Organisations such as the La Lèche League or the Breastfeeding Network help to promote breastfeeding with all its benefits which, as a result, is becoming increasingly popular.
Fortunately, more and more women decide to at least try to feed their newborn themselves. National statistics show that there is a steady increase in initial infant breastfeeding (66% in 1995 to 69% in 2000). However, statistics also reveal that many new mothers give up breastfeeding after only a few weeks: after only one week, 55% of women breastfeed, after six weeks 43% and after 4 months 28% still feed their babies. In our modern culture, natural feeding is a challenge because bottle feeding still tends to be regarded as “easier”. Generations of parents who bottle fed their babies pass on what they have been sold decades ago. In addition, new breastfeeding problems arise that find appropriate discussion grounds in our civilisation, such as the “insufficient milk” syndrome. Yet, only about 5% of mothers show real physical difficulty to breastfeed, thus confirming that the idea of not making enough milk is a modern invention. Women may actually feel that they do not have enough milk to feed their baby but the reasons are not physical. It is more likely that the early difficulties mother and baby experience together result from stressful birthing environment, such as the hospital, where unknown staff and routine as well as doubtable reputation feed initial anxiety and thus, can add to the overall picture of the insufficient milk syndrome. Breast feeding can be highly influenced by psychosomatic elements, such as stress, anxiety, worries, depression and much more. Feeding is a natural self-regulating and extremely efficient process which is susceptible to how mothers feel, as much as anything. If a new mother does not receive the support she needs, the let-down reflex (milk flows from the ducts towards the nipple) is more difficult to be stimulated.
Besides the modern argument of “lack of sufficient milk”, many more interruptions help reduce the chance of breastfeeding, such as aesthetically motivated breast operations or if a separation of mother and baby after birth is unnecessarily prolonged. In addition, our natural desire for information societies has caused multiple parenting theories to shoot out of the grounds. Instead of helping reduce new parent’s fears they tend to increase and even confuse them. One of the often cited parent strategies is “feeding on schedule”. However, feeding in intervals causes unnecessary stress because the composition of the milk changes in a way that causes baby to feel hungry all the time. As a result, the mother will think that she does not produce enough milk whereas the truth is that she has waited too long.

Modern ways of living can make it extremely difficult for new mothers to embrace breast feeding. Their cultural background, lack of support within their own family or friends and misleading parenting information facilitate the return to bottle feeding. Moreover, cultural expectations of women who often have to return to work early in order to earn a living or pursue a career do not improve early parenting conditions.

While breast feeding is part of our natural survival strategy, bottle feeding is part of our modern culture. It gives new mothers the chance to cope easier with expectations and to help handle natural infant needs in an over-regulated world. We are aware of the fact that human milk is best for baby. Thus, it is the mother’s individual choice of how to feed her infant and to build a strong bond.

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Breastfeeding Basics

February 18, 2008

Mother’s milk is best for baby! The composition is perfect for baby’s developmental needs. It is also the most convenient “fast food” we can think of: always at hand without having to warm it up or sterilize unnecessary feeding equipment and it is also the cheapest kind of food. No wonder the World Health Organisation promotes breastfeeding with the slogan “Breast is Best”. It is recommended to breastfeed for a minimum of 6 months to give baby the best start in life. This will greatly reduce the risk of SIDS, help reduce the risk of allergies in later life, support baby’s physical maturation and it will help develop a strong immune system.


How to get started

Whether you decide to give birth in hospital or at home, your midwife is trained to help you get started with confidence. Right after baby’s arrival he is put to the breast. This is important because baby’s sucking reflex is strongest in the first hour after delivery. Baby starts to suck on the nipple automatically because this is an inborn reflex. When looking at earlier ultrasound scans you may even be able to see your baby sucking his thumb. This shows you how early this reflex naturally develops! As soon as baby starts to suck at the breast, the hormone oxytocin is released which is responsible for the milk flow.

During the first days after baby’s birth, mother’s milk is yellowish and has a unique composition: it is very high in protein, vitamins, minerals and has less fat. So-called colostrum is particularly good for baby’s underdeveloped gestational system. Colostrum is also very high in antibodies which help keep baby’s immune system prepared to cope with the outside world.

After a few days, mother’s milk changes to eventually increase the caloric intake of the baby with a higher proportion of carbohydrates and fat. This change in composition is essential for baby’s growth.

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