By Miffy Davis, RN, CLE
Before examining the many reasons why breastfeeding is effective, I like to remind women of the simple beauty of the experience. It is an amazing thing to look down at your baby and know that your body is sustaining and giving life to a little human being. Breastfeeding is natural and beautiful … and it works!
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for the first year of their lives. Breastfeeding benefits a baby’s immunological system, helps prevent bacterial and viral infection, reduces the likelihood of allergies and upper respiratory problems and can benefit a baby into adolescence and even adulthood.
Breastfeeding is both an art and a science. However, in this era of breast pumps and bottles, it’s easy to forget this fact. It’s one thing to look at the lines on a bottle and calculate how much an infant has consumed, but it’s quite another accomplishment to allow your baby to breastfeed and know your child is thriving. Pumps and bottles certainly have a place in today’s modern world. However, if we rely on them too heavily, we easily forget the connection between our bodies and the needs of our babies.
I want women to know as much as they can, and recommend they take a breastfeeding class. I urge husbands or partners to attend classes, too. The single biggest factor for breastfeeding success is the involvement of a partner or the presence of family support. This participation can include everything from changing diapers to being emotionally supportive to making sure the mother is in a comfortable position while feeding.
Although breastfeeding is a natural process for which mother and child are innately equipped, there is a degree of learning involved. Even mothers who have had several children often need to coax their babies along and reacquaint themselves with the process. When beginning breastfeeding, many women encounter some rocky moments, which makes the presence of a supportive partner and a breastfeeding consultant all the more important.
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Miffy Davis, RN, CLE, was a Certified Lactation Educator at Women’s Care and is currently retired.