Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Common breastfeeding mistakes, part 2

Click here to read part 1, with paragraphs 1-7

8. Underestimating the importance of a good, professional lactation consultant. If you need a lactation consultant, look for an IBCLC. Some "lactation consultants" actually do more harm than good with their misinformed and misleading advice.

9. Insecurity about the ability to produce enough milk, or milk of "good enough" quality. What nursing mother hasn't encountered the raised-eyebrows question, "and how can you be sure you have enough milk?"; there are few things to undermine one's confidence like this one. I have spoken to a mother who used to have a skinny baby - who has by now, several years later, turned into a skinny child. Which is now natural and normal. But back then, of course, "not having enough milk" was to blame.

10. Lack of support. A supportive husband, a community of women who successfully breastfe(e)d, La Leche League's hotline - all of those can increase the chance of a successful nursing relationship. I have always got wonderful support from my husband, who never complained about a messy house or lack of proper dinner on days when, it seemed, the baby had to be at my breast every waking moment. And on the flip side of the coin, it's so easy to become discouraged when you are a new mother, have no support, and hear the authoritative tone of someone who tells you "sometimes it just cannot be done".

11. Deciding to combine breast and bottles of formula so that "others can help too". It can very soon lead to a drop in milk supply and a switch to using formula entirely. There are plenty of other ways to help a new mother, other than feeding the baby, such as changing diapers, bathing, and entertaining the little one while Mommy gets some rest.

12. Difficulty to breastfeed in public. Not long ago, after my sister-in-law's wedding, we were away to spend Shabbat chatan with her new family. Our room was far away from where we went to pray or take our meals, so there was no way for me to retreat there during breaks to breastfeed. So I nursed just about wherever I could. I nursed in a dusty back room in a synagogue. I nursed on a bench in a deserted playground - which was alright during the evening, but during the day, I found myself crouched with a fussy baby in a tiny spot of shadow behind a bomb shelter, trying to nurse her while throwing nervous glances all around me to make sure no one is looking. I was feeling increasingly bitter about this forced exile while everyone were enjoying a leisurely meal in an air-conditioned room. Well, when I came back, I saw another mother (previously unnoticed by me) sitting on the floor right next to the table and nursing her baby with her entire breast hanging out. No one seemed to be paying her the slightest bit of attention. So I thought to myself, next time I might just pull a chair aside, throw a blanket over myself and the baby and get it over with. I'm a huge proponent of modesty, and obviously I don't think one should let it all hang out, but a nursing mother doesn't need to feel like an outcast.

13. Fear of nursing because the mother is ill. I have known mothers who have stopped breastfeeding because of a minor infection which took a few days to treat. Surely breastfeeding-compatible medicines could be found for that, or at least the mother could resume nursing after a few days, and in the meantime keep up her supply by pumping.

14. Wrong interpretation of the baby's signs. A fussy baby doesn't mean that the baby isn't getting enough milk, nor is a baby who nurses very often. Perhaps the baby wants to nurse just for comfort; and if the baby does need more milk, nursing as frequently as possible - not spacing feedings by using a bottle or pacifier - is the way to boost production.

15. Believing that there really isn't such a big difference between nursing and using formula. When things get rocky, how many mothers choose to quit simply because they haven't been informed about the important benefits of breastfeeding? Too many give up on breast milk too easily.

I think this is the time to say that I know there are also mothers who badly wanted to nurse their babies and truly couldn't, because of no fault of their own, whether it was a medical problem or lack of knowledge and support or a combination of all of the above. The purpose of my blog is not to put other mothers on the line of defence. I think we are all united in wanting the best for our children, and also in all of us being far from perfect.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the run-down of potential "reasons" that I may be given to not breastfeed/stop early etc. So far I have been pleasantly surprised by how pro-breastfeeding the midwives and hospital are (I say surprised as I seem to see quite a few people bottle-feeding their infants in this country). I am hoping for the best and I believe I will get the support that I need both from friends (I have only ever known 1 person who chose to formula feed) and from family - NOBODY has ever bottlefed in mine or my husbands families. But I have heard from friends that their families raise eyebrows when they are still nursing (as well as weaning) a 9 month old. Indeed even my own husband didn't have a clue about the number of benefits from b/f until I mentioned as many as I could from the top of my head - I think he just thought it was the most balanced nutrition and that was it, now he recognises better why feeding for longer is beneficial.

Anonymous said...


I saw some comments on the pain with nursing and I just wanted to add that one product in particular really, really helped. It is called Lansinoh (it is basically a food grade lanolin) and if you apply it to your nipples before the Baby latches the pain is MUCH decreased. I used it during teething, while pregnant and nursing and just any time I felt pain. It is also wonderful for diaper rash and chapped skin.

It is found at target and walmart here and I am sure it can be ordered online.

Many Blessings :)

Persuaded said...

Anna.. I love how you unrelentingly and unequivocally support breastfeeding. That is hard to do in these days where it seems somehow necessary to validate everyone's individual choices, no matter how misguided they may be. And most of all, I love how you do it with such kindness, respect and grace. You are one special gal, my dear♥

CW said...

Dear Anna,
Ive seen some beautiful nursing covers on Etsy. They seem to be just a blanket with a strap to put around the mama's neck and a bit of a curved frame so mama can see the baby. I bet they'd make nursing in public so much easier, and it would be easy enough to make one.

Blessings, CW

Anonymous said...

There's a great product called Bebe au Lait that allows nursing in public while maintaining modesty. Basically it's a large piece of pretty fabric that attachs over your neck. There's boning in the top of the fabric so that you can look down and maintian eye contact with your baby.

They're great.

Karen said...

For many women, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is based on their comfort level, lifestyle, and specific medical considerations that they might have.
I hope to breastfeed for at least 6 months, but if it doesn't work out, I won't beat myself over the head for it. I hope no one else does either.

Jen said...

Off the topic... But did any of you know that you were pregnant before your missed period? Any signs or symptoms? Feelings?
Thank you!

The Whites said...

What do you say to someone that tells you, "well, some people just can't do it... I couldn't". Do you question them further and point out their mistakes? I have a sister-in-law who gave up on nursing her 8 week old because the baby was "allergic" to her milk (this is what the doctors told her, but I'm sure she never tried giving up dairy or SMOKING!!)... she only consulted doctors on her problems though. She drives me crazy though.... anyways.

Like everyone else has been saying about the nursing cover- if you google "hooter hider tutorial" there are great instructions for making one, its so simple!

Lady M said...

Regarding #14, when Baby G is tired and full, he does this fussy latch on/latch off thing. I finally figured out after a few times of this (after getting the breastfeeding issue resolved and he was breastfeeding only, not breastmilk in a bottle), that when he is done, full and tired, he just wants to "suck" - but would get fussy if he got any milk from me (he was full!). So, when he does that, that is my sign he wants his pacifier and off to sleep he goes. The pacifier falls out when he is asleep (or now, he takes it out when he is done). I have used pacifiers with all 3 of my children and have long term breastfeed all of them.

And needless to say, Baby G has done paci's, bottles and breast without any issue. My Ped. was surprised and told me I was lucky. Nope - I was persistent and had prayed a lot over him! It was G-D!

Joie said...

I used Bebe au lait until my Patrick decided that was even too much around him. It was the best of its kind, though. While I do not follow your particular views on modesty, I don't even show cleavage. It just makes me feel like I am hanging out. Still, I can think of nothing more modest than a woman nursing her baby. Maybe modesty is as much about attitude as it is covering.

Anonymous said...

I'm feeling especially sentimental about these two posts you had up. My one-and-a-half year old just weaned herself, and I am actually quite devastated about it. I posted a long and rambling letter to my daughter on my own blog, and I sobbed my way through writing it.

The time you spend nursing is so short in comparison to your child's whole life - it's more than worth the little (and sometimes not-so-little) inconveniences. It's over all too soon.

Gothelittle Rose said...

Yeah, you know what, my doctor told me that I had to give up dairy because my milk was making my baby colicy. When I checked that with my pediatrician, he asked me if I had avoided milk in pregnancy. I said oh heck no, I craved it. He told me that I shouldn't need to give up dairy when nursing.

After seeing the same gassiness with formula (long story), cereal, and even just straight sweet potatoes, I figured my baby was just more bothered by gas than the average baby and now I focus on backpatting and Mylicon.

Here's a new one, though... I developed eczema on both breasts, heralding a return to nursing pain at 6 months! My dermatologist gave me a steroidal cream, but my pediatrician said not to use it, so I've switched from disposable nursing pads to all-cotton pads washed with the bras in baby (hypoallergenic) detergent and am trying to control it with some calendula cream.

I thought my baby was fussy at that time because my milk wasn't enough for her, but when the eczema started to subside (I'm still fighting it!) she settled back down to exclusive nursing.

Kate said...

Thanks for these 2 posts on breastfeeding. I found it very useful and sent it to a co-worker of mine who is planning on breastfeeding.

As a side note: Whatever happened to Becky?? I am on the edge of my seat!

Anonymous said...

I second the recommendation for Lansinoh however, for my first 5 babies I still had a great deal of pain those first few weeks. For my 6th baby, I applied Lansinoh daily for a few weeks BEFORE my due date. What a big difference that made! Then I applied it religiously after each feeding for the first two or three weeks.

Also, for Karen, 6 months is a good goal. Not knowing anyone who breastfed I made the same goal for my first. I'll tell you, though, if I had given up a day sooner than 6th months, I wouldn't have realized how pleasant and easy breastfeeding had become. When my son was that age, I realized I'd be crazy to switch to formula and bottles at that point. It is so much easier to have your milk, at a perfect temperature, without having to carry and clean a bottle. I ended up sailing through the next 6 months totaling a year.

My 6th baby is now 13 months and still breastfeeding.

Tracy said...

The biggest thing I have noticed is that many moms think that they are unable to produce milk at all! And all they need to do is wait it out and say away from formula. Most moms give up within the first few weeks because they think they cannot produce milk or cannot produce enough.

Anonymous said...

Number 13 is very true! I gave birth to my first baby 4 weeks ago and due to some medication I required after a very difficult, dangerous labour, I have contracted thrush in my breasts...very painful indeed.

A trip to various doctors has produced the same comment over and over...that I should postpone nursing until I'm better. I have had to fight for the medication to allow me to keep breastfeeding. anyone reading who is experiencing a similar problem, keep perservering and keep badgering your health care provider for medication. You don't have to stop, or even postpone nursing.

And to Jen, who asked about signs of pregnancy, I knew I was pregnant before I missed my period because my breasts were very tingly and a bit tender. If you're trying to conceive, I hope you do very soon! :-)

Martha xxx

Anonymous said...

Bit of a tangent ...

I find it somewhat amusing that breastfeeding used to be something only hippie types used to do, while proper middle class SAHM's fussed over formula and bottles and now breastfeeding is being espoused by religious conservatives as a "cause celebre." If politics makes strange bedfellows, I suppose Mother Nature can, too! :-)


sarah said...

There are so many misconceptions about breast feeding your baby, and your list is awesome. If I ever encounter resistance to my breastfeeding choices I will send them to this list!

I should note that my Dr. is very supportive of breastfeeding and recommends it to all her new OB patients. She not only recommends it but preaches about it's many benefits for baby and momma. We are blessed to have a Dr. like that though.

I did have pain when I nursed for the first two weeks with my first child. Then....I toughened up I guess and I never had any more pain.

Mrs. Taft said...

Gothelittle Rose, the way that proteins reach your baby through the uterus and through your milk are very different, so actually it doesn't matter necessarily that you tolerated milk during pregnancy when it comes to whether or not your baby can. Some babies are allergic to the milk proteins, but dairy proteins are large molecule proteins that pass through your milk and can aggravate gas and reflux situations. Yes, the proteins are gentler than formula and more broken down, but they are still potentially harmful to sensitive babies. Babies don't use their digestive tracts until after birth, and often it is the reaction on that level that causes the allergic reaction or stomach issue (it requires more acid in the stomach to break down the larger proteins). So unfortunately, what your doctor told you about your baby being assured of tolerating milk because you drank it during pregnancy isn't accurate. There are many genetic conditions, for instance, that demand a specific diet that the mother may not have followed during pregnancy.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading pro breastfeeding blog entries. I nursed my almost 3 year old until she was 2 1/2 and weaned herself. My 10 month old is still basically exclusively breastfed (by her choice). Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can give your child. I love knowing she is getting the best and it helped me bond with both my children.

Laura said...

I just have to throw my comment in here. All of you women that are able to nurse easily and have abundant milk supplies are very blessed! Not that I am not blessed, but I am definitely one of those few that has legitimate problems with breastfeeding. I would love so much to be able to nurse my babies for a whole year (at least!), but I am just not able to.

I have had five children, and every single time my cycle returns at exactly 3 months postpartum. When that happens, my milk supply kicks the bucket and my babies start losing weight (regardless of how often I feed them. I would nurse them when they were hungry and I would try to nurse several times in between feedings, but you can't make a baby eat if they don't want to!) Even with nursing every 2 hours (often more frequently) around the clock, no bottles, and no pacifiers, they still start losing weight around 4 months. I've talked to midwives, doctors, and the LaLeche League, and I have tried everything that has been suggested with the single exception of a drug...can't remember what it's called, but it starts with "R" and two of the side effects are insomnia and depression. I'm not going there!

I guess if I had lived back in the olden days I would have had to find a wet nurse! I'm not interested in that, so I am thankful for formula. I'm expecting Baby #6 now, and I hope and pray that the return of my cycle will be delayed so that I can nurse longer. I'm certainly going to put up a fight, just like I have the other five times!

Ahuva said...

I just wanted to make a quick comment on what The Whites said about her sister-in-law's baby being "allergic." Breast milk allergies are real (if rare). My cousin almost died because he was truly allergic to his mother's milk and wasn't getting any nourishment from it. Then his poor terrified mother got to deal with allegations of child abuse at the hospital because she didn't realize what was happening to her child until it was nearly too late.

Also-- on the mother nursing with her breast hanging out, I think it was written in the shulchan aruch that, when breast feeding, a woman's breasts have the same status as her hands (so they don't need to be covered). That said, I don't think I'd feel comfortable without being covered by some sort of poncho or wrap.