Breastmilk: Perfect for Lazy Moms like Me

Here’s an article that goes far in the Breast vs Bottle Debate and it comes from Nature.

Time and time again, formula companies tout their milk as “close” to breastmilk. Researchers are discovering more and more reasons why it will only ever be “close” and never be superior to, or even equal to, breastmilk.

The article explains:

Indeed, the fact there are so many bioactive molecules in breast milk means that breastfeeding is an activity that empowers mothers. He adds, “The more we learn about the details of breast milk the more we realize that males have a little chance to influence their offspring by non-genetic pathways. Mothers have a very rich opportunity.”

In non-Geek speak, that means breastmilk does things for mothers and babies on a genetic level that formula cannot compete with without gene modification. Breastmilk changes and modifies genes on a mother-baby specific level. The only way formula can do that is to make formula for each baby based on that baby’s needs. Formula is One Size Fits all. Breastmilk is One Size Fits ONE.

As a mother who has done both breast and bottle feeding, I can honestly say, I’m really too lazy to bottle feed. During the first few sleep deprived weeks of new motherhood where you are questioning your ability (and sometimes sanity) in raising a child, the bottle seems the easier option. There is less perceived pressure. Things are measurable. There are assurances that you recognize from societal norms that you are doing the right thing. When you are breaking ground among your family and friends as a new breastfeeding mother, those cues are often missing. You question yourself and your ability.

But the secret is, breastfeeding gets easier. You and the baby get the hang of it. And, did I mention, it gets easier than bottles in the middle of the night, during the day, during long car rides, hikes in the woods?

Once you gain that self confidence, breastfeeding can be done pretty much anywhere at any time.

It is far more liberating to go out with baby knowing all you need to do is throw a diaper in your purse, grab the keys and GO. The bulky diaper bag full of STUFF is completely optional. I stopped carrying a diaper bag after my third child. There really wasn’t anything I needed in the bag that I couldn’t carry in my purse. No need for snacks, bottles, formula, changes of clothes, etc. Of course my van suffered for that, but it really is a house on wheels and our family could really survive in it for several days (and we’re not just talking eating the smashed up food that makes its ways into the cracks and crevices of the carseats, thank you very much).

By the time baby number six came along and we crammed all the kids in a minivan and drove cross country (because we believe in torturing ourselves for the benefit of the children), it was quite easy to sit in the van next to the carseat and lean a bit to let her nurse instead of stopping. That’s another “perk” to breastfeeding (tho I’m not sure perk is the right word to use when you’re a 38DD Long): You don’t have to get out of the seatbelt or lean too far forward to nurse in a rear facing carseat, or roll over to the side to nurse at night…

The power of support

I never sent out to be a breastfeeding advoate. Those who knew me when I was young and idealistic knew I was more of a “spout my ideas off in a contained and controlled format” kind of person. I wrote for the college newspaper and had a couple brief stints working as an actual reporter for real newspapers. I had plenty of ideas, but my ideas were for other people to implement. Never did I set out to actual change the world myself.

But the very act of having a child changes the world.  And I don’t have just one child. I have six. By  many accounts, not only have I changed the world, I’ve lost my mind!

I have to admit that there are many days when I question my sanity in having a large family. But, there are just as many days when I look at them and county my blessings. I name them one by one. I start with my husband’s name and whisper each of my children’s names, as well. I am truly blessed.

While my husband doesn’t always understand why breastfeeding is so important to me, he supports me in my passion. He’d be happy as a clam if I’d just nurse for a year. But, he also knows that it’s not about him, so he keeps his mouth shut. LOL When baby girl went on a 12 day nursing strike, never once did he suggest I give up. He actually gave me good advice! It was like he had been listening all the times I had given advice to mothers and had retained some of the information. I was completely shocked. 😉

This is World Breatsfeeding Week. You don’t have to participate in a large event to have a big impact. I don’t have any big plans myself aside from what I always do: nursing in public, offering support to other mothers, and letting my children see that breastfeeding is normal.  And, that’s really all you have to do.

Just Try

I never intended to breatfeed. The thought of it really grossed me out. As a survivor of childhood abuse, I had always been incredibly uncomfortable with my body and breastfeeding…no way.

My husband asked me to just try nursing. I am not sure what his motivation was to suggest I just try it. His mother only breastfed her last two children. I’m sure DH must have remembered. My mother-in-law said the healthiest of her children were the ones she breastfed.

Still, I was completely on the fence about breastfeeding right up until I went in to labor…at 31 weeks.

I was hospitalized for two weeks trying to prevent my son from being born. In the end, he was born at 33 weeks gestation weighing 4 lbs 1 oz. He was so tiny. His head fit in the palm of my hand. We were incredibly blessed. My son was a fighter. He was what is referred to as a “feeder-grower.” He didn’t need any help breathing. He was there just to grow. At the time, babies had to be 5 lbs to go home.

As I looked at my tiny newborn son, I felt as if my body had failed to protect him.  He was still supposed to be inside growing, not outside confined to a box with IVs running in to him. There was really nothing I could do to help him..Until my biological father came for a visit when the baby was 2 days old.

My bio-dad is a NICU nurse at a Baby Friendly Hospital. He looked at me and said there was no reason that my 33 week gestation baby should not be nursing.  I gave it a try and sure enough, he latched on! And he nursed.

I was given a breast pump by the hospital and started pumping. Other mothers would bring in full bottles of milk. I was lucky to bring in an ounce. The nurses at the hospital told me I didn’t have any milk because I wasn’t pumping much. But I’m stubborn. If you tell me I can’t do something, I will. I was determined to nurse my baby, regardless of what the nursing staff was telling me!

Each feeding session, I’d put the baby to breast and then the nurses would tube feed him.  And, then he’s promptly throw up every ounce of formula they fed him! There was a bit of the nurses being confused as to how this baby who wasn’t “keeping any feeds down” was gaining 4 ounces a day!

We came home from the NICU when he was 21 days old. Once we were home, I kept on nursing. I didn’t seek out support from La Leche League, nor did I have any support from the family. There were no negative comments from the family either. My husband was happy I was trying to nurse.

The lack of support wasn’t harmful, but I have to say, the lack of negative comments was very helpful. I didn’t have anyone telling me I was doing anything wrong. I didn’t have anyone telling me I didn’t have enough milk. I existed in a vacuum. Nursing my baby based on what I felt I needed to do in my heart. I brought my baby in to my bed because it was easier. And I rolled my eyes at the stories on the internet of people having a “Family Bed.” I had no idea! I carried my baby everywhere and wore him in a front pack because it felt right. It was amazing that left to my own devices, I grew confident in my ability to mother. By just trying and not having those other voices whispering in my ears, I learned to find my own mothering voice.

And this is the advice I give to all new moms:  Listen to your own heart. If it doesn’t feel right in your heart, then don’t do it. But above all, just try.