For many new moms, breastfeeding can feel daunting. Though breastfeeding is seen as a “natural” way to feed your baby, expertise in the intricacies of breastfeeding doesn’t just “naturally” appear after you give birth. As a certified lactation counselor and doula, I work to support all moms in making the best choices for themselves and their babies. For National Breastfeeding Month, let’s dive into some of the reasons why breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for you and your baby, and how your family can navigate feeding your baby together.
Experts agree that breast milk is the best source of nutrition for your baby. Breast milk contains nutrients like proteins and carbohydrates that are easier for your baby to absorb than the nutrients in formula. Breast milk also helps protect your baby from illnesses: breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing asthma, Type I diabetes, and SIDS. The health of the breastfeeding parent benefits as well, with breastfeeding parents having lower rates of some cancers, Type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. Breastfeeding is also a way for the new parent and their baby to bond.
Though breastfeeding is regarded as the healthiest nutrition source for the baby, many people opt to feed their baby with formula. The decision of how to feed your baby is a personal one, and there are many different types of formulas for when breastfeeding isn’t an option. You can absolutely raise a healthy formula-fed baby, but as pregnancy care experts, we want to make sure that anyone who wants to breastfeed has the resources to do so.
There are a plethora of barriers to breastfeeding, especially for low-income moms, Black moms, and other moms of color. From societal norms that have drifted away from breastfeeding, to a lack of social support, to an inability to take enough paid maternity leave, to lactation challenges, or even social stigma around breastfeeding in public, many new parents are unable to devote the time and energy that breastfeeding requires.
Community engagement, support systems, and education are all part of creating a space where new parents can breastfeed. Expanding our societal expectation for breastfeeding can also allow for new parents to figure out what works for them. For many new moms, pumping and bottle feeding is the best way to feed their babies. Though this doesn’t align with our societal image of what breastfeeding looks like, for parents whose babies have trouble latching or who can’t nurse at regular intervals, pumping is a great way to give your baby the nutritional benefits of breast milk.
As a lactation counselor, I want to make breastfeeding as accessible as possible. With resources like lactation counselors and prenatal lactation classes, people can learn how to navigate breastfeeding from a trained professional. New moms might be getting advice on breastfeeding from all sides—contacting a trusted healthcare provider or lactation counselor is the best way to get personalized and medically accurate information. Learning about breastfeeding before the baby arrives is another way to set yourself up for success.
At Delfina, we have lactation-focused group classes to prepare new parents to tackle breastfeeding after delivery. As a Delfina Guide and a lactation counselor, it’s my mission to make sure that every person who I work with on the Delfina Care platform is educated about their breastfeeding options, and feels in supported feeding their baby when the time comes.