Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Caring Causes: Save the Children Breastfeeding Campaign

Breastfeeding is critical to preventing malnutrition and saving children’s lives in the developing world. Breastfeeding immediately after birth could help save 830,000 newborn babies from dying a year, and exclusive breastfeeding for six months could save even more babies and children.

That's some pretty powerful information. And while it's true that some moms need to or choose to formula-feed children, either full-time or as a supplement, the benefits of breastfeeding are proven time and again. Any amount of breastfeeding is helpful for baby's health.

My children were very different when it came to nursing. My first weighed in at a healthy 8.5 pounds, then promptly lost over a pound when she refused to learn how to nurse. She was a struggle for a couple months (she finally regained birth weight at two months of age). I am very glad I had a supportive pediatrician who was willing to continue to support breastfeeding instead of supplementing; my milk supply was not the problem, and my daughter was not in any immediate developmental danger. My second child weight in at 9.5 pounds, and actually gained weight in the hospital because she took to nursing so well right off the bat.

For each child, they were incredibly picky about food. My first had issues with texture, my second was stubborn. So both were nursed fairly regularly until they were about two years old (my older actually occasionally tandem nursed with my younger, although it was more for comfort and cuddling than nutrition). It was such a relief to know that even if they weren't eating food on a regular basis, I was still able to provide them with solid nutrition.

I also had extra milk supply (yes, it is an issue, not easy to deal with) and was able to donate my extra milk.

I can't say it was always easy, especially my first nursing, when I was raw all the time, and the nursing was so frequent I wanted to scream. But I can say it was nice when we were camping not to have to worry about sterile water, or when we were traveling not to have to stop and make a bottle if the girls were hungry! And emotionally it felt nice to provide, and felt good to have the closeness that nursing provides. My husband still got his chances to feed them expressed milk too, so he was also able to comfort and provide for them.

Every moment was worth it - and more so the more science I see about it!

So if you're even considering breastfeeding, good for you. Do your research, find support, and nurse as long as you can. If you weren't able to nurse, that doesn't make you a bad mother by any means. We all make choices in parenting with what we can and can't do, and I certainly don't do many things other moms do for their kids. If you know someone who is breastfeeding, be ready to share your experiences, and be honest with your struggles and how you overcame them.

For more information on the benefits of breastfeeding and finding support - and ways you can support breastfeeding mothers everywhere -  visit Save the Children. Save the Children aims to reduce the four major barriers to breastfeeding (currently at about 40% worldwide): culture and community pressures, health worker shortage, lack of legislative support, and aggressive marketing by formula companies.

Disclosure: I am a part of the Global Team of 200 and Social Good Moms' 24-Hour Blogathon spreading the word about Save the Children's new breastfeeding report, Superfood for Babies. Sign the petition urging Secretary Kerry to help mothers around the world get more support around breastfeeding and lifesaving nutrition for their babies.

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