Breastfeeding is GOOD for the environment

EarthDayToday is Earth Day! A day when many focus on doing something green to help the environment.  Did you know that breastfeeding is good for the environment?  There are many reasons breastfeeding is good for the environment.  Let’s discuss a few –

Breastmilk is a renewable resource.  Breastmilk is always available and ready to go for your little one. Your body is constantly making more.  The process of making and distributing breastmilk substitutes is filled with fossil fuels, plastics, and waste.

Breastfeeding creates less waste for our landfills.  This contributes in multiple ways!  Not only does breastmilk not require containers for packaging and shipping, which often end up in landfills, but women who breastfeed typically have a delayed return to menses.  This means there are fewer feminine hygiene products being added to our landfills every month.

Breastmilk is healthy.  You can thank mom for all of those great antibodies that keep you healthy. When babies are breastfed they are typically sick less than their artificially fed counterparts.   This means they use fewer antibiotics, fewer medications, and spend less time at doctors offices and hospitals.  This is a huge savings of resources for our environment.

Breastfeeding requires less energy.  Energy for mom or energy for other resources?  Well, both.  When you breastfeed your baby there are few bottles to wash and meals to prepare in the early months.  Breastmilk substitutes require energy for farming, whether dairy or soy, resources are used in the cultivating of the product.  Energy is used to create the product, and to turn it into a powder, and then to get it to the store where you will purchase it.  All of that is saved when such products are not used.

Breastfeeding makes everyone happy.  The hormones released in breastfeeding, for mother and baby, are mood lifters.  Happy moms and babies spread happiness wherever they go.



What Do I Eat?

EatingWhileBreastfeedingI often hear moms talking about what they can and can’t eat while they are breastfeeding.  The truth is that most moms don’t need to change their diet to breastfeed their little ones.  Often we hear stories about how broccoli or beans are bad for the baby, that they will make them gassy. The truth is that breastmilk is not made in the digestive tract and even if certain foods make you gassy as a breastfeeding mother, those effects don’t pass through your breastmilk.

We often encourage moms to eat a healthy diet, with varied foods, and as close to their natural state as possible.  We know that eating a healthy diet is what is best for mom.  You being healthy is important as a parent, whether you are breastfeeding or not.  Your body will make sure your baby gets what they need.  If your diet is lacking in certain vitamins and minerals, your body will take it from your stores to get it to your baby.  Your baby won’t suffer, but you might.

The bottom line is that most people will tell you that any diet is fine.  And in reality, we know that the breastmilk made by starving women in small villages in 3rd world countries is still the best option for their babies.  We know that the woman who lives on fast food 3 meals a day still makes milk that is a better nutritional value for her baby than artificial substitutes.  We also know that women are healthier when they eat a better diet.

So do you have to eat a perfect diet to breastfeed? No. Will you be better in the long run if you are mindful of what you eat and make healthier choices?  Absolutely.  But don’t let your diet be a barrier to breastfeeding.

Do you have favorite go to foods while breastfeeding?  What are they?

The early days of breastfeeding

EarlyDaysWhen we talk about breastfeeding most moms talk about growth spurts, distracted babies, starting solids, and weaning.  We tend to gloss over those early days and even weeks.  I’m not sure if that is because it can be such a challenging time for so many moms, or because in the end, the early weeks are such a blur that many women can’t even remember what those early weeks looked like.

A newborn baby has a very tiny stomach, and breastmilk is easily digestible.  This means that babies eat often.  Really often.  The ‘babies eat every 2.5 – 3 hours’ line is really just that.  It is important for babies to eat often.  They are still learning how to eat, sleep, breathe, and exist outside of your womb. It is not uncommon for babies to eat every 1.5 – 2 hours in the early days.  It may feel like you spend the first couple of weeks nursing a baby non-stop.  This is typical and it doesn’t last.  Eventually your baby will stretch out those feedings, and they will start to sleep in longer chunks.

Sometimes tenderness can happen through the early days, but it shouldn’t last.  If it does persist, that is a good sign that it is time to seek help.

To make the early days easier, surrounding yourself with help can make those days easier.  Having meals prepared ahead of time, or even better yet, having friends who can bring you meals and help you with household chores can allow you to spend time focused on your baby, and resting in between feedings.

Your baby doesn’t yet know the world s/he is living in, they only know you.  You are their source of comfort, food, and security.  You are who they need to be with. Your job is amazing, and challenging, and that fact will never change though the challenges will.  So yes, the first few weeks will be over before you know it, and you will be on your way to a happy breastfeeding relationship.  But they aren’t without their own challenges, and it’s ok to be exhausted and frustrated.  Know that it does get easier, you will get through it, and there are people to support you and cheer you on.  Find them, surround yourself with them, and you will have a much easier road.

Have you been through the early days? What would you tell a new mom?

How long should I breastfeed?

How Long Should I BreastfeedThis is a question that has come up in the last two classes I taught, so I figured we should address it.  Many moms (ok, most moms) have no idea what to expect when it comes to breastfeeding, and then the thought of returning to work and pumping, and then comes weaning.  Many parents seem to be concerned with the ending of the breastfeeding relationship and when this should happen.

Let’s look at what the American Academy of Pediatcrics has to say:

Breastfeeding is a natural and beneficial source of nutrition and provides the healthiest start for an infant. In addition to the nutritional benefits, breastfeeding promotes a unique and emotional connection between mother and baby. In the policy statement, “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” published in the March 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online Feb. 27), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.

They go on to discuss many reasons breastfeeding is important.

Another great resource is the World Health Organization, what is their thought about breastfeeding?

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

So the recommendation is to introduce solid foods and/or water around 6 months, but continue breastfeeding for 1 – 2 years.

What does science tell us?  Anthropologist Katherine Dettwyler tells us that human babies naturally wean between 2.5 and 7 years of age.  There are many reasons to continue breastfeeding as long as you and your baby are happy.

As with everything in motherhood, breastfeeding is not a one size fits all approach.  Every mother/baby dyad has a different set of circumstances to work within.  Breastfeeding is really important for both moms and babies, and there is never a point where your milk becomes bad for your little one.  Unfortunately we live in a society that tells moms that ‘breast is best’ but then turns around and says, ‘but not if I have to see it’.  We preach about the importance of breastfeeding and do little to actually support families through the process.

The CDC Breastfeeding Report Card tells us that 76% of moms initiate breastfeeding, but only 16% meet the WHO & APP recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.  And only 27% of moms are still breastfeeding at 12 months, which is the minimum age of weaning recommended by the AAP, and still a year shy of the WHO recommendations.

I tell moms that I can’t tell them when they should stop breastfeeding, but we know that breastmilk is never bad for babies, and they won’t go to college still nursing.  Only you can decide what your breastfeeding relationship will look like.  But don’t sell yourself short, and don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from doing something you feel is best for you and your baby.  Surround yourself with positive people who will support you through your breastfeeding relationship and follow your baby’s lead.  You can’t go wrong when you follow your baby’s lead.

How long did you intend to breastfeed? Did you achieve your goals?