30 July 2011

#1: Boo-beee!

What's this? I'm actually getting around to posting about parenting?

Perish the thought. This post is probably just a vehicle for a semi-current, super-cute picture of my spawn. Or something like that.

Actually, I've been mulling about what to talk about first, and what information to put in here (and what references I want to use). So for the first post, tonight this morning, I want to talk write about breastfeeding. Links are mostly to kellymom.com - which is a great evidence-based site with breastfeeding information.

If you actually went and reviewed all of my posts here & on Facebook and the (verbal) comments I've made about breastfeeding, I'm not sure you'd get an overall positive review. I tend to complain about it. A lot. (And everything else.) Because something going wrong flippin' hurts. I don't balance out all the "If he wants to nurse for the fifth time in 2 hours I'm going to lose my shit" posts with the "I would not give this up for any amount of money, ever" feelings (which are much more frequent. Honestly).  

I love breastfeeding. I love being able to soothe my kid, I love being able to fit into my pre-preggo jeans, and I love the little games we play while he nurses. (And the in-focus, up-close eye shots I can get while he's still for 30 seconds.)

It's late/early, I'm tired, and I've had a Kir (yum), so I'm just going to break this down into bullet points. Easy to write, easy to read - right? Here we go...

1- Fulfilling needs: Boobie juice has everything a kid needs for almost the entire first year of life. Scientists haven't even identified everything in breastmilk (true story). The composition of breastmilk changes throughout a feeding - watery foremilk quenches thirst, fatty hindmilk fills a kid up. Furthermore, the saliva in a baby's mouth communicates in real time with the mother's immune system, telling Mom what antibodies kiddo needs. (Yes. Awesome. I read the study, and now can't find the link. I'm working on it.)

When the kid turns a year old, boobs don't suddenly get stupid. Breastmilk is a very important source of calories & nutrients throughout toddlerhood. Toddlers are on the go. Constantly. Nursing is a great nutritional foundation, and a source of concentrated calories & fats for those little legs and minds. Hugely important when you consider some kids only eat peanut butter, chicken nuggets, juice, and bananas. Toddlers nurse less (generally speaking), and guess what - milk adapts. It's more concentrated. It has more immune factors.

And here I've just mentioned nutritional needs. Emotional needs are mentioned in #3.

2 - Duration: nursing for 1+ year is what the AAP recommends. 2+ years is what the WHO recommends. Anthropological studies point toward a biological (vs. cultural) weaning age of between 2.5 - 7 years, depending on what parameters are taken into account. (Parameters such as when permanent teeth erupt, reaching a certain percentage of adult weight, etc.) "Extended" nursing is the norm in most of the world. Americans call it 'extended' because - ew, boobies. Get that kid offa there. [Insert eye roll here.]

3 - Benefits: Surprise: oodles of health benefits for the kid. OODLES. Even(especially) past the first year - this link has an awesome list of references. Breastfeeding also has emotional and immunological benefits as well. Nursing is a great way to soothe everything from "crap! I crapped my pants, Ma!"(at any age, lol) to "I want to do this but I can't!" (as a toddler). Fell off the couch? Nurse for 5 minutes, and everything is right with the world. You cannot get the same results with a bottle. Sorry. (And yes, Cam can fall asleep without nursing. But we both (sssh!) like the quiet time, and he's getting the good stuff.)

If the benefits for the kid weren't enough, there are major health (and I would argue emotional, too) benefits for the mom, too: less chance of reproductive cancers; reduced risk of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis; decreased insulin requirements for diabetics; and lower body fat percentages (to name a few). I enjoy being able to eat cheesecake... a lot. ;)

#4 - Bonding: I obviously don't have anything to compare my current experience to, but I feel that nursing has really given us a deeper bond than we might otherwise have had. I think I'm much more empathetic now (esp. towards Cam, but in general too). I can speak from 21+ months experience - the bonding hormones are intense, amazing, and wonderful.

#5 - It's normal: Yep, formula was invented for a reason. No, not every mom can/will/wants to nurse her kid. But if you have the option at all... the alternative is paying $$$ for powder in a can that you then have to make your kid wait for once you realize s/he is hungry. At night especially (or in public, for that matter) - it's so much easier to just latch the kid on. (This is assuming you have a choice. And remember, adoptive mommas can breastfeed, too.)

Having thrown all of this out there, we've only had a handful of speed-bumps. Oversupply (for the first frakin' year) was dealt with by block nursing (nursing on one side only for a certain amount of time - so if Cam wanted to nurse 5 times in 2 hours, he got the same boob every time). A blocked duct (with mastitis, too!) happened around 18 months - just lots of expressing (by hand, because *of course* I was without a pump then) and staying hydrated. I managed both without getting outside help, but I also made it my business (& had time) to read a lot about breastfeeding beforehand (not to mention I joined an awesome mom group with like-minded mamas who know a TON). The amount of misinformation from the medical profession is staggering. I was told not to nurse for 24 hrs after an MRI. I knew better. I was told to supplement Cam with formula for jaundice - again, not correct. You just have to keep calm and carry on. :)

I've been pleasantly surprised at the lack of commenting on our breastfeeding in public. You can find all of these horror stories about being thrown out of places or having snide comments made TO your kids, but... a mall security guard told me once about how there were family restrooms just down the hall. That's been it. (Cam was 6 weeks old.) I would like to think Orlando's just an enlightened place... but I'm not delusional. (I hope. Much.) I think the vast majority of people don't even realize what we're doing. Because really, it's not being "whipped out". A nursing cover would bring waaaay more attention to what's going on.

So the above hopefully explains (to some degree) why we've been nursing up through now and will continue to for the foreseeable future. We've been very lucky. I can stay home with Cam, we've got a support system, and he's never had a problem latching. So many women have been led to believe it's an all-or-nothing thing - which makes me sad just to think about (meaning, if she has to formula-feed during the day and can't pump enough (pumping only gets 20% of the milk in the breast), then she can't nurse when she sees her kid).

Thank goodness Cam still calls it "na-na". If you point to a boob now, he says "boo-BEE".

It's only a matter of time...

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