with them. I was going to school full-time when I had my first child and I was away from her for quite a while during the day. Being able to nurse when I got home gave me the feeling I was able to bond with her somehow.

So let’s start the question of why to do it first. When you compare formula to breasmilk they both have some commonalities: fat, protein, carbohydrates, DHA, ARA (fatty acids helpful for your baby’s brain development), vitamins, minerals and water.

Breastmilk has a few extras:

1- More than 15 antibacterial factors: This is pretty amazing because it is a protection from all the bacteria your body is exposed to. So your body will build the immunity and it will be transferred to your baby through your milk. This also happens the other way around: your baby will be exposed to harmful bacteria or viruses and will pass them to you by close contact, your body in return will produce antibodies and pass them back to your baby through breastmilk. Pretty cool huh????

2- Hormones: these will help your baby relax and better respond to stress (as will you). It will make him sleep better and also aid in the development of your baby’s immune system.

3- Enzymes: these will compensate for the immaturity of pancreas of your newborn and aid in digestion

4- Growth factors: helps your baby’s organs to mature, brain development and protects their gastrointestinal tract (gut)

5- Anti parasitic, anti viral and anti allergenic factors: breastfed babies have fewer allergies, asthma, ear infections, stomach aches and are less likely to be obese. Pretty much they are healthier and get sick less often.

If all of that wasn't enough, there are also some other benefits that are helpful to moms all around the world:

6- Mom jumps back to pre-pregnancy weight faster

7- Uterus goes back to normal size also a lot faster because as you breastfeed a hormone is released and your uterus contracts. (this can hurt in some people as it did with me, but after child birth, Ibuprofen will do wonders for this kind of pain)

8- Moms recover faster from child birth

9- If the child is jaundice, the colostrum- an antibody-rich, yellow-ish liquid produced as soon as your baby is born- has a laxative property, which will help your baby “poop” more thus getting rid of the jaundice faster (when the newborn defecates they get rid of the excess bilirubin which is accumulated in their body from their immature pancreas)

10- Your breasts do not become saggy from breastfeeding, and if they do, it is because of hormones produced during pregnancy and not because of breastfeeding (I bet a lot of you didn’t know that but have heard stories about breastfeeding makes your breasts sag!!!!! Another plus for breastfeeding: YAY!!!!!)

11- The price of formula is outrageous. They can go from simple formulas to sensitive ones depending on how your baby responds to them. It can range from $25-45 dollars a can. Where on average a baby goes through a can a week. If you do the math that’s about $1700 dollars a year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that women breastfeed their babies exclusively until they are 6 months old, with an addition of solids from that point on. Breastfeeding is still encouraged until they are one. (After that it’s up to you whether of not you like breastfeeding enough to keep it going, but the absolute health benefits they NEED go until they are one.

Also, I want to add that your child will still benefit from the immunity provided through breastfeeding even after they are 1 too, so if you choose to keep going, NEVER feel bad and know that they are extra protected.

Now I do have a DISCLAIMER. This post is not intended to offend or to make anyone who was not able to breastfeed feel bad. If there’s one thing that I learned from working with women at WIC is that we are all different and our bodies respond to situations in life different ways. I have seen people that try their absolute hardest to breastfeed their baby, do everything we tell them and more and do not succeed. Did they fail?? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! I have also seen people that after feeding their baby still pump 6 ounces of milk from each breast (did I mention after the feeding??? Yeap!! it’s a ridiculous amount of milk, it’s what we call an oversupply) and stop breastfeeding because it’s just too much for them. Did they fail? Well….NO!! One day of breastfeeding is better than none right??

Formula is still the next best option if breastfeeding does now work for you. Do not feed your baby cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk or any of that when they are newborns up until they are one. Also don’t dilute formula if you are running out of it, it can cause serious problems to your baby by giving them a mineral imbalance. ALWAYS follow the instructions of the formula manufacturer. ALWAYS!

Also don’t feel bad if for some reason you have had to supplement your baby with formula because you didn’t have enough milk. If you are following your lactation consultant’s advices and it’s still not working, the most important thing is that your baby grows and develops how he/she is supposed to. First and foremost they need nourishment, after that we can work on whatever else you are facing. The general rule is the more you empty your breast the more milk you will produce. Again: the general rule. In rare cases it does not go that way (REPEAT: rare cases).

I have a lot of stories I would love to share, but first I want to hear your questions or anything in specific that came to your mind during this post. Please keep them coming. I will base my next post on your questions.

Cheers to all the mommies out there that try so hard and give their very best to their little ones. The world needs more people like YOU!



Os Amorims said...

Thanks, Babi! I didn't know you work as a lactation consultant at WIC, that's pretty cool!! =)) I really enjoyed reading your post... a few questions that came to my mind as I was reading it: I heard a lot of women saying that they had to change their diet when they were breastfeeding... is that true or it's different for every woman and their baby? Are there any recommendations of what we should eat or not when we are breastfeeding?
My other question: How can I prepare my body to breastfeed? Is there anything I can do while I am pregnant that could help? A lot of women and doctors say that there isn't... but I've heard the opposite too (lots of theories, maybe?!)... I would like to know what other people have done or wish they had done to prepare themselves better to breastfeed!?
Thanks!! =))

Dri Marshall said...

Barbara, thank you for your post:) Reading it brought many memories to my mind, some good, some not.
My experience with breast feeding was AWESOME and TERRIBLE at the same time.
AWESOME because, as you said, having that private time to bond is amazing; also because I was happy I had more than enough milk for my baby and that made feel blessed and I knew it was the right thing to do (I attended that class at WIC about breastfeeding :)

TERRIBLE...well, I don't feel really confortable talking about it yet. But maybe sharing the experience it will making me feel part of this world. I was still at the hospital when after Thomas was born when I started sweating a lot even though it was October (already chilly in Rexburg). After one day at home I started producing too much milk and got do you? engorged? I don't know. My breasts were visibly HUGE and hard, and it was painful. Then, while preparing to take a shower I noticed I was a "freak". MILK WAS LEAKING FROM MY ARMPITS! I talked to the hospital lactation and my doctor, and they said I had extra nipples. Can you believe that? They said it was commom. REALLY? Never heard of it before, or after. They said it was normal(that when we are a fetus we have several niples, like a dog, and with the development the extra ones close up) and there was nothing I could do about it. And it will problably happen again.
So, while I was breastfeeding(9 months) I had to use 4 of those little pads(two for breasts and two for armpits).
It was so hard... I cried about it so many times...thinking about it makes me of not having another child (but I will, eventually).
Sorry about this huge comment, it should be a post :)
But I guess I have a question: AM I ALONE???

Bianca said...

Babi, keep up the good work, women should know how good breastfeeding is for both the mom and baby! I had my own bad experience, where Lucas almost died because of bad information, so I tell all new mommies that sometimes it takes a long time for the milk to come. In the hospital, the pediatrician who talked to me said that if I chose to breastfeed I should never give Lucas a bottle, never (so NOT true). So being a new mom that I was, I followed his advice and when he was a few days old, our second night at home, he had a fever and wouldn´t stop crying. We rushed him to the hospital (Primary Children´s) and, long story short, he was dehydrated because my milk had not come in yet! I was pretty much killing my baby by not feeding him, but I had no idea! On that same day my milk finally came, but with all the tests they were making on my 3-day-old baby, I didn´t have a chance to feed him for the whole day and it was never the same. The following months were the worst because I still tried feeding him, while giving him formula, and then I would pump for another 40 minutes and the most I could get out was 5 drops (yes, DROPS!). At one point his doctor had to tell me to stop trying (three months later). During that time, and for a while after, I felt like the worst mom in the world, not being able to feed my child all he needed. Let me tell you that if anything like this should hapen to you, do not feel guilty... it is really not your fault! Do all you can do, but don´t beat yourself if you can´t do it, I still felt a strong bond to Lucas, and yes, I won´t lie, he used to get sick more easily and I´m sure it´s because of the lack of breast milk, but he is very healthy today. I do hope I will be able to normally breast feed my next one, but won´t feel as guilty if it doesn´t help! Thanks =)

Aline Carson said...

I was one of those people who had waaaay extra milk. My doctor said I had enough for 3 babies! I was very blessed to be able to breastfeed until my baby was 1, but it was such a struggle in the beginning. I was so persistent and I think the only reason I didn't quit was because since I had already had a c-section, I felt like I wanted to do something normal. Like the way it's supposed to be. I took Eric to a male pediatrician in the beginning who said he needed formula to supplement his feedings. So I would give him a bottle after feeding him a little bit, and I think that it was more out of laziness than anything because deep inside I knew I had enough. It just HURT so BAD! And took SO long! Sometimes a whole HOUR. He would always sleep when he started nursing and it was impossible to wake him up. One thing many new moms out there don't know is that you should feed your newborn on demand. That just means you feed him when he's hungry, and not when it's "time". That's why Eric was so fussy in the beginning and we didn't know why. We thought he just didn't get enough on each feeding or something.
Adriana, my breasts were also HUGE. It's like it wasn't even part of y body, and I could never find a bra that would fit (that was the worst thing). I had mastitis (inflamation of the breast tissue) and it wasn't fun. I'm not going to get into too many details here but let's just say it was hard. For the first 3 months it was VERY hard. But then it got so easy and I got the hang of it.
Something that really helped (Camila) was that ointment (what is it called again??) I applied it before every feeding and that helped a ton. But I think Barbara's probably going to talk more about this but I have some more tips which took me forever to find out about which I could share later on.
I already wrote too much so I better stop here..hehe

Anna said...

Brigada Babi. I need these pep talks.
I loved breastfeeding Thomas even though it was so hard and so painful for so long. I loved doing it because it really did bring us together, I felt like for that little while it was just me and my little baby and when I was away at school or work I longed to be close to him.
I really want to breastfeed the twins, but I'm scared. I don't know how it will be, it's like a whole new experience again. I feel just like I felt about BF when I was pregnant the first time. I don't know what it'll be like. I don't know what to expect.
But I try not to think about it. I just think about the fact that I WILL. And I'll worry about the rest later. :oP

Barbara said...

I;m jotting the questions down and I'm gonna touch on all of them...meanwhile thanks for sharing such personal experiences. I'm sure we all appreciate it. Dri, it's common, my mom has it and I'm sure a lot of other people do and don't talk about it. Did your doctor give you the option of having it removed? my mom's doc said she could do it, she ended up never really getting around to it, but maybe it's an option?
One thing I can tell you for sure, we have mammary glands/tissue on our arm pits too, so don't feel like you are the only one.
Bianca thank you for mentioning bottles, I'll be sure to talk about it too, because we reccomend that you wait the first month to do it, so breastfeeding is established but if your baby needs the nourishment like I said before that comes first. So no reason to feel guilty. I'm gonna share a story about that on my next post. :)
Anna, you can TOTALLY do it, and I will talk about it takes work and dedication which I know you have, so you are awesome to not think about it now.Camila, I also got urs...great questions by the way. The oinment Aline mentioned is called Lanolin and is pretty much the only thing you can use on your breasts...
thanks gals...

Liesl said...

Amorims, I can answer your first questions....My first too babies had an allergy to lactose, so for me to breast feed them I could not have ANY lactose, no butter, no milk, not even crackers! It was hard, I had to be so careful! If I ate anything with even a small amount of lactose in it I would be up all night with babies screaming in pain. I went 8 months like that with my first until I dried up because I was pregnant, then 3 months with my second when I finally gave up and did formula. I have a 4 month old now that nurses and I can eat anything I want with her; it's so much easier. Other things I've heard that bother babies are eggs, chocolate, broccoli, and spicy food.

As far as nursing goes, I honestly do not enjoy it at all!!! I wish I could enjoy it like most people, but I just can't stand to sit and do nothing for that long, I am a multitask-er. I've been caught nursing while cooking, while straightening my hair, even once while vacuuming, ha ha ha. However, I want my kids to get that good healthy start to life so I do it :) Thanks for the post!

Liesl said...

About 2 weeks ago an older lady told me that breast milk gets rid of pink eye if you put it in the eye....just wondering if that's true. Sounds gross to me and I was just wondering if you knew if it was true.

Beatrice said...

I breastfed my first kid until she was 4 months. I dried up after my husband graduated and we packed up, moved and went home to Sweden for Christmas to visit. I never had a ton of milk...just enough for Nicci.

My second kid, he was sensitive to lactose and I had to be sooo careful what I ate. almost everything upset his stomach and he screamed all the time. I dried up with him when he was around 5 months and I got pregnant again. I have to admit I was kind of happy not to have to breastfeed anymore. It was so hard. He was on lactose sensitive formula until he turned 1. He grew out of the whole lactose sensitivity and drinks cows milk fine now.

I'm breastfeeding my 3 month old now and my goal is at least 6 months hopefully even longer. I really feel like I'm doing a lot better this time. Jordan doesn't have any problems or issues and nurses fine. The only hard thing now is trying to keep my other two kids out of trouble while I nurse.

I have to admit I don't really like to breastfeed but I do it anyways cause I know its good for my baby...I get this depressing feeling as soon as the baby latches on....and it goes away as soon as he is done and I feel normal again. I don't know how to describe the feeling...its like I feel sad, anxious, irritated lose appetite etc. Anyone felt like that? My husband laughs at me sometimes because of the facial expressions I have when I sit down and nurse. I don't really look like I'm enjoying myself...and it's not because its hurting...cause it doesn't.
I wish I didn't have to have those feelings while I nurse because it would make the experience so much better. I doesn't matter though and I will try to nurse all my babies.

Rachel and her Brasileiros said...

I'm new to discovering this blog... such a cool topic Barbara! I've read all the comments and have been enlightened in many ways.
I've breast-fed both boys, and I've loved it. I have a 10 month old and I was actually really depressed when I unintentionally weaned him (we drove from Utah to Missouri; my dad was driving, I was in the back with the boys-- it was super cramped, plus I didn't want to whip anything out in front of my dad. So, I fed him formula and by the time we got settled, he didn't want me anymore:( )
Also, about the breast-milk for pink eye, IT WORKS!! At least it did when I used it on my baby! When he was born, Bruno, myself, AND our three-year-old all had pink-eye. We tried to be extremely careful, but alas, Alex got all the green goopy stuff in his eyes when he was only 4 days old. I put a couple drops of breast milk in the corner of his eye and when he opened it, the milk went in. I did this in the morning and evening, and by the next day, he was fine! Cured it, in my opinion!

Jennifer and Shay said...

I breastfed my oldest for about two months, but I also supplemented with a bottle from the beginning. When he was born they told me his blood sugar was very low,which is common,so he needed to eat to get it back up. I started pumping right away,but my milk ended up not coming in until after I came home. So I decided while we were in the hospital that we would try formula to see if he would eat. We would spend all day trying to wake him up to eat,and when he did he would have about an ounce of formula.And about after two months my milk started to dry up,and that was fine with me..
With my second one I felt a stronger desire to breastfeed. I was lucky that he latched on really well and that he would stay there practically all day even if almost nothing came out.By the second day my milk came,and he would feed all day. I breastfed exclusively for a month,and then I started to supplement. To tell you the truth I loved breastfeeding, but it took so much out of me.I felt like that was the only thing I did all day,and having a 3 year old in the house did not make it any better.I kept breastfeeding though,until he was about 6 months old.I was just doing it in the morning and at night.He got the flu at that time,and then he only wanted to breastfeed. For some reason though,after he got better,he did want to do it anymore.I was a little sad, but trying to fight him to do it just made me more sad, so that's when I just stopped.Oh, I also got a yeast infection on my breast( yes, very common!) And had to deal with that for a few weeks, it actually took so long to heal on one side,and it hurt so bad to feed, that that side dried up. So for the last two months I only breastfed him on one that kind of weird? I've heard of other moms doing that. This comment is way too long already!

Aline Carson said...

Yeah, I forgot to mention that I Eric wouldn't latch on and I always needed the nurse's help to get him to latch-on. I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to do it when I got home. And to tell you the truth that was my biggest struggle. And I also felt like all I did all day long was nurse my baby and I still had a 15 month-old to take care of. I think the next one will be easier (I hope).

Barbara said...

Breast milk is pretty much a cure it all. Don't ell ur doctors I said this though. I have cured from pink eye to stuffy noses with it. My baby got pink eye twice and I would just squirt some of it in her eye. It was goe by the next day. Also I heard in one of my training that it helps stuffy noses too. So I tried and it also I believe we can cure almost anything with breastmilk (well I'm exagerating a little, but it works for a lot of things...)
Also, about the stuff you eat while breastfeeding I will touch on that my next post, because I think it's important and there are some misconceptions going on with the comments.
Thanks again for the participation...I'm so excited it is such a popular topic!

Trevor, Kika, Olivia said...

Loved this post! I really want to be able to breastfeed my next, if I ever have another one!

hugs hugs :)

Price Family said...

I think I was on of the lucky ones that NEVER had problems with breastfeeding...except that I had too much that I had to put a cloth diaper underneath my bra so the milk would leak into my shirts?? Nursing pads werent enough for me. That was horrible for a while, but it happened the same with my sister so I new it wasnt that bad. I got used to it!
Anyways, I never had any problem. Rachel latched SO well since the very first time!! I had more than enough milk. I never had any crack or any problem with my nipple (I actually had the Lanolin ointment and NEVER used it).I nursed Rachel till she was 14 months-old an I did that because I saw she didnt need it anymore. She was drinking cow's milk so well and eating regular food (rice, beans, meat) really well too.
I liked that you said that it is important to breastfeed til they are one. The other day, a friend said that she would only breastfeed til her baby was 6 months and nothing more!! I was horrified. It almost seemed to me that she was doing that as an obligation! She said: "look, my sister was never breastfed and she was such a health baby. I dont believe I need to breastfeed my baby more than 6 months"

Anyways, people do whatever they want huh? I feel sad for people that are no able to breastfeed....but thank goodness we have such good formulas nowadays that breastfeeding can be replaced!
I wonder sometimes if some people really tried their best to breastfeed their babies, before they say they couldnt! Some just not do their best and think more of their self instead of thinking about their babies.

GREAT post Babi!!!! I loved to know that you work for WIC.

Paty said...

Such a great post Barbara.

In my experience, I was only able to breastfeed my twin girls for a little over three months. I was producing very little milk so I had to supplement with formula since day one.

It was unfortunate that I couldn't breastfeed longer, but I didn't let that put me down. I tried my best and that's what counts. I hope I'm able to breastfeed longer with my next baby. Not only is it great for them, but one could save so much. We were so happy when my girls turned one so that they could drink cow's milk b/c we were spending so much money on formula for them.