As I’m sure you’re aware, there is massive worldwide debate over what type of infant feeding is best for babies. All you have to do is search the web and you’ll come up with a plethora of information on both breastfeeding and formula feeding. The topic draws such intense scrutiny that parents often feel bombarded with ideas and personal preferences, opinions and agendas.
I believe there is huge pressure to do the “right” thing for your baby. But what is the “right” thing? And why just for the baby? Why not for you too?
Being a midwife, it is entrenched in our training and engraved on our souls, the benefits of breastfeeding. We examine copious research and statistics on the health outcomes of breastfed babies vs formula fed babies. The numbers don’t lie. Breastfeeding is most definitely best, both for mum and baby.
Click here to see what the World Health Organization (WHO) has to say about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding benefits for mum include increased uterine contractions to reduce post partum bleeding, faster weight loss, reduced incidence of breast cancer, increased bonding with baby and it’s cheaper. Benefits for baby include reduced incidence of infection (such as ear and throat infections), reduced asthma, allergies, obesity and diabetes in childhood, not to mention the greater ability of the gut to digest human milk rather than cow or soy milk. I am not able to highlight all the benefits, but the list does go on.
Even though I am very pro breastfeeding, I would prefer to call myself more of a “tit fairy” than a “nipple Nazi”. I first heard these titles when I was a student nurse and they have stuck with me. I like the idea of being a “tit fairy”. I like helping women who WANT to breastfeed and are COMMITTED to breastfeeding. It’s much more rewarding helping someone learn how to breastfeed, especially in the hard times (which may even include occasionally needing some formula), when you know they are passionate about it too.
A “nipple Nazi” may push breastfeeding, to the point where mother feels inadequate if they are unable to do it, or guilty if they choose not to. A “tit fairy” will not force anyone to breastfeed who does not want to. We state the facts but then support and respect mothers and families regardless of their decision. After all, breastfeeding is not always smooth sailing. It is also not worth a midwives time to push and push, and put in so much backbreaking effort to help someone breastfeed, when the woman knows she will start formula feeding as soon as she gets home. It’s best to foster an environment of openness and honesty so everyone can be happy and satisfied with the outcome.
Breastfeeding can be very challenging for a number of reasons; firstly, even if you have done it before, your baby has not. The baby may have a poor suck reflex, a small mouth, a tongue tie or medications in their system that interfere with their consciousness and desire to breastfeed (especially during the initial breastfeed after birth, where epidural or narcotics may be present). The mother may have difficult anatomy ie. large pendulous breasts, flat or inverted nipples (which can lead to cracks and infection or mastitis) or a history of breast enlargement or reduction surgery. She also may have psychological barriers to breastfeeding, such as a history of sexual abuse or trauma. There is no wonder some people decide to formula feed.
I have had many friends (some of them midwives) who have had very difficult baby feeding journeys. I was lucky enough to experience and enjoy relatively hassle free breastfeeding with my first son (besides the initial week-long nipple soreness and biting stages). But this time round I have not been enjoying breastfeeding as much due to having a hungrier, fussier baby, and almost getting mastitis. I understand and respect the choices mothers make, whether that be persevering through extraordinarily hard times such as mastitis, low supply, poor attachment (and the list goes on) or choosing to keep their sanity and their baby well fed by formula feeding.
Parenthood is hard no matter what type of feeding is chosen. So parents much choose what is best, not ONLY for the baby, but also for them to be the best parent they can be.
Click here for a good article on breastfeeding.
These are some good breastfeeding and family care resources: