I had someone recently ask me if I was breastfeeding and it then lead to a short conversation about women breastfeeding and how some think they are unable to. It sparked a ton of thoughts and it was such a brief conversation that I didn't have the time to explain some thoughts I have on the topic, so I thought why not write a whole post on it?! lol First, these are my opinions. I am not a doctor--though I have done a TON of research online and read a lot of books from medical professionals on the subject. But again, just my opinions and there are definitely different cases where someone truly just could not breastfeed.
A little bit about me. We have chosen to breastfeed EXCLUSIVELY for 12 months. Or at least we did with Levi. We may change things up with Jahs, but as of right now, I highly doubt it. As for our reasons why we are doing that, feel free to email or ask in person, I'd love to share why we have chosen to or maybe I'll write a post on that as well...later. Also, a sidenote, it is an amazingly easy way to burn up to 600 calories a day with no exercise! I love that fact! :) Another reason I don't mind breastfeeding for longer.
A few thoughts, first a woman's milk does not normally come in until days 3-5 after you have the baby. This means that while you are in the hospital, your milk actually hasn't come in yet. But, what you do have is called colostrum. Your baby has a very tiny stomach. It is born with enough nutrients to last for a few days without any food at all if necessary. But, the colostrum your body produces is extremely important and even the little bit your baby gets is completely sufficient. (check out the picture at the top of this post for a reference guide.) You won't feel a letdown from this as you would once your milk comes in. One hugely important thing if you are able to, is nurse ASAP. With both boys, I wouldn't let them take the babies away until at least 2 hours after they were born and I attempted to latch them on basically as soon as they came out. Levi didn't nurse as well, but Jahs latched on and nursed right away from the beginning. He basically comfort nursed the whole time we were in the hospital which was great for my milk supply when it came in. With Levi, the nurses kept checking up on us asking how much he was getting, was he swallowing etc. And they seemed quite concerned that "he wasn't getting any milk." With Jahs, I knew not to worry about that. To have him just sucking a lot (which would help my body know to produce a lot of milk later) and knowing not to be concerned with "how much is he getting" was a huge comfort and helped us establish breastfeeding really well. Colostrum is also super important for helping the digestive track to finish developing. This isn't always the case, but when a baby doesn't receive the colostrum (which as long as you breastfeed you will give it to your baby), their digestive track doesn't mature properly and it causes issues like not being able to digest gluten and other such allergies. Again, not always is that the cause of the allergy, but it has been proven to be one of the biggest contributing factors.(The same goes with feeding foods too soon and not breastfeeding long enough. This all contributes to the way your baby's digestive system develops and not doing so for long enough can cause allergies that could have otherwise been avoided...again, this is not always the case, but it does contribute to that fact)
Most women get frustrated after breastfeeding for only a few weeks because it isn't easy those first few weeks. But if you make a commitment to stick with it past 6 weeks, it does get easier. Most of the time it gets easier way before then. There will also be times when you feel like your milk is drying up. This is caused by so many different things. Exercising too much, not eating enough calories, stress, not drinking enough water, not eating the right kinds of foods, not letting your baby nurse often enough, supplmenting with a bottle, not pumping enough; the list goes on. Don't get discouraged though, there are just as many ways to bring your supply back up and actually higher than it was before. Most women notice a wane in their supply and so they supplement with a bottle which is actually the worst thing to do. That makes your supply dry up even more. I won't go into how to increase your supply; you can google it or email me. But, just know that if you notice a dip in your supply, don't give up. Trust me, I understand that it can be frustrating and you almost even feel like a failure because you can't feed your baby properly, but there are ways to get your supply up and quickly (one of the ways kicks in sometimes less than 24 hours. It is amazing).
Here is a website to check out for some more myths of breastfeeding: Myths of Breastfeeding. #10 and #11 are huge and the biggest misconceptions I have heard.
Now, each family has to make the decision on what is right for their family. I just wanted to inform you of some myths. Most nurses and doctors are not educated in this. The nurses I had when I had my first baby didn't know your milk didn't come in until much later. They wanted to give him a bottle. Of course it isn't their fault, we just need to educate ourselves and be informed so we can prayerfully make the best decision possible for our baby. And as my husband always says, is the decision you are making going to affect something 20 years down the road? If not, it doesn't really matter. If yes, then you need to take a lot more time and prayer and consultation to make that decision.