So it is World Breastfeeding Week… I cannot believe it, it seems like just last week it was World Breastfeeding Week and here we are again. That being said, it feel like just yesterday I was sitting on the edge of my bed battling to nurse my firstborn and I have been nursing one or two babies ever since… that was almost fourteen years ago – that is an alarming statistic!!! And yet now I see how fast the time goes with each of my children, I blink and they are grown and I am a little sad that it all went by so fast.
Every year I post something about nursing and this year is no different… first I had a look at the collection of past posts:
Se7en Tandem Nursing Questions… Asked and Answered…
Se7en Tips for Nursing in Public.
Se7en Things I never Thought About Before Having a Baby.
Se7en Things I wish I had Known About Nursing.
Se7en of the Best Things About The La Leche League.
Se7en of the Best La Leche League Books.
And then I thought, ho hum, what more could I possibly say, other than to cheer new moms on and great job to all of them:
We all know “Breast is Best…” We know it and we read about it everywhere, even the most progressive formula company will tell you “Breast is Best,” before they start marketing at you… but in our society it is also understood that if nursing doesn’t get off to a good start then you can switch to formula and your baby will be just fine… Really, “It is not a failure on anyone’s part it is some things just don’t work out.” Why is that okay? If “Breast is Best” and we know it is, then why aren’t first time moms given the very best help and advice to get on with it… Not ancient out-dated advice, not prissy little sayings, not heaps of contradictory information…
I think this is an area where new mother’s get the most “dis-service” from those around them. It best this advice is like being on a sinking ship and someone tossing you a life buoy and saying “Hope you catch it…” as they head off to a party. The party of life that is, while the new mom is left battling and miserable, and there is no one to haul her back on board. What a new mom really needs is the best possible support and encouragement in her decision to breastfeed, without the niggling undercurrent that it really okay if you don’t get it right. Because it just takes one little seed of doubt for her to think that feeding her child formula is actually a better and an easier option.
Here is the thing… Often when we are battling with something we just need the right word of encouragement whispered in our ear and we are good to go on… However new moms find that sort of help hard to find and very often even with our best intentions instead of going alongside them and listening to their troubles and lending an encouraging ear we are all too quick to jump in and offer advice. It is one thing to share what worked for you and quite another to say “You should…” In our efforts to do what is best for our child it is very hard not to advocate for our parenting decisions and leave new moms to make their own decisions…
New moms need the best encouragement and sound advice… I found mine at a La League Meeting, months after my first child was born. It took me that long to get there because really I was initially too proud to attend, I thought I had read it all and it would be easy. It wasn’t easy. Having a baby is life-changing. From a desk and a lamp and work one day to home on the couch with a lot of laundry the next… having a baby is life changing in every way. In a good way, our lives are richer for children, our love expands exponentially with them… There is no accounting for the joy that they bring us… and yet they are hard work and for most of us it is hard work of the type we are just not used too. For myself I barely knew any babies before I had my own… If I had to do it all over again I would definitely head for a local La League Meeting, and attend their series of four meetings before I had a child.
Now I know Mom’s want what is best for their babies – I’m a mom after all… but there are so many myths surrounding nursing and it is disheartening that the myths seem to prevail. There are so many things I wish I had known as a new mom:
- If new moms knew… That all babies lose up to 10% of their body weight after their birth before they start to regain their weight again and the best way for them to build their milk supply was to lie around holding their baby skin to skin… you just wouldn’t see frantic new moms rushing from store to store to buy ingredients for “Magic Milk Building Concoctions” while someone else holds the baby. And if you think I am mad to say this!!! I was such a proud new mom and my babe was popped onto a scale eighteen hours after his birth and he was perfect and gorgeous and I was madly in love… and there was a hush and a pause and “your child has lost 150g” this was a 3.6kg baby, blimey that was probably just his first wee!!! Well all I heard was “failure” and that my child would die of malnutrition before the week was out… Blind panic doesn’t come close to where I was. I should have climbed into my bed with my babe and had a good cry and a nap and nursed him a bit more.
- If new moms knew… That keeping their babies close to their skin those first few days and nights, would get them off to a good start… Instead of the all-to-common practice of getting a good nights sleep, while someone else cares for the baby and getting nursing going in the morning when they are rested. If moms knew that was a make or break factor, then I don’t know a mom that wouldn’t keep their baby with them. I think many more moms would sit around holding their babies while grannies and dads helped in a more practical way.
- If new moms knew… That breast milk was good for their babies for as long as they are nursing and just doesn’t stop being the best food choice for their child because their child is six months old or their children have started solids and are eating three meals a day!!! They would continue to nurse for longer. The World Health Organization, the American Pediatrics Society, I could go on: ALL say that a baby needs milk as the principal food for the first year of live and exclusively for the first six months of life… They need milk, and that is mothers milk, for brain development… no jar of anything, be it organically grown or fair-trade is going into the mouth of a child of mine that is younger than six months old… I don’t care if it is double it’s birthweight or it needs to explore new textures, I am all about brain development at the time in their lives when they are learning more than they ever will again… My kids can do textures later on thank you very much.
- If new moms knew… That their body sags because of pregnancy hormones, the damage is done girls, and no amount of nursing is going to make it better or worse. I had someone tell me that my “ummm chest” would end up on my knees if I nursed for a whole year, imagine what I would look like now if this were true!!! Really if you have been pregnant and you are a regular woman, I know their are some incredibles out there, it is already too late and the only way to get over that is really good foundation wear… seriously. And by quitting nursing you will not “get your body back” as so many people think… because really your body is your kids for the longest time if they are nursing or not… to clamber on, to sleep on, to hang on, and even to vomit on… hand it over graciously it is only for a season!!!
- If new moms knew… That nursing in public is an art in confidence and can be practiced at home first. I thought that I would be stuck nursing on my bed for the rest of time… I would never go out again and I certainly would never eat out in a restaurant again… every time I sat down my baby wanted to nurse… Hello a new baby is the easiest to go out with!!! They happily doze quietly nursing or not as long as they are in your arms you can pretty much go anywhere and do anything and your baby will be none-the-wiser!!! The key here is practice, on a chair, on a step, in front of a mirror until you are comfortable… And in this crazy world develop a thick skin… focus on your baby and not the world around you and you won’t notice the disapproving looks… because believe it or not there are still people who think babies should feed behind closed doors in a bathroom!!! The crazy thing is that most people won’t even notice your happily nursing baby, but to be sure if your baby is fussy and crying everyone will notice and will have heaps of annoying advice.
- If new moms knew… That babies got so much better and efficient at nursing and that they won’t be sitting around nursing for hours for the rest of their child’s life but actually this time of hours of nursing will pass so fast and in no time at all you will be wondering if it is possible that they can be getting enough because they are so speedy… If their diapers are wet, if they are happy and responsive and if they are growing then chances are your baby is getting enough milk even if they are doing it in a few minutes flat!!!
- If new moms knew… That every drop of breast milk their child gets can really make a difference to their whole lives, it can affect their immune system and their health throughout their lives. So often I hear that a mom is planning to return to work after three months and so she didn’t want to bother with nursing for such a short time… or the bigger tragedy that a mom who is nursing well is switching her week old child to bottles and formula so that the baby can be used to it by the time she returns to work… That is a tragedy, that is twelve weeks that that baby could have got real moms milk and by the time her child is three months old it would be nursing very differently to a new born and it would most likely be easier to adapt. I was told if my baby couldn’t drink from a bottle it would die if I was in an accident – you betcha I spent hours trying to express milk and oh the disastrous nightmare and crying over spilt milk… all for the emergency that has never occurred!!! And should it have occurred there are several people around me and my family that would drop everything to help and support my family – it isn’t about me at all and it certainly should never have been about wether my baby could drink from a bottle or not.
- If new moms knew… That lots of people lie so that everyone thinks it is going perfectly for them… and actually their babies don’t sleep through the night and that they battled for weeks with thrush or cracked nipples, or the incorrect latch. I know I battled forever with my first baby and everyone in my ante-natal class was enjoying their maternity leave and leaving their babies with a nanny for the day while they went galavanting with friends. I was the one that quit work, sat on my bed and cried because I had thought nursing would be a walk in the park. Come to think of it, if they were out all day they weren’t nursing!!! And if they had a night nurse to care for their babies then their babies weren’t sleeping through the night either!!! And when I consider the rewards it was so worth those first few weeks of struggling… with extremely healthy kids who have never needed a doctor being the least of the advantages of nursing, the nice tight close fit our babies have had to me for the first while of their lives has been priceless and well worth some teary moments on the edge of my bed fourteen years ago.
And the se7en +1th
If I had to sum it up and after such a long post I should… If new moms knew that us moms that have been there and done that forget so very quickly. Really the best place to get real help and practical advise is from moms who are at the “proverbial coal face” and where better than at a local meeting for nursing moms. For all of us that are moms that have been there and done that, let’s not forget to give those new moms a cheer for every effort they make, because they sure are getting enough veiled advice and criticism everywhere else.