Please share this blog post with the people you care about… Whether they breastfed or formula fed. The information must get out there! Help me raise awareness.
This blog post is written in honor of Melissa Taylor. You truly inspire me.
As I was awaiting my daughter’s arrival, in 2007, I distinctly remember telling EVERYONE I knew that I intended to breastfeed. My reasoning behind this, was because I knew that many women face challenges with breastfeeding, including stigma, soreness, blistering, bleeding, mastitis and more, and I wanted to be successful at nursing my daughter, until she was ready to wean herself. I also knew that if I had the support of my friends and family, that my rate of success would be greater than if I didn’t have any support. The more education and support a woman receives, the more successful she will be at nursing her baby.
Sydney was born, and I had some challenges, because of a poor latch, and the information I received from the hospital was conflicting. One nurse would tell me to do it one way, while another nurse would inform me of another way that didn’t make sense. In the end, I left the hospital not feeling well informed, and at the one week mark, I could not nurse from my right breast, because of blistering. I called my friend Maggie who had successfully nursed her daughter, and she brought a book to me, and helped Sydney achieve a proper latch!!! I was so overjoyed. I knew I would be successful at nursing.
Breastfeeding, for me was full of joy, and the bond that Sydney and I developed was incredible. She self-weaned at 13 months of age, and between birth and 13 months, we had quite the journey. Breastfeeding in America can be filled with negativity toward the mother, and people think breastfeeding is somehow strange.
Melissa Taylor, of Tampa, Florida was told recently that it was inappropriate to nurse her two year old daughter in the lobby of her daughter’s school. As I read this story, and learned more about the challenges she was facing, I became incredibly angry at how misinformed and ignorant people sounded as they responded to one particular online news story.
How is it that breastfeeding is an issue at all (much less breastfeeding in public)?! Are there not bigger issues than breastfeeding? And where do these issues come from? Are people offended by the act of feeding a baby from a body part that has been so over-sexualized in our society, and/or is it that women have been so marginalized and sexualized that breasts are now viewed exclusively as sexual objects? Should we not be fired up and angry that an estimated 16.7 million children do not receive adequate nutrition and often go to bed hungry in America?! And equally, should we not be infuriated that children are experiencing obesity at alarming rates?! There are huge, monumental problems having to do with food in the United States, and breastfeeding should not be included in those problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 73.9% of all American women begin breastfeeding. By three months, only 33.1% are breastfeeding exclusively, and the rates drop off as the time progresses. At 6 months, 13.6% of all moms are still breastfeeding exclusively, and 43.4% are breastfed with other forms of nutrition also being given. At 12 months of age, 22.7% of mothers are still breastfeeding. To read more, and see the CDC’s statistical data, please visit their Breastfeeding page. Please also view your state’s breastfeeding rates; click here.
Obviously, with these statistics, there is a disconnect. So much is fed to women, about parenting in general, but breastfeeding especially seems to have a lot of societal stigma attached to it. Along with stigma, there is misinformation, a lack of education, and a lack of support of new mothers to breastfeed. It seems easier for new moms (according to the results of studies and evidenced by the statistics of the CDC) to move to formula as their babies’ nutrition. Infant formula companies make a killing yearly, and spend extravagant amounts of money to market their product to families. It is suggested by formula companies that the second choice behind breastfeeding is formula, but this is untrue. The second choice is breast milk expressed in some way and then fed to the baby, the third being the human breast milk of another mother, and the last choice is formula feeding.
BARRIERS TO BREASTFEEDING
In the United States, 98%-99% of all births take place in hospitals, and our maternity care system has protocols and policies in place that are not evidence based and will either help or hinder (most of the time hinder) the breastfeeding initiation. For instance, it is well known that medications during labor affect breastfeeding (if a baby is lethargic because of drugs in his or her system, latching on may be nearly impossible). Separation of mother and baby is also known to hinder breastfeeding (no skin-to-skin bonding) (Please watch the video below concerning breastfeeding and the effects medicated birth and separation have on the baby’s ability to breastfeed). And what about hospitals sending formula home with families “just in case”. The first 24 hours is vitally important to establish a breastfeeding relationship, and it’s a shame that protocols of our maternity care system often retard this relationship.
There seems to be a huge lack of support and education surrounding breastfeeding. Because people do not know anyone who did it, and they may not know where to turn for resources and help, it becomes easy to look to what is familiar.
Our schools do not teach about breastfeeding as a normal, natural and healthy way to nourish our children. In the case of Melissa Taylor in Tampa, Florida, it was clearly seen as inappropriate (I’m guessing viewed as sexually inappropriate) in the lobby of her daughter’s school.
Women often think that since they were not breastfed, they turned out “all right”, and don’t need to breastfeed their children. Can you think of the potential in our society if more children were breastfed?! And what about the potential of the moms who turned out “all right”, could they not have been fantastic, incredible, genius, unbelievable, instead of just “all right”?
Formula companies so vigorously market themselves, that their ads are appearing as “breastfeeding help” on webpage and blog ads. Can you imagine the effect this has on a desperate mother who is not firm in her breastfeeding relationship? It is intentional misleading advertising by the formula companies, but they profit hugely from it. Please visit the following site to learn more about this misleading information. PhD in Parenting – Sabotage
I spoke to an expectant mother about whether she will breast feed or formula feed. She stated she would formula feed, to which I asked some questions. Here is what she told me: she does not know anyone personally who breastfeeds or has breastfed, she was not breastfed as a baby, nor were her siblings, she thinks it will be difficult and inconvenient to breastfeed/pump as she continues with college. And my guess is, because she knows no one that has breastfed, there is little support and education about breastfeeding in her community, and in her direct environment. (While this is her choice to formula feed, because of lack of education and support about breastfeeding surrounding her, it is a largely uninformed decision. Most of decisions made out of lack of support and education are made out of fear. Mothers who are in this situation are not to blame, instead, we must look at who is accountable for the lack of education and support concerning breastfeeding, and also at the huge formula companies that market their product in a seemingly appealing way.)
We live in a society of instant gratification, and formula feeding caters to this society. While breastfeeding proves to be much easier in the long-run than formula feeding, the hump women have to get over to get there is not instantly gratifying to most women. So, because of lack of support, education, and confidence to push through the challenges of breastfeeding, they choose to formula feed.
THE COST OF FORMULA FEEDING
Childhood obesity is on the rise. According to Breastfeeding Fights Obesity, in Atlanta, it is estimated that 15%-20% of obesity could have been prevented by breastfeeding.
Childhood illnesses and diseases (ear infections, diarrhea, asthma, respiratory problems, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), Type-1 Diabetes, multiple sclerosis, breast cancer in girls, Hodgkin’s Disease, Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), urinary tract infections, vision problems, tooth decay, to name quite a few) that are preventable by breastfeeding account for $3.6 BILLION in insurance costs by both public and private insurers. This doesn’t only effect insurance costs, but also effects the amount of time mothers of formula fed babies spend out of work (which then accounts for the additional health claims made by employers).
Not breastfeeding can cause health problems in the mother, to include: excessive bleeding after giving birth (this is caused because oxytocin is not produced to help the blood vessels in the uterus clamp down properly), ovarian cancer, breast cancer before menopause, for mothers who had gestational diabetes, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is higher, and osteoporosis.)
Formula feeding also has a HUGE impact on the environment! Not only does it contribute to factory farming and the waste that comes from that, but it also creates a lot of pollution because of the packaging of the product.
MISLEADING FORMULA ADS
If the costs of formula feeding are not enough to convince you that breastfeeding is a more nutritionally sound and superior option, please consider the following. Formula companies have made bogus claims about the superpowers of their products. Sure, I understand that they need people to buy formula, but to misinform the public is criminal, and frankly, for you formula moms out there, you should be OUTRAGED! One such company is Mead Johnson, the company that manufactures Enfamil. Mead Johnson has been caught making bogus claims about their formula FIVE times (and lost 3 federal lawsuits concerning these bogus claims), with the latest claim being that theirs is the only formula that promotes brain growth and eye development. Enfamil Premium has NOT been proven to be superior to other formulas in the performance areas suggested. On the contrary, all formula companies receive their ingredients from the same supplier. Refer to Strike Five for more information about this.
Breast milk will always be the best, most nutritionally sound first food for your baby.
Breastfeeding provides a lower risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Hugely important reason to consider breastfeeding if you are not right now!
Infant mortality rates in the first year of life are reduced by 21% in breastfed babies. (Again, epic reason to consider breastfeeding).
Breastfeeding enhances the effectiveness of some vaccinations.
Immune system booster through white blood cells provided through breast milk help to fight off infections.
Reduction in the diseases and illnesses listed above in bold and italics.
Less environmental impact (no waste associated with packaging). Does not contribute to factory farming and the pollution associated with that.
Lower private and public insurance costs for families who breastfeed. (Less work missed, too).
Reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Reduction in childhood cancers (Hodgkin’s and leukemia)
Reduces high blood pressure, obesity, and bad cholesterol levels later in life.
Eczema and asthma rates are lower in infants who breastfeed exclusively for 4 months.
Lowered incidence of bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis)
In premature babies, breast milk helps the brain stem to mature.
In premature babies, hospital costs and the length of stay are reduced significantly as well.
For the mother, less bleeding following birth, again, because of the oxytocin levels.
In some, but not all women who breastfeed exclusively, delayed ovulation and menstruation for up to 20-30 weeks. This is nature’s way of caring for the baby, and protecting the bond between mother and baby (thus ensuring the survival of the species).
Bonding is enhanced with mothers who breastfeed (again, oxytocin, and there is a special, empowering feeling of sustaining life through breast milk that mothers produce.)
Lowered risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes (in women without a history of gestational diabetes), pre-menopausal breast cancer, and ovarian cancers. These risks lower the longer a woman breastfeeds.
HOW LONG CAN/SHOULD BABIES/CHILDREN BE BREASTFED?
According to the La Leche League’s website, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding babies exclusively for six months, and for two years or more beyond that, coupled with a nutritionally balanced diet. The page I found on the La Leche League’s website is super informative, and for that reason, I will use their quotations, because there is no possible way I can state better what they have so clearly stated: (La Leche League – Breastfeeding Toddlers)
A breastfed baby is dependent on his mother for both food and comfort. This may frighten people in cultures that place a high value on self-sufficiency. A breastfed baby will not be satisfied with anyone other than his mother, and therefore may be regarded by some as a liability, when in fact, a baby simply knows what he needs for his own good.
Some cultures fear that continuing to breastfeed until a child weans on his own will make him more dependent on his mother. Instead of viewing extended nursing as something to question, perhaps the real query should be, “What is there to be gained by abruptly putting an end to the breastfeeding relationship?” It’s interesting that some people think that a child won’t grow out of breastfeeding unless he is forced. In reality, it’s a natural process for children to outgrow breastfeeding on their own. Independence, not dependence, is one outstanding trait that breastfed children who self-wean have in common (Ferguson 1987).
The benefits (for the toddler) of breastfeeding toddlers are huge. Breastfeeding toddlers enriches all of the following areas: Immune system health, Oral development, IQ score, Independence, and Self-Esteem. Again, I am quoting the La Leche League’s website, because the information is so complete (La Leche League – Breastfeeding Toddlers):
Human milk is the primary source of nutrition during a baby’s first year. It becomes a supplement to solids during the second year, but it maintains nutritional value, as well emotional benefits for toddlers.
Immune system: It takes between two and six years for a child’s immune system to fully mature. Human milk continues to complement and boost the immune system for as long as it is offered (AAP 1997; Goldman 1983; Gulick 1986; Mohrbacher and Stock 2003; Saarinen 1982). Research on the incidence of illness in breastfed or weaned toddlers reflects these dynamics. Breastfeeding toddlers between 16 and 30 months old have been found to have fewer types and shorter duration of illness and to require less medical care than their non-breastfeeding peers (Gulick 1986).
Oral development: Breastfeeding provides a natural outlet for non-nutritive sucking that promotes proper oral development, which has been found to improve speech (Davis 1991; Labbok and Hendershot 1987; Broad and Duganzich 1983).
IQ score: Extensive research on the relationship between cognitive achievement (IQ scores, grades in school) and breastfeeding has shown the greatest gains for those children breastfed the longest (van den Bogaard 1991).
Independence: The process that children go through while growing toward independence is a difficult one. Breastfeeding can provide feelings of love, comfort, and protection. When a mother makes herself available to nurse her child through a situation that he can’t handle alone, he will likely develop independence based on faith that mother will be there to help. As a child gets older, there are fewer and fewer such situations. Provided a child isn’t prevented from exercising his developing capabilities, independence comes with his increasing competence (Bumgarner 2000).
Self-Esteem: Babies and young children nurse when they are lonely, frightened, or in pain and responsive mothering through breastfeeding leads to enhanced bonding. Allowing a toddler to nurse (or wean) at his own pace is an expression of trust that contributes to his self-esteem.
Breastfeeding toddlers also benefits the mother too! These are some of the advantages for mom: Stress relieving qualities to nursing a toddler, bonding quiet time during hectic days, decreased disease risk (pre-menopausal breast cancer for women who breastfeed children for several years, a reduced risk of osteoporosis), and decreased fertility during nursing relationship (lactational amenorrhea) (La Leche League – Breastfeeding Toddlers).
Parenting is an exhausting business. When a mother says how tired or stressed she is, some people may point to breastfeeding as the culprit. In reality, there are many benefits of extended nursing to mothers, some of which include:
Stress relieving qualities: Breast-feeding suppresses the nervous system’s hormonal response to stress, which is why many mothers recognize that they feel calmer and better able to cope with whatever comes along while nursing.
A few guaranteed calm moments in a day: Parenting can be hectic. Toddlers are bursting with energy and find a lot of interesting things to keep them busy. There are times — however brief — when a mother can count on breastfeeding to provide soothing quality time to calm an upset toddler or to reconnect and bond with her child.
Decreased risk of diseases: One study found a decreased risk of breast cancer among breastfeeding mothers, with the greatest risk reduction seen in women whose total amount of breastfeeding for one or more children totals several years (Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer 2002). A mother’s risk of osteoporosis (and other diseases) is also reduced by extended breastfeeding (Gwinn et al. 1990; Hartge et al. 1989; Rosenblatt, Thomas, and WHO 1993).
Amenorrhea: The amount of natural infertility experienced while breastfeeding is known as lactational amenorrhea. Many mothers experience reduced fertility when nursing past a year, with some women going as long as two years or more without menstruating.
Even after the time during which nursing alone is a reliable contraceptive has passed, many mothers continue to enjoy freedom from menstruation and from the physical and emotional effects of ovulation and menstruation” (Bumgarner 2000).
The following is also from the La Leche League website, concerning myths about extended breastfeeding.
Myths about Entending Nursing and Late Weaning
- Myth: A child will never wean on his own.
- Fact: Children grow and change dramatically in the first several years of life, and their interest in nursing changes as they do. Children want to nurse only as long as it fills a need for them. Sometimes this need will last for several years, sometimes far less. A need that is filled will go away.
- Myth: A child who is still nursing is too dependent.
- Fact: Toddlers have many needs that linger from babyhood, including the need to cuddle, the need to be comforted, and the need for help when falling asleep. These needs are all naturally met through nursing, and it is a wise mother who recognizes and honors her child’s need to be dependent. Trusting the child in this way builds self-confidence needed for later independence.
- Myth: Extended nursing is a sign of sexual problems.
- Fact: Children who nurse for several years do not appear to be affected in any way in their sexual development. They may actually grow up to be more comfortable with their bodies and with relationships.
- Myth: An older nursing child won’t learn self-comforting skills.
- Fact: Giving your child the comfort of breastfeeding is actually the best way to teach self-comforting skills in the long run. It is from this early relationship with you that he learns much about his needs and how to get them met in constructive, self-initiated ways.
- Myth: Prolonged nursing is too fatiguing for a mother.
- Fact: Many mothers find that nursing is one way they are able to rest, since nursing assures that there are a few times in every day when the mother can put her feet up and relax with her child.
- Myth: The longer you wait to wean, the harder it will be.
- Fact: As children get older, encouraging weaning often gets easier, not harder, since older children have a greater ability to reason and a wider repertoire of interests. When your child is ready to wean, it will be easy.
- Myth: It’s better to wean suddenly and get it over with.
- Fact: Weaning slowly is one of the many areas in your relationship with your child where going slowly pays off in the long term. There are no instant fixes that don’t have a cost. By weaning gradually and employing gentle techniques, you will maintain your child’s inner security and trust for you.
- Myth: A mother who nurses an older child is doing it to fill some need in herself.
- Fact: Many mothers explain that their satisfaction and pleasure in nursing declines as the child gets older, and if they continue to nurse, it is primarily because it is important to their child. Older children are usually not coerced to nurse, they are allowed to nurse.
Source: Bengson 1999
The following are stories that have influenced the breastfeeding relationships between mothers and their babies. These stories are both positive and negative. It should be noted that if a woman has not established a positive nursing relationship with her baby, negative comments have a HUGE, GIANT detrimental impact on the nursing relationship. Mothers who are well established in breastfeeding often use negative comments as fuel for their fire to continue, and/or seek to educate the person who is making the negative comment.
My husband’s family was so incredibly welcoming, accomomdating, loving, and kind as I established my nursing relationship with Sydney. If they entered the room while I was nursing, they praised me, smiled at me, and never made a big deal out of it. They knew I was feeding my baby, and it was extremely normal in their home. My husband was nursed as a baby, as was his brother. On a couple of instances, his grandfather walked into the room, and I tried to cover myself with a blanket, he was so kind to tell me that was not necessary. After that, I felt so comfortable with nursing.
My grandmother, who is a southern lady and thinks modesty is important encouraged me not to nurse in public. While I appreciated her point of view, I knew that if Sydney was hungry and needed to nurse, no matter where we were, I was going to nurse her. I always felt the need to use a nursing cover when I was out in public, and I realize now, that I brought much more attention to myself than I would have if I had just simply nursed her without it.
A young female soldier at Ft. Bragg, one day, in a food court laughed and pointed at me as I nursed Sydney. I continued to nurse Sydney, but I remember being very uncomfortable and self-conscious about nursing her.
Sydney’s pediatrician, whom we respect and like, told us at 8 months of age, that she was not growing properly, and that she needed to be put on formula to gain weight. Being a new mom, and not knowing what to research, or even where to start, I started her on formula. (She still did not gain weight). I argued the point that she was breastfed, that she has two petite parents, and that she was on par developmentally in every other area, and still this made no difference to the pediatrician. Sydney still is small for her age, so the amount of nourishment she was receiving had little to do with her growth curve, instead it had everything to do with the medical community needing to chart, graph, and compare her to every other child, based on formula fed babies’ growth curves.
A lady in a restaurant stopped to ask questions about nursing, and my nursing cover. She thought it was a wonderful gift that I was giving to Sydney. I, of course, agreed.
I am 37, and currently breastfeeding my second son, Braden (he is turning 1 this weekend). He was born without meds in Virginia. I breastfed my first son, Bridger, until he was a few months shy of 3 years old (by that time it was mostly nap/bed time). I received a lot of questions from girlfriends, funny looks, back-handed comments… Mostly “Sharon, are you STILL nursing him?” or “When are you going to STOP nursing him, Sharon?”I was surprised my well-educated peers, friends, and neighbors are skeptical about extended breastfeeding. They have MBAs, one is a lawyer, one is an IT manager, they are married to doctors — WHY do these women think an extended breastfeeding relationship is strange? That I am codependent on my baby? Why are we so willing to get degrees and become educated in other areas, but FORGET what’s natural?Surprisingly, I found perfect strangers to be less difficult. For instance, in stores, such as Target or Wal-Mart, I would tell the dressing room attendant, “I need to nurse my baby, would be it be okay to use a room?” and most of the time never even saw a raised eyebrow.
Breastfeeding often does not cause breast sagginess. Genetics, age, the size and consistency of the breasts, and the actual pregnancy (or multiple pregnancies) have more to do with it than breastfeeding. So if you’re thinking your breasts might be ruined if you breastfeed, this will depend on several factors, not the breastfeeding itself, so go for it, it’s for an excellent cause.
The United States has one of the highest rates of babies being fed infant formula in the world!!!
It is entirely possible to breastfeed AND work a full-time job. One of my best friends has been doing it for the past 16 months. She is one of my heroes, she breastfeeds when she is with her little girl, pumps for when she won’t be available, and works a full-time job.
Breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day!!!!!!
Silicone (Lily Padz)
BREASTFEEDING BOOKS FOR MOM:
The Breastfeeding Book by William and Martha Sears
The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins (Currently reading for doula training, EXCELLENT book!)
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International (Friend Maggie gave me this book, and I passed it on to a friend, EXCELLENT book!)
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Jack Newman, MD and Teresa Pitman
BREASTFEEDING BOOKS FOR CHILDREN:
I’m Made of Mama’s Milk by Mary Olsen
We Like to Nurse by Chia Martin
My Very Breast Friend by David and Mutiya Vision (We have this book, and Sydney absolutely loves it!)
Special thanks to the moms who helped me write this blog! Thank you so much for your contribution, pictures and stories!!!
(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTRIBUTE PICTURES OR YOUR STORY, PLEASE SEND THEM TO: firstname.lastname@example.org)