Fired Up Friday: How Breastfeeding Has Gotten Lost Along The Way

I am introducing a new topic starter for my blog called Fired Up Friday. On these posts I will be discussing some things that I have either felt a great need to raise question about them, or they are controversial in nature. A lot of these topics will center around the natural parenting and childbirth world- there’s a lot of controversy there. With Fired Up Fridays, I would like to invite you to discuss these topics with me! What matters to you as a mom or a woman probably matters to a lot of other women. What do you wish you had known for yourself and your babies? What do you hear so many people questioning and wonder yourself if you should be doing the same? Was there an experience you absolutely revel in or was there an experience you had becoming a mother that was devastating? I invite your comments here on the blog but also on my new Facebook page, Life with Jax and Bella. Its a little lonely over there since its new- come on over, like the page, and leave a post on the wall about something about parenting, mothering, or life that gets you ‘fired up’. Spread the word about this blog and the FB page with your friends. My hope is we’ll be able to start discussions, share information, help each other with questions, or share a rant we just need to get out. Empowerment among mothers can be a wonderful thing. Maybe something I thought was a big deal isn’t, or maybe what I share here is earth shattering news for you. So, without further ado, my first topic — breastfeeding and society today:

Recently I had the pleasure of finding a Facebook chat for breastfeeding mothers. This site is meant to be a supportive environment to chat, post questions, and to even post pictures of little ones nursing. I also found a La Leche League International FB page, the leaders of breastfeeding education and support across the globe. Since attending LLL meetings in my area is not an option, this was something I was
happy to find.
I would never doubt someone saying that breastfeeding can be challenging, nor would I doubt someone looking for help or advice. There are plenty of times to need answers when it comes to being an infant’s only food source. I certainly have had to do my own homework
too. I am struck by just how many posts in the ‘nursing chat’ group involve *sudden* drops in supply, as if in a single moment their milk is gone; unsatisfied babies who must still be hungry simply because they cry, and even a single nursing session with a poor latch on a four month old, with no prior issues, automatically is assumed to be tongue tie. The cries for help are riddled with statements like ‘I am
such a failure’, ‘I am letting her down’, and ‘someone PLEASE tell me
what I am doing wrong’. It seems, unfortunately, that many of these
mothers are on this site to constantly stir up the drama they have been taught goes along with breastfeeding.
Again, I don’t doubt there are genuine issues many moms are having- I went through countless issues of weak and poor latches, battled constantly clogged ducts, and even with books I had no idea how to battle through to succeed at nursing with Jax. A ‘lactation consultant’ through the area hospital
was not helpful, telling me when I asked about Jax’s latch and that the hospital had provided us with a shield to help him learn, she said she had never heard of a nipple shield and did not have any
suggestions how to help him breastfeed without it.
The question that I am raising is, are there really this many issues here? Or are these mothers, despite their efforts to give their babies what is best by breastfeeding, falling victim to the fear mongering so present in our society- circling like sharks around breastfeeding, mothering, birth and maternity care today? A woman’s perceived inadequacy has been a prevalent issue for breastfeeding mothers, fed by unsupportive or uneducated health providers, relatives who mean well by suggesting ‘a bottle would be easier’, and nurses and
hospitals bound by ridiculous procedures and habits which hinder breastfeeding by intervening in the natural process of birth and immediate bonding.
Hospitals and Pediatrician offices hand out formula and ‘new baby
kits’ from formula companies left and right. There are even ones
targeted to breastfeeding mothers, the pamphlet stating ‘We support
your choice to breastfeed. But life changes, and when it does, we’re
there for you’. Products flood the market for ‘feeding’ infants- covers (let’s not get me started on the cover up issue), second rate pumps *made by formula companies* which do not meet World Health Organization standards, different ways to ‘tag’ which side you nursed on because ‘you might forget’. Just how incompetent do mothers really seem? Its easy to see why so many moms doubt themselves today.

It is a little known fact that the USA is one of the few countries that actually allows formula to be advertised. Formula companies earn millions annually for products which are regularly recalled. The WHO actually recommends formula only as a last resort for babies, after options such as donated milk from a milk bank or a wet nurse have been exhausted. This is not a bitter diatribe to say parents who choose formula are wrong to do so. I am the first person to say parents need to decide what’s right for THEIR children. But is it time for society to realize what
is natural and deigned by design has been not only forgotten, but taught as wrong, shameful, and inadequate for our infants? Do hospitals and doctors really have evidence to back up their policies
preventing the all too important process of birth bonding to take place to allow for a successful start to breastfeeding? (No! They don’t!!)
I sat last night with my grandmother, her sister, and a friend, who talked about what breastfeeding had been like for them. They all said they tried so hard, but lasted a couple weeks. Why? It hurt, they didn’t know how, and they didn’t have any help aside from their doctors. The doctors’ advice? Give them formula- its better anyways. The importance of support and knowledge is invaluable for the
breastfeeding mother. The source of this support, however, is just as important. Having hindsight always puts the advantage in my hands as a parent- in this case knowing the information I have found surrounding one of the most important things we can do for our babies is better, more informative, and more truthful than what I had seen in the past.
So what can we do? Short of sitting in a circle together in a busy public place, nursing our babies singing Kumbaya, (not happening for me, its not my style)- we can spread the word and support each other as mothers (Breastfeeding or not). We can share the information and successes we have- and we can share what hasn’t worked too. We can be supportive of moms nursing in public. In the paths we travel further into motherhood, we can seek out health care providers who are supportive of breastfeeding. We can learn the requirements hospitals and care givers must meet to be labled ‘Mother Friendly’ and ‘Baby Friendly’. We can take it one step further by seeking out care providers endorsed by CIMS, (The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services) to ensure we get the right start when having another baby. Most of all, we can surround ourselves with information and confidence- and remember there are things we were meant to do, and even though its a learning process, we can do it.
Now its your turn. Did breastfeeding come naturally to you? Did you love it or not? Did you wish you had better support or did you have the best help you could find? Did you formula feed from the start because you didn’t know how to breastfeed or were embarassed by it? Do you nurse in public with no hesitation? Its time to share!!

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2 thoughts on “Fired Up Friday: How Breastfeeding Has Gotten Lost Along The Way

  1. With my first baby, I chose to bottle feed. I was a very young mother and every one around me pushed how bottle feeding was just the easiest way to go, and being a new mother…well…”they” must know what’s best. My first baby had colic in the worst form along with terrible diaper rash. We tried everything, only to discover after 3 months of hell that she was allergic to the formula and on a whim, switched to soy formula, which worked. After discovering that the iron they add to the formula was also a problem, we then had to switch (again) to a soy formula that didn’t have the added iron that was causing her constipation. There is nothing worse than having to play these games with your newborn!! And the doctor’s were of no help…they just looked at me as though I were doing something wrong, when I just wanted solutions to stop my baby’s suffering. Again, this had gone on for the first 3 months of my daughter’s life…and it was the advice of a friend, not a doctor, that led us in the right direction. I may add that breastfeeding was addressed to me in the hospital only once…in the form of “Are you going to nurse or bottle feed?”. No “education” on the pros and cons of either decision, but the formula samples flew into the room as if on a magic cloud! When I had my second daughter, 15 months later, I decided that after the experiences I had had with formula, I would give breastfeeding a try. It was wonderful(!!)..and left me wondering, after months of mixing bottles and scraping money together for formula, how anyone could conceive that bottle feeding was “easier”! Breastfeeding was just so much easier on so many levels of convenience and cost. But more than that…it was an incredible bonding time between just myself and my baby. I thoroughly enjoyed breastfeeding and my second baby had none of the issues that presented in my first child. Then I got sick and had to go on meds that required that I could not breastfeed for at least a month. Back 20 yrs ago, there was not the support that breastfeeding mom’s have now. There was no internet access to reach out to other moms such as Kate is doing. I was on my own to figure this out. I couldn’t afford a breast pump, and believe me…we looked every where for any options available, and there were none! I had no support from doctors…they just told me I needed to switch her over to formula and bottle feeding. And because of my medical condition, I had to do something fast, so bottle feeding it was! I so wish, to this day, that I had had the opportunity to continue to breastfeed. I read now, 20+ years later, of mothers that “share” their breast milk with other mothers that are having temporary problems, be it medical conditions such as I encountered, or latching-on issues, infected breasts, ect. I read now of renting/borrowing breast pumps, lactation coaches and support groups. Don’t get discouraged…discouraged is my experiences with my first daughter, and then with my second. Choosing to breastfeed when I did made me a rebel…I was the only one nursing that I knew of, so support was non-existent. I say reach out as you are doing…you have at your hands the tools I could not acquire “back in the day” and you are so fortunate to have each other! In closing, I would also like to say to the hospitals out there….”Hey…if I refuse your ample formula samples, can you instead gift me with a breast pump?? I know the financial kick back isn’t the same…but aren’t you in the business of healthy babies?!”.

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