An ongoing debate these days, is the question of what is best for the baby and for the parents regarding how the baby should be fed. Some are concerned about their boobs being ruined, some are unable to get up their milk supply, and yet others (like here in Norway right now) are concerned that breastfeeding will mess up the gender equality.
It’s a complicated issue, at least here in our corner of the world. But as a natural parent, one must ask, if we indeed have a choice in the matter, «How did nature intend this?»
The answer is simple. Nature intended women to nurse. Breastmilk is not just food. It contains antibodies from the mother, provided by her immune system, to support her baby while it developes its own. It protects the baby from every single virus the mother has ever been exposed to – and if they get in contact with contamination, the breastmilk will be the equivalent to a small vaccine, several times a day, as the mother will start producing antibodies as soon as her body discovers the virus or bacteria. It’s so amazing how this works. It’s pure brilliance! No formula can ever match this.
It has also been shown that babies who are breastfed, runs a smaller risk of getting asthma, allergies and infections. Their brains develop a bit better, and they become a bit smarter than the babies that were formula fed. Not enough to make a real difference, but even so: the breastmilk has an impact that cannot be matched by formula.
But the most important thing, however, is the bonding that takes place when mother and baby are physically connected. The distance between the baby’s and the mother’s face is optimal for eye contact, the baby is able to smell and locate the breast as soon as he’s born, he gets to hear the mother’s heartbeat, and the skin contact makes both produce a hormone called oxytocin. This is the very hormone that makes us able to bond and to feel trust and love, and it’s crucial for the development of empathy.
You can, of course, bond with your baby without breastfeeding, don’t get me wrong (I’ll be writing a whole post about that later) – but it’s something about that tenderness and vulnerability when the baby latches on. It’s hard to concentrate on anything else, especially in the beginning, and I think that absolute presence in the here and now is cue, somehow. I’m not moralizing here, as I fed my baby formula for the first five weeks of her life due to my poor supply, but I did have the opportunity to explore both options. And I can tell you, there IS a difference.
Another thing is that it might be easier to tune in to the baby’s needs if you are breastfeeding – sometimes your breasts will tell you if the baby is about to get hungry. I remember that very well myself, that telepathic connection between my baby and my boobs. I would stand in the kitchen, minding my own business – and then they would start to respond to the cry my daughter let out about 5 seconds later. Or did they tell her it was dinner time, without me knowing it? I guess I’ll never know.
There is also the fact that breastfeeding the baby is by far the best thing for Mother Earth. No bottles needed, no sterilizing, no formula that must be manufactured and transported around – just you and your breasts, making milk on their own; perfectly tempered, in just the right amount and with just the right combination of nutrients for your child.
There’s no two ways about it: breast is best, as long as you actually have that option.
What are your experience with breastfeeding? Did you have a hard time with it, or did it go OK? Did it help you bond?
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