Wednesday, June 12, 2013

5 Ways Breastfeeding Is NOT Easier

I am totally pro breastfeeding. For the record, I do actually think it's easier than bottle feeding when what you compare it to is the hassle of having to wash nipples and remember formula and fetch bottles at midnight for a full-term infant who is growing like a weed.

But yesterday I made the mistake of clicking a link that led to a breastfeeding advocacy forum and there I saw a picture of a form filled out by a new mom. Long story short, she wasn't sure if she would breastfeed or for how long because she wanted to share some of the responsibility for feeding, though she did say she was interested in nursing and that her family would be supportive. Now the forum members did not, as you might assume, express their hopes that she would find the information she needed to make an informed choice.

Nope. What many did was say things like "People like her shouldn't breed." and "It IS her responsibility - moms are so selfish nowadays." and "She's crazy! Breastfeeding is so much easier!" and "Why aren't you pumping OMG?"

Aside from the fact that these supposed advocates were not advocating, but judging - and harshly, at that - they were also ignoring something really important. Which is that they don't know the mom who filled out the form. They had no idea if she would have to go back to work in six short weeks at a job that had no pumping support - or even if she could reasonably afford the upfront expense of a breast pump. None of them knew if her baby was a roly-poly termie who sucks like a hoover or a 33 week preemie with a weak latch and jaw issues. Whether this mom was taking a medication that isn't compatible with breastfeeding and still considering whether it's worth the risk of stopping for some period of time.

Here's what they thought they knew: This mom must be selfish (because she wanted someone else to feed the baby now and then) and lazy (because she is worried that breastfeeding might be difficult) and stupid (because she hinted that bottle feeding might be easier). Putting aside for the fact that these supposed advocates were anything but and probably have caused more new moms NOT to breastfeed because they are just plain mean, let's take a look at that last point.

Is breastfeeding easier? Sure, in a lot of ways. No washing bottles or worrying about the quality of the water or spending eleventy billion dollars on formula. But here are five ways that breastfeeding is definitely not easier.

1. A breastfeeding mom has sole responsibility for feeding the baby, day and night. For many moms, myself included, that means that the longest she can take a breather is an hour or two. The mister is wonderful about getting up with me more often than not, but I do plenty of solo overnight feeds there in the dark alone with nothing but my thoughts. If Bo was a needier baby, I might go crazy.

2. Yes, help with feedings is available if a mom wants to hook herself up to a breast pump. Provided she is the kind of mom who can pump enough to make a bottle or two with a consumer grade pump. Many can't.

3. Leakage. I'm lucky in that I have only once ever had milk come out when there wasn't a baby attached to my breast, but I know plenty of people who lactate like faucets - soaking through pad after pad until finally soaking through both bra and shirt. For SAHMs or moms still on maternity leave, this isn't an issue, but if you're a working mom in an office working with anyone who is not also a mom... I wouldn't call dealing with that 'easy'.

4. Breastfeeding is not easier when you have a preemie or a baby with a facial abnormality or conditions like Down syndrome or severe allergies. I shed too many tears when P. was a baby because I felt guilty that breastfeeding wasn't just oh so easy like all those supposed advocates were saying it ought to be. For us, breastfeeding was really, really hard and something we worked at for MONTHS.

5. And finally, breastfeeding is not easier when you're sporting a couple of cantaloupes. Or watermelons. I will be forever envious of my small-bosomed friends who can put a baby to breast with total modesty, hardly adjusting their clothing. These are the kinds of moms who can nurse in a restaurant without having to erect a tent out of spare scarves and sweaters. The kinds of moms who don't have to use one hand to hold their breasts because even a strong latch isn't sufficient to keep that sucker in a newborn's mouth.

Because when I'm breastfeeding, the world knows it. Luckily, the world has been kind enough to politely avert its eyes thus far.

breastfeeding is not easier

Can you think of other ways breastfeeding is definitely NOT easier than bottle feeding? What did I miss?

24 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this...it's a total pet peeve of mine: militant bf'ers. Probably because I was knocked down to reality SO HARD myself. I could have been snooty. I could have been holier than thou...but it took life experience and knowing other moms intimately to put me in my place. While I'm pro-bf'ing (and still am/extended bf'ing) I'm also pro-formula pro-whatever works. I'm a FF baby and I've done all right in life. My world hasn't collapsed. Formula was worse in the 70's, like everything else I'm sure. I only ever had a welfare-issue pump that I used 8-10 times/day for four months straight. It hurt like bloody murder. I can't wait to smash it when I'm all done because it wasn't easy. BF'ing a preemie with feeding issues was one of the hardest things I worked for in life - and I realize that I'm just lucky. That's all. It isn't because I tried harder than other moms or did something better. It just worked out.

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  2. Oh, and I don't use the pump anymore. I just keep it here in case getting rid of it causes some universal jinx.

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    1. I kind of did the same thing - I kept pumping until P. was a year old because I was so afraid she'd backslide. That's how I ended up with a deep freeze full of milk I had to throw out. I gave some away but couldn't donate because I'd taken herbs. Laaaaame.

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    2. Totally. I wound up donating to Human Milk 4 Human Babies to a woman my NICU neighbor had also donated to. See, she'd had a reduction years ago for health purposes but was promised she'd still be able to BF. Well, guess what? Yeah, couldn't. She drove to any neighboring state picking up milk for the first year. It was important to her and I respect her for following through with what she wanted in a way she could. But she couldn't always get it and she'd get flack for buying formula. YOU JUST CAN'T WIN.

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  3. You missed how some babies, even without abnormalities, just don't latch. And that some moms work at it for months, round the clock, feeding, pumping, giving back what was pumped, and then a wee bit of formula, then feeding, pumping, giving back what was pumped, then a wee bit of formula and so on. And baby still won't gain weight. Still won't take in more than half an oz, and still won't latch.

    And how that cycle can go on for three or four months before mom is so sleep deprived she's about half a second from having to go inpatient.

    Even with a seemingly healthy, full-term baby, breastfeeding won't always work out. Even when mom tried everything she possibly could. And then it turns out three years later, said seemingly healthy, full-term baby turns out to have some mega sensory issues. And maybe breastfeeding produced sensory overload which led to the bouts of colic that led to baby not gaining weight that led to mom having to nurse, pump, give back what was pumped, etc.

    Breastfeeding is a matter of luck as much as it is a matter of work. It's a matter of luck if you have a full supply or low supply or oversupply. So much of it is just luck. Some moms are luckier than others.

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    1. I should add that my second got breastfeeding. Instantly.

      Right away.

      But she was a peanut, so when she fell off her growth chart, the doctors freaked. I think I told you this the other day --- and when they sent us to a pediatric dietitian who upped her calories per oz in her daycare bottles, she took one less bottle at daycare. Same number of calories in and out.

      And she refused to take the bottle from anyone except her daycare providers. At home, she'd scream for hours with her dad if I wasn't around. At Grandma's? No way.

      And I couldn't pump enough despite having a full-supply. So after two months back at work, she started getting only one bottle of breastmilk and two bottles of formula/day at daycare. But still exclusively nursed at home until she moved on to regular milk and water.

      If I could do it over again, I'd buy a hospital grade pump. Because I do think that might have made a difference for both of my children. But now that I know that I just don't respond to the pump and that my babies don't grow exponentially until they start solids. But by the time they're a year old, they're way up there on the weight charts.

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    2. YES! Some babies just won't do it. I don't care how many LCs say "Everyone can." Fact is, once upon a time, there were babies who withered away and died.

      I can pull full bottles in no time with a hospital grade pump, by the way. With a consumer pump, I get a few ounces unless it's the morning after Bo has slept through the night.

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    3. I wanted to knock people out when they'd say, well, you should go see a LC. You're not doing it right.

      Ahem. I SPENT 58 DAYS LIVING WITH LCs MONITORING ME! Shut up, just shut up...

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  4. Oh thank you for posting a picture of you holding your boob. I thought I was the only one who had to do that because I never see anyone else doing it.

    I would also argue that even for full timers bfing isn't necessarily easy. Tongue tied/flat nippled/torticollis...oh gawd the hardships those presented with Ev. And plenty of moms with none of those issues on my BB have a super hard time.

    I pumped over a 5 hour period the other night and got a whopping 1.5 ounces so I could go see a movie. Luckily Kimball slept through the whole movie and I had to wake him to feed him when I got home after so I could go back out and join my friends for dinner.

    I feel SO fortunate that it was super easy with Delilah. It made my struggle to get this 37weeker to latch/stay latched/latch correctly seem like a smaller bump. If it had happened after the ordeal that was Ev..I probably would have given up.

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    1. Boob holders unite! Hands-free BF'ing my booty... I know it can be done with a newborn, but not by me. Nowadays I can do it sometimes, when Bo decides he's going to hold it himself.

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    2. Agreed! You wouldn't believe the looks I got from the nurses at the hospital with my second, holding my breast while nursing. That sucker's just too heavy when it's full of milk. It's probably also the reason I still use the Boppy when my baby's almost a year old and 22 pounds!

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    3. Wait, you're supposed to stop using it? Cus I used it right up to when she weaned at like 22 months. lol And YES. The nurses and LCs are all "don't do that, you'll cut off the supply from those areas" and I'm all I'LL SMOTHER HIM and IT WILL FALL OUT OF HIS MOUTH, YO.

      I WAS able to feed Del without holding if we were laying in bed, but I can't get it to work with Kimball yet.

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    4. I can sometimes do a hands free lay down nurse with Bo but only if we get the positioning juuuuuuust right. Mostly I put it in there and we both fall asleep and who knows what happens.

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  5. Some babies don't develop lactose tolerance til later. a mom can try all she wants but she'll never make soya milk. :(

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    1. Oh, yes, this. I was able to cut dairy when Bo had intolerance, but I know moms whose babies were essentially allergic their milk.

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  6. People are so judgmental about the breastfeeding thing. Not only could Pea not latch, but I was on meds that were no bueno for babies, especially one with no brown fat. I got so sick of the comments at the grocery store that I spent a couple of years being a self-appointed anti-breastfeeding spokesperson and cheerleader/protector of any woman with a can of formula at the store.

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  7. I think you covered it well! I felt very trapped by being the sole feeder of my baby. Whenever he had a stomachache or seemed to have any kind of issues at all, I'd be hard on myself. I think that was my number one reason. And maybe it was mentioned a bit in the other comments about being so careful about what you put in your body because just like with pregnancy, there are things you shouldn't ingest. My baby turns one tomorrow. He's down to one breastfeeding a day, which is shocking. I totally thought he'd be the type to nurse 17 times a day forever, but he lost interest. I still love our one session.

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  8. Good one! Here's another tale ('cause I like to overshare on the internets): I'm not prone to candida overgrowth, but somehow managed to get a full blown yeast infection on my super engorged, cracked and yucky breasts. OW! That, along with a dose of post partum depression and a colicky baby, I'm pretty amazed that I didn't stop nursing at week 2. I went for 13 months, but wouldn't have blamed a mom for stopping.
    An old friend of mine knew from day 1 she wasn't even going to try nursing. Her baby didn't even come close to starving to death, and I'm fairly certain I'd have straight up decked anyone who accused her of being less of a mother than anyone else. Nursing was what worked for us (or pumping, and bottle feeding) and not what worked for her family. The end.

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  9. I am so jealous of people who can nurse without holding onto their breast!!! No way I could do that ....

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  10. Amen on so many points here! I made it 11 months with my first and am going to probably breastfeed more than 12 months with my second (honestly, that’s because it’s what the baby wants. It’s definitely not what I want). Having a spouse help out with feedings is IMPORTANT. Luckily my first took the bottle well from just about anyone…the second doesn’t want anything to do with a bottle if she knows I’m around. And pumping is a LOT of work. I hate it. I do it, but I hate it. Yes, those moments at the end of the day with a sleepy infant can be sweet, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s such a personal choice, I wish people were just more supportive of each other!

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  11. Thank you for starting this conversation. I always remember the Different Strokes theme song when parents start talking about what's best for kids as if there is only one universal truth in parenting...what might be right for you, might not be right for some

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  12. Here are another 5, and I'm sure I could think of more - and this from someone who breastfeed her firstborn for nearly 3 years:

    1. Coffee. Alcohol. Cold medicine. Heck, broccoli. Generally being able to consume things without worrying about how it impacts your kid or your supply.

    2. Formula doesn't dry up during your period, and when a growth spurt hits, you can make more formula.

    3. No one will ask you to feed your baby in the bathroom.

    4. You don't have to stop everything you are doing for every feeding, especially once your baby has the ability to hold the bottle without help. (Can you imagine, feeding your kid while driving? Amazing.)

    5. No annoying conversations about when you plan to wean your kid!

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  13. I had mixed luck with breastfeeding, and I wish I'd had you guys when my oldest was born in 1965. Breastfeeding was not "in". He was born in a big hospital in Chicago, and I had him the same day that THE.ONLY.OTHER.BREASTFEEDING.MOTHER. checked out!!! I was 18 and stupid, but really wanted to bf. The only lactation advice I got was "if he falls asleep while nursing, slap him on the bottom of his feet." I read as much as I could about it, but there wasn't much out there. The info about your milk coming in was informative, but I didn't work that way. I waited and waited and no engorgement, etc, etc. I thought I was a failure. I tried a couple of days. He cried. I cried. I gave up and bottle fed. Back then you stayed in the hospital for 5 or 6 days, and then you could buy GLASS bottles pre-filled w/formula before you left the hospital. I had done that, just in case. My mom was in Vegas, no friends, no nothing. My MIL lived there, bless her heart, but wasn't much help; and, let's be real. At 18 I wouldn't have listened to her anyway. I was 18, after all, and knew it ALL...... I was so sad about it, that I didn't even try with #s 2 and 3. When #1 daughter came along in 1973, I was going to breastfeed or die trying. Well, lo and behold, my milk didn't "come in" with her either, but one day it was colostrum, the next day milk! Who knew?! Lactation advice was still slim to none in the mid-70s. When I had my twins in 75 (I know, we have a way to prevent that now) the younger, smaller one had to stay in the hospital until he was a week old. When I went to bring him home, the nursery RN said "you can't nurse him, he's too weak". Well, she was a nurse, she must know!! BS! I gave him a bottle, while nursing his brother, and the poor little, butt-less guy cried and cried while pulling his knees up to his tummy. I thought the hell with this, and breast fed him, and as soon as I started, he was fine! Never believe someone just because they SEEM to know. With all of my others, the first day or two of nursing was spent putting (stuffing)the nipple back in their mouth after they spit it out, but little guy took to it first thing. He was no dummy. When #2 daughter, (and last of the Mohicans) was born in 84, I was so lucky. She became my American Express baby because I never left home w/out her. It was tiring since she took a total of two tiny bottles of breast milk from her daddy, and never would take a pacifier. We nursed 3 1/2 years, despite the annoying conversations, and she was healthy as a horse until the last couple of years, and now, at almost 30, has stomach problems....8-| Except for the lack of support, my biggest problem was getting my giant nipples in their mouth. I was also afraid I'd smother them if I didn't hold my boob back. I'm so glad that moms nowadays have so many places to turn. I hope we never go back to "formula is better for your baby" as a blanket statement. It was the formula manufacturers who did that, of course. I'm sure most, if not all, of you mommies were born after that time, thank goodness! Sorry, this wasn't about current problems with breastfeeding....8-)

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    1. I think it's awesome you weighed in! It's cool to see how things have changed!

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