Last night at the Natural Birth Meetup in Fayetteville, we talked about different topics. The main topic of the night was Placenta Encapsulation, but it morphed into many other subtopics, as these meetings always do. I am always so refreshed to hear other women’s experiences, and to share some of my own. I felt compelled to share the experience I had with our OB when I was pregnant with Sydney, and during my birth. I stated that often, women do not ask the right questions, so this post is going to be a guide, of sorts, in dialogue form, to help you with the right questions to ask your provider.
The Wrong Questions:
Sally: I need to ask you some questions, do you have time?
Provider: Sure, (glances at watch).
Sally (feeling rushed and embarrassed for even asking): My partner/husband and I would like to do a natural birth, are you okay with this?
Provider: Of course.
Sally (feeling more confident, now): We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, do you see any problems with this?
Provider: No, not really.
Sally: We would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary, will you suggest medically unnecessary induction?
Provider: No, we do inductions that are necessary.
Sally: We would like to avoid c-section at all costs, do you have ways to help us do that?
Provider: Yes, we have many ways.
Sally: I would like to push in a different position than on my back, is this okay?
Provider: Sure, why not?
Sally: We request skin-to-skin bonding, where the baby is placed on my belly/chest immediately after birth, will you do this for us?
Sally: We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before clamped or cut, will you honor this request?
Provider: Um, sure.
Sally: (Feeling peppy and like she’s chosen the right provider) Thank you so much!!! We know we have chosen the right provider for us!
This line of questioning could go on forever, I could list so many more, but this line of questioning is all wrong. Notice how the provider does not say much, provides no detail, and really is not answering the questions. This is no indication of how the doctor might respond during birth. The questions Sally is asking are the right questions, but need much more detailed answers. She asks closed ended questions, or questions that do not require much more than a one or 2 word answer. So I will outline the correct line of questioning. This puts the ball in your court, and you can make a much more educated decision about your baby, your birth, and your provider or your place of birth.
The Right Questions
Sally: Dr. Moe, my pregnancy and birth experience are very important to me, so I would like to ask you some questions quickly (pulls out a sheet of paper and pen).
Provider: Um, Ok. (Sits)
Sally (feeling empowered and confident.): My husband/partner and I are preparing for a normal physiological birth (expound as much as needed: intervention free, few interventions, pain meds free, whatever you want to say), how many of the births that you’ve attended have been this way? And, how will you help me to achieve this?
Provider: (Slightly taken aback with this open ended question) Most of the births I attend at Candy Hill Hospital are medicated with epidural or some other form of pain management. I have only attended maybe 10 unmedicated births. I am willing to help you achieve this by allowing you to labor for as long as possible without intervention.
Sally: Okay… We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, unless it is medically necessary to take action before hand. How many of your mothers have you allowed to continue being pregnant until 42 weeks? And what are your reasons as a provider for requesting birth sooner?
Provider: We generally don’t allow women to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, our cut off is 41 weeks. We don’t like women to continue pregnancy until 42 weeks because the risks of a larger baby/aging placenta/elevated blood pressure/etc go up.
Sally: (Red flags going up, immediately, she’s done her research): Okay, I understand your reasoning, and I’d love to see some written research to support this reasoning. But, in our case, we would like to request a non-stress test following 41 weeks to ensure everything is fine with baby and me, and to ensure that everything is going smoothly in my pregnancy so we can go until 42 weeks.
Provider: I guess we could do that, we will talk about it more as time gets nearer.
Sally: Sounds pretty good. Since we would like a normal physiological birth, we would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary. What is your induction rate? And what are the reasons you induce?
Provider: Our induction rate is pretty high. We induce because the baby is too big, the baby is late, there are medical problems with the mom such as high blood pressure, diabetes, other issues, and to help the mother to be more comfortable.
Sally: Oh, ok. (Increasingly more uncomfortable with the answers her provider is giving) We would like to avoid c-section, unless medically necessary, first, what is your c-section rate? And, how would you help us to avoid c-section?
Provider: Our c-section rate is right along with the national average of 32-33%. We would monitor you and baby, to make sure that both are okay, and allow you your trial of labor, until it is deemed that c-section may be the best option.
Sally: (Thinks she may want to switch providers, at this point) All right… I would like to push in a position other than semi-sitting or flat on my back. How many births have you attended in which the mother was in an alternate position for pushing?
Provider: Since most of the patients I attend have had an epidural, we require the mother to lie flat during birth. I have not attended many births where the mother wanted to push in a different position, but I guess I’d be okay with it.
Sally: Okay. We would like our baby to come directly to my belly/chest following birth for immediate skin-to-skin bonding. Are there reasons you would not allow this? If so, what are they?
Provider: We generally take the baby directly to the warmer to do the assessments of the baby. While we understand skin-to-skin bonding is beneficial, we like to get the assessments done as quickly as possible so you can have your baby following. We could maybe do skin-to-skin bonding for a few minutes.
Sally: (Disheartened) Wow. Okay. We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before it is cut or clamped. Will you honor this for us? If so, why not?
Provider: We like to clamp the cord and cut it immediately, so the assessments can be done on the baby, and with the baby attached to the cord, we cannot do that. I guess we could do that so you could have a few minutes with your baby before we have to do the assessments.
Sally: (Feeling disheartened, discouraged, and frustrated, yet she knows she can switch providers) Thank you so much for answering these very important questions, we have some decisions to make.
Like I said, the questions are endless, and they all depend on what is important to you. In this line of questioning, Sally receives the complete picture of what her provider is like during labor and birth, and is able to make more educated decisions about whether she would like to switch providers.
Let me say something else, if you decide to switch providers, it is YOUR decision. You will not hurt feelings or step on toes, and if you do (Say this out loud to yourself), “IT IS MY BIRTH”. What happens at your birth should be the well thought out plans you’ve decided on, not that your provider has decided on.
My personal experience with this was much more like the first line of questioning. I can blame it on being a first time mom, being uninformed, or whatever I’d like it to be about, but what it came down to was I chose my provider for the wrong reasons. My neighbor at the time wanted a fully medicated birth, and said her provider was “really nice”. Well, most providers are really nice, they wouldn’t have much of a practice if they were ogres. So my decision was made because my neighbor, who wanted a totally different birthing experience than I did, suggested the doctor to me. If you want an intervention free birth, unmedicated birth, natural birth, normal physiological birth, however you want to describe it, DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR PROVIDER BASED ON THE CRITERIA OF “NICE”. Ask open ended, detailed questions that will require thought, words, and an indication of the actions your provider will take.
Also, remember that you may always decline any procedure. Simply say no, stand firm, and ask to sign a document saying you declined, if necessary. Again, I will say this, and again, I want you to say this out loud (let this be your mantra), “THIS IS MY BIRTH.”
Please share comments, experiences, input, whatever you want to say, myself and my readers would love to read it.
Thank you so much for reading. Have a beautiful day!
I read an article today that really lit a fire under my butt, made me extremely frustrated, and wanting to say a lot. The article was about how a member of the media “delivered” his baby at home, and how it was made to be so dramatic. This spurred me to think about my passion for birth, how much birth is made out to be an emergency, a medical event, or something that needs to be managed or fixed, and about how little truth women tell other women about how they gave birth. The natural birthing community is often shunned because of how people who had medicated births perceive the natural birthers’ stories as bragging. Come on, now, people! We need to hear more of the natural birthing stories, they often have so much more vivid detail than the medicated birth stories. Wonder why?! Because the women who give birth without the use of medication actually remember their births. That’s one reason, but I think that women who have given birth with the use of medication don’t necessarily want to tell the WHOLE story. I know that after I had my epidural (after not planning or foreseeing such a thing taking place in my labor), that I didn’t want to tell the details.
Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I know there is a time and a place for interventions such as medication to be used during labor. Sadly, though, these interventions have been so overused that now it’s a problem, a BIG problem. Women and babies are suffering, and some are dying, because of the overuse. Babies are being forced out of their mothers’ wombs because they are “too big”, “too late”, and for many other reasons that are not medically related, and this has affected their health, growth, and has caused some of them to die. Mothers are not being given time and patience to labor and birth, instead, they are put on hospital clocks, and often hurried along with the use of induction and augmentation drugs, which ends in cesarean sections. While cesarean sections are sometimes very much needed, they also have MAJOR risks, and repeat cesareans put women at further risks. Women are dying because of the overuse of cesarean sections. Yes, interventions are sometimes needed, I know that, but not routinely.
What we need to do, as a society, is expose women to what birth is intended to be. Make birth this glorious event, instead of an event that’s shrouded in dark mystery, with hints of disaster and doom. So here is what birth is, to me.
Like all mammals, humans are designed to give birth, and in most cases, women are able to give birth, with little or no intervention. There are many things that must happen within the body for labor to begin, one of which is that the baby must be ready. Because the woman’s body is so perfectly designed, with a flexible pelvis, that moves to accommodate her baby, birth is entirely possible. If a woman is able to let go of all fear, the muscles in her birthing body should work correctly, and a sort of birth dance happens, where muscles work together in perfect harmony, to help the baby move down, turn, maneuver to a perfect position for birth, and finally be born. The mother’s perineum, which is strong and muscular, if it has been massaged adequately in the weeks leading up to birth will stretch perfectly for the baby to make his entrance. The baby is so perfectly designed for birth, the skeletal structure is pliable, and the bone plates in the head (fontanels) are able to overlap each other to make descent into the vaginal canal, and out of the body possible. Much more happens in the body, cervical changes that include so much more than dilation and effacement, and oh how I WISH providers would teach this to their expectant couples! Hormones (specifically oxytocin, the love hormone) work in the body to drive off stress and fear, and make birthing easier, help the cervix to open, help the labor to progress, help the baby to be born, help the mother to BOND with the baby, and help the mother to feel protective toward her baby. Many other things in life produce oxytocin (love, like-minded women communing, intercourse, breastfeeding, etc). As I said before, this is the watered down version of what birth truly is, what it’s meant to be.
So let’s look at what happens when women do not go this route (for whatever reason). And let’s address that many women are told (by media, friends, culture, family, doctors, language, their own experiences, etc) that they are not capable of giving birth without the use of interventions/medications. Women who give birth with the use of interventions are mammals, still, there is no denying that, but different things happen in the body once medication and other interventions are introduced. The lovely love hormone, oxytocin, that I talked about above, when pitocin (artificial oxytocin), epidurals, and other drugs are introduced is cut off. This means that the lovey, floaty, euphoric feeling that some women feel during labor, that counteracts pain, is gone. What I didn’t say about the hormones in the body, above, is that these also help the baby, because what a mother experiences, so does the baby (if a mother is experiencing a comfortable labor, so is the baby, and conversely, is a mother is experiencing a painful pitocin driven labor, the baby no longer has a hormonal love cushion to protect him). Epidurals also cut off the oxytocin, and cause the baby to feel a much more painful labor and birth. And when mothers feel threatened in labor, their bodies stop working in perfect harmony, the cervix will not want to open (a protective instinctual mechanism to keep baby from harm), and labor stalls. The mother’s pelvis and baby’s fontanels still function, but once an epidural is introduced, babies often have to be born when their mothers are on their backs (the least conducive birthing position, because baby has to go against gravity to be born). This is the version of interventive/medicated birth that people often describe, without the “what happens in the body” mumbo jumbo. I will tell you more… Here is the part we often do not hear.
With pitocin, contractions, or surges as HypnoBirthing calls them, often feel like they never end. I’ve heard pitocin contractions described as one big one that never let the mother regain composure, catch her breath, and was extremely painful. So when we hear about inductions and augmentations, the whole truth is not being told, I fear. And with pitocin, epidurals are often right behind, because labor is so traumatic with pitocin, that it’s like cruel and unusual punishment to have pitocin WITHOUT an epidural. And with pitocin and epidural, especially combined, cesarean section rates rise.
With epidurals, tearing is a lot more prevalent, as is malposition of the baby (baby’s face not facing his mother’s back). Episiotomy (cutting of the perineal tissue) is more common as well. And here’s the kicker, because the mother is numbed, many things can be done, without her knowing anything is wrong (legs being cranked back so far that hip damage is possible, episiotomy, breaking of the bag of waters, or release of membranes as HypnoBirthing calls it, etc.)
Cesarean section is a major surgery that has a long and painful healing course. The art of VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is being lost among obstetricians, and so women who have primary cesareans are often put under the knife for no medical reason, other than the primary cesarean, for subsequent babies. And the hard truth about cesarean sections, though some of them are truly needed, is that some mothers die following surgery.
My own experience was not what I expected it would be, partly because of Sydney being turned “sunny side up”, with her head resting on my tailbone, which made my labor much longer than I’m sure it would have been. After 20 hours of unmedicated, unmessed with labor, I asked for an epidural, after having researched the risks and benefits. What I never anticipated was how it would affect me, how it still affects me now. Because I could not feel anything, my OB was getting my perineum ready for birth (which we had explicitly asked not be done (perineal massage) during labor, in our birth plan), and she tore me. My legs were cranked back to my ears when I was pushing, to “make more room for the baby”, and I still have hip issues today (stiffness, pain, loss of flexibility). After Sydney was born, I felt emotionally dead, all of my protective instincts I thought I would have were deadened by the narcotics present in the epidural. Bonding with Sydney was near impossible, and took at least a month, if not more. She had a poor latch to begin with, because of the drugs in her system from the epidural. Sydney cried incessantly for about the first month, and I’m convinced that she had some sort of birth trauma from not being cushioned by my cocktail of love hormones during labor and birth. I felt distant from her, and did not want to hold her, comfort her, and be with her, nor did I make an effort to learn how to. I could probably go on, but you might imagine that this tore at me as a mother, and still does. I don’t view myself as a failure at all, because at hour 20 of my labor, my body had reached a level of exhaustion it had never reached, and was ready to give up, and I was quickly heading for a cesarean. So as a mother, I look back on my experience, and want desperately to do better, do more, educate other mothers, help mothers, help babies, just speak about this.
My point in saying all of this is that birth is not supposed to be scary, dramatized, medical, or an emergency. When it is made to be these things, women lose their ability to think about what their babies might need, and instead think of simply getting through it. With interventions come risks and consequences (lower rates of bonding, harder times bonding, lowered protective instincts in mothers to protect their babies, lower breastfeeding rates, higher infant and maternal mortality rates, higher infant and maternal morbidity rates, birth defects, emotional trauma, physical trauma, and the list goes on). So here is my challenge for you. Research everything, if you’re having a baby, research everything (your provider, hospital, interventions, alternatives, birth plans, having a doula, how your partner can better support you, etc). And for those of you who have had beautiful experiences, PLEASE share your story (post it online, share it on Facebook, I’ll share it too!)!!!!
As always, thank you so much for reading this, and your input is always appreciated!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org