August is National Breastfeeding Month

Soon after giving birth to my daughter, I lost about 30 pounds in “baby weight,” which I contribute mostly to breastfeeding. It’s too bad I gained 50 pounds while I was pregnant! 

Many women struggle to lose the weight they put on during pregnancy, but research has shown breastfeeding can help shed some of that weight; it’s one perk I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Breastfeeding is not always easy, though. I literally had to let my daughter Abby try to latch on every few hours for the first two weeks of her life. It was painful and I contemplated giving up.

From what the nurses told me, it’s fairly common to have adjustment issues. Abby was a healthy but petite 6 pounds, 4 ounces at birth. After unsuccessfully trying to breastfeed for the first day or so in the hospital her weight went down to 5 pounds, which freaked me out. Her pediatrician told me I could keep trying or temporarily give her formula. But he stressed I shouldn’t give up on breastfeeding, and suggested I use the hospital breast pump every few hours to get a good supply going.

Even though I had a rocky start, I still wanted that awesome mother-baby bonding experience. So I rented a hospital breast pump and visited a lactation support group at Kapiolani Medical Center. In two weeks, Abby finally latched on and fed like a champ. I was so proud. 

What expectant moms might not realize is that breastfeeding can take a lot of practice and patience before the process is second nature. Once you get a routine, though, things become easier. 

I give credit to moms who feed through breast pumping alone. It’s a lot of hard work, with the bottle cleaning and sterilizing, and being a slave to a breast pump every few hours for 15 minutes or so at a time can be tiring.

It’s important for moms to be proud of whatever amount of breast milk they can give their newborns. I know of one friend who pumped for four years as she had four children in a row and wanted them to all have breast milk but was unable to breastfeed. I also know of a few moms who just can’t breastfeed because of medical reasons or have a low supply and have to supplement a lot with formula. 

What the experts say

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), babies should be fed breast milk exclusively for about the first six months of life, if possible. Unless medically necessary, your baby doesn’t need additional foods or fluids. AAP also recommends continuing to breastfeed for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. Solid foods are recommended around six months of age and your child’s pediatrician should help you figure out when and how to introduce solid foods.

The perks of breastfeeding  

Why breastfeed? Here are some of the benefits, according to the AAP:

• Decreases the possibility of your baby getting infectious disease.

• Returns mothers to their pre-pregnancy weight faster. Yes!

• Reduces a mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer. That benefit is if you breastfeed for the first 18 months to 2 years of life. 

• Mothers who breastfeed have less postpartum bleeding.

• Facilitates bonding. Fathers and siblings can help mom with burping and rocking the baby, making sure mom is eating and drinking enough, and helping with breast pump equipment and bottles.

• It’s green for the community! It saves water, doesn’t use energy for manufacturing or pollute the environment with garbage or air pollution.

• You don’t have to worry about contamination from bacteria or other substances.

• It’s fresh, the right temperature, and ready to feed.

• Breastfed babies have a lower risk of being obese children.

• It saves money.

Talk to your baby’s pediatrician, and/or your doctor, midwife, or a lactation consultant to know if breastfeeding is the right choice for you and to help with any difficulties that may come your way if you do choose to breastfeed.

For information on breastfeeding benefits for HMSA members, head here: www.hmsa.com/KB00232.