I think the most important thing to give a baby is love. Whether you breastfeed or not, your baby will be OK. I was formula fed as a baby and I turned out great, right?
I didn’t know a lot about breastfeeding before getting my original job as nutrition coordinator at the state Department of Health. For those who don’t know, breastfeeding has benefits for both baby and mama. Baby has less risk for asthma, allergies, ear infections, respiratory infections, and other diseases. For mom, the risk for certain cancers including breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression is lowered. Some research has shown that breastfeeding can help mom lose weight more quickly and prevent obesity in older kids. Breastfeeding also has a lower environmental impact since you don’t have to use all the formula packaging.
Thanks to my job, I knew all this when I got pregnant with my first child, and made a strong commitment to breastfeeding. Having this commitment and a wicked stubborn streak helped me out when all did not go as planned. My son latched on right away, so I didn’t think that was a problem. The delivery room nurses were great – they brought him up to nurse very soon after delivery, and showed me how to do it. But then, my milk did not come in right away. I felt like a complete failure! The two nights I spent in the hospital are hazy, but I remember that the night nurse kept trying to feed him some kind of sugar supplement and I was like Luke fighting the Dark Side and would not let her. He was crying a lot (poor little guy), which was tough on me and my husband. So, we ended up giving him a pacifier before my milk supply was established. Hospital policy didn’t allow pacifiers; however, the nurse had a hidden supply that we were thrilled with at the time.
A lot of different factors affect whether and how long a woman will breastfeed, and if she will follow the American Pediatrics Association's guideline to provide only breast milk for about the first 6 months. Individual knowledge, cultural background, physical ability, and support from her family, birthing hospital, primary care provider, child care provider, and employers all factor into a woman’s success with nursing. In future “Breastfeeding Chronicles” posts, I will write about my family’s quest to breastfeed, and the internal and external forces that shaped our journey.
May the force be with you!