The Breastfeeding Debate

July 12, 2010

– Should you attempt to breastfeed before deciding on the bottle?

– Should you cover up or should everyone get over it when you whip it out to nurse?

– What age is too old to continue breastfeeding?

Lately there’s been a ton of press about breastfeeding. From ads encouraging it to blogs on it, to tweets that rally for or against it in public.

Breastfeeding is HARD. I didn’t expect it to hurt as bad as it did, to be as time consuming as it was, to mess with my hormones for months on end. There were many nights I thought about giving up and simply giving Bella formula. I blogged my entire experience (as it was still fresh in my head) about it for Heir to Blair one time.

Then once everything healed on me and both her and I got the hang of it, the reflux and barfing kicked in. Hours on end Bella would puke up breastmilk while I cleaned it up. I woke up some nights and bawled because I simply didn’t think I could handle her projectile vomiting all over me and the bed one more time. I went through 25-30 burp cloths a day. The big ones. Like 3 feet long and 2 feet wide folded in half to catch it all.

You’d think after all that, I’d maybe be a bit miffed at someone who didn’t try at all, or gave it a shot for a few days and then switched to formula. But really, I understand. Breastfeeding was more painful than labor for me. Hands down – I’d rather push out a 17lb kid than go through those first few weeks again.

So when someone says, “It was so hard, I just couldn’t do it,” I nod my head in sympathy. I get it.

On top of that, if you can’t be at home for long after the baby is born, I know the thoughts creep in of, “Why bother if once I’m all healed I have to go back to work and switch to formula anyway?” Let’s face it, not a whole ton of work places are breastfeeding friendly, and even if you insist, they usually find some way to make you pay for it – either emotionally or with actual time off your day.

But if you’re debating – let me tell you that after almost 8 months of breastfeeding, I wouldn’t change a thing. The struggle I went through physically and mentally with Bella’s reflux was worth it for the pride I have in my own body to have been her sole sourse of nutrition for 5 months.

Nothing worth having comes easy, and the same is true for nursing. It wasn’t easy for me, although it is for some. (Jealous) I didn’t have a wonderful lactation consultant, one of the nurses in the hospital was a total pig about it, insisting I supplement with formula 1 day in, and I stood my ground. I had one class that included a bit on feeding, read books, and talked with my Dr. and Mom.

It’s a very personal choice. I know some people don’t feel that way – they don’t feel breastfeeding should be a choice. It’s what our bodies as mothers were made to do. So let me tell you this; I was in the hospital and Bella wouldn’t latch after hours of trying. I was crying, she was crying, the nurse from hell was making everything worse. Finally a new nurse came on duty and sobbing I said, “How come this is so hard for me? Women have done this for thousands of years so why can’t I?”

She looked me in the eyes and said, “No. You’re wrong. In those days, if the mom couldn’t breastfeed, she either had someone else do it or the baby died. Not all moms were able to do this. Just now we don’t need to have a wet nurse or death because of formula.”

It gave me a whole different perspective on breastfeeding. I wasn’t a failure if I couldn’t do it, but thanks to modern science my child didn’t have to latch on to another woman or die because of it. Since I was determined to, I kept at it anyway.

As for the public thing, I’m pretty modest when it comes to covering up. I know it makes other people uncomfortable to see a breast hanging out – fair or not. Yes, it’s sad and a little sick that Kim Kardashian can dress like a hoochie and do a sex tape, then have the gall to rudely comment on some woman breastfeeding her baby at the table. But for the sake of the old man next to me, or the young kids a few tables down, or the waiter who may not want to see a breast on his shift, I cover up. I’m completely fine with it.

I’ve known women who don’t, and it does make it a little awkward never to look down while you’re having a conversation with them. It’s like the whole time I have to tell myself, “Look directly into her eyes.” Now I know how guys feel on the first few dates with someone they like. 🙂

I’m not out to make a statement about breastfeeding uncovered or to challenge someone to say something where I can let loose about my rights as a mother, so I cover up.

And when is your kid too old? Well, everyone varies on this one. My opinion? If your kid:

– can unhook your bra

– plays video games while nursing

– needs a note to get out of kindergarten class for snack with you

– can tell you in a full sentence what you just had for lunch

it might be time to wean. I want to continue to nurse for a while, but then again, Bella is still my toothless wonder so things may change if those teeth all come in at once.

However – to each his (or her) own. This is simply my two cents as a breastfeeding mom.

22 Comments

  • Erika @NaMammaSte

    July 17, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I have mixed feelings about this post and what that nurse said to you. That is true, not all women have always succeeded at breastfeeding, but I think some women would try a little harder than they actually do if the alternative was death. I thank God that there are hospitals and formula to save the babies that just cannot be born naturally and/or breastfeed and I do realize that, that really is the case sometimes.

    However, there are also other things to consider that I think aren’t always considered: women didn’t always give birth in hospitals where the nurses wash all the natural oils, etc. off of the baby before handing them to the mom to attempt breastfeeding. I have a book on breastfeeding which I read before Dylan was born called “Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers” that was the best book I ever read! It talked about how breastfeeding is learned and not instinctual for women, but it is for the newborn if they are able to match up the scent of what’s on them with their mother. So that, in combination with some guidance from other breastfeeding mothers makes all the difference in the world. The book used the example of an ape who was in captivity and let several of her babies die because she didn’t know how to breastfeed. Anyway, the zoo ended up inviting a group of women from La Leche League to meet in front of the ape’s cage and the ape was able to breastfeed after seeing what she was supposed to do.

    That brings me to the nursing in public debate. I cover up to for the same reasons, but in Europe women don’t cover up and, in general, women seem to have less trouble (I am not talking about England… I mean the rest of Europe) because they see it all the time.

    AT the same time… I realize I had a somewhat easy time with Dylan… but I did grow up with women who didn’t cover up when they breastfed AND I gave birth in a birthing center and he was put on my chest immediately after he was born. By somewhat easy, I mean he latched on well from the beginning, but he did have colic, which was probably due to my diet.

    I’m not trying to criticize, I just think it’s unfortunate how many women have issues with breastfeeding and I think that it could have been prevented in many cases.

  • Holly

    July 16, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I have never agreed with a blog post more. Every nurse, LC, new mom, dad-to-be, and doula should read this. I would rather be the Octomom and give birth 8 times in one day than breastfeed for the 1st 3 mos again. My son had the reflex you are talking about and my daughter couldn’t latch. I bought stock in those plastic nipple shields and forced her through it. I feel the exact same as you regarding covering up and formula use and nursing in general. Amazing. I just had to comment cause my neck was getting sore from nodding in agreement for the last ten minutes. Thanks!

  • Sara

    July 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Boy, do you have that bit right about workplaces “making you pay”. I have applauded my workplace before about being so friendly towards me & my pumping “breaks” (that’s in quotes because I’m not taking a break as in sitting around doing nothing). But now that I’m 8 months in & still pumping daily? Oh, do I get the evil-eye.

    & I love that nurse’s honesty. I never thought about the whole wet nurse thing like that.

  • Meredith

    July 14, 2010 at 5:31 am

    I’m really glad you posted this because you never hear about how hard breastfeeding is when you are pregnant. I had such a hard time with it the second time that after 3 weeks we went to formula. And that was even with the help of a wonderful and understanding lactation consultant. The guilt has been overwhelming sometimes but I do think that baby and I are better off with formula than the hysterics that came with breastfeeding him. I’m just glad it is an option.

  • Cindy @ This Adventure, Our Life

    July 13, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Nursing minus the first week (she was given formula in the NICU, then had to get her breastfeeding), has been fairly easy, I am blessed. I have had some obstacles here and there, but overall they do not overcome my love of being able to nurse my child. I am a firm believer, however a Mom decides to feed their child, is fine, I can not tell them what is right for them and their baby. Do I think breastfeeding is fantastic, yes and for us, it works well.

  • Janelle

    July 13, 2010 at 8:43 am

    I am also one of the lucky ones where breastfeeding just “works” for me – not much pain, plenty of supply, babies are good latchers…so we go with it. I know that if I had issues, I would suffer from the “formula guilt” majorly, because I am often the queen of guilt. I’m glad that the universe has spared me on this one!
    That said, babies need to be fed, and they need loving, happy mommies. If the process of breastfeeding the baby is causing mother or baby any drama, then it is time to explore other options. I do think that, extenuating circumstances aside (like past surgeries or medicines that can harm baby and transfer in the breastmilk), everyone should be encouraged to try to breastfeed their child. And go from there. Each circumstance is different, and only the momma and her doctor can make the best decision.
    I cover up when I nurse in public, but to each her own. Right or not, breasts have become sexual in our society, and when used for their official function, it makes people uncomfortable. I choose to avoid that issue by keeping mine between myself and my baby.
    As for what age to ween, I think that when your child can ask for boobies by name (I’ve heard it done), or tell you when the breast is empty and they need the other side (I’ve also heard that one), then it is time to take your nursing to a more private location. But again, to each her own.

  • Stephanie @ My new life as… MOM!

    July 12, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    I was extremely blessed that breastfeeding was sort of easy for me. I gave birth to a boy who just knew what to do so it was very easy in the beginning. The first few weeks were hell due to the pain my nipples went through and I often cried when he nursed. After that, it was so easy. He was hungry, he ate. Plain and simple. Then when he started teething, he refused to nurse. I gave him the bottle (expressed milk) and he developed a bottle preference. I then had to get him back on the breast. Here were are at 8 months and we’ve made it through a hard road but we’re still nursing. He now has two teeth, nibbles on occasion and we’re alive.

    I’m extremely thankful that we’ve made it as far as we have and I am hopeful that we’ll make it to 12m.

    As for what I think about the questions you asked. To each, his own. I can’t tell someone else how to care for their child. Only they can make that decision with their doctor.

    1. Diana

      July 13, 2010 at 3:00 pm

      Wow, you’ve had a tough road with all that. Bella never took a bottle so it was always just me.

      I agree with the doctor thing – I think a doctor should be consulted before making any decision – bf’ing or not.

  • melodramamma

    July 12, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    “play video games while nursing” OMG Hilarious! ROFL! Good for you hanging in there. What a priceless gift you have given of yourself to Bella. As for covering up in public, I’ve used an apron called a “milk Mumu.” LOVED it! I’m just too modest, feel tooooooooooo uncomfortable at the idea of others seeing me nurse. Even though I don’t mind when other moms do and feel happy for them.

  • harmskills

    July 12, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    I love that nothing worth doing comes easy. love it!

    and Ill be BF’ing until my kid goes off to college. and then I might have to shack up in a dorm room. LOL!

  • Katie

    July 12, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    & what is that Twitter plugin? 😉 TIA

    1. Diana

      July 13, 2010 at 2:59 pm

      Hey Katie,

      It’s Twitterlink Comments by Andy Bailey. So easy to install. Let me know if you need any help on it!

  • Katie

    July 12, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    I had a really really rough start of it as well. I had to pump and bottle feed for the first month or so and then wean over to the breast. Ow. But it was all 10000000% worth it! I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Austin is just a couple weeks younger than your babe. I’m not sure when we will stop either, we’ll see I suppose.

    (And I don’t think you need to keep your eyes up when your friend is BFing! It’s a baby eating, it’s cute, I wouldn’t be offended one single bit if you glanced down. It’s kinda impossible not to, and if your friend is offended then she should cover up 😉 )

  • Tweets that mention The Breastfeeding Debate | Hormonal Imbalances — Topsy.com

    July 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Diana, Diana. Diana said: The Breastfeeding Debate: – Should you attempt to breastfeed before deciding on the bottle? – Should you cover up … http://bit.ly/bloPli […]

  • Jess@Straight Talk

    July 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    I was very lucky and despite hurting like a mutha! breastfeeding worked really well for us. I was lucky enough to be able to stay home too, so there was no need to pump. With baby #2 that won’t be an option and the idea of pumping scares the crap out of me.

    I’m all about bf and bf in public, but for the sake of not giving people a free show, I support cover ups. That’s just me, I’m not comfortable with the world seeing my boobs.

  • mama23bears

    July 12, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    this just made me laugh so hard! yeah, he won’t be needing a note for snack time at school! i am pretty modest when it comes to public breastfeeding. i get people are weirded out by it sometimes. and, like you said, i know it can be hard to hold a conversation when all you’re thinking is “keep looking in her eyes!”. i have been asked multiple times when i will be done. most people seem to think 8 months is too old. i was also told i will get my figure back if i stop. hmmm, pretty sure that’s not how that works!

    i’m still laughing here!

  • Heidi K.

    July 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I attempted to breastfeed. I, too, had the nurses insisting that I supplement from day 1 and I just didn’t know better. I didn’t see the lactation consultant right away, so I didn’t know that I should have held out against the supplement. Trying to get the hang of breastfeeding and how to attached a small tube to your beast with tape….it was a production and a half. The lactation consultant was awesome, though.

    I continued to try when we got home from the hospital. By 3 days out of the hospital, my anxiety was so bad that I had to make an late-evening emergency call to my therapist. It was either start an anti-depressant that would help with the anxiety (in 2 weeks!) and keep breastfeeding OR take a xanex, feel better immediately (meaning stop crying constantly, not be afraid to hold the baby, change his diaper, be alone with the baby, bathe the baby, etc.) but give up breastfeeding.

    Truthfully, the choice took be about 3 seconds to make. I needed to be my best for my son. I always believed that “breast is best.” However, when the breast comes at the cost of my mental health–and therefore, his health and wellbeing, too– I went with formula. He is better off w/ a stable mom holding a bottle than a freaked out, hysterical mom who was still breastfeeding.

    Yet, I felt guilty for MONTHS. Everytime someone would ask if I was nursing (why do they ask anyway? What does it matter to them?), I’d get upset b/c I had to say no. I felt like I was publically admitting my failure every single time I said “no, I’m not breastfeeding.”

    I am finally ok with my decision to use formula (he’s 10 months old.) As # 2 comes along (due it October), I am certain that I will choose to up my meds as soon as #2 is born and forego breastfeeding again. ( I still have PPD from #1 while preggers w/ #2 and can’t be properly medicated.) I have the feeling that I’ll still feel guilty about bottle-feeding #2.

    WTF is wrong with my brain that I can’t get “what everyone else might think” not to matter anymore?!?!?

    1. Diana

      July 13, 2010 at 2:56 pm

      I felt guilty about not enjoying nursing her. :/ Seriously. I felt huge guilt over that. I still do. I hear moms talk about loving it and it’s still kinda a pain to me to do it.

      I get it. And when it’s something that’s presented to us as “the right choice” it’s awfully hard to accept another decision.

  • Kim

    July 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    When I nursed my first, it was so easy I was that annoying mom who was like, “all moms should have to breastfeed! It’s so beautiful! It’s soooo wonderful!” It made me lose weight, got rid of my migraines, and actually made me feel high. *sigh* I miss it. Fast forward to child number 2 and a bad latch and cracked nipples, reflux and allergies and then I GOT it. It’s not so easy for every mom, the same for every baby. I nursed my first everywhere at anytime b/c it was so darn easy, but I couldn’t do that with my others b/c of their tummy issues and barfing/positioning. Oddly, I also got more modest the longer I nursed. It was so new at first and all I was concerned about was feeding my baby so my thoughts were ‘if you don’t like it get the hell away from me’ But as we got to be experts at it I could discreetly get them on w/o flashing the world and keep us covered. But I shudder to think of the people I flashed in those early weeks of first time motherhood!

  • Anne @ A JD + Three

    July 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Yeah, I absolutely agree with to each their own. I tried to breastfeed both of my kids and failed both times. I also had a HORRIBLE lactation consultant who just kept ramming Nik’s face into my boob. It did not work. So I am a happy formula feeder who has a healthy, smart and thriving little boy 🙂

  • Jessica

    July 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    I breastfed for 3 months and that was it! It was too hard for me! I had A LOT of guilt! But it quickly went away when I knew that I was happier and I had a happier baby because I was happier. It all worked out!

  • Mrs. MidAtlantic

    July 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Wow, what a great nurse you had to actually tell you it’s hard and not everyone suceeds at BFing! I tried for almost 4 months before I threw in the towel. It was hard, there were tears, and yet I’ll try again with my future children!

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