Serena Caner, registered dietician

Healthy Bites column: Breastfeeding still best

One of the only nutrition issues with global consensus is that breastmilk is the best choice for babies.

Why?

Breast milk is a custom-made form of nutrition that changes throughout the feed: you start off with a thirst-quenching soup, move on to a vitamin-rich main course, and end with a fatty dessert. It also adapts itself throughout the development of your baby, changing as it grows.

Breast milk is easier to digest than formula and protective against multiple diseases and allergies. For mothers, breastfeeding can contribute to post-pregnancy weight loss and delay return of menstruation. With increased maternity leaves and more supportive hospital breastfeeding policies in 2011-12, 96 per cent of women in BC initiated breastfeeding. However, only 26 per cent continued to exclusively breastfeed for the recommended six months. Why drop out?

The answer to this question is complex, but in general, new mothers need support (read “support,” not “nagging” or “pressure.”)

When I was having my first child, I assumed that breastfeeding was an easy and instinctive activity that I would enjoy. However, that was not my initial experience. Having given birth to a baby, I was sore, exhausted and dealing with hormonal changes.

I remember my nipples being so raw that I could not wear a t-shirt and felt overwhelmed, if not despair, about having to feed my baby every couple of hours. The first few months it felt like all I did was eat, sleep, and breastfeed (between diaper changes and loads of laundry). I remember wishing that I could take a few days holiday or pass off the responsibility to my husband.

The good news is breastfeeding does get easier and may even become enjoyable.

It is also helpful to remind yourself that it is short-lived: eventually, your baby will be able to take solid food. If exclusive breastfeeding for six months is not a manageable option for you, pumping and bottle-feeding, using a breastmilk bank or supplementing what feeds you can do with formula are better choices than giving only formula to your child.

If you are having issues, there are a number of people can help you out: doctors, doulas, public health nurses, dietitians, lactation consultants, midwives, or dial 8-1-1 anytime.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietitian at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.