Friday, April 09, 2010

Breastfeeding - Another Mommy War we have to end

Did you breastfeed? Did you feel supported (and no, I don't mean by your nursing bra)? Did you have to wean early or weren't able to breastfeed? Did you feel supported?

This happens to be a topic about which I'm very passionate. Even though maybe I don't want to write "breast" and "passionate" in the same sentence unless I'm crafting a romance novel.

I've had a pretty bumpy road with my three kids - all three of whom had breastmilk allergy, a rare sensitivity that some people don't believe exists. These are, of course, the same people who didn't have to watch my babies writhe from painful cramps, or change their diapers filled with fluorescent green poop and blood.

Sawyer was weaned at six months and I was devastated. Completely, utterly devastated. Clearly, I had failed as a mother. I mean, what's my job? Feed the baby! And I couldn't even do that.

Sage had the same symptoms and I weaned her at two months. Which also sucked, but I was more philosophical. Sawyer had done great on the prescription-only formula. I knew she would too.

As many of my regular readers know, I've been on an incredibly restrictive diet almost since X was born. No dairy, soy, wheat, eggs or oats. It's been difficult, as you can imagine, but I know X is my last and I was determined to nurse him. It's been worth it. It really has.

Now. There's been a lot of news lately about breastfeeding.

I was interviewed by a reporter for CNN and you can read her story here. I used a big word during my interview so I could seem smart and stuff.

I also wrote a post for the Orange County Moms Blogwhere I talk about why women need to stop judging each other and start working together when it comes to changing our society's view on breastfeeding.

I would love love love for you to share your comments or experiences. I wrote about my own experience with Sawyer when I was working for The Orange County Register back in 2004, if you're interested you can read it here.

Remember, we're all in this together.


25 comments:

the mombshell said...

All hail the boob! My first self-weaned at 11 months but my youngest although showing signs, is still hanging in with periodic nurses throughout the day.

Breastfeeding was probably the most stressful thing about being a mom to an infant.

The support thing is two-sided. You have those (in my experience hospital staff) who think it just comes naturally and if you don't get it right away or have difficulties (luckily my husband is a great breastfeeding teacher and taught me everything I know)insist you have to go right to formula.

And then there are those that if you for some reason don't breastfeed or breastfeed for anything less than a year, judge you as a bad mom.

I also sometimes feel like I am seen as ungrateful for bitching so much about breastfeeding because it did come relatively easy for me even though I am so grateful (but I mean after being bitten for the twentieth time in a day there has to be some limit!)

Great post, I could talk about breastfeeding all day and subsequently how important it is to be supportive of all mothers! Those who wear nursing bras and those who don't.

Also applause to you for your tenacity with breastfeeding!

Mandy P said...

I so wanted to breastfeed my oldest son. We couldn't get the "latching" thing down and he was got so jaundiced that I had to give him a bottle for fear of dehydration and getting sicker. Sorry if this is TMI, but I had the worst experience with pumping to try to feed my baby that way only to pump all blood. It was so discouraging and scary. But after four kids, all being bottle-fed they are all healthy and happy, and I couldn't be more pleased. As much as I wanted to breastfeed, I just couldn't (I even had a lactation consultant call me and visit to help all to no avail.)

I admire thos who can, but I don't think it's the mark of a great mom.

Twincerely,Olga said...

wow! what a great post!!!that must have been hard not being able to B/F your babies 'cause of allergies I was fortunate to try with all 5 of my children.Always felt much pressure to get it right or just give it up and go to formula

Cheryl said...

It's a crazy crazy thing. We definitely need more support from the medical field!

Thanks for sharing. And Mandy, I totally agree: it's not HOW you feed your baby, it's THAT you feed your baby.

Adelle said...

Oh, just reading this is hard.

I failed at breastfeeding (that's seriously how it feels), not once, but twice. The first, it was over by 11 weeks. The second, by 9.

Maybe I'm just a quitter. Maybe I just didn't try hard enough. Maybe I should have gone to more classes, hired a better consultant, or taken more homeopathic remedies.

Or maybe not. I'll just never know.

Rather than rehash the details as to WHY I failed, I'll just tell you what happened the first time I did. My best friend observed to another close friend: "I guess she's just not ready to be a mother."

I was really mature about the whole thing. I didn't speak to her for 2 years.

We did finally deal with that little incident, she apologized, we moved on. But there's still a scar there.

With my second, I failed again, though I worked even harder to succeed. I went to more classes, saw more specialists and still, I failed.

I had nothing but support the second time around, though. So I was able to step over the guilt and move on.

It amazes me how polarized this issue is. Why is it necessary to justify our own choices at the cost of another woman's right to choose?

Baffling. Thanks for standing firmly in the middle and waving the white flag.

The818 said...

Hi Cheryl - Thanks for stopping by The818! I so agree with you on this, the kids just need to eat, let's stop beating each other up! I've been exclusively breast feeding for six months, but if I hadn't been able to do that, then I would have had no problem giving Dee formula, so long as she was getting the nutrition she needed - that's the most important thing, and I think it gets lost so often in this debate!

catherine B said...

You could not be MORE right on this. Why women feel the need to judge one another especially about nursing is beyond me.

We all want what is best for our children but everyone has unique circumstances.

I could not nurse to due to an anatomical challenge and I was shunned, judged and really struggled. I did pump for months with each child (which BTW is really a lot of work to keep up with).

I agree - we need to support each other in this journey of motherhood!

browneyes_24b said...

Hello! I'm stopping by from SITS and I am so glad I did!

I was not able to successfully breastfeed with my son who is almost 7 months old. Due to some trauma during delivery and latching issues I arrived at exclusively pumping. I pumped breast milk for my son for 4 days shy of 6 months. It was quite an experience, but I am so glad that I was able to provide him with breastmilk, even though he drank it from a bottle.

I have posts about my exclusive pumping experience on my blog. Feel free to take a look!

http://larrysass.blogspot.com

If anyone has any questions about exclusively pumping - I'm not an expert, but I would be more than happy to try to help!

just lei said...

Hi! I was doing some research and came across your blog. I work for a WIC office and while we always promote breastfeeding and all of its greatness....as a Nutritionist who've seen many moms come and go - I understand everyone is different. I can count only 5 mommies who are exclusively breastfeeding (thats out of however many more mommies we see)....we provide support and help with our mommies as much as we can...if a mom comes in crying about a breastmilk allergy, I will admit, I call her Dr and ask about her diet, etc....but at the end of the day, I'm not the one going home to that baby and wouldn't force a mom to do something she doesn't want to do.

just lei said...

...also wanted to add: whether its 1 month or a year - I just get super excited that the mommies even TRY to breastfeed!!

Olga said...

Well, what must be know is that breastfeeding is simply slavery. It was hard the fist time (although then I got to like it), and it broke me down the second time around when my husband kept calling me with the baby screaming in the background and wouldn't give her a bottle... We need to stop the obscenity and the pressure to do this.

Hagler Happenings said...

I haven't had a chance to read the linked articles yet. I breastfed all 3 of my kids; each one a little longer than the one before.

I just wish all new moms would sincerely try breastfeeding for a while. Isn't it what is best for the baby?

I never had any problems but can understand if issues arise.

Cheryl said...

Thank you all for sharing your stories and experiences. It is an incredibly polarizing, issue isn't it? And that's why I want us to get angry over the RIGHT things. Nursing can be really, really tough. And if you don't have the right support - starting with your OB and going forward - it's even more difficult. Thankfully President Obama's healthcare plan mandates a private room to nurse in at the workplace (which most states already have) because it at least acknowledges that this is a very important issue. Hopefully it's just the beginning!

MiniMe Mom said...

I will be the first to admit- breastfeeding was hard. Really hard.

Mastitis and thrush made it excruciating to feed for almost six months. I knew it was best for my son, but it also was the best thing for my pocketbook. Formula is SO expensive.

I remember all too well the discouragement you get as a breastfeeding mom- the stink eye in public, being asked to pump and bottle feed, having to go in another room because male relatives were uncomfortable.

It really shouldn't be an uphill battle to breastfeed, and yet it is.

Thanks for the great article.

Cheryl said...

Jamie: Ugh. Mastitis. Just typing the word makes me woozy!You know, if we could nurse out of our elbows, I bet no one would say a word about it!

Marit said...

Hi Cheryl, I'm one of Kirsten Nilsen's dear friends and just read your blog entry. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It really hit home for me on so many levels.

It took my little girl 24 days to latch: that was more than a 100 tries and tears. I worked with 4 different lactation consultants ~ at some point I was pumping every 2 hours around the clock, then every 3 hours for weeks and months (I wasn't one of those mamas with oceans of breastmilk ~ it was more like a puddle). Oh boy, I never thought it would be so hard. I'd never considered I may not be able to breastfeed: I had the co-sleeper, glider, etc, and felt so naive and ill-informed. Wasn't it supposed to be all so natural and instinctive? I was supposed to be an earth mama not a defective "milk machine."

I remember so well how on night 23, I pumped blood...all blood, trying to squeeze out every drop of milk I had in my body. I couldn't take it any longer. I was ready to give up and be okay with it. But then one of my friends convinced me to just give it one last try, and that's when my little girl finally latched. I'll never forget that special moment. It was the same day we moved into our new home. It was the same day she felt at home on my boobs.

Now that didn't mean we were done. My little girl started getting lethargic and real pale. That's when we found out she had a weak suck and couldn't get enough milk from my breasts. I was starving her. So this meant a new dance: breastfeed, pump, give bottle with expressed milk x 8 every day. At 3.5 months, she finally had a strong enough suck to drain my breasts. How that happened is a whole story in itself.

During those early months, I often wondered was it really worth it? I've had to leave off gluten, dairy, peanuts and more, because of all the food allergies that run in my husband's family. Then let's not even talk about all the pumping...

These days my girl is a healthy little breastfeeding champ ~ she'll latch in any position. I'm now one of those moms that make breastfeeding seem all so easy... when we all know, it's not. But was it all worth it? In our case, absolutely! When my daughter and I hold hands while she nurses, and we gaze at each other, and I see that huge smile appear on her face, I know it was all worth it.

But because of my experiences, I'll never again frown upon a mom getting a bottle of formula ready... I could have been her, and my daughter would have been okay, too. I don't know where I got my inner strength from. All I know is that it's my turn to be there for other moms. For those that are ready to give up when their baby might be ready to latch that day, or to tell them it’s okay to switch to formula. It's about what works best for you and your family.

dutchmuse said...

Hi Cheryl, I'm one of Kirsten Nilsen's friends and just read your blog entry. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It really hit home for me on so many levels.

It took my little girl 24 days to latch: that was more than a 100 tries and tears. I worked with 4 different lactation consultants ~ at some point I was pumping every 2 hours around the clock, then every 3 hours for weeks and months (I wasn't one of those mamas with oceans of breastmilk ~ it was more like a puddle). Oh boy, I never thought it would be so hard. I'd never considered I may not be able to breastfeed: I had the co-sleeper, glider, etc, and felt so naive and ill-informed. Wasn't it supposed to be all so natural and instinctive? I was supposed to be an earth mama not a defective "milk machine."

I remember so well how on night 23, I pumped blood...all blood, trying to squeeze out every drop of milk I had in my body. I couldn't take it any longer. I was ready to give up and be okay with it. But then one of my friends convinced me to just give it one last try, and that's when my little girl finally latched. I'll never forget that special moment. It was the same day we moved into our new home. It was the same day she felt at home on my boobs.

Now that didn't mean we were done. My little girl started getting lethargic and real pale. That's when we found out she had a weak suck and couldn't get enough milk from my breasts. I was starving her. So this meant a new dance: breastfeed, pump, give bottle with expressed milk x 8 every day. At 3.5 months, she finally had a strong enough suck to drain my breasts. How that happened is a whole story in itself.

During those early months, I often wondered was it really worth it? I've had to leave off gluten, dairy, peanuts and more, because of all the food allergies that run in my husband's family. Then let's not even talk about all the pumping...

These days my girl is a healthy little breastfeeding champ ~ she'll latch in any position. I'm now one of those moms that make breastfeeding seem all so easy... when we all know, it's not. But was it all worth it? In our case, absolutely! When my daughter and I hold hands while she nurses, and we gaze at each other, and I see that huge smile appear on her face, I know it was all worth it.

But because of my experiences, I'll never again frown upon a mom getting a bottle of formula ready... I could have been her, and my daughter would have been okay, too. I don't know where I got my inner strength from. All I know is that it's my turn to be there for other moms. For those that are ready to give up when their baby might be ready to latch that day, or to tell them it’s okay to switch to formula. It's about what works best for you and your family.

Deconstruction said...

Happy SITS Saturday Sharefest!

I wish I could add more to this discussion. I haven't given birth yet but when I do I plan on breastfeeding. But I also know that it doesn't go as planned all the time, from watching friends deal with it.

http://deconstructed-life.blogspot.com

Christa said...

I'm hopping over from SITS and I'm glad you were the comment ahead of me! A friend of mine recently had a discussion like this on Twitter and I FELT she was attacked for simply saying that regardless if you Breastfeed or formula feed you should have SUPPORT because everybody has their reasons. And as women we should get support.

I feel two pressures. Online I feel like I should be breastfeeding until the Toddler years (which I WON'T be doing)and IRL everyone is telling me once M gets teeth I should stop breastfeeding which I don't want to do, I would like to breastfeed until he's 1. One thing I know is that I can't wait for the judgment to be over!

I thankfully haven't had anything too hurtful happen to me as I was nursing in public but I intend to tell someone where they can shove it :)

I'm sorry you had so many issues Breastfeeding your little ones! It was easy for me (or as easy as it can be) so I was one of the lucky FEW! Breastfeeding is hard work!

Cheryl said...

Marit - I want to cry reading your comment. I can relate in so many ways..

Christa - My advice? Not that you asked for it, of course, but that's never stopped me! Do what feels right for YOU and your family. X currently has 12 teeth, including molars - and got his first tooth at 4 months! You don't have to answer to anyone. And everyone has an opinion. Just remember the only one that matters is yours!

Alison said...

Stopping over from the CNN story. I have to say your words ring so incredibly true. When you said how we are pressure to breastfeed but then society doesn't support it either. It's frustrating. No wonder BF rates drop so much by 6 months, because eventually (by 6 months!) you find yourself needing to feed your child in public. And when one receives so much flack, who wants to do it? I can understand why so many women quit. It makes me so sad for them and their children, though. :(

Jess Noel said...

Hi Cheryl--I'm about to embark on my breastfeeding journey, and I'm so curious. Thanks for the support! Philly is not exactly what you would call "breast-friendly"--but I have a kick-ass pediatrician on my side, with employed in-office lactation specialists. I feel ready and prepared! Lovely blog, by the way :)

Cheryl said...

Alison - thanks so much for dropping by, I really appreciate it!

Jess Noel - It sounds like you have a FANTASTIC support system, which truly is the key! Just know nursing may or not be what you think - and that's okay. It's totally worth it - and hopefully you'll be one of those women who it's super-easy for. Thanks for stopping by!

Aimee @ Ain't Yo Mama's Blog said...

So well said, Cheryl! And I think the same of your other article on this topic for the OC Mom Blog. Well done.

I nursed my baby until he self-weaned at 9 months. I also pumped until I could no longer pump enough to feed my growing child. So then I used formula for a few months. The horror!!! Ha!

Thankfully, I never experienced judgment or non-support from anyone. At least, I don't think I did. I also don't pay attention to extremists, so I never felt guilty for using formula when I no longer had a choice. But that's not the issue anyways. Moms have to feed their child and if they choose to breast-feed or formula-feed, who cares?!? More importantly, some women don't have a choice, as you obviously know well. We need to support all moms. We need to support the choices they make and the reasons for when they don't even have a choice. We should never judge a woman breaking out the formula packets or the woman breastfeeding in a store. That is absurd! Instead, we should applaud her for being a good mom and doing what she needs to do to nourish her child. That is the most important thing of all.

Now, let's concern ourselves with children in the Sudan who are not getting fed at all, the child-brides in Yemen, the young girls being trafficked in Cambodia, and the babies and children all over the world who are abused and neglected. Let's target our anger towards those issues. The breastfeeding vs formula-feeding *war* is nonsense in the scheme of real-world issues.

-Aimee

Cheryl said...

Amen, Aimee. Amen.

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