Friday, November 26, 2010

BreastFeeding is natural, right?

Well yes and no.

I'll explain below. It's time for a rant!

If you're pregnant, nursing, not nursing but wish to, support breastfeeding, or know anyone in these categories. Read on! Sorry if it gets long. Sometimes concise isn't in my vocabulary.

So I think one of the biggest myths is that breastfeeding is natural. Don't get me wrong. It is. It's the most natural way to feed babies. It's how God planned it to be. But when pregnant women hear that, they interpret it to mean that you insert your boob into the child's mouth and voila! Instant feeding. When in reality, it goes more like this:

1. Sit in your chair. No, not that one, the one with the perfect angle and arm rests. The one that the foot stool fits your feet perfectly. Or dictionary. Whatever is your foot-booster of choice.
2. Grab your nursing pillow(s) and the one for behind you back. And the other six you need in their precise locations.
3. Remove all clothing from the waist up.
4. Have someone strip the baby to the diaper and hand them to you.
5. Wonder if there will ever be a day that you will be able to nurse without your chair and pillows just so and while leaving your clothes on.
6. Hold baby in left hand and breast in right hand. Guide baby to the breast. Wait for the wide open mouth.
7. Second guess if that really was the widest your baby can open, only to realize you missed your perfect moment.
8. Realign. This time you get the baby on, but its not on your full breast, just the nipple. Almost pass out from the pain. Try to pull the baby off, not realizing a child so small can have such an amazing suction. Oh the insanity! Scream for the pain!
9. Insert pinky in a panic in the corner of baby's mouth to release the suction.
10. Examine your hamburger nipples which are now bleeding.
11. Cry.
12. Repeat steps 5-11 three more times.
13. Break down sobbing, wondering if you're the only "broken" woman in the world and how that lady at walmart made it look so easy while she nursed and shopped AT THE SAME TIME!.
14, Scream in frustration. Look at the clock and realize you've been at this for an hour. Scream again.
15 Console your baby who is now beside themselves for the hunger they feel and the screaming from their mother
16. Give up and give them a bottle, feeling like the biggest failure of a mother ever.
17. Pump to relieve the engorgement or to help bring in milk.
18. Cry and apply lansinoh to your nipples.
19. Collapse in exhaustion and sleep for 1.5 hours.
20. Repeat.

See? Not very natural. I lived this scene every 3 hours for 7 weeks. As Mady was born premature and without the ability to suck yet. She had to be fed through a tube, then a bottle and then finally learn to feed at the breast. Luckily I had lots of milk, so I was pumping and giving her the bottle of that, but some don't have this blessing.

(Mady in the NICU feeding through a g-tube)

(Mady feeding at home with a bottle)

When I talk to a pregnant lady and ask if she's planning on nursing, I know how successful she will be based on her response. A Mom who says "Absolutely yes!" with determination will most likely get it to work. Those who say "Well, I guess I'll give it a try" Probably won't. Breastfeeding takes stamina and determination. But it can be done. And it should be done. There is NOTHING on this earth that is as good for babies as breast milk. Nothing. Don't kid yourself.

So what's a new mom to do?

1. Well first learn about breast-feeding from good sources (Can we all just take a minute now to burn our copies of What To Expect When You're Expecting? It's a crap book written to instil fear instead of empower and they don't give you good breast-feeding advice). I read only crap breast-feeding books so if someone has good ones to recommend please do so in the comments.
Talk to moms who nurse. Get them to SHOW you how its done. Go to Le Leche league meetings (you can do this when you're still pregnant). Oh and I've said this before, I'll say it again: Do NOT under any circumstances take breastfeeding advice from someone who has never done it. That's like learning to drive a stick shift from someone who has just read about it or watched other people drive a car. No matter how nice your labour and delivery nurse is, if she didn't successfully nurse a child (meaning months or years, not days) kindly ask her to send in someone with experience. And male doc/nurses? Just walk away. Sorry guys, you don't even own the equipment!
2. Rally a support team. As much as it's great that your husband is fully behind you using your body to feed your kid (of course he is, its free and gives you big boobs). You need someone who has done it that you can call at 3am when it's not working and cry. Someone who will talk you out of giving up and give you advice and tips and encouragement. Really. You do. You will be hormonal and irrational and frustrated.
3. Seek help. Don't give up. I get so frustrated hearing of mom's who tried to go it alone and it didn't work. There is help available. Go to breastfeeding clinics, see a lactation consultant (or 5 like me). And get help! (A note to the Canadian government: It's ridiculous that some provinces have to PAY to see a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding leads to less health problems in the future so its actuaaly going to cost LESS to cover the LC than to pay for all the treatments these people will need later in life).

So what if after all that it doesn't work? You tried, but "failed." Are you stuck using formula? No!

Enter Eats On Feets. This is a new group. It's on Facebook and it connects families who need milk, with mothers willing to donate it. I joined this week and have already matched up with a mom of twins.
Edit: Eats on Feets has changed their name to Human Milk 4 Human Babies. You can search for a local chapter on Facebook.

I joined for 2 reasons:
1. I had to throw away a lot of breast milk after Mady was weaned that expired before we could use it. I cried, knowing there are a lot of babies who could have used it. Sadly Canada only has 1 milk bank. It's in Vancouver and there was no way to get them the milk. The downside of milk banks is that the milk goes first to the sick babies (a good thing!), but it also means that healthy babies who's mother's don't produce enough can't get the milk (or if they find one they can purchase milk from, it's $3-5 an ounce! At 25oz a day, that's a little hefty!). So I joined because there are plenty of babies who need milk. Babies who would have to live off of artificial human milk otherwise (why are we not concerned as a society to make it so normal to feed our kids something called "formula?" Wouldn't we totally push back if the answer to "what's for dinner"? was "calibrated fake food"? Formula should be reserved for the VERY few who can't have breast milk. And there are VERY few... It should not be the norm for so many babies. But that's a rant for another day). The way I see it, I have milk to give, so why not give it??
2. I joined to send a message. To our government that human babies need human milk. And if they aren't going to make it available to those that need it, and ALL those that need it at that, then we will do it our own way.

(Kate's thighs. A true testament of Breastfeeding!)

I know there are those of you concerned about the "risks." The truth is, they are very small. Most mothers nursing babies are not sick with disease and if the donee is worried, they can ask the donor to be screened. Donors of breast milk are concerned about babies, they want them to have the best. But if the government it truly concerned, instead of putting their effort into warning ads and articles, they should be putting their resources into places to pasteurize the milk and then give it back to families (for free!). Just like a blood donation in Canada is given from the source and to the source freely (I'm sure there are costs, but they are covered by our health care), so should breast milk! Only a percentage of people need blood every year, but we are bombarded with begging to get us to donate. EVERY baby needs breast milk. The same campaigns and support should be applied. Women need to not just hear that "breast is best", but that it's natural. Breastfeeding comes with the package if you want the baby bump. And if you can't produce enough for your child, there is enough milk to go around. Because there is!

So if you're a Mama with milk to give (fresh or a stash in your freezer that needs to be used up) or you're a family in need of milk, head on over to the Eats on Feets page. And if you don't fall into these categories, but want to help spread the word, please do so. Post on your Facebook, tell your friends. Help remove the stigma that sharing life's more precious resource is a bad thing!

Oh and ps- if you chose not to breastfeed your baby because you just didn't want to, please just own that you didn't want to and don't use the excuse "I tried, it didn't work." Some of us put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into learning the art (and it is an art!). And you insult us when you say that. We will have more respect for you if you just admit that you didn't want to. (this is not directed at those who truly can't! My heart breaks for you!).

(Kate's crazy double chin!)

Let's feed those babies!


  1. This was so encouraging and a great laugh all the same time. I was so determined to breast feed my babies that I went through 5 months of pumping and feeding with Drew, and 2 months of it with Jami-Lee, until they grew big enough to manage my ridiculous let-down without choking. There were days when I really thought I couldn't deal with the discomfort and time-consuming effort anymore, but it was absolutely worth it for my little gems!

  2. Amen sister!! I just heard about Eats on Feets last week and will definitely be donating milk when the next baby comes along!! Love your rants Mel!!

  3. Bravo!!! Kudos to you, my daughter, for sticking it out through the tough times!


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