The (old) new breastfeeding rules

Paula Spencer is the author of Momfidence! An Oreo Never Killed Anybody and Other Secrets of Happier Parenting. She also writes a blog by the same name about relaxed, confident parenting. I’m almost afraid to send you over there because you’re going to have so much fun reading her, you may never come back here 😆 .

As a seasoned breastfeeding mother of four, Spencer has written an amazingly good (in a funny-but-serious way) article in Parenting on how she managed to be a breastfeeding mother despite breaking all the ‘rules’. I suspect, however, that if I showed this article to my mother-in-law (who breastfed her own 3 children back in the late ’50s/early ’60s, because “that’s what was always done in my family”), she would recognize the same healthy attitude. At least, that was very similar to what she expressed to me on the subject when it came up with my little ones. Key quote:

It’s a shame, really. Instead of being a natural extension of pregnancy and childbirth, something you just do right away to pass on all those protective antibodies (and save a little cash at a time when it’s flying out of your wallet as if it had been sprinkled with pixie dust back there in the delivery room), breastfeeding has been turned into a statement. A chore. Another series of tests on the way to “good” motherhood. I breastfed because I was convinced it was a smart start. I kept at it because it was much more pleasurable than I’d imagined (not that one can accurately imagine much about breastfeeding before actually doing it). I made it work for me. And then when my baby grew teeth and I grew tired of being tethered to the baby or the pump, I quit.

The message to mothers-to-be and new moms should be: Take breastfeeding one day at a time. Try it in the hospital — you’re just lying there anyway. And people there are glad to show you how. Then, if you and your baby are getting the hang of it, stick it out during maternity leave to pass all those health benefits to your baby, and to yourself. Plus, it’s free, and it can be easier to stuff a ready nipple into a hungry mouth than to prep a bottle while suffering extreme sleep deprivation.

And then, see how it goes. Maybe it will be easier, and more enjoyable, than you thought, the way it was for me. Maybe you’ll move on in a few weeks or months. Maybe you’ll stick with it right through toddlerhood. Whatever follows, everybody will be okay.

That’s the real definition of success: everybody coming out okay.

A-men! 🙂

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9 Responses

  1. This was my favorite from the article:

    Naturally, I consider myself a “breastfeeding mother.” A successful one at that. I nurse Henry for six months, long past the national average.

    Too bad that virtually every preceding sentence brands me a loser at the job, according to prevailing winds of advice and expectation that have whipped up the definition of breastfeeding mother to intimidating proportions. Sure, sure, “breast is best.” But breastfeeding advocates have raised the bar so high on what counts as the right way to feed a baby, it’s a wonder anybody dares to start.

  2. That left me with a big smile on my face and some happy memories of relaxing with a suckling child in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

  3. Oh, what I would have given for someone to tell me to just take it a day at a time! Maybe I wouldn’t have beaten myself up for NOT enjoying it at all. My daughter is 11 months, and I nurse her sometimes and give her formula sometimes. Finally we’re both happy, and everyone is coming out ok. Amen!

  4. Brava to Paula Spencer! If I’d read that when my first daughter was born, I’d probably have lasted longer than 4 months breastfeeding. I got so freaked out by the idea that if I breastfeed I HAD to cosleep, not use pacifiers, never take any time away, etc. that I just gave up altogether.

  5. I will say, though, I cannot join the league of multi-tasking BFing mothers. I cannot BF and write or drink or God forbid work on the computer at the same time. I’m just not that coordinated. Plus, after 3-4 months, the sound of fluttering pages makes my kids pull off.

  6. I breastfed for 3 years. The last 2 1/2 were mostly because I’m not very good at weaning.

    I know every child is different and all, but from where does this paranoia about pacifiers and bottles come? As far as I can tell*, most kids prefer breast feeding and will go for it in preference to bottle feeding if it is offered.

    My child used a bottle a total of three times in her life: after she was born, I got dehydrated and couldn’t produce milk. So she got dehydrated. She got one bottle of formula and two of pedialyte. She was supposed to have at least 4 bottles of pedialyte but after my milk supply came in she absolutely refused to touch the stuff. **Sniff** Babies first act of rebellion. (But definitely not her last!)

    *That is to say based mostly on anecdotes from friends and relatives.

  7. The paranoia comes from the days when pacis and bottles were pushed, and pushed heavily, immediately following birth. Not all babies will develop nipple confusion, but some will, and it’s most likely to be a problem when done at this age. I personally did experience difficulties with getting my daughter to latch on after the NICU insisted on bottles and wouldn’t let me breastfeed (she was under bili lights).

    There’s also a concern with supply issues, since it works on a supply and demand system; I think this is less of an issue and really only a problem in women with a fragile milk supply.

    • The problem isn’t that nipple confusion doesn’t exist; give a baby nothing but bottles in the very early stage, and there’s a chance of running into it. Giving a tiny baby nothing but bottles for several days and not letting her BF at all (as in your case) is a good example of this. The problem is when this is hyped by lactivism as “if your baby gets even one bottle, one pacifier in the nursery, she will get nipple confusion and you might as well kiss your BF career goodbye”. Both untrue and demoralizing.

  8. I totally agree Esterar. One bottle has not ruined a breast feeding relationship. But it might keep the poor woman from throwing her postpartum body and brain out the window because of all the emotional upheaval that occurs after delivery.

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