You’ve probably heard the words “breast is best” many times. That phrase barely touches the surface when describing the miraculous properties your milk can give your baby. Every single body system thrives on the unique baby-growing properties of your milk. Your milk is amazing, custom-made constantly to meet the exact needs of your baby at any given point in time.
Breastfed babies are less likely to have problems with:
- Food allergies
- Ear infections
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Respiratory problems
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Speech issues requiring speech therapy (the breastfed baby’s oral palate develops differently than that of a baby who sucks on a bottle nipple)
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Type 1 and 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Some cancers
Not only are these health benefits to babies (including more than I’ve listed) mind-boggling, but also the health benefits for you are equally profound. It is well known that breastfeeding is a protective factor against reproductive cancers, including breast, uterine, and cervical cancer. The longer the breastfeeding relationship continues, the greater these protections. Did you know that breastfeeding also provides protection against:
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Breastfeeding is physically healthy for mothers and babies, but feeding your baby at the breast also nurtures much more than your baby’s body. By watching your baby for early signs of being ready to nurse, you also learn about his or her personality. Whether impatient, intense, playful, or passive, they are communicating with you, giving you clues about the type of person he or she is, and the mothering response they will need from you.
Nobody is more of an expert on your baby than you. These early interactions set you up to mother perfectly. You are learning how to be a mother to this particular, unique, and wonderful human being. Mothering is a hard job. Becoming an expert on the subject matter is a crucial part of mothering success.
…More than solving almost any physical and emotional need baby might have, mothering at the breast teaches foundational lessons about family, relationships, love, and respect. By caring for our baby’s needs, we show him that he is worthy of respect. By lovingly admiring every inch of her tiny, wondrous body while she is in our arms and at our breast, we teach her about love, tenderness, warmth, and affection. In responding to his requests, we show him that we are reliable, dependable, and trustworthy. In role modeling these values, we begin to show our baby how to embody those values, too.
Simply by being present and responsive, offering the breast, and carefully watching our babies, we learn how to be mothers.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Mothering is a hard job, full of intensities we couldn’t have imagined “pre-baby.” Letting go of the duty of mothering and embracing the delightful stuff is easier when we know we have the fundamentals covered. We don’t have to overthink mothering when we listen to our instincts and mother our babies by following the physical internal drive that flows along with the milk.
The overriding answer to many of the challenging mothering questions is to first get the support that reinforces our mothering instincts. Then, simply and joyfully love our babies: in our arms, at our breast. The rest will fall into place. That is priceless, profound, amazing, and is about way more than just the milk.