Saturday, July 18, 2009

Back to the Basics: Breastfeeding

I just finished attending a 2-day conference on breastfeeding. Why did I attend this? Well, not only am I very pro-breastfeeding, but I am an occupational therapist who works alot with infants and toddlers with feeding problems. At all of the feeding conferences I have attended in the past along with other occupational therapists and speech language pathologists, much of the information is geared towards bottle feeding. So, I decided that I am going to learn more about breastfeeding. Now, I nursed both of my children for one year, so I knew some about the subject already. But after attending this conference, I realized alot about atypical situations and breastfeeding the medically involved child. I thoroughly loved the conference, and left knowing that I had done the best thing ever by nursing my two kids. Of course, we know that breastfeeding helps boost the immune system of the baby, reduces chances of breast cancer in the mom, and aids in parent-infant bonding and attachment, but there are also so many other benefits to it.

I just think it is so bizarre that in third world countries pretty much everyone breastfeeds, and the few babies who aren't nursed often don't survive. This is because the formula doesn't offer anti-bodies to the numerous diseases they are exposed to. Yet, in a developed country like the US, so many women don't breastfeed. Now, I can't judge women who don't. They have their reasons. And as I learned at the course, some women just can't produce breast milk for various reasons. But many of the women who can successfully lactate, choose not to breastfeed. Maybe that is because our society doesn't really promote breastfeeding like it should here in the US. Over in some European countries, breastfeeding rates are much higher, maybe because they can take a maternity leave up to a year.

The reason I named this blog "Back to the Basics" is because there is not one single baby formula out on the market that is superior to breastmilk. They can simulate the DHA and some of the other nutrients, but not all of them! The best thing for our baby is free, and no matter the country or the amount of salary you earn, you usually can lactate. It is so basic, yet here in the US we make it so complicated!

The only person or thing that cow's milk is perfect for is a baby cow (calf)! There are so many formulas out on the market because so many children can't digest a standard formula. There is formula for sensitivities, allergies, and lactose intolerance. But for those women who can't lactate or who choose not to breastfeed, I am thankful for the numerous choices so that babies can be as healthy as possible.

Next week when I return to work, I hope that I can help all of the babies with their feeding problems whether they receive breastmilk from a bottle or directly from their mom, or if they receive formula from a bottle or g-tube. My mission as an OT is to help the babies and their families to be as functional as possible.

So much of feeding is related to understanding the signals given by the baby. Some of these are discussed on my website:

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