Thursday, April 12, 2007

Breast Is Best...For The Wrong Reasons?

Our society drives me nuts sometimes. Oh, I understand that we live in the best country in the world, but for a society so educated and technologically advanced, we sure have lost touch with nature and nurturing one another.

Tomorrow I'm driving 45 minutes from home with my girls to give a literal breastfeeding demonstration with Ava to a new mom. This is the fourth time in about a year that I've been asked to help a new mom deal with what everyone told her should come naturally but doesn't for most.

I'm a pretty laid back person, I think. I have opinions like everyone but I'm also shy and reserved around people I don't know.

Except when it comes to breastfeeding.

I don't know how the fire got lit with me on this subject, but it has. Perhaps it is the statistic that something like only 19% of women nurse their babies past 3 months. Or how overtly sexual boobs have become in our society, practically losing all sense of their intended purpose, thus making breastfeeding seem secondary or not important at all.

Why do so many moms quit nursing before their newborn is even six weeks? While lactation nurses at the hospital are wonderful, most haven't nursed a child in years. Even I had forgotten some aspects of breastfeeding a newborn until I had Ava.

Nursing a newborn for the first time (and often babies that follow later) is frustrating. It can be scary for a new mom who's already so unsure of herself and whether she's doing all the right things. I'm amazed how many new moms don't know that they WILL peak at about 7 weeks. They are not destined for milk tankers the remainder of their nursing days. Their beautiful infant isn't always going to frantically flail arms and legs while searching desperately for a breast that's right there for the taking. Marathon feedings DO slow down. They speed up now and then but eventually there's an actual routine.

The poor mother I spoke to today just sat in the dark and cried last weekend. Her mother didn't nurse her and the lactation nurses at the hospital just told her textbook crap that isn't necessarily true. 20 minutes on each boob at every feeding? nonsense! Neither of my babies ever nursed past 10 minutes. It is absolutely daunting to any woman who thinks her entire life must revolve around feeding a baby.

I'm not taking issue at all with women who choose not to nurse. It is every woman's right to choose. Most women want to nurse their babies but for whatever reason some cannot. No, I'm pointing fingers at the weak attempt by our society to encourage what is truly the very best for babies. That means giving the support, respect and education new mothers need but few recieve.

Did you know that in Norway, women breastfeed in public all the time with nary a glance or side remark from passersby because it is that common? Nature and nurture. How absurd that it isn't as accepted and common in our own country?

My sister is my hero because though my nephew didn't nurse well, she switched to pumping for him for a year. That is incredible and I'm tremendously proud of her because though it was a pain in the butt, she did it anyway...for him.

I'm rambling, I know. It has been a long week and I'm dealing with a bit of an infection in my right milker. Perhaps it has made me a bit touchy? :)

I get sad for new moms who have to struggle more than is necessary to try and do what they feel is right for their child, only to give up because no one hears their silent plea for help. Mothers are judged so harshly, why can't women unite more and be supportive? Educate one another while allowing for mistakes or differences in opinion and parenting techniques?

*sigh* Time for two Tylenol and sleep. Hope I haven't ruffled too many feathers!


louann said...

oh this post has just inspired me to write about my nursing experience! i totally agree with you on so many if not all points. i enjoyed nursing the 2nd time around and even if i had to go back to work, i would pump and make sure the little one would have enough supply until lunch time when i would go home to nurse again.
sad but i only nursed until 6 months.

louann said...

let us know how your 'lessons' went. i hope this new mom will get the hang of it and will love the experience :)

Kelly said...

"Mothers are judged so harshly, why can't women unite more and be supportive?"
Amen sister.


Shoshana said...

Great for Norway, really bad in Denmark. They are actually banning breastfeeding in some cafe, but it's proprietor's choice.

It's great you're helping this newborn mother. I didn't have much milk in all my breastfeeding days, but I chug along, and somehow produce enough for my kids.

My baby is now almost 13 months, and he's still breastfeeding...he's the longest one so far.

I hope your milker will be alright after some Tylenol.

Jennboree said...

Alas, I am unable to meet with her today because Ava's running a fever and snotting everywhere (loooove Doctor offices). But we did talk at great length and she's going to try a few different positions to help her baby feed better.

There's no perfect way to nurse a baby, it just takes great determination, patience and "living in the moment". Even if those moments seem endless.

Maggie said...

Hooray for you! I think it's awesome that you help new mommies learn to feed thier babies. During the time I was pregnant no one ever told me breastfeeding might be HARD. I ended up pumping for 2 months before he finally learned to latch properly. It took a lot of time and effort, but we finally got it! I wish I'd had someone there to help me out. So again, hooooooray for you!!!

T-girl said...

I has a LOT of issues with Baby J... some were genetic I think others just confusion! I read and read on the net. There is a doctor in Canada... for the life of me I can NOT remember his name, who has some really great videos for FREE on the net that seriously helped me loads. He shows REAL women bf and how to correct common problems. Seriously within 2 hours of watching them I had the latch and all that down perfect! He shows different possitions etc. Baby J was so big a pillow... pulease, I finally had to tell them to back off. I was actually lucky I finally found a really good lactation consultant who was more I guess what you would say is more tree hugger! LMAO She helped me a lot and once Ihad the thrush issue cleared (btw... I had NONE of the "normal" sighs but the fact they HURT like a witch and cracked) life was better... untl the hell children showed! LOL She weened herself at 9 months... it was very sad for me! I miss it!

Katrina said...

Great post! You're so right--nursing is a gift on so many levels, from health to the mother-child relationship. I'm very glad I nursed both of mine, even though we only made it seven months. With Katie, it was a huge struggle to even get started; we had so many problems, and the lactation specialist was in and out of our house so many times I thought of setting up a cot for her. Caleb, however, took to it right away--as soon as they laid him on my belly, he army crawled up to the breast and latched on!

Thanks for writing this post--very supportive and informative!

MeesheMama said...

I'm always surprised at how often advocates of nursing tell new moms that if it's done correctly that it doesn't hurt a bit. That's such crap, especially in the beginning. Being power-sucked on a sensitive part of your body just darn hurts.

Thanks for being a sensitive and honest advocate.

Amanda Sue said...

woohoo! you are so right about all of this! most of my support came from you and friends who had nursed - not really much from the medical community at all. we even utilized a lactation consultant, but she was all "book knowledge."

i hope i'll do better with the nursing for my next babies!

I'm Just a Girl said...

Well I guess I fall in the minority of responses here. I attempted breastfeeding but I gave up after a month. I pumped beyond that and would freeze it, adding it to *GASP* formula, until there was no breastmilk left. I would say by the time he was three months old the breastmilk was gone.

I have no problem whatsoever with breastfeeding. I don't particularly enjoy seeing a woman flash her boob but as a whole there's nothing I find offensive about it. However, I have felt very offended when others (not you Jenn) have told me that I am doing my son a disservice, that he will "miss out" on the bonding and other benefits of breastfeeding, etc. It was very insulting to hear that I was poisoning my child, as if I didn't love him as much as they loved their children. The Boy didn't get an ear infection until he was four. And yet I was made to feel like I should just gear up to spend half my life at the doctor's office because The Boy will get sick more often.

The bottom line is that I had no help with breastfeeding. I could have asked one friend at the time but she was barraging me with so much information about the subject that I didn't want to involve her. I also discovered I was suffering from post-partum depression when The Boy was 5 months old (long after I'd stopped nursing) and I believe that played a role in my helpless feelings about nursing. I felt like a giant cow stuck to the couch. Whether it was a bottle or breast, he took 40-60 minutes for one feeding. He also had GI issues (even with nursing) and would scream during feedings, etc. At least with the bottle I could get some help/relief.

I also lost my first son, he died in utero at 18 weeks. When I was pregnant with The Boy, the last thing on my mind was "How am I going to feed him?" and yet it was the most common question I was asked, even by friends who knew my situation. At one point I told my aforementioned breastfeeding friend, "I just want to make sure he's born alive...then I'll worry about what I feed him."

Anyway, sorry to rant. I just wish that nursing mothers who judge others so harshly will stop pointing the finger. There are two sides to every coin. I don't think we need to go so far as to put warning labels with a skull and crossbones on formula, as some women on the news have suggested. They need to stop putting themselves on a pedestal.

Just my two cents!

Jennboree said...

I agree completely. Nursing mothers can be very judgemental and harsh with those who cannot or do not nurse. I knew a woman once who just didn't want to. Period. And that's okay! Her choice! Thankfully, formulas today are wonderful supplements.

Ultimately, it is the love and care you give your child that matters most.

I'm so sorry you didn't get the support you needed. Women should be far more in tune with new mothers than we are. Maybe then more moms would feel comfortable enough to ask for help or understanding.

I don't shove my feelings about breastfeeding down anyone's throat. If a new mom asks for help, I try to in a gentle and positive way. If it just isn't working for her or her baby, at least she doesn't have to feel guilty about it.

Michelle Ugarte said...

I love your post! I think it is important for a new mother to at least try. I nursed my daughter for 9 months and finally had to stop because my supply was going down and it wasn't keeping her satisfied enough.

Then with our new little boy, I only went 6 months, and I dealt with the demons inside of me. So many pressures out there to nurse for the first year at least. I felt like a failure and guilty every day after my milk supply was gone.

I agree that this country should be more accepting to nursing mothers and if one wants to nurse in public, it shouldn't even be an issue. But then again, if a mother can't nurse or needs to stop for whatever reason, she should be looked down upon.

T-girl said...

Oh Breastfeeding Nazi's... that is what my Dr called them. LOL There are a number of woman and organizations that will tell you that you are a "bad" mom for NOT breastfeeding exclusivly. To them I say "F You!" Sorry but I have some genetic factors that make it impossible from a biological level to breastfeed exclusively. What is so funny about these groups is that they actually tell you about these conditions on their sites etc and then in the next breath tell you WHY you need/have to feed your child breast only. For this reason you are a bad terriable Mom for NOT doing it. I honestly think this made my PPD WORSE then better and contributed to my frustrations. Baby J was supplimented, she had to be she almost DIED because we didn't know I was not producing enough the first few days... and I was engorged!!!!!! (I want to note this was between the day she left the hospital and two days later for her check-up) It was the worst feeling in the world, I would MUCH rather have known from the gate that some women have factors that make it difficult for them to produce enough milk (my mother had the EXACT same issues btw) no matter what they do instead of going through that and having a bunch of breastfeeding Nazies who were suppose to be there to help and support me tell me all I was doing wrong! It took me going to my regular OBGYN for my 6 week (I was going to the lactation consultant inbetween) with information pulled off of the internet, my mothers history and a physical exam for him to go "uh... yep!" You want to know what one lactation consultant said when I informed her I was correct in my assumption... "well did he give you the breastmilk drugs to see if it will fix it?" Uh... no lady you can't "FIX it!" LOL

Anyways, I am a big proponate of breastfeeding but it doesn't always work out for some Mom's. Personally I think many society factors DO contribute to a Mom's "failure" at it. Yes in an Utopian world we would all do it and love it with NO issues but... we live in the real world and it just doesn't work like that. I support any way you can get it done. In the end a healthy happy Mommy AND Baby are much more important then a "healthy" baby who has a frazzled, frustrated and hurt Mommy... how healthy can THAT be in the long run?

tallulah said...

Jenn- You go ahead and ruffle some feathers! This is a good topic of conversation.
I'm probably what you would call one of those "pro-breast-feeding freaks". It's okay to be opinionated on the topic.
Women do need more support from women just like you. If you have a wealth of information on the subject...share it!

Izzy was born a month early and was in the NICU for 9 days. He only would have been in there for 3, but I refused for them to use the gavauge(sp?)tube until after I tried to breast feed. I had difficulties in the beginning and eventually used a nipple guard so he would latch on. After day 9, he was nursing perfectly and was allowed to go home! I think most mothers would have given up in my situation and opted for the bottle but I am so glad I stuck it out.

I'm Just a Girl said...

I tried posting earlier but it didn't go through??? Anyway T-Girl I called them "Breastfeeding Nazis" too! And they only qualified for that name, in my opinion, if they crossed the line into TELLING me or shoving information down my throat (just in case I didn't hear it the first 100 times). That was the case with my former friend because I was so sick of the pamphlets and lectures. And obviously having one child I don't have to worry about dealing with that with future kids...(only now I have to deal with "So, when are you having more???" LOL)

Jennboree said...

There is nothing at all wrong with being passionate about breastfeeding. It is how many women go about it that turns so many off.

That was kind of the point of my post. Just like every birth and baby is different, so is every breastfeeding child and the mother trying to nurse him/her.

I really think that breastfeeding class helped me tremendously, but I had to pay $70 to attend the one day class. That's ridiculous! Videos should be sent home showing mothers nursing. Or allow new moms to watch other moms nurse. I'd be happy to volunteer my time at the hospital to do that.


angie said...

I'm delurking to say: I COMPLETELY agree with you!

My daughter (also named Ava) did not latch properly at first, and with me being a new mom I did not know what to do to help with the situation. Lactation consultants were a JOKE. They propped me with 20 pillows and said "do it!" My question was, if I'm alone, holding a newborn how the heck am I supposed to prop myself up with all these pillows?!?!?!

I cried a lot. I pumped for the first month when finally I was DETERMINED to make it work. I sat with her all weekend and did nothing but offer her the breast until we both figured it out. Sure, it hurt like heck at first. But then it didn't. And then I enjoyed it. I loved that I was nourshing my daughter and that she was happy.

She will be 16 mos this month and we are STILL nursing! I'm SO glad I stuck with it. For me, if I hadn't I would deeply regret it.

Jennboree said...

Thank you for stopping by, Angie! Your Ava is just beautiful :)

What you did, spending a weekend solely concentrating on breastfeeding, is also what I did to help work out the kinks in the beginning with Ava.

theAdelmans said...

Great post! I am a mom of twins that were born 8 weeks early, six weeks were spent in the NICU because they were not nursing well enough to go home. In the end, it took my girls and me 8 weeks to get the hang of breastfeeding. There was a lot of nipple confusion with all the bottles and nipple shields we used in the NICU, not every baby has this problem but it was a big problem for us and all the nurses, docs and lactation consultants had an opinion about "nipple confusion". But after 8 long agonizing weeks of trying, Lucy and Marigny latched on, it just happened to be their due date! I don't think I would have made it through the frustration and disappointment of breastfeeding not "naturally" happening had it not been for the support of my mom and husband. My mom breastfed me until i was 4!! So she understood how important the decision was for me to breastfeed. There were also a lot of phone calls to LaLeche League and a session with a lactation consultant at a local hospital. My girls are doing great, still nursing them both at 7.5 months and plan to keep going until they decide they are done. I feel so fortunate that we are able to breastfeed but we did have to find the right support system and trust our gut feelings. If we got an advice we didn't like or agree with, we just had to move on to the next resource. You are right, our society/country does not make it easy to nurse our babies without being judged and/or criticized. I remember a comment my father-in-law made on a visit just after the girls were born: "Why do you need a book to learn how to do something women have been doing for thousands of years?". You can imagine the thoughts that were running through my head, especially since his wife did not breastfeed her children because she decided after 3 days it was too hard. Her decision is her own and I can't judge that but how dare he belittle my intents and personal decision that are really the best thing I can do for his grandchildren?!! OK, I am done ranting, again, thanks for the post and conversation.

Anonymous said...

Very important topic - and, like you, I respect each woman's right to choose. I'm lucky in that I live in a very progressive area of the country and support is plentiful. But I do know that there are many, many women out there who aren't living in areas that offer them the support, guidance, education, training, etc. that is so much needed on this topic!! Good for you, for bringing it up!

Chaos Control said...

Oops .. I was the one who left the above comment - didn't mean to do so anonymously ...