Recently I read a blog post a friend of mine posted on facebook. You can read it here…
Typically, I’m not one to get involved with controversial subjects just because I don’t like to stir up trouble. But, this one I think is interesting. Breastfeeding. Just saying the word creates either an instant bond between two mothers or an uncomfortable explanation of why one mother is and one mother isn’t breastfeeding.
It’s interesting to me the animosity created between women that all want the same thing…healthy children. Mothers. Mothers attacking other mothers for their choice to breastfeed or not. Admittedly, I have had my own thoughts on women that don’t even try to breastfeed because of whatever reason they have. But, I refuse to shut out these mothers because of their decisions. Instead, I’m choosing to share my own breastfeeding story and hopefully, it will change some minds about breastfeeding or at least lead to some thinking.
As most readers of my blog know, my son Christopher was born at 29 weeks and 5 days. I hadn’t had time to think about breastfeeding, let alone make a decision about whether or not I was going to do it. I knew that my mother was unable to breastfeed me because the doctors told her I was jaundiced and needed to be supplemented. I also knew that she did breastfeed my brother for about 6 months until her mother told her to stop. Another thing I knew was that I was really uncomfortable with the idea of breastfeeding because of the whole baby latching on to your boob thing.
But, up to the point Christopher was born I hadn’t made any kind of decision about what I was going to do. I was pretty sure I was going to at least give it a try mainly because of the cost of formula.
When Christopher was born so early, I felt like the decision was made for me. I hadn’t read all of the “breast is best” propaganda or all of the message boards with women berating each other for their choices. I knew that my son was born 2.5 months early, was struggling for his life, and my doctor told me that breastmilk would give him a better chance.
I was still groggy when the nurse came in with the hospital grade pump and the equipment that went with it. She showed me how to use it and I managed to get about an ounce out. Because babies don’t develop a suck and swallow reflex until 32 weeks, I couldn’t even try to breastfeed Christopher. He had to be fed through a tube. For the first 4 weeks of Christopher’s life, MY life revolved around an every 3 hour pumping schedule. I would pump at the hospital and at home and bring it in for Christopher. He was never once given formula.
After week 4 we started teaching him to take a bottle with breastmilk in it and then eventually I was allowed to breastfeed him. He was a champ. I told one of the nurses it was because he was a “boob man!”
I continued pumping even after Christopher was home so that I could feed him bottles when we were out in public. Because even though I was totally committed to breastfeeding, I didn’t like the way people reacted to breastfeeding mothers in public. I don’t like being judged as I know others don’t like being judged.
My goal was to breastfeed Christopher for one year, the recommended amount of time and I made it two weeks short of his first birthday when he lost all interest. I would have kept going too if he hadn’t tried to crawl away every time we sat down for it! I firmly believe that my pumping for Christopher helped him gain the weight he needed faster and grow healthier and to leave the NICU almost a month before his original due date. Typically, preemies end up in the hospital at least once or twice in their first year of life after their original release because of health related issues. Christopher had a few minor colds his first year and that was it.
My goal in this post is not to alienate anyone for their decisions. I do, however, believe that we need more education and support in making these decisions. In this country women are not getting the support from the medical community that they need to at least feel comfortable trying to breastfeed. They are also being bombarded with adds and free samples of formula, even some of the baby websites are sponsored by formula companies. These companies make it that much easier for women to pick formula because it’s easily accessible.
I also know that formula was made for a reason. There really are women out there that are unable to breastfeed. I don’t believe that these women should be made to feel guilty for their inadequacies either. But, maybe instead of pumping so much money into formula companies we should be looking into milk banks or ways to share milk. The nurses in the NICU actually told me I could donate my milk because I made so much. But, there is a ton of red tape involved.
We need to as a society, support each other regardless of whether we are breastfeeding, supplementing, or formula feeding. We need to band together for education for new mothers in all aspects of parenting, specifically breastfeeding. We are all mothers striving for the same thing…healthy, happy children.