Breast Feeding Six Babies
You’d think by the time I had baby number six (Eve), I would be some kind of pro at breastfeeding right? It seems some women have repetitive pregnancy problems like morning sickness, but for me, pregnancy is a breeze. It is the breastfeeding where I experience a hiccup in the whole mothering experience. Engorgement, cracked nipples and mastitis are my staple in the early days of breastfeeding. I just grit my teeth and carry on with zealous determination. You might think it would seem easier to just grab some infant formula from the store and quit while I was ahead. So why do I just keep on with that never say die attitude.
Women have amazing bodies! I can eat spaghetti or salad, or chicken or pizza, and all the while my amazing body is converting that food into a nutritional food for my baby. That breastmilk alone will sustain her for the first 6 months of their life, and then will continue to provide important sustenance for a further 18 months and beyond. Breast Milk is initially a high concentrate of nutrients known as colostrum, providing my baby with the right nutrients in a low volume. It’s one of the things my body was designed to do and after the first few weeks, it does that without any further hiccups.
In addition breast milk contains important antibodies to help protect her against infection. Babies that are breastfed have less chance of developing ear and urinary infections, meningitis and diarrhoea. Additionally they have less chance of becoming obese, and developing diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol and sudden infant death syndrome. So my gain natural immunity from me. And on the topic of health benefits, breastfeeding assists with mum’s post-natal weight loss. Who doesn’t want to lose that pregnancy weight?
Breastfeeding is also a major convenience, I don’t have to dash out to the store to buy formula or find a microwave when out and about to heat up the milk. I also love not having to wash and sterilise bottles.
But my favourite reason for why I breastfeed my babies is, that it is a natural way to bond with my baby. For them to feel loved and cherished. At such a young age their needs are simple – being close to my baby is a way to not only nourish her body but to nourish her soul.
Why did mums start feeding their babies artificial substitutes anyway? There has always been a small need for alternatives to breastmilk from a baby’s own mother. If a mother died in childbirth or is sick and unable to breastfeed, or the infant is not thriving. A century ago, wet nurses would have been called upon or the baby would have been fed by a breastfeeding sister or friend. Then along came commercialisation of breastmilk substitute, and clinical studies showing that evaporated milk fed babies did as well as breastfed babies.
Unfortunately the endorsement by the medical field, in combination with clever marketing – has resulted in a worldwide boom in the infant formula industry. These companies do not have the best interests of babies or their mothers at heart, but financial interests. Currently the infant formula industry in the top 5 markets (China, USA, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Mexico) is worth $24.7 billion US dollars per year and growing. It is estimated that the china market alone will be worth $30 billion US dollars alone by 2017, pushing the value of the top 5 to almost $40 billion US dollars. As westernised countries are having fewer children, these companies are continuing to grow profits, by pushing their products into developing countries, places where money for such formula is scarce.
In developed countries such as the UK, formula feeding is now intergenerational. Although 83 percent of mothers begin breastfeeding, only 17 percent are exclusively breastfeeding their babies at 3 months and 12 percent at four months. Barriers to breastfeeding include hospitals pushing new first time mums out the door as soon as possible and a lack of breastfeeding support.
It can be hard work to get started and persist especially if the women in your life never breastfed. Additionally is the fact that many new mums are working and many employers and workplaces are simply not breastfeeding friendly. Also a culture of non-breastfeeding and poor public attitude can stigmatise women to feel embarrassed about breastfeeding.
Top Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
- Read as much about preparing to breastfeed before baby comes. Know what to expect.
- Build a support network of breastfeeding mothers with whom you can talk to about any issues or problems that arise. These people can be family, friends, or even an online support network of women who have successfully breastfed. When you feel like crying because things aren’t working out – this is when you need those support people on hand.
- Know where you can access professional support. Many maternity units have lactation consultants. Additionally La Leche League can be a great support
- Don’t smoke while breastfeeding. It’s not good for you, it’s not good for baby. It can impair milk prduction and the let-down response as well as interfering with baby’s sleep-wake pattern. Most newborns sleeping habits are erratic enough without nicotine playing havoc on their system. There is a lot of help for smokers to quit smoking these days – see your GP or go to http://www.nhs.uk/smokefree for some help.
- Eat well while breastfeeding. Some women have a lower appetite while breastfeeding than they did when they were pregnant, but it is important to continue to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure adequate vitamin, mineral and energy intake to support a fast growing baby.
- Avoid birth control methods which interfere with breast milk production such as the combined oral contraceptive pill.
- Avoid other medications (including caffeine) which may interfere with milk production or can be passed through the breastmilk to baby and affect their mood, sleep or health.
- Don’t stop breastfeeding suddenly. Even if you get mastitis (a breast infection), keep feeding. A sudden reduction in baby feeding will result in engorgement and can cause blocked ducts and infections.
Give breastfeeding a go, love your baby and enjoy!
UK breastfeeding Rates, The Baby friendly initiative, UNICEF
Combined Oral Contraceptives for Mothers Who Are Breastfeeding http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/1001/p1303.html
Dr Deborah Brunt has recently joined Daysinbed.com. To read more about her please visit the about page Meet my Sister!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to replace personal medical advice. It is intended to inform people about natural ways to improve their health and the health of their families. I recommended you discuss your symptoms with your medical practitioner and develop a personalised health plan best for you and your baby.
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