Thank you for your wonderful post, Amanda!

*Please note: this is one mother’s journey through breastfeeding and mothering and may or may not represent the philosophy or advice of La Leche League International.

Before I became a mother, I knew that I would breastfeed my baby. I believed breastfeeding was natural, beautiful, and healthy for both of us. But, I never anticipated the emotions that it would stir in me. Breastfeeding is more than a nourishment for the baby. It quenches her thirst for mother’s comfort, sense of security, and a closeness between us that will forever set the foundation of our mother-daughter relationship. When I’m at work, I long for her snuggles and smiles. When we are together at the end of a very busy day, I see her sweet face and she turns her head and opens her mouth to drink in the sweet warm milk and my smell as I soothe her by stroking her soft face. We look in each others eyes and relax. We are making memories and enjoying the moment.

Breastfeeding is more than just milk. It’s medicine for the body and the soul. My daughter is a healthy 6 1/2 month exclusively-breastfed baby. We’ve dabbled in “tastes” of solid food after she turned six-months. I’m cooking my baby’s food instead of buying commercial to introduce her to tastes from the family table. I breastfeed in public without a cover because its easier and I’ve learned to be discreet. We cosleep because it helps us stay connected and get more rest at the same time. I carry my baby in a pouch sling and carry her with me where ever we go like walks, the zoo, grocery store, or library. My so-called “granola mom” mothering style is against the standard in the US, which is heavily saddled with the defeating language of not being able to breastfeed their baby for a variety of reasons most of it due to lack of support to the nursing mother. I’m a minority. A 13% sort of minority. That’s the number, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), of babies are exclusively breastfed by 6-months in the US. According to a recent CDC study, 3 out of 4 mothers in the US initiate breastfeeding, but the rates drop due to lack of support at hospitals, workplaces, and communities.

As a full-time working mother, I’m grateful for a supportive work environment not only for pumping milk during the day, but the support of my individual coworkers who know that I run into the Mother’s Room several times a day between meetings to pump while multitasking. Even my male manager understands the nursing relationship because his wife has breastfed their two children. He supports me that I prefer not to travel overnight for work leaving my young baby without her mommy for more than a single work day. My husband is loving and they are bonded, but she just needs her mother to nurse. How would she sleep without her mother there? Moms and babies aren’t meant to be separated biologically, but in modern day of mortgages and college-savings plans, I have to work. I’m so blessed to have a work-life balance that allows me to work from home two days a week to help continue our nursing relationship.

My baby and I fought for this relationship. We are survivors. Breastfeeding did not come easy for us in the beginning. I had flat nipples and my Lactation Consultant/Nurse threw a nipple shield at me for our second time nursing. My doula was right in that my nipples eventually drew out from nursing. Our first night home from the hospital brought me to tears. With the support of my husband and mother-in-law (a long-time LLL leader) helped me for hours try to get the baby to latch. Finally, I pumped and fed her a bottle. She was starving. I learned over the next several weeks to try to nurse the baby with early hunger signs, before she cried. It taught me to be fiercely in-tuned to my baby girl. I knew when she was hungry because of a full breast. Now, my husband and I watch out for our baby’s early hunger cues like a high pitched whimper, head-burying in our chests, and “nursing” our shoulder.

I’m very fortunate to have a high-volume supply of milk. When my baby was  only 1-week old, I was so engorged and realized that I should pump. I pumped 4-ounces of milk from one breast! This abundant supply has given me the confidence to donate my milk. I freeze tons of extra milk that I pump while I’m at work and store it for future donation. My baby eats just-enough at daycare and nursing constantly when we’re together.  I honored to share my milk with premature and sick babies in need by donating to the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank. So far, I’ve donated over 600-ounces of milk.

People ask me all the time how long I plan to continue nursing. I think to myself, it’s not up to me alone. Nursing takes two. I’m planning to nurse as long as she wants to because that is natural biologically. Babies wean when they’re ready with support and encouragement from their mothers that they’re growing up and ready to take on the world more independently. I blogged in my third trimester about how I prepared my body for having a baby years before, which paved the way for a very healthy pregnancy. I shared that I’ve always seen the cycle of childbirth as four phases: fertility/conception, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and lactation. I feel many moms skip or cut the last step short because of the societal pressures.

Because of my blogging and sharing breastfeeding in my every day conversation, people ask me questions about it. I’m thrilled to have questions from my friends that are not parents. And now my pregnant friends ask me for advice and tips. Support groups through LLL and my hospital gave me immeasurable  support that got through the tough 4-6 weeks of nursing. But, as breastfeeding mothers know, you need support all along the way with the changes in the baby’s development. I feel at home with these mothers.

In my house and out of habit, my husband calls bottle feeding “nursing” when he tells me that he fed the baby when I was working late. At daycare, my baby doesn’t hold her bottle, she holds her caregivers fingers as they feed her. I’m proud to be a nursing mother. I’m proud to be Ava’s Mom.

Follow us in our adventures. http://amandasquickbite.blogspot.com/

Nursing is normal!

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Scientific American just published an interesting new article about the relationship between breastfeeding and mothers’ health.  It’s well worth reading.

MOTHER’S MILK IS GOOD FOR MOMS: Lactating appears to help mothers–as well as their babies–to stay healthier, according to new research. But researchers are still trying to figure out how breastfeeding can up protection for moms from everything from cancer to cardiovascular disease.

Scientific America, April 31, 2010, How Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers’ Health.

The topic of vitamin and mineral supplements for breastfeeding babies seems to come up very frequently in our meeting discussions! Here are a few links to follow up on discussions we have had in recent months:

Fluoride As of 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that fluoride supplements should not be given to breastfed infants under six months of age. After that point, fluoride supplements may be considered if other sources of fluoride, such as fluoridated water, are not available.

http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;115/2/496#SEC6

Iron Healthy full-term babies are born with iron stores that will carry them through the first six to twelve months of life. Breastmilk also does contain iron in a form that is very easily absorbed compared to the iron complexes found in supplements. After six months of age, iron-rich complementary foods can gradually be introduced to the diet while continuing to breastfeed.  If there is concern about a baby’s iron status, a hemoglobin test may be used to determine whether supplements or additional iron-rich foods are needed in the diet.

http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;115/2/496#SEC6

Vitamin D Current recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics indicate that babies should receive 400 IU of vitamin D per day, starting shortly after birth. This is an area of active research, and new information is becoming available about the reasons to consider vitamin D supplements.  LLL’s publication for Leaders, Leaven, recently published a very helpful article summarizing recent research and changes to recommendations related to Vitamin D supplementation for breastfed babies:

http://www.llli.org/llleaderweb/LV/LVIss1-2009p2.html

Current research supports the recommendation to supplement babies, children, and adults with vitamin D.  It’s important to note that this does not mean that human milk is deficient or inferior to formula. For the most part, our bodies have developed to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. It’s not that human milk is faulty, but that our lifestyles and understanding of the risks of extensive sun exposure have changed. So the fact is that everyone is advised to consume supplemental vitamin D, not just breastfed babies. Older children and adults may get the recommended dose from supplements added to dairy products or a multivitamin, but a one-drop, vitamin D only preparation may be more appropriate for a breastfeeding baby. 

Good news!  Our magazine New Beginnings is now available to the public for free!  If you have not read it yet, it’s worth taking a look at it. There are tons of great articles on a variety of breastfeeding- and mothering-related subjects, ranging from the technical (“Body Modification and Breastfeeding”) to the more philosophical (“Normalizing Breastfeeding”).  The heart of every issue is a collection of mothers’ stories of breastfeeding and motherhood, some jubilant, some heart-rending, but all filled with mothers’  love for their babies.  The New Beginnings editors are always on the look-out for more mothers’ stories.  If you like to write, please consider sharing your story.  You can email your story and photos to mothers.stories@llli.org.

To read New Beginnings online, just click on the cover of the magazine you’d like to read.  If you have a fast connection, you should see the magazine pop up on your screen in a few seconds in a very nice PDF viewer.  Unfortunately, if you have a dial-up, you may have troubles reading the online issues of New Beginnings because they are such large files.

Here are our four most recent issues:

Issue 2, 2009

Articles in Issue 2:

Learning to be “Motherful”

Active Toddlers’ Eating Habits

Breastfeeding: Instinct or Instruction?

Father Figures!

Issue 3, 1009

Articles in Issue 3:

Responding to Babies’ Tears

Holiday Weaning

Breasts Without Embarrassment

But I want to play, too!

Body Piercing, forums, fussy babies1

Issue 4, 2009

Articles in Issue 4:

Body Modification and Breastfeeding: What you need to Know

The Beauty of Motherhood

Mother-to-Mother Forums: A Mothers’ Online Community

Tricks for Keeping your cool

Reclaiming the Art of Breastfeeding

Issue 5-6, 2009

Articles in Issue 5-6:

Putting the “Public” Back in “Breastfeeding”

Twin Nurslings

Breastfeeding with Hyperthyroidism

Back to the Breast

Breastfeeding in the Hospital

Using Nipple Shields

When Others Criticize

Avoiding Dental Caries

Normalizing Breastfeeding

ONLINE RESOURCES FOR WEANING OFF OF A NIPPLE SHIELD

  • Nipple Shields from Kellymom — an overview of what nipple shields are, and lots of ideas on weaning a baby off of a nipple shield.
  • Nipple Shields … Friend or foe? by Kathy Parkes, IBCLC an overview of pros and cons of using nipples in various situations.  Written for La Leche League Leaders.
  • Online resources for getting a good latch — Babies who are used to nipple shields often learn to latch on to the breast better when they take the lead.  You can find links about how to do this under the heading LET YOUR BABY GUIDE YOU TO A GOOD LATCH.  (We have an excellent video on this topic that you may borrow from our Group library.  For more info, please contact one of the Leaders.)

PLEASE NOTE:  Nipple shields have been shown to decrease the milk supply of women with  inverted or flat nipples. The nipple shields may keep the baby’s tongue from compressing the breast enough to get the milk flowing.   If you have inverted  or flat nipples, it is recommended that you only use a nipple shield under the supervision of a lactation professional.

Here are some of the links on a variety of topics that we talked about at our meeting today.

VITAMIN D

WHO GROWTH CHARTS FOR BREASTFED BABIES

MILK STORAGE/BOTTLE FEEDING

TEETH/BITING

A brand-new Harvard/BYU study uncovers information about how  breastfeeding protects a baby’s immune system.  Read about it here.