"Ask me for strength and I will lend not only my hand, but also my heart."
~ Unknown

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why I Choose to Breastfeed

“Happy Breastfeeding Awareness Month!” This is the line that I have repeated over and over to people as I have breast fed my baby anywhere that he has been hungry. What a wonderful time to be able to help raise awareness that breastfeeding is a wonderful thing for moms and babies everywhere.

Isn’t technology amazing?! It is hard to believe that I can carry with me a phone that can send pictures over it and now videos to someone across the world. The world is changing so quickly, however science has never been able to duplicate the formula that makes up mother’s milk. For more information on this check out:  What Every Parent Should Know About Infant Formula.

My body can create for my child the most advanced combination of nutritional and beneficial ingredients to sustain my child’s health. From my mammary glands I produce the most complex combination of antibodies for fighting germs and giving my son the best possible start so that he can explore the complexities of the world with his mouth and with his tongue feel the textures of whatever he can get his hands on. Unfortunately no matter how many times I remove the bits of paper, mud, and sticks from my baby’s mouth he continues to shove something else back in as soon as he can. I shake my head but feel better knowing that by nursing my babe I am giving him what he needs to fight bacteria and that he will develop a stronger immune system because of it.

I was fortunate and breastfeeding for me came very naturally and I have had three babies who have fully enjoyed their time spent at the breast. There is something so beautiful about the quiet time spent with a baby nourishing them at your breast, staring down into the deep trusting eyes of my newborn as he stares back up at me eyes brimming with unconditional love. Those quiet peaceful moments can never be taken away and carry a mother through the trials of raising little ones. Is it no wonder that looking at a sleeping child renews that love that was formed while bonding with the child as a babe at the breast?

Can you imagine what a wonderful place the mother’s breast must be for the newborn? So much of who we are is formed before we can even remember it. My sister told me that her daughter has a preference for the color orange and recalled that the nursing cover she used with her daughter was orange. I still have memories as a child of being held in my mother’s lap and feeling that it was the warmest, most comfortable place in the world. Memories that probably connect back even further than I can recall. For my own babes my breast is a place that they come to for peace and quiet, when it is time to rest, to quiet fears and comfort pain. I am so grateful for my ability to give my children so much through breastfeeding. I feel sad for those who struggle with breastfeeding and have difficulties with lactation. Remember that giving your milk to your child for the first time is something that is a learning experience for both you and your babe. The newborn is not born with the instructions for breastfeeding. It is a time where both of you must learn together and work together. Do not get frustrated if it seems that you are doing things wrong. Breastfeeding should be unforced and natural and can be difficult and even painful. However, persistence usually pays off and can benefit you and your newborn.

Our current culture is a place where breastfeeding is considered to be out of the norm. It makes me laugh to go to the beach and see bikinis with so much skin showing and yet I get thrown awkward, uncomfortable glances while nursing with my baby latched on and my skin covered by my shirt or a blanket. I feel like I need to nurse publicly to help people see that breastfeeding is normal. I hope that others will join me in spreading breastfeeding awareness. My favourite breastfeeding quote I read on a poster said, “It’s not about my right to breastfeed. It’s about my baby’s right to eat.” Every time I feel uncomfortable about being stared at while providing nourishment for my baby I remember that it is not about me and my baby deserves the right to eat when he is hungry regardless of my insecurities. My baby also does not deserve to be fed in a dirty bathroom. I would not want to eat in a place that smelled of excrement.

I have been fortunate that my babies have stood up for their rights by demanding food (quite loudly) and refusing to eat while covered with a blanket forcing me to get over my embarrassment and put my babies needs before my comfort. I have learned to be flexible and supportive of my babies needs. I have also been a mother with children who have felt the need to breastfeed for an extended period. I recently read somewhere that the average breastfeeding age in the world is three years. So I have realized that although among my peers I may stand out as being different, I am well below the average in the world since I usually wean around two years. It is hard for me to quit giving breast milk to my babies until they are ready since I cannot find anything that is as beneficial and supportive of natural growth as the milk that is produced by my breast. I have also not been in a hurry to quit breastfeeding because I use my breast milk quite frequently for other purposes besides just feeding my baby.

Did you know that because of the natural antibodies and healing properties of breast milk it can be used for many other purposes besides just the nourishment of an infant? I use my breast milk frequently on my skin as it is a wonderful and natural cleanser and helps to clear acne and prevent wrinkles. When my baby has goop in the corner of his eye I squirt him in the eye with breast milk to clean it and the immunities in the breast milk help to heal the infection. After breastfeeding I squirt a little milk to rub on my breasts to prevent nipple soreness and cracking. Breastmilk can be used for so many purposes from itchy mosquito bites to sexual lubricant. For more great uses for breast milk check out this website:  Breast Milk and Its Many Uses.

Please consider breastfeeding if you have not before and if you are not a mother then be supportive of those around you who are trying to breastfeed. If you see a mother trying to breastfeed do not make her uncomfortable by trying to avoid looking at her. Look her in the eyes and smile at her. It is so good for babies to have breast milk from their mothers. Remember that it is about the baby and the baby has the right to eat wherever and whenever they are hungry and to have the best start to their lives with natural mother’s milk. If you were breast fed thank your own mother for giving you such a great start in life.

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