Before I start I also want this space to be an arena for no judgement. Breastfeeding can be a controversial topic BUT it really doesn’t need to be. I truly believe if you do your research, ask others for guidance – the rest is up to you. You know what is best for your baby. Even though I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding, I would never look down or shame another Mother for formula feeding, so I would expect the same in return. Lets support each other always.
Throughout my pregnancy with Hunter, my number one goal was to learn about breastfeeding. I 100% wanted to do it and pushed through all the hurdles. I had heard of so many stories of women who couldn’t do it, so I knew it would be a challenge. Once I started learning more about the benefits, there was no turning back. I want to outline some background information about breast feeding, squash some very common myths and share some things that worked for me.
*I breastfed my son for 12 months which was my goal.
Australian guidelines for breastfeeding as of 2017 is 12 months+. The World Health Organisation recommends 24months.
The advantages of colostrum:
For the first 2-4 days of your baby’s life, your breasts will secrete colostrum, a yellowish fluid rich in proteins. These valuable proteins are essential to the development of a healthy immune system.
- The protein is easily digested and absorbed by the body, especially by the rapidly developing brain.
- Colostrum provides factors that promote maturation of the gut and good digestion.
- Colostrum is the most superior and well-designed nutrition for your baby in the first few days of life.
The advantages of breast milk:
- It is a complete food containing all your baby’s nutritional needs for the first 6 months of life.
- It satisfies both hunger and thirst; extra water is not needed.
- It increases a baby’s resistance to infection and disease (bf babies have less colds and flus).
- Superior nutrition
- There is an increased resistance to infections, and therefore fewer incidents of illness and hospitalisation
- Decreased risk of allergies and lactose intolerance
- Breast milk is sterile
- Baby experiences less nappy rash and thrush
- Baby is less likely to develop allergies
- Baby experiences fewer stomach upsets and constipation
- Breastfed infants tend to have fewer cavities
- Breastfeeding promotes the proper development of baby’s jaw and teeth.
- Breastfed infants tend to have higher IQs due to good brain development early in life
- Babies benefit emotionally, because they are held more
- Breastfeeding promotes mother-baby bonding
- In the long term, breastfed babies have a decreased risk of malnutrition, obesity and heart disease compared to formula fed babies.
- It’s convenient, cheap and always there when you need it.
- It’s always fresh, clean and safe.
- It quickly soothes a fussy, unhappy baby.
- It helps your uterus return to its normal size after childbirth.
- It gives you a chance to sit down during the day and rest.
- Mothers who don’t breastfeed have increased risks of cancer of the breast and ovaries.
- Breastfeeding helps create a close and loving bond between you and your baby and can be a deeply satisfying experience for you both.
- Postpartum weight loss – breastfeeding burns up to 600 calories a day
Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding:
Even though this is a non judgement space, I think it is imperative to share the disadvantages of the opposite to breast feeding. I found this information very important and encouraging to help me continue to breast feed. No judgement, just providing facts.
- The WHO code states that advertisers are not allowed to advertise formula for children under 12 months old (see link in reference for further information). That was enough for me.
- Human milk contains both saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as cholesterol, an important constituent of brain and nerve tissue. The fat in breast milk is more digestible than that in formula.
- The energy breast milk provides is more efficiently utilised, than the energy provided by formula.
- Breast milk contains a full range of vitamins and minerals in an easily digestible combination.
- Special immune system protective proteins are present in breast milk. These proteins offer protection against diarrhoea, food allergies and infections. The immunoprotective components of human milk include:
- Lactoferrin : binds to iron, thus rendering it unavailable to viruses and bacteria.
- Lysozymes and milk leucocytes: destroy viruses and bacteria
- Secretory IgA: immunoglobulin that destroys viruses and bacteria
- Bifidus factor: promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and limits the growth of disease-causing bacteria.
- Manufactors can not even come close to creating the same benefits or immune building system that breast milk provides
- For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, including otitis media, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- My milk never come in or I didn’t get enough milk. This isn’t just you, this is every single woman. Your milk isn’t meant to come in. Mine came in at 72 hours. All women are different. But it will come in as long as you are feeding all the time. Baby goes through a famine then they feast. The reason behind this is because baby’s tummies are like the size of a cherry. You are feeding them in the beginning which is called colostrum (liquid gold). This is lining baby’s tummy and is absolutely critical to baby’s immune development (read up on the benefits of colostrum above). So during the ‘fasting’ period baby is still feeding on colostrum, which is setting baby up for a very strong immunity. Formula can be very heavy on a newborn’s tummy. Once your milk comes in baby feasts. Hunter was feeding every hour once my milk came in.
- I never know how much my baby is getting as I can’t measure the breast milk. How will I ever know? You don’t need to know and you can’t measure it. Always remember it is the most natural form of feeding (women have been doing it since the beginning of time, it is what connects all women, past and present). The best way to monitor if your baby is getting enough is by the amount of wet nappies. As baby grows the amount changes but for newborns it is around 8-12 in a 24 hour period on average. If your baby has lots of wet nappies, they are getting enough milk. Simple.
- My milk has dried up. This only happens if you stop feeding all the time. If anyone’s milk was going to dry up, it would of been mine. The day my milk came in, I had 8 hour open surgery. Prior to this, I was vomiting blood and not even getting water down (24hours after having Hunter). Once I had my surgery, I was on a strict liquid diet for 6 weeks. I had tubes coming out of my tummy (just under my breasts where I had to put Hunter on for a feed) and couldn’t sit upright for a week after surgery (Hunter was 1 week old). But I expressed or my Husband expressed me or he put Hunter onto my boob. I just fed and fed and fed. I wasn’t going to give up. I could of easily and I had every right too, as my body was barely surviving on liquid only, little lone feeding another human, but we did it, we pushed through. That was the moment I was selfless for my son. I was weak and hungry especially those first few weeks, but I needed to do this for him. When I found out I was so sick and could of died on that operating table, I was just worried my baby wouldn’t get my breast milk he deserved. So I was determined, if I survived he would come first – always. Hydration and a healthy diet is critical but it can be done on nothing, so never use ‘my milk dried up’ as an excuse, keep reading my story. *Please note, that I DO NOT recommend being on a liquid diet whilst breastfeeding, I had no choice due to my surgery, it so much better for you and baby to be eating a balanced healthy diet.
Things that helped me:
- Be selfless. I cannot stress this enough. Bf is hard. Especially in the beginning. It takes a long time and generally bf babies sleep less because the breast milk isn’t as heavy as formula. So you will be up more, it can be difficult and painful. Plus your breasts and nipples will hurt and your boobs will turn into dried up currents PLUS you are the only feeder of baby (yes you can express but generally feeding is all on you). BUT…all these things will affect you NOT your baby. So what? You will have 12 -24 months of this. What a gift you can give your child. Be selfless Mama, don’t think about you, just think about your baby and the benefits they are getting. Frustrates me when people complain about the above (don’t have children then!). I totally understand and can appreciate if you need to go back to work early and this may be difficult, but please talk to your midwife or lactation consultant for suggestions to help with this.
- During your pregnancy, do as much reading/research as you can
- Book in with a lactation consultant (I did 3 classes with mine and they were phenomenal to say the least). I also went to the class whilst in hospital. You will be tired and exhausted but you won’t get these days back again.
- Feed on demand (throw the schedule out the window)
- A warm shower can help with a let down and release over supply of milk or painful breasts
- Put baby on you (skin to skin), to increase milk supply
- Once you have had baby, it was a requirement at my hospital that all new mums had to go to the nursery for every feed. This was pivotal in my success. I was surrounded by other Mamas who were struggling like me but kept on going (very encouraging), 24/7 midwives, they learn your name and know everything about your baby, they are there to help you with anything, they record everything so you don’t have to do it yourself but mainly it was the community of support. If your hospital doesn’t do this, buzz a midwife every time you feed, don’t be shy, that is what they are there for, be pushy, this is your baby’s health
- Scope out your friends and family who have had successful breastfeeding journeys. Ask them if it is ok to ask any questions (all breast feeding Mamas are so supportive and want to see you succeed), ALWAYS ASK FOR HELP OR ADVICE. If you don’t know anyone, join an online mother’s group.
- I loved this next one. Something my lactation consultant taught me and made it so easy with feeding (this is for newborns). You feed with the concept ENTREE MAIN DESSERT. For example: say you start with your right breast (ENTREE), the first let down of milk, is always lighter, not the fatty part of the milk which baby needs. Just like an entree is always lighter. Once baby has had a bit (everyone is different but usually takes 10 minutes). Then before moving baby over to next breast (left), put baby back onto right. This is their main course, the fatty milk will now be there which is what baby really needs. Then offer baby the other breast (dessert) this will be the lighter milk again. Remember just like you or me, we may not always want dessert all the time, so don’t feel baby needs to have the next breast. Always offer it, it is just a light meal at the end. When you start your next feed, start on the opposite breast you finished on (I used to just put in my phone R or L so I knew which was next).
- Feed feed feed (all the time). Constantly have baby on the boob. You will feel like a cow, but this is the best way to keep your milk supply up. You can express so you have storage but if you just have the mentality when baby is whingey, comfort with the breast first (and no you can’t spoil, they don’t understand what that means).
- It will be challenging and it will take a long time for each feed in the beginning until baby learns to drink correctly (usually takes an hour to feed) BUT it will get quicker, as quick as a 1 minute feed down the track – know there is light at the end of the tunnel
- Push through the pain and keep feeding through crackled nipples – keep feeding don’t stop (remember be selfless for your baby, it costs nothing to set up baby’s immunity) definately see your midwife if you have signs of mastitis. I had it and I had to keep feeding through it. Have nipple cream handy and take to the hospital. I didn’t use it till Hunter was 9 months. You can get mastitis up until 12 months.
- Try lactation cookies to increase milk supply (here is link to my recipe). Take fenugreek vitamins. See your doctor as they can prescribe you with medication to help with your milk supply if it is slowing down.
- Research has proven that Fathers who are supportive of mothers breast feeding, have a much higher chance of successful breastfeeding. I told my husband while I was pregnant, do not let me give in. When I want to, just keep reminding me, to push through it. And he did.
Good luck and if you need any more advice or support please don’t hesitate to contact me. I just want to add, that I am no expert. I am a Mum, who is sharing her story and the research I have found. Always have an informed choice, then go with your intuition. Remember you know what is best for your baby.
- Norwest Private hospital
- Australian Breast Feeding Association https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/bfinfo/how-long-should-i-breastfeed-my-baby
- Australia Unity http://www.australianunity.com.au/health-insurance/existing-members/wellplan-online/childrens-health/advantages-of-breastfeeding
- NCBI https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812877/
- Sleeping like a baby by Pinky McKay http://www.angusrobertson.com.au/books/sleeping-like-a-baby-pinky-mckay/p/9780143004523
- WHO https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/who-code