Written By: The Green Crunchy Mother
The decision to breastfeed your baby is a personal decision that only you can make. You need to evaluate your life situation, and determine if breastfeeding is right for you and your baby. We all come from different walks of life, and each and every one of us is unique.
After doing some research, I found out that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for up to six months of age. Experts also suggest that you can continue to breastfeed until your child is two years of age and beyond. These recommendations have both been made by the World Health Organization, and the Canadian Pediatric Association. http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/ http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/n/breastfeedingmar05.htm
What exactly does it mean to exclusively breastfeed? The World Health Organization describes exclusive breastfeeding as the practice of feeding only breast milk (including expressed breast milk) and allows the baby to receive vitamins, minerals or medicine. Any other forms of liquid or solids are excluded from this definition.
Do you need to supplement your baby’s diet with Vitamin D if you chose exclusive breastfeeding? The answer to this is yes. Health Canada, and the Canadian Pediatric Association both state that if a mother chooses to exclusively breastfeed, she should also supplement with vitamin D daily. The baby should be supplemented with this until their diet provides a reliable source or until they reach one year of age.
What is colostrum? The World Health Organization describes colostrum as the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy. Colostrum contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease, as well as being lower in fat and higher in protein than ordinary milk. They recommend that this is the perfect food for newborns. Also, offering the newborn colostrum should be initiated within the first hour of birth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colostrum
As can be seen, there are many great reasons to follow these recommendations and breastfeed your baby exclusively. After speaking with many other mothers, I discovered that most of us have a unique story to tell. Our experiences do not always go as planned, nor do they follow the recommendations. Let the following stories inspire you, as they did for me.
Alicia stated that: “I loved breastfeeding. It was so natural. I struggled in the beginning because I had difficulties getting my baby to latch on so I worked with a lactation consultant. She was very helpful and worked with me until I was able to do so successfully on my own. I do get confused at times because my baby would cry and I would try to nurse the baby but they didn’t want any milk and would eventually go to sleep in a short few minutes. I thought that I was doing something wrong. Shortly thereafter, I understood that the baby was sleepy and not hungry. As soon as the baby woke up, he nursed. It got easier after the first month and after the next baby. I loved it because it was a bonding experience that made me feel a strong connection with my baby that I am not sure I could have experienced in any other way”.
Ginny Marie shared: “Oh, I loved breastfeeding! But I did have trouble building my milk supply since I only had one breast due to cancer. I used pumping to build my supply the first time, and a nursing supplement system the second time. I nursed both my girls until they were 20 months”.
Mama Alvina said: “I exclusively breastfed all of my 6 children. The older ones I nursed for a shorter amount of time because I had to go back to work but the last three I nursed longer because I’m a stay at home mom now. I’m currently nursing my 17 month old and I’m due in July with our 7th. I have mixed feelings on if I want to wean her a couple months before I’m due or just tandem nurse once baby comes”.
Esther said: “I breast feed until they are one year and can drink cow’s milk. It’s always tough in the beginning and then by a year I’m ready for a little freedom! I had to supplement with my three year old. He just wasn’t getting enough and losing weight. I had to nurse and then give him formula every couple of hours. It was exhausting, but I only did it a couple of months”. It began that way with my youngest but I put my life on hold and didn’t go anywhere, just took it easy and fed him every two hours until he began gaining”.
DM said: “I was in the Army when I had my son. That was back in the 80’s . There was no way to make it possible then. So he was bottle fed”.
Shari said: “With my younger ones I nursed until I was pregnant again..about 2 1/2 old for all three .. I was definitely ready for some freedom by the time I was done :)”.
Just One Mommy said: “I nursed my oldest until she was 14 months. She still wanted to nurse at bedtime, but I was due with our second in a few months, and I didn’t want to nurse 2 at once, nor did I want her to remember nursing and think the baby took her spot, so we weaned her. Our second chose to stop nursing at 13 months and never looked back”.
Candice said: “I`m actually working on a post called “The other side of breast feeding” because I was a mom who really wanted to breast feed but circumstances made it impossible. We had so many issues that I wasn`t able to breast feed and it really opened my eyes to Mom`s on the other side! The next baby we are totally planning to breast feed but if it doesn’t happen I won’t be heart broken. It really opened my eyes how people judge mothers who don’t breast feed. I know
“I got a lot of judgment, and people didn’t even know my story! I couldn’t tell my story because it was still too painful to whisper to God let alone a stranger. Finally I am comfortable telling my story and I want to bring awareness to the issue”.
My experience with breastfeeding did not turn out the way the experts had suggested. Instead, it was a journey that brought on sadness, and disappointment.
I always imagined breast feeding was going to be a blissful, stress-free experience. How complicated can be it be, I thought to myself? I have witnessed many mothers nursing their babies. It looked simple, and natural. I never imagined that something as natural as breast feeding would bring on so many challenges.
My experience with breast feeding my three boys followed a somewhat similar pattern. In the beginning, after their births, my milk production was abundant. Running out of milk was never an issue for the first three months. Luckily, I had no issues with the latch either. All seemed perfect and easy.
The trouble started around the third month of nursing. For some reason, around this time, my milk production had decreased significantly. No matter how hard I tried, or no matter how much extra milk I pumped out, the production would just not increase. I read books, and I researched. Nothing helped.
All I was left with was hungry babies who were looking to be nursed. My husband would watch me struggle, and suggest that I supplement with formula. No, I thought to myself, I refuse to give up that easily. I kept going, with determination.
After a few days of watching my babies cry out of hunger, I made the decision to supplement the breastfeeding with infant formula. I watched how they sucked the bottle dry because they were so hungry. I felt a sense of relief because the crying had stopped, and their bellies were full. The boys eventually preferred the sweet taste of infant formula over breast milk. Gradually, over a period of several months, the babies preferred to be exclusively bottle fed.
At the same time as feeling relived, a sense of sadness washed over me. Many other feelings occurred all at the same time. Feelings only a mother in my situation would understand. I felt disappointed, and I felt as if I had failed my babies. I also felt that I gave up too quickly.
I would watch other mothers with envy as they nursed their babies aged one year and up. How come it did not work out for me planned ? I had wanted to nurse also for at least one year.
Eventually, I made peace with my situation. I knew in my heart, I gave it my best shot. My experience has not been what research suggested it should have been.
In my opinion, the recommendation on how long you should be nursing sets many of us up for failure. It puts a lot of pressure on us mother’s for no reason.
Instead of feeling forced to follow recommendations, I believe every situation should be treated as unique. The focus should be on our life situation, and our circumstance. If you chose not to breast feed at all, that is ok too.
My experience has taught me, that sometimes, things don’t always turn out the way we had planned. In a few years from now, will all this matter anyway? It will probably not.
What has been your experience with breast feeding?