With all the talk that "breast is best", I'd like to present a different perspective. Breastfeeding is not special, it is normal. Humans are mammals and in mammals, after pregnancy comes lactation. There is nothing special about that, it's just the natural state of affairs. It is true that breastfed babies have health benefits over formula fed babies but really it's the artificial non-breast milk feeding that puts babies at risk. Realizing that breastfeeding is normal and not special helps put things in perspective and helps moms make the right choices for themselves and their babies.
Breast milk is sometimes called "Baby's First Immunization". However, breast milk is not a magic bullet and cannot protect babies from every ailment that comes along. Before formula was invented, breastfed babies still died of natural illnesses. Breast milk is not superhuman. Do not forego modern medicine because breast milk cannot do everything. Breast milk might be baby's first immunization but it should not be baby's last. Breast milk cannot prevent polio, tetanus, measles or other vaccine preventable illnesses.
Breast milk might be baby's first immunization but it should not be baby's last.
Now let's shift our attention to moms. There is always so much focus on the health of babies and breastfeeding but what about moms? After pregnancy, a woman's body is EXPECTED to lactate. Again, this is nature for all mammals and is part of the physiologic process that helps reset the female body after giving birth. In a sense, if you turn off lactation, you are not allowing the body to "reset" and you are putting it at risk.
Women who do not lactate are at increased risk of obesity, heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
While breastfeeding is always a personal choice it is important for women and their doctors to fully appreciate the health implications of skipping lactation after pregnancy. Women who lactate are protecting their bodies from chronic illnesses that plague the health care system. Women who choose not to lactate are putting their bodies at risk for all those same chronic illnesses. For doctors and the health industry and from a public health perspective, supporting the natural process of lactation is akin to discussing healthy diet, exercise and smoking cessation.
So take breast milk and lactation off the pedestal and give them the place they deserve. They are normal and expected parts of life. They should be supported to succeed because interrupting breastfeeding and lactation results in health risks for both women and children.
Written By: Dr. Shaer