Okay…so one of the cardinal marks of a crunchy mom is breastfeeding. And not just breastfeeding, but doing so for an “extended” amount of time. In America people tend to think this is very strange and even “inappropriate,” but is it? Let’s look at some of the benefits of nursing and see for yourself.
First, let’s start at birth. One of the very first things a newborn does (or should do) is search for, or root out, the mothers breast and latch on. It’s one of the primary newborn reflexes that enables that little one to survive. Nobody has to teach him to do this (unless there is an underlying issue causing complications), he just does it. Not only does he need to breastfeed right away to replenish the energy he expended during labor (you aren’t the only working hard to get him out), but it also balances his blood sugar, electrolytes, etc. that may have become unbalanced due to a long labor or labor drugs. And one of the most fundamental reasons… it’s just plain comforting. This new, cold, bright world is a little scary, and mom’s breast is a place of comfort and security.
That being said, breastfeeding is also crucial for vital support and bonding. Of course, in the way I am referring, it goes hand in hand with skin to skin contact after birth (the time when a newborn typically makes its first latch). When a baby is skin to skin with is mother, that little baby’s body temperature is regulated by the mother’s warmth. His breathing normalizes in rhythm with the mother’s breathing and his heart becomes stable as he listens to her heartbeat and relaxes in the comfort of her arms. No incubator on earth can produce those results. Plus, the first thing baby will drink from mom isn’t actually milk, it’s colostrum, also known as nature’s vaccine, which contains immune-boosting antibodies from mom and is packed full of nutrients. This early nursing also helps mom’s milk to come in sooner. Another benefit to mom is that nursing releases a hormone called oxytocin that simulates uterine contractions to help the postpartum uterus return to its normal size faster and helps control bleeding.
As mentioned prior, this is usually when the baby first nuzzles it’s way to mother’s breast and falls asleep in comfort and safety, knowing his mother that he’s been so close to for the last 9 months is caring for him and everything will be okay. This first nursing is said to go a long way in developing a healthy nursing relationship and better latch. As the mother continues to develop that relationship long term, the bond continues to grow as well. I’m not saying that those who do not breastfeed are incapable of bonding with their children. Not at all. But it stands to reason that the intimate time spent with just mother and child in close contact develops a very special relationship that can’t be replicated. I have one friend who had a very “American” approach to her first 3 children, then choose a more natural, “crunchy” approach with her fourth. She is 20 months into her nursing relationship and will tell you, without hesitation, that the relationship she shares with this child is much closer than what she shared with the older 3. I have another friend who bottle fed her now 1 year old. The other day she was enjoying snuggles from another friend’s breastfed baby and commented that, “I wish my baby was a snuggler. I think not nursing him had a lot to do with that.” Not saying is impossible to have a snuggler if you bottle feed, just an observation to consider.
As a last note on the subject, I came across this astonishing bit of information in a Medical News Today article: ” A 2006 study published in the journal Pediatricssuggested that 41 per cent of newborns that die in the first month of life could be saved if breastfed in the first hour of life.” I’m not sure of the details of the study, but the statement as it stands sure does cause you to stop and think.
For fear of losing you to the length of this post, I’m going to save my next point, “Optimal Nutrition” for next week. 😊 In the meantime, please share in the comments about how your newborn benefitted from immediate skin to skin and breastfeeding. Or if that wasn’t the case with you, do you wish it was?