Although there can be difficulties with breastfeeding, especially while adjusting to motherhood, there are many health benefits for both mother and baby that make it worth trying. And trying some more. Breast milk helps to promote optimal development and health for babies, and provides them with all of their nutritional needs. The presence of antibodies from the mother are also present in milk, which will protect infants against illness for the entire first year of life and beyond. The antibodies an infant needs are not available in the milk from other species of animals or artificial formulas. The immune system does not start to mature until about 12 months of age, which makes this protection from mom invaluable and irreplaceable for infants, who are highly susceptible to mild to severe illnesses. Nursing also helps to create a strong emotional bond with your child, and can be the most comforting aspect of an infant's life outside the womb.
Babies are able to grow on processed formula, but these artificial products will never fully duplicate the mother's milk of nature. Formula fed babies are more susceptible to a wide range of illness in the first year of life, including digestive and respiratory illnesses, more frequent ear infections, bacterial meningitis and allergic disorders. Many of the potential illnesses infants can acquire tend be more dangerous because of their young age and immature immune systems. Feeding infants formula exclusively can also affect the future of their immune systems for life and cognitive development.
Even if a mother is unable to breastfeed, there are now community resources that help connect families who are in need of breast milk with those who have a surplus (see Resources below). This is a great alternative for families who are having difficulties with breastfeeding and do not want to exclusively formula feed their baby, as human breast milk for human babies is the optimal food for health and vitality.
How Can Chinese Medicine Help?
I have always enjoyed working with pregnant women and new moms in my practice. Postpartum mothers often need a lot of emotional and physical support as the are adjusting to motherhood during the fourth trimester. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be effective in helping with some common postpartum and breastfeeding problems, including fatigue, postpartum depression, diminished milk supply and clogged milk ducts, which can lead to mastitis or abscess. A few very important lifestyle factors are important when addressing breastfeeding issues as well, including the quality of food the mother is eating, fluid intake, the amount of rest she is getting and her emotional state, all of which can be discussed with your acupuncturist. It is also important to determine if a new mother needs to seek out expert advice on optimal feeding positions and correct drainage of milk passages, which can be available from the mother's midwife, doctor, or local support group (see Resources below).
There are many resources these days about how we can make breastfeeding successful. No one should judge a mother and family for the decision that ultimately will work best for them, but I encourage everyone to become more educated about how to breastfeed properly and how to correct minor breastfeeding problems or find the help you may need. You are not alone and there is plenty of support available to you and your growing baby.
Please let me know if you have any questions, or if I can be of any support to you on your journey into motherhood. Happy Breastfeeding!
Here are some of the resources that I have come across during my research that I think will be helpful for those who are new to breastfeeding or are in need of additional support.
"The Nursing Mother's Companion" written by Kathleen Huggins. This is a comprehensive guide to breastfeeding written by a perinatal nurse and lactation consultant with over 25 years of experience. This is a great resource for first time mothers to own.
La Leche League International This is a great group who recognizes the importance of breastfeeding for mother and baby, and provides mother-to-mother support, resources and encouragement. There are several groups in Maryland that you can contact for support, even if you are not having any specific problems with breastfeeding. Meeting and spending time with mother's in a similar stage as you can be very helpful for new or struggling moms.
Birth Options Alliance- Breastfeeding resources If breastfeeding is not going well, don't wait to ask for help. This is a list of local providers including postpartum doulas and lactation consultants in the MD-DC area. Talk to your pediatrician and midwife or OB about other resources for making breastfeeding a success.
Human Milk 4 Human Babies This is a great resource for families who are unable to breastfeed. This and other similar groups, organize people around the world who are willing and able to donate breast milk for families. This is a great option to consider if your circumstances do not allow you to breastfeed and you would like to avoid formula feeding. Here is the facebook page of the local chapter as well.
"Latch On" Here is a short Youtube video about the importance of a proper latch and how to go about achieving that. There are many videos about breastfeeding on Youtube if you need additional help in getting started.
Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers This is the Weston A. Price Foundation's dietary recommendations for optimal nutrition for mother and baby during pregnancy and nursing.
Lactation Cookies Here is a recipe from the GW midwives for lactation cookies that can help with your milk supply. Have someone make these for you, or bring these to someone you know is breastfeeding!
Bone Broth Recipe Bone broth is an excellent super food to help with postpartum recovery, regaining strength and providing optimal nutrition to you and your baby. Have your partner make this for you and consume regularly during the postpartum period. Adding Chinese herbs can make this even more beneficial for the recovering mom, which you should consult with your acupuncturist and herbalist about what herbs would be most beneficial for your broth.