Krista's Experience with Breastfeeding

Posted by  | Sunday, November 25, 2007  at 3:30 PM  
My experience with breastfeeding my daughter is a memory that I will treasure all the days of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. Honestly, I cannot imagine not nursing my child. The blessings extend well beyond the nutritional benefits breast milk has to offer. It is profound to think that God created a mother’s body to uniquely feed her baby, and the moments each and every day for the first months/year(s) you alone can share with your baby are precious. I’d like to share with you my story of breastfeeding, why breast milk is so beneficial, and what you can do to help ensure success if you choose to breastfeed.

I had always wanted to nurse my children. However, I was alarmed and even worried by the number of stories I had heard from mother’s who had tried to breastfeed and were unsuccessful. My heart’s desire was set on nursing and I ached at the thought of not being able. I prayed often that I would be able to successfully nurse my baby. But, I kept coming back to the fact that, throughout all of history before the last century, breast milk was the only option for nourishing a baby and if a mom wasn’t able, then a wet nurse had to be found or the infant would not survive. I remember talking with a doula early on in my pregnancy and asking her about breastfeeding and she said, “I can tell you a mother’s chances for success at breastfeeding based on how many bottles she has in her house.” She said that while nursing can be H-A-R-D, your chances of succeeding are much greater if you don’t have a Plan B. I took this to heart.

The very best resource I found on breast feeding was/is the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League. While I skimmed it before Lydia was born, I cannot count how many times I have referenced it over the past 15 months with specific questions. About the only thing I felt like I had down before Lydia was born was that nursing should not hurt. So, when she was born and her latch HURT I asked for the lactation consultant at the hospital. She was wonderful and showed me (and especially my husband who was a tremendous help and support in the beginning!) how to make sure Lydia was latched on correctly. I remember her saying it is “breastfeeding” NOT “nipple feeding” which is what Lydia wanted to do. I’m really thankful I persevered in the first couple weeks to make sure Lydia learned to latch on correctly or I really don’t think I would still be nursing her today. This was really the biggest issue I faced. From the first day Lydia had a strong suck. I remember many nights in the beginning just aching and being in pain with engorgement but I was absolutely determined to persevere. This all subsides after the first few weeks and then it was just total enjoyment to get to nurse my daughter. I loved the fact that, no matter who was holding her, she always got to come back to me every 2 hours or so!

I shared in my post on scheduling the problems I had beginning when she was about 4-6 weeks old. She nursed so much at night I was convinced she wasn’t getting any milk. Again, I think this fear was fueled by so many friends I had who had doctors tell them they didn’t have enough milk and they should supplement. I knew this was a slippery slope for as soon as you do this, your milk supply will decrease and then you really will need to supplement, and the cycle will continue. I realized that overall, we really don’t have a “culture of support” for breast feeding moms. I had no idea that around 6 weeks your breasts settle into a routine and won’t feel as full; I also didn’t know that there’s always milk even when you don’t feel full. Now that I’m living overseas in a culture where everyone breastfeeds (formula is much too expensive to be a viable alternative) I see such a difference. The women in this culture just know basic things that we don’t in our American culture. (For example, there is standard wisdom here for all new moms to drink milk with fenugreek and molasses. Well, we know that fenugreek is important for female hormones and milk supply just as molasses is a good source for iron which any new mom is depleted of.) If I have a problem nursing, I can go to any mother and she will know how to help; everyone nurses and they nurse for the first 2 years so they have wisdom they pass along to other women to develop that culture of support. I just cannot tell you what a wonderful feeling this supportive culture is. If you are nursing, I encourage you to seek out people who can provide you with this support too, whether friends, family, or finding a La Leche League group near you. If you are struggling, this could be the support you need to be successful!

While there are many nutritional benefits of nursing, you just can’t overlook the “cuddle factor.” Being the only person in the world who could feed my baby was a truly awesome task. I would take those precious times during the day and pray over Lydia, sing to her, rock her, talk to her, and just cuddle and hold her. Afterwards we would read books and, to this day, Lydia loves to go to her room and flip through her books.

There are many, many benefits to breast milk. Really, there is no other food for a baby that even comes close. Breast milk is a living substance that is always fresh, readily available, and tailor-made to fit the unique needs of your child each day. Did you know that when your baby nurses, the breast is stimulated by the bacteria introduced by your baby? This bacteria travels into the breast tissue, causing an immediate reaction with the formation of antibodies, which can then be found back in the mother’s milk within 8 hours!! So if your baby is fighting a cold or other illness, your body is creating antibodies specific for what your baby is combating that very day. It’s called the diathelic phenomenon and if you’d like to read more about this and some of the other amazing benefits of breast milk, I strongly recommend the book, The Milk Book by William Campbell Douglass II, MD.

There are some wonderful websites with information on this topic as well. For the most comprehensive site, please check out Kelly mom.

Benefits of Breast Milk
This is not an exhaustive list, but I would like to highlight a few other reasons that I think are very interesting:

~Breast-fed babies have a striking reduction in incidence and seriousness of gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, ear infections, diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, bacterial meningitis, urinary tract infections, eczema, asthma, and SIDS, to name a few.

~Breast milk gives your baby immunities. It contains immunoglobulins which allows a mother’s milk to specifically protect against the organisms her baby is exposed to.

~Breast milk contains lactoferrin which helps to regulate the healthy bacteria in the gut and has an antibiotic effect on such things as staphylococci and E. coli.

~Breast fed children have fewer cavities.

~Breast fed babies visit the doctor less.

~Breast fed babies have significantly fewer food allergies

~Breast milk tastes different from feeding to feeding which helps to prepare babies for the tastes of different foods they will be exposed to in the future.

~Breast fed children have a high IQ.

~Click here for a great list of benefits from baby's brain to bottom

Pitfalls of Formula
~Formula is an industrially manufactured food. It contains chemicals, flavoring, vitamins, and proteins that attempt to replicate breast milk. The multiple processings, ingredients, and alterations required to convert cows milk or soy beans to the finished product opens up numerous opportunities for contamination by harmful bacteria, chemicals, insects, and foreign bodies.

~Formula is static, often not tolerated well, and does not contain live white cells and antibodies to fight disease

~One of the most alarming trends in formula is the use of soy. Click here for extensive information on the harmful effects of soy and here for testimony given before Congress on the harmful effects of soy infant formula

~If you are interested in further information, please check out this chart for a side-by-side comparison of breast milk and formula

The decision to breast feed is a personal decision. However, for any mom who wants to nurse but doesn’t know where to begin, doesn’t have a culture of support around her, or is facing specific struggles, I’d like to offer these suggestions:

Practical steps to ensure success
~Ask to immediately nurse your child after birth and not be separated so that the strong sucking reflex can be utilized and your milk will begin to come in.
~Make every attempt to not supplement with formula.

~Seek out a strong support system with other mothers who have successfully breastfed.

~Read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (preferably before your baby is born – when you still have time!).

~Remember that determination and the will to succeed will go a long, long way in helping you to not give up in those first few weeks when it can be tough.

~Remember that there is incredible power in prayer!

Finally, it’s important to note that your milk is only going to be as healthy as you are. If you are eating a diet full of junk food and sugar, so will your baby. While I still believe this milk is healthier than formula, it really is important for you to eat well so that your baby can get the most nutrition possible from your milk. Concentrate on eating real foods – fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, chicken, beef, whole grains, bone broths, cheese, brown rice, etc. Steer clear of processed foods, foods out of a box, sugar, soda, caffeine, hydrogenated oils, commercial fried foods, white flour, etc.

Nursing my baby truly is one of the most special memories I have with my daughter. I’ll treasure it in my heart all the days of my life. Now I’m on the other end of nursing and wondering about weaning. This can pose its own challenges and joys and just may be something we should discuss on Prayer of Hannah in the future!

8 comments:

TulipGirl said...

This is really encouraging! I had milk supply issues with my first two. . . and was scared into supplementing. With the next two, we didn't have any nursing problems (well, okay, painful thrush with the third and a rough time learning to latch with the fourth--but were still able to nurse long term.)

With my fourth, it was especially important that we continued breastfeeding, because we had an international move and I knew he needed those extra nutritional and antibiotic helps.

Again, thanks for your post. I hope that those who had a rough time with breastfeeding in the past will be encouraged in nursing in the future.

Shannon said...

Excellent and thorough post! Thanks so much!

marymstraits said...

Ok, ladies, I have some questions. My experience with nursing was H-A-R-D. Noah would not latch properly AT ALL, and we found out later (3 weeks later) that it was an anatomical problem with his tongue. The flap of skin that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth was too tight. As a result, nursing was excrutiating for me--we both ended up with thrush that took months to get rid of, and I had mastitis about three times in 12 weeks. I actually think they missed the mastitis the first two times since I was having other issues on top of the mastitis (sinus infection, UTI, etc.) but I finally became well when I got the right antibiotic to treat the mastitis. We met with the lactation consultant literally twice a week for about a month, I just couldn't do it anymore. I would have to feed Noah for as long as he wanted (usually an hour), and then I was supposed to pump for 20 minutes. With being sick and my nipples being a WRECK (sorry . . . TMI), I finally surrendered to the pump. I have been pumping milk for my baby for almost 10 months now.
What I want to know is this:

(1)because my milk is refrigerated before he gets it and he doesn't EVER nurse at my breast, is he getting any antibodies? We've dealt with double ear infections TWICE in about 2 1/2 months, and
(2)I'm wondering if that's why. I also want to know if the refrigeration process is making the milk less potent.
(3) I also want to know if anyone else noticed a decrease in milk supply when your period started back up. It was a drastic drop (almost overnight) for me.

Thank you!

Kate said...

Hello Ladies,

I do not have any comments about breastfeeding, however, a lady at work today gave me this poem (I guess that's what it is) and I wanted to share it with you! I know that not all of you have sons, but for the one's of us that do, get out the box of tissues before reading any further......

Crossing Over

It was a cool autunm day. Clouds overshadowed the canopy of blue, as if God wanted to hide the sun's great splendor. The winds whispered by as leaves rustled to the ground. A day to remember, that was. The day young women everywhere wait their whole lives for, and I knew in my heart I would treasure those moments forever. Before me stood a young man with whom I had shared my vast secrets and enchanted moments. I had whispered promises in his ear and did my best to fulfill them. I had never trusted anyone with the key to my heart until he entered my life. Now, I knew the only safe place for this key to remain was with him. This was a first for both of us. We gazed nervously in each other's eyes, waiting for the other to make the first move. I was unsure if we were ready for this. Making a hasty decision like this could be so devastation to our lives. We stood there in silence for what seemed an eternity. Echoes from the past rang endlessly in my mind. The luaghter and tears we had shared will forever be held in a special place in my heart. My emotions were so vulnerable at that point. Part of me wanted to run and hide, and the other said, "Go ahead. It's time." Then just as if he were reading my mind, he gently grasped my hand, sending a cold chill up my spine and erasing all my doubt. With his soft voice, he whispered, "It's time." I stood back to take one last glance at him to remember how he looked before we took this major step. Never again would I look at him as I do now. Things would be defferent once we crossed over; we couldn't look back. Once again our eyes met. If only we could cease time and steal those moments away in our hearts forever. Neither he nor I would ever feel as we did then. There's only one first time for everything, and this was it. I wrapped my arms around him and playfully kissed the tip of his nose, then I whispered shftly in his ear, "I love you". Then it happened - the moment we both had been waiting for. I'll never forget that day or the silly grin on his face afterward. Tears streamed down my face as he crossed the street to step onto the big yellow school bus. Then he turned to me and said, "Bye Mommy. I love you."

Christina said...

Mary,
I do remember my milk supply dropping some when my period started (around 4 months old!). This was definitely the beginning of the battle to keep my supply up...I read on kellymom.com that it has to do with the hormonal fluctuations of your cycle and I definitely noticed a drop each month. It always went back up though. I think you can take calcium for this....but again - read up on it. It's been a while so I don't remember all of the details!

About the antibodies - I think kellymom.com has something about this too. I vaguely remember reading something about this...but can't remember now!

And remember, breastmilk doesn't mean total 100% immunity. In Will's 11 months nursing he did take antibiotics once for a cold that turned infection around 6 months. He also had two stomach bugs. However, since we quit nursing (about 6 months now) - we've had countless viruses, both intestinal and respiratory. Most recently had his second round of antibiotics for another respiratory infection.

So...not sure if that helped you or not. :) Off to go chase a toddler before he eats another hershey kiss (wrapper too) and some super glue....

Krista said...

Mary,
The refrigeration process won't make the milk less potent and they are still antibodies in the milk if you are pumping and giving it in a bottle. However, I would think from what I've read there are not as specific of antibodies because your body isn't able to tell from your baby what he specifically needs. Here are a couple thoughts. First, you can leave freshly pumped breastmilk on the counter for up to 8 hours before refrigerating it and it will actually develop even more helpful probiotics. (You can NOT do this once you've cooled the milk.) When I was really engorged in the beginning I would pump and leave it out for several hours before freezing it. Secondly, as Christina said, breastfeeding won't give total immunity, but it does help - A LOT! If you weren't giving him breastmilk he would probably be sicker more often and longer. I would also make sure you are eating well, so your milk can be as healthy as possible. Hope this helps!

Christy said...

Mary,

My six week old has a tight frenulum as well. Nursing was also excruciating for me as well.

Did you decide to have it clipped or leave it? My husband and I are really struggling with what to do and would love any insight you have.

Anyone else have experience with a tongue-tied infant? How did you deal with it?
Thanks

marymstraits said...

Christy,

I was hesitant about having it clipped but was told he would nurse properly if we had it done. I was also terrified of causing my little baby pain--the circumcision was horrible enough and made me cry. Well, the pediatrician we spoke to said that the procedure doesn't hurt and that it would help with nursing. He said that it didn't cause any speech problems or anything if we decided not to. The worst would be that he might have problems licking an ice cream cone. Not hardly life or death! I REALLY wanted him to nurse right so we went for it. It was a 20 second procedure, and he was more upset about being restrained than the procedure. I totally understand your concern with having it done. Even after we had it clipped, I did notice a difference but was too sick and discouraged to keep working with him. Pumping was just easier on me physically and emotionally at that point. I hope that helps!

Mary

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