Archive for Breastfeeding

Welcome, Cyrus Xavier!

Cyrus 2

Cyrus Xavier joined us on 11/14 at 2:20 pm, weighing 9 lbs, 11 oz.

Cyrus 3

By the time we got to the hospital, we were already very close. I’m not one to go into too much detail…but did you know an epidural can stop working just as the baby is ready to be born? Yup.

Other than that, it was a fairly routine birth. We were out of the hospital about 24 hours later. He did have a tongue tie, which made latching tough. However, we had it snipped and the nursing is going more smoothly now.

He regained his birth weight and then some within a week and everyone is healing well.

Cyrus 1

His siblings are so happy to meet him and proudly show off their baby to everyone we meet.

Fathers: If you are worried about breastfeeding… keep it to yourselves.

I have an app from a popular maternity service on my phone…primarily because the kids want to know what fruit is of a comparable size to their unborn brother and because people always ask me how far along I am and being on my fourth, I just can’t remember. I save my brain cells for remember things like when to pick the three kids up from activities, their birthdays, names…okay, so I have been known to call the boys by each others’ names. But I digress…

The app also issues a newsletter. Half the time I don’t open it but the subject line, “Breastfeeding Versus Bottle Feeding,” caught my attention. The “article” contained this little gem: Read more

I’m NOT the Weirdo

Today I went shopping for maternity clothing…a painful experience, at best, and one I thankfully mostly avoid by reusing from the previous pregnancies and buying online. This time, though, I needed a new pair of jeans.

Of course, the affordable clothes are ugly and made of cheap material, that goes without saying. And, for some reason, you either have to be an XS or an XL to buy maternity clothing. And the medium size jeans are so long…I guess if you are a size 8 you are supposed to be 5’8″.

Now, a warning, this is a breastfeeding-related rant. That’s pretty much what I use this spot for at this point–talking about breastfeeding and blogging–since I have other sites for talking about volunteering, parenting products, education, and military family issues.

I want to make clear that isn’t about the existence of formula or about moms who formula feed. It is only about the marketing of formula.

Back to the story. I’m checking out and they ask my address. I was immediately wary but they reminded me it was for something out of stock I asked to have shipped. I explained that I didn’t want any additional mailings or coupons.

Then, they asked me my due date. I tell them that I’d rather not share that information. They pressed the issue, just a month, an approximate. I asked why they needed that. “For coupons!” they responded.

But I just said I don’t want any coupons.

“Why not?”

I told them that I don’t think it is the business of any company when my baby is due and that I don’t need formula coupons or samples–I always end up trying to figure out where to donate things and then when I don’t figure it out before the samples expire, I feel guilty.

“But they’ll send you diapers! Why wouldn’t you want it? There are $400 worth of coupons in there! You can save $400!”

At this point I was tempted to tell them I cloth diaper but I don’t lie, even if it could be fun sometimes. So, I just responded that I use the chlorine-free types and they aren’t sending $400 worth of diaper discounts and freebies anyway.

“No it is for stuff like…” at this point she indicates a poster that has Enfamil or Similac on there, can’t remember which one.

But that’s exactly what I don’t want! Every time I am pregnant, I get a bunch of coupons and it is all landfill and waste. I swear you get a mailing the day after you find out you’re pregnant. How do they know? It is freaky.

“Your doctor probably signs you up anyway.”

I told them I don’t go to a doctor.

By this point, they clearly think I’m a freak.

And this is what bothers me about the marketing in this country. Lives may not be at risk they way they are in other countries but it is so pervasive and invasive and persistent that anyone who wants to opt out of the formula marketing is pestered until they feel like they are weird…weird for feeding their babies the way mothers have fed their babies since the dawn of humanity.

I’m a third time mom so I just merely feel annoyed–but I suspect the effect is more insidious for all the first time moms.

I run a small business and people have to double-opt-in before I contact them yet giant formula companies are able to grab my name and address without my permission and send me junkmail just because I went shopping for some clothes.

Of course, if you opted-in, that means you are already considering or have decided on formula feeding. They’re not interested in you, especially once you’ve decided on your brand. They’ll reach you through your pediatrician or wherever else you go for “unbiased” advice about feeding your baby.

The formula companies are interested in the moms who want to breastfeed because that’s where there is the biggest potential for the growth of their market share.

Bad Attitudes About Breastfeeding Hurt Babies

Even when breastfeeding is not tough, it is difficult in the United States. That’s why I have a great deal of respect and gratitude for my lactivist friends.

Today, I had the opportunity to chat with two other nursing mothers. One was also on her second child and the other was on her third. I was saddened to hear both say that they planned on stopping much earlier with their current baby than they did with their previous child.

Both said that it was not due to mastitis or supply problems. Both mothers believed the choice they were making to breastfeed was the right one for their families.

However both felt that breastfeeding in public makes other people uncomfortable. For this reason, they felt they had to breastfeed before leaving the house and had to be back home within two hours. They were, understandably, tired of “planning their lives around breastfeeding”.

With the first baby, they were willing to put up with this personal inconvenience so they could both fulfill the needs of the baby while not offending others around them. However, now that they each had older children, it was increasingly difficult to schedule their day around a baby’s feedings and still meet the needs of their other children.

How sad. A mother who wants to breastfeed her child and is successful in doing so will stop before she or the baby is ready to stop because other people give dirty looks or say nasty things. Because as women we have been socialized to feel the greater fault is to make another uncomfortable, especially if that other is an older male, even one we do not know.

When I engage with people online about this issue, I often hear from opponents of breastfeeding in public that they are not opposed to breastfeeding–they just want mothers to go somewhere else to do it, to respect the feelings of others. This sounds rational (perhaps to others, not to me) until you realize they are asking mothers to place a stranger’s discomfort over a normal, everyday, social activity (to feed your baby when and where he is hungry) over a baby’s right to eat. And it may sound reasonable (again, to others) until you realize the chilling effect it has on breastfeeding rates.

I am all for a society where we are respectful of others. I’ll turn down my music, teach my kids to say “excuse me” if they burp, and hold doors open for people carrying packages–but don’t ask a mother to go somewhere else to feed a hungry child.

Baby Too Fat for Health Coverage?

REALLY?

They denied a newborn health coverage because the baby is “overweight”? And this baby is breastfed and was a good size at birth, so its weight is completely normal. In fact, a chubby, breastfed baby is likely to grow into a thin, healthy toddler.

This is just absurd. What a stupid company.

Can We Help Baby Jaeli? YES, We Can!

Have you heard about baby Jaeli?

We hear a lot about how important breastmilk is for babies–but here is a baby for whom mother’s milk is literally a life and death issue.

Jaeli has a rare genetic condition and will not tolerate formula. Her mom is breastfeeding and pumping but it is not enough. What baby Jaeli needs is time and calories and that is what breastmilk will give her.

But her mom’s state Medicaid will not cover this need and banked breastmilk, especially the high-calorie milk Jaeli needs, is costly.

But we won’t let a baby suffer and starve. Oh, no we won’t.

Ange England took up the cause and issued a challenge to the netizens of the social media world: Will you feed this baby? Moms, dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other caring people answered her call and donated enough for baby Jaeli to have milk through the end of October.

Baby Jaeli needs more.

Do you know someone at a company that could sponsor a week’s or month’s worth of feedings?

Working together, we can give provide sustenance to a baby.

Find out more:

Why I Stand By Medela

Full disclosure up front: Medela sponsored my co-editor at Mamanista.com for BlogHer. And Medela has also sent me a Freestyle for review. It is a single-user pump and I have kept it and used it several times. I don’t pump often, as my babies seem to hate bottles, but I did find it very helpful when I needed to pump during my son’s recent nursing strike.

The WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes has established a set of rules restricting marketing of formula and feeding bottles and teats.

(Keep in mind that the WHO Code is just a code from a non-governmental organization and only becomes law if adopted as such by individual nations.)

Because Medela has offered giveaways of its bottle system and included bottle feeding of pumped breastmilk as an idealized image in an advertising campaign, organizations have declared that Medela is in violation of the code.

Medela argues that the WHO code is about breastmilk admits that its actions may be viewed as a violation of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

There is little funding for promoting breastfeeding, when stacked up against the billion dollar budgets of the formula industry.

One approach to leveling the playing field is to place restrictions on how the makers of not only formula, but also manufacturers of bottles, market to new moms.

As much as I sympathize with the desire to keep aggressive marketing away from emotionally vulnerable new moms, this seems to be a very paternalistic response.

Instead, I prefer to work with the companies that sell breastfeeding accessories to get the financial backing for promoting breastfeeding and restoring breastfeeding to its place as the normal, default option.

As admirable as I find the spirit of the WHO Code, it puts formula on the level of a drug and bottles on the level of syringes, and meddles too much for my taste with consumer choice.

According to the WHO code, to remain in compliance, a company can manufacture and sell bottles and teats/nipples but cannot advertise or promote these products to the general public, provide samples of the product, “distribute to pregnant women or mothers of infants and young children any gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breastmilk substitutes or bottle feeding,” or “seek direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children”.

The only issue I really have is with the tagline in the Medela commercial: “When you choose to breastfeed, you’re doing what’s best for your baby. When you choose Medela breastfeeding products, you’re doing what’s best for you both.”

I can see how that rankles a little. I believe that breastfeeding is usually what is best for both mom and baby.

However, rare is the modern mom who never has call for a pump. Even though my babies hated bottles, I still used a pump during my daughter’s heart operation and during both of their nursing strikes.

Medela justifies its change in its marketing by pointing to consumer questions over the BPA-free status of its products.

And while surely the company is also looking at its bottom line, I do believe it is legitimately addressing a consumer demand in advertising its bottles. Arguments that moms “already know” about Medela bottles if they use Medela pumps seem to assume a level of consumer savvy across the board that I’m not sure exists. Active in moms’ groups on and offline, I can tell you that moms who do not venture online as often just are not as aware of consumer information as those who do.

And, ultimately, I just do not have a problem with a breastpump company marketing its bottles.

In today’s world, a company that does not reach out directly to its consumers, through store displays, through events, and yes, through social media is not going to maintain its profile and market share for long.

A stronger, more responsive, more involved Medela is a company that is better able to work with advocates to promote breastfeeding as the best option. And Medela has shown itself to be a responsible and zealous partner in the past.

Although I appreciate the principled stand of severing ties with any company judged to be in violation of the WHO code, I would urge those looking at this issue to consider Medela’s marketing in the context of both the current consumer climate and Medela’s strong support of breastfeeding mothers.

How to Breastfeed (Or Just Look Like You Know What You Are Doing)

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!

As a mama who has had one breastfeeding champ who instantly stepped up to the bar for her first drink of milk and another who took his time learning to latch, here are my tips about “How to Breastfeed.”

1. Nothing Beats a Live Demonstration

Breastfeeding, like much of parenting, is one of those skills you mostly pick up on the job. It never hurts to prepare a little, though, and get comfortable with the idea.

Most hospitals offer classes where you can pepper the lactation consultant with whatever questions pop into your head.

And, of course, KellyMom is a treasure trove of information for first timers and old pros, alike.

I find that breastfeeding is something that is easiest to understand when you actually see it done. In fact, I’m convinced that one of the reasons we struggle with breastfeeding so much as a culture is because it has become rare and hidden. Fortunately, you can easily find breastfeeding tips on video on YouTube.

2. Relax
When my son was born, we were separated for a few hours after his birth as I needed some surgery following the delivery. When he came to me, he was sleepy and the doctors were concerned about his blood sugar because of his weight (over 10 lbs).

I could not understand why what had been so simple with my daughter was so hard with my son. And the nurses who were pressuring me and insisting a baby that large needed formula if he didn’t breastfeed RIGHT NOW were not helping matters much.

He would fuss, I’d try to feed, he’d cry, I’d get stressed, he’d pick up on that. The harder you try, sometimes, the harder it becomes.

As difficult as it can be, take a deep breath and relax.

With all the articles about the benefits of breastfeeding, it can be easy to become goal oriented about it. Remember, though, that the point is not to force feed your baby, but to establish a beautiful bond that will grow with your relationship.

3. Get Back to Basics

As part of relaxing, pare down. Send everyone away (unless they make you feel relaxed), turn off the lights, get close and cuddle skin to skin with your baby, do whatever makes you feel most relaxed.

Offer the opportunity to breastfeed but do not push it.

As soon as you can, learn to breastfeed lying down–you’ll get a lot more rest if you do.

4. Be Flexible

I’m guessing many lactation consultants will disagree with this, but if you are having trouble with getting started, my personal opinion is to just let your baby latch however works for the two of you. There is a lot of emphasis on correct technique, which I do believe is important for a successful breastfeeding relationship, but sometimes it is just good to start nursing so both you and your baby know you can do it. You can always fix the positioning and latch later.

5. Reach Out

One of the many remarkable things about becoming a mother is that you gain a new understanding of the importance of community. I encourage you to reach out to other mothers even while you are pregnant. If you find you are having difficulty breastfeeding, I strongly recommend asking for help from someone who has experience coaching new moms with breastfeeding.

With my first, I was desperate to learn to feed her in a sling so I could continue whatever I was doing if she got hungry while we were out. Our hospital offered the services of a free lactation consultant and she helped me figure out this neat and convenient technique. If you do not have access to a lactation consultant, La Leche League is a great resource–you’ll find experts and experienced mamas and other new mothers just like you.

To all the mamas out there, I wish you the best as you begin your beautiful relationship with your child. I hope that breastfeeding becomes a joyful experience that helps you build that bond.

I’m writing this post for the Carnival of Breastfeeding.

Don’t miss these posts from other bloggers (updated throughout the day):


Photo Credit: The Blessed Virgin Breastfeeding

We’re so Breastfeeding-Friendly, We Do Everything Except Let You Nurse Your Baby

Basking in the joy of the birth of my new, giant baby boy, I wanted to stay positive.

Still, I’d like to share my experience breastfeeding in the hospital in case it helps anyone.

Part of the reason I chose our hospital is because it is more open to a more natural birthing experience than other hospitals in the area. And, although I think this is probably true, that is unfortunately a sad commentary.

My baby and I are breastfeeding well and everyone is doing great–but I fear that if I had not already successfully breastfed my first or if I were less informed or less assertive, our breastfeeding would have been sabotaged.

Immediately following birth, barring any urgent medical needs, my baby was supposed to be placed immediately on me. Since he was so large and stuck during part of the labor, they wanted pediatrics to check him out (which I fully understand–although I suspect this could have been done with him on me, as was done with my first child). However, after they verified he had not been harmed at all during the labor, they continued with the routine, non-urgent procedures.

I kept telling them, “I want my baby! Give me my baby!” but they did not hand him over until they were done. Although in the grand scheme of it all, this is minor, I was sad that I missed that magical feeling I had with the first when she was exactly the same temperature as me and stepped her way to the breast.

After they handed him to me, I had a short time to breastfeed before they took me to repair the tear. I got him to latch on one side and just as he finished, I was placing him to the other breast when the nurse (not the Certified Nurse Midwife) came in an said, “I have to weigh him.”

I told her was breastfeeding and it could wait.

She replied that I was getting “crazy” with the breastfeeding (huh?).

I stood my ground and responded calmly (really, I swear) that he had just finished one side and I was going to feed him on the other and then she could take as many measurements as she liked.

She got very snotty and said that she was going to have to go tell the doctor that I was not allowing her to do her job.

That says a lot right there about her perception of her role and the hospital’s role in birthing babies.

Of course, she’s just one person, and my husband overheard some other nurses speaking of her in a negative way, but at the very least some retraining needs to be done.

Following the repair, I was placed in temporary Operating Room Recovery until the epidural wore off (they had given me more medication during the repair). As they wheeled me in, I saw my husband. I called out, “Why aren’t you with our son?” Perhaps not the most pleasant greeting, but I was starting to lose a bit of trust in the hospital.

“They want to give him a bottle,” he told me.

“What for?” Now I was starting to get a little nuts, “Is he okay?”

“Yes,” he reassured me, “But they said his blood sugar will start dropping because he is so big, so they want to give him a bottle. And they said if they wait too long, breastmilk won’t do it”

“But I’m breastfeeding! Bring him to me! And I’ll feed him!” I was in full on mother bear mode and unfortunately they had sent my husband and there was no target for my protective rage. My poor husband kept going back and forth to tell me the baby’s blood sugar level and to try to negotiate with the doctors to allow my son to come to me.

They first lied and told us he was under the warming lights (he wasn’t and he was perfectly healthy so there was no reason to hold him there) and then admitted they just “did not have the personnel” to bring him to me from the nursery. Now this is not a huge hospital. It takes two minutes to walk from the nursery to where I was. And post-op had no problem with me feeding him in recovery. The staff in the nursery was creating a situation where they would need to give him a bottle because they would not let me breastfeed.

And there was no reason for him to be in the nursery, anyway, as I was rooming in with him and would be in the room as soon as the maternity ward would accept me–as soon as the medication wore off. The post-op staff again was very helpful. I asked them, “How mobile? Like walking or just some approximation thereof?” They told me that maternity liked people walking but they would start releasing me as soon as I could bend both knees. I had one leg already moving and was trying to get the other one working. Eventually they took pity on me and pretended not to notice as I grabbed one of my legs with my hand and said, “Look, it is moving!”

Finally, we were in maternity recovery and they brought me my son! With the delay, it took time and patience to get him to latch. Of course, as soon as he fed his blood sugar was fine and he was healthy and wonderful.

But they had one more curve ball to throw at me–the next day they came without any notice to take him for his circumcision. They said I could not feed him even though he was due right then for another feeding. I was concerned, but they assured me it would just be an hour and then he’d be back. Three hours later…it was now six hours since my son had fed and the poor thing had just been circumcised. He was upset and had difficulty latching.

Then they started harassing me because he had not urinated since the circumcision…again they wanted to give him formula. I told them to go away and leave us alone. Of course, once he fed a few times, he was fine.

The kicker was that the day we were checking out, after all this was over, the lactation consultant comes by, sees me nursing, says “good latch,” quizzes me (how do you know if the baby is getting enough?), and then leaves. Gee, that’s helpful.

While I’m complaining, on a completely unrelated note, I got the demonically possessed hospital bed. The bed is for patients who cannot move and it automatically adjusts as you move. So when I shifted my weight in my sleep, the bed moved, waking me. If I lowered it so I could get out to use the bathroom, it raised. And of course it was noisy, too.

As you can imagine, I could not wait to break out of that place!

To add one last final insult, they insisted I be pushed out in a wheelchair by a staff member. I would have protested, but I just wanted to leave.

I think if I have a third birth, I’m going to just make the absurdly long drive to the nearest birthing center or do it at home.

All of this is not to say you cannot breastfeed if medical need requires your child to have a bottle early on, nor is it to criticize those who choose to formula feed–but just to show how hospital policies that are not always rooted in actual medical need, can create problems during the crucial early stage of breastfeeding. This is why we need to promote breastfeeding and support nursing mamas!

Okay… end rant. Back to enjoying motherhood!

Promoting Breastfeeding and Supporting Mamas

I started writing this post on MOMformation and it just felt too long, too serious, and too preachy…so over there I am publishing the TOP TEN REASONS I LOVE BREASTFEEDING and I thought I’d bore the 30 people who read this blog instead with my more philosophical ramblings 😉

You’ve heard it all before, all the benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child and their relationship. And, no doubt, if you are planning to or are breastfeeding, you’ve read all the breastfeeding tips and advice on sites like BabyCenter and KellyMom. So, if the information is out there, why are so few U.S. mothers breastfeeding?

Certainly it isn’t a lack of willingness to try. Seventy-five percent of new U.S. moms start breastfeeding but by six months that number drops to just thirty-six percent. Some small percentage are, no doubt, physically unable to breastfeed. But is something else at play here?

Personally, I breastfed my daughter exclusively (no formula and she refused the bottle) for six and a half months. I loved the convenience. I’m lazy like that. And I appreciated how she enjoyed the milk and thrived. Despite a congenital heart condition that would usually make feeding and gaining weight difficult, she hit the 90th percentile curve and followed that until she started walking. And given her medical vulnerability, I felt that any immune boost was helpful. And speaking of weight, mine dropped off immediately.

But I’m well aware that there are as many different experiences with breastfeeding as there are mothers who try to breastfeed. Why is it that so many women struggle with breastfeeding and stop before six months? How can we support women who wish to breastfeed without pressuring those who do not?

I am not a doctor, nor a sociologist. I am a mother, a friend, and a confidant. Listening to my friends, I hear common threads emerge in their stories.

Some of my friends had experiences similar to mine, finding breastfeeding initially exhausting but eventually liberating. A few struggled through immense amounts of pain due to medical conditions or infections but persevered. I’m not saying a mother should have to do that–I’m not sure I would. I even met a woman on a support board who was an adoptive mother trying to stimulate lactation. Whatever your opinion about that, I have to admire the dedication.

However, quite a few of the women I know, after bouts with postpartum depression or other illness, attempts to pump exclusively, or returning to work full time, eventually decided that breastfeeding was not a fit for their families.

A family’s decision how to feed its baby any nutritious food is their own business. I never question any individual mama’s decision to stop breastfeeding–her child, her body, her call. At the same time, I find the trend that the vast majority of mothers are not breastfeeding to six months, let alone a year, concerning as a “big picture.”

I have a few theories about this trend, and I’d be interested in your ideas.

  1. Marketing of Formula: Many doctors claim they support breastfeeding and encourage breastfeeding, but yet the offices and magazines are jam-packed with glossy ads, coupons, and offers of free samples for formula. Thank goodness formula is available for those mothers who are unable to breastfeed or choose not to. And, I certainly have no issue with companies making money. However, there is little money to be made off of breastfeeding and so, in terms of marketing dollars, it just can’t compete with formula.
  2. Medical Interventions During Delivery: Again, thank goodness for modern science. Medical interventions save babies every day. At the same time, with incredibly high rates of c-sections, some mothers and babies miss out on the first opportunity to breastfeed. Often they are still able to breastfeed, but for some this sets the stage for a stressful breastfeeding relationship.
  3. Lack of Breastfeeding Role Models: I think this is a big one. My friends and I are mostly boomer children. Our mothers, with a few exceptions, graduated college and were determined to be more than housewives and technology promised to set them free. Now grandmothers, they have, with few exceptions, any breastfeeding experience to pass along.
  4. Fears of Breastfeeding in Public: Some women may be more naturally or culturally shy about breastfeeding in public. It certainly does not help when people make nasty remarks or even try to push the woman off into an inconvenient and sometimes even uncomfortable and unhygienic place to feed her baby. In certain areas bottle feeding mothers have received nasty stares and remarks, too. And no mama needs a judgmental stranger harassing her during a vulnerable time. Truth is, there are jerks of every stripe. My guess, though, is that the mom with the bottle is not going to stop feeding her child with a bottle (because how else would she feed her baby if she’s already stopped breastfeeding?), whereas the mom with the babe at the breast may be bullied into stopping.

What helped me feel comfortable with breastfeeding in public and keep going was finding a supportive online community to share thoughts, fears, and tips about breastfeeding. What challenges do you think create these low numbers? If you tried breastfeeding and stopped, why? And if you tried breastfeeding and kept going, why? I hope you’ll take a few more moments to let me know!

Photos: Pecho y lectura by Daquealla manera; Nursing in public, the horror! by karynsig; Oh my God! by chispita