It is an age old question, whether to nurse or not to nurse? Opinions vary from the extreme of: “Breastfeeding your child is the only option. To not breastfeed is tantamount to abuse”. All the way to: “There is no huge difference between breastfeeding and bottle feeding and it should not matter how a women decides to feed her child”. Recently, there has been a lot of advertisement pushing the superiority of breast milk over formula. But is this actually true? Do the benefits of breastfeeding out weigh the drawbacks? And, what about the rumors that there are medical conditions and medications that can hinder or even stop a women from breastfeeding? Hopefully this article will answer those questions for you.
The US Surgeon General has publicly recommended that all babies under 6 months are fed exclusively with breast milk due to the benefits the baby receives. However, when talking about the benefits of breastfeeding rarely are the benefits for mom discussed.
Your baby will receive many benefits from breastfeeding. These benefits effect your baby’s nutrition, health, and life style.
- Breast milk is reportedly the best food available for your baby. It contains the right proportions of sugar, protein, fat, and water needed for your baby.
For more information on the break down of nutrients in your breast milk visit:
- Breast milk contains antibodies to protect babies from bacteria, viruses, infection, and disease. The antibodies are limited to those present in the mother’s body.
- Breast Milk can also help reduce the risk of allergies, asthma, eczema, and diabetes.
- Studies show breast milk helps protect against Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia (AML).
To read about this visit: http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/10/26_breastfeeding.shtml
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, breastfeeding can reduce the risk of SIDS by about 20 percent.
- Your baby will have an easier time digesting breast milk than formula. Due to this, his digestive tract will work more efficiently and he will be less constipated.
- Breastfeeding promotes normal weight gain.
- Breastfeeding helps develop jaw muscles.
- Helps brain development.
- Reduces colic because babies swallow less air.
- Breastfed babies are less fussy and gassy.
- Your breast milk will take on the flavor of the foods you eat. Because your baby is already use to different flavors he may be less fussy trying solid foods.
Breastfeeding dose not just have benefits for baby. Mom can also receive benefits from the experience.
- Breastfeeding will help your uterus return to its normal size faster.
- Your period will start later.
- Uses up to 500 extra calories per day.
- Less of a risk of contracting osteoporosis, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer later in life
- For some moms, breast feeding provides stress relief because of hormones released.
- It saves both time and money. The milk is ready when needed and there is no preparation of bottles involved.
- Choosing to breastfeed can help your breasts to remain firmer than they would have otherwise.
For Both Mother and Child:
Breastfeeding provides a time for mother and child to bond. Not to mention, the smell and touch of your body will reassure and comfort your baby.
Drawbacks to Breastfeeding
Yes, there are some cons to beastfeeding!
- Cracked and/or bleeding nipples.
- Engorged and/or painful breasts.
- Mastitis is an infection women can get, which effect tissue of the breast.
- You can still conceive while breastfeeding.
- You can experience vaginal dryness do to decreased estrogen. This can lead to pain during sex.
- Some women experience a decreased libido.
- While breastfeeding you will need to remain on a restricted diet. Anything you put in your body is going to pass through you and into your baby.
- While breastfeeding your hormones will continue to fluctuate.
- It can be hard to tell if your baby is getting enough food when breastfeeding. Worries about the amount your baby is eating can be increased if your baby is having problems putting on weight.
- Mom can experience other aches and pains
Life Style Cons
- For some babies learning to latch on can be hard to do. Learning how to latch on is a process you and your baby will have to learn together.
- When you choose to breastfeed your day revolves around feeding schedules. The only way you will be able to not be present for a feeding is if you pump and store milk.
- Because feedings are solely reliant on mom, dad can start to feel left out.
- There will be a higher frequency of feedings. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula and as such it travels through the digestive system faster.
- Some moms find that breastfeeding can be tiring and stressful.
- Breastfeeding takes time and energy.
- You cannot use any contraceptives with estrogen in them because they will reduce the quantity and quality of your breast milk.
- Babies, sometimes, prefer one breast over the other. This causes the preferred breast to produce more milk and grow larger than the non-preferred breast.
- Your baby may sometimes bite, especially when he is teething
- You will need to buy special shirts and bras for breastfeeding.
- When you are out in public it is hard to find “suitable” places to breastfeed. There is then the looks and the whispers you will have to contend with. Not everyone around you will be pleased you are breastfeeding in public. They may be downright angry and come over to speak with you about the “indecency” of the act.
- You can lactate between feedings. Besides feeling uncomfortable, it can also be embarrassing.
Conditions that would or could cause problems with you nursing
Despite advertisements that says “Breast is Best” not all women are capable of breastfeeding their babies. This can be due to medical conditions, medications, or lifestyle choices. Other women experience such difficulties in trying to breastfeed they decide bottle feeding is better.
Please remember to consult your doctor or a lactation specialist if you are unsure if a medical condition, medication or life style choice will prevent you from breast feeding.
Either mother or baby can have a medical condition that would prevent mom from breastfeeding.
- Blood born illnesses and viruses like Hepatitis C or HIV/AIDS
- Cancers which require chemotherapy to treat
- HTLV-1 (Human T-Cell Leukemia Virus type )
- Maple syrup urine disease
- Lactose intolerance
There are certain medications which can stop you from breastfeeding because they are harmful to your baby. Examples of medications that are harmful are: psychotherapeutic drugs, anti-seizure medication, opiods, radioactive iodine 131, cytotoxic chemotherapy, topical iodine/iodophors.
As a general rule, ibuprofen and paracetamol are considered safe pain killers to take when breastfeeding.
For more information: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/hq/2009/WHO_FCH_CAH_09.01_eng.pdf
There are choices we make in life that can prevent a mom from breastfeeding or make it unsafe to do so.
- Taking recreational drugs while breastfeeding is unsafe for your baby. Cocaine and Heroine are particularly destructive to your baby and you absolutely cannot breastfeed your child within 48 hours of taking either drug
- Smoking when breastfeeding is harmful to your baby because it passes nicotine from you to your baby. It has also been linked to increased incidents of SIDS.
- Breast reduction and augmentation can make breastfeeding impossible depending on whether or not the surgery cuts off or damages the milk ducts. If this happens then you may not be able to produce enough milk for your baby.
There are some situations mom and baby find themselves in that does not stop mom from breastfeeding but does make breastfeeding more difficult.
- Your baby has problems suckling and may not be taking in enough milk. As such your supply dwindles off and you don’t have enough milk for your baby.
- Baby has a cleft palate or lip. This causes problems when it comes to baby latching on to a nipple as well as problems with suction, gagging & choking, and milk coming out the nose.
- Too painful for mom
- Mom feels like she is not providing enough milk for her baby.
- Mom’s body is not producing enough milk for baby
There are many benefits when it comes to breastfeeding. Benefits that are enjoyed by both mother and child and span nutrition, health and lifestyle. Through breastfeeding you child can be protected from illnesses, allergies, asthma and childhood cancers. And you can be protected against getting cancer or osteoporosis later in life. Not to mention the fact that breast feeding can help mother and baby bond. At the same time there are drawbacks to breastfeeding and there are some moms who simply cannot breastfeed at all. When looking at all the information surrounding breastfeeding the first quest to ask is are you able to breastfeed. After that you must weigh the benefits and drawbacks and decide for yourself which outweighs the other. For some women there is no question and for others it is a difficult choice. And who knows, once your baby is born your whole world is going to change and you may just change your mind. In the end, the best choice for you and your baby is the one that feels right to you.
To talk to someone about breastfeeding call the National Woman’s Health Information Center’s breastfeeding helpline at: 1-800-994-9662 or 1-800-994-WOMAN