Are you a new or expecting parent?
When we were considering starting a family, we were so hyper-focused on what the pregnancy experience would be that we didn’t initially put too much stock into what would come after birth.
But the reality is that pregnancy is about 40 weeks + the birth day is quite literally one day.
Today, we’re going to tell you about one of the key decisions we made about what would happen after birth + what would influence the years that followed in our lives — how we would feed our baby by breastfeeding exclusively.
Let’s get into it!
What Breastfeeding Exclusively Entails
What does “breastfeeding exclusively” mean?
Let’s start with a quick definition.
Exclusive breastfeeding means only feeding the baby breastmilk — no formula, water, etc. — and some definitions include not using artificial nipples or bottles.
We decided to use that full definition for our experience + go without artificial nipples or bottles.
The reason we considered the breastfeeding option was because there was an abundance of benefits available:
- Breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from bacteria + viruses.
Breastfed children are therefore less prone to diarrhea + have fewer ear, respiratory + urinary tract infections.
- Infants who are exclusively breastfed tend to need fewer health care visits, prescriptions + hospitalizations.
Fewer medical interventions result in a lower total medical care cost compared to never-breastfed infants.
- Breastfeeding also provides long-term preventative effects for the mother.
Benefits can include an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight + a reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer + osteoporosis.
We’ve personally nursed exclusively into toddlerhood + have found extended benefits far past 6 months, including:
- incredible immunity + securely attached bonds that encourage smart independence;
- a substantially lower cost for having added another mouth to feed;
- ease in travel because all it will take to feed your child is to whip out a boob. You’re not fiddling with bottles or cleaning parts. It’s very minimalistic!
How We Came to the Decision to Breastfeed Exclusively
Upon researching, Courtney kept seeing that as we were already leaning into the decision to have a home birth, breastfeeding was a really seamless, natural next step (especially given its benefits).
“If any mammal mother was birthing in the wild, she’d bring the baby to her chest immediately after birth for warmth, bonding + nursing. Why do humans feel like they’re suddenly the exception?”
Courtney knows from her time in the research industry that humans aren’t an exception to the animal rules (as much as we’d like to think we are). So it follows that she considered what was very naturally + obviously available to her biologically for feeding her child.
And Kevin agreed. Her body, her rules!
The Partner’s Role in the Decision-Making Process
Initially, Kevin admittedly didn’t have any ideas on how feeding the baby would look.
We were on the same page to do parenting as natural as possible, so with that mindset, breastfeeding just made sense to him. As long as Courtney was comfortable with doing the physical breastfeeding, Kevin was on board.
An important hurdle that we got over in the process was that:
“ The method of birth + breastfeeding is 100% Courtney’s choice.”
It is not on Kevin to tell Courtney what she can or cannot do with her body.
Kevin’s job was to make sure that Courtney was supported in her decisions, to advocate + ensure those decisions are kept. He was the PROTECTOR of her body + the baby’s body. Only if there was a significant health concern would he step in to change course.
In short, the two priorities that were front + center for Kevin were keeping the breastfeeding experience as natural as possible + supporting Courtney as a human being.
What Helped Breastfeeding Fit Into Our Life Seemlessly
Breastfeeding is an investment + a priceless gift Courtney wanted to give our babies. In this process, here are a few resources that helped her make breastfeeding a great experience for our family:
No. 1 — Kevin’s Support
Courtney didn’t need Kevin’s permission to breastfeed exclusively, but him explicitly expressing his support played a big role in freeing up the mental space for her to lean into the experience + really make it happen.
The ongoing positive support + encouragement from Kevin to keep it simple + “go for it” was one of the best tools for a successful breastfeeding experience that fit into our life.
No. 2 — The Fact that Breast Milk is Free + Second to None
Here’s something to ponder on:
“Just because something is free doesn’t mean it’s not of incredible worth.”
That fact trips people up in a society that tells you “more is more” + that you “have to” spend money you don’t have to impress people you don’t like.
Breastfeeding is free. When you breastfeed exclusively — without bottles or nipples or pacifiers — it’s literally ZERO cost out of pocket.
“You can’t buy any type of formula on the market that is nutritionally at par with breastmilk as it is literally customized for the child by the mom.”
The expense here is of your time, but the more you breastfeed, the faster + the easier the activity gets. Breastfeeding is an initial investment upfront — when you’re hopefully on parental leave anyways — that yields an incredible return.
No. 3 — Babywearing
Babywearing was essential in the breastfeeding process.
With practice, the baby can nurse while in a babywearing wrap attached to you. Courtney has done work calls + even dishes with the baby nursing from this position.
Babywearing was EPIC + Courtney is always so sad when the littles grow out of the baby wraps because it’s SO convenient!
No. 4 — Our Home Birth Midwives
Our homebirth midwives were incredible resources as we got started. We’ve been fortunate to work with 4 empowering, smart, experienced midwives.
The home birth experience is unbelievable + it’s very different from what people are taught in a conventional academic setting like medical school or nursing school.
The distinction is important. You cannot replace the actual, tactical in-home experience with something someone only reads in a book or learns from some research guy observing from afar in his lab coat.
We promised ourselves that we would make our empowered decisions from the information “experienced people” — those who had the positive outcomes we were after — shared with us.
We didn’t see the logic in making decisions from someone who had never physically nursed a baby themselves or helped thousands of women nursing without intervention. It’s like taking financial advice from your broke uncle — thanks, but no thanks.
When educating yourself about family-building + looking for resources, a crucial question to ask is: has this person giving advice done what you want to do? Are they who you want to be taking true advice from?
Our homebirth midwives had supported women in pregnancy, birth + postpartum without intervention thousands of times. They are masters of their trade + are THE people to connect with outside of the conventional systems.
No. 5 — Other Resources
As far as literary resources, anything written by Ina May Gaskin is absolute gold. Courtney definitely recommends her book Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding.
(Side note: if you’re expecting a baby or planning to be parents soon, read the book before your baby’s arrival because you’ll have your time accounted for otherwise once your baby is here!)
After the initial absorption of the information from the book, Courtney found our commitment to bedsharing to be such a game changer.
Bedsharing is when you’re sharing a sleeping surface with the baby. For us, that meant having the baby in the king bed with us. Yes, you can do that safely per certain guidelines.
For support groups, Courtney loves La Leche League International. They have in-person gatherings, Facebook groups per location, etc.
“Just because breastfeeding isn’t something that many people in your circle might be doing or considering doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful at it or that you’re going at it alone + unsupported.”
Nature wants to work with you + your baby to make this happen!
How Partners Can Establish a Bond With Babies
Not being able to participate in direct feeding is a big concern for many non-nursing partners.
Mom + baby obviously have a natural connection that was built through pregnancy + the relationship they have is an organic transition after birth. Kevin’s worry was not that he didn’t get to feed the children — it was how he was going to build that connection with them.
What helped Kevin build those connections is being there every chance he got. Constantly talking to the baby, initiating touch (skin to skin), interacting with the baby even in those days where he thinks he doesn’t get much in response — those all matter!
And most importantly, during some of the feeds: don’t just walk away every time — stay with mom + baby. Make eye contact, snuggle, talk to the baby, be loving to the mom + show your baby what love looks like.
“Being a constant positive presence builds that bond + trust.”
Yes, Kevin wasn’t being sought after by the baby at first to be comforted or for getting their needs met. But after a few months turned into years, the kids are bonded with both of us in amazing ways. Those initial connection points during breastfeeding worked + they continue to.
Kevin’s ability to be a participant in our babies’ lives or to be a supportive partner isn’t hinged on his ability to feed. What mattered was to be present + undistracted as much as possible.
Setting Boundaries + Expectations for Family + Friends
Well-meaning family + friends always get curious about how you’re going to parent.
Sometimes they’re curious because they want to support you; other times it’s because they want to validate their parenting choices against you making the same ones. Sometimes it’s a little of both!
When we were asked about how we’d feed the baby, we were met with a fair amount of eye-rolls + resistance + “oh, good luck with that!” responses.
“We learned pretty quickly that it was on us to decide how much of our parenting we wanted to be sharing openly with those people.”
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to tell your parents or best friends or boss or co-workers every little detail about why you’re choosing what you’re choosing.
Boundaries aren’t nice-to-haves, they’re must-haves.
As parents — especially new parents — you don’t need more voices in your head telling you that you’re doing it wrong. Trust us, the world already does a great job of telling you that!
When Kensie was born, we were living out of state at the time. Courtney’s family flew in to stay with us a few days after birth.
Courtney set the expectation right up front that if they were staying at our home, they should be prepared that her boobs will be out as she figures out nursing.
Not everyone took Courtney as seriously as possible because she definitely made some people uncomfortable.
For Courtney + the baby, however, setting that expectation made the new mom + child the most comfortable.
“Prioritizing the new mom + baby’s comfort is not selfish — it’s what matters.”
Kevin’s Favorite Takeaway About Breastfeeding
Kevin has learned a few lessons on breastfeeding, but the coolest by far is that breast milk adapts to the baby’s needs.
Baby + mom’s body actually works together to determine what nutrients that baby needs to stay healthy. The design of human beings + birth is still mindblowing to him to this day.
That fact just further validated that breastfeeding exclusively was the best decision for our family.
Kevin is grateful for Courtney making the commitment to exclusively breastfeed as she has over the past 4 years.
Courtney’s Message to Moms Looking to Breastfeed Exclusively
It’s your right to choose how to feed your baby. It’s your body + your body only.
“While it’s nice to consider the options with your partner, it’s ultimately your decision to make.”
You do not need your partner’s approval in order to make breastfeeding work for you + your baby.
Follow your gut on whatever you decide. You’re not crazy. You’re internally built to have an intuition for a reason.
If you want to breastfeed your baby, make it happen. You can do this.
There is an expansive community of nursing parents ready to support you in making that happen, too.
As we wrap up, we’d love to actually know: are you considering breastfeeding exclusively?
Have you already tried it? Are you currently doing it?
Share your thoughts with us by sending us a direct message on Instagram @organicfamilyceo.com. We’ll see you there!