Monday, May 4, 2009

Breastfeeding - Every Day Makes a Difference To Your Baby

So says the tagline on my new cloth shopping bag, courtesy of the NHS. I am training to be a La Leche League breastfeeding peer supporter and we were given goodies to celebrate National Breastfeeding Awareness week, which runs from the 10th to 16th May. Ordinarily I would chuckle at the naffness of a free gift but this one got me thinking because there is so much truth in the statement emblazoned upon it: "Breastfeeding - every day makes a difference to your baby".

If you are like me, you rarely give yourself a pat on the back for anything you have achieved. Instead I am more likely to move hastily on to the next task. So it has been with breastfeeding. Give birth: check. Give first feed: check. Get through difficult first six weeks: check. Establish breastfeeding: check. Job done.

But really I should be congratulating myself every day for giving my baby the best food that she can possibly have. And anybody reading this who has managed to breastfeed a baby for any length of time should also be congratulated for having made a difference to their baby. So much of mothering seems difficult, a compromise, good enough but not ideal. But every time a baby feeds from its mother's breast it gets the very best food in the world, perfectly nutritionally balanced for that baby at that moment, made and given with love. Even if you have to give up breastfeeding earlier than you had hoped, remember that every feed you give is important because it makes a difference to your baby.

The benefits of breastfeeding are easily forgotten once a mother has become embroiled in the process of weaning a baby on to solid foods. Suddenly the quantities eaten, the composition of the foods, the balance of the diet and the presence or absence of allergens become all-important concerns. But a mother who has treated her baby to six months of delicious, natural human milk has already made the best contribution to her baby's diet that any parent can make. The choice between two types of baby food is of little consequence when compared to the difference that a mother has already made by choosing to feed her baby on breastmilk.

I think the slogan on that free bag has a message for so many women, at so many different stages of raising their children. If you are pregnant: give breastfeeding a go, because it really matters to your baby. If you are struggling to feed: every day that you can manage is great for your baby. If you are enjoying a happy, easy breastfeeding relationship: keep in mind that what you are doing is really valuable. And if you have to wean, or feel bad that you weaned too early: every feed you have given has made a positive difference to your baby.

By the way, I found this super cute picture on a blog called Breastfeeding 1-2-3 which incidentally looks like a great site.


Liz said...

I have to agree, and I think this every time I feed my son who is now 4 years old. I often wonder how much longer he will feed and remind myself that each feed, is one more feed that is making a difference to him.

Cave Mother said...

Wow, well done you Liz!

Jessica - This Is Worthwhile said...

Thanks for this - it's a powerful reminder to me (who never thinks I'm doing enough) that I did a LOT while I breastfed. My son self-weaned at 14 months and I was pretty sad about it, but I felt pretty great that the transition was 1) self-imposed by him, and 2) gentle and not traumatic (except a little sad for me).

clareybabble said...

Really like reading your blog :)
Well done for training to be a peer supporter. Lots of women don't get the support they need when starting to breastfeed. Some of my friends had problems and no one there to guide them. I'm so lucky that I breastfed relatively easily and had lots of help when I needed it. Great post x