Many claim to know the main benefits of breastmilk. In this article, I will share my top three little “un”known facts.
by Jordan Paul | Jordan Paul, passionately passionate about all the passions…and bread, comes at you with spunk and honesty as she’s trying to balance life as a tandem-breastfeeding mom of two girls, small business owner, and non-cleaning housewife. You can find her roaming the aisles of Aldi, mindlessly humming The Alphabet. Follow her on Facebook.
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Last month to honor World Breastfeeding Week, friends of mine, who happen to also be talented photographers, offered a mini breastfeeding photoshoot on the beach to Southwest Florida moms to celebrate our babes at the breast.
I immediately booked, splurged on new outfits, and set out to lose 35 pounds in a week. Day of, I woke up at FOUR am, primped, and felt beautiful.
Everything was going perfectly. My sweet 10-month-angel-baby woke up with smiles and cooed excitedly as I dressed her. I moved on to the next child and after she threw herself down on the ground like a chalk outline at the sight of herself, I wondered how I even birthed someone who didn’t relish being in the spotlight.
The first step out of the car, I felt the sweat pool underneath my recently trimmed bangs. Walking toward the beach, I swore I heard the weather Gods say, “Oh, you feel pretty?! Let me smite you with this humidity so your hair flips like you’re the stunt double for Mary Tyler-Moore.”
I also tinted my hair the night before–picture pig blood on Carrie. “Mommy, you’re bleeding.” “No, baby, that’s my confidence dripping out.”
Photographers asked if I could breastfeed the girls at the same time and I thought, “Duh. I feed them together all the time on the couch while watching Judge Judy.” I didn’t realize they meant standing. No, I cannot do that. We sat instead.
So I crouched in the rising high-tide water, against a shrub, looking at the horizon with a milk-goddess smirk, praying they weren’t zooming in on my upper lip sweat, and trying my hardest to stay still while I became a feast for six mosquitoes. I was completely exposed, holding a starving toddler and a baby who decided watching my milk leak everywhere was more fun than eating it…and then a boat full of men drove by.
HOW DID WE GET THERE?!
I felt defeated, exhausted, foolish; like how I feel in many motherhood moments. When people asked how it went, I went on and on about how gross I felt and how it wasn’t like anything I envisioned. But the photos came out beautifully.
It wasn’t until I reviewed the photos that I saw how totally badass and powerful I really am. I’d never have realized it if it weren’t for the support of my friends. I saw how adoringly my girls look at me while nursing them and I reminded myself THIS is why I’m so passionate about breastfeeding.
The American Association of Pediatrics recently revised their former policy recommendation of breastfeeding to six months to call for more support for mothers who want to feed to age two and beyond. This change is sure to have breastfeeding mothers ripping off their shirts in solidarity. Many claim to know the main benefits of breastmilk. I want to share my top three little “un”known facts:
#1 Baby Backwash
I remember the first time I read this and it blew my mind. Many of us have heard that mother’s milk creates antibodies necessary for the baby to fight off infection, but none of us ever knew how, until now. Sciencenews.org describes this benefit of breastmilk best. “Part of the immunity that breast milk imparts, it seems, may depend in part of a mixture of milk and baby saliva flowing upstream. The backwash may actually cause a mother’s body to create made-to-order immune factors that are delivered back to the baby in milk.” Let me break it down; our baby’s saliva is secreted into our nipples and that is what activates the body to create custom, germ-fighting, delicious milk!
#2 Ever-Changing Composition
Women are all-knowing. Our bodies have the ability to know what child is on the breast, if you choose to tandem feed, and make milk specialized for that child. And if you are feeding one baby, your body will change the makeup of that milk to be more fatty (age), more watery (weather), or filled with more melatonin (activity/time of day). There’s something to be said about no major manufacturer ever being able to recreate a product that mimics breastmilk entirely.
According to La Leche League, breast milk contains:
- Stem cells to repair their body during an illness
- Human Milk Oligosaccharides (HMOs): sugars that are indigestible to the baby but feed friendly bacteria to develop a healthy gut
- Oxytocin to relieve stress and promote feelings of well-being in mom and baby
- Alpha-lactalbumin: a protein with pain relief properties, and
- Immune cells, cytokines, and antimicrobial factors to support the immune system as they grow.
#3 Not just for bellies…or babies!
While everyone is spending a fortune on health and beauty products or registering for nipple cream, gripe water, baby soap, and stretch mark oil, I am over here squirting my liquid gold into airtight containers for all to use. Breastmilk is ubiquitous. If you get a lavender-scented creamy, velvety lotion for your birthday…it’s my breastmilk. Rub that stuff on everything.
- Breastmilk lotion can be used to heal skin conditions like eczema or even superficial wounds.
- Breastmilk swabbed in an ear canal can fight an outer-ear infection. It’s also been proven to help with nasal congestion and even conjunctivitis when applied to those mucus membranes.
- Breastmilk can be used to treat diaper rash, infant acne, or cradle cap.
Recipes and more uses can be found on medela.com. Consult with your doctor before applying breastmilk to areas of the body. I’m not a doctor. Just a breastmilk superfan.
Breastfeeding is hard. Exhausting. Demanding. Beautiful. Yet the benefits of breastmilk are so worth it. Supporting other moms who choose to do it is crucial to the success and enjoyment of the experience. If you choose to continue into toddler years, know you’re now being supported by organizations that are finally realizing the benefits of breastfeeding that we’ve been shouting all along. You’re doing incredible. Even if you’re sweating profusely in the moment while waves hit you square in the face. Wipe your lip, fix your crown, and latch that baby.