Sunday, August 12, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week

I meant to post this during World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7 each year) but life was chaotic as always and I forgot to come back and finish the post. So here it is, a few days later than I intended, but that’s okay!

I was 18 years old when I first attempted breastfeeding. My oldest son had a hard time latching, I was in terrible pain, and I switched to formula after a few tearful, exhausting weeks.

Ten years later, I am typing this post while nursing my third baby. He is eight months old and still going strong. My second child weaned at 27 months old.

What changed? Was it easier to establish nursing with my second and third children? No, not really. With my second child, I had a particularly hard time with latching at first. It took several weeks for nursing to be as easy and comfortable as I had expected. It took less time with my third, I suppose because I was much more experienced at breastfeeding by then, but it still wasn’t easy right away.
I think people often assume that because breastfeeding is nature’s design, it will come very naturally. But for me and many others that hasn’t been the case. It really does take practice and patience. Sometimes it takes time to figure out a good latch and to find the most comfortable breastfeeding positions for you and your baby. Some women have trouble producing enough milk; some have issues with oversupply. And sometimes it can be frustrating!

But the benefits of breastfeeding are so worth it. Not continuing to breastfeed my oldest is one of my biggest regrets. Looking back, I truly believe we could have continued successfully if I’d had more education, support, and encouragement from professionals, friends, and family. I did have some, but it wasn’t enough.

And that is why I am posting this: to inform people of the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage new moms to seek support. It is why I breastfeed publicly when my child is hungry, to demonstrate that it is natural, normal, and beneficial. It is why I offer friends encouragement and support when they have babies. Many new moms have called or messaged me over the past few years asking for advice or just needing someone to commiserate with them, to affirm that yes, it can be hard at first; yes, you can do it; and yes, it is totally and completely worth it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, then continued breastfeeding with complementary foods up to age 2 or beyond. Breastfeeding offers so many benefits. The baby receives antibodies through breastmilk, has a reduced chance of developing ear infections and diabetes, and the baby’s brain development is boosted. Breastfeeding moms benefit too, with a lower risk of breast cancer and the lovely calorie-burning perks of breastfeeding (yours truly has lost all her pregnancy weight along with another 15 pounds, thanks to breastfeeding). And that’s not all; the benefits of breastfeeding could fill a book– and many such books have been written! I recommend The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.

Also, I saw this sign at my local breastfeeding support group and wanted to share.


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