Why Not Breast-Feed Your Baby?
AS A mother of four children, I have found that nursing a child does more than provide the little one with nourishment. It helps to forge a warm, loving relationship between mother and child. A baby needs his mother to hold him close, to feel the texture of her skin, to hear the rhythmic beating of her heart and to have her speak softly to him. What better way has been provided than for a mother to hold her baby to her breast and nurse him!
Today, however, in many places, the sight of a mother nursing her child has become rare. Why do so few modern women choose this way to nourish their children? And why do many mothers who start to nurse their babies fail? I have given considerable thought to such questions. What I have learned through experience and research may be of help to you, especially if you are a mother who doubts her ability to nurse her baby.
Do I Have Enough Milk?
This was a question I used to ask myself. I worried, because I didn’t realize that babies cry for more reasons than being hungry. Babies sometimes cry because they’re wet, or maybe they have some gas. Or, a little cuddling is often all that they need. Such affection can be as important to them as food.
Actually, there is no need to fear that you will not have sufficient milk. Why? Because the production of milk works by the law of supply and demand. So the more your baby nurses, the more milk your breasts will be stimulated to supply. Even if you have twins, your breasts will be triggered by the sucking stimulation to provide enough milk for both babies. This is really a marvelous supply-meets-demand system designed by an all-wise Creator.
One way in which you can tell that your baby is getting enough to eat is by his frequently wet diapers. Something has to be going into him to wet those diapers! Also, if your baby is happy most of the time and is gaining weight at a reasonable rate, he is getting enough to eat. An average gain of a pound a month, or four to seven ounces a week, is sufficient.
You may have heard that a baby should be breast-fed on a regular schedule, say every three hours. Believing this, I tried feeding my first child by the clock, rather than by his hungry tummy. If he woke up and wanted to eat before his scheduled feeding time, I became upset and nervous. I couldn’t understand why he couldn’t tell that it wasn’t yet time to eat.
However, by the time our fourth baby arrived I had decided that, as far as feeding time was concerned, there was no such thing as a clock. To my surprise, I found that I had a contented baby and a relaxed me. Try it and see if it doesn’t work for you.
On the other hand, if you have a sleepy baby, it might be necessary to wake him up to feed him. It is not unusual for a baby to sleep for five hours at a time or longer, hopefully at night. But if he sleeps that long more than once during the day, it would be advisable to wake him, perhaps feeding him at three-hour intervals. You will probably find that before long he will fall into a schedule of his own.
Since so few mothers breast-feed nowadays, many doctors haven’t had much experience with this feeding method. Physicians know, of course, that human milk is a better food for babies than cow’s milk. Medical literature makes this very clear. But since bottle-feeding has become so popular, a doctor may discourage you from breast-feeding simply because of his unfamiliarity with this method. What then?
There are other doctors. Talk to women who have breast-fed their babies and ask them what doctor they went to, and if he really supported them in their desire to breast-feed. If he did, go and have a talk with him, telling him of your desire to breast-feed. Do this before your baby is born. Look around for a doctor you like.
If your baby is to be born in a hospital, it is important that you make it very clear that you are determined to nurse your baby. Why so? Because, as Dr. Jean Mayer, professor of nutrition at Harvard University, says: “In male-dominated hospitals breast feeding is officially discouraged. Unless the new mother has clearly signified her will to breast feed, she is given a shot of estrogens before she is even out of anesthesia so as to ‘dry her up.’” But even if “dry-up” shots are given, nursing can restore a good milk supply.
At your request, some hospitals will allow your baby to stay with you during your hospital stay. If the hospital does not provide such a ‘rooming-in’ program, ask that you be given your baby at least every three hours or whenever he is hungry. This means, of course, that you will also be given your baby to feed at night. Ask that he not be given supplementary bottle feedings in the hospital nursery, since this will curb his appetite and, hence, interfere with your milk production.
Some doctors have been allowing their patients to nurse their newborn babies right on the delivery table. This is a recommended practice, since the sucking of the newborn stimulates milk production. But it serves another purpose—it stimulates the mother’s uterus to contract and may help to reduce bleeding.
If a medical problem develops with regard to your nursing, make sure the doctor realizes your keen desire to continue to nurse. Do some research of your own on the problem. This will show the doctor that you are interested enough in nursing to learn how to cope with obstacles that can arise. If for some medical reason the doctor insists that you quit nursing, suggest that you stop only temporarily. Then, to keep up your milk production, pump milk from your breast while the baby is not nursing. Later, when the situation has improved, you can continue nursing.
Your determination to succeed in breast-feeding has rewards. For example, mothers who breast-feed show fewer cases of cancer of the breast. Also, if you are a nervous person, sitting down periodically during the day to nurse may help you to relax. Nursing causes your body to produce hormones that have a calming effect. And, too, in view of these perilous times when calamities threaten, we might ask ourselves: “Could my child survive difficult times on emergency rations without breast milk?”
A word to husbands. Since your opinion as to how your baby is to be fed will probably mean more to your wife than what anyone else thinks, give her all the support you can in her effort to breast-feed.
Some women have trouble with sore nipples, particularly women who are redheads and those with fair complexions, and this has caused them to give up nursing. However, a conditioning program started before the baby is born will usually prevent this problem.
First, it is suggested that soap be used sparingly, if at all, on nipples, since it tends to dry the skin, which is then more susceptible to cracking. To keep the nipples supple, a daily program of pulling on them quite firmly several times, but not until they hurt, is recommended. Do this exercise once or twice a day. Afterward, it is good to use an oily lubricant, such as lanolin, on your nipples.
To open the milk ducts and thus reduce breast engorgement, which sometimes occurs following birth, it is recommended that, about six weeks before your baby is born, you start attempting to hand-express some colostrum from your breasts. Colostrum is the yellowish fluid that is present before your actual milk comes in.
To express the colostrum, cup your breast in your hand. Place your thumb above and the forefinger below the breast at the edge of the dark area. Then gently squeeze thumb and finger together, being careful not to slide your finger and thumb toward the nipple. Rotate your finger and thumb around the nipple area a few times in order to reach all the milk ducts and thus help to open them. At first only a tiny drop, if even that much, may be expressed, but don’t worry. It has no effect on the amount of milk you will have.
If you have sore nipples after the baby is born, don’t despair. I found that exposing the nipples to the air as much as possible is helpful. So after you finish nursing, make sure that you give your breasts time to dry before covering them. I found that vitamin E applied to the sore area did wonders, while others recommend lanolin or A & D ointment.
If your nipples are sore, you may think that nursing less often will help. But the opposite is usually true. Nurse more often, say, every two or two and a half hours. This will keep the breasts comfortably empty. Also, the baby will not suck ravenously due to hunger, which can irritate the nipples. It will be good, too, to limit feedings to ten minutes at each breast while nipples are sore.
Maintaining Milk Production
To keep up your milk supply it is important to nurse your baby on both breasts at each feeding. If you nursed him last on your left breast, then at the next feeding start on your left breast. After he has emptied that breast switch over to the right one. At the next feeding, start on the right breast. I used a small safety pin to remember which breast I should start with the next feeding. Just pin it to your undergarment.
You may find that when your baby is about six weeks of age, and then again when he is about three months old, he may become fretful and want to nurse more often. This only means that he is growing and this is his way of increasing your milk supply. Nurse him when he wants to nurse, and you will find that in a day or so he will be back to his regular schedule.
When to Start Feeding Solids
It is advisable not to be in a hurry to start your new baby on solid food. Your milk is all he needs for the first few months of his life. He doesn’t even need water, since the milk he receives will take care of his need for fluids.
Generally your baby will let you know when it is time to start feeding him solids. He will do this by suddenly increasing his demand for food. If you have tried increasing your number of nursings over a period of about five days and this doesn’t satisfy his ravenous appetite, then the baby is telling you that he’s ready for solid food. Start solids one at a time, and slowly. In this way if he develops a rash, or any allergic reactions, you will be able to tell which food is the culprit.
I started feeding our youngest one solids at the age of five months. He received only my milk up until that time, and thrived too. When solids were started I found that he was able to sit up and handle the new experience much better than younger babies. I also found, as a surprising side effect, that we had saved quite a bit of money, since we hadn’t bought any baby food for those months. Nor did we buy any formula or bottles! At five months I simply began taking food from our table, and ground it up enough for the baby to assimilate it.
How Long to Breast-feed?
Does this mean that when you start feeding your baby solids you should cease breast-feeding? By no means! You simply supplement your baby’s diet of milk with solid food. So when should you stop breast-feeding?
Israelite mothers nursed their children for two and a half to three years or longer. The Bible reveals that Abraham’s aged wife Sarah did not wean her son Isaac until he was five years old. Other women are reported to have nursed longer. Saturday Review of the Sciences of May 1973 observes:
“Early Indians believed that the longer a child received breast milk, the longer it would live. It was not uncommon, therefore, for children to be suckled until the ages of eight or nine years. As recently as 40 years ago, Chinese and Japanese mothers nursed their children as long as 5 and 6 years.”
Now perhaps you are thinking, “Who wants to nurse for that long? People would think there was something wrong with me.” True, we live in different times. But perhaps we could ask ourselves if we and our babies would not benefit from nursing longer than society today dictates that we should. It’s not odd these days to see a toddler with a baby bottle, so why is it so odd to continue nursing, say for at least a year or more? In the book Touching, Ashley Montagu states:
“The advantages of breastfeeding during the first year of life on subsequent development and into adulthood have been demonstrated by a number of investigators. The evidence indicates that the infant should be breast fed for at least twelve months, and terminated only when the infant is ready for it, by gradual steps in which solid foods, which can begin at six months, commence to serve as substitutes for the breast. The mother will generally sense when the baby is ready for weaning.”
I have nursed our youngest baby well into the toddler age, and have found that little by little he is putting away the traits of a babe and is becoming a little boy.
No question about it, I will always look back at this time in my life and thank my Creator, Jehovah God, for this gift he gives to nursing mothers—this beautiful relationship I have had with my children.—Contributed.