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Paging Margarita Marasigan, RN: Breast or Bottle – The Choice is Yours

Margarita Marasigan, RN, CCE has been working with MomPrep for over a year now, providing invaluable guidance on newborn care and maternal health.  She is also a fabulous resource for breastfeeding – she’s the lady I ask when I have questions about nursing!  Here, she weighs in on the recent drama surrounding breastfeeding with some reassuring words of wisdom.

A Guest Post: Breast or Bottle – The Choice is Yours

Recently, there has been much debate over breastfeeding. From the TIME magazine article published this past May asking mothers “Are You Mom Enough?” to the rollout of Latch On NYC, a breastfeeding initiative in New York City that is endorsed by the New York State Department of Health and the NYS chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the choice whether to breastfeed or not has become an issue of contention rather than discussion.

Choosing how to feed your baby is a personal decision – one of many that mothers will make for their babies. Some mothers know right away that they want to breastfeed, or at least, attempt it and hope for success.  Others are unsure as they consider their comfort level, the realities of their lives and lifestyle or existing medical conditions. Some know that breastfeeding is not for them, for whatever reason. As with any decision you make regarding your baby, it’s best to go into it as well informed as possible. Here are some things you may want to consider as you weigh your options.

As a breastfeeding advocate, a registered nurse who supports moms that want to breastfeed and a mother who breastfed both of her sons (each for over a year) I am in agreement with the AAP regarding the benefits of breastfeeding. These include important factors such as supporting infants’ immune & digestive systems, lowering moms’ risk for certain types of cancer, cost effectiveness, and faster healing & weight loss for mom during the immediate postpartum period.

Breastfeeding is definitely a learned skill. It may be natural, but sometimes it does not come naturally to every mom and baby. With my first baby, it took us two weeks to learn how to breastfeed properly –  something that I could not have done without the support of my husband, family and pediatrician. I learned not to be afraid to ask for help and that there is a vast support network available to breastfeeding moms. Learning how to breastfeed is a lesson in practice, patience and persistence.

It is best to be prepared for potential challenges to breastfeeding so that you are not caught unaware without a plan of action. Are you taking medications that are incompatible with breastfeeding? Do you have a medical condition or history of surgery that would affect milk production? Does the anatomy of your breast present challenges to breastfeeding (ie., flat or inverted nipples)? A prenatal conversation with your obstetrician, midwife or lactation consultant can prepare you for what may happen and prevent early frustration and panic.

I worked with a patient who had a history of breast reduction surgery. Knowing ahead of time that milk supply would be a challenge, she was proactive in taking steps to maximize her potential to achieve a full milk supply. Despite this, she continued to have a low milk supply. Content with the knowledge that she had tried everything, she went on to breastfeed and supplement for the next five months.

A friend who had a baby and did not have the ability to take a maternity leave, wanted to give her baby “the benefits of breastmilk in a more time efficient way.” For her, pumping and bottle feeding best fit her and her baby’s needs since she could efficiently pump both breasts at one time and have milk available for future feeds.

Another client that I had worked with decided after a lot of trying, intervention & work with lactation consultants that breastfeeding simply was not for her. She found feeding time to be very stressful and did not see it as a bonding experience. She started to dread feedings and felt that she spent more time at the pump than with her baby. Not only was she frustrated, but so was her baby. Once she switched over to bottle feeding with formula, she was able to relax. Her baby was fed, they had plenty of time to cuddle & bond and they were both happier.

It’s important to know that there is no right or wrong way to feed your baby. Whatever your decision, you have the right to information, support, and education about all feeding options. Whether you choose to exclusively breastfeed, combine feed, or bottle feed, what matters most is that your baby is being fed, you are bonding with your baby and that you and your baby are happy and healthy. Now that’s what I call success!

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