Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Breastfeeding: to wean or not to wean?

In the current issue of Ottawa Parenting Times ("The breastfeeding debate rages on"), we examine how the much-touted advantages and health benefits of breastfeeding continue to be challenged with the release of a new book in which university professor Joan Wolf openly challenges the health claims made by breastfeeding proponents, and a new study by British researchers that reveals that, in developed countries, breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months may not be the best for infant health, contrary to WHO guidelines.

The topic of breastfeeding never fails to stir passionate debate, and the story sparked quick response from OPT readers

Louise Arsenault of Winchester wrote: "I wonder why educated people would ever doubt that Mom's milk is the perfect food for her baby. All mammals were created to receive this and this is the sole purpose of the female breast. Joan states "there is no conclusive evidence of breastfeeding's superiority to formula," and so on, when the word breastfeeding should be breast milk.  

The change makes a huge difference in the context. Breast milk cannot be duplicated and is constantly changing to meet the baby's needs as he grows. Babies always receive immunities through breastmilk and these things cannot be put into formula."

When I gave birth to my third child, Chloe, in November, I decided to breastfeed her, my first experience doing so. My other two children were formula-fed. I didn't make the decision out of guilt, but mostly due to being wiser and considerably older, with a greater appreciation for the medical evidence that points to breastfeeding being beneficial. 

My older children, I have to say, are very healthy, happy and quite bright. Formula feeding, at the time, was the decision that made sense for us, and I would never judge any mom who chooses to do so.

But nursing Chloe has been a surprisingly beautiful and satisfying experience, though not an easy one. From soreness to her constant feeding, we've had our share of struggles over the last four months (along with having to supplement with formula to simply get a few hours' break from feeding). From time to time, I've been tempted to give up. But I didn't, ultimately wanting to prolong the experience and this special time connecting with her.

Now, I have to make a decision. I have to return to my office job shortly, and Chloe will begin daycare next week. Our days of long, leisurely nursing has come to an abrupt end. I know Chloe can continue to receive breast milk in a bottle (so far, my one attempt at a manual pump yielded almost nothing), but I'm not sure which way to go. Is it time to make the switch to exclusive formula feeding? Or do I invest in a hospital-grade pump and do my best to sustain her breast milk consumption (and some nursing) while working outside the home?

It seems the toughest decision I've ever made.

Do you have any advice to share on weaning your baby? Or how you managed to breastfeed while working outside the home? Please share your breastfeeding experience by commenting below or e-mail editor@ottawaparentingtimes.ca

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