I’m literally obliged to promote breastfeeding as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It’s over there in my code of ethics that I swore to and all. So why I am bothering to explain why we bother to breastfeed or promote breastmilk? Can’t you just take my word for it. It’s good. Make it. Feed it to your baby. Boom. Done. Case closed.
Well, let’s just say maybe you want to know why and how your own body works and what the heck is exactly going on in there…
It’s way easier to be like “Oh, breastmilk is the best” and “I only want the best”, but we all know that we are all super smart savvy people and most of us like to know why we are dripping milk, carrying pumps on our commutes, learning how to hold a baby to attach them to our chest, wearing clothing that opens in the front, buying new bras that frankly are just not that pretty, etc. etc.
Breastfeeding (and newborns in general) are a lot of dang trouble and work. So you are a smartie (and probably very good looking too) and I want to give you some cold hard science to back up the “breastmilk is the optimum nutrition for your baby” because you deserve to be able to drop a few tasty truth bombs at your next gathering where you are fiddling with that incredibly unglamorous bra and that top that flaps open in the front while people provide endless commentary on your mammary activity.
I don’t even bother discussing the “benefits of breastfeeding” if you come to a prenatal breastfeeding class with me. What did I just say? Yeah, I don’t really waste time talking about benefits of breastmilk because I know you wouldn’t have skipped brunch to hang out if you didn’t already think breastfeeding was the normal way to feed a baby. It’s actually the average, run-of-the-mill, standard way to feed a baby. So why do people get So Very Excited about breastmilk? (Basically as excited as Winnie the Pooh with Honey or Deadpool before he’s about to unleash his raw talent on a bad guy).
I have a friend who is pregnant with her third baby now and she is understandably very ready to cuddle her little newborn and introduce him to the family and do all those snuggly baby things, but she also keeps going ON and ON about wanting her breastmilk back. Why?
What is so great about breastmilk that makes women swoon and entire public health networks promote what is by definition a bodily fluid?
Top Four Reasons Breastmilk is Amazing & Worth Getting into that Baby’s Belly
It’s not normal – so it might be the best way to feed a baby because it’s human milk for human babies. Guess what? It’s not normal. It’s got some super weird ingredients and abilities that sets it far apart from the food we eat or the formula we can buy for our babies.
It’s medicinal – this is why my friend is so jazzed up about getting her boob factory back in business. She wants to feed the baby, but she also wants to squirt that stuff where it’s needed. Eye infection – get over here, let me drip some drops into your eye cuz guess what – breastmilk is antibacterial. Oooh, your skin looks so rashy and nasty – let’s get some breastmilk on there because guess what? Breastmilk is antifungal and will clear that right up. Yeah – you can use it as a facial if you want to get free stem cells on to your pretty face. Also there’s a pathway where if the mom is exposed to some illness she starts making antibodies within a few hours in her breastmilk and the baby being a total bro – when exposed will backwash markers into the breast with his saliva to get that milkie factory to make some meds pronto to fix his issues.
It’s not replicable – you cannot copy breastmilk. You can make formula which leaves A LOT of stuff out – hormones, antibodies, growth factors, enzymes, anti-cancer cells (they are like little pacman that go around just absolutely gorging on cancer cells), stem cells and all the stuff we don’t know about yet because research is ongoing. So formula while totally legit in the we need to use it sometimes is actually more like a TV dinner and breastmilk is more like that crazy food from that modern chef that makes pearls out of balsamic vinegar. One will get the job done and the other one is a full experience.
It’s dynamic – what?! You mean it’s not the same liquid every time. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. It changes. IT CHANGES. Take a second and think about that. We know that the tears of joy and tears of sorrow can be detectably different (by a scientist in a lab with a slide of your happy tears and your (who ate my ice cream) tears). Breastmilk changes as the baby ages. Think about that little tiny gorgeous wiggly babe that can fit right on your chest at birth. That same babe is going to do some amazing things the first year – lift his head, sit up and grab your food from your hand, crawl away from you, stand up, laugh, make eye contact, point, babble and even try for a few steps. You can’t just eat the same thing over and over again and expect to get results like that (even bodybuilders have cheat days where they get off the chicken breast/broccoli bandwagon). Variety is the spice of life and breastmilk knows this. The recipe for breastmilk changes as your baby ages. Super high in Omegas at age 6 months because that kid is about to use his big old brain to get moving. You need to be intelligent to read the environment and move through it. So your breast knows what milk to make based on the baby’s age. If only there were a refrigerator for all us busy humans that would fill with food that was just right for everyone.
Maybe this shouldn’t surprise you, but it does many people. If you made a human being with your body, it‘s not that surprising that your body then makes some sweet tasty food for that little creature you made. You are kind of a big deal and now you know little bit more about why you are oh so very special.
What else do you want to know? Drop me a comment and I’ll see what I can do to elucidate.
A Montclair New Jersey IBCLC who has been told that she has a sense of humor, an engaging use of metaphor and likes to live in reality rather than the ethereal clouds of perfection.