Why We Need To Make Breastfeeding Work
Sex makes babies, mommies make milk for babies, and babies are supposed to drink this milk. But it’s not always that easy.
Image credit: tatlin
What Happened to Breastfeeding?
For hundreds of thousands of years, we Mommas made milk and babies drank it. But then the formula industry and hospitals came along and mommies were given samples.
Now, just when a new momma is exhausted and sore from having a baby (and her breasts are getting raw from trying to feed the baby, and she is breaking down in tears), daddy and other family or friends will say (trying to be helpful) “It’s OK, just give Junior a little bit of the formula.”
A Vicious Cycle Begins
But, then baby gets full on this formula and he won’t drink as much from mommy the next feeding, which in turn tells mommy’s body to make less milk in the following hours.
Then at the next nursing time, baby can’t get enough milk from mommy and he is fussy and is given “just a little more” formula… and pretty soon breastfeeding goes out the window.
Giving Up On Breastfeeding Before It Starts
Breastfeeding rates are dramatically decreasing again, especially in younger mothers.
There are rare times when moms and babies need formula so I am not condemning it, but when the formula becomes the NORM, we are straying so far from our own nature that we can expect serious consequences for our children and ourselves.
Lifetime chronic illness, food allergies, obesity, and many other problems occur when we do not do for our babies what Mother Nature intends.
Often breastfeeding is given up before it even starts, as new moms become frustrated establishing milk flow.
Tips To Make Plenty of Milk
Let The Milk Flow Out
Right out of the hospital the discomfort of breasts filling and becoming engorged can be helped by sitting in the shower with warm water pouring over the breasts for 15-20 minutes several times a day. This opens up the valves in the nipples and lets the milk flow out.
While a lot of milk will wash down the drain, this is perfectly OK—the mammalian body produces more milk than the baby will ever drink, so relieving the pressure is just fine.
Then when you first get out of the shower wrap a big bath towel around your waist and sit with no shirt or bra on for a while so milk can continue to flow out and onto the towel.
The important science here is that milk production in mammals is triggered by what flows out.
Image credit: artemtation
The more milk that flows out of your breasts, the more milk you will make.
Wear Loose or Less Clothing
Pressure on the nipple stops milk flow by telling the breast that the nursing system is full and milk production should stop. Given this fact, wearing tight bras or tight clothing when milk is coming in can limit production (to say nothing of it being uncomfortable). So enjoy bare breasts and loose clothing when your milk is coming in.
Pump While You Nurse
And since everything in those first weeks after childbirth needs to be about increasing milk flow to maximize production, pumpingthe side the baby isn’t nursing can also increase milk flow. This helps with comfort and keeps telling the mammalian system naturally to make more milk.
Some women will over produce, but most women stop nursing because they feel they don’t have enough milk.
These tips can help you make plenty of milk—it is easier to get the system to slow down later than to get it cranked up initially.
Understanding Mother’s Milk
Another reason women stop nursing is because the baby seems to never fill up.
The first milk that comes out of the breast at a feeding is very watery, and primarily aimed to hydrate the baby. It isn’t very “filling.”
As the baby nurses longer, the hind milk from deep in the breast is taken in by the baby with more protein and fat.
If your baby is fussy or nurses a long time at a sitting, try nursing out one side and then switching sides at the next feeding. You can even pump the side you are not feeding while the baby is nursing. This way you make sure they are getting the concentrated hind milk at a feeding, and not just having two sets of watery foremilk (one from each side).
Nourishment From Breastfeeding
Your baby desperately needs the nutrients and colostrum (immune system developer) in your milk.
Equally important, you both need the bonding. So the optimal situation is for you to nurse that baby!
Even though there can be many distresses while nursing—rapid milk let down, chapped nipples, long feeding sessions—if you can get through these first 2 weeks and stabilize your milk flowthings will get better. And you will be breastfeeding your baby.
I encourage you to approach this time like you would Boot Camp or studying for finals. It isn’t forever—it just needs your very best efforts.
Is it worth it? Yes! It allows for a lifetime of health benefits for both mothers and babies as they grow.
- Dr. E
Science can help us nurture and enjoy our sexual selves.