Since the invention of baby formula, the question of breast or bottle has been asked. In the nutrition community, breastfeeding is widely promoted. Why? Many mothers ask. The general public opinion is that babies get the same nutrition from breastmilk and formula and that breastfeeding is painful or difficult. Is this really the case?
Nutritionally, breastmilk and formula are not created equally. Breastmilk contains antibodies and antimicrobials that could never be packaged and preserved in a formula. It also changes according to a baby’s needs. A newborn’s stomach is only as big as a marble, so in days 1-3 of life a mother produces something called colostrum. It is a thicker liquid packed with calories, fat, and immunity-enhancing properties necessary to help a baby thrive in the first few days. As the baby grows, a new mother’s milk changes as well, thinning from colostrum to the more familiar milk-like substance. Sidenote: Ever wonder how the 2 oz. nursettes in the hospital nurseries fit into a newborn’s stomach the size of a marble? Just something to think about. Check out the video to the left for more health benefits of breastfeeding!
Nutritional components aside, the biggest obstacles mothers face is horror stories from friends and family. It is absolutely crazy how many people will tell you everything that went wrong with their pregnancy, labor, delivery and infant feeding experience as soon as they hear you are pregnant. There is no promise that this experience will be easy for you, but it is comforting to know that you will have an awesome partner: your baby! Instinctually, your baby knows how to breastfeed, and letting him or her take the lead can greatly reduce the amount of pain or discomfort for the mother. It is important to know that, while pain may seem common, it is by no means “normal”. Pain is a signal to the body that something is not quite right, and, in the case of breastfeeding, this usually means there is a latch problem. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a professional that can recognize and help to correct this problem in just one or two sessions. If you qualify for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, you can meet with an IBCLC free of charge. Check to see if you qualify. Rest assured that these problems do not have to be permanent, do not be afraid to seek help.
There are several benefits to baby from breastfeeding. As compared to formula-fed babies, breastfed infants are less likely to develop chronic diseases, become obese during childhood, develop allergies, and more likely to succeed later in life. For moms, the biggest benefit is the bonding you will build with your newborn. The act of breastfeeding causes a release of several “feel-good” hormones to calm and relax you. That’s not all though! Moms who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer later in life and more likely to lose that postpartum weight! While breastfeeding, your body uses about 500 more calories per day than it normally would. If your eating habits remain constant, this is a big enough deficit to cause a 1 pound weight loss each week! Add in some exercise with baby and watch the number on that scale drop! Plus, breastfeeding is cheap. You just can’t beat that.
Your breastfeeding experience will be what you make it. Don’t listen too closely to negative talk from others, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and most of all don’t be afraid to try! Breastfeeding can be an amazing experience for both you and baby and really benefit you both in the long run. I really encourage you to leave your positive breastfeeding experiences in the comments section for other new moms to be inspired by! Empower each other! And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @ExaminerRfdNutr