it’s been almost a year of breastfeeding for us, and in this time i have come to realise how incredibly simple breastfeeding can be and how out of touch with our own nature we have become.
sure, women and most other mammals have been breastfeeding since the beginning of our existence. it should be instinct. but breastfeeding as a human at a time where everyone wants convenience poses and entirely different challenge.
a generation ago, our mothers were made to believe that formula was better than breast milk. a generation sold on the convenience and comfort that modern day life had to offer. bombarded by advertisements paid for by the very corporations who had everything to gain with no other reliable or available source of information, how could we blame them?
fortunately things have changed since then and for those of us who want to be educated now, there is an entire world wide web of information for us to tap into at our fingertips. but in large part, the damage has been done.
i’ve been told a whole ton of different stories where it comes to unsuccessful breastfeeding. low supply, fussing baby, painful latching, rejection of direct latching and the list goes on. but all i hear is the same issue of inadequate education on the true journey that is breastfeeding and a preference for convenience with formula as an opt out. the easy albeit expensive alternative.
i understand. when ella was admitted for jaundice and had to undergo phototheraphy, after latching for half an hour and falling asleep, i put her back down for light where she woke up and started crying. wanting to calm her down (or shut her up), the nurse asked if i minded her giving ella some formula. worried about my child and not wanting her to be crying in the nicu, i said okay.
at this point, my milk had not kicked in yet. it sometimes takes a few days. especially for first time mothers. but no one had informed me. all babies do at that stage is latch latch latch. nonstop – to bring in the milk. but no one was informing me.
no information from the nurses and doctors. the people we look to for advice when we find ourselves in those situations. only formula. and then we turn to the people around us for help. if we’re lucky, someone has the necessary information on what to do. if not, we find ourselves surrounded by people telling us to supplement. confinement ladies, mothers or friends that believe formula is alright.
for any mother who has just gone through the process of childbirth after a long pregnancy, who is emotionally and physically drained and in need of care, who is willing and needing to trust her caregivers – such misinformation at this critical time is dangerous. it causes a lot of mistakes with feeding and supplementing with formula because why not, right? formula is accessible, reliable, measurable, less stressful and healthy.
except that it is not. healthy, that is.
formula is inferior to breast milk. contains all sorts of additives, preservatives and sugars. destroys the natural gut flora and should only be used as an absolute last resort when needed – as opposed to starvation. after direct latching, expressed breast milk and donor breast milk.
formula is sold as a necessity. but it is not. formula is promoted as a healthy option. but it is not.
breast is best. always.
but you can’t go up to a mother or friend and start giving them directions on what to do. you can’t tell them what’s better or healthier or natural. you just have to stand back and watch silently, because no one wants to be told. because no one is asking. we know plenty of situations where women receive a ton of unsolicited advice from a know-it-all relative. no one wants to be that jackass.
so we keep our mouths shut. i keep my mouth shut. and let everyone journey their own journey.
but what if someone would rather know if there’s something more they could do. if they’re making the healthy choice. if what they’re going through is normal.
what if i just put it out here, in case someone stumbles upon this and could use the help.
breastfeeding is not just an act of feeding one’s youngling. breastfeeding is communication between mother and child. after delivery (especially for first time mothers), milk may take a couple of days to kick in. this is normal. don’t supplement. a baby is expected to lose a percentage of their weight in the first week before they begin to gain weight and can go without milk for those few days without issue. as milk kicks in, baby is given a good dose of colostrum – which provides all the essential antibodies for a newborn.
how much milk a mother produces is a matter of demand. more demand = more supply. in the early days, baby may want to latch all throughout the day. you may wonder why baby is constantly hungry or cranky. if you are making enough milk. the solution is to offer boob when baby stirs. even if it seems like all your time is spent with a baby on your breast. this is normal. don’t supplement. the frequency of feeding will reduce as as baby’s tummy grows.
then just as you think you’ve gotten into a routine and know what baby needs, baby will go through a growth spurt which causes baby to need much more milk and seem unsettled. for a day or two, it may feel like you have a newborn again. this too, is normal. don’t supplement. just offer baby the breast as much as needed once again. repeat until no longer breastfeeding.
babies should be breastfed for at least 6 months where they do not need water or anything else other than breastmilk, but continue to benefit from breastmilk and the bonding associated to breastfeeding for years. in times of sickness, a mother’s body makes antibodies to be delivered to the child through breastmilk. after 1 year shall you decide to stop breastfeeding, your child no longer needs milk – not formula, not cow’s milk – and can adequately receive all needed nutrients from a good diet.
you don’t ever have to buy into the formulie. save yourself the money. nature has already given us all we need for the best chance of survival.
when in doubt – always trust nature.