Noa’s Ark

A place to start. A little something for everyone. Something to do while killing time at work.

Archive for newborns

Breastfeeding for sanity

I am willing to make the statement that breastfeeding saved my life.

Now most people know there are a gajillion benefits to breastfeeding and it seems to becoming more widely accepted in the often backwards United States society…but I am not here to talk about that.

What I am interested in discussing is the fact that I believe the choice to breastfeed and to continue doing so after a really rough start with my child, probably saved me from very deep depression.

The scientific data is everywhere. Here are just a few examples:

“Breastfeeding protects maternal mood by lowering stress. When stress levels are lower, the mother’s inflammatory response system will not be activated, thereby lowering her risk of depression,” she said. “However positive these results, I must issue one caveat: they only apply when breastfeeding is going well. As noted earlier, when breastfeeding that is not going well, particularly if there is pain, it becomes a trigger to depression rather than something that lessens the risk. Mothers’ mental health is yet another reason to intervene quickly when breastfeeding difficulties arise.”

“Mothers’ moods become more positive during breastfeeding and less positive during bottle feeding. The effect is not permanent, but it may explain why breastfeeding mothers become so devoted to the act of breastfeeding. Ref: Health Psychol. 2002 Mar;21(2):187-93”

When Noa was about 4 days old she stopped breathing and was unresponsive. This was due to dehydration. Now, most hospitals have lactation consultants and the hospital I delivered at had good consultants. I will say though, that not all consultants are created equal and they all have their own ethics. I think the ethic in this particular hospital was to avoid formula at all costs and unfortunately it cost me an ambulance ride and a very scarey incident.

The first days after birth are the most important time for new mothers or mothers deciding to breastfeed for the first time, to get help and consultation about nursing.

Ask questions! I just took the information they gave me and ran with it. I thought I was doing everything right, but truth be told, I should have been supplementing with formula, I could have avoided the emergency. My daughter was severely dehydrated and critically jaundice. The jaundice cropped up over night it seemed and at the same time the tests came back, nearly the same moment the doctor called to tell us to take her to the hospital, was when she stopped breathing.

My mother never breastfed; it was all new to all of us. Noa just wasn’t latching on well and was not getting enough to eat in those first crucial days.

All that aside, the nurses at the hospital she was taken to were amazing. Almost all of them had experience as nursing mothers and were very encouraging. I felt that I had failed as a mother already and the psychological fallout from this, I thought, I was not going to recover from.

But we made it, and I have a thriving, chubby wonderfully healthy girl. Through it all I enjoyed our time together, even when I was tired and she nursed almost constantly in the first three months. It was during that time that my husband and I seperated and I thought, there is no way I can do this alone.

But we made it. As her nursings fell shorter and less frequently, I looked forward to the times when she wanted to nurse. It was a quiet, peaceful time to sit and bond. It would have been easy if I was bottle feeding to hand her to someone else and say, here you do this, I am going to go lie down in a dark room and hide from the world, but I couldn’t. I was the source of nourishment and she needed me. Ultimately, it helped me step each day a little further AWAY from that steep slope of depression that is so easy to slide down after having a baby, regardless of any other life events that may be happening.

I did attend counseling sessions, but I believe breastfeeding was more beneficial and less costly! The hormones released during nursing helped me to remain calm, reduced stress and allowed me to be peaceful and reassuring to my child.

For more information about breastfeeding, or if you know someone struggling with the challenges of a new baby, go to  the La Leche League website: