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September 15, 2010

Breastfeeding Support

The morning of my release day from the hospital after having my 2nd son I heard another mom down the hall delivering her baby. Low and behold it was a friend of mine from high school! I asked her to share a little bit about her nursing story with you. From my friend Marissa:

For me, breastfeeding was never a question. I was breastfed. My sisters were breastfed. It was all that I knew. To me, having a baby equaled changing diapers and breastfeeding.

My experience has not been without trials. My son did not want to latch. He was also so jaundice that he had to go back to the hospital and go under the bili lights. There is no heartache quite like a doctor telling a breastfeeding mom that she must supplement with formula in a bottle. The defeat she feels is intense. It is also so hard to hear people question your milk supply because your six week old all of a sudden wants to eat every hour when just yesterday he was going three hours in between feedings. It just tares your confidence down.

I am now and always be a strong ‘lactivist.’ I believe that everyone should try breastfeeding. I know that breastfeeding does not work for everyone, but I do believe everyone should try. I believe that a lot of reasons that women fail at breast feeding is due to lack of support or knowledge. I believe that a lot of women who truly want to breastfeed give up or stop because they just didn’t have the support they needed.

Let me explain. (For the record, I would NEVER judge a woman who formula feeds. I understand every situation is different. You must do what you have to do for you and your baby. Please do not take this as formula bashing. There is a time and a place for everything. I’m talking about the women who wanted to breastfeed, but gave up for reasons that could have been avoided. There are women that once they looked back at the situation and realize that if she had more knowledge and support at the time, would have continued to breastfeed.)

When my son was jaundice, his doctor wanted me to supplement with formula until his levels came down. Without running any tests on him, she told me he was dehydrated and that formula was needed to hydrate him and get his levels down. Thankfully, my husband was there to explain to the doctor we felt very strongly about breastfeeding. I was too tearful and in shock to talk. (Remember, breastfeeding was all I knew. So I didn’t understand why I wasn’t enough.) I had a nurse come in and set the formula in my room telling me I needed to do it. After the electrolyte tests came back, it was determined that my son was not dehydrated and no formula was actually needed. If it wasn’t for the support of my husband and mom, I probably wouldn’t have questioned the doctor and given my son formula when it really wasn’t needed. (Don’t worry, had the results come back that my milk actually wasn’t enough, I would have given the formula. But my point is, it wasn’t needed.)

My son (like all breastfed babies) went through periods of cluster feeding. There would be days where it felt like he stayed latched on all day, and only took breaks to have his diaper changed. At one point in time I had someone ask me if I was sure I was making enough milk. They didn’t understand why my son wanted to eat all the time when only yesterday he was eating every two to three hours.. Thankfully, I had found a local support group to attend. I have gone once a week, every week, since my son was born. If it wasn’t for that group I would have assumed (like a lot of moms do) that my milk supply had gone down and the reason he wanted to be on my all the time was because he wasn’t getting enough. I have heard of a lot of moms quitting because of this. I was very glad that I had a support group to explain that babies have times of growth spurts where they “cluster feed” to increase your milk supply. It only lasted a couple days, and then he went back to stretching out feedings. It was a rough couple of days of around the clock feedings though.

I’m also saddened by the woman that quits because when she pumped, she only pumped out drops or an ounce and assumes that’s all her baby gets out so she must be starving her baby. (This could be from a few different reasons. 1. Babies are much more efficient suckers than pumps. Some studies suggest they are up to 50% more efficient. 2. The shield on the pump is the wrong size. 3. When babies are first born, their tummies are the size of marbles. They don’t need very much) She wanted to breastfeed, but believed that she wasn’t producing enough.

Or the woman that quits because she fed her baby eight ounces from a bottle and baby is still hungry, so she must not be producing enough to keep up with baby’s huge appetite. Bottle feeding is much different than breastfeeding. At the breast, a baby can regulate how much they take in. Bottles give milk at a much faster rate, and sometimes a baby will suck it down so fast that she doesn’t know that she is full. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby, it is possible to do so with a bottle fed baby. (There are plenty of tips on bottle feeding. Kellymom.com and llli.org are great resources on that and all things breastfeeding.)

Breastfeeding in natural, but it doesn’t come naturally. It takes a lot of knowledge and support. It's hard to do it alone. I suggest finding a good support group while your pregnant. Good groups will let you, and encourage you to come while you’re pregnant to check things out. I’m fortunate that in my area, there is a free support group every weekday expect for Friday. It’s important to connect with other moms who have breastfed and find tips and encouragement from them. When something seems to go wrong, it is the natural mother in us to want to fix it. Support groups help to reassure moms that what you are going through is normal and it will pass. They can also give you tips for getting through the rough times. You can do a search in Goggle to find ones in your area, or check with local hospitals to see what is offered.

If you take away anything from this, let it be that you need support. Breastfeeding can be done by most women, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. The amount of support you have will dramatically affect how successful you are at breastfeeding and the length of time you continue to nurse.

And of course enjoy it! Breastfeeding is suppose to be enjoyable. If it's not, ask for help and support.

Thanks for sharing your story!


Laura D. said...

For the record, let me say that I am also a lactivist and I would love for all mothers to try breastfeeding and to have that special relationship (like I had with my LOL).

I see a different side of things because I am an L&D nurse. And because I have a different viewpoint, I tend to tick off a lot of lactivists and boob nazis.

Let me explain.

I see TOO MANY young (even teen) moms who are TOLD by their mothers that they WILL breastfeed. These young girls are not given the option to bottle feed and they resent the breast. These young girls breastfeed only because they have to and they hate it. These are also the women who grow up to lash out at public breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers.

I have to stand up for my patient and go with "it is what she wants." Many of these young girls are not mature enough to handle a baby let alone breastfeeding. Yes, I try to help them see how wonderful it can be, and I give them every chance for a successful breastfeeding relationship, but with that much hate and resent in the air, it makes it very hard for them to enjoy breastfeeding.

I completely agree about the support. Without the support from your partner, family, etc it is hard to have a successful breastfeeding experience. And yes, many mothers who want to breastfeed fail due to poor support.

I just feel very badly for these young moms. They have such a rough time balancing their wants/ their mom's wants/ and their baby's needs. Yes, not getting pregnant in the first place would have solved that...but once you have that baby, there is no going back.

Great Post Marissa!!! You are so right about the supplementation issue. We as medical professionals sometimes want to FIX things as soon as possible and forget that mother nature takes her time! ALL breastfed babies will get jaundice to some degree. Some worse than others. And yes, some need to have supplementation, but not all! Props to you mommy for sticking to your guns!!!

Mystery Girl said...

GREAT post! I am very lucky to have such a supportive husband since my family isn't that much. I went and visited my mom(Leah's grandma) and she decided to buy formula before we went up there. I said NO! she wont need that! I feel very strongly about breastfeeding as well. I didn't want her to use formula. Well, guess what. One morning she was watching her while I got in a few more zzzzz's and I told her to wake me up when she was hungry. I woke up and seen her feeding her formula with rice cereal! I was sooo mad! I will never again visit her while my child is nursing. She doesn't understand. She tryed breastfeeding with me for only a few weeks and stopped. But, I do my research and I know what's best, and she still likes to argue with me about it.

So, you are right. I feel like I do need a support group. ALL my friends that also have infants do not breastfeed. So I don't really have anyone to talk to. Thanks for posting this. =)

Kristina said...

oh my Icegirl, i would be so mad if my mother fed my baby formula with rice! Good for you to stick to your guns and do what is best for you!

dayna w said...

My son and I struggled with breastfeeding for the first couple weeks. He wasn't latching on correctly. But with the help of a wonderful LC and a very supportive hubby, we've hit the 7 month mark and my son is thriving.

Marissa Berghorst said...

Way to Dayna!

Anyone that wants to see my blog, visit awomancalledmom.blogspot.com

There are more nursing posts there. :)

Anonymous said...

I just added your blog site to my blogroll, I pray you would give some thought to doing the same.