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    It Does a Baby Good

    February 3, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    This post is the beginning of a series on breastfeeding and supplementation. Any males who get uncomfortable reading words like breastfeeding or breast can consider that a warning. I try to be discreet around here, I really do. But I can’t discuss the topic without using words like that, and I have some important thoughts to share in this area.

    I don’t know how informed my readers are about the nature of breastmilk, so please forgive me if I am giving out information that has been oft repeated. The first time I learned about breastmilk, I was in awe of God’s creation all over again. I was reading the book So That’s What They’re For! by Janet Tamaro, and it taught me that human milk is truly miraculous.

    Some people think I am a crazy lady because I nurse even though I have very little milk. It is a lot of work, takes extra time, and can have many frustrating moments. Of course, this is true of nursing in general, especially for first-time moms who are new at the ropes, but it is moreso when the milk supply is low {or, in my case, practically non-existent}.

    I will explain this more in future posts in this series, but for now, I feel the need to give some examples that show why mother’s milk is so great. Otherwise, my motivation for sticking with nursing may seem completely illogical. This list is not even close to exhaustive, and I highly suggest So That’s What They’re For! for anyone who wants more information on any or all of the aspects of breastfeeding.


    Good for Baby

    • Human milk is baby’s first immunization. It provides antibodies which protect baby from many common respiratory and intestinal diseases, and also contains living immune cells. First milk, colostrum, is packed with components which increase immunity and protect the newborn’s intestines. {The Medical Reporter}


    • Human milk has been called environmentally specific milk — the mother provides it for her infant to protect specifically against the organisms that her infant is most likely to be exposed to. {Dr. Greene}


    I feel the need to reiterate the above because it is so amazing. Human milk is dynamic, meaning that it changes. This is very different from formula, which is the same every feeding. The above quote explains that milk changes based upon what germs and threats the baby has been exposed to. But it also changes in other ways. For instance, there are actually two kinds of milk throughout each feeding, usually called foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is watery and quenches Baby’s thirst in the beginning of the feeding. Hindmilk is high in fat and is what eventually fills Baby up and encourages weight gain. See here for more information. In addition to the changes throughout a feeding and the changes depending on germ exposure, there is also a difference as Baby ages. Yes, milk is customized for Baby!


    • Breastfeeding’s contribution to optimal oral development means less risk of malocclusion — and perhaps lower orthodontist bills! {The Medical Reporter}


    Good for Mom

    • Immediately after birth, repeated bursts of oxytocin released in response to the baby’s sucking cause contraction of the uterus. This protects mothers from postpartum hemorrhage (bottle-feeding mothers get oxytocin intravenously immediately after birth, but for the next 24-48 hours during which risk of hemorrhage is highest, they’re on their own). {The Medical Reporter}


    • A number of studies have shown other potential health advantages that mothers can enjoy through breastfeeding. These include optimal metabolic profiles, reduced risk of various cancers, and psychological benefits. {La Leche League}



    • As for fertility, the lactational amenorrhea method {LAM} is a well-documented contraceptive method, with 98 to 99 percent prevention of pregnancy in the first six months. The natural child-spacing achieved through LAM ensures the optimal survival of each child, and the physical recovery of the mother between pregnancies. {La Leche League}


    Because of repeated C-sections, this benefit of having the time to recover between pregnancies has become all the more important.


    • Breastfeeding provides a unique interaction between mother and child, an automatic, skin-to-skin closeness and nurturing that bottle-feeding mothers have to work to replicate. The child’s suckling at the breast produces a special hormonal milieu for the mother. Prolactin, the milk-making hormone, appears to produce a special calmness in mothers. Breastfeeding mothers have been shown to have a less intense response to adrenaline. {La Leche League}


    As I said, this list is not exhaustive. But there is a reason I felt the need to start the series this way: mother’s milk is a miracle and God’s special creation for babies in general and each baby in particular. La Leche’s page quoted above also included this interesting tidbit: “In Western society, the decision about breast or bottle is still seen very much as a personal choice based on convenience.” This culture is all about making personal choices, as if each choice were exactly equal. My point in the above is that though all women cannot breastfeed exclusively {like me} and some cannot at all {like cancer patients on certain medicines}, breastfeeding is the superior choice, plain and simple. This is why I work so hard at it. There is value in doing hard things that are best for my children.

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  • Reply Crunchy_Conservative June 1, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    That would be oxyCONTIN, a very powerful and addictive painkiller. 🙂

    You are correct that pitocin is not the same thing as oxytocin. Oxytocin is one aspect of starting labor, but there are a lot of other things going on. That is why inductions by pitocin often fail, and fail more often the earlier they are attempted – when the other pieces of the puzzle are not in place, oxytocin receptors are blocked and cannot have a strong enough effect to induce labor.

    The feel-good effect that you mentioned comes from endorphins released by our own bodies. When oxytocin binds to its receptors, it causes our bodies to release endorphins. (They help combat pain, but another interesting side effect is that they fuzz our memories. I read one study that mentioned that mothers who labor with pitocin and/or epidurals have clearer memories of labor pain, while mothers who labor without medication tend to have “fuzzier” memories. It’s an interesting side effect, and one that I have noticed to be true among my own very small sample group of myself and my friends – for whatever that’s worth.) Pitocin causes contractions, but it does not stimulate endorphin release. In fact, pitocin uses the oxytocin receptors in our bodies, so while a woman is on it, her body cannot use its own oxytocin, if it is producing any. Oxytocin also stimulates our bodies to release prolactin – a hormone that makes us feel loving and bonded. Of course, mothers who don’t breastfeed will still love and bond with their child; however, prolactin gives moms a hormonal “leg up” in developing strong, loving and satisfying (there’s that PPD effect) bonds with their children.

    Our bodies are fascinating. The more we learn about them, the more we realize how inadequate our knowledge and treatments have often been (and likely still are). This is not to say that there is no place for medical intervention – only that there are often consequences, and we often don’t understand the full range of consequences that we might be opening ourselves up for. I’m all for cautious medical intervention when the benefits outweigh the risks, but I think it’s wise to keep in mind that we don’t even know how much we don’t know, so caution is the key!

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 4, 2012 at 9:21 pm

      The body truly *is* amazing. Thanks for sharing all of this! I found it fascinating… 🙂

  • Reply Brandy February 8, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Interesting. I don’t know, but I might try and Google that if I have time. I had a prescription for it once (for a short while, to try and help with my low milk issues) and I know that I was warned that it could be very addictive, which is why the prescription was for such a short period of time.

    When OBs induce labor, they use the IV drug form Pitocin, which is not bioidentical, as far as I know, but has a similar effect. (Oxytocin in the body is what helps bring about labor naturally.) Oxytocin also causes the milk let-down reflex. Unless a mom is in labor, the hormone–natural or otherwise–should have a “feel good” effect. For some moms this is more dramatic than others. This is why it is often said that breastfeeding combats postpartum depression (of course, I think that is actually a B vitamin deficiency, but that is another post for another day).

  • Reply Anonymous February 8, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Oxytocin, wasn’t that what Rush Limbaugh was addicted to?

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