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How long should I breastfeed?

Babies were born to breastfeed.  It is not just best; it is normal.  Anything other than human breast milk has known and well-documented risks and harms that don’t just last while a baby is nursing but can pervade throughout a person’s life.  For example, scientific research continues to show that formula-fed babies get sick more often and more severely than their breastfeeding counterparts.  Babies who are sustained on formula have higher instances of asthma, ear infections, allergies, diabetes, obesity, childhood cancers, respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses, and Multiple Sclerosis, to name a few.  Mothers who don’t breastfeed their babies have higher rates of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers, retain their baby weight longer, have higher rates of anemia and diabetes, and see an immediate return to menses without sustaining the luxury of natural contraception through breastfeeding (LAM).

Armed with this information, moms who may not have been inclined to breastfeed may decide to try and mothers who were only going to breastfeeding for a couple months may decide to nurse longer. That is wonderful!  But how long should you nurse your child?  What is necessary to garner these benefits and when is breast milk no longer beneficial to your baby?

The World Health Organization states the following:

Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.  Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large…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. 1

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, “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.” 2

Great Britain recommends exclusive breastfeeding, “for around the first six months of a baby’s life.  After this, breastfeed alongside other foods for as long as you and your baby wish. This might be into their second year or beyond.” 3

The Public Health Association of Australia recommends breastfeeding according to WHO guidelines, as do most countries around the world.

So, how long should you breastfeed your baby?

Ideally, you would nurse exclusively for the first six months and continue alongside solids for at least the first two years of life.  Then carry on as long as you and your child are happy with your breastfeeding relationship; even considering allowing your child to wean gradually on his own timing.  If left to make the decision on their own (without cultural and sociological factors influencing a child) babies typically self-wean between the ages of 2 ½ – 7, with most being between ages 3-4. 4  This is not always the message women hear in the Western world though!

Breast milk is always beneficial to your baby no matter how long you nurse.  Even toddlers, especially toddlers, need the immunological properties to help fight off all the germs and bacteria that is going in their mouth from toys and playing and that they are contacting daily. Their immature immune systems need mother’s milk to help them fight these bacteria!  Breast milk continues to benefit your child every time she receives it, and there is no age limit for these benefits.

When and how to wean your child are personal decisions.  Being informed about the benefits of breast milk, optimum feeding practices, worldwide health association recommendations for breastfeeding, and listening to you and your baby’s needs are all important pieces to consider.  In the end, weaning because of pressure from family, friends or society as a whole is usually not going to bring a big fanfare for your decision, or a sense a peace and closure to you if everything had been going well but you felt societal pressure to begin the weaning process. As you are pregnant and thinking about breastfeeding, it can be a huge stress reliever and quite relaxing to follow your baby’s breastfeeding cues and make a conscience decision to find joy in this phase of your life and not rush it long.  Get excellent lactation support in the beginning to help get nursing off to a great start, and then follow your heart and your baby’s needs and see where it takes you in your breastfeeding journey.  You may even want to join the ranks of other moms nursing toddlers and be a part of changing our western culture’s idea of breastfeeding duration.  Whatever you choose to do, arm yourself with information and make the decision that is best for you and your baby!


Top 5 Reasons Breastfeeding Fails

Mother Bottle Feeding a BabyWhile breastfeeding initiation rates are on the rise in America (three out of every four women breastfeeding when their baby is born), only 22.3% of moms are exclusively breastfeeding their babies at six months of age. 1  Despite this the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, citing significant detrimental health outcomes when babies are not exclusively breastfed.  More and more mothers want to breastfeed their babies.

So why are so many not meeting their breastfeeding goals?  Here is my list of the top 5 reasons breastfeeding fails for some women:

  1. Invasive Birth
    Birthing practices are strongly related to breastfeeding initiation and duration.  Natural childbirth does help to get breastfeeding off to a good start.  Stress is strongly linked with delayed milk onset. 2  Cesarean sections and instrumental vaginal births typically delay skin-to-skin initiation and the first breastfeed, both of which have a high impact on breastfeeding duration. 3  Pain medications given to the mother affect the baby causing drowsiness and disorganized suck. 4 Some of these pain medications continue to impact the newborn for up to a month after birth!
  2. Separation of mom and baby after birth
    The single most important thing to getting breastfeeding off to a successful start is skin-to-skin contact (SSC) immediately following birth.  All non-essential items (weighing, bathing, etc.) should be postponed for at least the first two hours following birth. SSC triggers a baby’s innate responses to seek the breast and nurse.  It has many benefits: regulation of mom and baby’s temperatures, stabilizing baby’s heart rate, lowering serum cortisol levels, stabilizing blood sugar, stimulating self-latching and coordinated suckling, increasing mom’s oxytocin levels, regulating adequate milk volume, promoting bonding, and heightening a mother’s confidence.  This time immediately following birth is precious, so postpone everything else and enjoy these sweet moments of cuddling and bonding with your new baby.
  3. Supplementation
    Whether a baby is supplemented with formula, water, herbal tea, glucose water, donor milk, or her milk is “fortified” all of these have an impact on the long-term breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby.  There are many reasons given for this:  mom needing sleep/recovery time, prevention of hypoglycemia or jaundice in baby, or because mom’s milk “hasn’t come in yet.”  (Though none of these reasons are good indications for supplementing breast milk.)  Actual research shows that supplemented babies are significantly less likely to be exclusively breastfed after hospital discharge, breastfeeding duration is shortened 4-fold, and moms remember which brand of formula was used and most will then use that brand because they see it as an endorsement by the medical establishment. 5
  4. Lack of support from friends, family, and/or doctor
    Family, friends, and the medical community strongly influence a mother’s decision to breastfeed.  Research shows that a mother’s impressions of breastfeeding are closely linked with those of her doctor. 6  If you are pregnant or nursing, it is so important to find a supportive environment of others who will help and encourage you when the going gets tough. . . a sleepless night, a fussy baby, pain, a poor latch, cracked nipples, or a myriad of other solvable problems that are so much easier to get through with someone by your side.  Without this support, when you are walking the road alone, the chances of not succeeding are much greater.
  5. Mom isn’t convinced of it
    Maternal determination is a huge factor in overcoming breastfeeding obstacles and helping mothers meet their breastfeeding goals.  Even in cases of emergency c-sections and other unplanned birthing interventions, premature births, multiples, etc. research shows over and over that maternal commitment goes a long way in overcoming strikes against mom or baby in breastfeeding and allowing the breastfeeding relationship to succeed. 7 Conversely, when a mother is not convinced she wants to breastfeed she will likely be much quicker to turn to formula when problems arise.

Nursing a Toddler

How Breastfeeding Benefits Society

iStock_000020519032XSmallThat breastfeeding is healthy, saves lives, and has benefits for both mother and baby are well-known.  At the same time breastfeeding benefits society and our world in many profound ways:

  • Breastfeeding is the single greatest way to prevent childhood deaths due to illness around the world.
  • Babies who are able to begin breastfeeding within an hour after birth are more than three times as likely to survive as one breastfed a day later.
  • 830,000 childhood deaths could be prevented each year if breastfeeding were initiated for every baby following birth.1
  • Babies who are not exclusively breastfed have significantly higher rates of diarrhea, pneumonia, malnutrition, ear infections, allergies, asthma, eczema, gastrointestinal disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, childhood cancers, and much more.

And yet, worldwide, two out of every three children are not exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.2

Did you know the formula industry is worth $25 billion?3  Imagine if that amount of money could be spent worldwide on breastfeeding.  Imagine if every woman received information about the incredible importance of breastfeeding her baby while pregnant, and then the support she needs after having her baby to successfully breastfeed.

Imagine if every healthcare worker were informed about the single greatest super-food in the world – breast milk – and helped to encourage and support women in their care not to give up.  Imagine if societies understood how having healthy babies and then, as these children grew, healthier adults would benefit their country’s economy.

This incredible economic impact cannot be overestimated.  In the US alone, human milk as part of the gross domestic product is valued at more than $110 billion/year, but two thirds of this amount is lost because moms are forced to wean their babies prematurely. 4  Millions upon millions of dollars would be saved annually on healthcare costs as formula feeding has lifelong negative health impacts.

But this would also require supporting women who breastfeed, including tearing down barriers to breastfeeding in public, having adequate maternity leave for all women, and then employer support of continued breastfeeding/pumping after returning to work.  It would pay for itself, of course, and then some.

Yes, the simple act of breastfeeding, the special and loving bond between a mother and her baby, does have a profound impact on society.  Let’s tear down the barriers and make sure everything in our culture that can be done to support breastfeeding mothers is done.


Side-Lying Breastfeeding

Why Breastfeed at Night

Why breastfeed at night? Sleep is something our bodies need and yet something that most new moms seem to feel deprived of.  Worrying about not getting enough sleep once your baby comes and then worrying about how to sleep more after your baby arrives can dominate a mother’s thoughts.

And then there’s breastfeeding and sleep.  These can seem to be completely contradictory.  Though the majority of moms want to breastfeed, many also want the “freedom” to have others give bottles at night because they believe they will get more sleep.  Breastfeeding is important and has lifelong health implications for both you and your baby.  The sweet cuddles and precious moments shared while feeding your baby at your breast will forever forge a bond between you and this new life.  So hang in there…because it is possible to not only get sleep with a breastfeeding baby, but also get more sleep than your formula-feeding counterpart!

Why is it important to breastfeed at night?

Nursing at night is important for a variety of reasons, here’s 5:

  1. To regulate your milk supply.
    Every time your baby breastfeeds your body gets the message to continue to make milk.  It’s the law of supply and demand.  An empty breast makes more milk.  If your baby nurses when she’s hungry your body knows to continue to make milk.  However, if your baby takes a bottle, then your body doesn’t get the message to make milk (unless, of course, you pump in which case you will not be sleeping) and your supply can be negatively impacted. The first six weeks or so after birth are critical in establishing your milk supply.  When supplements are given, your milk supply could be affected to the point that you never develop a full supply to feed your baby. (Conversely, always feeding on demand – and waking a sleepy baby – will allow your body to regulate enough milk for your baby…increasing enough to exclusively nurse twins or triplets even!)
  2. Prolactin levels are higher at night.
    Prolactin is a hormone that helps build and maintain your milk supply.  In the early weeks of breastfeeding, prolactin receptors are being laid down in your breasts to help regulate the amount of milk your body needs to make to feed your baby.  The more prolactin you have, the more milk your body makes. Prolactin levels rise with suckling; the more a baby nurses the higher the prolactin levels. 1 Prolactin levels are higher at night and nursing at night helps to establish a strong milk supply for the duration of breastfeeding.
  3. Babies consume 20% of milk at night.
    Feeding your baby throughout the night is important.  Babies take in 20% of their daily milk volume during the night! 2  Not only is this important to building and maintaining a mother’s milk supply but it also is important for proper growth and development of a new baby. Nearly 2/3 of babies are waking up at night when they are 6 months old. 3 Nursing at night is a need for your baby.  So, the question is not about how to schedule a baby so she can sleep at night, but how to manage night nursing so both mother and baby can nurse and get sleep. There are many strategies for getting rest with a newborn.
  4. If your baby begins waking at night again after sleeping through, he may still need milk.
    Some mothers find that their babies begin to sleep for a long stretch or through the night entirely by the time their babies are a couple months old, only to then begin to wake again a few weeks/months later.  As babies grow they become more interested in the world around them and many begin to nurse less during the day because they are so interested in all that is going on.  Nighttime is their time to catch up on milk intake and so they begin to wake again because they need milk.  It is not a matter of scheduling your baby and helping him “learn to sleep” thinking that since he has proven he can do it he should continue.  Instead, your baby may be waking because he truly needs to nurse at night.
  5. Essential for using LAM as birth control.
    The Lactational Amenorrhea Method is a very effective form of birth control during the first six months following birth when your baby is exclusively breastfed and nurses on demand both day and night.

Why not nurse during the day and give a bottle at night?

  1. Exclusively breastfeeding mothers get MORE sleep.
    Nursing mothers are able to help their babies latch while lying down, then enjoy a burst of oxytocin to help them relax and fall back to sleep.  Conversely, mothers who are not nursing still wake and think about, sometimes even worry about, their babies. 4  Even if mother is never the one who is responsible for giving a bottle at night, research shows that mothers wake when their babies eat – it has to do with the harmony between mother and baby. In one study, exclusively breastfeeding mothers got on average 20 minutes more of sleep each night. 5  Kendall-Tackett’s research even suggests that mother’s who are not exclusively breastfeeding not only have more disrupted sleep but also higher rates of depression. 6 Bottle-feeding at night is not associated with better sleep; conversely, breastfeeding is not only associated with better sleep, but better quality sleep.
  2. Milk supply can decrease.
    Nighttime nursing helps to establish and maintain a mother’s milk supply.  Without night nursing, some mothers would not be able to produce enough breast milk to continue to exclusively breastfeed.  Once supplements are introduced, a mother’s supply can continue to decrease, even to the point where she no longer makes enough milk to feed her baby.
  3. Formula is difficult to digest.
    Not only does formula lack much of the nutrition that is in breast milk, it also takes twice as long to digest.  This may seem like a positive as babies tend to sleep more and go longer stretches between feeds when formula-fed.  In actuality, a baby’s body is having to work harder to digest a foreign substance, which is one of the reasons why she feeds less frequently when given formula.
  4. Overfeeding with bottles is common.
    It is easy to overfeed with a bottle as it is more of an effortless suck than the breast – tilt the bottle and milk comes out.   This can lead to obesity as well as a further decrease in a mother’s milk supply as baby is taking a disproportionate about of milk from bottles and then consumes less during the day.
  5. Someone still has to feed baby at night.
    The mechanics of giving a bottle are also more demanding than nursing.  A bottle must be mixed, adult and baby have to be in a more alert state to feed, and then bottles must be cleaned and sterilized afterwards.  Formula that is mixed and not eaten is wasted.  Compare this to arousing enough to help a baby latch while lying down and mother resting or falling back to sleep while baby is able to nurse.

How can I nurse at night and still get sleep?

  1. Practice safe co-sleeping.
    Around the world and all throughout history, mothers and babies have slept together.  It is only in our “modern” world that issues have risen about nursing mothers and babies resting side by side.  Up to ¾ of all nursing mothers in the West will sleep with their babies at some point during the night. 7 Proper precautions in bed sharing should be taken, but, when practiced safely and while breastfeeding, it can allow both mother and baby to get more sleep and nurse more frequently. 8
  2. Get help with diaper changes, etc.
    Only you, the mother, can nurse your baby.  However, your partner can be responsible for changing a baby’s diaper, tending to needs you may have (a glass of water maybe?), and/or picking baby up from his crib and bringing him to you in bed.  Having help with these things can allow you to rest comfortably in bed throughout the night without having to get up or rousing until you are fully awake.
  3. Keep baby in your room and nurse lying down.
    If you are not comfortable with bed sharing, co-sleep by keeping your baby close by – perhaps in a cot in your room – as this will make it easier to know when he wakes.  Having a safe bed area to nurse – firm surface, no other pets/children in bed, covers that aren’t too warm, etc. – can allow you to at least rest/dose while nursing before returning your baby to his space for sleep.
  4. Sleep when your baby does during the day. 
    Whenever possible, try to catch a few zzz’s during the day when your baby does.  This can be extra challenging if you have older children as well, but during those times when the house is calm and baby is sleeping, try to rest yourself rather than surfing the internet, chatting with friends, etc.
  5. Remember the big picture. 
    If you have tried some/all of these tips and still feel sleep deprived, remember that you have a new baby and he will grow up all too fast.  One day you’ll look back and wish you could just hold that tiny baby during the night.  The sleepless nights feel long but the years in parenting are way too short.

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Breastfeeding Myths

dsc1Breastfeeding myths abound.  Here is a list of the most common along with the real facts:

Myth #1: Breastfeeding is easy.

Truth: Breastfeeding is natural but it is not always easy! Having experienced help to get your breastfeeding relationship off to a good start is very important. And finding support from other breastfeeding moms is a wonderful help and encouragement. If you are experiencing any pain or anxiety about breastfeeding, or if you just want to prepare for breastfeeding while pregnant, find a local IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) as well as try to plug into a local La Leche League (or other) breastfeeding support group.

Myth #2: Doctors and nurses know a lot about breastfeeding and are helpful resources.

Truth: Most doctors and nurses do not receive training in school about breastfeeding. Even if they do, it is quite limited.  Some may sincerely want to help you, but unless they have specific (additional) lactation training they are no more qualified than anyone else to assist you with breastfeeding. In addition to this, many are influenced by formula companies who fund research, encourage the use of their growth charts, and give free formula and coupons for doctors, nurses, and hospitals to give to unsuspecting moms. For qualified lactation support, seek out an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) as well as a La Leche League group for mom-to-mom breastfeeding support.  Also, find a hospital or birthing center that has BFHI (Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative) status for the birth of your baby.  Staff at these locations are trained in practices that support and encourage breastfeeding.

Myth #3: If it’s hot outside, your baby needs water in addition to breast milk.

Truth: All your exclusively breastfed baby needs is breast milk. Breast milk is over 85% water. Your baby may need to nurse more frequently because he is hot and thirsty (just as you are!) but all he needs is your milk. In fact, milk is unique and specific to each mammalian species and breast milk is the perfect food for human babies!

Myth #4: Nursing on demand spoils your baby.

Truth: Inside your womb your baby was able to eat 24/7. Now that he’s out, he no longer has that luxury. But he does know when he’s hungry and if you follow his cues and feed him on demand you will have a baby that is happier and content because he is having his needs satisfied. Your baby is not being manipulative if he cries or lets you know he is hungry.  This isn’t spoiling, it is simply taking care of your baby’s needs.

Myth #5: There are no health benefits to non-nutritive sucking.

Truth: There are many health benefits to non-nurtritive sucking! Not only are breasts the original baby soother they are good for so much more than just active milk transfer. Breasts are a healthy pacifier, comforter, cuddle, and breastfeeding helps develop a normal face and jaw palate.

Myth #6: Breastfeeding moms have no idea if their baby is getting enough milk.

Truth: There are many signs your baby is feeding well and ways a mom can tell if her breastfed baby is getting enough milk. First, she should hear active sucking/gulping during breastfeeds. Her baby should nurse until he comes off the breast satisfied, or wanting the other side. After nursing he should be content (or asleep) for at least a few minutes before wanting to nurse again. He should show normal developmental signs, good skin tone, contentment, and grow out of his clothes appropriately. And, most importantly, what goes in must come out! If a baby is drinking sufficient breast milk he will have enough wet and dirty diapers.

Myth #7: Putting babies on a feeding schedule is best for them to develop a routine and learn proper sleep schedule.

Truth: A baby knows when he is hungry and it is best if mom follows her baby’s cues. All women are different as are all babies. A woman’s breast capacity varies not only from mom to mom, but between her own breasts. And the amount each baby takes in is different – each feed can even vary (just as we might be hungrier or eat more and then later want less to eat – there is no difference with babies and breast milk). Finally, your baby has not read the latest scheduling book about what he’s “supposed” to do. It is best to nurse on demand to establish your milk supply and grow your baby. Most babies nurse every 1-2 hours and this is normal. It is important to nurse at night and seeking to schedule his breastfeeding and sleep patterns could severely diminish a mother’s milk supply too.

Myth #8: I can’t nurse if I’m sick or taking an antibiotic.

Truth: You absolutely can! Your body is so amazing that if you are sick or have come into contact with bacteria, your body is making antibodies to put in your milk to protect your baby from these very same things! In addition, there are very few medications that are contraindicated for nursing. Almost every antibiotic or medicine you are prescribed from your doctor is compatible with nursing. There are many factors that affect how a medication can enter breast milk as well as how a baby’s body will be affected by a medication.  In general, most antibiotics, antidepressants, topical creams, and pills for acute and chronic illnesses are fine. Examples of drugs to be concerned with are some used to treat cancer and radiopharmaceuticals.

Myth #9: It’s normal for breastfeeding to hurt.

Truth: Breastfeeding should never hurt. If you are in pain, please seek qualified lactation support to find out why and help solve the problem. When you are beginning breastfeeding and the milk first comes in you might feel a tinge, or tingle, or “pain” just for a second while the milk lets down, but breastfeeding should not hurt. The vast majority of the time breastfeeding pain can be solved with altering positioning and latch of the baby to the breast.

Myth #10: Its too painful to nurse if I’ve had a c-section.

Truth: There are many ways to nurse a newborn after having a c-section. While you are in the hospital, ask to see a lactation consultant and have her help you find a position that is comfortable for you to nurse in. Many women have found nursing their babies while lying on their side to be effective so there is no pain/pressure on the incision.

Myth #11: I have to worry too much about my nutrition in order to nurse.

Truth: While some things you eat do affect your breast milk, your body will make good, healthy milk for your baby on just about any diet you eat. In fact, unless a mom is severely malnourished to the point of dying her milk will be healthier than any artificially manufactured formula.

Myth#12: Mothers with small breasts produce less milk.

Truth: Breast size does not equal breast capacity. Glandular tissue is necessary for milk, not fat tissue. Even women with small amounts of glandular tissue can make plenty of milk for their baby throughout a 24-hour period. Some moms will just need to feed more often than others. But, even if the mom has plenty of milk, some babies need to be fed more often than others so even large milk capacity in breasts doesn’t mean a mom will nurse less often. Just follow your babies cues and feed on demand and your breasts will be able to adequately and exclusively nourish your baby.

Myth #13: There’s not enough milk to nurse twins.

Truth: You have two breasts and two babies – there is plenty of milk! Your body makes milk according to how much is needed. With two babies nursing, your body gets the message to make more milk and will do so. If you will give attention in the early days to establishing a strong milk supply, and don’t supplement your babies, you will have plenty of milk to nurse twins.

Myth #14: Colostrum isn’t really milk so it doesn’t matter if I nurse much before my milk comes in.

Truth: Colostrum is breast milk and it is amazing and so important for your baby. No one has been able to replicate it, and if they could they would be able to charge a fortune. For the first 48 hours after birth, babies are not yet very hungry, but they need immunological protection from all the new things they are encountering outside their mother’s womb. Colostrum provides this protection. Additionally, lots of skin-to-skin and nursing in the first couple of days helps to establish a strong milk supply and allow mother’s milk to come in more quickly.

Myth #15: If I nurse my baby at night he’ll never learn good sleep habits.

Truth: All babies learn to sleep eventually. And they grow up so fast you will one day look back on the first couple of years of your baby’s life and wonder where it went. Nursing at night is important, too, because prolactin levels are higher. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for milk production so nursing at night helps you to establish your milk supplyBreastfeeding and sleep is a hot topic in our western culture these days, but babies are designed to need to nurse frequently in the early days – both night and day.  Sleeping through the night will come when they are bigger/older.

Myth #16: Moms who don’t nurse get more sleep.

Truth: Actually, the exact opposite is true. The latest research shows that nursing moms get more sleep than bottle-fed babies. How can this be? Well, first of all, even if you aren’t giving the bottle yourself, if your baby is eating your body needs to get the message and you should be pumping. If you choose to sleep during the feed and not pump your supply could begin to suffer. Additionally, your body will probably be uncomfortably full and you may be awake with engorgement. Or, if you hear your baby cry or stir your maternal instincts will kick in and you may wake up. Bottle feeding requires a more active state of alertness on your part as well. You have to get up, mix the formula, and give the bottle to your baby. Then the bottles need to be cleaned and sterilized. Contrast this with the semi-awake state you can be in to help your baby latch onto your breast and then you fall back asleep while your baby nurses. Not only does the research show that moms who breastfeed get an average of 40 minutes more sleep each night, but the quality of sleep is also better. Yet another reason to nurse your baby!

Myth #17: Formula is a perfectly safe/good alternative.

Truth: Formula is a man-made, synthetic concoction that is made by assimilating cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and/or soybeans, synthetic vitamins, and other factory-processed ingredients, heated to high temperatures, and canned for unwitting families to purchase for their precious baby. Breast milk is the norm, and it cannot be replicated. In fact, every alternative is so far from the norm that it is linked with lower IQs, sicker children, increased rates of cancer, asthma, allergies, diabetes, gastro-intestinal disorders, and more. Formula is not only not a good alternative, it is actually quite dangerous. Did you know that the World Health Organization states that formula is only the fourth best feeding option for babies? Breast milk at the breast, breast milk in a cup/bottle/etc., and donor breast milk are all considered better feeding options.

Myth #18: You only have milk every 2-3 hours.

Truth: You always have milk! It’s the law of supply and demand – the more the baby drinks the more your body will make. In fact, empty breasts make more milk. Therefore, the more you nurse, the more you have! Your body is so unique and in tune with milk-making that when your baby goes through a growth-spurt and needs additional milk it will get this message as your baby nurses more and increase the amount of milk it makes!

Myth #19: Breastfeeding keeps your baby weight around longer.

Truth: Breastfeeding helps moms to lose their baby weight quicker. Every time a new mom nurses, her uterus contracts and returns to its original size faster. On average, breastfeeding moms have returned to their pre-pregnancy weight by 6-9 months postpartum – just through nursing! Nursing allows moms to eat more and burn more calories, all while sitting and nursing her precious baby.

Myth #20: After the first year there’s no real benefit to continued nursing.

Truth: The World Health Organization states that babies should be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months and then complimentary foods introduced alongside breast milk. Breastfeeding should continue for up to two years or beyond! There are always health benefits that baby will get from breast milk. In fact, as your toddler grows and explores more and more of his world around him, breast milk is even more important to help protect him from the organisms he is exposed to in his environment.

Myth #21: Breastfed babies are picky eaters.

Truth: Breast milk changes flavor with mom’s diet so breastfed babies are actually exposed to a wide variety of flavors and tastes. Breastfeeding helps to prepare babies for the tastes of different and varied foods they will be exposed to in the future.  Breastfeeding allows babies to have various flavors and smells in their food every single day, preparing them for a wide variety of foods when solids are introduced!

Myth #22: Breastfed babies have many cavities from nighttime nursing.

Truth: Breastfeeding and bottle feeding require completely different tongue and palate movements. A breast nipple goes back farther in the baby’s mouth so milk does not sit around the teeth but is moved directly to the back of the mouth to be swallowed. In contrast, bottle-feeding is linked with increased cavities (no matter what is in the bottle) as the teat from the bottle does not go far into the baby’s mouth and the liquid can sit around the teeth overnight. Tongue tie and lip tie are also associated with cavities.  Breastfeeding is NOT associated with cavities.

Myth #23: Formula-fed babies are just as healthy as breastfed babies.

Truth: Breast milk gives your baby immunities. It contains immunoglobulins which allow a mother’s milk to specifically protect against whatever bacteria her baby is exposed to. In fact, not only are breastfed babies sick less and healthier overall while they are fed on breast milk, they are healthier over the course of their entire lives! Let’s put it another way, formula fed babies are sick more often and more severely than breastfed babies.

Myth #24: Formula-fed babies have the same IQs as breastfed babies.

Truth: Breastfed babies have higher IQs than formula-fed babies, 10 points higher on average per person! But, since breast milk is the norm, it is more accurate to say that formula-fed babies have lower IQs than breastfed counterparts.1 2 3 There are many other health benefits for babies as well!

Myth #25: Once my baby gets teeth he should be weaned.

Truth: Teeth have no bearing on breastfeeding. The sucking a baby does at the breast is not affected by his teeth and should not cause the mother any pain either. When a baby is latched and actively nursing the nipple is in the back of his mouth and his tongue is extended beyond his bottom teeth.  If there is any “damage” done by teeth while breastfeeding it would be to the underside of a baby’s tongue.  Teething and biting at the breast can sometimes occur during comfort feeding but there are many things a mom can do to make sure this doesn’t happen.  Breastfeeding should continue as long as is mutually beneficial for mom and baby. World-wide, weaning typically occurs between 2 1/2 – 7 years of age.

Myth #26: Supplementing with just one bottle while in the hospital does not hurt breastfeeding.

Truth: Whether a baby is supplemented with formula, water, herbal tea, glucose water, donor milk, or her milk is “fortified” all have an impact on the long-term breastfeeding relationship between mother and baby. There are many reasons given for this: mom needing sleep/recovery time, prevention of hypoglycemia or jaundice in baby, or because mom’s milk “hasn’t come in yet.” (Though none of these reasons are good indications for supplementing breast milk.) Actual research shows that supplemented babies are significantly less likely to be exclusively breastfed after hospital discharge; breastfeeding duration is shortened 4-fold; and, moms remember which brand of formula was used and most will then use that brand seeing it as an endorsement by the medical establishment.

Myth #27: Tongue tie is an uncommon condition and not worth worrying about.

Truth: If mom is experiencing any pain while nursing or if baby is having trouble latching and/or slow weight gain then your baby should be evaluated for tongue-tie and lip tie. With a trained practitioner, tongue tie is easy to diagnose, simple to resolve, and has immediate, positive results with no side effects. The younger your baby is when tongue-tie is diagnosed and resolved the easier it will be to continue breastfeeding. Early treatment, before your baby has learned – and become comfortable with a poor latch – means a lot less reteaching later.

Myth #28: Birthing practices do not affect breastfeeding.

Truth: Birthing practices have a huge impact on breastfeeding. Stress is strongly linked with delayed milk onset. 4 Cesarean sections and instrumental vaginal births typically delay skin-to-skin initiation and the first breastfeed, both of which have a high impact on breastfeeding duration. 5 Pain medications given to the mother affect the baby causing drowsiness and inability to suck well. 6 Some of these pain medications continue to impact the newborn for up to a month after birth!

Myth #29: Determination is no match for breastfeeding obstacles.

Truth: Maternal determination is a huge factor in overcoming breastfeeding obstacles and helping mothers meet their breastfeeding goals. Even in cases of emergency cesarean sections and other unplanned birthing interventions, premature births, multiples, etc. research shows over and over that maternal commitment goes a long way in overcoming strikes against mom or baby in breastfeeding and allowing the breastfeeding relationship to succeed. 7

Myth #30: Bigger babies are hungrier and need to be supplemented or start solids earlier.

Truth: A baby’s size does not impact when to start solids. In fact, from one to six months of age babies consume roughly the same amount of milk each day. Both the World Health Organization and American Pediatric Association state that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, with complimentary foods introduced alongside breastfeeding thereafter. Large or small, all a baby needs for the first six months is breast milk.

Myth #31: Babies can be allergic to their own mother’s milk.

Truth:  There has never been a single documented case of a baby allergic to his mother’s milk.  Mothers and babies share 50% of their genetic makeup; no antibody response to a mother’s breast milk has ever been reported. 8 Babies CAN be allergic to various foods a mother eats that can pass through her milk. Allergies occur in approximately 6% of children but breastfeeding when a baby has allergies not only can continue but can help lessen allergens and severe reactions.

Myth #32: A mother must wean her baby when she is acutely ill.

Truth: Whether a mother is sick with the common cold, influenza, food poisoning, or other illness – even if it requires antibiotics or other medications – is NOT an indication for weaning.  Breast milk is absolutely unique and amazing with its antibodies that are made specific to any germs or bacteria a mother comes into contact with.  Therefore, if a mother has the flu, her milk already has antibodies to protect her baby from this specific illness!  Food poisoning cannot pass through breast milk, nor can any other acute illness.  When mother is ill, it is best to drink plenty of liquids, practice good hygiene, and continue to breastfeed your baby as normal.

Myth #33: Maternal vaccines are contraindicated while breastfeeding.

Truth:  While maternal immunizations when a mother is breastfeeding are not ideal, every vaccine is considered safe with the exception of smallpox.  There are many well-documented health consequences associated with formula, even for a short duration.  Therefore, when a vaccine is necessary in a breastfeeding mother it should not be a cause of breastfeeding concern or reason for supplementation and/or early weaning.

Myth #34: A baby who is lactose intolerant should not drink breast milk.

Truth: While breast milk has the highest lactose amount of any mammalian milk, babies are not lactose intolerant.  Lactase – the enzyme that digests lactose – is produced in abundance in all babies regardless of ethnicity until at least the age of 2 1/2 and beyond.  As we age, the body can begin to have an insufficient amount of lactase, which is why it is common to hear of older children and adults who are lactose intolerant.  But primary lactose intolerance is so rare that the majority of medical practitioners will never see it in their lifetimes.  On the other hand, some babies will develop secondary lactase deficiency after using antibiotics, gastrointestinal illness, food allergies, and feeding mismanagement.  In these cases, breast milk (and proper lactation support) will bring the quickest healing to a baby.

Myth #35: A breastfeeding mother is extremely fertile 6 weeks after birth.
Truth: Exclusively breastfeeding mothers who nurse their babies on demand both day and night have a very effective form of birth control for six months following birth! The Lactational Amenorrhea Method is even more effective than the progestin-only birth control pill and various barrier methods.  Plus, it has the added bonus of not causing a hormonal disruption to your body or milk supply like many other birth control options.

Myth #36: Breastfeeding is an individual decision with no impact on society.
Truth: While it is up to each mother to decide if she is going to breastfeed her baby, choosing to not breastfeed does have tremendous societal implications. In the US alone, human milk as part of the Gross Domestic Product is valued at more than $110 billion/annually, but two thirds of this amount is lost because moms are forced to wean their babies prematurely. 9  Millions upon millions of dollars would be saved each year on healthcare costs as well.

Myth #37: It is too challenging for dads to bond with their breastfed babies.
Truth: There are MANY ways to interact with a new baby! Dads can hold their babies in skin-to-skin time, carry their babies in a sling, give baths, change diapers, burp them after feeds, practice baby massage, rock baby, sing to baby, and so much more. Breastfeeding is only one part of a baby’s life.  In fact, dads also play a vital role in this by supporting and encouraging breastfeeding, helping with positioning at the breast, etc.  Babies who are breastfed can and do have an amazing bond with their dads!

Myth #38: Exclusively breastfed babies need supplemental vitamins.
Truth: Breast milk has everything a baby needs for the first six months of life, with the possible exception of Vitamin D.  Some pediatricians may falsely encourage breastfed babies to have a multivitamin supplement since formula is “fortified with vitamins.” However, breast milk has the perfect balance of vitamins and minerals, the amounts it has are incredibly bio available for baby, and taking supplements actually inhibits the absorption of nutrients in breast milk.  Vitamin D is synthesized in the body by direct exposure to sunlight.  If baby is not receiving adequate amounts of sunshine each week, this is one vitamin supplement a breastfed baby would need.

Myth #39: Breastfeeding in public is too embarrassing.
Truth: Sadly, there are many in our society who want breastfeeding mothers to believe this lie.  The reality is that breastfeeding is natural and normal; babies need to eat all the time; and mothers and babies can and should go out together. If someone has a problem with breastfeeding in public then it should be their problem – not yours! A breastfeeding mother is just doing the most normal thing she can – feeding her baby.  It is important to normalize breastfeeding in everyone’s eyes…and the more people see it the more normal it will be.  There are many tips for breastfeeding mothers to nurse in public too.  A breastfeeding mother doesn’t need to be embarrassed for giving her baby the milk he was created to drink.

Myth #40: Nursing while pregnant is dangerous for my unborn baby.
Truth:  Research concludes there is not an increased risk of preterm labor while breastfeeding and the amount of oxytocin released while breastfeeding does not cause cervical effacement or dilation  While discussing breastfeeding during pregnancy with your health care provider is prudent, worldwide it is quite common for mothers to continue breastfeeding an older child after conception.


Krista Gray, IBCLC

Krista Gray, IBCLC – Lactation Services

Positioning and attachmentWhether you’re preparing to breastfeed or need support with your current situation, Krista Gray, IBCLC – Lactation Services is here to help.  I am a certified lactation consultant and offer face-to-face and online breastfeeding support (as well as prenatal breastfeeding classes) to assist you in meeting your breastfeeding goals.   I see clients throughout the Upstate of South Carolina and North East Georgia as well as via Skype and FaceTime worldwide.

Lactation Consultations

Initial Consultation – $135 for a 1 – 1 1/2 hour private consultation.  Sometimes you just need that bit of extra support to get breastfeeding off to a good start or to overcome challenges. I can help you reach your personal breastfeeding goals. This visit can take place in your home or my home office.  (Follow-up phone/text/emails for home or office consultations are always free!) Discount for clients who have a prenatal appointment with me.*

Follow Up Consultation – $75 For new concerns and follow up appointments*

Pump Consultation – $60 Heading back to work and want to make sure your pump is working properly? I can help get your pump set up, ensure the flanges are the right size, and share tips and information about maintaining your supply as you return to work.*

Virtual Consultation – $50 I offer virtual breastfeeding consultations worldwide via Skype or FaceTime. (Up to one hour consultation; Payment made via PayPal) 

Telephone/E-mail Consultation – $30 Do you have a specific breastfeeding question? I can discuss this with you on the telephone (up to 30 minute call) or through e-mail.

Monthly Retainer Option – $150 For those who would like me to be available for unlimited calls/texts/emails throughout the month.  There is no limit to how often you can contact me and, if I am not available at the time of a call/email/text I will always respond the same day.

*In home rate applies to homes within 15 miles of 29655 zip code.  Beyond that area, there will be a fuel surcharge and hourly travel fee, which will be quoted at time appointment is made.

*Payment can be made with cash, check, and PayPal.

*Payment is expected at the time services are rendered.  Nursing Nurture does not file insurance on your behalf, but will provide you with an itemized Super Bill for your health insurance provider.

What happens during a consultation? Find out more here.

Download the forms for your breastfeeding consultation.

Learn more about Krista Gray, IBCLC or contact Krista to schedule a lactation consultation. Continue reading »


Milk Supply Issues

Whether real or perceived, low milk supply is one of the main reasons given for mothers to supplement or wean their baby.  There are a number of things that can cause milk supply issues; these are known as antigalactogogues.  The Top 10 most common antigalactogogues in our western culture are listed below:

  • alcohol, tobacco, other recreational drugs
  • caffeine
  • decongestants & antihistamines
  • contraceptives with estrogen
  • chasteberry (fruit/leaf)
  • greek oregano
  • parsley
  • peppermint
  • rosemary
  • sage

While not every mom reacts to these, if you are at all concerned about your milk supply it would be wise to steer clear.  But it is important to remember that these antigalactogogues are dose-dependent – the more you have the greater the negative impact on milk supply issues. For example, an occasional glass of wine or daily cup of coffee is usually fine for most breastfeeding mothers.  But daily alcohol intake or multiple sources of caffeine throughout the day can definitely cause milk supply issues.  And while most drugs are completely compatible with breastfeeding, decongestants and antihistamines should be taken with extreme caution.  Not only do they dry up the sinuses but they can dry up a mother’s milk supply quite fast.

Perhaps the most often overlooked antigalactagogue is STRESS.  If you are facing milk supply issues, seek out qualified help and support and try not to spend time worrying about making milk.  Also, try to eliminate other sources of stress you may be dealing with.

Two herbal galactagogues that can increase your milk supply are Fenugreek (3 capsules, 3 x per day) and Blessed Thistle (3 capsules, 3x). It usually takes at least 24 hours to begin to see any effect.

In Egypt, home to the fenugreek research for increasing women’s milk supply, the common wisdom is to cook fenugreek (it looks similar to wheat) like you would oatmeal and then serve with milk and honey. All new moms drink this regularly after giving birth.

For any mothers with supply issues, please let me know if you’ve found any of these to be true and what has worked for you!

Additional information about reasons for low milk supply and increasing your milk supply can be found here.


What To Do When Baby Won’t Latch

Cindy and Jana

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.  You can download their app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking for expert guidance through the first crucial weeks after childbirth or visit their website, Cindy & Jana.  You can also connect with Cindy and Jana on TwitterFacebook and Pinterest.

Noella was just 35 weeks into her pregnancy when her water broke. 12 hours later, her baby boy, Nathan, was born. Nathan was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit  for antibiotics and monitoring. His first feed was a bottle of formula. Noella pumped faithfully throughout Nathan’s two week hospital stay but had little opportunity to try breastfeeding. When he was discharged from hospital, she began to offer the breast every feed but Nathan was used to bottles. Breastfeeding attempts became increasingly frustrating for both mom and baby. After two more weeks, Noella made the decision to discontinue all feeding attempts at the breast and instead focus her energy on pumping, bottling her expressed milk, and enjoying her newborn.  A month later, we received a phone message from Noella: “You aren’t going to believe it.  Nathan is now breastfeeding! I just decided to try it one day and it worked!”

Why babies may not latch at birth

Noella is not alone in her struggles to establish breastfeeding. Many babies are born prematurely and are not yet strong enough to maintain a latch. There can also be other reasons why babies don’t initiate breastfeeding right from the start:

  • Baby may be recovering from a difficult birth.
  • Baby may have a tongue tie.
  • Baby’s first feeds may have been given by bottle and baby is therefore unsure how to suck at the breast.
  • The shape of mom’s nipples may make it difficult to grasp the breast.
  • Baby may have an anatomical challenge such as a cleft lip or palate or the shape of the mouth or jaw may make latching challenging.

If baby will not latch in the first 24 hours after birth:

  • Keep your baby skin to skin as much as possible.
  • “Practice” breastfeeding: express a drop of milk on your nipple and let baby lick and nuzzle. Try to keep these practice sessions pleasant and free from frustration for both mom and baby.
  • Support baby well during feeding attempts to help baby feel secure. If you are feeding in a cradle or football hold, use pillows to support baby. If you are feeding in a laidback position, baby’s body will be well supported against your body.
  • Begin to use hand expression to stimulate your breasts to begin producing milk. (Learn how to hand express with this video.)
  • Feed any drops of milk obtained back to baby with a spoon. Baby will “sip” the milk from the spoon.

If baby continues to not latch after 24 hours:

  • Continue with “practice sessions”. If either you or the baby becomes frustrated, take a break. Calm your baby by snuggling. Remember, dad can snuggle baby if you need a break!
  • Do some massage and hand expression before attempting at the breast so that the milk is “right there” for baby.
  • In addition to hand expression, begin to use a hospital grade electric pump. We suggest you pump about every 3 hours for 10 minutes per breast (or every time the baby feeds). Please do not be discouraged if you don’t get a single drop! The pumping “tells” your body that baby is here and will need milk. Developing a good supply of milk will be key in coaxing baby to the breast.
  • Consult an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant to have a thorough assessment. The consultant will have suggestions based on the cause of the difficulties.
  • You will, of course, need to feed your baby. Your health care provider may suggest you feed baby by spoon, cup or finger feeding. The first choice is to use your own expressed milk. If, for medical reasons, your health care provider recommends additional supplement, banked human milk is the next choice. If donor milk is not available, infant formula may be used. Feeding your baby will help ensure he has the energy to continue to learn to breastfeed.
  • Some women find using a 20-20-20 principle helpful. “Practice” at the breast for 20 minutes; feed the baby in an alternate way if needed (approximately 20 minutes) and pump/hand express for 20 minutes. (Please note: the times are suggestions only. Please modify according to your baby’s cues. Sometimes babies are quickly frustrated and 20 minutes of trying may be too long.)
  • Sometimes, giving baby a little milk prior to a breastfeeding attempt may be helpful, especially if the baby is quite hungry. Taking the edge off the baby’s hunger may help baby to be more relaxed with the latching attempts.
  • Once baby is taking larger volumes, your health care provider may suggest beginning to use a bottle to feed your baby. This does NOT mean we have given up on breastfeeding! Again, it is important to feed your baby so that he will have energy to learn to feed. When baby is taking larger volumes, some babies will tire before they have been able to complete the feed. If you choose to bottle, use a rounded nipple rather than one with a flattened cross-section. Choose a slow flow nipple. Entice the baby to gape widely when taking the bottle to simulate latching at the breast.
  • A nipple shield may be useful in some instances once milk supply is established. Using a nipple shield before the milk supply is established is not recommended. Please discuss this with your Lactation Consultant.
  • Search out a mother-to-mother support group such a La Leche League.

In our experience, with time and patience, most babies who do not latch initially will eventually go to the breast. While working towards getting baby to the breast, stimulating the milk supply and having lots of skin to skin time are the most important things you can do.


Dieting and Breastfeeding

Dieting and Breastfeeding

After giving birth, most mothers are ready to begin to “get their bodies back” and lose those added pounds they gained during pregnancy.  They wonder if it is safe to diet while breastfeeding.  The simple answer is that it is safe, especially when taking a nutritious, whole foods approach.

Dieting and Breastfeeding

Some of the weight a mother puts on during pregnancy is stored by her body to be mobilized for milk production during lactation.1 This is why most mothers who eat sensibly and breastfeed tend to slowly lose weight without much effort during the first six months or so postpartum. While research shows that women who breastfeed tend to lose more weight after giving birth than their non-breastfeeding counterparts, it does also depend on individual metabolism, diet, and exercise.2  After the first six months postpartum, weight that has not already come off usually doesn’t continue to come off just because of the act of breastfeeding.

There are many different diets and nutritional ideas out there – low-fat, low-carb, no grain, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, whole foods, raw foods, and on it goes. For some diets, it is important to restrict or reduce calories; others are more concerned about what foods are eaten, rather than the quantity or calorie content.  Either approach can be okay with breastfeeding.

However, it is important to realize that your body needs even more food than you did while pregnant in order to breastfeed your baby.  Breastfeeding moms typically need about 500 extra calories per day.  Think of it like this:  your baby is now even bigger than when you were pregnant and your body is still her exclusive source of nourishment for the first six months of life!

Therefore, do not restrict your food intake to the point where you are rapidly losing weight – more than 2 lbs/week for a sustained duration.  Make sure to drink to thirst – plenty of water is the best source of hydration.  Eat a well-balanced, whole foods diet with lots of fresh veggies and plenty of protein for energy.  Be skeptical of fad diets that promise quick weight loss.

If you are on a diet that restricts major food groups entirely, make sure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.  For example, vegan mothers will need to be extra diligent to ensure they are getting enough B12.  And realize that if you do rapidly lose weight, environmental toxins and contaminants that are stored in fat cells will be released into breast milk in larger quantities.3

You may also be interested in reading about exercise and breastfeeding.


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Feminism and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding should be considered a modern-day feminist issue. Though some may equate feminism with treating men and women exactly the same in everything the simple truth is that men and women are different. Equality between the sexes does not have to mean they are treated identically, in all things. It is certainly easier to assert this sort of “identical equality” in the work force, university admissions, etc. But when it comes to parenthood there are unique roles that men and women play and demanding that each person do exactly the same thing in the name of “equality” not only undermines the structure of a family, but demoralizes a woman and the amazing role she was created for.

Why is it that study after study dramatically shows that breastfeeding is healthiest for mom and baby; impacts the course of a person’s entire life in terms of growth, development, and wellness; saves billions of dollars in healthcare costs annually; and saves millions of lives around the world – not just the third world but the first world too – and there is still a discussion about guilt, a woman’s right to choose, and the almost “known fact” most women will not have enough milk? Why is it that as soon as breastfeeding comes up many women become uncomfortable, even downright ugly, emphatically asserting that breastfeeding is their choice and it suppresses women to being the sole caregiver, keeping them at home and not allowing them to work, earn an income…perpetuating a woman’s inequality in relation to a man?

Breastfeeding empowers women and contributes to equality between the sexes. Women alone have the awesome power and responsibility to nourish the next generation. It is a privilege and something our culture should value so highly that women should not have to choose between mothering through breastfeeding and working outside the home. Women should not have to “fail” at breastfeeding because they had inadequate support or misinformation perpetuated by formula manufacturers, well meaning friends, and the medical community. This is exploitation and oppression and does not value a woman’s role in reproduction. Establishing a supportive breastfeeding culture increases gender equality and allows women to be valued for their wonderful and unique roles in reproduction and nourishing offspring and mothering.

What really is feminism anyway? Is it that men and women should be the same in every way? Does it mean mothers and fathers must equally divide feeding their child, changing diapers, and time off work? We’ve been down that road before with the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. Men and women are equal and they are also different. Breastfeeding doesn’t encumber a woman. On the contrary it frees her. It allows her to listen to her body and her baby; to fulfill a role she was created for. To nourish her baby the way every mammal on earth does – with species specific milk made for her baby. It allows her to parent instinctually; to have a bond with her baby that runs so deep that connection will impact their relationship for life. There are many ways to share responsibilities for the upbringing of a new baby. The history of the human race doesn’t have to be changed to formula-feed infants for the sake of “equality.”

Most women seem to want to breastfeed their babies. The CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card (2012) states that 76.9% of women start off breastfeeding but only 16.3% are exclusively breastfeeding at six months. What happens? The lack of support for a breastfeeding mother should be seen as a feminist issue and every level of our society should be involved in helping mothers succeed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and every major pediatric association in the world states babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months with complimentary food introduced alongside nursing thereafter. And the World Health Organization states breastfeeding should continue for the first TWO YEARS of life and beyond. At 12 months, only 25.5% of babies are receiving any breastmilk in the US, and in quite a few states that number is less than 15%. Breast milk is the great equalizer between rich and poor around the world; it affects the entire course of a person’s life. It’s not about holding a woman back because she “has to breastfeed.” Rather it’s about knowing and supporting, as a society and culture, all mothers so they can fulfill their unique role in parenting, impacting the next generation in terms of social, economic, and health benefits for every child.

And that’s why breastfeeding is a feminist issue. Women are not adequately supported to breastfeed their babies, especially after maternity leave ends. Most workplaces do not have laws allowing breastfeeding moms time and a place to pump at work. Women are looked down upon for doing the most natural thing in the world – feeding their babies while in public. Even immediately following birth, most mothers do not receive adequate breastfeeding support, which is the leading reason why moms “don’t have enough milk” or it “just doesn’t work out.”

Yes, men and women are equal. And different. Women have the profound privilege of pregnancy and childbirth. And we also can experience the joy of breastfeeding. This is a feminist issue – not because it holds women down and keeps them from gaining equality with men but because deep down in the soul of women is a desire to mother this precious life she’s just birthed through breastfeeding and our culture should empower and provide support to all women to nurture the next generation.  Our society must begin by removing obstacles such as supporting breastfeeding in public, pumping when mother returns to work, and adequate maternity leave for mother and baby to bond and get breastfeeding right.