Even though it is natural, it does not always come naturally, because breastfeeding is a skill you have to learn. And it's a learning process with each of your babies. Just because you successfully (or unsuccessfully) breastfed one child doesn't mean the same will be true for your other children. You and each of your babies need time to get to know each other.
Breastfeeding is a high touch activity. It provides your baby not only with nutrition and nourishment, but also with shelter, love and security. It's one way of meeting your baby's touch needs that ultimately helps them to thrive and grow into a strong and healthy person.
Breast milk is often referred to as liquid gold. Why? Because it is a living substance that changes with the needs of your baby. It changes with each feed, the environment and temperature and also as your baby grows.
The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that up to 220 000 children's lives could be saved every year, if all babies were breastfed:
This is your baby and your body. Your decision to breast feed or not breast feed should be based on your own feelings and your own research. After you've learned the facts about breastfeeding, you can make an informed decision.
If you don't like it, then that is absolutely fine.
If you do like it, or eventually learn to like it if it took a few trial and error sessions, then great. You and your baby will both benefit from this tremendously!
Both the mother and her baby will benefit from breastfeeding. Its not just about the nourishment that breast milk provides, it's also about the nurturing and the comfort it provides.
"You brought me out of the womb, You made me trust at my mother's breast." Psalm 22:9
When you nurse your baby, it's the act of holding your baby, making eye contact, stroking your baby and physically being close to each other, this promotes bonding.
You wire your baby's brain to feel safe, secure and loved. Later in life, breastfed babies are able to handle stress better, because they had this secure start in life and learned that their needs will be met.
The sucking movement alone can soothe and relieve pain. All babies are born with an instinctual need to suck. Add to this the skin to skin contact that breastfeeding provides and you have a winning recipe for relieving pain and promoting the healing process. You are also able to keep an eye on your baby, to quickly recognize any problems that might need to be addressed.
Breastfed babies need to work a little harder to get their milk than bottle fed babies do. The sucking can really tire them out. Combine this with a full tummy, the warmth and comfort of a mommy's arms and you have an easy way to help your baby to fall blissfully asleep!
It is sad that some experts advice parents against providing this comfort to babies. They tell us to "train" your baby to fall asleep on their own. But nursing to sleep is nothing more than an inborn, natural instinct.
When we "train" our babies to do something contrary to their instinct, what actually happens is that their brains are flooded with stress hormones and the baby eventually does fall asleep, but out of pure exhaustion. And to make matters worse, you as the parent are also flooded with stress hormones from hearing your baby cry that much and you have a hard time going to sleep too.
Breastfeeding promotes peaceful, quality sleep for both the baby and the mother.
A baby's jaw and facial muscles are strengthened through breastfeeding. When a baby drinks from a bottle, their mouth is shaped according to the teat of the bottle. When breastfeeding, the mother's nipple will change its shape to fit the baby's mouth.
Not only does this produce teeth that are better aligned, but it also benefits the baby's speech.
The distance between the crook of your arm where your baby lies to nurse and your face, is the exact distance a newborn baby sees at best. When baby watches your facial expressions and sees the love beaming off your face, it not only makes them feel nurtured, but it stimulates their vision as well.
For the first six months of life, your baby needs nothing more than your milk alone. For the first year of life, breast milk remains the optimum food.
It is filled with just the right balance of fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, antibodies, digestive enzymes, living cells and hormones. Your milk composition also changes according to the time of day, age of your baby and the environment. It's a living substance!
Did you know that breast milk contains white blood cells, which protect your baby against infections and illness?
While you breastfeed, your body releases hormones (prolactin and oxytocin - you know, the love hormone) that helps you relax. But these hormones also help you feel more nurturing and protective towards your baby.
Mothers and babies don't stop needing each other when the pregnancy is over. Your body continues to be the main source of everything they need: nutrition, safety and love.
Breastfeeding is an easy way to provide all of these and in return boosts your confidence. You have a great parenting tool, which you can use at any time, for any need.
As a little bonus, you get the feeling of accomplishment when you watch your baby grow and thrive... on your milk alone, in those early weeks and months. Believe me, there are few other things that can match that.
This was one of my favourite benefits of breastfeeding. It forced me to sit down and rest often every single day.
Sure, you will learn to feed your baby while on the move, or while wearing them in a carrier, but for the most part, you are guaranteed periods of rest, as you sit or lie down with your baby for feeds. You can breathe and enjoy the moment.
If there is one thing I have learned from my own experience, and from all the research I've done, is that the most important aspect, is support.
Mothers need support and encouragement! From family, partners, friends and even more so from health professionals.
Other pages on breastfeeding problems in connection with this page