Breastfeeding is the recommended form of sole nutrition for babies until 6 months of age. Once the baby starts solids it is still recommended that breastfeeding continues with the solid foods until at least 1 year of age.
There are many benefits of breastfeeding for the baby. These include a decrease in the following:
- chance of ear infections
- respiratory illnesses
The benefits of breastfeeding to the mother is:
- Return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster
- Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- Less postpartum bleeding
- The hormones that help with breastfeeding also make the uterus contract and helps decrease your belly size more quickly
These are the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They have many helpful links for breastfeeding moms and many FAQs on their webpage that are very useful. I now want to share with you my experience with breastfeeding as a “Kids Tummy Doctor.”
I see so many new moms come into me exhausted, frustrated and emotional. I was one of these new moms with my first daughter. It was exhausting to breastfeed her especially when my milk hadn’t come in yet fully. She was constantly crying and hungry. As a Peds GI doctor I should have been able to do this easily, right?? Well I guess not. I was an emotional mess!! Eventually with taking some some herbal supplements ( I took fenugreek 3 times a day) and drinking Mothers Milk Tea to help my milk production, pumping constantly between feeds and latching her on as frequent as possible it started coming together. BUT I had to supplement her with formula due to her poor weight gain and not enough wet diapers. As a new mom we try to write EVERYTHING down. We keep a record of when they pee, poop, eat, burp. We follow the rules, do what we are told to do by our doctors.
As a doctor, I tell my new moms something and I will tell you guys now, it’s okay if you have to supplement. It’s okay if you only partially breastfeed because that is what works with your schedule and for your own sanity. When I see moms with very apparent postpartum depression, sleep deprived and worried to switch to formula because they were told breastfeeding was the “right thing to do” I say to them that as a mom you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby. I see moms who won’t take their antidepression meds because they don’t want to keep breastfeeding. PLEASE DON’T FEEL GUILTY IF YOU HAVE TO SUPPLEMENT OR STOP BREASTFEEDING! You can still pump your milk to keep up your supply if you want to return to breastfeeding. If you tried breastfeeding for 2 months than your baby did receive some of these valuable benefits for the first 2 months. Please take care of yourself as a mommy so that you can take care of that beautiful, wonderful baby.
Also to those moms that are able to keep breastfeeding and pump and stock pile a freezer full of milk, YOU ROCK! I was always so envious of you as a mom. I honestly was breastfeeding my daughter probably for a full month every night towards the end and she would receive probably 2 oz combined from both breasts. I knew this but didn’t want to lose that bonding that breastfeeding gives us with our babies. Did I feel guilty when I realized that it was time to stop? Yes. I was so sad that I cried. In retrospect why did I feel guilty? Why did my supply dry up? It was most likely a combination of things. When I went back to work when my daughter was 8 weeks old ( yup all i got off was 8 weeks; I had 6 weeks maternity leave plus my 2 weeks vacation that I saved and added on… but don’t get me started on that) I was never able to pump more than once a day during my workshifts when that timespan would cover 3 feeds, and the breastpump also never produced much milk for me. I was supplementing with formula which can get tricky to do and still keep up with breastfeeding. I felt guilty because I should have been able to make this work. I am a Peds GI doctor, this is WHAT I DO!! AGHHH!! I was so angry with myself and what I want to say to you is that it’s okay to stop breastfeeding whenever you want. Everyone’s situation is different. You have to do what is right for you. We try our best. I paid for a private lactation consultant to come to my house, did everything and with my first baby I breastfed til 14 weeks old, with my second I was able to breastfeed til she was 7 months old. Just because it doesn’t work perfectly with your first doesn’t mean the same scenario will happen with your other children.
Why am I telling you all this you ask?? Its because I don’t feel like enough people tell you their real stories. They make it seem like breastfeeding will be easy. That once you become a mommy you are supposed to automatically know how to do this. And if it doesn’t come naturally you feel like you are a bad mother. I want you to know that it’s not easy for everyone. It can be painful, so painful that when they latch onto your nipple it can make your toes curl. That it is difficult and if you are able to experience this with your child even if only for a few weeks, you did awesome!!
Please, make sure you ask for help when you need it. Call your pediatrician, they can recommend a lactation consultant if they can’t help you. If your are feeling sad and overly depressed and emotional please go back to your OB/GYN and tell them. You may be suffering from postpartum depression and need help. As women, professionals and mothers please lets start to help build each other up as a society. Share your true stories with your family and friends. Don’t sugarcoat it, lets help each other become better moms.