Category: Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Guide

A lot of love and work went into creating this breastfeeding guide. Check it out: http://babychangingstation.com/breastfeeding/

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Colostrum – Liquid Gold

Colostrum is your first milk & baby’s first food. Some pregnant mamas can produce colostrum as early as in their second trimester, others not until after baby is born. Colostrum is thicker & stickier than regular milk and is often yellow-ish in color.

Colostrum is liquid gold. Most women don’t produce a lot of it, and baby only needs what each mama produces. Every drop is precious and your baby can never have enough. A newborn baby has a stomach the size of their palm.

Colostrum helps prevent Jaundice but helping baby poop. It contains living cells, antibodies, enzymes, probiotics and anything else a particular baby may need at the time of birth. Until mom’s milk comes in, around days 3 – 5, colostrum will be baby’s first source of food.

Hand Expression of Colostrum

Hand Expression of Colostrum

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Breast Crawl After Birth

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Latch and Alternating Breasts During a Feeding can Cause Colic

A mother with her infant at a Government hospital in Chennai during the `World Breast Feeding Week' in August 2004. — Photo: V. Ganesan

A mother with her infant at a Government hospital in Chennai during the `World Breast Feeding Week' in August 2004. — Photo: V. Ganesan

TWO WEEKS after our son Louis was born, three months ago, he started showing signs of colic.

At around six in the evening, he would cry loudly and inconsolably for no apparent reason, his back arched and his legs doubled up. Since our daughter Olive (now three) had done the same, we were not altogether surprised.

To add to the grief, my wife got mastitis, which we assumed was the reason each feed felt as if she were having her nipples slashed with razor blades. The antibiotics to treat it only made our son worse, upsetting his tummy. As we lurched towards meltdown and bottle-feeding, a health visitor suggested we visit midwives Chloe Fisher and Sally Inch, said to be the international queens of breastfeeding, at their drop-in clinic at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital in southern England.

That they could help us with the mastitis seemed plausible, but I was sceptical when Fisher told us that the colic was also to do with my wife’s breastfeeding technique. No one had told us that colic had anything to do with how you breastfeed.

The ailment has baffled medical scientists seeking a biological cause. Only social, rather than medical, science seems to provide some clues. Most, if not all, babies in developed nations get some of the symptoms, yet it is rare or unknown in developing ones. A possible reason is that in the latter countries, babies are constantly held, fed effectively and on demand. Babies cry less whose mothers carry them for three hours or more, or feed on demand during the first two months. Another reason could be the lack of social support and the hard-working, stressful lives of pregnant mothers in developed nations.

It came, therefore, as a great surprise to me when Fisher told us that colic in the breastfed baby is primarily due to something as simple as not attaching the baby to the breast correctly, which means that the baby is unable to `drain’ the breast properly during feeds.

Fisher enunciated two principles: “First, don’t assume the breast is like a bottle. The milk is in the breast, not in the nipple, whereas with a bottle, the milk is in the teat. To feed effectively from the breast the baby must scoop in a deep mouthful of breast, whereas with a bottle, it can just suck on the end of the teat.

Wrong assumption

Second, people wrongly assume the middle of the baby’s mouth is halfway between the top and bottom lip. In fact, the middle is between the upper surface of the tongue and the upper palate.

For the baby to draw sufficient breast tissue into its mouth, it must be able to get its tongue well away from the base of the nipple and that won’t happen unless the breast is presented between the tongue and the upper palate.”

If the baby did not attach properly, the midwives told us, it would not drain the breast properly and would keep compressing the nipple between the tongue and hard palate, turning it into something resembling minced lamb.

Next came the other important point: “Only switch breasts when the well-attached baby comes off the breast spontaneously and seems completely satisfied,” said Fisher.

“In offering the second breast, let the baby decide whether he wants it. If the mother starts each feed on alternate breasts (regardless of whether the baby has had one or two at a feed), the breasts will get roughly even use.

The important thing is to allow the baby to finish the first breast first.” Failing to do this is the main cause of colic. Fisher also told us that the initial milk is low in fat and calories.

If you switch breasts before the high-fat milk has been drunk, the baby will take more from the second breast than he would otherwise have done.

Despite the relatively huge volume of liquid in its stomach, the baby will then be wanting another feed before long, because low-fat feeds are processed quickly, leading to a pattern of frequent feeding.

This can cause mental illness-inducing sleep deprivation, but worst of all, it will cause colic. Both poor attachment and breast switching result in the baby taking frequent, large-volume, low-fat feeds, which in turn lead to rapid emptying of the stomach into the large intestine.

If too much gets there too fast, there is not enough of the enzyme lactase to break the sugar in the milk (lactose) down. The gut turns into a malfunctioning brewery, with fermentation of the sugar in the excess milk creating gas and explosive poos. The crying, arched back, rigid tummy and irritability of colic follow.

I was flabbergasted. If all this were really true, why on earth was not everyone told about it, especially considering the damage done to the mental health of parents by colic? Fisher replied that she and Dr MikeWoolridge had published the hypothesis in the journal the Lancet 17 years ago.

Fisher believes she is right because she has seen thousands of mothers solve the problem by following their advice, but since the 1988 paper, her theory has been scientifically tested. Inch doubted that my wife actually had infectious mastitis or had needed antibiotics for it and easily proved her point.

Back pressure

The inflamed breast was due to back pressure within the ductal system of the breast, she said. Ineffective milk removal was not keeping pace with milk production so the milk could no longer be contained within the ductal system.

It was forced into the connective tissue of the breast, where it gets treated as a foreign protein, with subsequent inflammation and pain. All of which was of more than academic interest to us.

While we returned to the Thursday clinic for a booster course in attaching to the breast, from the first moment my wife did it properly, the pain was much less. From that very night our son was free of colic and within a week, the `mastitis’ was disappearing. — ©Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

This story reprinted from: http://www.hinduonnet.com/seta/2005/04/07/stories/2005040700141700.htm

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Breastfeeding Myths

I’ve pulled these tidbits from various breastfeeding and parenting books and from personal conversations. Shout out goes to Bestfeeding, an awesome awesome breastfeeding book, which is where the majority of this chart is from.

Myth: You must toughen your nipple in pregnancy so they don’t get sore during breastfeeding
Reality: Nipple must be soft and pliable for baby. If baby has a good latch, your nipples won’t get damaged.

Myth: Women who have fair skin, red hair or blue eyes are sensitive and breastfeeding will hurt.
Reality: If that were true, how would these fair skinned beauties survived all these thousands of years before formula was invented? If women who fit this description have sore nipples, then they need help with positioning and latching.

Myth: You must feed baby immediately after birth or breastfeeding won’t work.
Reality: There is no crucial time when breastfeeding has to take place or it won’t happen at all. Studies do show that women who breastfeed within the first two hours after birth do go on to have a longer breastfeeding relationship with their baby.

Myth: You must time your baby’s feeds to prevent sore nipples.
Reality: Sore nipples are caused from improper positioning, not from baby spending too much time at the breast. In fact, the more time baby spends sucking, the more milk your body will produce.

Myth: You will make as much milk as the amount of water you drink per day.
Reality: Milk production depends on how much time baby is allowed to spend suckineg at the breast. Though moms often get very thirsty when breastfeeding and should drink to thirst, milk supply is not directly related to water intake.

Myth: Babies need bottles of water or they will become dehydrated.
Reality: Supplementing water can interfere with your milk supply. Babies get everything they need from breastfeeding as long as the latch is good and baby is not limited to breast access.

Myth: The amount of milk a baby gets in a session is related to the length of that session.
Reality: Each baby has her own rate of feeding and each mother has her own rate of letdown. One baby can get the same amount of milk in four minutes as another baby gets in twenty-five minutes. Each mother and baby will figure out their own routine.

Myth: In order to help nipples heal, a mother with sore nipples should rest her nipples, use a nipple shield, use a cream or stop breastfeeding.
Reality: Unless mom solves the cause of the problem (poor latch, infection or skin reaction) then nothing will help. Some of the proposed treatments may make the issue worse.

Myth: If you’ve breastfed before, you must know what you’re doing.
Reality: Each baby is different and you must learn each time how to interact in this new breastfeeding relationship.

Myth: Feeding on demand is hard on the mother.
Reality: Feeding your baby whenever she wants is the best way to keep her content and healthy.

Myth: If your baby feeds only from the breast, you will never get enough sleep in the night.
Reality: It is true that breastfed babies wake int he night more often than bottle-fed babies. Unlike bottle-feeding, once you and baby are breastfeeding well you do not have to be fully awake to breastfeed, especially if you share a bed with the baby.

Myth: Young babies always cry a lot, so you should leave your baby to cy.
Reality: A baby has all the feelings an adult has and crying is her way of expressing pain or upset. She needs her parents to take her crying seriously.

Myth: You must stop breastfeeding by nine months or you will never get baby to stop.
Reality: You and your baby can work out the best time for you both to cut down and then stop breastfeeding. There are no hard and fast rules.

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Low Milk Supply

The amount of milk a mother produces depends on the frequency and effectiveness of the sucking her baby does at the breast. Sucking at the breast causes oxytocin and prolactin to be released by the mother’s pituitary gland. Oxytocin causes contractions in the breasts which squeeze the milk down and prolactin produces milk.

Milk supply usually reaches a plateau (25-30 oz per day per baby) by about one month after birth and stays there until baby is about six months old. Less than 1% of women are truly not able to produce enough milk to feed their babies.

Physical indicators in the mother that put her at risk for low milk supply include: breast surgery, insufficient glandular tissue, low thyroid, pituitary problems, hormone issues, postpartum hemorrhage, retained placenta and prolonged severe engorgement.

Common Substances That Inhibit Milk Production
Some prescription medications
Sudafed
Alcohol
Cigarettes
Sage (large amounts)
Parsley (large amounts)
Peppermint (large amounts)

If a mother has any of the above risk factors, she should plan to breastfeed early and often, at least 8 – 12 times every 24 hours.
Avoid pacifiers because a hungry baby cry can often be soothed by a pacifier rather than eating.

Adequate Milk Intake Criteria for Exclusively Breastfed Babies
Mom can keep an input/output journal, writing down each nursing and each wet and dirty diaper to determine if baby is getting enough milk.
Baby regains birth weight by two weeks of age.
Between days two and three, baby’s poop changes from black/green to yellow with “seeds” by day five.
After day four, there are 3 – 4 poop diapers that are bigger than a quarter every 24 hours. After the first four to six weeks poop may be less frequent and bigger.
24 hours after milk comes in, baby has at least 5 very wet diapers that are odorless and colorless

Treatment of Low Milk Supply
One of the most common causes of low milk production is latch problems.
Clues for poor attachment:
The breasts will not soften much during nursing because milk is not being drained.
Friction to the nipple causes pain and damage.
As the situation worsens baby becomes fussy at the breast, pulling off or falling asleep too quickly.
Diaper output is scant, weight gain is insufficient and jaundice occurs.
Optimize milk removal by massaging breasts before and during feeding or pumping.
Pump for a few minutes after as many feedings as possible for the first three weeks.
Don’t skip nighttime feedings
Warm, moist compresses applied to the breast just prior to nursing/pumping can help start milk flowing.

Galactogogues: Foods and Herbs That Stimulate Milk Production
It usually takes at least four to seven days to see the initial galactogogue effect.
Steel-cut or rolled oats that can bring in more milk. Eat a bowl everyday.
Barley water, made with 1/2 cup of flaked or pearled barley simmered in 1 quart of water and a handful of fennel seeds for 20 minutes is an Old-World remedy.
Fenugreek seed is the most popular galactogogue herb in North America. Take 3-6 grams per day. Sweat and urine may smell like maple syrup when taking it.
Nettle in capsule form has a consistent history when used for low milk supply. Take according to bottle.
Drinking 3 quarts of nursing tea combinations like Mother’s Milk tea can help bring in milk.

Coping with Low Milk Supply
Can you make peace with your milk supply
Take it one day at a time
Set short goals
Realize that you are a successful breastfeeding mother. It’s about the commitment you have made to give your baby the best start in life.

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Supplementing During Pregnancy

There is so much information out there about what supplements to take during pregnancy and what can help specific concerns. First, I’m a big fan of every mom taking a prenatal. Unless you live on a farm and grow the meat and veggies you eat, then you aren’t getting enough nutrients. Even if you buy organic, nutritional value is lost from farmer to store (or stand) to table.

If you are not a fan of taking 6 large, uncoated pills a day during pregnancy, go for a one a day supplement. Something that covers the basics. Then if you need to add calcium or other supplements, you can. Remember, most prenatals have iron and iron and calcium don’t play nice together, so you will probably need to at least supplement some cal/mag on a daily basis.

Below are some supplement remedies for common concerns during pregnancy.


Body Odor

Liquid chlorophyll daily may help maintain body odor. Plus it’s a great blood builder.

Increase Energy

Yellow Dock root tincture has an energy-balancing effect and can be given to increase vitality if fatigued.

Insomnia

Vitamin B deficiency is associated with waking in middle of the night.

Skullcap tincture directly under the tongue or in hot water.

Can also eat a high protein snack in the middle of the night.

And please keep in mind that as birth approaches your body is preparing you for a new baby by waking you up every few hours.

Stretch Marks

Extra Vitamin E, Vitamin C w/ Bioflavonoids and zinc will help optimize the stretchability of the skin.

You can also try this nightly rub:

Mix the following in a blender, store in the fridge and apply every night

1/2c – virgin olive oil

1/4c – aloe vera

6 caps – vitamin E liquid

4 caps – vitamin A liquid

Take Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids – 2,000 – 4,000 in divided doses

Vitamin K Prep for Baby Before Birth

Boost Vitamin K at 34 weeks

Alfalfa Tea: 1-2 cups/daily or tablets: up to 3 grams/daily

Efficient Labor

All women can begin taking the following at 36 – 40 weeks to encourage an efficient labor

Cimicifuga: 12c, 1 pellet: Monday

Caulophyllum: 12c, 1 pellet: Wednesday

Arnica: 12c, 1 pellet: Friday

Timely and Efficient Labor

All women can begin taking the following at 38-39 weeks to encourage the timely onset of contractions and an efficient labor pattern

Cimicifuga: 30x

Caulophyllum: 30x

Alternating each remedy until a total of 7 daily doses are taken of both. Take this for 14 days and then stop.


Breastfeeding

Bone content can diminish during breastfeeding if Calcium and phosphorus intake is inadequate. Supplement and eat well.

References

Holistic Midwifery, Anne Frye

Nutritional Healing, Bach

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Formula Fed America

“Formula feeding is the longest lasting uncontrolled experiment lacking informed consent in the history of America.” Frank Oski, retired editor of  Journal of Pediatrics.

http://www.formulafedamerica.com/site/index.html

Trailer: http://www.formulafedamerica.com/

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Raising Awareness Around Breastfeeding

Sweet Mama and Baby

Sweet Mama and Baby

Urban Photography, located in SE Portland, has taken on a special mission – to raise awareness and acceptance of nursing and to capture beautiful images of Mama’s and their Babe’s of course!

Jodi Collins, a mom of twins, is hoping to resuming this photography project in January 2010 and she has an open call to all nursing moms and babies to come to her studio and have your picture taken. For more info, give her a call at 503.293.4186.

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Donate Your Breastmilk

Are you a breastfeeding mom with a healthy baby?  Share your precious breastmilk with babies who need it by becoming a milk donor.

A milk bank screens, collects, processes and dispenses donated human milk as a community service, providing human milk to babies whose own mothers cannot supply the milk to meet their baby’s needs.

To become a donor in Portland, contact one of these drop-off sites:

And yes, Portland is working on it’s own milk bank, but they need your help. Check out Northwest Mothers Milk Bank to learn more.

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Milk Sharing – Article by Zipadee Doula Services

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The following article was written by Nicole, a great doula, placenta worker and mom. Check out her site, Zipadee Doula Service, to learn more about what Nicole does.

All through history, sharing breastmilk was seen as normal, and sometimes the only way for babies to survive. Many moms had a wet nurse, or relied on another woman every now and then to nurse their children, which is known as cross-nursing. Now-a-days, if a woman is unable to breastfeed her child, she usually turns to formula. Donor milk from a milk bank is another option, but is very expensive if you have to pay out-of-pocket. Still, there is an alternative way to nurse a child that more and more women are turning to, which is known as milk sharing. The benefits of breastmilk are plenty, and many mothers feel strongly that even if they cannot supply all of their breastmilk for their baby, that they should still be able to receive the benefits of breastmilk.

While supplementing with donor milk, a mom can use an at the breast supplemental nursing system, known as a SNS (made by Medela), or the Lact-Aid System. These systems “consist of a container for the supplement (either a bag or a

3924223457_d5679fd7bf_obottle), which hangs on a cord around mom’s neck and rests between her breasts. Thin tubing, leading from the container, is taped to the mother’s breast, extending about 1/4 inch past the nipple. You usually see the tubing going directly from the bottle (between the breasts) to the nipple. You can also wrap the tubing down & around the breast before bringing it up to the nipple.” (Kellymom, supplementer)

A SNS is a great way to supplement, because a baby will be able to still have the close contact with the mother. By still nursing at the breast, the baby will help increase the mother’s milk supply. Other alternative ways to supplement include: finger feeding, using a cup/dropper/spoon, and/or using a bottle. However, introducing an artificial nipple may cause nipple confusion for some babies, and they may refuse to breastfeed afterward.

How to find a breastmilk donor:

There are many resources available to help you find a milk donor. Websites include:

MilkShare
Milkshare on Yahoo!Groups
Your local tribe on MDC

If you are unable to supply your baby with all the breastmilk she needs, partial weaning and combination feeding is an option that may work out for you. Breastfeeding part-time still has great benefits for you and your baby:

Comfort, bonding, skin-to-skin benefits. Mom can provide 100% of these even if very little breastmilk is being obtained during nursing.
Oral development. The type of sucking required for breastfeeding improves your baby’s oral development (even if he gets little milk).
Disease, allergy-prevention, immunological benefits. Research has shown that the benefits of breastfeeding are generally dose-related: the more breastmilk, the greater the benefit. But even 50 ml of breastmilk per day (or less – there is little research on this) will help to keep your baby healthier than if he received none at all. In fact, the immunities in mom’s milk have been shown to increase in concentration as the quantity of milk decreases
Nutritional benefits. There are components of mother’s milk which cannot be duplicated – even a small quantity of these can be invaluable to your baby. (Kellymom, weaning-partial)

If you have a low-supply of breastmilk, you can supplement with donor milk while you work on getting your own supply back up. Please check out Kellymom’s information on increasing low milk supply if you feel your milk is low. Milk supplies can drop many times during a nursing relationship for a variety of reasons (hormones, illness, working situations, etc), but in my own experience, I was able to raise it back up again using a variety of methods to increase my milk supply.

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Abrahams

Photo courtesy of Tiffany Abrahams

The big question that you will always hear when it comes to milk sharing is: “Is it safe?”

Most risks can be minimized if a relationship is formed with the woman donating. La Leche League suggests these guidelines for mothers who donate milk (however, they do not support milk sharing unless it is through a milk bank):

She should be healthy, well-nourished and taking no medication. Ideally, she has an infant about the same age as the one she would be cross nursing.

She should be screened for tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis-associated antigen, cytomegalovirus, herpes virus, HIV and other infectious agents.

She should not smoke, drink alcohol, or consume large amounts of caffeinated or artificially sweetened beverages.

Her own infant should be healthy, gaining well and free of all infections. (LLLI, wet nursing)

Being unable to fully supply your baby with your own breastmilk can be extremely frustrating and upsetting for any mother. Solutions to breastfeeding issues can be pieced together and hopefully solved through community, knowledge, and mother-to-mother support.

*Please note, Nicole is not a lactation consultant or a doctor. Just a mom with years of experience nursing my own children, and a great interest in breastfeeding.

For further information:

Human milk banking and other donor milk – Kellymom

Using a Lactation Aid by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC

Sources:

http://www.kellymom.com/bf/supply/adoptivebf.html#supplementer

http://www.kellymom.com/bf/pumping/alternative-feeding.html

http://www.kellymom.com/bf/weaning/weaning-partial.html

http://www.llli.org/llleaderweb/LV/LVJulAug95p53.html

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Northwest Mothers Milk Bank

Interested in learning more about the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank? Check out their interview tomorrow, Monday July 13th at 11:30 PST on Portland’s KBOO Community Radio. Anna Keith Soderberg will interview Dixie Whetsell, MS, IBCLC, board member of the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank.

Listen in to KBOO in Portland at 90.7 fm, in Corvallis at 100.7 fm or in Hood River at 91.9 fm to hear about the importance of breastmilk, the milk bank’s efforts and how you can help. No calls will be taken due to time constraints, but if you have a question or comment please email beforehand to kboofamilybusiness@gmail.com

If you’re out of the listening area, listen to the broadcast online: http://kboo.fm/listen

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Motherless Baby Breastfed By Six Women Each Day

Babble, a parenting magazine, posted the below article (written by Jeanne Sager) about volunteer moms breastfeeding a motherless baby.

Enjoy!

Motherless Baby Breastfed By Six Women Each Day
Posted by JeanneSager

A baby without a mom. A bunch of moms still breastfeeding their own babies. It was just meant to be.
You don’t hear about death during childbirth much anymore, (and thank goodness for that), but when Susan Goodrich lost her life shortly after giving birth to her son, one of her most important wishes for her child was fulfilled by a band of impromptu wet nurses, moms who heard a baby needed their help.
Charles Moses Martin Goodrich was born on Jan. 11, but when his dad said he wanted the boy to receive breastmilk right off the bat, he was told the hospital didn’t have a milkbank. A delivery could come in from elsewhere in Michigan, but it would take several days to ship.
Then Robbie Goodrich got a call of condolence from a friend, a mom who was still nursing her one-year-old daughter. Anything the family needed, she said, anything. . . even her breastmilk. It’s when Robbie told his hometown paper that things clicked – he realized other moms might want to help him in his plight, and he called on a family friend to help him round up moms with something to give.
The found twenty total women who set up a schedule – six times a day, Charles has been fed by a different woman (that’s one of the volunteers pictured). And by fed, I mean actually suckling at the breast.That is the most incredible part of the story to me – that these women don’t just pump their milk and ship it over. With children at home (obviously), they drop everything to drive to the Goodrich home and allow a stranger’s baby to nurse. It’s the kind of love only a parent could muster for a child – but these aren’t his parents!
At night, his father feeds him with bottles of milk pumped by the volunteers, and Charles is a happy, healthy baby despite his rough start to life.
The subject became controversial recently with Salma Hayek’s highly publicized feeding of another woman’s child, which some called a publicity stunt. There’s no way these nameless women could be accused of the same thing. More to the point, what they’re doing is life-sustaining while Hayek’s one-off feeding was not going to drastically change a child’s life.
What do you think of this? Would you do it? Or would you just pump your milk and send it over?

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Breastfeeding a Stranger

YouTube video of actress breastfeeding a hungry african baby:

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Baby Food – Article in The New Yorker

Great article in The New Yorker on this history of breastfeeding and how woman have been encouraged to bottle their milk called Baby Food.

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Breast is the Best, Even if You’re Three – Guest Writer Series

The following article, written by Colleen Mahon-Haft, is an informative piece on extended breastfeeding. Welcome Colleen to Healing Midiwfery!

Last year a Delta Airlines employee asked a nursing mother to put a blanket on her child’s head, because she said seeing the toddler nurse was“weird” and made her uncomfortable. The flight attendant reacted in this manner simply because extended nursing, when a baby nurses past a year old, is not the norm in United States culture. As a result, virtually any mother of a nursing toddler can recall dirty looks she has received while nursing in public and is likely to have horror stories of more confrontational judgments from strangers, like the mother on the plane.

 

Mothers in the US generally wean before twelve months, most at six months or earlier.  A mere 14% of mothers still nurse their babies at seven months of age (Le Leche League International 1997).  However, breast milk is the optimal food not only during infancy but also into toddler-hood, and if more mothers were aware of the benefits of extended nursing, they would not look at it as “weird” and would be proud to offer their baby the best nutrition possible.  U.S. culture, many American doctors, and the mainstream media discourage extended breastfeeding, in the process attaching shame and embarrassment to a natural feeding process that is extremely beneficial to the child’s well being.  


A child can only absorb 10% of the iron from cow’s milk, while 50% of the iron from breast milk’s can be absorbed (Eiger and Olds 1999).  Additionally, “human milk contains living cells, hormones, active enzymes, immunoglobulins and compounds with unique structures that cannot be replicated in infant formula” (Benson, Masor March 1994).   For this reason, when both mother and baby are healthy, the Food and Drug Administration, the Center for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization all advise nursing for a year or longer, as long as mother and baby are comfortable.


 Beyond the nutrient content of breast milk, extended nursing also provides a crucial boost to children’s immature immune systems. Until the age of six a child’s immune system isn’t functioning at adult level, which leads parents to shield them from sick neighbors, bundle them up during the winter, and make sure they don’t leave the house with a wet head.  Still, by nursing for a limited time, many mothers pass up the opportunity to directly provide young children with what it needs to fight off a cold or the flu. The composition of mother’s milk provides infants and toddlers with vitamin E, which is crucial for immune system development, along with enzymes, proteins and already developed antibodies that are essential to developing and maintaining good health. For this reason, breastfeeding has been directly associated with fewer infant illnesses, and extended breastfeeding subsequently with fewer toddler illnesses (Gluiuk 1996).


Not only does extended nursing have great health benefits, it also plays an important role in mother/child bonding and later social bonding. Extended breastfeeding gives mothers and toddlers special time to be together, experiencing each other’s closeness. Getting a toddler to slow down can be challenging, so the time spent nursing is needed and enjoyed. Oxytocin and Prolactin are released into the mother’s body during nursing,  Both hormones have been referred to as the “love hormones” or the “bonding hormones.”  Those hormones provide a sense of calm to the mother, promoting bonding and creating desire for further contact with the child.  


Adversaries to extended nursing suggest that extended nursing makes weaning more difficult and leads children to be overly dependent, therefore advocating that mother’s force their babies to wean on a set time frame.  In reality, forced weaning can be a frustrating experience for both, as it requires fighting biological instincts to continue nursing. On the other hand, child-led weaning tends to be much easier on the mother and toddler as all children will eventually give up the breast when they feel the cues to do so.  Often, they will set their own time frames, such as “when I’m four” or “after Santa comes.” 


There is evidence that child-led weaning is beneficial for the social development of children. Dr. William Sears (The Breastfeeding Book 2000), having studied the long-term impacts of the weaning process on thousands of children, reports that “children who had timely weanings… are more independent, gravitate to people more than things, are easier to discipline, experience less anger, radiate trust.… [After] studying the long-term effects of long-term breastfeeding, the most secure… and happy children we have seen are those who have not been weaned before their time” (Sears 2000).  Thus, despite what opponents of extended breastfeeding suggest, research on childhood development shows that toddlers who nurse will not be clingy and overly  dependent, and are actually likely to be more trusting, independent, and happier than children who are force-weaned.


Additionally, extended nursing benefits children in ways that extend all the way to school age. One study found that school age children who were breastfed as infants and toddlers have I.Q. scores averaging seven to ten points higher than formula-fed infants (Dr. Sears 2000). Breastfed babies and toddlers also have the privilege of receiving high levels of DHA (docasahexaenoic acid), which is a brain boosting fat, found in cold water fish and in seaweed.  DHA is essential for the proper development of the nervous system and vision (Memmler’s 2005). DHA levels are highest in babies who are breastfed the longest. The cognitive development of babies fed formula does not equal that of those who are breastfed (Dr. Sears 2000).  


Mothers who nurse their babies into toddler-hood are doing themselves and their little ones a great service physically, socially, intellectually and emotionally.  They are providing comfort and nourishment that will affect the children their entire lives. Breastfeeding is also a life-affirming act of love. If you have ever observed an older baby or toddler nursing, you can see that there is something almost magical, something very special about the mother/ child bond.  With such strong evidence of the positive effects of extended nursing, the pattern of limited breastfeeding in the United States is puzzling. 

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