Mistakes You Won't Want To Make
By Patricia Newton,
previously published on babysheaven.com,
summer 2001 and CAPPA Quarterly, spring 2002
Have you noticed how people love to give
advice to pregnant women? Even strangers seem to be experts
at predicting what a
woman’s labor is going to be like, what gender the baby
will be, and how often the parents should pick the baby up. Breastfeeding
is no exception. Advice is freely given in the Breastfeeding
Department, sometimes by people with very little personal breastfeeding
experience. To save yourself a few headaches, learn from others’ mistakes
when it comes to nursing your baby. Try not to make these same
10. Disregard financial savings. Breastfeeding
saves the obvious cost of formula and bottles, which has been
estimated to be $1000
for baby’s first year of life. There are additional savings
that also should not be overlooked. These include reduced health
care costs due to a breastfed baby’s receiving optimal
nutrition. Even with an insurance co-payment of $5 per office
visit, more of your money can remain in your bank account. If
you are a working parent, you will lose less time from work caused
by caring for an ill child, and your boss will love you for it.
Because of the efficient brain development that breastfeeding
provides, breastfed children have higher IQ’s. This fact
may help in the future with educational costs in the form of
9. Believe a working mother cannot breastfeed. Unfortunately,
many people believe only stay-at-home mothers can breastfeed
their children. The truth is, many working mothers from a wide
variety of careers have successfully nursed their babies for
a significant length of time. Ideally, a new mother will establish
her milk supply while being at home for at least six weeks postpartum.
During this time, she can explore her available options on expressing
her breast milk and possibly even breastfeeding during working
hours. Many working mothers have found their nursing sessions
to be extremely rewarding, largely due to the stress management
benefit that breastfeeding brings. Prolactin, the hormone responsible
for the production of breast milk, brings a state of relaxation
to the lactating mother. Studies show that lactating rats respond
less to stressful events and fight less amongst themselves. This
is believed to be due to the higher level of prolactin, which
is evident in breastfeeding mothers.
8. Believe that formula is "good enough." Yes, we
can all think of babies who have been formula fed and who seem
to be generally healthy. However, these babies were not fed the
food that has been perfectly designed just for them. Their small
bodies could be growing in the best possible way if they received
the proper nutrition. It has been stated that formula is not "good
enough" for babies; in fact, some breastfeeding professionals
feel that formula should be the last option mothers choose when
feeding their babies. The first choice is to breastfeed the baby,
the second choice is mother’s breast milk given to baby
in a bottle, the third choice is breast milk donated by another
lactating mother, and the final choice is formula.
7. Believe that others need to feel included
by feeding the baby. It is wonderful to have friends and family
want to love and help nurture a baby. However, there are many
ways that a person can do this. In addition to being fed, babies
also need to be bathed, diapered, held, walked, sung to, rocked,
spoken to, played with, massaged, read to, and generally loved.
Most breastfeeding moms enjoy knowing that only they can feed
their babies. Moms appreciate others helping to take care of
baby, but it’s also rewarding to know that no other person
can give baby what mom can. A mother cannot be replaced.
6. Disregard your own health benefits. It is believed the hormonal
state that occurs during lactation lends to some important health
benefits for the nursing mother. Reduced risks of breast cancer,
ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and osteoporosis have been shown.
Additionally, breastfeeding moms are less likely to develop diabetes
later in life, which is especially important for women who develop
gestational diabetes or have a family history of this disease.
Prolactin levels are higher in lactating women, and this hormone
helps to quickly reduce the uterus to its pre-pregnancy size.
Combined with the extra calorie burning that breastfeeding provides,
a nursing mother is more apt to regain her figure sooner than
a non-lactating mom is.
Usually, the return of a breastfeeding
cycle is delayed. This length of time varies and allows for iron
levels to be rebuilt that were lost especially during childbirth.
This restoration period is important for all women, but especially
for those with anemic tendencies.
5. Disregard your baby’s health benefits. Antibodies in
breast milk strengthen baby’s immune system and give unequalled
protection against allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, and
respiratory infections. Some specific illnesses that breastfed
babies are protected against include and are not limited to leukemia,
multiple sclerosis, heart disease, polio, pneumonia, botulism,
flu, bronchitis, and ear infections.
The physical exercise required to nurse is more intense than
feeding through a rubber nipple. This regular exercise leads
to a higher development of the jaw and tooth alignment in the
Due to the efficiency of fat cells provided in breast milk,
those who have been breastfed are less likely to be overweight
throughout life. Additionally, breastfed babies are much less
likely to suffer from child abuse. This is because of the higher
levels of prolactin, which is a stress reducing hormone found
in high levels within the nursing mother.
4. Believe you can’t produce enough
milk. Many women feel, after only a brief attempt at breastfeeding,
that they are unable
to produce enough milk to nourish their baby. The truth is, only
about 1% of all women are physically unable to breastfeed. Quite
often, mothers come to this conclusion after dealing with a fussy
baby, not putting baby to breast often enough in the early days,
and pumping with inadequate results. These women oftentimes fail
to obtain proper support when this problem occurs (see #1 below),
which is detrimental because usually, only minor adjustments
need to be made in order to remedy the problem.
3. Do not take part in a breastfeeding
class during pregnancy. Every pregnant mother and her partner
should attend such a class,
whether or not they have decided to breastfeed. A good breastfeeding
class will provide up-to-date information on the advantages,
how families can support breastfeeding, the basis of getting
started, as well as common problems associated with nursing.
Classes serve as a good opportunity to meet with other expectant
parents and to learn of local Lactation Professionals to whom
they can turn for help. Some hospitals offer breastfeeding classes,
and they are becoming popular within OB/GYN and Midwives’ offices
also. Check the instructor’s credentials; breastfeeding
classes should be taught only by a Certified Lactation Educator
or a Lactation Consultant.
2. Forget that "practice makes perfect." Mom’s
body was designed to feed her baby. If it weren’t, there
would be no such thing as colostrum magically appearing late
in pregnancy and milk "coming in" a few days after
childbirth. Although breastfeeding, as with parenting, is a natural
occurrence in a woman’s life, it is not a reflex. It takes
practice to recognize baby’s hunger signs, to help a baby
to latch on correctly, and to become familiar with the different
nursing positions. It also takes practice for baby to learn how
to latch on correctly in order to efficiently express milk from
mom’s breast. Practice is needed by two people to make
breastfeeding work, and practice requires time and patience.
1. Fail to seek knowledgeable support. Lack of breastfeeding
support is a major reason why many mothers stop breastfeeding.
Undoubtedly, the single most important move a pregnant woman
can make is to build her breastfeeding support network during
the end of her pregnancy. This group of people can consist of
family and friends who have successfully breastfed their babies,
a La Leche League group, and should also include Lactation Professionals,
such a Certified Lactation Educator or Lactation Consultant.
Because breastfeeding can be tough at times, it is important
to have a list of knowledgeable people handy when you need to
ask a question or hear some reassuring advice.
To find a local La Leche League group,
call 1-800-LALECHE. To find a Certified Lactation Educator
near you, contact the Childbirth
and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) at 1-888-548-3672.
You should also call your hospital’s maternity department
or ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a Lactation
Educator or Lactation Consultant.
Pryor, Gale. Nursing Mother, Working Mother. Harvard Common
World Health Organization. Protecting, Promoting, and Supporting
Breastfeeding: The Special Role of Maternity Services. Geneva,
Switzerland: WHO; 1989.
La Leche League International. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,
Fourth Revised Edition.
Huggins, Kathleen, RN, MS. The
Nursing Mother’s Companion.
Eiger, Marvin S. MD & Olds,
Sally Wendkos. The Complete Book of Breastfeeding.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the Use of
Human Milk (RE9729). AAP; 1979.
In addition to being a freelance writer, Patricia Newton
is a certified childbirth educator and doula. The founder of
Special Delivery, which provides free labor support to women
whose partners are on military deployment, she considers herself
blessed to live in the same small town in which she was raised.
Patricia lives in New Jersey with her “childhood-crush-turned-husband” and
their three home-educated daughters.