What makes breast-feeding better?

Published On: Mar 20 2012 10:59:33 AM EDT   Updated On: Apr 09 2012 05:05:01 PM EDT
Baby

By Darlene Dunn, Contributing writer

Patricia Notebaert provides education to pregnant women and new mothers. Her message is clear: "Breast is best."

There are several advantages and just one drawback to breast-feeding a baby, the Cleveland lactation specialist says. But some women who have tried it say it's not as easy as it may seem.

Notebaert, a registered nurse at at Meridia Huron Road Hospital's Family and Maternity Center, said breast milk is the best food for babies because it provides antibodies that safeguard them against organisms and, thus, illnesses. She also pointed out that it's extremely rare for a breast-fed baby to be colicy or even gassy, because the milk that the mother produces offers essential nutrients and customized ingredients for growth.

In addition to the unique formula, breast-feeding provides an opportunity for mothers to bond with their babies and, even more importantly, for the baby to bond with the mother.

"Breast-feeding provides a safe, warm, cozy place to be," Notebaert said. "Babies listen to Mom's heartbeat and they are used to listening to Mom's heartbeat, so it is a safe, secure place to be."

Advantages Of Formula?

At Huron Road, about 40 percent of the mothers who give birth at the facility breast-feed. This number has increased since 2001, when it was only about 25 percent. The rest use formula.

The American Pregnancy Association points out to parents that they should consider the cost of formula. However, an advantage of that route is that anyone can feed the baby.

"You are more tied down (with breast-feeding)," Notebaert said. "You can give a bottle to someone else if you formula feed, but with breast-feeding you have to plan. You have to be there."

But she believes the luxury of having anyone feed the baby pales in comparison to the advantages of natural milk.

Studies show that breast-fed babies are smarter, Notebaert said.

"They are more secure because Mom took time with them," she said.

Not Always Easy

Lisa Manning, 39, a mother of three young girls, attempted to breast-feed.

Manning, who is well-endowed, said she experienced difficulties getting her first child, Alexandria, to latch on to her breast.

"I got really frustrated, and I wasn't sure if she was getting enough to eat," Manning said. "It was really frustrating, which I think Xan felt."

Manning continued to rattle off reasons why breast-feeding wasn't a good experience for her.

"She was crying. I thought she was hungry because I couldn't gauge how much she was eating. It was horrible. I had sores on my breasts, and I didn't want to smother her, so I was trying to make sure my breast wasn't covering her nose. It was just too much."

Manning added that she knew about the research but didn't try breast-feeding on her other two babies. Even though her children were not breast-fed, she said they didn't have ear infections and they do well in school.

"I still felt close to them and cuddled them, but they had bottles in their mouths," she said.

Working Around Work

Angela Riley's experiences with breast-feeding varied for each of her four children. She breast-fed her son, Christian, for 10 months; her daughter, Sidney, for three months; and her first child, Taylor, for only a few weeks.

She added that with Taylor, her inexperience contributed to the short time spent breast-feeding. With her fourth child, 4-month-old Angel, she breast-fed for about six weeks.

Riley, who is a clinical systems analyst at the Cleveland Clinic, said her work environment was not as conducive to breast-feeding as previous jobs. When Christian, her third child, was born, Riley was working as a registered nurse at another Cleveland hospital.

"It was easier because of my work environment," she said. "They allotted time in my work schedule and breast pumps were available."

With Angel, she was working in an office setting, but she thought it was imperative to give her baby an "extra boost" because she believes in the benefits of breast-feeding. She said that so far all of her children fall in line with what breast-feeding research reveals.

"None of them have been sick and out of school," she said. "They never had ear infections, and they excel academically. They are honor roll students."

Although Riley believes in the benefits, she said many things have to be taken into consideration when deciding to breast-feed or bottle-feed.

"It should be a personal choice," she said. "And sometimes people stigmatize those who choose not to."

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