Breastfeeding your baby is ideal for reasons that are indisputable. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients to help your infant grow into a strong and healthy toddler. Some of the nutrients in breast milk also help protect your infant against some common childhood illnesses and infections. It may also help your health. Certain types of cancer may occur less often in mothers who have breastfed their babies.” The NIH recommends that, “women who don’t have health problems should try to give their babies breast milk for at least the first six months of life.”
However, not all mothers can breastfeed, for various reasons. For example, mothers with certain illnesses like HIV or TB risk transferring the infection to their infant through breast milk. Some medications can also be passed to infants through breast milk. Furthermore, there are mothers who adopt, mothers of multiples, mothers who for physiological reasons can’t breastfeed and mothers who choose not to for lifestyle reasons.
One thing that I strongly believe is breastfeeding or not, babies and their parents can bond in the most beautiful way when feeding and spending quality time together. Within my family, there are two adopted children; one who became part their family’s life within hours after birth and the other who became part of their family a bit older. These were two separate situations within two families on different sides of our family lineage, but both children are loved, nurtured, healthy and beautiful – and neither was breastfed.
For all the breastfeeding advocates who may be reading this, I totally agree that breastfeeding is the way to go when possible. I believe that a mother should be able to breastfeed in public places and that it is a beautiful, natural aspect of mothering. But I also believe that holding and loving your child while appreciating his or her own unique being is one of the most critical aspects of bonding and security. I am so thankful that formulas are developed to ensure that developing infants get all the nutrients needed, and that there are bottles and nipples that can give an almost-breastfeeding experience while feeding.
If you are breastfeeding, that’s great and I am truly glad that you can. If you can’t, I believe that your child can experience love in infancy and will bond to you in the most beautiful way possible.
Elaine Plummer is a health expert for Always and Tampax.