Thursday, April 17, 2014

So you say "I couldn't nurse"?

I don't say this to be mean, or to make you feel guilty, or because I think I'm better than you. I'm not calling anyone a liar or a bad mom. It's not my intention to hurt feelings or to accuse anyone of wrong doing. But, how you talk about your lack of ability to breastfeed can make a difference to others.

It is VERY possible that you could have breastfed, had you received ample support and education. I DO NOT blame any mom for not breastfeeding, regardless on how much they did, or didn't try. I blame the many years of formula use. A seed was planted when formula was invented, a mixture of pharmaceutical company marketing, new mothers having to work more, and misinformed doctors, got moms and dads and aunts etc thinking that formula was better. Years of moms giving bottles (whose children "turned out fine") and those moms becoming grandmothers and not knowing how to able to best help their new mom offspring is to blame. (I could also talk of society's over-sexualization of breasts here too but I'll skip that) All those bottles (and "fine" outcomes) has de-normalized breastfeeding. It isn't seen as the normal, go-to, common way to feed a baby.
Science now has since proven that formula is inferior. Protective, defensive moms refuse to accept that they gave their child an inferior food, they're moms, they instinctively want whats best-and hate to think they made a "mistake" or that they could have done "better". So they either convince themselves they *couldn't* breastfeed, that formula was better in their situation, or they feel guilty.
No one should feel guilty besides formula manufacturers. They push their product at the health expense of babies and moms all over the world. They give free samples to new moms - knowing that once a mom starts using formula, it is very slippery slope toward exclusive formula use as it is hard to have enough milk supply and she will have to soon pay for formula. So I don't ever blame moms for not breastfeeding.
Moms who didn't breastfeed or stopped before long need to know though, that they shouldn't feel guilty. What I see is many many defensive silently guilt stricken moms perpetuating the myth that its common to not make enough/any milk. This only hurts babies.
Medically, it's very rare for a mom to not be able to make enough milk. I'm not calling you a liar if you believe you couldn't. I want you to know though that it was most likely not true. Instead of saying "I didn't make milk" or. "My baby wouldn't latch say "I didn't have enough information or support to breastfeed." maybe you didn't try, maybe you did, maybe the baby wouldn't latch and nurses or pediatricians or your partner or own mom pushed formula, maybe you had medical birth interventions which altered your hormones/body and baby's body and hormones maybe you never knew anyone who breastfed or for some other reason had skewed feelings about breasts and breastfeeding.

Medically though, if you had help getting baby latched and had information on how breasts work and how to succeed at breastfeeding, you most likely wouldn't have needed formula. Its not your fault. Please though, future moms see and hear what you say, if they hear "I didn't make milk" they will think it's common to not get milk and might think they won't make milk and not try. If they hear "I didn't get enough support or learn enough about breastfeeding" they'll seek support and knowledge and with that, they'll most likely breastfeed. Know better do better, at the time, when your new baby was born, you did what you knew, it's ok to learn better and do better next time, and in the meantime, help other moms learn better.

It takes a village, if accepting that possibly, you could have breastfed under better circumstances, you help another mom breastfeed, isn't that great? It's not a competition, don't inadvertently perpetuate myths that may lead others to make a mistake you made. If your kid fell out of a certain brand high chair, you wouldn't recommend or defend the highchair, you'd share the knowledge and hopefully help another mom. Same thing.

A few things: You don't know if you made milk or not if your baby never latched on or if you gave formula right away. Your breasts are supply and demand. If baby doesn't latch, you body thinks the baby died (it doesn't know about formula) and it will stop the hormonal process of making milk. If the baby gets formula, it will learn how to drink from a bottle and may not know how to latch onto a breast.
Not leaking or swelling during pregnancy doesn't mean you can't feed. Neither does small breasts or large breasts pierced nipples, or breast surgery(although it may mean more challenges) or adoption (yes even women who've never been pregnant can lactate, although this is much more effort, stress and often not enough for exclusive breastfeeding). Newborn tummies are as big as a cherry, colostrum is plenty until the first milk transitions to mature milk. Breastfeeding is natural, but doesn't always come naturally, it takes some learning to know how to hold baby, what a good latch looks like, and how much a baby nurses. If it doesn't come easy, it doesn't mean you can't breastfeed.

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