Monday, October 28, 2013

"Breast is Best"

We are all familiar with the phrase "breast is best," coined by the formula companies in order to make us like them better.  It doesn't say "breastmilk is best".  I'm getting slightly technical here, but I see so many women giving their baby breastmilk in bottles instead of just breastfeeding their babies. Let's talk about it for just a minute.

I received this message a couple of months ago:

The trend seems to be, and this is not limited to just my circle of friends, but pumping and giving breastmilk in a bottle. Simply because its faster or they're having trouble latching their babies. This tears me up inside, even though they are still getting the best nutrition! 

I'm not sure if you've experienced this in your community, but I want to help them without overstepping my boundaries. Any tips on how to help encourage true nursing? I've suggested books and lactation consultants, but I don't seem to be getting through.

Some of this depends on where you live.  When I lived in New Mexico, I never saw women pumping and giving their babies bottles of breastmilk, but in North Texas, I see it all the time.  From talking to women scattered around the country, it depends on where you are. My good friend, Sarah Clark over at Mama Birth, says that she almost never sees a woman feeding her baby a bottle.  The stigma is reversed. But she's in Northern California.

Before you get upset, understand that I am always happy when a baby is getting breastmilk instead of formula.  It is well documented and understand that breastmilk is superior and made for baby.  It is a healthy choice.

When I had my first baby in 1996, I was still working outside the home, so I bought an expensive pump. We loaded the freezer up and I experienced this weird guilt that I wasn't using the milk, but it kept accumulating. Weird, I know.  (I found myself working when he was sleeping, and eventually he quit taking the bottle.)  I remember going to church with a bottle of breastmilk once - thinking it would be easier - but it was so stressful!  

Women make this choice for a variety of reasons, I suppose.  I just wanted to put it out there why I believe the act of breastfeeding is about so much more than nutrition.

*Let's face it.  Life is busy.  I think it would be irresistible to just let the baby hold his/her own bottle.  Breastfeeding "forced" me to sit down and hold my baby.

*Feeling milk let down and my baby relax as milk flowed into his/her mouth was priceless.  I had a magic superpower!  

*The hormones released when breastfeeding made me a calmer mom.  My baby molded to my body when he/she nursed.  Even if I was anxious to keep moving on with my list for the day, by the time I was finished nursing (and/or baby fell asleep), that list didn't seem nearly as important!  There's nothing like holding a sleeping baby who just feel asleep nursing.

*We can't ignore the convenience factor - always with you at the perfect temperature.  

If you are one of these women that pump and give your baby a bottle, you are missing out on a truly unique and special life experience.  I'm sad that some women feel such a stigma attached to breastfeeding that they feel compelled to haul around bottles and take all that time to pump.  

I wanted to share a couple of professional pictures I had taken in 2006, back before it became popular to take professional breastfeeding pictures. In fact, the photographer thought I was crazy for wanting to do so!

"Breastfeeding is a mother's gift to herself, her child, and the earth."  

Notice this quote says BREASTFEEDING, not just BREASTMILK.

Check out the Birth Boot Camp Breastfeeding class on DVD, The Ultimate MRE (Meal Ready to Eat).  It runs 3 1/2 hours and is taught by IBCLC Mellanie Sheppard, peppered with stories and advice from several women on a number of topics.  You can buy it on Amazon, or if you sign up for a Birth Boot Camp online or live class, it comes with your childbirth classes.  Regardless of the type of birth you desire, we wish all women and babies (and dads!) a happy breastfeeding relationship!


Liz C said...

You said, "If you are one of these women that pump and give your baby a bottle, you are missing out on a truly unique and special life experience." This is true. I felt this deeply practically every time I pumped, gave my daughter a bottle of breastmilk and many times in between. Please don't assume that a woman who pumps, does so for convenience. It is highly inconvenient (physically, strategically, relationally, etc). I know. I pumped exclusively for my daughter for her first year after a long, hard, stressful, emotional journey in trying to actively breastfeed (with the support of many people--including lactation consultants). Please don't assume that you know why another mom raises their child the way that they do.

Liz C said...

Here is my post sharing about our journey.

Liz C said...

Cristi said...

With my first baby, breastfeeding just didn't work out due to circumstances beyond my control. It turns out she had allergies to practically everything I ate! She would scream in pain for hours and we didn't know what was wrong with her. After about 3 months, one desperate day we took her to the ER and they did an x ray of her body and saw TONS of gas bubbles in her stomach. They weren't quite sure of the cause. Finally, we talked to a family friend/ chiropractor who's children had allergies and he helped us put the pieces together. First, I removed the usual suspects from my diet-- dairy and chocolate. That helped a lot but didn't quite take care of the problem. So I stopped eating anything acidic such as orange juice or tomatoes, or anything spicy. Then I stopped eating anything else that I knew was a common allergen-- bananas, eggs, beans, etc. Next would be anything with wheat or gluten or casein. I lost a ton of weight and my daughter had been failing to thrive. I felt like my breastmilk was poison to her. After 6 months, I had to admit that breastfeeding was just not working for us and that soy formula was a better option. It still caused some eczema for her, but she was much healthier and happier, and so was I. I did struggle with feelings of failure, though, because of the attitude so many have that if you don't breastfeed you are a bad mom or a slacker. I still feel sad and anxious when I think about our horrible experience with breastfeeding and she is 9 years old! I wish it could have been different. I wish people would realize that sometimes breastfeeding doesn't work out, no matter how hard we might try. To those I say just be thankful it works for you and have extra compassion for those not so fortunate.

Sarah Clark said...

I think we all know that there are people who truly can't breastfeed but can pump and feed breastmilk (in fact Donna has shared some really amazing stories like that from a friend of hers who did just that due to a baby with a cleft palate).
But she is also right- in N Texas there are many women who pump and bottle feed- NOT because they need to but because of the stigma attached to breastfeeding but the known and proven benefits of breastmilk. I saw this all the time when I lived there too and it totally blew my mind. Women were told their breasts didn't "work" (And I quote!) yet they would pump and bottle feed (so obviously they worked!). This is a somewhat regional phenomena I believe but it DOES exist.

Liz C said...

Sarah: Thanks for mentioning the posts about exclusive pumping. I went and read them and a lot of what was shared really resonated with me. My first comment didn't really express this, but I tried to make it clear in my response (on my blog) that I believe her intentions were good. My emotions and personal experiences certainly fueled my response. It felt like my experience had been reduced to a "lifestyle choice" chosen for convenience. I wanted to add my opinion on why women would be resistant to advice on breastfeeding when pumping and bottle-feeding. I was so overwhelmed with information and advice when I had reached the point of pumping exclusively, that I would likely have simply said "Thank you," should somebody give me a recommendation on how to get her on the breast. I'm also trying to say that the reason someone gives for bottle over breast might not be the whole story--I probably told a few people that it was "easier" and left it at that, when there was a whole lot more backstory involved. I have had the opportunity to counsel other women who had struggles similar to mine and I have advised each one to fight for a successful breastfeeding relationship as long as they are able. I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding and desperately hope to be able to successfully breastfeed my next child.

Teglene said...

Great post! I know some moms are exclusively pumping because that is the only option for them, but I also hear from a lot of moms who think that pumping and bottle feeding is the same as breastfeeding. If that want to make that choice it is certainly up to them, but I want them to have all of the facts. This article details the differences, and backs it up with research.

Erika said...

Why is it that those women who have had such an easy experience with breastfeeding are always so quick to criticize other women who are either unable to breast feed, or just chose not to for their own personal reasons. Yes, I realize our bodies were made to feed our babies from our breasts, and that it is probably the best thing for them, but sometimes things just don't work out the way they are "supposed" to. I tried my damndest to breast feed my baby, but after an incredibly stressful and emotional 3 months of doing everything I could, my baby flat out refused to nurse. So I made the decision that she would get my breastmilk one or another, even if that meant I had to pump every single bottle she drank from that point on. And pump I have, for 8 straight months, 5 times a day. If anyone says I took the easy way out, they can shut their big fat mouths. It has been the hardest 10 months of my life and I still harbor extreme guilt and sadness over not being able to experience the bliss other women feel from breastfeeding. So before you try to get on your soapbox and come down on another woman for whatever choices she has made in regards to breastfeeding, just STOP. We're all doing the best that we can. We need to support each other. Not criticize another mother whose story you know nothing about.