Posts Tagged 'breastfeeding'

Disappearances

I know I’ve dropped off the radar the last couple weeks, but rest assured: I’m still here, and will be back to blogging regularly very soon.

Turns out the weeks of exhaustion and flu-like symptoms were signs of something else going on: the dreaded mastitis.  Took me a while to figure out (mainly because I never had the redness that I always heard was the key sign), but now I am on antibiotics and will hopefully be on the mend soon.

Through this experience, I have talked to at least four other women who have gone through this, and stopped nursing because they thought it would help.  Let me just say, for those of you who don’t know: one of the best things you can do to help get over the infection is to nurse as frequently as possible on that side.  If it is too painful to nurse, try pumping on a low setting.  I have found that if I use a warm compress for about ten minutes before nursing, it goes a lot better.

If anyone else has had experience with mastitis and has survival tips they’d like to share, I’d love to hear it.  It is taking me a lot longer to get over it than I thought it would.

At the End of the Rainbow: My Breastfeeding Story

 

ScaleWhen I was pregnant, there were so many things I was looking forward to.  I remember holding my hands on my stomach, trying to touch the mystery that was my baby moving inside me.  I couldn’t wait to see what he looked like, or breathe in his new baby smell.  I couldn’t wait until I could hold him in my arms, touch his skin.  I wanted to hear his cries and be there to comfort him. 

Of all the things I was looking forward to, I can easily say that breastfeeding was not one of them.

I had made the choice to breastfeed because I knew it was the healthiest choice for both him and I.  I had done some research, I had heard the “Breast is Best,” I knew finding gluten-free formula would be a pain.  The decision was made, but it would be quite the stretch to say I “wanted” to breastfeed.

In fact, I was pretty sure I was going to hate breastfeeding.  For one thing, I don’t enjoy being in shorts or a swimming suit, so the thought of having to expose myself multiple times a day in order to feed my child did not appeal to me.  (And isn’t that what I always saw in the ads, women with their entire breast hanging out?)  For another, all I heard about breastfeeding were negatives:  you can’t drink, or have coffee, or eat certain things, and your. nipples. will. fall. off.  Or at least, you’ll wish they had, because you are going to be in so much pain.  And that’s before they have teeth.  Engorgement.  Chapped nipples.  Plugged milk ducts.  Mastitis.  Sure, it’s healthy, but it’s going to feel like hell.  Breastfeeding seemed like more than an inconvenience, it seemed like some horrible torture for women. 

Even with all that, I was determined.  I would provide my child with the best nutrition I could for one year, and then I would wean him promptly and my breasts would become my own again.  To prepare myself, I read everything I could get my hands on.  I studied every diagram for proper latch, read every tip for success.  I was expecting it to be hard, but I had armed myself with knowledge. 

I had no idea.  With all my planning, I was completely unprepared.

I had planned on nursing him immediately (as I had read was imperative for successful breastfeeding), but because of the breathing issues he had at first, I wasn’t allowed.  It was over three hours after he was born that I was finally given the nurse’s permission to breastfeed him.  While trying to adjust myself more comfortably on the ice mountain I was sitting on and struggling to deal with the gigantic hospital gown, everyone watched me expectantly.  I brought my tiny, exhausted newborn awkwardly towards my breast and… nothing.  There was no latching, there was no instant recognition, there certainly was no amazing crawling towards my breast in search of food.  There was just me, acutely aware of everyone in the room and trying to pretend I didn’t feel horribly awkward.  I wanted everyone to just get out and let me figure it out on my own, but instead I had three nurses hovering over me and family standing just beyond them.  All waiting for the miracle that I apparently was not going to be able to produce.

My concept of time may be a little fuzzy (after all, I had just given birth), but I don’t think I’d been trying for more than a few minutes before one of the nurses swooped in to test his blood sugar.  (This, in case you’re wondering, is the moment we can all point to as the moment when it all started to unravel.)  It came out a little low on their initial testing, which means they have to draw a bigger vial of blood and send it down to the lab to re-check it (since their quick little device is apparently a POS and completely inaccurate).  In the meantime, we are already thrown into PanicMode.  J must have x ml of food immediately, and sugar tests every hour. 

The nurse whips out a little bottle of ready made formula.  There’s arguments from me, there’s no way I’m going to give him a bottle already.  I finally win and a pump is brought in.  (Let me just say here that I was incredibly lucky and had an amazing supply of colostrum from the beginning.)  In the meantime, the nurse is already pouring (gluten-filled) formula down J, topped off with pumped colostrum.

Right there, before I’d even left the delivery room, I felt like I had failed.  I had promised myself, my unborn baby, that I would breastfeed.  I had promised that I would not give him formula.  I was trying not to show how incredibly disappointed I was, but the fact is I was heartbroken.  This wasn’t something I had expected, not something I had prepared for.  I certainly hadn’t expected to be so crushed by not being able to breastfeed as planned.

nurseThe results came back from the lab: his blood sugar was fine.  It was completely understandable if it had been low–after all, he had not eaten for over three hours after birth, and the labor was a long and stressful one.  However, the hospital had already put us in this emergency mode, so we were stuck in this cycle of forcing x mls into J every hour and blood tests and stress.  (I can’t remember how much it was, but I know it was more than the average newborn would be getting from the breast.)  Every initial blood test came back low, the results from the lab came back normal.  He never actually had a blood sugar issue, but we were treated as if he did.  He was monitored, poked, re-poked, force fed.  And of course his vitals weren’t done at the same time, so there was a constant stream of nurses and undressing and poking and crying.  I would no more get settled down to try to nurse him again, and another nurse would walk in.  It was incredibly frustrating, although I know the nurses were just doing their job. 

You see, because he was born pre-term, J did not have the fat stores that full-term babies are born with.  He had nothing to fall back on for energy, which is why the nurses were so concerned with his blood sugar.  Also, he had no suck reflex.  Zero.  You could gag the boy with your finger, and he still wouldn’t latch on.  So instead, I fed him with a syringe.  I fell into a cycle of pump and feed where I was constantly doing one or the other, determined to get enough colostrum that I wouldn’t need to give him any formula to meet the dictated amount for the hour.  Following the nurses advice, in between all of this, I would try to get him to latch on.  It was complete chaos.

Some time in the middle of the night, when it was quiet and the interruptions were fewer, J started to actually suck a little bit.  I wouldn’t say he was getting a whole lot, but he was trying, and that was an improvement.  .  I held him in that darkened room, and for the first time it really connected with me that he was mine.  It was in that moment that breastfeeding became something I passionately wanted to do, not just because it was  healthy for my baby, but because I had this fierce desire to keep him close and protected. 

I knew the hospital provided a meeting with a lactation consultant, and I could not wait until my turn came.  I just needed someone to help me figure out how to latch him properly, and we would be fine.  I knew it.

The lady that blew into my room was not what I was expecting at all.  She was curt, impatient, and more than a little condescending.  I had nurses and family watching (once again) while the consultant informed me loudly that I was doing it WRONG and then proceeded to manhandle my baby and my body.  I was using the wrong hand to bring him to the breast, I was holding him wrong, I was sitting wrong, no not like that!  The other hand the other hand!!  Then she was shaking her head and talking to the nurse about how my baby had no suck reflex and oh my god look at her nipples they’re huge and then a nipple shield was slapped over my nipple and my baby shoved back into place.  I was mortified.  I was in shock.  I don’t know how I managed not to cry. 

There was quite a debate about whether or not I was going to be allowed to go home.  They threatened to put J in the NICU repeatedly (although once again I point out that his blood sugar was never actually low).  The consultant informed my doctor that she was not happy with how J was feeding.  She would really like to see me stay in the hospital another day to get breastfeeding right. I wanted to go home where everyone would leave me alone so I could feed him in peace.  I won.

At home, things went a little better.  He still didn’t latch on, but he made efforts.  I continued to pump and feed him with a syringe and a tube to make sure he was getting what he needed.  I hated using the nipple shield they gave me, but they told me it was the only way I’d get him to suck.  I was pumping enough within the first day home that I no longer had to supplement with formula.  We can do this, I thought.  We’ll make it.

The following day was our appointment with the pediatrician. Before I even knew what was happening, I was ushered into a room with my (ex)partner, six year old stepson, and another lactation consultant and ordered to remove my shirt.  She was going to show me a trick.  She then pulled out a Similac bottle nipple and stuck it over mine (totally not making this up) and took my baby from me.  She pushed J onto the bottle nipple repeatedly while he screamed and gagged (“No, don’t touch him!”).  Over his cries, she told me how sometimes you have to use unconventional methods, it’s all about whatever gets the food into the baby.  She completely ignored my protests that he was actually improving, that I already didn’t like using the nipple shield, that I wanted my baby back.  I was so completely exhausted, upset, and confused by that point that I couldn’t find the words to tell her to back off.  I left the room with a bag full of Similac bottle nipples.

And then the pediatrician gave me bad news:  J had already lost over 10% of his birth weight.  I had five days to get his weight up or we would go back into the hospital.  (Unless, of course, there were complications, and then we would go immediately.)  The order was two ounces, every two hours, whatever it took to get it in him.

I went home and cried.  And then pumped, and force fed him, and shook him awake, and repeated.  Pumping took twenty minutes, feeding him took at least an hour.  With cleaning, I had at most thirty minutes in between feedings that I could go to the bathroom, eat, or sleep.  Feedings meant syringes and a tube and a nipple shield and constant efforts keep him awake enough to swallow.  I refused any visitors.  I didn’t shower.  It was a horrendous week.  To say that I was exhausted would be complete understatement.  And through it all, there was a constant paralyzing fear that I was not going to ever be able to breastfeed my baby.

The next trip to the pediatrician ended with a beaming doctor and the declaration that he was “incredibly pleased with this baby!”  J had gained enough that he not only would stay out of the hospital, but I could ease off the schedule.  Yes, I thought, I’ll finally be able to just feed him.  

Well, not quite.  It took another week before tube feedings were out, and another week before he could latch on for more than a minute at a time.  I had so much milk that I had to pump a little every feeding in order to keep from being so engorged that he couldn’t latch at all.  Even after he could manage to latch fairly decently during the day, during the night he was too tired to manage.  He still wanted to feed every two hours, and often because of the latching problems the night feedings lasted for hours at a time.   It was a constant struggle to get him latched and keep him latched, with long stretches of him crying and struggling in between.  The only position I could get him to nurse in was the football hold, which was not in any way comfortable for me.  It seemed my life was consumed with simply trying to feed this child.

But I persisted, and it got easier.  He figured out how to latch on by three months, and night time feedings (although still every two hours) were shorter and much more relaxing.  Eventually he gave up the two hour schedule I had forced upon him (which was a happy day for me).  And somewhere in there I fell completely in love with breastfeeding.  It’s a part of my day that I look forward to, not only for the nourishment that it brings my child but also the relaxation it brings to me.  I wouldn’t trade the quiet moments I’ve spent nursing him for the world.  The one year mark has come and gone, and I have no intention of weaning him any time soon.  I am surprised to say that it is something I will miss terribly when the time comes to end that part of my relationship with my baby.

Looking back, I am incredibly angry at the people who made things harder than they had to be.  If the lactation consultant at the hospital had been kinder or more informative, I would not have had all the problems I did.  If the nurses hadn’t insisted on measuring and cleaning J before handing him to me to breastfeed for the first time, things may have been easier.  And we won’t even go into the consultant at the pediatrician’s office–that was beyond unhelpful, that was a little crazy.  What I needed was a little support, a little compassion, and a little kindness.  Not to mention correct information.  We overcame the hard times in spite of the people who were supposed to help us get started, not because of them.

My story had a happy ending.  What about yours?

basketbaby

my little pot of gold

The Flipside-When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work

Guest post by Katie Bowman

Wink

The adorable Miss Suzie

I was born in 1971 and I was raised a family woman; extremely few are the times in my life when I ever considered NOT being a mom. My earliest memories include various nurturing activities with my dolls and stuffed animals, which later translated quite smoothly into a very handy helpfulness when my twin cousins arrived. I was four and a half years old, and they were quite premature fraternal twins, named Kevin and Melanie. The import of this detail here is only this: Because they were so premature, they spent the first 4 weeks of their lives in neo-natal intensive care. It isn’t by any means impossible to breastfeed in that situation, but it is quite hard, and they were so small and weak that by the time the efforts could usefully begin, their mother had nothing to give. In the early-to-mid 1970′s, breastfeeding was still looked at as the less preferable option to bottle-feeding, so no one told her how to keep her production up, or even asked her if she wanted to provide breast milk to be given to her new babies when they could be taken off IV feeding. All parties just naturally assumed that bottle feeding meant formula, and that was the way it went. Hence, I always bottle-fed my dollies and my cousins, and didn’t even learn what breastfeeding was until I was pubescent and learning about human biology. . .I believe I was in 5th or 6th grade.

When I found out what breasts were for, I was fascinated, amazed, and mystified. Why on earth would bottles be employed when they were so unnecessary? And how had I gone so long NOT knowing that human babies can and do get milk from their mothers just the same way all the animals most familiar to me at the time did? Calves, piglets, puppies, kittens, foals, ALL the adorable and fuzzy baby creatures took milk from their mothers till they were big enough to chew solid food. . .and people could do that, too!? But if they could, why had I never seen it happening? If it was in our biology to do this, why was it NOT being done?

My mother didn’t take long to explain the why’s and wherefores, and I don’t think I need to run them down here.  Boil it down to prudishness, body shame, squeamishness, and lack of honest information on the subject. Throw in a hint of selfishness, and give it a side of legitimate biological issues that went unexplained, and that’s what I got in the way of justification for fighting the natural biological imperative that causes human lactation.

Fast forward to 2006.  At last, I was ready to be a mom. My husband and I were blessed quickly, and I had long since made certain decisions. Among them, of course, was the decision to breast feed my child. By this time, I’d had LOADS of friends that took it in their strides as well to breast feed their babies, with only one that had total lack of success. In that woman’s case, her pain tolerances simply weren’t what they needed to be; she was in tears from the sensations of having her baby latched on to her nipples from the start.  I knew I wouldn’t have that problem, so I took it for granted that I’d have more or less smooth sailing.

I gave full-term birth to my 8lb 4oz daughter in mid-September.  .  . and here began my road to tribulation, frustration, exhaustion above and beyond the pale, and ultimate disappointment from my lack of ability to successfully breast feed, despite receiving all possible help and advice.

It all began at the hospital, of course. Textbook smooth-sailing natural birth was quite soon followed by a very promising first attempt to nurse. My daughter plainly had the appetite, and the natural urge to suck. No problem there. On our second attempt, I had observation from my obstetric nurse that reassured me that all looked well and sounded the way it should; all signs pointed to that I’d have all the success that I could hope for. I was feeling great. . .except for the dreadfully uncomfortable hospital bed. For that reason I wanted to go home as soon as my doctors would let me, and since everything checked out fine with dd, I went home the very next day. That was my first mistake, and as I process this presentation, I come to view it as the only one I really made.

By the time I took dd to her first pediatric appointment, three days after we went home, my precious angel had lost almost a pound and was looking decidedly yellow. She’d not had a bowel movement, and it was decided that we needed an ultra-violet light blanket straight away. It was further recommended that I start pumping to get my production up and to supplement with formula, to get her digestive up and running the way it should to process the overload of bilirubin in her blood. I was given small-gauge flexible tubing that I was supposed to use to try to avoid using a bottle, minimizing the nipple confusion, but it didn’t work at all; she was unable to latch on in any way with the tube to contend with, so I had to give in and use a bottle to get my precious thing fed. At each feeding, I’d start and finish with an attempt at the breast, and her latch on seemed to maintain as well as it had ever been. It was about another week before her jaundice cleared, and once her weight was back up to where it should have been, I went back to concentrated efforts to breastfeed exclusively.

In just a few days, I realized something was wrong. Nursing was new to me still and naturally the sensations took some getting used to, but quickly the discomfort increased to pain, and my nipples started showing signs of trauma. I knew it for what it was, and made an appointment with the lactation specialist at the maternity ward where I delivered my girl. I went with high hopes, and was reassured that I was doing everything right. After some observation time, I was told that there were a couple of things that should be kept in mind as I went forward with my attempts to be my daughter’s source of nutrition.

CurlsFirstly, there was my breast structure to consider. As it turns out, I was quite right to have been concerned that my exceedingly large breasts would add to the challenge. Also, while they aren’t inverted per se, my nipples are quite flat in their relaxed state, and do not distend much even at their most aroused. Secondly, there was an unforeseen challenge with my daughter’s oral structure. In the process of working with us, the lactation specialist noted that my daughter’s tongue was “tethered.” This means the little strip of skin that connects the underside of the tongue to the soft palate was not very stretchy and came all the way to the tip of her tongue, making it harder for her to maintain latch-on or even establish latch-on at all. The specialist recommended that I speak to dd’s pediatrician about the matter.

At the very next well-baby check-up, I shared with Dr. Rosenbloom what I’d learned, and what a struggle nursing had become. I don’t know what I’d expected. In fact, I was by that time so rest-deprived that I was all but running on auto-pilot; I don’t think I expected anything. But what I got was more bad news. I was assured that, while the lactation specialist was certainly well-meaning and not precisely wrong in her observation, dd’s tethering was not acute enough to be a significant factor in our problems with nursing. According to Dr. Rosenbloom, if the baby is capable of extending the tip of his tongue past his lower gum line, then that is well enough to establish a latch. Tethering can be remedied, but is only recommended as a last resort for the most extreme cases.  My daughter was not an extreme case, and the idea of cutting on my daughter was not one I found I could entertain. I was assured that, ultimately, the chances that an untethering procedure would help were quite small.

After another week of painful attempts to nurse, full of frustrating and unsuccessful efforts to help dd open her mouth wider to accommodate more breast tissue, only to find her grip slipping nonetheless in mere moments. . .after another week’s worth of accumulating nipple trauma for me and nipple confusion for her. . .after another well-baby visit that weighed her in lighter than the week before rather than heavier. . .having tried everything I was told to try. . .I had to give it up. I was exhausted, scraping by on an average of two and a half hours of sleep per day. My nipples were split and raw, on the verge of bloody. Nipple covers hadn’t helped, nothing had helped. I was realizing that this incomparable bond that was touted as the most important reason for nursing, (after the nutrition factor, of course,) was not happening for us anyway; both of us were too stressed out from trying to make nursing work to receive that bonding benefit. It wracked me emotionally; I felt like a failure. I felt like I was letting us all down. So I made a compromise for as long as I could. I decided bottles wouldn’t have to mean formula, and embarked on a schedule of expressing and bottle-feeding that gave the best of both worlds; my girl got all the breast milk she could handle, and I got the pleasure of feeding her without physical agony.

The challenges in an all breast milk bottle feeding schedule are few, but they are great. Expression takes time, and needs to be done every 3 hours. Cleaning bottles and pump parts takes time. Add in the time it takes to feed the baby, and you’ll see it makes for a full day that doesn’t leave much room for anything else. But the peace of mind that I retained as a result of continuing to give my daughter breast milk was well worth it.

After a couple of weeks, I found that I could improve efficiency a bit by hand expressing rather than using the electric pump; sure, the pump expresses both sides at once, but it doesn’t have as strong a draw, and I had to finish by hand anyway. If I never got the pump out, I didn’t have to clean and sterilize it. I started getting a little more sleep, which was more of a factor than I’d known; as it turns out, if you don’t give your body the rest it needs, your milk production can and probably will drop off. Still, the moments I had that weren’t centered on feeding and production of milk were few, and I still wasn’t getting enough rest to have enough energy for anything else during those moments. For this reason, we made the switch to formula when my daughter was four months old. Another heart-breaker, particularly when the switch brought with it a constipation issue for my girl that persists to this day. . .but she’s also thriving. Off the charts for weight and head circumference, and in the high percentiles for height. She has a wonderfully diverse palate, loves her veggies and fruits, takes a pass on sugary drinks, and is in every way I could have hoped a mommy’s girl.

American GirlOn that last point in particular I was given by my friends little hope. “Girls are daddy’s girls when they can be. When have you ever heard of a momma’s girl?” I thought for sure that, without nursing, I’d be left on the sidelines in favor of daddy by now. HAH! No way, my friends. Even without that “incomparable bonding experience,” . . .I TOTALLY win!

Mother Banned From School for Breastfeeding

 

One of the posts today on the babywearer forum really upset me, and I wanted to share it with you as an example of why we need further education about breastfeeding (and also to make sure that word gets around about this principal’s actions).  This was posted by one of the babywearer members in response to what happened to a local mom:

This is the mama’s post on a local board:

“I went to my son’s school on Monday. It is Flower Mound high school. I was picking him up and school had been out for 20 minutes and most kids were gone. I asked my son if he remembered to turn in a particular assignment he had previously forgotten to turn in. He said he was going to turn it in the next day, but I told him to take it up to the classroom now and get it there so it does not get forgotten. We walked to the classroom. I had all 5 of my children with me. The teacher was still in there with one other student. My son started digging through his folder for the assignment and the teacher had just had a baby and had a big announcement up with a bunch of pictures so I made small chit chat like telling her the baby was cute, nice name….where did she deliver, ..just ordinary chit chat, while my son was going through the folder. My son then handed her his paper and she started correcting it. I had not planned to stay at all. I had all 5 children with me, the baby had just made a poopoo in his diaper, but I did not want to be rude and cut her off, so we stayed. At this point, there were no other students in there but my own children. Since the baby was fussing so much, I tried to breastfeed him. This is in the classroom with the door shut and only the teacher and my children in there. Eventually, one high schooler came in so I turned to the back of the room so that one student could not see me. He dropped off what he was dropping off and left. Eventually, she finished explaining everything and we left.

Today, I get a call from the principal (and I can see from the caller ID that he had called before) informing me that he found breastfeeding there to be insulting and not appropriate to expose the high schoolers to. He informed me that from now on, I was not welcome in the building and when I arrive, I had to stay in the front office and would be provided with a restroom to breastfeed in private in!! If there is anyone I need to talk to, they would be brought to the front office to visit with me there.

I tried to tell him that in Texas, it is legal for me to breastfeed anywhere and that it is illegal to intimidate someone for breastfeeding, and he told me then get a lawyer if I don’t like it!!!

I got off the phone and have just been bawling. I am angry and humiliated all at once. What would you do?

Oh, and he claimed that he got calls from “many parents” complaining about me. That is sooo bogus! He is completely lying.”

She was banned from her son’s school building, besides the front office and office bathroom, because she nursed her baby. Discreetly, in an almost empty classroom, after school hours. The state of Texas has a law to protect nursing mothers.

Here is the exact law:

Tex. Health & Safety Code § 165.001 et seq.
1995 Tex. ALS 600; 1995 Tex. Gen. Laws 600; 1995 Tex. Ch 600; 1995 Tex. HB 359
Chapter 165. Breast-Feeding
Subchapter A. Breast-Feeding Rights and Policies
Sec. 165.001. Legislative Finding
The legislature finds that breast-feeding a baby is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. In compliance with the breast-feeding promotion program established under the Federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. section 1771 et seq.), the Legislature recognizes breast-feeding as the best method of infant nutrition.
Sec. 165.002. Right to Breast-Feed
A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be

Originally, the poster was calling for letters to be written on the mama’s behalf, but since then the Lewisville ISD has released this statment:

“”The Lewisville ISD will fully comply with State law regarding the right of mothers to nurse a baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be. We apologize for any inconvenience our miscommunication may have caused. We will inform all the principals of this law and also the District’s official position.”

I am so appalled by this, on so many levels.  Yes, asses were covered, offical appologies were given, the principal will be scolded.  But in the meantime, this mother was humiliated and discriminated against for feeding her baby.  She went out of her way to be discrete (which, again, why should she have to hide in the corner to nurse, as if she is doing something wrong).  This is a big-scale example of the attitudes that many moms deal with on a daily basis when they try to breastfeed in public.  The message is clear:  it may be the healthiest thing you can do for you and your baby, but it’s shameful, disgusting, and wrong, so do it in the privacy of your own home.  Preferably in a closet, with the lights out.  Or better yet, the bathroom (since that’s apparently where people feed their babies these days).  How is this mom supposed to explain this to her other children?  Will they grow up being supportive of breastfeeding?  Will they now feel uncomfortable when she tries to nurse in public?  I can just imagine the coversations they are having at their house right now.

The principal wouldn’t have even thought to say anything to her if she had been bottle feeding.  Of course not, you say, that’s completely different.  You say, that’s not the point.  That’s exactly the point.  The point is that bottle feeding is the accepted norm, the point is that our society still promotes images of bottles but not ones of breastfeeding, the point is that breastfeeding is treated as offensive, shameful, and pornographic.   The point is that it’s time to change.

This shouldn’t have ever been allowed to happen.

Miracle Milk: 10 Cool Things You May Not Know About Breast Milk

 Writing about the need for more education about breastfeeding reminded me of the things I did not know about breast milk a year ago.  I thought I’d share a few.  If you know of any more, please let me know!

  1. Breast milk changes to meet the specific needs of your child.   Moms with premature babies make milk that is much higher in fat content and protective antibodies, for example.  The milk you produce for an 8 month old is not same that you produce for a newborn, or a two year old.  I had this image of breast milk being something static, like getting cow’s milk out of the fridge.  I think it’s pretty neat that it’s adaptable.
  2. Along those same lines, on hot days breast milk is actually becomes more watery, which helps to prevent dehydration.
  3. You can use breast milk as a decongestant–just a few drops up the nose works just as well (if not better) than saline solution.  I’ve actually done this on J when he had a cold.
  4. Breastfeeding is a natural pain reliever. In studies, they have found that infants that were breastfed before, during, and after procedures (such as immunizations or heel pricks) had lower responses on pain scales (which they usually measure not only by reactions such as crying, but also heart rate and oxygen saturation) than infants who were simply held or given a pacifier with sugar water (which has also been shown to ease pain).  In the two minutes following the procedures, the breastfed infants cried only 8% of the time, where the infants who were given sugar water cried 56% of the time.  I know this from personal experience: not only does J stop crying as soon as I start to nurse him after his shots, but when he falls or hurts himself somehow nursing is the number one way that I comfort him.  Thirty seconds of nursing, and he’s all better, ready to try again!  So much better than mommy’s kisses. 
  5. Breast milk is not only packed with nutrients, it also has antibodies which help fight off illnesses and protects them from many health problems.  It is more like human blood than cow’s milk because it has white blood cells.  It’s nutrition, comfort, and immune system, all in one!
  6. You can use breast milk to help treat ear/eye/sinus infections, including pink eye.
  7. Breast milk can be also be used on diaper rash, cuts, scrapes, eczema, and acne!  It works just as well as the diaper rash creams you can buy, and you don’t  have to worry about allergic reactions.
  8. Have a bug bite?  Using breast milk helps ease the itch.  You can also use it on bee stings and chicken pox.
  9. Breast milk helps fight tooth decay.  In fact, all efforts by researchers to grow bacteria in breast milk (including the bacteria that causes tooth decay) were completely unsuccessful. 
  10. Patients who receive organ transplants often use breast milk after surgery to help fight off infection and boost immunity.

Latch On! (Global Breastfeeding Challenge 2009)

What better way to combat negative attitudes towards breastfeeding and fight for the right to breastfeed in public than to gather and make an event of it?

Since 2000, women have been gathering all across North America to nurse their babies at the same time as part of the Global Breastfeeding Challenge.  The goal of the event is to promote discussion about breastfeeding and increase awareness.  The  2009 Global Breastfeeding Challenge will be held Saturday, October 3.  There are currently 225 registered sites, but if there’s not one near you, you can register your own, or simply gather some friends and join in from wherever you are. 

There is not a site registered in my town, but tomorrow I am going to make some calls and see if I can get a site organized in the area.  (So if you’re in Northwest Montana, let me know!) I’ll keep you posted on my efforts. 

What do you think, are you in?  Let me know if you plan on joining this event, and send me pictures!

Suck This (I Will Breastfeed Wherever I Please)

NursingA few months ago, I went to lunch with a friend of mine.  Predictably, halfway through the meal, J wanted to nurse.  As I settled him down to the task, she made a comment about it weirding her out.  “It’s just food,” I told her.  “No, it isn’t,” she said firmly.

I changed the subject after that, but the comment has stayed with me, along with the many others made by family, friends, and complete strangers. I remember feeling embarrassed, like I should apologize for needing to feed my son in her presence. 

I know I’m not the only one who faces such negative attitudes towards breastfeeding.  Go to any parenting forum, and you’ll find at least one post about some poor mom trying to deal with criticism.  In fact, La Leche League has an entire forum devoted to dealing with criticism.  You’ll find stories of strangers telling breastfeeding moms that it’s “disgusting,” that they’re being “indecent,” husbands pressuring their wives to give it up, family members asking them to leave the room to nurse, and doctors paying lip service to breastfeeding while encouraging the use of formula.  I personally have been asked to take my baby in the bathroom to feed him, told (at the beginning) that I needed to supplement with formula because he wanted to nurse all the time, and told I was spoiling him by feeding him on demand (why is it spoiling a baby to nurse him, but not to give him a bottle?).  My doctor, while being a pretty cool doctor in general, seems unsure about the fact that I’m still breastfeeding, and when J was four months old the people in the WIC office expressed shock that I was “still breastfeeding.”  That’s not counting disapproving looks I frequently receive when nursing in public, even though I am decently covered and try to place myself in the most discrete location so as not to offend anyone. 

It is frustrating and disheartening.  I didn’t start out feeling self-conscious about breastfeeding, but I quickly learned to be.  It’s no wonder that so many moms give up breastfeeding, or don’t try at all.

Despite the Breast is Best campaign, which strives to promote breastfeeding in order to improve general health, the majority of Americans remain fairly uneducated about breastfeeding, and the negative attitudes remain.  Even doctors seem to lack critical knowledge of breastfeeding, which is why we see a lot of instances where supplementing is encouraged.  In one survey, it was found that only 37% of pediatricians encouraged breastfeeding for the first year, and most of them felt that formula feeding was equal to breastfeeding.  The majority of them had not been to any sort of presentation on  breastfeeding for at least three years, and admitted to needing more education about breastfeeding.  Without doctor support, many women not only lack the encouragement they need to breastfeed successfully, but also lack vital information–or in some cases, receive incorrect information.  For example, as I said before, I was told that I needed to supplement in the beginning, but all that would have done is reduce my milk supply.  A lot of women fall into that trap, where they are told to supplement with formula, but then they are not keeping up with baby’s demand, so they have to supplement more and more, and eventually they give up breastfeeding altogether.

The campaign has not been totally ineffective.  Most Americans seem to agree that breastfeeding provides a lot of health benefits for mom and baby, which is an improvement.  Yet many still feel that women should not breastfeed in public and feel grossed out by breastfeeding in general.  It seems that the attitude is Breast is Okay, but Bottle is Better.  I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.  After all, you can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine without seeing an ad for formula that claims in some way to provide the same benefits as breast milk.  And isn’t bottle feeding easier/more convenient/less embarrassing?  And don’t you have to stop breastfeeding as soon as they get teeth anyway?  The misconceptions abound, fueled by a multi-million dollar ad budget.  (For more on this, there’s a really wonderful blog post  about formula ad campaigns.) 

At the same time, I know a lot of moms who feel pressured to breastfeed and feel like they’re bad moms if they end up bottle feeding for whatever reason. Yet  there’s all this negative feedback about breastfeeding, especially in public.   You really can’t win.  (And just so everyone is clear:  I am not in any way against those who bottle-feed.  My issue is with attitudes towards breastfeeding, not other’s parenting choices.  :)

I talked to a friend of mine about this, and she said she thought it was more of a modesty thing: that people just don’t want to see something they shouldn’t.  I thought about it, and while that may be true in some cases, I think as a generalization it doesn’t work.  (Besides, I have an issue with the idea that women’s bodies are something that should not be revealed, unless of course you’re at Hooters or an act on America’s Got Talent.)  For one thing, no one seems to have a problem with skimpy bathing suits, and they’re way more revealing than the average woman breastfeeding.  For another, it’s not just actual breastfeeding that freaks people out, but breast milk as well.  There was an article in Parent’s magazine just last month about a lady who was trying to bring home milk she had expressed during vacation.  It was really quite amusing to read about people’s reactions, and yet it got me thinking… why is breast milk, this amazing fluid specifically designed to provide the perfect nutrition for our babies, treated as something gross/weird?  Why do we see so many instances on TV shows/movies where someone inadvertently picks up a bottle of breast milk or, God forbid, drinks it? (I know I’ve seen it on Friends, Look Who’s Talking, Seinfeld.. and I don’t even watch TV!)  I have never seen this happen with formula (and have you *smelled* that stuff?). 

I don’t get it.  I really want to understand, but I just don’t.  Is it that breasts are viewed as  sexual objects in our culture?  Is it simply the lack of education?  The result of formula marketing campaigns?  An extension of sexism?  What, please tell me, so we can fix it. 

When we trust the makers of baby formula more than we do our own ability to nourish our babies, we lose a chance to claim an aspect of our power as women. Thinking that baby formula is as good as breast milk is believing that thirty years of technology is superior to three million years of nature’s evolution. Countless women have regained trust in their bodies through nursing their children, even if they weren’t sure at first that they could do it. It is an act of female power, and I think of it as feminism in its purest form.” —– Christine Northrup M.D.



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