She picked up my child from out of the crib, slid him into a handmade sling, and gave him the nipple. At first, she had such a hard time learning how to guide him in the right direction, and teach him exactly how to latch on. By now, just a brush of that sweet-smelling breast across his cheek would activate his rooting reflex, and he would immediately begin feeding.
At times, I remember, in full gaga mode as a new father, feeling a fullness at the sight. My wife and child would often lock eyes, and I could see that at that moment, nothing else existed except the two of them. The way my wife would softly sing to him, make soothing noises, and talk to him about how much she was in love sparked some long-buried wish for that kind of deep connection. Every so often, my son, in the middle of his attachment bliss, would just breathe out deeply. I could almost smell the contentment.
The benefits of breastfeeding your baby are so numerous, I feel compelled to discuss them on this site as one of the best things you can do when you start out on the journey of parenting.
In an article in the highly-regarded journal Pediatrics, the authors say that “Human milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding.”
Breastmilk contains antibacterial properties that are powerful precisely because of the symbiotic relationship your baby and you have had for the past 9 or so months. No other method of feeding your baby contains such an exact mix of exactly what your baby needs to be healthy than the special product your body is constantly making just for him! It’s a custom meal plan better than any other.
In a recent brochure, created by James Allen and Debra Hector, for Public Health Policy in Australia, the benefits of breastfeeding your baby include lower rates of infectious disease, upper and lower respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal illnesses – and all of these outcomes occur “during the infant period and beyond!”
In addition, the benefits of breastfeeding your baby include probably protection against asthma, allergies, some childhood leukemias, UTI, inflammatory bowel disease, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), obesity and higher levels of cognitive ability.
These outcomes are just for the baby. Another set of amazing benefits of breastfeeding your baby are just for you, the mother. Women who breastfeed have lower levels of postpartum bleeding, a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight.
The story at the beginning of this article points to one last reason to breastfeed your baby. An article entitled, Breastfeeding, Bonding, and the Mother-Infant Relationship, discusses the bond between mothers and infants that is created as a result of breastfeeding. Dr. Elizabeth Miller, on her blog Richmondmom, says that, when asked, mothers often say that breastfeeding is “an enjoyable and emotionally beneficial experience.”
As a psychologist, I can imagine that the set-aside of time and the pure focus of attention that can take place during breastfeeding sessions would improve and build upon the bond that is so important for a child’s self-regard and powerful sense of agency as she matures.
One mother (the author of the second part of this article) describes the bonding that takes place during breastfeeding like this:
“All my life I have been at the center of my own world. Breastfeeding was my first introduction to motherhood. The moment my son latched on, my life changed. Suddenly I moved from being the center of my world to becoming the background in someone else’s. This completely helpless tiny being, now relied on me for survival. Maternal feelings took over; I felt protective and selfless love. I felt like a mom.
Everyone calls this the “bond” you develop through breastfeeding. As he grows in front of my eyes I cannot believe it has been through my milk.
This bond cannot be explained in words, it feels like a calm and safe place between the two of us. Breastfeeding is our private time, we look into each other’s eyes, and I sing sometimes, he giggles and smiles. It’s our special place of love.”
One special note: Some women find breastfeeding extremely painful in the early days, and this experience, devoid of the guidance of a trained nursing specialist or health care worker, can lead to them giving up. Also, a few women will give a formula bottle as a top-feed to breastmilk, unaware that this can cause their milk supply to reduce, which then becomes a reason for them to quit. If you are in this situation, don’t lose hope. You can still mimic the the interpersonal benefits that mothers and babies receive during breastfeeding. While your baby is taking her bottle, hold her, make eye contact, sing, speak to her in a loving voice, set aside everything else and just focus on the act of being close to her while she feeds. In so doing, the bonding experience can still be a special one for both of you.
Now that I’ve convinced you of the benefits of breastfeeding, I’d like to introduce you to Ms. Ophira Bhastekar, who has some practical tips to share. Ms. Bhastekar has a Master’s Degree in Life Sciences, and is a clinical researcher by profession. Currently on a maternity break, she blogs about a natural and baby-led way of parenting at Easymommylife.com. Her main focus is on topics like breastfeeding, baby-led weaning, healthy family life and nutrition. Please enjoy her insights about how to plan for the breastfeeding experience.
Breastfeeding can be a rollercoaster ride. The initial euphoria of a baby latching on can quickly swing toward doubt and anxiety about milk supply. For first time moms, breastfeeding can be an overwhelming experience. It can be quite intense and an eventful journey to say the least. But with a balanced mindset and preparation you can settle into a routine with your baby and succeed at breastfeeding.
As a new mom I planned to breastfeed for six months. In time, I learned about the numerous benefits of breastmilk which motivated me to keep going. I was enjoying the bond with my son and didn’t want to stop.
Before I get into breastfeeding essentials, I want to share some tips that will help you during the initial days.
- Get all the help you can. In order to focus on your breastfeeding relationship you need the support of your partner, parents and friends.
- A tired and stressed mother is bound to have supply issues. Create a nursing corner so that you have a calm environment to feed your baby. Relax and let others around the house do the chores; you need this time to bond with your baby.
- Eat nourishing foods. Their vitamins and minerals will get passed on to your baby.
- Try not to pump in the first month. It takes time for breast milk to establish and pumping in the first month might scare you into believing your milk supply is insufficient.
- Ensure you have a good latch. If it hurts every time you feed, you are probably doing it wrong. A good latch is when you start with the baby’s nose to your nipple so that she can open her mouth wide and your nipple can touch the roof of her mouth. The lower part of breast and areola should be covered by the baby’s mouth. This ensures proper sucking action.
- If you have any doubt in your mind or it hurts when you feed, visit a lactation consultant. I cannot stress this point enough. Getting the right support and guidance early on can determine how long you will successfully breastfeed. Get help if you are struggling.
Now let’s get started with some essential items you will need to breastfeed.
As a new breastfeeding mom, you will experience arm and back pain. After going through the exhausting experience of labor, you will now have a mini human attached to you all the time. It’s not easy. But a breastfeeding pillow offers good support for your arms and back. This is a purchase that you don’t want to skip.
You may experience sore nipples due to constant latching and unlatching. Natural Nipple Butter can be used between feeds to moisturize the sore area and heal any cracks and bruises. I found nipple butters with calendula extracts to be quite helpful for quick healing.
Breastfeeding makes you super thirsty. It is handy to have a water bottle by your side.
The first few weeks of breastfeeding usually bring with them breast engorgement and leaks. Leaks can happen at times even when you are in an established breastfeeding routine. Nursing pads are a savior especially when you go out with baby. You don’t want your nice clothes to get spoiled.
Once the milk supply is established a breast pump can give you a much needed break from constant feeds. Pump milk when your baby sleeps and let a family member take over the next feed. You can use this time for yourself. Get some sleep, catch up on a book or go out with friends. I personally found an electric pump easier to use compared to a manual pump.
Round the clock breastfeeding can make you ravenously hungry. I found a combination of dates and nuts to be the most filling snack. Other snacks like hard boiled eggs, peanut butter sandwiches, hearty soups and smoothies are quite satiating too. Listen to your body. If you crave it, chances are you or your baby need something that it contains. This is your body’s way of motivating you to supply the vitamins or minerals that are running low.
A good nursing bra with clickable clasps makes it easy to unhook when your baby is in a hurry to feed.
A nursing cover is a great option to feed in public. You can even use a big wrap or shawl if you have one. Always pack one in your diaper bag.
I hope this list helps as you prepare for your new baby. If you are a veteran breastfeeding mom, which products do you swear by? What stories do you have about the bonding experience that breastfeeding creates?
Enjoy your parenting! It won’t last forever.