Contemplations on Breastfeeding
A baby is born, adapting from an aquatic solitary existence, weightless, contained, cushioned, oxygenated and nourished through the mother to an atmospheric and social environment with gravitational forces working, lung functioning initiated and from being nourished through the mother’s blood now being nourished through the mother’s milk, a similar living substance.
The baby moves into a wholly new zone of experience and adaptation.
While our first breath initiates us to our new environment we stay closely connected to our mothers. Her rhythmic breath reminds, stimulates and regulates the baby’s breathing, brings baby’s temperature regulation into balance, initiates a series of reflexes from breast crawling to suckling. Mom’s heartbeat, smell, voice is known to the baby and conveys security, impacting baby’s hormonal response.
Mom is the natural habitat and breastmilk the species specific food.
Breastmilk is a living substance produced for this specific baby and its environmental circumstances, it is completely individualized nourishment.
It prepares the gut for lifelong function, delivers immune protection and the appropriate amount of nourishment. The baby on the breast is self regulating milk intake and by doing this not only regulating mom’s milk supply but building awareness of basic body sensations like hunger and thirst while setting a psychological tone that his/her needs will be met. A complex intertwined process setting the stage for livelong expectations.
While all these unfolds mom gets to know her baby and baby gets to know her mom – we call it bonding, attachment building, loving each other.
What are we doing if we can’t breastfeed for whatever reasons?
The WHO recommendation is:
- the mother’s own milk expressed and given to her child some other way
- the milk of another human mother
- artificial milk feeds
Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding:
on mothers side:
- hormonal protection & support for transitioning, the best antidote for Postpartum Depression
- breast cancer protection
- adequate food supply for our babies
- at any time needed
- at minimal cost
on baby’s side:
- sealing the gut and setting the right PH levels for the digestive system with immune protection
- species appropriate proteins for optimal brain development
- toning all muscles of the jaw and mouth relevant for speech development
- self regulation of milk intake furthering
- basic body awareness of hunger and thirst
- setting a psychological expectation that nourishment is available and needs are met: an experience of being autonomous and interrelated at the same time.
Here are some evidence based resources:
kellymom.com – with updated research findings on breastfeeding dr.jacknewman.com – the video vignettes are especially helpful llli.org – La Leche League offers peer supervised support for free; check for their regional group meetings juliebouchet-horwitz.com – with information on the Hudson Valley Human-Milk Bank