The World Health Organisation recommends that babies be exclusively be breastfed until they are six months of age. So does the National Health and Medical Research Council. If you go to the Pigeon website and want to look at their bottles, you first have to read a blurb that, amongst other things, says:
“The WHO recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and continue to be breastfed in conjunction with appropriate complementary food for 2 or more years, to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Pigeon is committed to support and encourage breastfeeding.”
So if you’re one of those women who is struggling to breastfeed, be it you have the wrong nipples, you are unable to get your baby to latch, your supply is too low, you suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome… it is little wonder that you don’t feel guilty. Being one of those women, who had more than just one of the issues mentioned, I felt terrible wrestling with the decision to give up breastfeeding. I have never shed more tears over anything. When I spoke to the midwife at my mothers’ group I was told, “so long as your daughter is getting some breast milk each day”. Not helpful to say the least. Definitely didn’t help me emotionally either.
Feeling rather terrible and very much like I was failing my precious daughter, I turned to what I knew best, research, and there found my much needed ‘comfort’. I found that in Australia, in the report Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC), in 2004 92% of babies were breast fed at birth but by the time these babies reached 4months of age, only 46% were being breastfed. So I am not a minority…. I take comfort in that.
An interesting article on ‘Ask Dr Sears’ website, quotes:
A drop of breastmilk contains around one million white blood cells. These cells, called macrophages (“big eaters”), gobble up germs. Breastmilk is also power-packed with immunoglobulin A (IgA), which coats the lining of babies’ immature intestines, preventing germs from leaking through. Secretory IgA also works to prevent food allergies. By coating the intestinal lining like a protective paint, it prevents molecules of foreign foods from getting into the bloodstream to set up an allergic reaction.
Medically, my paediatrician told me that a baby receives aprox. 75% of their immunuglobulins from your colostrum in those first few days after they’re born. You then continue to boost their immune system through your breast milk. But after 6 weeks your baby begins to develop their own immunoglobulins – which is why their first round of injections is given at this point in time. So as they have developed their own immunoglobulins, your breast milk then becomes a food source…
So, at around eight weeks I began to slowly stop breastfeeding.
My GP was a little more blunt… he likened our breast milk to cows… except, as he said, we breed cows to specifically develop the best quality milk they can provide… but we don’t (thankfully) breed women for this purpose, so I can’t even be sure as to the quality of my milk.
Now I’m not putting forward an argument not to breastfeed. It is a wonderful bonding time with your child, apart from the medical advantages, if it works for you… And if it hasn’t worked for you – well maybe this has helped you come to terms with not being able to breast feed.
My daughter is thriving by the way. And now I’m not spending copious amounts of time pumping my breasts (a little like those cows my GP was talking about) desperately trying to get more milk for her – we spend a lot more happy times bonding together in other ways. Oh, and I also find it a lot easier to look at her adoringly over a bottle than when I was clench fisted, holding my breath through the pain of breast feeding. I’m at peace with it all now and enjoying being a mum to my wonderful daughter. No guilt at all.