Daddy Duty

Sleep, Eat, Diaper Change. Repeat.

Breast is Best

on January 25, 2012

I never thought I’d do a post on breastfeeding, but there’s was just a sit in at Targets across the country because a breastfeeding mother who was covered up was thrown out of the store. As the story ran, there were a lot of comments from people that simply didn’t know much about breastfeeding. So, I thought I’d do a quick post to clarify a couple of things. If you’ve chosen to bottle-feed, all the more power to you.  However, as we chose to breast feed and faced several hurdles starting out, I wanted to provide some insight into what we learned and our experience so you may know what to expect.
First of all, almost all benefits in the world go towards breastfeeding:

  • It contains active infection-fighting white blood cells and natural chemicals that give increased protection against infections in the first months, when these can be the most serious.
  • It contains the perfect proportion of nutrients that your baby needs, including protein, carbohydrates, fat, and calcium.
  • It is easily digestible.
  • It may protect against allergies and asthma in the future.
  • It may decrease a baby’s risk of obesity in the future.
  • It may contain some fatty acids that promote brain development.
  • Breastfeeding can help new mothers lose weight more easily.
  • It comes out the perfect temperature
  • It’s always available.
  • It’s free.

Knowing all of this, who wouldn’t breastfeed assuming there’s not a health issue etc? Pre-pregnancy, I assumed that the baby came out and a mother’s breasts just started flowing with milk. Such is not the case. The fact of the matter is that breastfeeding is HARD WORK. Hard, hard work. It’s hard work for both the baby and the mother especially early on as the mother needs to build her supply and the baby will need to learn how to latch on to the breast and suck. It’s harder than you think because early on milk isn’t flowing instantly. It hurts starting out and an improper latch can bruise the nipples, cause sores and bleeding.

Taking that into account and it’s no wonder why bottle-feeding is popular, not to mention the convenience of a bottle. Once the formula (or pumped breast milk) is in, the bottle’s nipple literally just drops milk into the baby’s mouth with little to no effort. As a newborn, would you rather work at getting your food by sucking or simply sit back and have it free flow into you?

Assuming a new mother still wants to breastfeed knowing it will hurt starting out and she will be tired beyond belief, the earlier she starts the better. Literally, minutes after the baby is born is perfect. This is necessary so that the baby’s sucking action can send signals to the mother’s brain to begin producing milk.  If you start off formula feeding, it’s very hard to switch later on as the mother will lack a milk supply and will most likely refuse to eat from the breast after becoming accustomed to the bottle. The first couple of days, the breasts will only produce a couple of drops of a creamy, high-protein, low-fat “milk” called colostrum.  It’ll take roughly 3 to 4 days before the milk kicks in. From then on, the breasts need to be continually “eaten” so as to signal to the mother’s brain to keep producing. Without feeding or milking like this, the mother won’t develop a supply to which she could eventually pump and store for later feedings or even bottle feedings that daddy and others can do.

Going back to the Target issue that inspired this post,  there were a lot of posts about pumping the milk at home and giving it to babies in bottles at the store. Unfortunately, newborns simply can’t switch back and forth between breasts and bottles. Newborns become accustomed to the shape and flow of its mother’s nipple early on. Switching on them causes confusion and often leads to an outright refusal of the mother’s breast forcing the mother to bottle feed. This logic of nipple confusion also applies to pacifiers.

In an effort to personalize this post, we knew all of this before we went into labor thanks to our classes. After JJ was born, we attempted to breastfeed.  However, we became quite disappointed when JJ wasn’t latching on properly to eat and was effectively not eating. After a couple of attempts, it was advised to begin bottle feeding, despite knowing we wanted to breast feed as there was a fear JJ would quickly become dehydrated and malnourished if he didn’t get any food. We obliged in the best interest of our son and started with a couple of Similac bottles. 

When he was released from the hospital, we continued to try breastfeeding, but continued to struggle literally to the point of tears.  It was painful to watch as the father and I hired multiple lactation consultants to see if they had any tips at all that would help. The general consensus noted two early problems: the epidural literally knocked out JJ so he was sleepy early on and as he was a smaller baby, his mouth was too small to latch on properly. Despite the struggle,  I’m happy to say that after about a week of down right struggling and pain, my wife pushed through and our baby boy is happily breast feeding to this day.

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One response to “Breast is Best

  1. Amy says:

    I’m happy to hear that despite the struggle, your wife was able to successfully breastfeed. Breastfeeding provides a wonderful bonding experience between a mother and child. I breastfed my daughter for two years. Henry must already take the bottle, but I was blessed with being able to breastfeed him the first two months.

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