August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week; and Des Moines Moms Blog is joining people in more than 170 countries in the celebration. We are pleased to bring you a series of posts this week on the topic of breastfeeding, each one coming from a different perspective. If you are just tuning in, be sure to check out the other posts in this series here.
The first time that I remember seeing someone breastfeeding in public was when I started practice and a mom was nursing her 18-month-old daughter as I adjusted her other children. I distinctly remember telling my then fiancé on the phone that night how shocked I was to see someone nursing a child “so old.”
And then… I went on to nurse our firstborn until he was three years old!
My mom hadn’t nursed, I don’t remember witnessing any extended family nursing their children when I was growing up, and I certainly don’t remember hearing much about breastfeeding other than some brief mentions in school.
Breastfeeding has become an intimate part of my relationship with our children. It’s been a bonding experience, their nutrition and their medicine, their comfort when they are hurt and their hydration when they are sick.
I’m continually amazed at the properties of breastmilk and the intricate details of breastfeeding. Did you know that the constitution of breastmilk changes from feeding to feeding? There are receptors on the areola that, when they come into contact with your child’s saliva, will change the make-up of the milk for the next feeding based on what your baby needs! That is incredible!! Breastmilk is readily available (of course, there are some exceptions to supply), always the right temperature, eliminates a lot of waste, and doesn’t require washing dishes if a child is nursing.
As one professor once told us, “Ladies, these aren’t headlights and hood decals” (pointing to her chest). Our anatomy was designed and created with the intention of bearing children and breastfeeding them. Breastmilk truly is the best choice for your baby.
That is not to say that some women aren’t able to nurse their children for medical reasons or physiological complications. If not from mom, consider using breastmilk in a bottle or from another mama. With our son, I could barely keep up on production and didn’t have a single ounce to spare. But with our daughter, we chose to be more proactive in increasing my milk supply by utilizing placenta encapsulation, essential oils, and other supplements and teas; and I was able to donate over 600 oz of milk to a family adopting a baby and to another family whose son was very ill. That was so rewarding!
A big and frustrating misconception for me was that breastfeeding was natural and that the process would be, too. For the first eight weeks, many nursing sessions started with tears and anxiety and LOTS of pain. The second time around, midwifery and lactation support, Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter, Jack Newman’s nipple ointment, and confidence made all the difference.
Let me say this…. My first breastfeeding experience was extremely hard, and I can understand why so many women who don’t have the proper support feel like they need to be done. Know it’s a challenge, know it can take time for you and baby to learn, know there are wonderful resources in our area and online (www.kellymom.com and www.breastfeedinginc.ca), know you are not alone, and know that the breast is best and worth the fight.
I could go on and on with the challenges we have had with nursing (including my family continually asking, “When are you going to be done? Aren’t they too old?”), but I would never change a thing. The struggles were trumped by the benefits.