Breast Milk is Best, But There’s Not Enough Support for Moms

by Dagmar Bleasdale on December 5, 2014

breast milk is best, breastfeeding baby

Breast Milk is Best

If you have been around since the beginning of my blog, then called Dagmar’s momsense, you know that I passionately wrote about breastfeeding and attachment parenting.

It was a journal of my trials and errors in parenting my little son, and I also wrote about green and frugal living.

I initially struggled to get breastfeeding right, like so many moms, but after a lactation consultant taught me how to latch on Landon the right way, he ended up nursing for 5 years.

I'm still breastfeeding T-shirt 2

I was lucky to have the support and right information in those first few weeks — because I met so many new moms who lacked that support and felt guilty that they had not been able to breastfeed their babies, or not as long as they would have liked to.

That prompted me to start my blog and to share what worked for me. I wanted to create a resource for moms who wanted to breastfeed. I knew the right information was out there, but it wasn’t easy enough to find.

Moms — and dads — found my blog and appreciated the help and support, and it created a wonderful community of moms with young kids who shared info and experiences in blog comments and tweets.

I became pretty known in the blogging and Twitter world for my lactivism, and since I ended up breastfeeding L for 5 years, for being outspoken about the many advantages of extended breastfeeding.

I don’t write about breastfeeding much anymore because my breastfeeding days are over, and I now blog mostly about interior design, but that doesn’t mean I’m one bit less passionate about the issue. So I read this article, “The Great Debate: Breastfeeding vs. Formula” on the Yahoo! Parenting Digital Magazine with much interest.

And I was disappointed to find that the struggle of moms to breastfeed hasn’t become any easier, and that people are still stuck on the wrong argument about this issue.

The debate should never be about breastfeeding vs. formula. Breast milk is best, always will be, except in the rare case where the baby is allergic to milk.

To say formula is as good as breast milk is misleading and wrong — breast milk is naturally the perfect food made by mom for the baby to thrive and grow, with just the right amount of calories, fats, minerals, and vitamins.

Formula is manufactured food and a concoction of cow’s milk or soy beans with vegetable oil and synthetic vitamins made in a laboratory that mimics breast milk.

mom nursing toddler in public at the beach

Yes, babies can grow up on formula — and thank goodness we have formula nowadays for the cases where mom can’t product milk or is ill or the baby is allergic. And moms who have to give their babies formula shouldn’t feel bad — they need to feed their child, after all.

But the big push in our society is still for formula use — because formula companies don’t make thousand from a mom who breastfeeds her baby — when the big push should be to make it possible for more moms to succeed with breastfeeding.

Because most moms want to breastfeed — but they are not being told how to latch on correctly or that they will jeopardize their milk supply with every bottle of formula. Formula is being pushed on them before the baby is even born, and moms are being told that formula is just as good as breast milk.

Believing that might make a mom feel better about her choice to switch to formula — but the fact is that the benefits of breastfeeding include protection from common childhood illnesses and infections, a decreased chance of allergies and type 1 diabetes, and a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

And I always stress the many benefits for their own health that most moms are not even aware of: breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and helps space pregnancies, among other advantages.

This quote by Joan B. Wolf in the Yahoo! Parenting article outraged me:

“I have found the benefits of breastfeeding in the developed world nonexistent, marginal or impossible to disentangle from other aspects of a child’s life. The more a given study accounts for parenting practices — promoting hygiene, avoiding crowded places when babies are young, reading to and otherwise engaging with older children, exercising, etc. — the less breastfeeding seems to matter at all.”

How can she say that she found the benefits of breastfeeding “nonexistent” — when the Word Health Organization recommends “exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”?

And how can she compare giving your child the best nutrition in the crucial first years of growth to reading to your child?

My son didn’t get, and didn’t need, anything but breast milk for 9 months.

I wonder if Wolf is sponsored by one of the formula companies, like so many “breastfeeding” apps and other information that appears to support breastfeeding and then just ends up being a gentle advertising push for formula and baby food.

By the way, I never had to avoid crowded places with my infant son and took him everywhere because my breast milk gave him the antibodies that prevented him from getting sick — formula will never be able do that.

If a breastfed baby is exposed to someone who is sick, even his own mom, mom’s body produces antibodies within hours that will be released into the breast milk. Breast milk is so amazing in that way, how it adjusts to the needs of the baby — but formula companies won’t tell you that.

Formula companies make millions every year, and they will make any claims that makes mom feel better about feeding formula to her child.

There will always be formula companies pushing their wares, and there will always be some babies who need formula. But the priority should be breastfeeding support.

It’s in all of our best interest to take the power away from formula companies by giving moms more information about how to succeed with breastfeeding if they want to breastfeed.

Our society and health care system costs would be much better off if we made breastfeeding the priority.

There is a lot a new mom needs to learn about breastfeeding — how to latch on the baby correctly, the many amazing properties of breast milk and how it works to heal babies guts, how it keeps them healthy even when mom has a cold or the flu, and that you can breastfeed in most cases even if mom has to take medication.

Doctors, not just lactation specialists and midwives, should be taught that information, instead of pointing out the free formula samples.

Because the likelihood that a new mom will use the formula when it’s in the house is great when she has soar nipples and a screaming child on her hand.

And giving moms a longer maternity leave is crucial — having to go back to work after only a few months and pump at work is very hard and not fair to ask of new moms.

Is it a wonder that many more moms in Germany breastfeed and breastfeed longer when a nurse comes by their home for a couple of weeks after the birth and they get three years of maternity leave? More moms would breastfeed in the U.S. if we had the same priority for babies and mother’s health.

The right information is out there, and doulas, midwives, lactation consultants, informative blogs like Kellymom.com, and even videos on YouTube can help moms succeed with breastfeeding. I learned how to hand-express milk from a YouTube video.

Let’s celebrate breastfeeding for the wonderful, bonding gift it is that a mom can give her child and do everything we can to help her breastfeed if she wants to.

Did you get enough support to succeed with breastfeeding?

Find many more interesting posts about everything related to parenting on Yahoo! Parenting.

{I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.}

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Robin @ Redo It Yourself Inspirations December 6, 2014 at 1:04 AM

I nursed all of my sons. My youngest was born 2 months early which led him into NICU. At the same time, I was undergoing kidney surgery while he was flown from the hospital where he was born to an appropriate NICU for RDS. As soon as I was out of kidney surgery I was placed in a room to pump and freeze nutrients to forward to him. They didn’t expect my son to do well at all. But they saw significant progress with the expressed milk sent to him the very first day. Within 3 days and I was able to see him and pump for him on the premises; with that, he had significant progress. By day five I nursed him directly. That is a promising outlook. The staff assured me that his natural feedings had a huge impact on his health. I brought my son home within 11 days of his premature birth. Breastfeeding is a vital nutrient to a newborn’s well being. I continued to nurse until his teeth protruded and I was able to supplement his nutrition with some tolerable table foods before weaning him. He was a miracle birth and survivor. Never underestimate the power of natural breast milk.

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Dagmar Bleasdale December 6, 2014 at 2:24 AM

Hi Robin, thank you so much for sharing your story! I also had such a positive experience with breastfeeding and would love to see more moms succeed and enjoy this amazing gift we can give our kids. So glad you were able to pump milk for him – I was never able to pump much.

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