The ABCs of Breastfeeding

Everything a Mom Needs to Know for a Happy Nursing Experience

The ABCs of Breastfeeding

Author: Stacey H. Rubin
Pub Date: February 2008
Print Edition: $14.95
Print ISBN: 9780814480571
Page Count: 288
Format: Paper or Softback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814409718

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Thinking with a Breastfeeding Mindset

“I’ll try breastfeeding, but I don’t think that it is going to work.”


Amy is preparing for the birth of her first child. She and her husband have taken a childbirth education class and a breastfeeding class and are in the process of reading two breastfeeding books. Despite all that she has learned, Amy remains doubtful about the prospect of breastfeeding the daughter she is expecting. All of Amy’s knowledge about breastfeeding can’t compete with her defeatist attitude. Any problem that arises as she adjusts to her new baby will derail the breastfeeding process and prevent her from finding a workable solution to whatever difficulty she may have. For breastfeeding to work after her baby is born, Amy must develop a positive attitude during pregnancy. A positive attitude is not an accident. As you will learn in this chapter, you are the gardener of your psyche; only you can till the soil of your mind and cultivate a positive breastfeeding mindset.


During pregnancy, you are like an athlete in training. Your body is performing the Herculean task of growing a baby. While your body gets ready for motherhood, you—like the coach of a winning team—have the unique opportunity to prepare your mind for breastfeeding success. All coaches train their players to be strong and fast on the field; however, the coach of a winning team is able to do something extra that consistently leads his or her team to victory. The coach of a winning team instills a winning attitude in each player. Coaches understand that games are won or lost in the minds of their players. Players with a positive attitude play to win, whereas players full of self-doubt sabotage the team. On game day, all the hours of grueling physical training will be lost on an athlete who approaches the playing field lacking self-confidence. The seasoned successful coach prepares the team’s minds as well as their muscles.

Like a competitive athlete psyching out an opponent before the start of the game, breastfeeding begins in a mother’s psyche before her baby is born. Whether or not you are aware of it, your conscious and subconscious attitude about breastfeeding will profoundly affect your future breastfeeding relationship with your baby. As your pregnancy progresses, you may be preoccupied with work, child care, or shopping for your new baby. Even though you are busy, set aside a moment to explore your personal attitude about breastfeeding. A mother’s attitude sets the tone for her entire breastfeeding experience.

Chances are, like Amy, you have developed some negative perceptions about breastfeeding. Mothers develop these perceptions for a variety of reasons including formula company advertising, their body image, and difficulties with breastfeeding in the past. Understanding how these factors shape your view of breastfeeding will allow you to recognize your personal feelings about breastfeeding before your baby is born.


Because advertising portrays formula feeding as the normal way to nourish a baby, it is one of the most powerful influences against breastfeeding in our society. Television commercials show smiling mothers who happily feed bottles of formula to their babies. The latest trend in advertising is to hire a celebrity mom to endorse a formula that she supposedly feeds her baby. Celebrity association with anything, whether it’s perfume or infant formula, makes the product seem chic and sophisticated. In addition, parenting magazines also advertise formula, bottles, and pacifiers. I recently saw a magazine advertisement picturing an infant and a calf sitting side by side together in a double stroller. The advertisement was for a newfangled bottle claiming to keep a baby’s feeding as fresh as if it had just come from a cow. Many formulas claim their artificial ingredients are “formulated” like breast milk, and bottles claim to be shaped like a human nipple. Although ridiculous, these ads, coupled with sophisticated marketing techniques that operate on a psychological level, persuade millions of mothers that formula is convenient, risk-free, and comparable to human milk. Regardless of what advertisements tell you, the truth is that breast milk is uniquely suited to meet your baby’s needs, and your milk cannot be duplicated in a factory.

Unfortunately, formula advertising is impossible to escape. Ready-to-feed bottles of formula are directly marketed to parents by mail.1 In nearly every client’s home that I visit, I can’t help but notice a formula sample pack sitting innocuously on the kitchen counter. With formula samples so readily available, it becomes easy for mothers to succumb to bottle-feeding in a moment of doubt. Receiving a formula sample can undermine a mother’s confidence even when breastfeeding is progressing well.

My client, Sheila, is a twenty-year-old mother who has been breastfeeding her son, Cameron, since birth. Cameron is now a healthy nine-month-old and has never had formula. I was surprised when Sheila called me wondering whether Cameron needed to start formula at nine months of age. Sheila had just received a formula sample supposedly designed for older babies. I assured Sheila that her breast milk was still perfectly formulated for Cameron and discouraged her from feeding her son the artificial food.

Formula manufacturers, or pharmaceutical companies, provide pediatric offices and most hospitals with cases of free formula to distribute to their patients. By accepting and distributing formula, doctors and nurses reinforce the idea that formula feeding is the normal option and undermine any positive ideas new mothers have in deciding to breastfeed their babies.

Isabel, as a single mother, had her hands full with healthy twin boys. When I met with Isabel, she had a tremendous milk supply and her sons breastfed easily. However, Isabel was in the habit of formula feeding the twins throughout the day. She continued to feed the twins bottles because the hospital had given them formula after they were born and had sent her home with several boxes of the stuff. As a result of this pervasive advertising, Isabel, like many mothers, believed that formula was just as healthy as breast milk.

Formula samples cleverly disguised as hospital gift bags and distributed to new mothers by nurses can undermine a new mother’s breastfeeding relationship by reducing the likelihood that she will exclusively breastfeed her newborn.2 Some hospitals designated as Baby-Friendly have stopped the practice of routinely distributing formula samples to new mothers and no longer accept free formula from the pharmaceutical companies.


What formula advertising won’t tell you is that there is no substitute for human milk. Human milk is a living food made specifically for the unique needs of human babies. The best scientists in the world cannot re-create its more than two hundred components in a laboratory. Unlike the artificial ingredients in formula, which never change, your breast milk will evolve to meet the specific needs of your growing baby. This is true whether you breastfeed for one week or one year.

To begin with, nature designed your newborn’s first feeding of colostrum to be small in volume and high in value. Yellow or golden in color, colostrum, or early breast milk, is in your breasts when your baby is born. The components of colostrum are uniquely concentrated to both nourish and protect a brand-new baby. Compared to more mature breast milk, colostrum is higher in cholesterol, protein, and minerals like sodium and magnesium.3 Colostrum also contains high levels of immunoglobulin “A,” which protects your baby’s developing gastrointestinal tract from foreign germs and allergens.4 Even one exposure to formula at this critical time can upset this delicate balance in your baby’s intestines.5

As the first days of motherhood pass, your colostrum gradually becomes white in color. This transitional milk has high concentrations of living white cells called macrophages that continue the work of providing immunological protection to your newborn. Over the next few days, the ratio of proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals continues to shift, resulting in perfectly balanced mature breast milk.6 Mature breast milk is smart food. Complex fats and proteins promote your baby’s rapidly developing brain. Research has demonstrated that children who have been breastfed have higher intelligence than their formula-fed schoolmates.7 When a mother and baby eventually begin the weaning process and the total volume of a mother’s milk is reduced, the living cells in breast milk faithfully continue to protect a baby from illness.

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