The Best Choice For Baby

By Liza Davenport

eat localBreastfeeding. It is the natural way of feeding our infants and young children. Then why are there so many women out there having such a difficult time with the practice, if this is a natural way of life?
Here are the facts – {and this may surprise you!} The actual amount of women that are medically unable breastfeed is under 3%.
Shocking, isn’t it?! It seems that there are a lot of women using the ‘medical’ excuse when it comes to their decision not to breastfeed. Despite the increase in women wanting to try breastfeeding, only 75% of new moms actually start, and only around 16% are still breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months, and then one half of that by the time their baby is a year old.

Why are these percentages are so low? The answer is – lack of information & support! Breastfeeding should be easy & trouble free for most mothers. The vast majority of mothers are perfectly able to breastfeed. But due to lack of support, outdated hospital routines, and, throw in the invention of formula for convenience – what you are left with is just a small percentage of women practicing this natural & beautiful way to feed our children.

Breastfeeding has been around since the beginning of humanity, and it is only since the 20th century that alternatives have become available…so then how do you suppose all these millions of women fed their babies and children before the invention of formula for backup?
Well…if you couldn’t afford a Wet Nurse, then you nursed your baby! Yes, there was the use of milk from whatever lactating animal you were raising on your farm at the time…but doing so did cause death in many newborns.

The trick to breastfeeding is getting a good start and having supportive people around you. Ever wonder why just in the past..oh..100 years, breastfeeding has had such a decline? There are five main reasons:
#1) Babies are no longer born in the comfort of the home. We are beginning to see a rise in home births, which is a wonderful thing! Hopefully our province will catch up with the rest of Canada soon and legalize Midwifery!
#2) The HIGH C-Section rate. Babies aren’t being delivered the natural way anymore, which can delay breastfeeding.
#3) All of these “routine” medical procedures that are performed on babies after birth.
Weighing, and measuring the baby should not take precedence before breastfeeding has been introduced! As long as a baby seems healthy, the cutting of the cord should even be put on hold. Delaying the cutting of the cord is so beneficial to baby!
#4) We are living in a world where seeing bare breasts on television or a perky pair hanging out of a 19 year old walking down the street is acceptable….but as soon as you stick a baby on one, it’s considered gross for some reason! People need to respect the fact that these babies are just trying to eat their lunch too, and that a women’s breast does not always have to be looked at as something sexual. And….
#5) These awful formula companies that keep shoving their ‘free samples’ down your throats! They are wanting you to stop breastfeeding {or to not even start} and, of course, to buy their product! If you get any of these samples from medical staff, I would wonder about his/her commitment to breastfeeding.

Something else that helps make a good start is skin to skin as soon as baby is delivered. There is absolutely no medical reason for healthy mothers and babies to be separated from each other after birth. All the holding of the new baby by the family, friends & even Dad can be done AFTER breastfeeding is introduced. Skin to skin contact with mom after birth is so important. I cannot stress this enough!

I understand babies are cute, and everyone wants to hold them as soon as they are born…. but the only person that should have that new baby in their arms is the mother. Research has shown that premature babies are more stable and breathe better if they are skin to skin immediately after birth. Even babies on oxygen can be cared for skin to skin, and this actually helps reduce their need for oxygen and keeps them more stable.

It is so amazing to watch a baby once it is born. Many babies at just minutes old will crawl up to the breast from the mother’s abdomen, latch on and start breastfeeding all by themselves. This is called “The Breast Crawl”. I have witnessed this myself, as all 3 of my babies did this. Babies can see and smell their mother’s breast. If you have ever seen certain animals give birth, you can see as soon as their offspring is born they go towards their mother rooting for her nipples…it is instinct! Well, human babies are no different. They have that instinct in them to start ‘rooting’ for their mother’s breast as well.

They start looking, smelling, and rooting for that nipple as soon as they are delivered. Infants are most alert in their first hour of life…and this is when breastfeeding should begin. After this initial ‘alert period’, babies tend to go through a sleepy period, and trying to get a baby to breastfeed during this ‘sleepier’ time will be much more difficult.

Mothers need to know that this is normal for babies to do, and not to be discouraged if your baby isn’t latching on like they may have that during first hour after birth. Too often, babies are held by family members or medical staff before getting to have skin to skin contact with their mothers…which then delays breastfeeding.

They sometimes don’t even try breastfeeding until hours after birth, during that ‘sleepy period’ I was talking about. So then what happens is, if babies are not responding to the breast {because they are sleepy} the mothers get discouraged and pop goes the bottle! There are also times when some babies may not be interested in nursing after birth, (perhaps due to pain medication given to the mom during labor) but are sometimes pushed by medical staff.

All that does is make the baby refuse the breast…which then upsets the mother by making her think that her new precious infant is rejecting her. If the baby keeps being pushed to the breast, and gets more upset, then the medical staff (or pushy family members) may suggest a ‘supplement’.

It is only on a VERY rare occasion will a newborn MEDICALLY need some sort of supplement given. We need to remember that babies are born with ‘instinct’. If they want the breast, they will show signs {rooting, sucking on fingers, sticking out their tongue} If they are not showing signs right away do not panic.

So like I said earlier…what did mothers do before the invention of formula? What if a baby in the year..oh, say…1573 has just been born, and they weren’t latching on right away or had latched on before, but now were not. Do you suppose that mother just said “Oh well, guess I can’t breastfeed…let’s get out the Gerber Good Start!”

Of course not! That mother would have continued trying to nurse her new baby. Now, times may have changed since 1573…but women’s bodies have not! Our breasts were created to feed our children! Our bodies {or breasts} are not failing us…it is a lack of the CORRECT information as well as support!
Now, with that said…I will also say this: some babies and mothers need medical attention after birth…which can delay the skin to skin contact, which then delays breastfeeding. Sometimes the delay time can be hours…or even days. Women need to know and be told that just because they didn’t get to start breastfeeding their infant right after birth, does not mean that breastfeeding is not an option. This is when they should seek support from a professional.

Another reason women discontinue breastfeeding is the famous “I don’t have enough milk” syndrome. This is the most commonly used excuse to quit breastfeeding in the first 2 weeks. They get concerned that their infant is nursing every 1-2 hours, so they believe they are not producing enough milk and that their baby is starving, therefore nursing often.

Nursing every 1-2 hours is NORMAL for breastfed babies! We actually produce MORE milk than our babies could ever need! Women need support when they have concerns about how often their infant is nursing. I have heard too often, “I tried breastfeeding, but no milk would come out!” OR “I just wasn’t producing enough milk to satisfy my baby.”

I wish I had a nickel every time I heard someone say these words! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard women say that they had to put their babies on formula because breast milk wasn’t helping their baby gain the ‘normal’ amount of weight. Since when do all babies grow at the same rate? Children don’t grow at the same rate, so then why should babies?

At 4 months old my son weighed 21 pounds…and he is strictly breastfed! So obviously, breast milk is not the problem when it comes to babies gaining weight. To add to that, if women were told the correct information about breast milk, and how the baby needs to get that hind milk (the thicker, fatty milk that comes at the end of a feeding) to gain weight…then perhaps their babies would not need a supplement. The funny thing is…if these statements were true and if many women simply can’t breastfeed due to lack of milk being produced, or milk not being produced at all…then the human race would have died out a long time ago.

I read a report the other day that CNN did on the use of formula & breastfeeding…and what I read really upset me. The report showed that every year, over 900 babies in America die from not being breastfed. I’m not talking about 3rd world countries where clean water is hard to find…I’m talking close to home! 95% of those deaths are caused by SIDS, necrotizing enterocolitis (when the lining of the intestinal wall dies) and lower respiratory infections. All of which could be reduced with breastfeeding.
I also read that if 90% of mothers breastfed their babies even the minimum amount of time recommended, America would save 13 BILLION dollars a year!! Yes…I said Billion! Babies would also have fewer allergies and illnesses and suffer less obesity.

Now, even though I am an avid advocate for breastfeeding {I like to call myself a ‘Lactavist’ … an Activist for Lactation!}, I understand that every woman’s situation is different. Some parents just choose not to breastfeed due to personal reasons. I am simply letting women know that they can breastfeed and to not get discouraged. Get the correct information. There are many resources out there – Lactation Consultants, La Leche Leagues, as well many websites (but I highly recommend reading the books by Midwife Ida May Gaskin & Dr. Jack Newman)

I am currently exclusively breastfeeding my 5 month old son Wyatt…and will continue to do so until he weans himself, whenever that may be. I personally find breastfeeding relaxing, comforting, beautiful & convenient (and burning that extra 500 calories a day isn’t too shabby!) Before I took my Lactation Consultant course 6 years ago, I never realized the amount of women who lack support and the correct information.

Women’s bodies are amazing!…and I feel women don’t give their bodies enough credit! I think in a world full of people just wanting to make things bigger, better and faster…perhaps we need to bring back a more simple way of life…and breastfeeding is a wonderful start.
If you are pregnant or currently breastfeeding please seek information & support when you need it!
To those reading this who know someone who is breastfeeding… please show them encouragement. It goes a long way!

There is a quote by Amy Sprangler that I think is very fitting : “While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby.”

If you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding or would like some information or support, please contact me at or you can find me on Facebook.
Liza Davenport
Breastfeeding Support

Liza Davenport completed a Lactation Consultant Course in 2008 and now volunteers her time and shares her knowledge with women seeking breastfeeding information. This article is the first in a series on breastfeeding.

, ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.