Saturday, October 20, 2007


As already related, I knew I wanted to cloth diaper my children, but that was really about as crunchy as I was at that point. I had decided that I would give breastfeeding a try--maybe for a few months. I didn't really see the advantages of nursing past 6. I mean, they get solids by then right? Well, fortunately my doctor was pro-breastfeeding, and the WIC office in Moscow, Idaho had a great lactation consultant on staff. And my mil had nursed all 4 of her children for over a year. So I had good support. Good thing too!
At about 4 months, M was diagnosed with food sensitivities through my milk. I had to go completely off of dairy and we tried lots of other foods too. I went on an elimination diet while nursing a child who threw everything up. My calories needs were through the roof. We got him fairly settled after a while and he did much better. I took him to an allergist who told me to be careful with the hypo-allergenic formulas because with M's profile, he would develop an allergy to them within 6 months. I did have to use some formula due to school. I had a 5+ hour class that didn't really allow for pumping time. My sister-in-law did bring M by to nurse during a break I had set up with my profs and that worked pretty well. But with M nursing so much even at this point (he was nearly a year old) I didn't have milk left (or time left) to pump. So he had formula 3x/week or more. He did, indeed develop an allergy to it. I wish I knew then what I know now. Anyone else feel that way?
So, with M limited diet, we went on to nurse for nearly 3 years. Probably saved his life, certainly his health, and possibly a shred of our sanity. I don't claim to have all my sanity anymore-that's for sure. But by being an "extended-nurser," I ran across lots of information I may not have otherwise been exposed to. Other women who had nursed their children past that magic first birthday came out of the woodwork to offer friendship and support. And of course, reading Mothering and cruising the boards at MDC, I learned A LOT! I found out I was not just providing a food my son could tolerate. Breastfeeding is about so much more. I have a totally different take on it now.
The WHO and other organizations say breastfeeding should continue for AT LEAST one year. Not yank the baby off the breast on their first birthday and expect them to be happy about it. Breastmilk changes in composition during the day and over the years. It always provides just what babies and toddlers need. I really wish I had been able to continue nursing G and provide more milk for him because he is such a picky eater. If I knew he was going to nurse several times a day, I wouldn't worry about it since breastmilk would provide him with the nutrition he needs--much more than a bowl of rice can, which seems to be his meal of choice.
The milk also provides nutrients that scientists either a) haven't been able to identify or b) cannot synthesize. That means that there are hundreds of components of breastmilk that may never make it into formula. Some of the most important of these are the immune factors that mom passes onto baby. A child who is breastfed over a year has a good chance at facing illnesses his mom has been exposed to in her lifetime.
Beyond the milk, breastfeeding provides other benefits to mom, baby, the family and the world at large.
Mom has higher rates of cancer, especially breast, uterine and ovarian, if she chooses not to breastfeed. The longer she breastfeeds, it appears, the less her risk. Breasfeeding also acts a natural birth control. It's not guaranteed, but nursing on demand for every feeding will suppress ovulation. Even though I used some bottles and a pacifier, I still got to be ovulation and period free for 16 months! Breastfeeding is also EASY. Really, after the learning period, it is so easy. For most (I have heard valid horror stories). Food is always ready, always the right concentration, nothing to wash or measure or pack. With M, all I had to pack up when we went somewhere were a few diapers. How easy is that? And all that "I didn't have enough milk" is bull. What you didn't have was enough support. To have enough milk you need good food, plenty of water and rest. There are some reasons why women may not have enough milk, but they are so rare compared to what people make it out to be. And even if your supply is low, there are herbs to increase supply, and supplementers if need be. Hey--I have almost no supply! I adopted my 2 youngest.
Benefits are numerous for baby. Many are common knowledge like the healthier infancy--less sickness and all. Baby is allowed to do what they were born to do. Breastfeeding gives baby the cuddle time they will need regardless of whether or not they are breastfed. If you don't want to cuddle your baby, you won't get out of it by bottle feeding. Actually, if you don't want to cuddle your baby, either don't get pregnant in the first place, or contact a reputable adoption attorney. Ahem, moving on. Bottle feeding drastically increases the likelihood of diabetes, obesity, and allergies, as well as other autoimmune disorders. Some of this is because of mom's anitbodies, some is from the nutrition in breastmilk. For obesity and Type2 Diabetes (which are closely linked anyway right) it comes from the simple fact that baby controls the amount of food he gets. When bottle feeding it is so easy to force baby to take a little bit more, or stop because the bottle is empty. Baby learns that his hunger and satiety cues are not important and that someone else should be in charge of that. At the breast, baby nurses until full and asks for more when hungry. He learns to recognize the feelings of hunger and when he is full. This carries over into adulthood. How many adults are obese because they can't really tell when they are full?
The community at large benefits from breastfed babies. Formula is hard on the environment. Every factory is another contributor to pollution. And then, all those canisters, scoops, boxes, paper tubes, lids, bottle liners and old bottles really add up. Not as much as disposable diapers, granted, but still it is a huge impact. The health care costs are high as well. Formula feeding leads to more ER visits and just plain more doctor visits. The government could save millions if it didn't give away so much formula through WIC.
Unfortunately, I have to use formula. I did my research and found an organic formula I feel pretty good about. I am also taking nearly 4,000 mg of fenugreek, plus a blend of other galactogenic herbs. I also eat oats every day and try to get in some greens (need to be better about that one) and drink lots of water. I could take Domperidone, but haven't felt that is right for us yet. Maybe I will later. Since I can't make enough milk, I supplement with formula at the breast using a Lact-Aid nursing trainer. It is awesome. E likes it too. He'll take a bottle, but prefers me. That is especially nice for me. Since we didn't get that 9 months of bonding time in utero, it is nice to have a way to get to know each other and get familiar with each other. I hope I can breastfeed him longer than I did G. He made it about 9 months. I hope I have learned a few things that will help us go longer. Maybe I can even build up more of a supply so that after he is well established on solids, we won't even need the trainer any more. Could happen. I am so grateful to be able to breastfeed my boys at all. I am also grateful for my good friend who donated milk to me last time and has offered to again. That means so much to me.
Breastmilk rocks!

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