Thursday, June 12, 2008

Breastfeeding Judgment Day

Mommy, Esq. is not shy about sharing her many opinions so today I am turning to one of the most controversial topics among mothers (along with birthing plans and vaccinations) - breastfeeding.

Another fellow mom-to-be confided in me that she doesn't want to breastfeed. She'll try it for a few weeks (for the "liquid gold" of colostrum) but she doesn't fee it is natural for her to do and she wants to be able to have some time for herself. Let us all stand up and applaud her. My applause is because there are always going to be trade offs with having children and if it will make you a healthier and saner mom not to breastfeed or not to wash their clothes separately in Dreft or not to sanitize every bottle (you get the drift) then don't do it.

In case you were wondering about Mommy, Esq.'s plans, I do want to breastfeed but maybe not exclusively in case I need extra sleep to recover from giving birth or if I just need a break. My reasons for breastfeeding are primarily as follows: (1) I am too lazy to want to prep all those bottles, (2) God gave me large breasts and it must be for some purpose other than to create gaps in button down shirts, (3) I want it to be a bonding experience with my kids so I will hopefully feel less guilty when I abandon them to go back to work. You'll notice that the health "benefits" of breastfeeding didn't make the list.

I was formula fed - on my side with a pillow. How else was Grammy supposed to feed 3 babies at once? Plus I spent 2 months in the NICU. I know, I know - our moms also smoke and drank while pregnant and don't we know better today.

But really, what is so wrong with wanting Husband to help feed the kids too? With getting enough sleep so you have the patience to deal with crying babies? So many things could come up that require all my efforts (premature births, acid reflux, etc.) that if breastfeeding falls by the wayside so be it. Yes, I can "pump" but that seems even less "natural" to me - and do you really want to spend time after ever feeding (which you do every 2-3 hours after they are born) then trapped to a pump while your little darlings get to sleep? That said, of course I'm borrowing one, just not committing to using it.

My friend worries about the censure from pediatricians, nurses in the hospital, her family, other moms, etc. Mommy, Esq. also worries about "lo que diran" (a Latin American saying that means "what would others say" but has a much more social connotation than the words imply) but Grammy raised Mommy, Esq. to try to push off her people pleasing tendencies (hmmm...maybe not so successful with my career choice) and use her common sense and good judgment.

I think the biggest fear moms who don't want to breastfeed or who fail after trying is that they will be labelled "selfish". I've mentioned before that I think having kids is selfish generally and parents need to be prepared to make many sacrifices but somehow I don't think breastfeeding falls into the category of necessary sacrifice.

Bring on the comments - how hard was it for my already-moms out there? Any plans among my moms-to-be? And how does Husband feel about being shut out of the "feeding" part of "care and feeding" of the tykes?

13 comments:

ABS said...

I agree that moms will be better moms if they make a few choices now and again that make them feel saner, happy, productive, connected, [insert your own buzzword]. For some people this means going back to work part-time or full-time. For some people it means keeping up with hobbies that (gasp) do not involve the kids or husband. Somehow I think the health benefits of breastfeeding would be outweighed by the negative impact of a crazed, unhappy mom!

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm a member of MMOTA-Founding Chapter. When I was prego with my twins 7+ years ago, my intent was to breastfeed both. Know what happened? Tyler wanted NOTHING to do with my breasts! I tried at the hospital, spoke with a lactation consultant, tried again at home...nope, no interest. So he was my bottle fed baby. Which, ended up being a "good thing" because hubby woke up w/ me every 3 hrs to bottle feed Ty while I breastfed Matt. Now, mind you, Scott was in miserable shape at work, but then at least I felt like I had someone by my side who knew what I was going through. We were both *parenting* our newborns. I had Ryan 3 yrs ago, and he was also breastfed. I have *very* close relationships w/ Matt and Ry, and in the back of my head, I always wonder if it's because they were breastfed and enjoyed that "closeness" to me. Lots of times, Tyler and I are like oil and water. Personality thing? I don't know.

But on your comments about having kidlets attached to your breasts, and then machine....I agree with you. I chose to "pump some out" for Tyler so he wouldn't be at a breastmilk-disadvantage to his twin. And it sucked. It put so much more pressure on me. Made me so tired. What ever you choose to do, make your choice work for you...a happy mommy makes for happy babies! ~A

Nancy said...

Absolutely! It's most definitely the choice (and sanity saver) of each mom. I was "attached to the pump" for my twins after I went back to work. And am again now after baby #3...what a drag! And let me tell you - pumping at work gives me the heeby jeebies...I'm always afraid someone is going to walk in on me (at my male dominated job) with my boobs flopping everywhere, even though the door is locked.

I've never understood why people get so snarky when they hear *gasp* that the mom isn't breastfeeding.

Enjoyed your post :) Laughed out loud at the gap-in-the-shirt comment.

caitrin said...

I'm a mother of twin boys and I feel really uneasy that so many women feel like breastfeeding is low on the scale of important things for their children.
It's been really difficult for me to hear women in our founding chapter ask for help regarding breastfeeding issues to have the majority of the responses tell her to refrain from feeling guilty about formula feeding, because in the end it doesn't matter.
I'm a nutritionist and I think it does matter.
The ingredients in formula are atrocious. I would never consume it, and certainly not give it to my children. Research is indicating that there are stem cells in breast milk. I only say that to give an example how much is still unknown about the benefits of breastmilk.
Nursing is not just "feeding." It is nurturing.
No doubt it is a very difficult, unintuitive experience at first, but I think women need more support to get through the hurdle of the beginning difficulties than they do to supplement or never nurse at all.
Breast milk is the perfect food for children. It is a child's only sustenance for a while and it is the main source for the first year, at least. Unless they never have it all. I seriously wonder if a lot of illness could be linked to formula.
My family makes very little money, but I chose to stay home with my kids. Breastfeeding was at the top of my list in the beginning. I still nurse my kids and they art 2.
It has healed cuts, cleared stuffed noses, healed infected eyes. It is amazing and formula doesn't even come close to resembling it.
There are so many other reasons to breastfeed. Bottom line I think women need support and not pressure, but they also need to know that formula is not a match for human milk.

Krissy said...

I recently weaned my twins at 12 months. I nursed them both for 4 months (plus TONS of pumping), and then when my son hit the 4 month mark, he up and refused the boob. So I continued pumping 20 minutes a day, 3 times a day, for 8 months.

I can honestly say that I have no regrets about breastfeeding them. It was so physically challenging, that I felt like I deserved a medal after the first few months. And it helped the weight come off very fast.

That being said, I am intensely grateful that my body was able to produce a good supply, that my husband was supportive, and that pumping was effective. I remember going to the bfing class and leaving in tears. I just could not imagine how it would work, and was so overwhelmed.

And even though I nursed for a year, I am not a Bfing purist. My kids BY FAR received more of my milk in bottles than straight from the tap. We made the best of it, I could bottle feed two at a time in the mall in their car seats, family could help, and the husband and I even went away overnight when they were 6 months old.

Plus, I used my pumping time as "me" time, checking my favorite blogs, sending emails, sorting the mail.

Good luck to you!

Goddess in Progress said...

I was totally determined to BF my kids. Took the classes, read up, knew all about latching and lactation consultants and all of that. I reached out and connected with people who were successfully BFing twins, and had absolute confidence that it could be done. And you know what? It didn't work out for me. I tried for a solid 8 weeks before I stopped. At that time, going to full-time formula was the right decision for me, and by extension, my kids. Happier mommy means happier babies, even if it meant deciding not to do something I had always hoped I'd do.

Do I have regrets that it didn't work out? Sure. Hindsight is 20/20, and I can think of all kinds of things I might have done differently that might have helped me be more successful. I won't bore you with them all (I'm happy to share if you really want to know, I just don't want to give such an excess of unsolicited advice), and in some ways, it doesn't matter. My kids are happy and healthy, and there are ways in which the bottles made my life easier (the fact that M could easily take turns without me being a big one).

I know a lot of people who have been very successful in BFing twins, but the most important thing is this: do whatever works for you guys. If you're able to make BFing work? Awesome! Kudos! If you decide not to? Fine, good for you for making the right choice for YOU.

Oh, and pumping sucks ass. Major props to those who do it long-term. I was one for whom pumping did not get great results, and what it mostly did was suck my will to live. ;-) OK, I exaggerate, but you catch my drift.

Anyways, I hope that's helpful. I agree that people are far too quick to judge on the whole BF thing. Do it, don't do it. You get a pat on the back from me, either way.

Maren said...

Your question about dad being left out - I think that's an impossibility w/ twins. :) There is so much other than feeding; burping, changing, rocking to sleep, cuddling, tummy time, reading books, etc... I know my husband is almost always holding a baby when he's home from work. And he helps m in the middle of the night, too.

brittae@yahoo.com said...

Oh, so many good points.
I "only" had a singleton, so discount my advice by 50%! I BF'd her exclusively duing 3 mos. maternity leave. I pumped enough for a month's supply for daycare when I started work, and continued to pumpt at work, 2-3x/day. When she was 5 months, I was out of town in trial for 3 weeks straight, so my supply drastically decreased. I was so upset because I loved BFing her. She started to be supplemented with formula. And I think formula is fine for babies - but I preferred the closeness and added benefits of BFing. Eventually I took some Reglan (a prescription drug) and was able to BF twice a day and supplement the rest of the time. We switched to 100% formula around 10 months. I really think she's been so healthy because of BFing.
.
So...what does it all mean?
.
1) I don't think dad will feel left out no matters what you do.
2) I think if you don't make a strong committment to BFing before you start doing it, you will quit too easily.
3) That said, if it doesn't work out, so be it. Like Goddess said. Which was exactly what happened to a good friend of mine who had twin boys 4 months ago - she just didn't have the supply (it's all about supply!).
4) Pumping at work sucks. It makes you miss your babies. But I recommend pumping to increase your initial supply after you've established BFing with the babies (around 2 or 3 weeks after birth for me). Plus, it was nice to know if I wanted to sleep at night or go somewhere, there wouldn't be a change in my baby's food supply - she would just have frozen milk.

a crapshack in nova said...

I agree with so much of what caitrin said. There's a little bit of lactivist in me... :-) My personal feeling is that every mom should at least give breastfeeding a solid try (which means at least 6 weeks, which is how long it takes to establish a regulated supply of milk). If it doesn't work out after that honest effort, so be it. But at least give it the ol' college try.

Now I haven't had the experience of breastfeeding twins, but I went through some major trials and tribulations with breastfeeding my first son. (Cliff Notes: Bad latch, cracked/bleeding nipples (fun!!), jaundiced baby not gaining weight.) A lactation consultant and a hospital breastfeeding moms' support group made all the difference in the world in getting past the problems... But the commitment to succeed had to come from me. I went on to breastfeed him until he was 15 months. The second time around was SO much easier. He is still breastfeeding now at 16 months. The older one never got sick/had antibiotics until after he weaned... The younger one has never had antibiotics (yet) either. So we've seen a net benefit in terms of health effects.

Pumping at work has never bothered me, but perhaps that is because I work PT hours. Maybe 5 days a week would have bothered me, or maybe not. The thought that someone might walk in on me wasn't much of an issue, even in my male-dominated work environment. It definitely didn't bother me anymore after it happened once... The guy was *far* more embarrassed than I was. After awhile, I was even able to joke about making people lattes. :-)

My husband has never felt left out of parenting in any way because of my breastfeeding. (And I just asked him, lol.) He's given the kids bottles here and there, definitely changed a good number of nasty diapers, etc. etc.

And on a more personal level, I have to say that for me, there is nothing that compares to nursing a sweet little baby... The milkface smiles, the way they conk out after a feeding like adorable little drunkards, the way they pop off to smile at you, the way they get all happy when you ask, "Do you want milkie?" I wouldn't trade that for all the world.

Allison said...

Breastfeeding is NOT easy, and it was a huge source of stress for me for quite some time. But, I'm very glad I did it, and I wish I could have done it better/longer.

There are clear reasons TO breastfeed, I'm a huge proponent of at least trying (and you do need at least 6 weeks to establish a good supply/nursing relationship). Let me tell you, there is no easier way to get a baby to stop fussing/go to sleep than to pop open your shirt - guaranteed nap time! Makes middle of the night feeding MUCH easier, too. But sanity does count for a lot, and I hate that many moms (myself included) consider themselves failures if it doesn't work out perfectly.

BTW, big boobs does not always = awesome milk supply. And it can be difficult to get babies to latch on larger breasts. But there are many ways to work around it - don't get too discouraged if you need to ask for extra assistance. Hopefully that baby nurse will be worth her paycheck in this regard!

Krissy said...

Just wanted to add: Despite being on 100% breastmilk (boob and bottle) for 12 months, my daughter had 2 ear infections and my son had 1. We also had NUMEROUS diaper rashes, yeast infections, colds, sniffles, coughs and enough snot to gross out any pre-teen. My kids are not in day care, and yet, the whole "breastfeeding is a miracle cure" was not true for us. I must say I felt lied to about that!

Anonymous said...

Krissy:
2 and 1 ear infecton in a year sounds great! My daughter probably had 1 or 2 in her first year (and is at daycare) and has been on antibiotics twice in her life, I think. I have friends whose kids had 12 ear infections in as many months!

Nancy said...

oooh - I have to second that big boob != lots of milk/easy breastfeeding. Mine are of the not-so-small variety, and two things happened: I never produced enough milk for my twins (supplementing was always needed), and with my 3rd, for the first few months I was afraid I was going to suffocate him!! (He's much better at moving his own nose out of the way now...) Every once in a while when I wasn't paying total attention I'd hear a "snaaarf!" Damned if he'd let go...