Nov 29, 2011

Breastfeeding

The topic of breastfeeding is somehow another of the forum and know-it-alls fire starters. During my 7½ months of pregnancy I have been asked a dozen or so times if I was going to breast feed. I always answer with, “I am going to give it my very best shot.” I answer like that because I have heard horror stories on how difficult, painful and in some cases, impossible it is to do. That answer ALWAYS gets me the same response, “Oh good! It is so important for you and the baby! It may be painful and really hard at first, but what ever you do don’t give up.” I am very hopeful that I will be successful at breastfeeding, but if I am not, the last thing I need is someone looking down at me, telling me I am a terrible mother for it.

Whenever I think of breastfeeding I think of my best girlfriend who tried and tried but just could not produce enough milk to feed her son. She tried every medical and natural remedy, painful pumping, everything. Finally, she had to come to grips with the fact that the only way she could feed her son was with formula. This realization was beyond devastating to her. I was so worried that this would be the beginning of a very terrible bout of post partum. Thankfully, she overcame the sadness, but not before she repeatedly cried to me about how much of a failure she was at being a mother already. Not being a mother I just couldn’t understand why she felt so strongly about it. In my non-mom thinking I just thought, I survived on formula, what’s the big deal?

Reading studies on the “benefits of breast feeding,” I truly can understand her devastation. I realize now that the big deal is the major health benefits to both mother and baby. The antibodies, nutrition and bonding alone make it pretty important to at least try. Plus, as a mother we benefit by getting a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and significant jump start in weight loss among other health benefits. Formula just cannot match the health benefits of a mother’s milk, no two ways about it. But, it also does not mean you will have an unhealthy runt of a child and a fat ass the rest of your life if you cannot breastfeed! Any woman that scares you into believing so needs way more help than you do!

One of my nephews just would not latch on to my sister. The amount of pain and struggle she went through broke my heart, but like my girlfriend she felt like she would be less of a mother if she did not try all she could, regardless of the ramifications it caused her. My nephew never breastfed, and at age 5 he is one of the tallest in his class, very healthy, athletic, well adjusted and happy. All in all, I have one friend who breast fed the entire time, a few who half breast fed, half supplemented with formula and a few who only did formula, not one group has healthier children than the next.

I’m going into breastfeeding with an open mind and low expectations to limit my disappointment should I find myself incapable of doing it. Again, I understand the benefits of breastfeeding, I also understand the differences each of us has in our lives, so to say ALL of us should breastfeed or suffer the shame of being a bad mom is ridiculous.

Helpful tips from my been-there-done-that peer group…

  1. Be patient, it may take some time to get it going, so if he doesn’t latch on immediately don’t be discouraged…
  2. It will hurt like hell for the first 6 weeks to possibly 6 months- Two girlfriends said it was not that bad, a dozen or so said it was… I’m preparing for pain and hoping for pleasant!
  3. Rent a breast pump from the hospital or OBGYN if possible- since they are industrial they do a much better job.
  4. Keep Formula on hand for emergencies-Don’t be afraid to supplement if you are not producing enough milk, or “if you are just too damn tired to get out of bed, make your husband get up and do it.” Thanks Kate!
  5. If it doesn’t work, it’s more than ok-One girlfriend said that, “I will have so many more chances to fail at being a mother, don’t let this minor bump knock me down.” I love her…
  6. If at all possible do not breastfeed in public- I have to admit, I find it a little jarring to see a woman breast feeding on a park bench. Still, I’m not going to walk up to her and tell her that.

Only you know what is best for you and your child. We have such a long road of parenting ahead of us, we have got to learn to choose our battles wisely from the very beginning. I plan to give the breastfeeding battlefield hell, and if it wins, as devastating as it may be, so be it… I’m off to the next battle.

Two confused parents=One amused baby Hopelessly we are trying raise a baby who is clearly smarter than both of us. April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit AprilMcCormick.com

2 comments:

  1. I'm two weeks behind you and this is my second child, and I "failed" breastfeeding with my first. And people would comment not knowing that I was literally crying for hours at home every time I tried and failed. I finally talked to my doctor and the doctor comforted me and said, "You're going to have more trouble bonding with this child if you keep trying and failing and crying for hours than if you just give up and enjoy your baby boy now."

    I took her advice, gave up (because my milk supply was so weak and it made my son refuse to latch), and cried for a day or two and then enjoyed the heck out of my baby. I'm going to try again and hope for better results, but I'm not going to get too hung up on it!

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  2. Thank you for posting that Kitten... I'm sure there are so many women out there going through this right now. Your doctor was so right about the bonding... If I "fail" I will be keeping your words and strength in mind.

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