August is National Breastfeeding Month, and I know that the subject of breastfeeding has been discussed ad nauseum, and everyone from Gisele Bundchen to New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, has an opinion.
But Mommies, we should be breastfeeding our babies because it’s easier. No, really, it is. You know that it’s healthier for them—how it increases their immunity and prevents both chronic disease and obesity. Now studies show that it can lead to smarter children, too. As if we need one more way to feel competitive about our child’s success and intelligence. You can figure out pretty quick that breastfeeding is also cheaper, and you don’t really need another excuse to snuggle your new baby. Do it because it’s simpler and easier in the long run.
Let me explain—I do not begin to pretend that breastfeeding every newborn is easy for every new mother. That ‘perfect latch’ can be elusive, and for some reason, many of those little critters want to fall asleep before they’ve had the slightest sip. Some mothers’ milk, for whatever reason, takes awhile to come in after their babies are born. None of this means that you need to throw in the towel, weep post-partum hormonal tears, and resign yourself to bottle-feeding your little bundle. Formula was a wonderful invention made for babies and mommies at a time when not everyone could hire a wet nurse.
If you can’t seem to get that milk flowing the way you want it to, be assured that your baby will not starve. Give them formula if it’s not working at first, but keep trying. Because, seriously, when you’ve got to wake up at 2am, 4am and 6am to feed your squalling infant, you don’t want to be measuring out sticky powder, perfecting temperatures, and freaking out over sterilization. You want to be able to lift up your shirt and pop that puppy on. Breast milk is the perfect temperature, the ideal measurement, in an easy to feed container, and completely sterile—voila, and your baby is fed. That’s the beauty of breastfeeding. It really is nature’s perfect food.
There are plenty of support groups out there, including La Leche League and local help through the hospital at which your baby was born. Just because your baby drinks formula at first, or you need to supplement because you’ve gone back to work, or don’t seem to be producing as much, don’t feel like you’ve just failed the Perfect Mother Olympics. There is no prize for breastfeeding your child exclusively for the prescribed number of months or years. Something is better than nothing, and in the middle of the night, or when your older baby is ill and can’t tolerate any other food, breastmilk is a great source of food. Don’t be discouraged and don’t let other mothers judge you one way or the other. You know you’re doing the best you can for you, your baby and your family.
But because this is National Breastfeeding month, give it a try (if you’re about to have a baby) or keep going, or do it a little more. It’s good for them, for you, and once you get the hang of it, it’s so much easier. Really.
Photos courtesy of womenshealth.gov and my own darling girl.