It’s World Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which is definitely worth celebrating! The majority of women in the US (83%) breastfeed their baby at some point which is a testament to a lot of work and education, helping mothers understand the benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is great, and it may be best for you. Stress is not best.
First this-if you want to breastfeed, the odds are that you will be able to, the odds are even good that “figuring it out” will be a non-issue.
Even before the pandemic we met many expecting moms who were nervous about breastfeeding. They were afraid that they wouldn’t be able to nurse their baby, that they wouldn’t have enough supply, that it would hurt, and more. A whole lot has changed in 5 months, but that concern has not changed.
Interestingly, one of the things that has changed in the pandemic is the number of new moms who feel relief that they do not have to navigate new parenthood in the pre-covid world! They don’t have to worry about what they look like, or dodging the stares and advice of others.
If you are unable to breastfeed, that too is totally okay.
Having informally counseled hundreds (24 years, at least one a month) of women who are despairing over their “failure” in the breastfeeding arena. Breastfeeding or not breastfeeding does not make you a success or failure. Period. (If only parenting was that simple!)
There are many women who have tried and it just didn’t work-that is their decision. No shame. Not breastfeeding? No one’s business.
One of the many reasons a mom may be giving their baby a bottle?
Breast cancer survivor.
Remember-you don’t know what you don’t know about another mother’s choices.
Struggling, but want to breastfeed? You have options.
Lactation consultants are there for you-it is their job! When you find a consultant ask them where they received their certification and spent 5 minutes researching it (not longer, you have a baby, time is not on your side, you and baby just deserve to know that they are legit). Spend at least 5 minutes chatting with them to make sure that you are comfortable with them. Ask for references. From our clients I have heard a wide range of experiences from gentle to militant LCs. If you engage one remember that you are working with a professional, you can ask questions, and if you are not happy with their services you can end the relationship.Most are amazing.
If you are struggling with nursing and struggling financially there are resources out there for you.
Not heard of that? It’s not feeding triplets.
It’s feeding a baby via three different methods every three hours. I have many clients and friends who have done this and found that it helps. I have also met women who are beyond exhausted and suffering from their “continued failure”(yes, that is a direct quote) to get their baby to gain weight. Spending an hour+ feeding a baby every three hours does not work for some mothers either because they have other children, they have jobs or it flat out makes them crazy. Again, just one more thing about parenting where there is actually no right or wrong, just what’s right for you. Read what The Milk Meg says, and if you want to understand more about triple feeding, read this for a comprehensive description.
Supplementing at the Breast
If your baby is not gaining enough weight, you adopted an infant or you used a surrogate and want to try to breastfeed, then supplementing at the breast is an option. In short this involves taping tubes to your breasts which are attached to a bag of formula or breast milk so baby gets the feed that they need. A lactation consultant could be helpful here as well.
Supplementing with Formula
Again, feeding baby is best, and if your baby is failing to thrive, put on your supermom cape and feed your baby without shame, from a bottle. You can still breastfeed, just make sure that baby is gaining weight.
Did you miss this article on why sometimes there is a plan, and it’s not the one we imagined,
“What about all those health benefits we’d been hearing about for years in the arguments about why “breast is best” Our turn to formula, though, ended up being one of those unanticipated twists of parenthood that I look back on with the most gratitude.?”
It’s a good reminder. Baby knows best sometimes.
All to say, you’re the mama. You do you. Everyone’s got an opinion, and, as my wife likes to say “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and no one thinks theirs stinks.” Nurse wherever you want, wherever you want, as long as you want!
A few stats, but first this one:
Breastfeeding is free.
The cost of formula feeding? You can find lots of estimates, we found this one by Caroline Hand (included in a grand post on the topic on Romper) to be best, because others come in with lower estimates, but fail to take into consideration that formula is not the the only cost-you can’t feed formula without a bottle! Realistic estimate? $2K for the first 12 months.
Breastfeeding is a Social Justice Issue
“Data from several studies suggest that women of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to breastfeed their infants, both in the United States and elsewhere.” as stated by the NIMH
If you work you need a breast pump, a place to pump and the time to pump.
- Pumps are expensive.
- Finding a place to pump is often not easy- you need privacy, a relaxing environment- because let down is harder if you’re anxious and prepared to jump up at any moment that someone walks in-and, you need an outlet.
- Most employers will not pay you to sit in a fitting room, broom closet or other luxury office to pump for 30-60 minutes.
If you are on WIC, that formula is not an expense to the mother
- The folks who make formula have a financial interest in having women formula feed.
- Mississippi, Louisiana and West Virginia have the lowest rates of breastfeeding and the highest rates of poverty. Coincidence?
- If no one encourages or educates you on the benefits of nursing, then, what is your motivation? The many benefits of breastfeeding, if it is possible and chosen, benefit mom and baby-no matter their income level.
Want to understand what prompted the “Breast is Best” campaign? The CDC presents the following:
Benefits for Baby. Infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of:
Benefits for Mothers.Breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of:
- High blood pressure.
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Ovarian cancer.
- Breast cancer.
Every baby, every mother, deserves these benefits.