A controversial topic that has sparked my interest lately is something that I feel compelled to speak out about.
I read an article recently that made me really think. The article details the devastation of one mother who lost her new baby because of dehydration. Just days after the child was born, she found him unresponsive. I can't even go there - but I feel like it lit a fire under me. She was breastfeeding him from the moment he was born and he was feeding constantly. Unknown to her, she wasn't producing enough or much at all, and her child kept feeding because he was starving. Nurses told her it was normal, he was cluster feeding. She trusted them and had the absolute worst case scenario. While I know this isn't the norm, it got me thinking....
Now, before I get into this, let me say I have had great success with Breastfeeding. No issues latching or with supply right from the get go. Mind you I had the hell of sore and cracked nipples, plugged ducts and mastitis (a nasty infection that gets bad quick if untreated), I went through overactive letdown, cluster feeding in growth spurts, sleepless nights and had the awesome responsibility of being the one who is solely responsible for feeding. But, overall, I would call my experience good. But it is NOT always the best or only option.
I have had so many momma conversations over the past number of years with both friends and strangers and the overwhelming message than has been taken away following childbirth is the steady pressure to breastfeed. From the moment babies are born, most nurses both in the hospital and public health present the "Are you breastfeeding?" question in a condescending expectant tone. As if the alternative was equivalent to allowing your child to forage for food alone. It's treated as a dirty F word. You know what I'm talking about momma's - Formula.
Having a baby is no picnic, as any one who does knows. The first few weeks are culture shock and turn everything you once knew about yourself (and your partner) on it's head. That alone is enough to trigger emotional mayhem. Even if you aren't among those unfortunate enough to get the real deal baby blues, you are hot and cold, up and down, and many times you feel alone. So when you are EXPECTED to breastfeed, now you have this as an added stressor. And it's a big one. It means you are the ONLY person who will feed your child and sometimes during growth spurts, its for days on end with minimal break. It means that it will be much longer before your social life comes back as you can't go far unless you have pumped a bottle (assuming you can) and you have to pump as soon as you get home from said night out to relieve pressure in your breasts (it HURTS!) and to maintain supply. It's all consuming. I did it - and it went fairly well for me after all that. So when it doesn't go well I cannot imagine the pressure.
Here are some things some momma's have told me:
- Many whose babies have difficulties latching have tried endlessly for weeks with help of lactation consultants.
- Many with these latch issues PUMPED the milk for their babies and then fed them - for MONTHS. That's double the work. Hours pumping every day and then hours feeding. (When is there time for themselves? When do they sleep? What about their mental health and life balance?)
-Many felt their babies were starving because they would scream uncontrollably within a half an hour of feeding and they were told not to supplement, instead to try to pump or take medication to increase supply
-many momma's go without sleep for months because their babies aren't getting enough milk during feedings in the day and are still starving in the nights
-those who gave up breastfeeding "too early" felt they had to continuously justify their choice, and felt like failures. As if their emotions and momma guilt weren't all over the place enough already
-this one boggles me - in hospital babies may not feed for 48 hours because of issues with breastfeeding (latching, supply etc), and momma's are discouraged against giving formula! I'm sorry what???? Maybe there is research to support this but my momma instinct prickles here.....
- a friend of mine with no luck with breastfeeding made the conscious and mature decision to try formula on baby #2. She inquired that while there is a breastfeeding support group, why isn't there a bottle feeding support group? She was told she could bring her child to a breastfeeding group to have her weighed, but she was NOT to bottle feed in the group....again...I'm sorry..what?? I think there should be a momma-baby support group - period. Who cares how they are getting fed so long as they are fed. All momma's need help and someone to talk to who can relate. It would be also be nice to have your baby weighed and have questions answered without having to make an appointment with your doctor, regardless your food of choice. It just seems ridiculous even as I write it.
My personal opinion to those in power is ENOUGH already! I would bet that just about every single mother ultimately wants what's best for their baby. Without question. Not one mother I mentioned above wanted to hurt their child. Sure, breastfeeding has proven benefits, but children who are fed formula are okay too! When did it become okay to promote breastfeeding even if it meant your child was starving for any amount of time? Even if it seriously threatened the mental health of the momma? I think something has to change.
I hope my point doesn't get skewed here. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there's anything wrong with breastfeeding. IF YOU CAN. IF IT WORKS FOR YOU. IF YOUR CHILD ISN'T STARVING.
Being a new mom or a second, or third time mom is hard enough without judgment and pressure about how you feed your baby. I say feed your baby, how you want for as long as you want. You want to do 100% breastfeeding? Great! You want 100% formula? Awesome! You want to supplement? Sure! You want to breastfeed for a week or a month and then switch, no problem!
We should be supporting our momma's and stop worrying so much about how/what they feed their babies, and more about what we can do to help them with their choices.