Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Breastfeeding Nazis

I'm almost finished with the book Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, which I ordered after listening to the horror stories of others and fearfully realizing my complete cluelessness on the subject. I have always intended to breastfeed, because I feel it is ultimately better for my baby. At the same time, I completely understand why some women choose not to (or are physically unable to) and can even relate to their feelings. Honestly, the whole concept of breastfeeding does feel awkward to me and the idea of becoming a milk machine for the next several months is intimidating. However, I feel like I can put these qualms aside for the health of my child.

However instead of helping me feel reassured, this book has mostly resulted in feelings of guilt about breastfeeding...AND I DON'T EVEN HAVE A BABY TO BREASTFEED YET! I feel as if I don't fit into their idealized concept of what a breastfeeding mom should be, then I am simply a bad parent who has failed to prioritize properly. Here are some examples of the passive aggressive approach the author has taken on some key issues...

1. Breastfeeding after returning to work: They state that while it can be difficult it is entirely feasible. However right after stating that, they suggest alternatives to working/pumping including rethinking how important it really is for you to return to work and downplay pumping as the choice of last resort. So I come away from all of this feeling as if I'm just being selfish for not wanting to give up 50% of our income, lose earning power, and maintain some semblance of a life outside my home where I interact with adults. And here I was thinking I was in such a good situation work-wise since my employer maintains several mothers rooms equipped with high quality breast pumps and a complete willingness to allow time for pumping breaks.

2. Nighttime feedings: They really pushed co-sleeping. For me this would be difficult as we sleep on a waterbed (how 80's of us, I know) and it is already seriously crowded since the dog routinely joins us. I would rather have Jillian get used to sleeping in the crib from the beginning, and as she'll just be across the hall I have little fear about this. But this book made it sound like I'm going to be incredibly sleep deprived and an awful mother who denies her child's innate need to be close to me at all times.

3. How long to breastfeed: My initial goal would be to breastfeed for a year, but I'm very flexible with that since I honestly have no idea what to expect. I highly doubt that I will breastfeed beyond a year. The authors made me feel like this was an adequate goal, but spent the weaning chapter pointing out how societal expectations needlessly force mothers to stop breastfeeding early when they could do it for two or three years. While I have to hand it to mothers who can breastfeed for that long, I just don't think I have it in me, yet the message I get is that I'm just caving to society's pressure.

I'm not writing any of this to question people's decisions on this matter. I think that whether you decide to breastfeed and how you go about it is entirely a personal decision and there is no one-size fits all approach to this. But I just hated how this book's authors came across as breastfeeding nazi's who initially claim that even some breast milk is better than none, but constantly retreat from that statement by pushing their idealized concept of a breastfeeding mother. I did learn some useful information that should help me get started with breastfeeding. I just wish that it wasn't overshadowed by the guilt of falling short of their ideal in so many ways.

25 comments:

Intrepidgirl said...

I know what you mean. I have one friend in particular who is breast-feeding and is totally nuts about it, giving me advice all the time. I think the "Nursing Mother's Companion" was more balanced, but again I didn't read the book you're reading. It sounds like you have realistic goals and you definitely shouldn't feel guilty about them -- you haven't even started bf'ing yet! I think that's a sign of a bad book...

Brianna said...

Yuck - I'm glad you got SOME good info but it sounds like you got a guilt trip more than anything.

Do what works for you and screw the books. =)

As for co-sleeping - I'm not knocking people who do it but I was under the impression that it's dangerous and not recommended? I guess if you have the little divider things in the bed? Maybe I'll feel differently once I'm a mom, and I'm sure I'll feel differently just postpartum but my plan for being a new mom is to have the baby in his/her crib from the start. I'll have plenty of bonding time all day and every couple hours at night and I'm thinking I'll want that time at night to sleep peacefully when I can and snuggle up to DH when I can't.

Everyone is different so just do what works for you and never feel guilty about it.

Barb said...

Don't let them make you feel guilty. I hate when people do that.

And 3 yrs sounds a bit extreme for breast feeding. Shouldn't they be off milk for the most part at that point and eating solid foods? Thinking of my nephew here who would probably just say, "Mommy, I don't WANT to be breastfed," or who would bite her to be silly or something like that. ugh.

JamieD said...

Wow - that's all incredibly judgemental for a book!!

Jaime said...

I think you should try another book. Does the author actually want your baby to sleep with you in your bed? I'm not sure if I told you this or not, but an acquaintance's GF accidentally rolled over on her week-old baby and suffocated it while sleeping. It is a complete horror story and I imagine that you would rather have your baby alive than next to you in bed.

s.e. said...

I always read books assuming the authors are experts. It is upsetting that some people take advantage of their ability to publicize their opinoins.

Try not to worry about what others think too much. As a mommy, you will know what is needed for your child that no one else can know. Jillian will breast feed or not and it will all be o.k. (on the same note, I completely understand where you are coming from- Damn the breastfeeding Nazis!)

Jewels said...

IMO, Breast feeding is overwhelming in the beginning whether you take 6 weeks off, a year off, co-sleep w/baby, go by the book, or not go by the book.
But by the end of the second month (which is probably way before the end of the second mo) Brest feeding was as second nature to me as wiping my butt, (oops, grose example) but I felt like I could do it forever, Don’t feel guilt, you'll be great. Pumping gets easy, timing, storing, all of it. Well.. The hardest part other than in the beginning was when he was done, that made me sad, but I BF for over a year.
It was also one of the most intimate wonderful experiences of my life, next to growing a baby inside me. It felt so good to still be his life line.
And if BF is not working for you, no biggie, Jillian is going to be just fine, you are going to be a great mom.
Oh your getting so close, I cant wait to see your beautiful baby girl :D

Nicky said...

I'll second Intrepidgirl's suggestion of "Nursing Mother's Companion". It was recommend to me by many, many people. (Admittedly, I haven't quite finished reading it yet.) Lots of practical information, including a great index detailing which medications are safe to take while BFing. Best job I've seen of avoiding the the propaganda and just providing useful information on getting started, troubleshooting, etc.

Also, on breastfeeding after returning to work: we took a BFing class where the instructor tried to make the point that women have a responsibility to society to BF their children, and it is the highest service she can provide to her community. Most important job she'll ever do. I was annoyed but also amused. My hubby was downright offended on my behalf, and argued with her that, while I do plan on BFing after returning to work, if there was a conflict, I'd do much more good for society if I continued working. (He apparently has a lot of faith in my intellectual abilities -- go figure.) He gave quite a passionate argument that, while BFing is important, let's not get carried away about the good of society. Seriously.

Barry said...

I feel a little odd weighing in on this subject but we went through the same thing when the boys were babies. "Breastfeeding Nazi's" is exactly right! Anything less than the boob and these people will make you think you are giving your baby a bottle full of bleach to suck on. WAY overboard in my opinion. Oh and wait until they start telling you how using plastic bottles/nipples is like letting your baby suckle on a toxic landfill. Oh and get ready for questioning remarks like "Oh, you let you kids drink "Cow's" milk? Um, yeah I do...because that watery organic soy milk you force your kids to drink tastes like crap!!!!!

(From Barry - who's a little testy these days)

Karen @ chez perky said...

I'll be the first to admit, breastfeeding my triplets was EXTREMELY important to me. And I DO believe breast is best whenever possible. HOWEVER, I don't believe in mom guilt. I think we all make choices and I think all moms play a balancing act that is so difficult. We must all decide what we can and cannot do.

Breastfeeding is something I wish I'd been better educated on before I'd done it. I recommend Dr. Jack Newman's book on breastfeeding. There's a lot of propaganda-ish stuff in the beginning, but there's so much useful information in the book, it really can't be beat in terms of troubleshooting breastfeeding problems or questions. I highly recommend it, but definitely make an active decision not to take on any mom guilt as a result of reading this, or any other book on breastfeeding, ever.

I also really liked "So THAT'S What They're For!" which, again, had a bit of anti-formula propaganda in it, but a lot of good information on breastfeeding technique and such. Much less guilt (written by a woman who herself DOES work, so you won't get the guilt about going back to work from her!).

So as to your key issues:

1. Don't you worry about going back to work. Just sit there feeling SO lucky that you've got an employer with mother's rooms and willingness to accommodate pumping breaks. That's fantastic. I have a similar situation and I'm so, so, so lucky.

2. Nighttime feedings: I occasionally co-slept with my babies. But hello? I've got three babies, I never slept with more than one at a time. At least two were always in their cribs at all times. I promise you, they were all totally fine. And yes, I was sleep deprived, but that was more a function of them being triplets than of getting up for a feeding. There aren't THAT many nighttime feedings. If Jillian wakes up every 2-3 hours in the night (and it will soon stretch to 3-4 hours and soon after that to 4-5 and soon after that...) then you're really only getting up a couple times in the night. That's not THAT bad. It's not like you've got three babies to get up with every night. Don't worry about the cosleeping thing. You'll be fine. What you MIGHT want to do for the first couple days or weeks is put a pack n' play in your room so you're not going too far out of bed to get her, but that's entirely optional.

3. How long to breastfeed. Don't you even worry about it. You don't have to worry about that until the time comes. I'm very pro-breastfeeding and with singletons I believe that you should just let things naturally and gradually wean. But that being said, I intend to wean my triplets sometime AROUND a year. (and if I had a singleton and let things happen naturally... I'd be that that natural weaning thing would happen between 12-18 months anyway) If you breastfeed for 6 weeks, 6 months, a year, three years, whatever, then yay for you! But don't you worry about how long is the right amount of time. That's a decision that you'll make when the time comes. Period.

Cheryl said...

I would get a different book. I was so not prepared for breastfeeding, I knew nothing about it and ended up with a breast infection. As far as going back to work, I would recommend it, I think I would have been a better mother if I could have gone back to work and there is no way I would start the "sleeping in the bed with us" routine, bad bad idea. JMHO. You are going to be an awesome mom.
Aunt Cheryl

C said...

I totally hear you on all that stuff. I make choices based on what I believe is best for me and my baby, but I also firmly believe that every mom has the right to make her own choices! Babies, moms, family dynamics, work situations, etc. are all so different... there is not one solution. Here are my responses to the book:

1. With all that guilt she heaps on, does the author also include a winning lottery ticket so every mom can afford to stay home? And there is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to work, income concerns aside... like you said, the adult interaction is important. If I were you, I would plan to do your best with pumping, but do not stress out if you have to supplement. I wasn't pumping as much as he was eating, so if I didn't switch day care arrangements, I would have had to start supplementing one feeding a day. NO BIGGIE!

2. Definitely don't co-sleep with a water bed, it's not safe. Despite my strong feelings pre-birth that I didn't want to, we do co-sleep with Bean. I actually love it, and it is very convenient for us. But it is a challenge now for us to switch to the crib, that's very true. If you are finding it annoying to get out of bed to go into the baby's room multiple times at night, you can always have the baby sleep *next* to your bed in a bassinet or crib... technically, that even still fits the definitely of co-sleeping. :)

3. A year is a very long time for an intial goal, good for you! I started with a three-month goal, now I'm working on a six-month goal. I do hope to make it a year, as breast milk (or formula) is the primary source of nutrition until that point. Who knows how I'll feel if I actually make it that long, but as of now, I am looking forward to getting my boobies back. Since when does being a mother mean you can't take care of your own needs sometimes? I think that makes a better mother, actually.

Sorry for the long rant. Our database is down at work so I'm killing time. :)

C said...

oops, "definition" not "definitely" in #2

nancy said...

Tee-Hee. How very balsy of you to even post this subject! But not being a mother yet, you have no idea how terribly freaky some of the mothers are out there about pushing their choices around. I think some live just to debate this very subject.

I am VERY pro-breastfeeding, but I am not a "nazi" nor am I anti-formula feeding. I ~am~, however, anti-not-giving-it-a-chance and going straight to formula feeding, but what the hell. I breastfed for 1 year with each baby. I breastfed Ella exclusively and started with a bit of formula during the day when Allie was 10~ish months (lack of milk). I pumped at work and we made it happen. But that's just worked for me.

Look, do what's right for you. That's what matters in the end.

Mel said...

I am not even in my second trimester, and have already found myself in several uncomfortable breastfeeding conversations. It amazes me how obsessed some people are with this and how much they feel the need to interject and speculate what is best for you!
Weird!
I know you will do fine, we all have to figure the baby thing out for ourselves when they get here. There is honestly no "one size fits all" baby.
*hugs*

Monica Fayth said...

wow, you've gotten a lot of comments on this one ;)

But I totally agree with you. No one should make you feel guilty about breast feeding issues. The fact that you're planning on doing it for a year is a good thing. It's just funny how obsessed people can get about stuff. It's kinda like how Josh has been a lot "greener" in his thinking lately and visited a few message boards. Some of his friends (me included) even started saying they were "hippy" sites. But the more hard-core people on those sites called him a "human supremist" because he wasn't extreme.

But that's just the thing, I don't think anyone should go to the extremes on any topic. Life is about moderation and finding balance. So don't let people or books make you feel guilty about your choices.

Oh and as far as the co-sleeping thing--very very bad idea in my opinion. Not only is there the chance of rolling on the baby, but there's the even greater chance of throwing blankets on baby. I plan on using a bassinet by the bed for the first 6 weeks or so (the nursery is on the other side of the house), but then straight to the crib.

waitinginline said...

I'll mark that book off of my list, then. I realized this morning that I have zero clue about breastfeeding, but would like to try it.

You'll figure out what works best for you and Jillian!

Kathy V said...

I was thinking about getting a breastfeeding book but I guess I will have to look elsewhere if this one makes you feel guilty before you even have the child. also like you said it seems as though they contradict themselves a lot.

Thanks for posting this. It gives me a place to turn for actual information and not guilt from the breasfeeding Nazis.

Debateur said...

Funny stumbling upon this. I was hoping to write a breastfeeding article on Monday. If you want excellent advise on breastfeeding head over to momdot.com and speak with Toni and Alicia they are both amazing resources. Toni wrote an excellent article about it. I'm sorry I don't still have the link.

Good luck. Don't let the nazi's get you down. You'll do great.

Jewels said...

I tagged you :)

Maria said...

How terrible. Here you are trying to inform yourself in the ways of breastfeeding and instead you get a major guilt trip and negativity. Not cool.

I would take the good that you learned and ignore all the rest. It's just the author's opinion and she sounds like a biatch.

XOXO

Jen said...

Now I'm scared...

But seriously, when I saw this little girl (around three) come up to her mom at my stepsister's wedding and get breastfed while at the table (she was standing up) freaked me out.

But I guess it all comes down to what is right for mom and baby - screw everything else.

Watch, my 5-year-old will be still on the boob...

Cece said...

Augh! This stuff stresses me out too. Everyone is asking me if I plan on breastfeeding (even the men at work - uncomfortable!). My answer is - I hope so. And they twist their face up and look at me wierd.

But seriously - I planning on having a baby by having SEX for christs sake - not by IVF! So - I'm going to roll with what actaully works for me. Do I want to breastfeed? Of course. Do I have my heart set on it? Nope.

Other thing - co-sleeping. My DH is very against it. I didn't have any real opinion on it until I watched friends have babies, co-sleep and then try to get the babies OUT of bed. It's been a miserable expereince - and one I totally do NOT want to deal with.

Shelby said...

Wow. That book would have sent me into a downward spiral.

Just remember one important thing- you are Jillian's mom. You know what's best for her, and you will make mistakes. It's OK! We all do. It's such a huge learning process, and there is no "one right answer" for anything. Whatever you do, she'll turn out perfectly. Just as she should.

And if you think about it- we all blame our moms for something or another, so why not start young? I figure that someday my kids will all be in therapy, and I'm OK with that. I do the best I can. Even if that means I work full time, the kids are in a day care center, I do not breast feed (though I pumped for the first 7 weeks and it was because he refused to latch on), he eats formula, and he sleeps in a crib 99% of the time. I'd say to try to relax, but every time someone uses that word, I cringe. ;) Good luck sweetie!

Poltzie said...

I had a book like this when I was KU and I ended up getting rid of it. I was suprised at how many opinions were out there on things like breastfeeding, soothers etc.
Most major areas have a lactation consultant and I would recommend consulting with them if you are having problems. Other than that, you are her mom, you will know best (I promise)!