World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is an annual celebration held each August 1-7. WBW is an opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and offer education and support to make it possible for families around the world. If you’re breastfeeding your baby, this is a great time to share what you’ve learned with other parents. And if you’re pregnant and/or hoping to breastfeed soon, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about how to make it work and prepare yourself for the job—it’s a big one! Let’s learn a little more about World Breastfeeding Week and some of the strategies that can make your breastfeeding relationship successful.
What if you aren’t breastfeeding your baby? WBW can make some parents feel slighted, guilty, or shamed, and I’ll talk a little about that too.
- The Benefits of Breastfeeding
- What if Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out?
- World Breastfeeding Week: Tips, Advice, and More
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
If you’ve given birth or are pregnant, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the many amazing benefits of breastfeeding from your doctor, your family, and other parents. It’s true that breastfeeding is great for both you and your baby—and for numerous reasons. First, and most importantly, breastmilk is a great source of nutrition for your baby from the newborn period through age two and beyond (so long as you both want to continue!).
Here are some of the other benefits of offering your baby your breastmilk:
- Breastfeeding is available “on demand,” so you won’t have to worry about mixing and heating a bottle in the middle of the night when your little one is melting down.
- Breastfeeding can be substantially cheaper than using formula, which is often expensive and requires the additional purchase of bottles.
- Breastfeeding helps to shrink your uterus down to its pre-pregnancy size, which, coupled with gentle postpartum exercise, should help you to start feeling like your old self.
- Breastfeeding can burn extra calories. Just be prepared—it can make you feel ravenously hungry!
- Breastfeeding helps to promote a deep bond with your new baby. You’ll have lots of opportunities for eye contact and cuddling!
- Breastmilk is easier for your baby to digest than formula.
- It can help reduce issues like ear infections, stomach upset, and eczema.
You may have heard from friends or other expecting mothers that breastfeeding acts as a natural contraceptive. While it’s true that you may not get your period during the first few months of breastfeeding, you should know that this is not a fail-proof birth control method! If you’re planning to be sexually active again after giving birth, you should talk to your doctor about your family planning options. If you’re not ready for a second pregnancy any time soon, make that clear!
What if Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out?
Every year during World Breastfeeding Week, I read posts on social media from friends who feel ashamed or guilty about how they fed their infants. Look, breastfeeding is awesome, and anyone who wants to do it should receive full support and encouragement. But if you weren’t able to breastfeed or you simply felt that it wasn’t the right choice for you and your baby, you don’t need to feel bad about that. This is important: What you feed your baby has nothing to do with how much you love them or how good of a parent you are.
I remember taking my first baby to a group for new parents and their infants at the local hospital where we could share concerns, ask questions, and support one another. I remember people asking questions like “How do you know if your baby is getting enough to eat?” “When can I expect my baby to sleep for longer stretches at night?” and “What’s it going to be like the first time we have sex again?” Then a mom raised her hand and said, “I wasn’t able to establish a breastfeeding relationship with my baby, and I feel terrible about it every day.” She was crying, and it was clear that she loved her baby very much.
I like to think of breastmilk and commercially prepared formula as veggies in your garden versus fresh veggies from the farmer’s market. They’re both great sources of nutrition. One might be a little more convenient, but sometimes the other option works better for your family. You do what’s right for you and your baby!
World Breastfeeding Week: Tips, Advice, and More
World Breastfeeding Week is a great time to share what you’ve learned if you’re an experienced breastfeeder and to access new information and support if you’re not. If you’ve been at this for a while, you might share breastfeeding tips that have helped you and your baby to continue. If you’ve discovered the best breastfeeding positions for a newborn versus an older baby, you could share your knowledge in a Facebook group or with a friend. If you’ve been able to pump successfully, you might help a new family with tips about pumping on the go, breastmilk storage, and the best hands-free pumps.
If looking at breastfeeding stuff all over social media makes you feel crappy, I get it. I don’t think people mean for their celebratory posts to make anyone feel inferior, but this is a very sensitive subject for many parents. If you need to take a quick social media break this week, go for it—and use that time to snuggle, play with, and love on your baby. You’ll remember that whatever the little kiddo is eating, you are exactly what he or she needs, just as you are. Whether you breastfeed, exclusively pump, use formula, or combo-feed, please check out one of my favorite sites for parents of babies: The Fed is Best Foundation. Founded and run by medical professionals, including doctors, NICU nurses, and lactation consultants, Fed is Best offers safety guidelines, practical advice, and encouragement for all. I can’t recommend it enough!
If you’re currently breastfeeding, leave some of your best tips in the comments section for other readers. And if you give your baby formula, what advice would you give to other parents who are planning to bottle-feed? Let me know!