Baby Sam is due in December!

having a baby

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Up on my soapbox

I was prompted to write this because of a comment my friend Crystal made on one of my local message boards. She is giving birth for the first time in a few months (she already has one perfect, beautiful adopted son), and she wants to try breastfeeding with this new baby. She said, “I really want to give it a shot, but from what I have heard, I should plan on it not working out.” I am really pro-breastfeeding if it’s at all possible, so this is what I told her--and I hope it might help some other moms-to-be who have the same concerns:

I think the biggest reason most people fail is because they DO go into it expecting it NOT to work. You hear so many new moms say that they just didn’t have enough milk, or that their milk dried up too fast, or that—-for whatever reason—-they just COULDN’T do it. I know there truly is a small percentage of women who just physically CAN’T, but more often than not, it’s more of an emotional decision to quit than anything else.

I don’t care what people say; breastfeeding is NOT a natural process. It’s not pretty. It sucks at first. It's hard as hell, and I TOTALLY understand why so many women give up before it starts to work for them. Put it this way--Max was over nine pounds when he was born, but it took us a good two and half weeks to get the nursing thing down, and he had lost more than TWO pounds by the time he really started eating well—that’s a lot of weight on a body that tiny! I remember many a day I would just sit on the couch crying, trying to get him to latch on, convinced I was starving my baby to death. It was scary, but luckily I had an awesome pediatrician who encouraged me to not give up. Most babies will lose some weight (and some, like Max, will lose a LOT) before they figure out what to do.

But you just have to keep telling yourself--babies survived for thousands of years before formula and bottles. They didn’t all just perish because their mothers found nursing difficult and decided to quit trying. It's a process, like lots of other tough things in life—one that both mommy and baby have to learn together. And being prepared before the baby is born is the most important thing you can do; arm yourself to the teeth with information. The biggest thing that helped prepare me: Billy and I took a breastfeeding class at our local women’s hospital before I gave birth, and that alleviated some of my nervousness and prepared Billy to help me out a lot (partner support is super-important). There’s a lot of gear out there that can make things easier, too, and that class was a godsend in educating us both. Also, I got a phone number for a good lactation consultant who lives locally and would come to my house. And, of course, LaLeche meetings help a lot of women (even though I found their members a little overzealous at times—-the mom with the kindergartner hanging off her breast was extremely unsettling, but that’s a story for another day).

One more thing I can say in favor of breastfeeding (and other than the baby's health, the BEST thing to me about bf'ing) is the financial benefit! I really think that kept me focused more than anything. We saved several THOUSAND dollars (almost five, think) by breastfeeding that first year, which Billy always claims paid for our new AC and the last big screen TV we bought. (By the way, I told Billy the money we save this time will have to go to my boob job--I am going to look like someone on a National Geographic special after this one!)

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not criticizing moms who choose not to breastfeed. It’s not for everybody, but I do want to encourage every mom-to-be to check out her resources and give it a good, solid try before giving up. It's hard, but the benefits are incredible.


Earl Gearl said...

I totally agree with you. When I have a baby (even if I adopt) I want to breastfeed. I am totally for it. That's what God designed boobs for!

Katherine said...

Good for you--and, as I'm sure you know, it is totally possible to breastfeed an adopted baby. People do it all the time.

Sheryl from Natural Parenting said...

Families who breastfeed don't just save money by not buying bottles and formula but you will also have a healthier child who requires fewer doctor visits with ear infections and other other problems, also saving you money in the long run.

Katherine said...

Sheryl, that is so true. Max has hardly ever been sick, and he has NEVER had an ear infection.

Sheryl from Natural Parenting said...

My daughter is 3 and has never had an ear infection or antibiotics and has never had any sort of serious illness either.

Another benefit that I found is that my 100% breastfed daughter never spit up which saved time, laundry and the ick factor. :)

sajmom said...

I stumbled across your blog and felt compelled to add a coment. I've given some thought to this as it's come up in coversation before. I agree with your overall point but disagree with a few things you said. Breastfeeding IS a natural process, but just because it's natural doesn't mean it's always easy. (Natural means being in accordance with or determined by nature). If you lived when everyone breastfed than most problems that came up had already happened to someone you knew and they could help you with it. Today many women don't have anyone they can go to for help, other than finding a paid professional. (if you can afford that) You might only know a few people who've breastfed and if they haven't run into your specific problem you are out of luck. I think many people do go into it half-heartedly. If the problems truly couldn't be overcome than most of the human race wouldn't be here. I think a lot of women's problems are caused by uniformed medical staff, or occasionally individuals who somewhat intentinally discourage breastfeeding-I had a nurse yell at me for taking so long to feed my first baby, she said it was throwing off her schedule! Or even other people in women's lives who aren't supportive(a husband who is uncomfortable with his wife's using her breasts this way, the mother-in-law who constantly talks about how disgusting it is, you get the picture) I think a lot of people quit early because they're uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public or because they have to go back to work and pumping can be extremely difficult (or impossible depending on your job)It's hard to follow whatever your baby needs in today's world, if the baby wants to marathon nurse and you have to get to work, what do you do? Society isn't all that child-friendly.
3-4% of the world's population will have trouble breastfeeding-physical trouble-and it's amazing how many of them you meet, apparently they all live in the USA! Milk doesn't just dry up, there's a cause if it does, usually one that is reversable. Also, it is normal for a baby to lose weight after birth(particularly C-section babies whose lungs still have extra water that didn't get pushed out during birth, that adds extra weight when they're first weighed)if your pediatrician or partner isn't supporitve I can understand why women sometimes feel like they must quit trying.
For the record-sometimes it goes beautifully from the start, with no problems at all. To say it's always hard is just as misleading as saying it's always easy. You never know how it will go until the baby comes out. (I've breastfed 4 babies and only had problems with my first. I've never had sore nipples from it or cracking or bleeding or anything. I had preeclampsia with my first and wasn't allowed to breastfeed her for the first day because of medication I was given and she got used to the bottle's tiny nipple. It took us two weeks of frustration before she got it. We both cried a lot those first few weeks. Oh so worth it all though). I think because all the above mentioned can make breastfeeding difficult it isn't fair to lay guilt on women who try and don't manage to suceed. There are a lot of things that can influence one's success. I think being honest about the possible difficulty and having help AND support would go a long way toward success in breastfeeding.

Sarah R said...

Breastfeeding is awesome! Great post. We have just rounded up on 10months. I was determined to breastfeed before I ever got pregnant. Honestly, people had so many horror stories that I was actually surprised at how easy and natural it came for me. Yeah, yeah, the first two weeks are the hardest. Sometimes it can take up to five minutes just to get the baby latched on. However, it was so worth it! I had such a feeling inside like "this is what I'm supposed to be doing to feed my baby." When I went back to work at 10 weeks, I was discussing BFing with a co-worker (she also BF her two boys) and this rude co-worker (whom I don't directly work with) butted in and started snorted when I said, "I am going to breastfeed him for the first year". I said, "what's so funny?" to which she replied, "Oh, you said you were going to do it for a year..." to which I replied, "Yeah, AND???" to which she replied, "Oh, my mother thought she was going to breastfeed for a year and then teething happened and that was the end of that". So then I said, "Well, that's her. This is me. I CAN and WILL do this". I gave her such a dirty look and she turned bright red. What a bag!!! That is pretty much the only negative comment I have received. My in-laws are pretty pro-formula and one of my SILs did say that "breastfeeding is so much work" and so I just told her that I thought it was MUCH easier not to have to make up bottles. What's easier than on-the-go milk jugs, right? ;)