By Devon Acou, DC
Breastfeeding is a huge topic that is near and dear to my heart. I remember before I actually became a mom that I had these preconceived “proper ideas” about breastfeeding.
One such thought was that breastfeeding to any age at which a child can verbally ask for milk is disgusting! I then went on to breastfeed my own child to a little past the age of four.
Please don’t throw stones at me. She even asked for it. She affectionately called it “milky”. Let me try and explain it with my daughter’s words. We were on vacation when my daughter turned 4 years old. We were sitting on the balcony eating breakfast on the first full day that she turned 4.
I looked at her and said, “Wow look at my big 4 year old.”
She scowled at me, “I’m not 4!”
“Yes you are. Remember last night at the restaurant when everyone sang happy birthday to you? You are 4 now.”
“NO I am not!” She got more emphatic. She then stands up and says, “Look! See, I’m not any bigger.”
She was right, she wasn’t any bigger, she was the same height. There was no physical difference to mark the occasion. I felt the exact same way that she did in that moment, only related to nursing. That was how I felt as I continued to nurse her as she got older. There was newer ways that she asked to nurse: first it was crying, then it was pointing, then it was lifting my shirt and assuming the milk drinking position, and one day she vocalized it. As she grew, and the older that she got, the better she communicated that she wanted breast milk. What once was “disgusting” to me, breastfeeding a child that could verbally ask for milk, became normal.
The World Health Organization recommends that children exclusively breastfeed unto 6 months of age and continue to breastfeed until at least the age of 3 years. Personally my goal was always until the age of 3 years old. Anything over that I would consider a bonus.
THE BEST MEDICINE
There are a few amazing features about breast milk that can’t be reproduced. Breast milk is a cure-all. You can apply it to a rash, put in the baby’s nose if they have a sinus infection or in their ear for an earache. I’m serious. It is some good stuff. Breast milk also has antibodies. This is what provides your baby with all the codes and answers to childhood diseases and any kind of sickness. The amazing thing is that the breast milk changes daily; even with each feeding. The baby connects to mother and mother’s body will sense what the child needs and the breast milk will deliver the goods to the baby.
It could have been because I was a first time mother, or it was a few traumas that my child endured, but I felt like I couldn’t stop nursing Addison until I was sure that her immune system could fight all the battles on her own without help. With the extensive nursing and Applied Kinesiology care that she received she hasn’t had one round of antibiotics and she is now 5 years old. She hasn’t had any prescription drugs. She has only had two doses of over the counter medications for any sickness in her whole life. This was actually when she was about 4.5 years old and not nursing. She went into a coughing fit and wouldn’t stop and cough medication was the only thing that would help. Usually an adjustment, supplements and homeopathy have worked in the past. That’s a pretty good run and I think that we had such a huge success with her health because I breastfed her for so long.
DON’T ASSUME BREASTFEEDING WILL BE EASY
Another misguided assumption I had about breastfeeding was that I assumed breastfeeding would be easier since I am larger in that department, I figured I should be a huge milk producer. Well that’s not true; the size of the breast doesn’t determine how much milk one produces. I think that my initial problem was that no one caught that Addison was tongue tie. Tongue tie means that the part of the tissue that attaches the tongue to the bottom of your mouth is closer to the tip of the tongue limiting it’s movement.
This causes issues because the tongue needs to elevate in order to suck from a breast. With a bottle, they only have to use the tongue to stop the milk from coming out. Bottle feeding is a passive way to eat whereas breastfeeding is an active way. The best way to resolve this is to find a local doctor in your area and have them laser the extra skin that didn’t separate well. This doesn’t hurt the baby at all as there are no nerve endings to this area. This is done when the baby is a few months old. Look into this if it hurts when you are nursing the baby. Pain typically is a signal that something isn’t quite right with the baby’s tongue or mouth position.
Many times after a harder labor the baby’s head and face can get shifted around. I recommend seeing a doctor that is confident in working out the cranials in the head and in the face. Sometimes an occiput (back of the head) adjustment to the newborn can help the baby open their mouth wider in order to take in the proper amount of breast tissue for feeding which then causes less pain.
There can also be other issues that can be related to low milk supply. For adequate supply you need to drink about a gallon of water a day. Also make sure that you are eating enough salt, which I covered in an earlier post. After having the baby, your hormones and your body go through a bit of readjusting where a functional endocrine doctor, especially one that specializes in applied kinesiology, can really help out.
Breast milk is easier to digest then formula. For me it was easier to pull my kid into bed with me in the middle of the night, lift my shirt, and nurse her and sleep. I wasn’t about to get up out of bed, walk into the kitchen, heat up a bottle, feed the baby, and then try to go back to sleep. We nursed comfortably while I got as decent of sleep as one can get having a small child in their lives.
GOOD FOR YOUR CHILD, GOOD FOR YOU TOO
Breastfeeding is great for the mother! It reduces postpartum depression because, every time that you nurse, oxytocin (the love hormone) is released. It also reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding burns lot of fat and calories. Plus, if you are exclusively breastfeeding it can naturally provide 98% contraceptive protection in the first 6 months after birth.
Many times when the mother goes back to work she quits nursing. It is tough using breast pumps, and to be honest, even though many of them are $400 they don’t even come close to getting as much milk from your breast compared to your child. Hospital grade pumps are great to help increase supply of milk and to get more milk.
I was fortunate that I got to take about four months off with Addison before I had to go back to chiropractic school. After a month or two I ditched the pump. We supplemented a bit with goats milk when I was gone and then Addison did what’s called reverse nursing. This is where the baby nurses throughout the night when the mother is home. Since our bed was in an optimal position I could sleep while she nursed. Our pediatrician suggested that we put our bed against the wall with a blanket hanging on the wall so the wall wouldn’t be cold, then it went Addison, me, and then my husband.
Some might think it is obsessive that I nursed for that long, but I do have a very confident, friendly, loving, and bright child. In a world where kids are growing up and reaching to be close with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, I showed her love and close contact that will hopefully help in her puberty years.
I struggled. I had to formula feed her a little and substitute with goat’s milk at times, but for the majority of her nursing history she got breast milk. It wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I fought through my insecurities and my inadequacies and used those struggling times to improve and let go of lies that I probably had for a long time. I’m thankful for my Applied Kinesiology Doctor that helped me physically, mentally and emotionally overcome. I am happy that part of my job is to do the same for other mothers.
There are a lot of naysayers out there about nursing and some of them may even be in your own family. When you and your baby decide to stop nursing please make sure that it is your decision and not the negative pressures of family or society. You are doing a wonderful thing for your baby and, plain and simple, the negative voices just don’t get it. These are your breasts and if you want to use your breasts for what they are made for then rock it out!
Dr. Devon Acou, DC, BS has been serving children and their parents in the western suburbs of Chicago. Having a child of her own has helped her to really understand parenting struggles that we all face. It is never too late to change your lifestyle and realize that your goals are Within Reach.
Visit her website, here: http://www.drdevonacou.com