I’m a breastfed baby. My younger brother and sister are also breastfed babies. Growing up I never once doubted that breasts were made for feeding babies, and that babies only ever ate breast milk. Now I’m almost all grown up; I’m healthy, I’m happy, and I want to save the world. Could it be the breast milk? It might be part of it.
Breast milk is perhaps the most miraculous function of the human body. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that human milk is “uniquely superior,” for feeding infants than any other substitutes (“Breastfeeding,” 2005).Why, then, are only 46% of women attempting exclusive breastfeeding? Why are only 17% still at it after 6 months (“Breastfeeding, 2005)? I believe in giving breast feeding a chance.
A few weeks ago a lactation consultant came into my class to teach us about breast feeding. I thought I knew pretty much all there was to know about it; I had no idea that breast milk is a natural antibiotic, or that it changes it’s components based on the time of day, day of the week, and age of the baby to best suit his or her specific needs. I was completely blown away as she continued to list the remarkable qualities of breast milk. And then she told us that breast feeding is at an all time low in America.
How could this be? How can such a wealthy, developed nation such as ours fail to support one of the most natural and beneficial processes of life? Part of the problem is that we, nurses, don’t share this information often enough. I want to be a midwife (the world’s best midwife, to be specific) and, when I get there I’m going to do as many studies, lead as many classes, and brag as much as I can about breast milk and all of it’s benefits. Until then, however, I’m going to talk. It’s easy to think that as a student nurse, no one listens to me, but I know that I can, and already have, been listened to.
It starts pretty simply, I ask early labor patients if they plan to breastfeed. No judgment, I’m really just wondering. If she says no, I ask for her reasons and, if they’re based only on rumors or stories, I do my best to start a simple conversation to combat these lies. Whether or not she changes her mind, she now knows that it doesn’t always hurt (it’s all about the latch-on!), that not having enough milk is rarely a problem, and that the scarce amount of milk produced in the first 3-4 days (colostrum—yet another miracle in and of itself) is more than enough to meet the baby’s needs. These myths need dispelling, and my knowledge means that it’s my job to do so.
If mom-to-be says yes, there’s no way I’m patting her on the shoulder and walking out. I give this woman just as much information as the first mom, and I give her as many links to resources and support as I can. These resources are out there and, again, my knowledge of them means it’s my job to give them out. If I have anything to do with it, this mom will get the number for La Leche League in every state in America, be attended to by the hospital lactation consultant immediately after birth, and be signed up for every support group in the area.
In my short, 7 week rotation as a student nurse on a Labor and Delivery unit, I was able to support two women through some of the obstacles of breast feeding. I educated them and provided them with the correct referrals and, as far as I know, these women stuck with it. I believe in breast feeding, and I believe that there is a lot I can do to spread the word. Could it be the breast milk? Probably.
Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. (2005, February). Pediatrics, Retrieved April 24, 2008, doi:10.1542/peds.2004-2491
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