Monday, 2 June 2008

Bottle Vs Breast, A Mother's Story

The following is a testimony about having experienced the bond of mothering a formula fed child, and of experiencing the bond of a breastfeeding baby. It is written by a mother who formula fed 5 children, and finally got the support she needed to breastfeed her 6th and onwards. I've always believed that only mothers who have done this - raised a child fully with both methods - are qualified to speak to us of the differences.

The courage shown here is even more remarkable when you read of how she now feels about her 'ff' kids. And how much it hurts her that she didn't make it for them.

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Whilst we often hear health benefits cited as a reason to breastfeed, many supporters are hesitant to discuss bonding; despite sound scientific evidence. This is hardly surprising, because whilst many formula feeding mums can acknowledge their child might have more colds or minor infections – the suggestion they may not be effectively bonded with her infant is likely to provoke a hair raising reaction in most quarters.

Bonding is of course a complex issue and fathers/aunts/ siblings/grandmas etc bond with baby too. Unlike illness, beyond the science aspect – for most parents it’s extremely hard to quantify. You can’t measure feelings, nor compare to what someone else is feeling. Formula feeding mothers love and care for their infants and cannot understand how this would be different if they breastfed.

The only people who can truly compare bonding between breast and bottle fed babies, is mothers who have done both. Even one of each is not really reliable, due to all the other possible influencing factors.

As a mum of eight; five formula fed and three breastfed – I want to share my experiences with you in this article, as you can imagine it has taken a lot of soul searching on my part to ponder the question; what is the big deal about breastfeeding and bonding?

If breastfeeding is considered just as a method of transferring milk into baby, then on the surface there does not seem to be that much difference. One could argue that bottle feeding mums have the advantage as their babies can look straight into their eyes, something that most newborns correctly latched on will not manage to do until they are older.

As a breastfeeding mum it can be easy to feel just like a milk machine and that is all baby wants you for. Everyone else can get a cuddle and the minute baby gets close to you, all baby wants is milk and will not settle until you feed him. You may be sore, you are probably leaking milk everywhere and well it can all be rather undignified to start with. A far cry from the rose tinted pictures of mum breastfeeding baby happily that you imagined! Rather then looking adoringly down on your newborn, you are probably busting for the loo, as you haven’t managed to get off the settee for the last few hours!

I am deliberately painting a negative picture, because breastfeeding can be blooming hard work to start with and that’s when all is going well. Throw in a baby who is not latching well, thus causing mum to be in pain, mastitis, thrush, cracked nipples etc and it can be a relief to go over to bottle. You often hear it don’t you, I only started bonding with my baby once we had switched to formula and the pain stopped. I was dreading feeding him as it hurt so much...

I can relate to that, because I have been there, done that. It was a relief at the time, the regrets come later. When you raise your head out of its sleep deprived state, when you ‘have your body back’ when your baby is not in your arms constantly anymore, when those chubby hands are caressing a plastic bottle instead of your breast. When baby gets excited at the sound of the bottle lid coming off, rather then you lifting your top. When your baby, breastfed for six weeks simply doesn’t smell like your baby anymore after just one bottle of formula (given on the advice of health professionals) causing you to break down in tears at the loss of your baby and the inevitable route to full formula feeding yet again!

When you stand with your seriously ill baby on your shoulder and you look at a breastfeeding display in the children’s ward, citing all the things that breastfeeding protects against, all the things that are making your baby so ill and you know that you have failed that baby.

If only you had tried harder, the pain wasn’t really that bad if only, if only, if only...

Of course none of us have a crystal ball, breastfed babies do get ill and hindsight is a wonderful thing. And of course you love your baby. You would challenge anyone who dare suggest that you could love your baby anymore were you still breastfeeding. But still, you see other mothers breastfeeding and you are simply green with envy. You justify it to yourself that they obviously had a much easier ride then you. Their baby could not possibly have been as hungry as yours. They do not have other children to take care off. Their skin is not as sensitive , whatever was the problem or was perceived to be the problem you have a justification for having to give up.

And at the end of the day it’s just milk right. You love your baby just as much, you know your baby just as much. A happy mother = a happy baby! Formula is not poison, ok breast milk is best but formula is good enough...

Putting aside the obvious health issues here, you are deluding yourself. It does matter, and it matters a great deal - but you do not know that, because you have been robbed of your nursing relationship before it even started. And how could you know really? You simply do not know what you are missing, as you have not been able to experience it.

Now fast forward a few babies. Quite a few babies in my case. You seek and find the right support whilst you are still pregnant. You listen, you learn, you surround yourself with other happily breastfeeding mothers and it is beginning to dawn on you that actually they did not have an easier ride then you. They had support when it mattered! So you grow quietly hopeful that maybe, just maybe you will be able to feed this baby yourself. Maybe it will not all end in tears, regrets and recriminations.

And then your new baby girl is here, born at home surrounded by all your loved ones and she latches on beautifully, so far so good. There is no pain, as you both know what you are doing. You have the confidence to co-sleep from the start, making night feeds so much easier. You have your breastfeeding counsellor on speed dial, lol, but really you do not need her as it just works. And you fall hopelessly and utterly in love with this little bundle. You treasure every moment you have with her at the breast. You love that drunken sailor look she gets all the time. You love the fact that she only wants you and all you have to do is lift your top and let her disappear under your jumper and she is happy.

And you simply cannot bear to be parted from her. Even when she is fast asleep in her basket you need to move her from room to room with you or you feel as though your right arm has been cut off. You know when she will want feeding as your milk will let down seconds before she wakes up. You put her at the other end of the bed to give yourself some room to sleep and you wake up seconds before she does and you realise that you haven’t moved but your newborn has managed to wriggle across until she is right next to your boob! You cannot stop sniffing her because she smells SO good. So familiar and sweet and you get such a kick out of seeing her grow. Knowing that it is all your milk that has caused those chubby dimples. And then you get the first smile as she is coming off the boob, your milk dribbling down her chin. And then the first raspberry blown that has you both in fits of giggles. Chubby hands stroking your breasts, a little mouth contently glugging away and you just feel on top of the world.

Your older children imitating you by breastfeeding their dolls, suggesting baby needs feeding so they can get on with their play and then your toddler coming up to you and asking to have some too. So you end up with both of them at the breast and of course your toddler does not know what to do, but you feel such a rush of love and it heals so many wounds, wounds you never even knew you had.

The conversations you have with your teenager, as to why she was not breastfed, did you not love her enough? Ouch! How do you answer that one???

And through it all those breastfeeding hormones are working their magic. Everyone around you is surprised at the change in you. The kids and your husband are commenting on how much calmer you are. “Mum you are a much nicer person you know!” From a friend:” What has happened to you, you have really changed!” (Incidentally that friend ended up breastfeeding her last baby for 3 years, having f/f the first 4!)

And what about you? You gain a new self belief. You at long last feel comfortable in your own skin. You are WOMAN hear me roar! Your milk has superpowers it must have. Your baby grows into a toddler and tells you so, so it must be true! And you discover another thing about breastfeeding that you never knew. It is such a brilliant parenting tool when you have a toddler. How on earth did you ever manage without it before?

There are hardly any tantrums, you have the perfect tool right there, strapped to your chest and you use it willingly and gladly. And there is such joy, such indescribable joy. You are finally doing what you were meant to be doing. It’s natural and all of a sudden you are the one who other mums come up to and tell their breastfeeding story of pain and failure and justification and you see yourself and how you used to be.

And you feel sad, so very sad that these mothers will not be experiencing the joys and the sheer magic of breastfeeding. And you get angry too, angry at the system that lets mothers down, angry at the health professionals who robbed you of your own nursing relationship with your older children and you vow to do something about it. You become a breastfeeding counsellor yourself and you have come full circle really.

Breastfeeding it makes a difference it really does!

Doris O'Connor, LLL Leader. England, UK

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I'm printing this to say two things about this situation: one thing to the mothers, another to their friends and family.

No mother who tried, and didn't make it, failed. They were failed. Failed by the system around them. Not enough support. not enough knowledge. Not enough courage by the health care professionals. Not enough. If you've been failed like this - go straight to angry at the ones who let you down. Do not pass guilt, do not enter the labyrinth of getting angry at those women who made it, and have the courage to keep telling you breastfeeding is worth it. Write complaints to the hospital, complain to the midwives, complain to your MP, demand better treatment.

Even if the actual breastfeeding went well, you may have been failed by indifference in your family, in your support. Comments about not putting yourself out, getting enough sleep, letting others take feeds. Every comment ever made like that, wears you down. Don't blame yourself, and don't beat yourself up. Guilt is a useless emotion. Allow a moment of regret, and then move on. There are better things around the corner.

If you are the friend or family of a woman who has been failed - keep the above words in your heart. Let in the devastating loss that this mother felt at the time, and remember it. Honour your friend, or wife, or sister, when she tells you she's devastated that the breastfeeding didn't work out. Listen to her. Acknowledge her loss. Don't demean her by telling her it doesn't matter. Don't lie to her by telling her there are no risks to the formula she must now use. Don't dismiss her tears and longing. Give her your strength by accepting the magnitude of the loss, and comfort her in it. Stand by her as she grieves. If she came to you and told her a family member had died, would you tell her it didn't matter as she had lots of others?

Women suffer immense loss when breastfeeding fails, and most know it deep inside. And they are often surrounded by an eager team of supporters who unwittingly make that loss deeper and sharper, by constantly denying it exists at all. "It doesn't matter!" "Look at how healthy mine is, and he's never had a drop of breastmilk!" "Formula is fine, those fanatics are just crazy." "Now you can share the feeding."

Every comment another nail in the coffin of letting the mother grieve for herself, letting her come to terms with it on her own.

And more importantly, every comment preventing anything changing. No outraged friend to pick the phone up and call around for help. No support in writing letters to the hospital demanding to know why the midwives didn't give a pump when the tongue tie was found. No threats of letters to the Chair of the PCT complaining about the lack of basic care when she was told to put up with pain and cracked nipples. All of the action that could be taken, to prevent it happening again, swallowed up in telling the Mum it didn't matter, and no problems, formula is fine, no matter.

Don't demean her loss: honour it. Stand by her grief, don't deny it. It does matter. It matters a great deal.


Anonymous said...

I can definitely relate to the comment that seeing/hearing your baby react to a bottle is distressing, because Katelyn is far more interested in that these days than my breasts :(

Regarding women being let down by lack of support, I do think there is an element of some people simply not wanting it. Maybe that's because they didn't learn the realities of breast v. formula before giving birth and lack belief.

In my cousin's case, she blocked all my attempts to get her to a support group or even visit her myself when things started to go wrong. No matter how much I told her that yes, it is time-consuming and may well hurt, she didn't want to know. I was one of the horrible people who wanted her to suffer. A few weeks on she acknowledges regret for her decision, but not enough to seek out real, face-to-face help or halt the ongoing switch.

Morgan said...

At the end of the day, it's her breasts, and she gets to choose what she does with them.

But I always wonder what's going on there, with women who don't hear the message. Or actively resist it.

In a culture that speaks so often of how formula is perfectly acceptable, and doesn't speak at all of the risks... you can see how some women just don't think about it. I have several in my family. They never planned to breastfeed. Never occurred to do anything but formula feed. Breastfeeding was alien to them.

But a women who has thought about it, and absorbed some of the messages.. and still resists. I think those are probably the most challenging to us. For so few of us set out to be lifelong breastfeeding supporters! We just did what was 'best' for the baby. End Of.

And so it's hard to understand why any woman wouldn't try the same path. If our support was as good as it should be, maybe we'd understand this more, and fewer women would slip past in the night. Some women will always refuse, of course. They always have. That's what wet nurses were for. But then... we now have contraception. Why choose to have a baby, then refuse to feed it? Quandries, quandries, quandries...

I'm sorry for your pain with Katelyn and her bottle. I know how much you grieved for having to give up the breast. You're a strong and wonderful women, and an amazing mother. Katelyn needs you as her mother, no matter how much it hurts you to give her those bottles. :-)

Wish I had a magic wand. *sniff*

Anonymous said...

To Morgan at 11:15.

I do understand your anger, yes, many women have been failed by the lack of a support system, and the lack of proper breastfeeding information.

BUT, as a Lactation Consultant, and a Maternal Infant Counselor, I know, after more than 20 years of helping other women to breastfeed, and take care of their children, that in the end, it IS up to her.

When a client of mine succeeds, sometimes they say to me "YOU did it!" NO, I didn't. The Mother did it. All I did was give her tools. In order to blame others for an other women's breastfeeding failure, we would also have to give other women CREDIT for other women's breastfeeding success, and neither is right. The mother, herself, is responsible for seeking help, letting go of untrue statements from others, changing priorities, and actually DOING the work, in order to succeed.

There IS help. Lots of it. No, it probably isn't the "lactation nurse" in the hospital. Or her pediatrician. (Few of these people know a whit about how to really breastfeed.) But, with private practice lactation consultants, La Leche League and many groups all over the world, the help is there. However, the mothers HAVE TO ASK FOR IT!!!!

We can't burst into a woman's house, grab her baby, jam it unto the breast and say, "There. THIS is what you have to do." Can you imagine the anger at THAT?

As someone else on this blog said, many who don't "want to" don't seek out the help, or they dismiss the information given, even the best information out of hand with "I can't do THAT." I heard so many "I can't"s and "Yeah, but"s and when I hear these excuses I KNOW this mother will probably not end up breastfeeding, and even though the help is RIGHT THERE, she is often rejecting exactly what she needs to get where she SAYS she wants to be.

Now, I don't waste my time, or other mother's time if they have no interest in breastfeeding. Yes, I do advocacy work,I try to educate women, and even teens, but I help moms who come to me and ASK for help.

We can't blame the people who discouraged women from breastfeeding,for other women's refusal to listen to those who DO know about breastfeeding, because there are always people around who will ENCOURAGE, and give the right information, if the mother is listening.

We can't stop the naysayers. Many people, especially those who didn't breastfeed, have very strong feelings about the issue, and usually very negative feelings.

Moms need to AVOID the people who only make the experience seem like a nightmare. Not that we should lie to women, as sometimes sore nipples occur, sometimes women have to WORK on increasing their supply,sometimes one DOES lose sleep, sometimes women need to completely change their PRIORITIES in order to properly Mother. But, to too many women, the changes which need to be made in order to succeed at breast feeding are seen by them as "too much" and we hear, "I can't do THAT." (Whether THAT be spend, yes, the first 6 wks doing little more than LEARNING how to breastfeed, and doing it nearly round the clock, to telling one's boss, "I won't be able to be back at 6 wks post partum, my baby needs me, and I need more time to learn how to care for him." Or, "I have to get away for a day or two every week or I'll lose my mind. There's nothing wrong with that, is there?" When, their baby is 5 days old, and neither of them have learned to breastfeed yet. You can't LEARN to breastfeed, if you aren't there. Period.

Priorities have to change, and blaming the work of people who don't want you to breastfeed isn't the main reason breastfeeing fails. It fails because the task of totally devoting oneself to an other, completely helpless human being appears too daunting, the suggestions for increasing milk supply, or dealing with sore nipples appears too "time consuming" the intensity of the relationship, and the "give and give while not getting a lot back" (at least in the first few weeks) seems to be a good reason to just stop, and that bottle just seems like it's the answer to a peaceful day.

In the end, every mother is responsible for her child, her breasts, her life, and what she did with all of these. There always will be people who feel threatened by a succesful breastfeeding mother. I have SEEN, been in the room, with a client, whose mother, mother in law, sister, freind or even partner, was visibly threatened by the idea that this woman was actually not only attempting breastfeeding, but was doing the work, by hiring an LC, to make her goal a reality. These women can give in to the pressure of the people who know nothing about babies, and breasts and Optimal Outcomes. Or they can do what is KNOWN to be best for themselves and their babies, tell th naysayer to butt out, and continue to nurse the baby, follow the guidlines for success, and make whatever changes, no matter how "hard" they sound at the beginning, to succeed. Or, they can give in to the people who only care about their own sad outcomes, or bad choices, and both these mothers and their babies will ultimately pay the price. And, in the long run, HOW does that benefit the naysayer in the end? They get to say "I told you you couldn't do it, just like me." ?? THAT is some people's idea of "helping" a new mother? Well, she can listen to that negative person, who will steer her wrong nearly all the time, or she can break the mold, and do what she KNOWS is best for her baby. So, in the end, it IS up to the mother. It always was up to her.


Morgan said...

I think that living at one end of the process, and only seeing those who have already found you to help, can skew your understanding of the fraility of human nature. Everything you say in this piece, could be applied to any discussion on changing human behaviour. Only women who want to lose weight, will lose weight. Only those who want to succeed in education, will succeed. Only those who really want a good job, will get one. If she wanted to leave her abusive husband, she'd walk out the door. It's simple, say "no" and walk away.

The problem is far more complex. Humans are far more complex.

People don't know they are powerful Very often, they don't understand that they can change, and that they can change the world around them. Fear is a motivating factor in many people's behaviour.

Changing behaviour is the single most difficult thing for any human being to do, especially when previous behaviours are entrenched.

I'm sad that after 20 years in practice, your view of the world, and of woman, and the world most of us live in, is so reduced and so closed.

I'm particularly sad at the thought that you think that help is there for everyone, and all a woman has to do is ask. It must be comforting to think that, but it is not a reality that most of us would recognise. It's a very privalaged view, and one that most of us who've struggled on without a scrap of support would recognise. Especialy as you don't understand breastfeeding is so important until you get there - all you were working on was having a baby safely.

We don't have lactation consultants in the hospitals, or peaditricians concerned with breastfeeding. We don't have private practitioners listed in practise in the yellow pages - we don't have that system. And approaching volunteer groups is something you only do if you're good at approaching volunteer groups, and many women are not good at that. And in your system, all of the above only works if you have insurance, which means you have to have money. As I said, it's a very privalaged view.

I can see how blaming mothers for not being good enough, for not trying hard enough, for not remaking their entire personality over the second the baby is born, might be comforting for you. I can also see that you deciding that you know exactly what it is every mother should do, and needs to do, is a source of epic frustration when they don't comply.

Maybe you should start to understand my perspective if you look at the word "try". When I say if you tried, and it failed, you were failed, I mean if actually tried to do it. I don't mean if you just followed what others told you, and then drifted off. I mean if you actually tried to do it.

Your response puts me in mind of how Domestic Abuse refuges used to work. If you came in, bleeding and broken, and didn't leave your husband there and then, but then back to him... then you obviously didn't want to leave. Why should such women get support, when they didn't change their lives? When they got help, but didn't take it?

Now, of course, refuges understand my earlier point, that behaviour change takes much more than one moment of change, and that actually, letting women come into the refuges for breaks, planning to enter, planning to leave, planned returns to the abuser, but constant support from everyone that one day it will change, one day it will be right, and one day freedom will be acheived... is the way to go.

Your world is so clear cut.. all a women, who is lost in the explosion of a new life put in her arms has to do is... listen to the good people, ignore the bad people... do this.. do that.. do the other. It must be very disappointing to you that so few of us manage to follow this simple advice. I wonder if you realise how bitter many of your words are, about how many women have failed you, by not listening to you.

All in all, I prefer my world. Where there is hope around the corner as more and more women find their own voice, and their own bodies, despite incredible hegemonic opposition to both happening. A world where both failure, and success, are collective responsibilites, and where we celebrate those who make it and do not rage upon the fallen.

And where we're strong enough to put our names out, and not hide behind 'anonymous' as we berate fellow women for their lack.

Ailbhe said...

One of the most important things we need to teach, um, women in general, is to WANT to breastfeed.

And teaching some people that many women in America return to work two to six weeks after the birth of their babies so that they have somewhere to live and enough to eat might help too.

Morgan said...

Dear Anonymous,

I just wrote you a long reply, and the internet ate it. Suffice to say, I do not feel I can post your very long response, still anonymous, in the blog, as it was very personal. But you deserve a response, so in brief:

There is a large middle ground between womn who don't really care, and who give up and walk away, and those who make it through incredible odds as it's fired some engine within themselves.

That middle ground contains a huge amount of women who did try, but could not get past the barriers others put in front of them. Who were often defeated by the support system who should have been helping them. Those women were failed. And they need help in acknowledging that, and moving on.

Just as Doris did.

You were judged on your anonymously posted words. Not on an assumption of your background. Only those with a seriously privalged world view can beleive that self-determination is the only factor in making, or breaking, it, in this world. The fact that you interpret this statement as to be about income, shows what a privalaged view you have.

The rest of us live in a world where you can be crushed no matter how strong you are, or how hard you tried.

We also live in a world where you cannot see into another women's heart, and know the difference between giving up, and being crushed. Of course loads of women give up because they don't want to put the work in. But to state that it is always down to the woman... *shakes head*. Not the world I live in.

Finally, if you felt hurt by what I said - do question why you posted those words in public, in this way. And consider how hurt other women may have been, when in a blog dedicated to telling them that they had to let this go, and move on, an 'expert' comes in and states it was all down to them not being enough.

Women are failed by lack of support. And they need to hear that, and heal from the trauma, bitterness and regret of it.

another Helen said...

I remember listening to an elderly woman talking to a newly pregnant woman years ago before I even became pregnant. She was talking about how the midwife had made her feel when she was having difficulties with breastfeeding. She spoke as if it was yesterday, she obviously still felt the pain. It made a big impression on me and I've always remembered her.

Tina said...

As a mother who has experienced both formula feeding and breast feeding my children, I can already see the difference. I am the youngest of three girls. My mother breast feed us all but only until about three months and in my case about one month. As my older sisters had their babies, they each tried to breast feed, but where unsuccessful, with some real lack of support. Then I would hear the "horrible" stories of what it took to breastfeed and then how "bad" it was to dry up. I knew one other women who breast feed except my aunt who long termed breast feed her son until 5, which people in my family thought "disgusting." So with all the negatives, I decided that I was not going to go through all that emotional and physical pain of breast feeding and I would not even try, I would rather bottle feed. I thought I was great. My husband, could feed the baby and we took turns feeding at night. We would get good amounts of sleep and things were good. I really did not think that the formula was the reason he was so sick with, RSV, Pneumonia, three ear infections, and constant colds, he was in daycare. we also he to switch his formula to soy because he would spit-up so badly, and even with the soy if still spit up. I also never thought that the formula cause him to be colicky for three month, and he would scream for 3 to 4 hours each night between the age of two to four months.

Things changed for me when I was pregnant with my second. I was now a stay at home mom, I had moved a good distance from any family member and I had become very involved with my church. Many of the women I met at church were breast feeding moms. Things were just so natural for them. None of the mothers looked down to breast feeding and instead they looked more down towards formula feeding. But they were more knowledgeable about the benefits of breast milk. I thought growing up that breast milk really was only important for the colostrums in the first two weeks. I learned so much from these women. When I gave birth to my second I really wanted to breastfeed. It had become very important to me. I did have problems with latching, jaundice, and weight loss at first. I had to supplement with formula because even though I pump my milk did not come in until day 6 and then it took two days for it to come in fully. The baby still would not latch for the first eight weeks. Then by week nine he was latched and ready to go. I am not going to say that it was easy. It took sometime, some supplementing, and then exclusively pumping but now when he is all snuggled up and eating so contently, I am so proud, I did not give up and I can look at my beautiful baby boy and know he is happy and content. He gives me looks that he gives no other person. I love to see him gain weight and his cubby little legs. He is so healthy. He has not even been sick once and he is almost four months old. I am grateful for all of the help and support I received, the lactation consultants at the hospital, the friends that I have and for the online support groups which have put me in touch with so many people and there is always someone somewhere that has experienced something like any of my latching or sore nipple problems.

So the question is do I have a better bond with the second son more than my first, when I look into the depths of my soul the answer is yes. Especially at this age. My younger son would scream and was colicky at this age. He was also in daycare. It seemed to me that it took work to create that bond between us which we know have. With my younger son, it came so naturally and I believe it is because he is closer to me physically then my first. We co-sleep and wake up to each other. me are much more frequently together every two to three hours I am feeding him and do a lot of comfort feeding in between. I am so glad to see him become so calm with me.

Well those are my thought from a mom that has done both, hope this helps anyone.

Anna said...

This was so beautifully written, it brought tears. So very, very heartfelt and true.

Anonymous - I am sad for you, and I am sad for the women who come to you and don't meet your amazingly narrow view of what a woman should be. How phenomenally lucky you must be to have never had to do more than seek help in your life, and find exactly what you needed. The vast majority of women are not so lucky, and often do not have the resources, courage, knowledge or strength to continue searching when faced with such an insurmountable mountain of incorrect information and nay-saying friends and family. Most women don't know enough about breastfeeding to know the difference between good information a bad information, good support and bad support. It's up to those of us who DO know to provide gentle guidance and reassurance to mothers, and to give information to the uninformed who may come in contact with her. THAT is how things change.

As I write this while nursing my fifth child, I realize just how fortunate I am. Fortunate to have a mostly supportive husband, to have the courage to stand up for what I know is right for my children, and the tenacity to seek more and better information with each successive child. Fortunate that I was raised to be a confident woman, willing to stand up to healthcare providers who give misinformation, and anyone who dares tell me "you can't do THAT here." Fortunate to have an employer who welcomes my babies at the office, and coworkers who don't bat an eye when my door is closed several times a day to pump, or when I nurse a baby in the middle of a meeting (sometimes while leading the meeting!)

My apologies for being a little all over the place. Nursing Sera and trying to fend off Levi, who is obsessed with the letter W and keeps shoving my hands off the keyboard so he can press it!

Louise said...

Sometimes 'choice' does not come into it. My baby was hospitalised after losing too much weight when I was trying to breastfeed. Considering I almost died during childbirth, my recovering body just did not work to produce milk as it was supposed to. Not an excuse, simply a fact. Just as women with no legs are not expected to run and blind women are not expected to see, women who cannot produce milk or breastfeed for any medical reason should not be made to feel as though there is a reason to 'mourn' their inability to do so. I would much rather people accept I am doing the best that I can for my baby and not make me feel as though my baby and I are missing out on something special. I am not belittling those who breastfeed, I never planned to bottle feed and tried my utmost to give my baby what is natural and healthy. I simply don't want to feel guilty anymore as though I hadn't given it my all.

Morgan said...

How you come to terms with your own situation, is yours and yours alone. Likewise, women who come to terms with accepting the loss they feel, and the differences they have observed, are free to name and own their own stories.

The unheard story is often the one of the women mourning, not the one stating "I'm bottle feeding and it makes no difference to me." If that is your experience - it is your experience. It is also the commonly portrayed experience in mainstream media.

However, there are other stories. That deserve to be heard. For many women, the lack of breastfeeding is just that - a lack. A lack they are not allowed to name or discuss. I've never seen it suggested that a woman who cannot walk, or one who cannot see, is not allowed to mention that the restriction has made a difference to her life experience. The lack of working legs, the lack of eyesight... those are losses that each person comes to terms with. A full and fulfilled life is possible without either working legs, or eyesight. But no one suggests it doesn't require a bit of work to adjust and move on if they are suddenly taken from you.

The lack of breastfeeding is an immense loss for many women and they deserve to be heard, and not be silenced by the concept of "Don't mention the able bodied, the Mums in wheelchairs might get upset." or "Whatever you do don't mention the joy you have in colours, the Mums who are blind might get upset."

Mothers are mothers. We all share a common goal to do the best for our babies. That doesn't require that any experience is silenced.

There is room for all of us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your beautiful story. You are right about saying if you "try" and you failed, the system failed you. I tried with my first baby and after returning to work I didn't have the support or knowledge I needed to get through the obstacles I had. I had to stop breastfeeding and it made me so depressed. But this second time I am back at work and still breastfeeding. I have support from work,and à lactation consultant . So I can say à support system makes à huge difference.