This year marks the 26th anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week (Aug 1-7). The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of baby's life because it is the most complete form of nutrition, protects baby’s immune system and aids mental and physical development.
I respect science. I really do. But, I’m a realist and I’m here to let you know that it’s not all fun and games. After breastfeeding three children (the first for six months, the second for four, and the last little guy for two months), and coaching countless parents through the challenges of feeding, I’m here to tell you that the most important thing to remember when feeding your newborn is that FED IS BEST.
Let’s get real. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for every mom. There are obstacles you just can’t foresee – insufficient milk production, latching issues, continuous mastitis. This is no-one’s fault and can easily be solved with bottle feeding. Cast away the mom-guilt mamas and make decisions that work for YOU.
At GIT Mom, the only parent coaching business in the country putting mom's needs first, we support mom in her individual decisions. If mom is happy and baby is thriving, then who cares what the source is? A confident and happy woman will be a much better mother if she isn't feeling like a failure because she cannot (or does not want to) breastfeed her child.
I decided to supplement breastfeeding with a bottle of formula every single day for each of my children and I do not feel guilty about it. My reasons to mix the two included:
- To share the feeding experience with my husband so he could bond with the baby.
- To get a break from the monotony of feeding a newborn every two hours.
- To feel confident and assured that when I decided it was time to finish breastfeeding, my baby would seamlessly transition to the bottle, and I could take ownership of my boobs again.
- To have the freedom to have a babysitter and go on date nights with my husband knowing that my child wouldn't be screaming for me.
My children, now ages 7, 11, and 15, are healthy and thriving. I made parenting decisions that made sense to our family, and science backed me up on my decision!
In 2010, Oregon Health & Science University began studying pacifier and nipple confusion by establishing a policy in which nurses had to enter a code and a patient’s name in order to retrieve a pacifier, which until then were routinely given to newborn babies. Researchers then analyzed the data on more than 2,000 infants born between June 2010, and August 2011. They discovered that when the use of pacifiers was restricted, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding actually decreased from 79 percent to 68 percent. As well, the proportion of infants who were breastfeeding and receiving supplemental formula jumped from 18 percent to 28 percent when the new policy was instituted.
You never know what life is going to throw at you. Whether you decide to breastfeed or bottle feed, here are a few tips for you during pregnancy and the newborn phase:
- Speak up! Partners, family and friends should support a new mom by feeding and hydrating her, and making sure she is supported physically and emotionally. It all begins with mom's health.
- Educate yourself - I’m here to tell you your breasts will take on a life of their own, growing to porn star proportions with leaks, aches, and cracks. You will feel slightly more in control if you educate yourself first. If you decide to breastfeed, it’s worth taking a class at your hospital to receive one-on-one advice and to learn what to expect during this crazy life journey. Familiarize yourself with the hospitals lactation support system. As soon as you give birth, contact a specialist to make a stop at your hospital room for personalized guidance, aka baby mouth bulls eye on your nipple. When you have the facts you’ll feel more confident.
- Partners - love mom first, then baby! Partners need to support mom in other ways while she is feeding her child. Offer to burp and diaper baby, do the laundry, clean the dishes, do anything for mom that needs doing around the house because she's spending a lot of hours locked down on her couch, cuddling, feeding and nurturing.
Everyone has their reasons for choosing how to feed their newborn and often the best-laid plans fall apart. I’m here to tell you every body produces milk differently, every baby feeds differently, and every mother’s experience is different.
Like with life in general, motherhood is never black and white. Cast the mom-guilt aside, and do what’s best for you.