Honoring National Breastfeeding Month

August is National Breastfeeding Month, which offers an opportunity to revisit our perceptions of breastfeeding (or nursing as it’s also called). There are a lot of opinions about breastfeeding, but ultimately what matters is your opinion as a woman who may or may not choose to nurse her baby. We wanted to explore what it means to breastfeed a baby, how it can be rewarding, but also physically and mentally demanding in ways you might not expect, especially if you have not tried it before. We also wanted to clarify the reasons why women may choose not to nurse their baby, maybe they want to use a breast pump or formula (or a combination of all three) instead.

Again, the most important point we wish to emphasize here is that fed is best. A happy, full baby is a happy, full baby, regardless of the method. This means that a happy mom is also prioritized too.

Deciding how to feed your baby

Breastfeeding is rarely a straightforward path, it requires learning, patience, trial and error, and usually, help and support too. This isn’t always available to all new mothers, especially if nursing is a struggle -- there can be latching issues, production issues, medical issues (tongue and tie) preventing your baby from nursing, and more. It’s a complicated process even though as a society we tend to talk about it in black and white, but that’s simply not the case. Some women may wish to nurse their babies, but be unable to do so for any number of reasons, while some may never have the desire to nurse and pick formula from the start. The important thing to remember here is that you should feel supported toward whichever route is best for you as a new mother, even if that route changes once or twice after your baby is born.

Breastfeeding support

Fortunately, there has been a considerable effort in recent years toward supporting new mothers who wish to nurse but are struggling. Lactation specialists and consultants can be made available shortly after delivery, often referred by your child’s pediatrician or your own doctor. These specialists have specific training in dealing with a range of nursing issues and can be available to you in the days and weeks after your baby is born. Additionally, many labor and delivery nurses have training now in assisting with teaching moms how to nurse as well as how to use a breast pump or make formula bottles.

Advocating for all paths

There can be a lot of pressure for women to breastfeed and a lot of guilt if they are unable to do so or don’t want to. We need to advocate for ourselves and for each other’s decisions. Once more, a fed baby is best, and a mom who is able to be the best version of herself during an incredibly trying time as a new mother should always be the goal, not someone who feels pressured to feed her baby one way or the other.

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