Trust your milk

Katherine - posted on 01/06/2011 ( 3 moms have responded )

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The Lakeshore Medical Clinic of Breastfeeding Medicine is home to one of my favorite doctors anywhere -- Dr. Jenny Thomas, MD, IBCLC, FAAP, FABM. I've been lucky enough to have spoken with her directly about breastfeeding before, and even luckier to be able to share this completely amazing article by her with you all.

She wrote an article about what is supposed to happen with a full-term, healthy baby. And when you break it all down, it's all very, primitive basics. She questions why so many moms question our natural ability to breastfeed.

From Normal Newborn Behavior and Why Breastmilk Isn't Just Food:

First of all, a human baby is supposed to be born vaginally. Yes, I know that doesn't always happen, but we're just going to talk ideal, normal for now. It's no accident that we are born near the anus, an area that has lots of bacteria, most of which are good and necessary for normal gut health and development of the immune system.

Then the baby is born and is supposed to go to mom. The chest, between the breasts is the natural habitat of the newborn baby. (Fun fact: our cardiac output, how much blood we circulate in a given minute, is distributed to places that are important. Lots goes to the kidney every minute, like 10% or so, and 20% goes to your brain. In a new mom, 23% goes to her chest -- more than her brain. The body thinks that place is important!)

Breastfeeding isn't special sauce, a leg up or a magic potion. It's not "best." It's normal. Just normal. Designed for the needs of a vulnerable human infant. And nothing else designed to replace it is normal.

Most women don't believe that the body that created that beautiful baby is capable of feeding that same child and we are supplementing more and more with infant formulas designed to be food. Why don't we trust our bodies post-partum? I don't know. But I hear over and over that the formula is because "I am just not satisfying him." Of course you are. Babies don't need to "eat" all the time -- they need to be with you all the time- that's the ultimate satisfaction.

A baby at the breast is getting their immune system developed, activating their thymus, staying warm, feeling safe from predators, having normal sleep patterns and wiring their brain, and (oh by the way) getting some food in the process. They are not "hungry" -- they are obeying instinct. The instinct that allows us to survive and make more of us.

There's much more to her full post, including bits about sleeping, tigers, and bonding, and I adore her for it.

You hear us talk so much about how breastfeeding is natural, and yes, it is normal, not "best." But we don't have mothers, aunts, midwives, and entire communities that have all breastfed and seen breastfeeding their whole lives. Breastfeeding, despite being what we're designed for, has become foreign to us, even as mammals ... our name is based on MAMMARY glands! We're named for breastfeeding!

Yet something so natural and primitive becomes so complicated when we have outside sources constantly telling us we're doing it wrong, our baby isn't growing right, that man-made products are close enough, or that it's not worth the struggle. Just how you KNOW your baby is growing inside of you, even though you can't measure ounces or output, go into nursing KNOWING that your body does that right too. After all, it nourished your baby for 9 months just right.

Did you struggle to trust your body, in pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding?

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Tameka - posted on 01/07/2011

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Did I struggled to trust my body? You bet ya! My first pregnancy was a dream. Days before I went in to labour people were asking me how many months I had to go. I had a small baby bump and gained hardly any weight. Then I went into labour. 27 hours later I was holding my precious little girl. I wanted to breastfeed too. I spent 5 days in hospital because I refused to leave until I could get my baby to latch on without someone telling me how. Four months later my supply dropped suddenly and for some reason my body wasn't making enough milk and my daughter was going hungry in the evenings. Despite me doing everything humanly possible I finally gave in and let my mother in law go into town just before midnight to get formula. I went to the doctors the following morning and was given tablets to increase my supply and was told that I was stressing so much to be the 'perfect mum' it was affecting my supply. Stress and PND caused my supply to drop dramatically. I sorted that out and fed my daughter until she was 13 months old (she lost interest in breastfeeding).

2nd pregnancy I miscarried...

3rd pregnancy I almost lost my baby 16 times. I was told of her underdeveloped heart, lack of blood to her restricting her growth, a growth on the placenta and was told to make the decision of getting my baby out now or letting nature take it's course (this was when I was 23 weeks along). I let nature take its course. 8 weeks later I had kidney failure and by some miracle my baby survived. Having an operation to fix your kidneys whilst pregnant is bloody scary!! Christmas Day 2009 I cuddled my perfectly healthy baby girl. I now believe that miracles to occur as I was told numerous times to prepare myself for my baby to die.

Today, I secretly cheer (so not to upset anyone) that I have not given my 1 year old a single drop of formula. When I gave my eldest formula at four months I cried for almost two weeks. I thought myself a failure and not worthy to be a mum. This time around I achieved my goal and our breastfeeding relationship is awesome.

I no longer trust my body to hold a baby safely as it grows so I more than likely will only have two children. I'd like at least one more in the future but I can't bear to lose another child. Plus two children is a lot more than many people say they have. I know quite a few people who are desperate for children and their arms remain empty. I'm blessed with my girls so I won't tempt fate.

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April - posted on 01/08/2011

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I didn't struggle to trust my body at all...I KNEW my body just as well as my body knows me. I told my doctor that my body would not respond to pictocin...but she said that was nonsense...that thousands upon thousands of women are induced without a problem. She talked me into it and I should have stood by my instinct.

Now as far as breastfeeding...I didn't just trust my body, I trusted my baby. I still trust him today and he is 2. He does make a point to tell me that one side is empty and that he wants to switch to the other breast. There are days when I feel completely empty but he hasn't said it wasn't enough for him! :)

Ally - posted on 01/08/2011

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Tameka, your story is so heartwarming. I am glad you have your girls!

Katherine, your doctor sounds amazing. You are lucky to have found someone so in tune with doing it naturally! Sounds like a wonderful resource.

As far as trusting your body, our road to having our daughter was tough. I had a hard time getting pregnant, it took a few years and a cycle of IVF. She is the blessing of my life!

I struggled during pregnancy with sickness and nausea from beginning to end. But I took a class at my hospital before having my daughter. They talked about the overwhelming reach and influence of the formula companies and advised us to throw away the samples we were handed before leaving the hospital. I kept the cute diaper bag, but ditched the formula packets and bottles.

I'm so glad I did! I struggled with latching on and sore nipples for the first 2 weeks. With my raging hormones and a slight case of baby blues, I might've thought I needed to try a sample to see if it worked better, had I had it! Fortunately, we made it through those first tough weeks and we've had a great road since. My daughter is now 2 1/2 and we still nurse regularly. I sometimes wish the night-times would be a little less regular!

I receive regular pressure from everyone about why I still breastfeed a child who is old enough to eat on her own, pull up my shirt, and ask for what she wants. This forum is my respite! I don't have anyone in my life as support for what we're doing. Just my own instincts, feelings, and the sense that she's turning out just right, so why change what we're doing?

Thanks for posting the article info that you did. It was great to read!

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