I had the joy of going to Target today with Sydney, since I knew the Halloween costumes would be discounted. We got everything we needed, then headed for the check out lines. As we approached, I heard the distinctive “hungry” cry of a very new baby. We walked past, and the mother looked exasperated, and the baby, who had clearly been crying for a very long time, was beginning to turn a shade of purple from crying so much. Initially, I wondered what was going on, why was the mother not holding her tiny baby, did she not know that her baby was hungry? As I quietly assessed the situation from where I was standing, I figured out that the mother is probably a new mother, and new to breastfeeding as well. I guessed this from what she was wearing, a shirt, and a very poofy vest (in case of milk leakage), and from her hesitation to hold the baby, especially close to her breasts. When she was ready to pay, she finally picked the baby up, but the baby did not stop crying.
People stared at this woman who only wanted to leave the store, and go to a place where she felt safe enough to feed her baby. So in this situation, I did not judge, I simply looked on with sadness for both the mother and the baby, and here is why.
New mothers are so impressionable, they have come fresh out of pregnancy where they were constantly bombarded by “advice” on what to do during pregnancy and after. Some of this advice included whether to breastfeed or not, and in that advice, there is judgment. New mothers constantly feel judged. And new mothers who decide to breastfeed have an extra challenge, because breastfeeding in public is looked down upon in many places, because of the over-sexualization of the human female breast (which was created to nourish our young). So as she stood in line, most likely with her breasts leaking, possibly throbbing from milk wanting to come out to feed her sweet baby, she felt the judgment of the people around her, “why don’t you do SOMETHING?!” But I can bet that if she had taken her baby, and nursed her right there, even with a nursing cover, there would have been judgment there too. Some people may have applauded that she was honoring her baby’s biological need to eat from its biological source, but others would have looked on in disgust, knowing that her baby was latched on to her nipple, and getting milk.
My sadness for the baby is because babies are born completely dependent on us. Everything they learn, they learn from their environment, their surroundings, their parents, different reactions to them, etc. In short, they are learning to trust their world, and when their parents or caregivers are not honoring their communication (cries), then they begin to learn that the world may not be a place to trust.
Some think that babies only communicate through crying, but this is untrue. Babies are constantly making gestures, sounds, body movements, motions, and facial expressions that communicate exactly what they need. In a bond between a baby and his/her mother, especially if the mother is a nursing mother, the mother learns very quickly what each little gesture, sound, and movement of her baby means. And between them, a unique, beautiful bond is formed, in which there is love, oxytocin, communication and endorphins exchanged, and this is where each honor the other.
It seems to me that the mother had most likely ignored all signs of her baby’s hunger, and became embarrassed, felt helpless (about nursing in public), and was at the point of exasperation when we encountered her. Mothers should NEVER feel embarrassed to nurse in public, because after all, this is the way that nature intends for us to feed our babies.
As I write this, I realize that I need to say so much more than just what I’ve said, so hear me when I say this, whether you are an onlooker, or if you’re a new mother (especially a nursing mother). New mothers NEED support, of community, family, and friends, especially to be successful at breastfeeding. Here are some pointers:
As an onlooker to a new mother who has a crying baby, but looks to be exasperated, frustrated, or stressed about the situation, ask if you can help her (with the baby, with her things, if she needs to sit down, etc).
As an onlooker to a new mother who may be struggling to nurse her baby, offer to shield her, with your body, a blanket, nursing cover, etc.
As an onlooker, if you’re offended by a nursing mother near you in public, PLEASE, simply smile at her, and look the other way. What she is doing will in no way harm you, but it will help our society in the long run (See Breastfeeding Advantages in my previous post)
As an onlooker of a nursing mother, even if you are offended, acknowledge that she is feeding her baby the best and healthiest food, and say either ‘congratulations’ or ‘thank you’ to her.
As an onlooker of a nursing mother, if you feel compelled to say something offensive, please, instead ask her a question about her nursing relationship or her baby. Do not say offensive things to nursing mothers, especially new ones.
As a new mother, do not feel ashamed, afraid, nervous, or intimidated about nursing your baby in public.
As a new mother, ask for help from others around you when you need it.
As a new mother, honor your bond with your baby, every chance you get.
As a new mother, work hard to ignore people who seem to be judging you.
As a new mother, evaluate each piece of “parenting advice” you get from others… Will this work for us? Does this fit with our parenting approach?
As a new mother, establish a routine for your baby and yourself early, so you know when he/she will need to be fed, sleep, changed, etc.
As a new mother, take care of yourself.
It wasn’t that long ago that my 3 year old was a nursling, and it wasn’t that long ago that both positive and negative actions and words made an impact on how I nourished her. My choices may be different than other new mothers, but I do hope for all new mothers, that they form an impenetrable bond with their babies, and that they not allow what others say or do to come between that bond.
I sit here tonight, with my mind swimming with what to write. There is so much misinformation about circumcision, so much myth, and so many “I circumcised my son because…” floating around. To be honest, I’m tired of all of this, and I’m tired of people feeling the need to defend their decision to have their son circumcised. There is no need to justify, what’s done is done. I say what I say, I write what I write for information, not to judge the decisions of others.
So what is circumcision anyway? Well, in plain and simple terms, it is the removal of the foreskin from the penis. In other terms, it is genital mutilation (from Miriam-Webster Dictionary online – Mutilate -1. : “to cut up or alter radically so as to make imperfect & 2. :to cut off or permanently destroy a limb or essential part of”), a (most of the time, non-consensual) removal of perfectly useful, normal, healthy skin that is SUPPOSED to exist. Penises are formed with foreskin as an essential functioning part of them, and for some reason, many societies have created a stigma around it, so much so that I was told the other night that a childbirth educator here in town is stating that a good and valid reason for having a newborn boy circumcised is for the sake of his bonding with his father later in life. I shared this with my husband last night, and he looked at me bug-eyed, deer in the headlights, and said, “Yeah, because men bond with their sons naked?!” And to add to that thought… Are men and their sons really bonding over their penises?!
One of my favorite sites on the internet, Peaceful Parenting, recently posted an excellent post, by Audrey Bryk, about keeping boys intact. This article is stated in terms that are easy to understand, and that lit a fire under me. Just as was stated above, one of the reasons in some cultures for circumcising boys is so that they can be “like their dads”. Bryk argues that is it not easier to just state that someone made the decision based on information that those parents knew to circumcise the father, but that the parents of the son chose to keep him intact (a more complete and well-informed decision). That seems to me to be a much simpler conversation than why an essential portion of his penis was cut from him shortly after birth.
I remember so vividly praying that Sydney was a girl, literally praying. I sensed a lot of pressure from my husband and his mother to circumcise if we had a son. Though I knew very little about circumcision, and had never seen an intact penis; something inside of me thought it was wrong, unethical, immoral, against everything that I believed. I had no basis for this thought, but I felt extremely strongly about it. It seems strange to me that I stood up very strongly for everything that I wanted for the birth of our beautiful baby, but something in me had a hard time standing up for keeping a son intact. I no longer have that issue.
There is so much to be said for genital integrity. So much to be said for having a say in what happens to your own genitals. So much to be said for informed consent. And this is what I will say:
Boys/Men deserve to remain intact until they are able to make a fully informed decision.
The reasons for circumcision are not based in medicine, but rather in preference of parents (for many reasons, appearance, misinformed hygiene myth, religion, etc). This is not their decision to make, it is NOT their penis.
Doctors should not perform a procedure on a patient who is non-consenting (the baby boy is the patient, after all).
Mutilation of the genitals at birth is not something that any baby boy chooses for himself. In fact, this is what baby boys have to say about it:
Grown men have a right to feel certain feelings about not having been allowed to make that decision for themselves.
The correct, valid, researched, and true information about intact vs. circumcised needs to be made public and talked about. We cannot be ashamed to discuss this! Here is an excellent site: Circumcision Decision Maker
I would like to say, that though this post is short, it holds every bit as much passion as any other that I’ve written. My lack of words is an indication that so much is wanting to come out, and the words are not finding their way onto the screen (Come on, fingers and brain, WORK!). But nevertheless, see my words for how I intend them. I am not someone you need to justify your reasons for circumcising your son(s) to, I am not here to judge. I just ask that all of you research the decisions that you make on behalf of the children you bring into this world. Who knows what long lasting effects this may have on his psyche, sexuality, emotional well-being, self-esteem, physical appearance, etc.
As always, thank you so much for reading this post, and COMMENTS WELCOME.
Since posting this post last night, I have gotten some backlash on Facebook from people who read it. People have become offended. So I encourage you that if you’re offended, bring it to my attention so I know why and what created the offense.
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.
SO WHAT CAN I DO TO INCREASE AWARENESS?
Write to your local legislature concerning breastfeeding.
Learn more about your state laws about breastfeeding.
Write to your local school, school board, all the way up to the Department of Education to inform them of the importance of breastfeeding being taught in schools, and of a breastfeeding policy in schools.
Educate the people who make negative comments.
Teach your children that breastfeeding is appropriate, normal, natural, and healthy.
Write to your local hospitals and encourage them to stop passing out formula to every woman who gives birth.
Become a lactation consultant, counselor, or even just a friend who is helpful to new breastfeeding mothers.
Pass on information, literature, education, support, etc to those new to breastfeeding.
DID YOU KNOW?!
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!!!!!!
In response to the news story from Tampa, Florida, in which nursing mother, Melissa Taylor was told that breastfeeding was inappropriate in the lobby of her daughter’s school, I will be writing a blog about Breastfeeding Awareness.
I need your participation!!! What I am asking from you, is that you help me to write a fully informative blog about breastfeeding awareness, to help break the stigma. I need stories (positive or negative), of how you’ve been impacted by society’s views of nursing your baby. (These stories may include how a place of employment or business has treated you, individuals, doctors, and the overall general public). If you are no longer nursing, please tell me about this as well, obviously, if it is a support or education issue, this needs to be addressed and resolved on a greater level, and I’m hoping my blog will help to inform people about the importance of breastfeeding. I also am requesting pictures of you proudly nursing your baby. Your names will not be included, unless you want them to be. I plan on sending the link of this blog to many people (upon completion), and asking many people for their help.
If you are a birthing educator, breastfeeding educator, or someone who no longer nurses because you or your baby has weaned, please pass this along to those who can help make this blog huge.
I thank you in advance for your help and support in addressing this very important issue. Let us please stop turning a blind eye to the health of our children, the bond between mother and baby, and the overall health and well-being of our nation.
Please send all requested information to: email@example.com
To spread the word about such a beautiful birthing method
To encourage pregnant women to seek something different (for themselves and their babies)
To bring awareness to the joy, comfort and empowering nature of gentle birthing, rather than the traumatic nature of how birth is already portrayed in the United States
To write about a subject our country needs to hear about more (for our mothers, fathers, and babies)
To hear responses from women everywhere (and to honestly and candidly respond with wholehearted appreciation)
I knew it was a risk to allow this article to be seen by women who may not feel the way I do about birthing, but I had no idea I would have such a negative, insulting, and critical audience. The few people who supported my post through your positive words, I really do appreciate it. Most of the comments, while not shocking to me, created a sad feeling within me, because I realized that the way our society has deemed birth to be has so deeply ingrained itself and affected women (to the point that they are defensive about the experiences they had when birthing).
My post was in no way intentioned to insult anyone, to create animosity, or to belittle anyone who had a c-section, an epidural, or an otherwise medicated birth. There is no need for these women to justify your births to me, there is no judgment from me about your birth, and I would certainly hope that my readers do not pass judgment on you either. If they (my readers) pass judgment on you, then they must also pass judgment on me as well, because I had a medicated (yet peaceful) birthing experience, that I blogged about in an earlier post.
As I read the article that Mamapedia so kindly published on their widely read website, I scoured it for the phrase “natural birth”, since some of the women who seemed deeply offended by my post spoke largely about “natural birth”. Nowhere in my post did I speak of “natural birth”, because HypnoBirthing does not tout itself as a “natural birthing” technique, method of philosophy. HypnoBirthing can be used in any birthing circumstance. Allow me to share the birthing experiences of the couples I have taught, and of myself.
Me – Epidural after 20 hours of unmedicated labor (OP baby)
First couple – Home water birth, unmedicated with midwife attending (10 pound baby)
Second couple – C-section after 26 hours of labor and several hours of pushing (OP baby)
Third couple – Planned C-section (breech presented baby)
All of my other moms are happily awaiting their babies’ birthing days, with positive expectation
Out of all of the couples that I have taught, only one has been an unmedicated birth, but that does not make that birth or mother any more beautiful and wonderful than the other mothers I have worked with. Nor does it undermine or dismiss the incredibly empowering experiences the medicated birthing mothers had. All of the couples I have taught have had gentle, beautiful, empowering, and incredibly moving birthing experiences. In fact, every one of the mothers I have worked with has said nothing but positive things about HypnoBirthing and the preparation for their births.
I am deeply saddened that in the United States, childbirth “preparation” classes, some providers, and hospitals tell couples that epidurals have no effect on babies. Totally and completely untrue! I am so frustrated by people saying this! Let’s set the record straight. Epidurals are narcotics, and they directly affect babies. The affects of epidurals have been researched extensively, and here are some of the affects on both mother and baby:
(Mother) Drops in blood pressure (that’s the reason a blood pressure cuff is kept on a mother’s arm)
(Mother) Slowed labor because of not moving around during labor (mothers need to move during labor to facilitate the easy descent of the baby)
(Mother) Difficulty in pushing the baby out (increases the likelihood of other methods being used: forceps, vacuum extraction, pitocin, c-section)
(Mother) Interference with love hormone, oxytocin (often breaks down protective instinct over baby, and bonding can be difficult)
(Mother) Headaches (postpartum)
(Mother) Feelings of being emotionally detached
(Mother) Hip problems from knees being pushed to my ears (Personal)
(Mother) Void of emotion or protective instinct (Personal)
(Mother) Increased chance of tearing during birth
(Mother) Limited positioning options for birthing (decreased pelvic room for baby to emerge)
While one of the goals of HypnoBirthing is for women to have as few interventions as possible, it also advocates for mothers doing what their bodies tell them to do, and to accept whatever changes in labor that might occur. This in no way indicates that HypnoBirthing is a “natural birthing” method. However, it does advocate for education of mothers and fathers, to enable them to make the decisions that are best for them and their babies. Through education, advocacy, and empowerment, HypnoBirthing very successfully helps couples experience gentle births (even and especially for the babies). You would not believe the beautiful, peaceful, and gentle nature of HypnoBirthing babies. I have the pleasure everyday, of being in contact with the mothers and fathers who gently and peacefully bring their babies into the world. So yes, birth can be peaceful for babies, and it most often is with HypnoBirthing.
Thank all of you so much for the feedback, and thank you eternally to Mamapedia for publishing an article about a subject I am so passionate about.
A while ago, I read on Mamapedia that they needed some new bloggers to share some new and fresh information. I wrote the post New Surge In Birthing, and submitted it. I crossed my fingers and hoped that it would be published on Mamapedia, because of the large viewing audience. My intention here, obviously is to spread the word about gentle birthing, advocacy for the birthing family, awareness on better maternity practices, and that women are not only capable, but are made to give birth.
I am happy to announce that my entry was chosen, and on Wednesday, May 12, I will be the featured blogger. The entry is called New Surge In Birthing: HypnoBirthing. I also posted this on my blog, and to refresh your memory, here is the link to the original post: New Surge In Birthing
Please visit Mamapedia on May 12, read and comment.
Thanks to my good friend Kayla for asking me to blog about this important topic.
Between 10-15 percent of new mothers and pregnant women experience postpartum depression, and as many as 80 percent of women experience the “baby blues” during pregnancy and/or after giving birth. I personally never knew it was that high of a percentage, because it is not talked about often (I am talking about it now, though). It is important to know that if even one woman is experiencing postpartum depression, the baby blues, or postpartum psychosis, that it may become difficult for her to care for herself and her baby.
It seems to have become taboo in our nation to discuss unhappiness after having a baby or even about pregnancy. I remember very vividly my personal experience with the baby blues after Sydney was born. My husband was a recruiter in the Army, and was gone 12-16 hours a day, and I was left to care for Sydney, who had colic and cried nonstop, around the clock. I had a tough time adjusting to a new schedule, the crying, and the uncertainty of how to care for a newborn. I was so unsure of myself in the beginning, and I really had no support system. I remember feeling so helpless, crying all the time, locking myself in rooms where I couldn’t hear her, holding her and crying together, calling my neighbor to get some relief, and wanting to crawl under a rock and disappear. I felt very ashamed to admit that I felt like I was losing control, and out of frustration and the deepest love for her that I’d ever felt in my entire life, I just wanted her to stop crying. I think the shame for me came because I had had the dream pregnancy, and we had practiced for our HypnoBirth. We wanted her so badly, and I felt sad that I wasn’t thrilled that she was there. It’s hard to admit, as mothers, that we feel overwhelmed, because many of us are the glue of our families, the ones that handle everything and keep it all together. After a while, Sydney and I adjusted to each other, to nursing through the night, to bonding, to loving each other, and to being mother and daughter.
Brooke Shields wrote a book called Down Came the Rain about the 2003 birth of her daughter and her postpartum depression that she suffered from. Though I have never read the book, I was and still am grateful that she had the courage to stand up and say to the public that postpartum depression is something that is real, and it is nothing to be ashamed of.
Though this blog is about postpartum depression, it is important to make some distinctions between the “baby blues”, postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis and shed some light on what may cause them.
The baby blues are felt by as many as 80 percent of all new mothers, mixed with the joy about the birth of their new baby. Researchers think it is caused by the change in hormones after giving birth. Once the hormone levels become more regular, usually within 2 weeks, the symptoms of the baby blues typically disappear. The symptoms of the baby blues are: irritability, tearfulness, mood swings, insomnia, and feelings of being overwhelmed. Be sure to speak with your doctor about these feelings during your first postpartum visit.
Postpartum Depression (PPD) can follow the baby blues, and the feelings may intensify. Some women experience a peak in feelings around three to four months after giving birth. Changes in hormone levels (estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid hormones), the lack of sleep and the monumental responsibility of being a parent may all be contributing factors in postpartum depression. The following list are symptoms of postpartum depression, if you experience 5 or more of them, please contact your doctor:
Loss of pleasure in your daily life or activities (Total or partial loss)
Feeling depressed – sad, hopeless, feeling empty inside, being tearful
Change in appetite – eating too little or too much (may cause weight changes)
Changes in walking and talking (sluggish or restless)
Extreme loss of energy or fatigue
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Difficulty with making decisions or concentrating
Thoughts of harming self or others – some mothers feel like harming their babies, though it is out of fear or helplessness rather than with the intent of doing harm
Postpartum Psychosis is a severe mental condition that is more prevalent in women who have bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. It usually develops in the first three weeks, and sometimes within one to two days of giving birth. Postpartum psychosis is an emergency situation needing immediate medical treatment; women who have postpartum psychosis are at high risk of seriously harming themselves or their babies. The symptoms include:
Restless sleep, even when the baby is sleeping
Easily agitated or restless
Feeling detatched from others around you (baby, surroundings, and other people)
So besides hormone levels, are there factors that could contribute to the likelihood of women having postpartum depression? There certainly are, and here are some of those factors:
History of depression or other mental illness
Family history of depression or mental illness
No support system
Not feeling positive about pregnancy
Issues from previous birth or pregnancy
Marital or money problems
Substance abuse problem
Here are some ways to help with depressed feelings:
Ask for help, don’t try to appear perfect
Rest as much as possible
Take time out for yourself
Spend time with others, your partner, friends, family
Talk about your feelings to those who are supportive
Talk with other mothers for support
Join a support group for those with postpartum depression
Try not to make any major changes in your life during or shortly following pregnancy and giving birth.
The great news in all of this is that postpartum depression, the baby blues, and postpartum psychosis (please speak with your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms of postpartum psychosis) are treatable. It is vitally important that women not be ashamed of how they are feeling, and speak with their doctors. Doctors can screen patients for depression in their office, and make recommendations for treatment. There are several options for treatment, such as, Cognitive Behavior Therapy (which helps to change thoughts and behaviors), talk therapy (which helps you to change how depression makes one act, think, and behave), medication especially for depression (it is important to evaluate and research this option if you are breastfeeding), and homeopathy. Work with your doctor or other professional to help you decide what option may be best for you.
The following are some suggestions I have, as a HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator, and a mom of an almost three year old little girl (these also help when you reach the challenging stages in parenthood).
If you are feeling overwhelmed, call a friend or family member to come over and sit with your baby as you do something unrelated to parenting
Write your feelings down, either in blog format, in a journal, or even on a napkin
Write affirmations about yourself as a mother (affirmations are positive things that we say to ourselves to change how we feel, think, act, behave) Examples: “I am a patient and loving mother” “I feel calm and serene when I take a deep breath.” “I am loved.” “I am supported.” “I love being a mother.” (The affirmations are about you).
Call someone and vent your feelings.
Take a warm shower or bath
Get away for some spa treatments
Take a walk in the fresh air and sunshine (with your baby)
Following the birth or your baby, it is so important to care for yourself, as a mother. It may be humbling and challenging to admit that you need help with your baby, but there are family and friends who I guarantee are out there just waiting for you to call. That’s what they are there for, to support you, love you, and help make this transition a peaceful one for you and your baby. Know that some mixed feelings are fairly normal for moms (no matter how many children you’ve had), and that you should not be ashamed to admit if you feel less than wonderful.
The following are the sources I used in writing this blog: