Why I Chose To Breastfeed

The following heartfelt letters were submitted by mothers from across the world

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Submitted by Judy Zavislak

When I discovered I was pregnant, I decided that I would look into breastfeeding. My sister had nursed all of her babies and had often told me what a wonderful experience it was. The doctors and nurses at our prenatal classes were instrumental in convincing me that breastfeeding was the way to go. The advantages seemed overwhelming! The more I read on the subject, the more convinced I was that I would breastfeed my baby. The books mentioned that it could be difficult in the beginning, but that didn't sway me. I also had a close friend that tried to breastfeed her sons, but quit soon after starting because it was too painful. She continually told me "You won't last more than a few weeks!" None of this changed my mind. I was determined! After all, this was my baby! I would do anything for her! Little did I know how much I would have to give up.

The beginning was a little tough. I kept getting blocked milk ducts, which were pretty painful. I got good at unblocking them by applying a hot water bottle for about 15 minutes before I began to nurse and massaging the area of the blockage while the baby was nursing.

After about six to eight weeks, we were an experienced nursing couple. Things were going great! I was enjoying breastfeeding a lot more than I thought I would. Then, when my daughter was about two months old, I discovered blood in her stools. Her pediatrician suspected a milk protein allergy. I had to eliminate all milk out of my diet. That's not as easy as it sounds. There is milk in so many things! I had to read ingredients on practically everything. Eating out was virtually impossible! It took quite a while for the bleeding to stop, but it eventually did. I had to stay on this diet until she was one year old. I grew accustomed to it. I found a lot of substitutes for some of my favorite foods. I also found a great website called www.non-dairy.org that had a lot of fantastic tips.

Hayley's pediatrician performed a "milk challenge" on her in his office when she was one. We had her drink a few ounces of cow's milk. If she didn't have any reactions in the office, she had outgrown the allergy. I'm happy to report that Hayley passed her milk challenge with flying colors. We're now both enjoying a diet which contains dairy products.

If I had to do it all over again, I can say without hesitation that I would. Breastfeeding is not only great for the baby and convenient for the mother, it is a strong emotional bond that I can't quite explain. Hayley had a biopsy and other tests to prove that an allergy was causing the blood in her stools. Hayley is now almost 13 months old, and she is still breastfeeding. I'm hoping that she will decide to wean herself in the next few months. I know that I will miss the closeness I feel towards her when she does decide to wean. The hardest part of being a mother is letting go, but I'm grateful for the experience.

Submitted by Angie

I had never thought about breastfeeding at all until I became pregnant with my daughter. My mother breastfed, but it was strictly taboo-she never said anything about it, and hid it from everyone. After I graduated from high school, I entered the military and was trained in the medical field. They put me on an OB nursing unit, where I had my first exposure with breastfeeding moms. It was always embarrassing to me to see a mom feeding her baby. When I became pregnant, I understood that it was really a beautiful thing!!

I nursed my daughter as soon as she was born, and despite the problems I had with her biting me (she is a spitfire!), she now understands that she can't do that!! It's so wonderful to nurse her!! A lot of times, she will be nursing, stop, unlatch, look up at me and smile as if to say, "Thank you, mommie!!" I encourage all moms to breastfeed, as we all do on the unit, because "Breast is Best!!" Thanks for listening.

Submitted by Paula Bermingham, IBCLC

Human milk is for human babies. I'm glad I knew this in my heart way back when our oldest was born in 1977. Our youngest is eight years old now and I'm seven units away from finishing my biology degree - with a concentration in microbiology (and a minor in chemistry). Maybe that's bragging - but what I want you to know is that what I'm telling you next is from someone with a solid background.

When your baby receives only human milk, they are NOT receiving proteins from another animal species or plant product. That is very important, especially during the early weeks of your baby's life. The infant's developing and emerging immune system is in training during the first weeks and months of life. During this time immune system cells are exposed to various moieties and actually learn to recognize *self* from *non-self*. This is the bottom line of health - the development of an efficient immune system. Don't miss the opportunity to exclusively breastfeed you baby. It's not a do-later kind of thing. I did this and you can too. If you have questions visit with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, La Leche League Leader, or a WIC lactation specialist.

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