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It's Not Always Easy, Or The Most Natural Thing In The World
Breastfeeding in General
Member Name: cookie334
Breastfeeding in General
Advantages: Best for baby, best for mum, loads of health benefits, bonding, less work, I could go on forever
Disadvantages: When problems occur
The argument of breast v.'s bottle is one that has been around for as long as I've had children (and a whole lot longer I'd bet), and it will probably still be going on when my children have their children. I couldn't decide whether to write under the debate heading or the Breastfeeding in general heading. However, I've decided I don't know enough about bottle feeding to debate about it without being very biased to breastfeeding. Also I don't really want to debate it really, I would just like to share my experiences and hope I might make someone consider breastfeeding who wouldn't otherwise have thought about it.
I'm going to go into the benefits of breastfeeding at the end, but first I'd like to share my personal experience with you. Please feel free to skip past it if you wish.
** My Experience **
I have three children and have breastfed them all. The youngest of the three is 14 months and is still breastfed now.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew that I would at least try to breastfeed. When my daughter was born, almost 7 years ago, the midwives in the hospital had assumed I would be bottle feeding and were all set to give my baby a bottle of SMA without even asking how I intended to feed her. Whether this was because it was common practice at the time, or if it was down to my age (I was 19 at the time), I don't know. I found I had very little help or support despite being kept in hospital for 3 days after the birth and if it hadn't been for my family, I wouldn't have had a clue what I was doing. I found this attitude was not only confined to the hospital. My friends, my partners family and even random people I'd never met before thought it strange that I was breastfeeding. I knew that it was best for me and my little girl though and so stuck at it. It was difficult at times, but I adopted the motto "wait and see how you feel tomorrow" when things got tough and sure enough, the next day, things were always much easier. Despite going back to work when my daughter was just 4 months old, I managed to keep breastfeeding until at 10 months, she decided she didn't want to be breastfed any more.
When I had my son, just under 2 years later, things were very different. My son was born at a different hospital, over an hours drive from where we live. Again, I don't know if location was a contributing factor or if it was because I was older, or if breastfeeding had just become more popular in those 2 years. It was however assumed that I would breastfeed. My friends and family knew I'd be breastfeeding again and it wasn't quite so strange to them this time round. Overall, I felt much more accepted so things were a lot easier, and despite suffering from post natal depression, I managed to breastfeed for 6 months, with no problems at all.
Needless to say, when I had my youngest daughter last year, I breastfed once again. I can't comment on the hospital staff as I had a homebirth this time, but I have noticed so many more mums breastfeed now, it really has come a long way in 6 years. Although feeding got off to a good start and I felt confident, a few weeks after the birth, I knew something wasn't quite right. My health visitor said that my daughter was a lazy eater as she wouldn't open her mouth properly to feed, which meant I was in a lot of pain. A week later, we realised it was actually due to thrush which my daughter had in her mouth and had passed to me during feeding. We were both treated and although feeding was very painful, it was all fixed within a week. I thought that was the end of it until a couple of weeks later. I started to get a lot of pain. The health visitor thought it was the thrush returning, but I wasn't so sure. This was a LOT more painful than the last time. A couple of days later, I thought I had the flu. My head was pounding and I had a fever. Feeding became so sore, it felt like it was burning. I'd compare the pain to giving birth (without pain relief), only with giving birth you know it's going to end sometime soon. I phoned my health visitor who told me that I had mastitis. I was absolutely gutted as I'd heard if you get mastitis you have to stop feeding. My daughter was only 6 weeks old and I had planned to feed her for a lot longer. However, I was then told that stopping feeding is actually the worst thing to do. I was in so much pain in the infected breast though, that I could only feed my daughter from the other breast. It was not quite as painful to express from the infected side and so with doing that and following a course of antibiotics, it was all cleared up quite quickly. I've since had the odd problem with blocked ducts but nothing as extreme as the mastitis. It was such a difficult time, breastfeeding was not easy and it certainly didn't feel like the most natural thing in the world, but it did end and like I said I'm still feeding my daughter at 14 months.
** Best Bits **
For me personally, the best things about breastfeeding are the fact that I don't have to pack and take bottles with me everywhere. I am the most forgetful person, so for me this would be an absolute nightmare. I'm also a very lazy person, so to faff about sterilising bottles etc does not appeal to me in the slightest. Another great thing is that I love my sleep and find it very difficult to function on less than 9 hours, so to me, the fact that when my baby wakes in the night and all I have to do is pick her up, lie her down beside me and latch her on - all without even getting out of bed - is fantastic!
The best bit by far though is the closeness. Obviously the majority of mums will bond with their babies very easily, but the closeness you get from just having that regular time, just you and your baby with that skin to skin contact is just amazing. While checking on the internet to make sure I hadn't missed any important benefits, I discovered this is because when your body makes milk for your baby, it releases endorphins which is a happy hormone and prolactin which produces a calmness in mothers.
** Benefits Of Breastfeeding For Baby **
A mothers breast milk has everything her baby needs for the first 6 months in exactly the right amounts. It has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein. A baby will need nothing else, not even water.
The skin to skin contact will help your baby feel relaxed and content.
I have been told on several occassions that breastfed babies do not get wind and therefore do not need to be burped. I have to say I have not found this to be true, but I'm sure there must be some truth in it and perhaps breastfed babies just get less wind.
Breastfed babies may have better neurological development and score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially premature babies.
Reduces the risk of obesity.
Reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (cot death)
Provides antibodies to give babies immune systems a huge boost.
Breast milk is the easiest food for a baby to digest.
Reduces the risk of gastro-intestinal infection, respiratory infections, necrotising enterocolitis, urinary tract infections, ear infections, allergic disease (eczema and wheezing), insulin-dependent diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and childhood leukaemia.
There is more research needed, but there is evidence to show that breastfeeding may also provide protection against multiple sclerosis, accute appendicitus and tonsillectomy.
** Benefits Of Breastfeeding To The Mother **
It's free and you never run out.
It causes the uterus to contract. Immediately after the birth, this will help to prevent postpartum haemorrhage. It will also help get the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy state, thus also helping the mother to lose her baby weight and regain her figure. This will also mean that there will be less blood loss for mum following the birth.
It can be done anywhere and there's no need to carry bottles and worry about heating up milk.
If done exclusively, it delays the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles, which conserves iron in the mothers body and provides a natural spacing of pregnancies. The amount of iron used for milk production is far less than that lost from menstrual bleeding, therefore, less risk of iron deficiency anemia. It is also 98-99% effective as a contraceptive in the first 6 months.
Lowers the risk of breast and ovarian/uterine cancers.
Reduces the risk of post natal depression.
Reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Although more research is required, there is reason to believe that breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of osteoperosis and rheumatoid arthritis for the mother as well.
** Negatives **
The only negative I can think for breastfeeding itself is that it is by no means easy. In the first few weeks until feeding is established, it is hard work and it can take a lot of determination to get through it. If something goes wrong and you develop thrush or mastitis or blocked ducts or anything like that it can be a very difficult time and when coupled with lack of sleep, hormones and everyone else giving their opinion, it makes for an almost impossible situation. However, if you are determined and stick at it, all of these problems can be overcome. My advice though would be to seek medical advice as soon as you are aware there may be a problem.
Obviously there are personal circumstances to think about as well. Some mothers do not produce milk, some babies don't take to the breast and for some breastfeeding is just not meant to be.
** Summary **
I would highly recommend that every mother at least tries to breastfeed if possible. Even the first feed can be hugely beneficial to a new born baby. The closeness you get with your baby is second to none and there are just such a huge amount of benefits.
Summary: It might not be easy but it's the best thing in the world