Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Ugly Truth

I keep thinking I'm going to organize a blog post on breastfeeding.  I want to tell everyone how wonderful it is and I want to dispel some of the myths going around about why women can't breastfeed.  I want to make sure every woman is fully informed of whatever choice she makes in feeding her baby.

Today I want to look at the ugly side of breastfeeding.  I've been inspired by a friend who is frustrated.  In her rant I got the feeling that she felt like she would be judged by the breastfeeding mothers (like myself) who make it seem like breastfeeding should be sunshine, rainbows and unicorns that fart glitter.  Let me just say there are days that those unicorns wouldn't have saved my sanity.  I am openly admitting that there are times I felt incredibly guilty for the way I was feeling about breastfeeding.  So instead of telling you all the wonderful things that breastfeeding is, I'm going to tell you all the wonderful things it's not.  Because let's be real, no one really believes in those unicorns to begin with.

1. Breastfeeding is not always fun. 
           Oh, you heard me.  Please, englighten me... what is more fun than being held captive on the couch/recliner/rocker/bed by a hungry baby (or in my case, babies)?  There were days that I would have answered that question with, "Getting my bikini line waxed", "Having a tooth extracted", or "Poking myself in the eye with a dull needle".  It would be a lie if I told you a relished every single minute of those first few weeks of Saoirse and Sheenagh's tiny little lives.  I remember they were tiny, floppy, unable to assist in getting themselves latched properly at the breast and I was perpetually trapped in that space between sleep and awake, and ended up with plenty of fumbling and silent swearing on my part.  The only thing that saved me from sabotaging the breastfeeding relationship between me and my babies was the simple fact that in order to quit I'd have to be coherent enough to find my way off the couch and into the kitchen to make a bottle. And then later I'd have to find my way back to the kitchen to make sure the bottles were washed.  I mean, seriously?  I was just lucky I stumbled into the kitchen often enough to feed myself.

2. Breastfeeding is not always easy. 
       Just ask any mother who has dealt with thrush, mastitis, clogged ducts, breastfeeding mulitples, breastfeeding a high-needs baby, unsupportive husband/partner, unsupportive families, uneducated healthcare professionals who sabotage their breastfeeding relationships, etc.  Your only weapon against the hard times is education.  Know what to do about these issues.  Surround yourself with people who are supportive of your decision to breastfeed, even if that means finding a local chapter of your La Leche League, or an online community of breastfeeding mothers.  Having a support system of knowledgable mommies or professionals is a MUST.  Otherwise you can fall into literal "booby-traps" that will sabotage breastfeeding for you.

3. Breastfeeding is not always a "no-brainer"
      I wish I could tell you that my natural instinct kicked in and I was amazing at breastfeeding because it was what I was created to do.  Unfortunately it took a lot of research and trial and error before I figured things out.  With Conner I was so afraid of starving him that I let him latch poorly and make my nipples so sore that they bled.  I took it as a hard lesson learned and when I had the twins I didn't let them latch poorly.  I spent time with them individually until we both figured things out, breaking suction and re-latching until I didn't want to scream from the pain.  On a similar note I freaked out a tiny bit inside every time we went to the doctor for well baby appointments and Sheenagh was consistently 2lbs lighter than Saoirse.  I had a "paranoid Mommy moment" until I realized they're getting the same milk.  They're just individuals growing at different rates and have two different body types.

4.  Breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone.
     In all honesty there is a very small percentage of women who are unable to produce milk and breastfeed.  Many women who say "I couldn't breastfeed" fall into two categories. A) Mother's who didn't like it and wanted an easy out so they didn't have to explain themselves or feel guilty about their decision or B) Mother's who fell into a booby-trap of misinformation that ruined the breastfeeding relationship or pressured them into weaning.  There is a story my grandmother likes to tell of my great-grandmother.  This was in a time before formula and bottles.  My great-grandma knew of a lady who had lost a few babies.  They had been incredibly fussy and just unable to survive.  Finally my great-grandmother went to visit the woman after she had a baby who was failing to thrive and suggested the woman express some milk.  My grandmother told me this woman's milk was green and so foul you couldn't even stand to be in the same room with it.  My great-grandmother being the intelligent woman that she is helped her friend concoct a "formula" to feed her baby.  The woman then went on to feed I think four babies who grew into adulthood.  In other cases women are in the work place and just not able to maintain a breastfeeding relationship.  I know of a woman who had to stop because she was unable to pump enough milk to keep up with her baby's needs and her baby was experiencing nipple confusion.  She decided to switch to formula and bottles to make her daughter's time at daycare less stressful because she wanted the breast and not a bottle.

The moral of the story is that as a mother who cares about providing the best for your children, you have to educate yourself with knowledge.  When it comes to the well-being of your kids ignorance is NOT bliss.  Trust your gut and your instincts.  If you feel something sounds wrong then get a second opinion, ask a mother you trust or research it yourself.  I am incredibly pro-breastfeeding, probably to the point that people would want to label me a lactavist and assume I am judgmental even though that is certainly not the case.  If you make an informed decision to breastfeed your child then own it.  Don't second guess yourself because the people closest to you don't understand why you just won't give a bottle.  And if you feel that feeding your child formula from a bottle is best, then own that too.  Don't give excuses or explanations on why you didn't/couldn't breastfeed.  A simple "This is what was best for our family" is the only explanation you'd ever need to give. Anyone who who can't accept that answer is nosy and ignorant.

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