Good morning all.
Last night I was talking to Michelle (my sis-in law) about breast-feeding. She is starting her business of birth photography (which you should check out here). This has spurred several conversations since she and I now both work with moms and babies. She suggested that I start writing my thoughts down in blog form saying it will help me vent. I must have been getting up on another one of my soap-boxes. I will start here today with voicing a few thoughts on breast-feeding today…
Everyday, I work with mommas and their babies. I get to talk with them, learn from them, and hope to impact their lives in even just a small way. I have a great job. I feel grateful to hear the stories that I do but today I want to voice one of these stories that I have heard too many times.
A sweet young woman is ready after 9 long months of preparation to have her baby. The delivery goes well, but the doctors take the baby away with a few concerns. While the baby is away, the baby is given formula in order to calm the baby down. And now, mom and baby have lost the critical moments they were meant to have. Before I started working at WIC, I would have heard this story and thought nothing of it. Complications happen every day and how great that they are doing well now, right? When I hear this story it is usually followed up by, “well, I figured since they gave formula in the hospital and bc they gave me free formula to take home that I should just keep giving the bottle. And now, baby won’t take the breast”. And THAT is the part that breaks my heart.
Amazing facts about breast-feeding (by no means in-depth)…
- Breast milk is like medicine for babies. No formula will ever be as good for the baby as a mom’s milk. Let’s just say: antibodies, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, leukocytes (help fight disease) just to name a few.
- Breast milk is free. A typical can of formula costs over 15 dollars. I see at least 9 woman a day – none of whom can afford this.
- Colostrum (the first breast milk made for baby) is known as liquid-gold. Mom will make only about a tablespoon for the first day, and bc of how incredibly nutrient rich it is, it is all that baby needs.
- Breast milk changes as baby grows according to their nutrient needs. Formula stays exactly the same.
- Breast milk fights diseases for mom AND baby. Ex. Diabetes, Asthma, Obesity, Childhood Leukemia, SIDS, Breast Cancer, & Ovarian Cancer to name just a few.
The sad truth is that hospitals have contracts with formula companies. And when a hospital offers formula during their stay or sends home a “free” sample of formula with a mom and baby, they are setting them up for failure. Breast milk production in women is simple – the more you breast feed the more milk your body will produce. It works the other way too- the less you breastfeed, the less milk your body will produce. Offering formula instead of breast milk during the first crucial month tells a woman’s body that it doesn’t really need to make milk like it thought it should. It is very common for a woman who is trying to both breastfeed and formula feed to dry up within the first few weeks.
Right from the get-go after a baby is born it is crucial to set mom and baby up for successful breastfeeding.
This could be done by…
- allowing skin-to-skin with mom and baby after delivery (I could go on a huge tangent about the benefits of this. I will refrain until another time)
- helping mom to breastfeed within the first hour
- providing lactation support for every woman who leaves the hospital (after all, breastfeeding is learned, we are not just supposed to know how to do it on our own)
- and encouraging no bottles or pacifiers within the first month (bottles and pacifiers have much different nipples than a breast- this can easily cause nipple-confusion for the baby and result in rejection breastfeeding).
I am by no means saying that women who choose not to breast feed have done anything wrong. What I am saying is that there is a strong need for breastfeeding education for ANY woman who becomes pregnant. I have seen too much heart-ache from women who come into my office a few weeks after delivery wishing they could still breast feed and have not gotten the support they need. WIC and several other organizations are making huge strides to change this and the great news is that it’s working. But, for all those women out there that were not given the information, the assessment, and the support they needed- more needs to be done.
To end, a little disclaimer here- I am simply someone who has studied and worked in the field of breast-feeding. So I am very aware that I have little room to speak in terms of experience. All you ladies who have gone through feeding a newborn (breastfeeding or formula feeding) – you gals are heroes!
Whew, I’m exhausted. And I am sure you are too if you made it through all of my rambles. More to come, but a sincere thanks for reading.