Breast is Best, BUT???

You know yours is not a breastfeeding culture when usage of “Breast is best, BUT” drastically overshadows the discussion of “Breast is best, here’s how to succeed.”  I know that there are special cases where breast may not be possible at every feeding – preemies with health issues, multiples, working moms without supportive companies – but in most cases, we as a culture have a responsibility to help moms succeed. We should start our conversations with “Breast IS NORMAL.”


This will be the first in a series of posts on how to promote normal infant eating. “Normal” not from the statistic norm in the United States (only 14% of mothers exclusively breastfeeding at six months), but rather “Normal” from the perspective of the behavior Mother Nature designed for the mammal class of which we are a part. (The class “Mammalia” originates from “mammary glands” which are exclusively used by all other mammals to nourish offspring).

Of course, unlike other mammals, many human mothers face the challenge of working separated from their offspring, and therefore need the aid of bottles, pumps, and other gear.  My first priority is helping mothers successfully feed a baby at the breast, then the transition from breast to “milk from the office.”

I will preface my post with a disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant, a doctor, or a nurse. I am simply a breastfeeding mother who’s nursed two children nearly four years of her life, and helped many friends struggling with breastfeeding issues. The fact is, breastfeeding is as much a social, learned art as it is a biological process. By openly discussing breastfeeding, the information I’ve gathered, with help from other mothers, I hope to fill the void left by this “Breast is best, BUT” mentality and help others refine this womanly art.

Successful Breastfeeding – My Four Favorite Tips

1. Before giving birth, get informed. 

My favorite website is Kellymom, run by a lactation consultant providing reams of studies supporting all elements of breastfeeding. This is her informative list of breastfeeding preparation tips. She also has a list of books to avoid because they could sabotage your breastfeeding relationship, and books to read because they provide excellent evidence-based information.


2. Nothing But Mother’s Breast – Write it In Your Birth Plan!

In addition to your plan for the actual birth of your baby, clearly state that your newborn receive NOTHING BUT MAMA! No pacifiers, no water, no sugar, no formula, nothing nothing, nothing but your breast to avoid potentially devastating nipple confusion. Your partner or doula can act as a guard in the hospital to make sure the baby is not exposed to anything but your breast. Kellymom suggests making a sign for your baby’s bassinet that states, “I AM A BREASTFED BABY. No artificial nipples, formula or pacifiers please!!” I also refused to have any formula or bottles in my home until my babies were over a month old, just to make sure any temptation to give up in the face of difficulty wouldn’t be easily met.


I’ve known way too many mothers who’ve lost their ability to breastfeed because their babies were exposed to artificial nipples and subsequently refused the breast forever. It’s been heart-wrenching to watch them choose between months of exclusive pumping or breast milk substitutes.

3. Practice beforehand, make sure you know what a “good latch” looks like.

I attended one breastfeeding workshop prior to giving birth. Although not anything like the real thing, it planted seeds in my head – things to look for, ideas to try, a person to contact if I needed help at the last minute. You could attend a La Leche League meeting before you give birth to begin to develop familiarity with the breastfeeding process. You could also check out this website to understand what a “good latch” – the attachment of the baby’s mouth to the mother’s breast – should look like.

4. Immediately after birth, nurse and nurse and nurse!

Place your baby on your chest (skin to skin contact best) shortly after birth and begin trying to breastfeed within 30 minutes. Babies who are breastfed quickly after birth have higher chances of success than babies fed later. Delay any medical procedures as long as possible and just keep offering the baby your breast. Let the baby nurse as long as they want – more time at the breast stimulates milk production even if the baby is not swallowing milk the entire time.


Vic Atkin
Vic Atkin8 years ago

Sadly I wasn't able to breast feed properly due to my son being kept in hosptial for many months. However I persisted and with the help of a pump and the kindness of other mothers donating their milk to premies my son was able to receive the right amount of breast milk. I was sad when mine dried up; there's nothing like the bond between mother and child whilst feeding naturally. It still amazes me how many mothers choose not to breast feed, are they nuts or what? It actually improves your figure, activly making your tummy go back where it should be. I get it that some Mothers have to return to work but I'm lucky enough to live in a Country where, albeit in poverty. at least I could stay home with my son until he was old enough NOT to need the breast. In my opinion if a baby still needs breast milk then s/he still need mommy at home. Sorry about the soap box, but that's just me.

Shawn O'donnell
Shawn O'donnell8 years ago

I would like people to know that it is possible to breastfeed when you can't follow the advice. All my 3 children were in the nic unit due to breathing issues. All were introduced to a bottle first. With all of my children, I had various issues to work through and was able to breastfeed 2 of my children to almost 18 months each even while going back to work part-time. Breastfeeding helped my youngest and avoid some serious allergy reactions as he was seriously allergic to milk. (I found out the first time I introduced yogurt) My second children was having failure to thrive and we placed him on a bottle and he thrived. For me, breastfeeding was a rewarding and meaningful experience with each of my children. However, I believe, it needs to work with mother and child. If it doesn't, I don't think we need to feel guilt.

helen s.
helen s8 years ago

I think the best encouragement is simply the fact that it is so much less hassle to breast feed!
None of that messing about with scoops and formula...
I fed my son and daughter (both caesareans incidentally)having been quite ill after the operations
And NO encouragement whatever from the hospital
In fact they as good as told me I wouldn't be up to it afer the caesareans
I admit I was fortunate that I had plenty of milk (naturally!)

Citlalli Valles
Citlalli Valles8 years ago

My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer just after I was born, so I was not breastfed, but that would've been her choice if she could've done it - and it's my choice as well, when I have my own babies. It's natural. It's perfectly balanced and designed for your baby, and costs only your time and dedication. What's not to love?

Anne B.
Anne B8 years ago

I agree that breastfeeding does desperately need to be seen as 'the norm' in western countries. Often people comment on my breastfeeding 'success' (my son is almost 1 and still feeding) but in a tone that acknowledges it's a rare choice. In the UK medics are so concerned about babies not losing more than a certain percentage of weight, and putting on weight at a set rate, that when baby doesn't follow the norm, many are quick to suggest bottles. Doctors sometimes suggest adding in a formula feed last thing at night for a hungry baby or a poor sleeper -what a way to wreck feeding success, the night feeds place next day's order! Too much care is taken to give people a 'fair' and choice and to let mothers do things their own way that there is now no expectation to breastfeed. In this age of political correctness, passing judgement or saying that all choices are not equal, is seen as a crime. Full term new mothers should be expected to breastfeed as a matter of course, it should be an insurance policy that it's possible to use formula, a standby for if the real thing fails, rather than a choice that some people feel should be treated as equal to breast milk. That said, my heart goes out to all mothers who have been unable to breastfeed their children, this is not a judgement on you, it's a comment on those who could but won't breastfeed.

Hali Cespedes-Chorin

I think that you should emphasize that once it is established, breastfeeding is WAY easier than anything else (including the benefit of fewer visits to the pediatrician). Although, in retrospect, I'd recommend expressing some milk and introducing the bottle relatively early, so your kid doesn't think the babysitter is trying to pull a fast one on her.

Danielle Campos
Danielle Campos8 years ago

Dear Margaret Brewster. While being in the Le Leche league is great, discounting what many women go through by simply saying that they never learned how to breastfeed correctly is not a fair statement. There are women who's bodies are not proficient in producing milk in the foreign countries that you mentioned. I will agree that in our culture it is too easy to throw in the towel, but full on blanket statements in an area that is so sensitive to many women can be very hurtful. My daughter was born a month and a half early, but I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed her immediately. Even after 31 hours of labor and an emergency c-section it was very obvious to my husband, nurse and doctor that it was a priority for me. For the entire nine months that I breastfed her, every single day was a struggle. I tried to build my milk supply in every fashion with no avail. Early on, she was feeding every hour and still most days at least two or three times it was obvious that she was still hungry after I finished. So, yes there are times that women don't learn and don't take classes and don't read books, but there are also time that they will- as I did- and there will still be a lack in supply.

Margaret Crowe
Margaret C8 years ago

I wanted to point out the pressure this can put on women when either they or their babies have health problems right after the birth. I went in with the attitude “Nothing But Mother’s Breast”, but my baby and I were confined to separate floors of the hospital for the first 18 hours of his life. When I was faced with the choice of them giving him a bottle or an IV, it was very very stressful, but I decided the bottle was the lesser evil.
I also suffered a lot of guilt over the fact that I never produced enough milk for him to survive on breast milk exclusively. A friend ended up with her baby malnourished from trying to keep to only breast milk for months, while she never produced enough milk. It is an ideal to be aspired to and every support should be given to breastfeeding mothers, but some babies simply have to be supplemented to thrive (or even survive) and no one should be made to feel guilty about doing whatever is necessary for their baby.

Jennifer R.
Jennifer R8 years ago

Our culture should not expect women to return to the workplace immediately after birth. While some women prefer it, most do not, and only do so out of financial necessity -- or because they would be permanently shut out of their career choice if they took time off. I am one who chose my baby's health over money or career. I was making $85K when I quit to be able to breastfeed and care for my newborn son, and now it's impossible for me to go back to what I was doing and still be a mom (unless I want to put my child in extended daycare in addition to full time school). We do not have a child-friendly culture.

James Johnson
James Johnson8 years ago

All mammalian mothers produce a milk called colustrum. This colustrum contains antibodies that help the new borns immune system in fighting diseases. A new borns immune system is also,"new born". And nature's way of helping a new born survive is this colustrum milk.