While Mara, her mother, and her grandmother share a tenacity for giving their child “the best” they probably had very different understandings of what that “best” was when it came to feeding their babies. Breastfeeding advice has changed dramatically over recent generations. Once thought to be “poor man’s food” – a substance only to rely on if you didn’t have enough money to provide the healthier formula substitute, breast milk is now claimed to produce rocket scientists. Breast is best has become ubiquitous on billboards, bus ads, and bulletin boards. Ironically, while cultural encouragement to breastfeed is at an all time high, support to do so is sorely absent.
Cover-up. Don’t “spoil” your baby. Track how many minutes they feed on the left and how many minutes on the right. Don’t let them sleep more than 3 hours. Don’t let them fall asleep at your breast. Give them a bottle every day. Pump in the nasty public bathroom. Don’t make others uncomfortable. Return to work at 6 weeks, and work from home in the weeks preceding. Host your entire extended family in your home while you learn to breastfeed. Cut out dairy. And wheat. And eggs. And soy. And nuts. And chocolate. And caffeine. And coffee. And broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
What is a woman to do? Well BREASTFEED of course!!! Your baby will have IQ issues and asthma and be overweight if you don’t. But don’t breastfeed where I or anyone else might SEE YOU and get that baby onto a feeding schedule.
I have news. You can’t force a baby to breastfeed by putting a breast in their mouth. It doesn’t work like a bottle. Babies are active participants in breastfeeding. It’s not that easy to schedule a breastfed baby’s drive to feel hungry and want to eat. And some babies eat fast. Others eat slow. And some don’t nurse very well at all.
What? Some baby’s don’t nurse?
Yes. Some baby’s don’t nurse. And some women don’t produce sufficient milk to meet the nutritional needs of their baby. And some mothers rely on medications that cross into their breastmilk and are unsafe for their babies. For those babies, which is healthier: formula, malnutrition, or toxicity?
I’m a huge supporter of breastfeeding. I am thrilled that breastfeeding research is making known the miracle that human milk is, and was, and always will be. I help women and babies overcome breastfeeding challenges all the time and encourage others to lovingly support the breastfeeding women in their lives. But when breastfeeding becomes the measure of being a good mom, I get down right irate. It is not. And it’s not a more important measure of health than most of the other wonderful lifestyle factors you can give your child: a stress free home, loving touch, lifelong healthy eating and exercise patterns, familial support, and so on.
A few truths I have discovered about breastfeeding in today’s world
- It’s natural and easy and wonderful from the start for about 50% of well-educated, prepared, healthy mothers who are 110% committed to breastfeeding.
- It’s manageable for 95% of those mothers by early in the second week of life, and natural and wonderful for the vast majority of them by the time their baby is a month old.
- It’s hard work for the first 1-3 months, easy later on, and totally worth it.
- Dads, partners, and others who support breastfeeding are a huge factor in breastfeeding success.
- Breastfeeding support, and the opinion that a woman should breastfeed, are NOT the same thing.Thank you breastfeeding supporters! You know who you are: Those who sit on committees until your work place or your school finally sets aside a clean private space for pumping mothers. Those who smile at mothers who nurse in public. Those who massage tense shoulders and bring glasses of water. Those who encourage women to trust their bodies and their babies. Those who welcome women into restaurants, workplaces, and stores with their babies with them. Those who strategize, encourage, and de-stress when there is a hurdle to overcome. Those who….
- Families can have wonderful strong bonding and attachment without breastfeeding, and can have breastfeeding without bonding.
- Real complications exist. Not every mother-baby pair can or should breastfeed.
- Complications are often preventable and often correctable.
- The pressure to breastfeed is so great that educated committed women will push themselves far far beyond health and balance in a fight to breastfeed.
- The skill of learning when to seek additional strategies to overcome breastfeeding complications and when to recognize that breastfeeding has become a monster is sorely missing. Too many mother-baby pairs are missing out on breastfeeding because of lack of support, commitment, and education. And too many mother-baby pairs are losing sight of health, sanity, and safety in the all consuming quest to breastfeed at any cost.
If you are an expectant mom, please know that breastfeeding will likely go very well for you! And if it doesn’t, there are thousands of amazing lactation professionals and baby practitioners who can help you and your baby overcome the setbacks you face. And then, for a few, those professionals won’t have the answers. And you won’t have the answers. And it is OK to use formula before you’ve exhausted every possibility that might might allow you to breastfeed. You do not need to drive yourself to the brink of health and wellbeing! Instead, walk a road that thoroughly explores the possibilities while accounting for your own wellbeing along the way.
Our position at Mara’s World is that every mother has the autonomy to choose for herself if she will breastfeed her baby – except, of course, the mother who tries and meets incredible difficulty. For her, choice has been taken out of the picture. We want to lovingly support her and every other mother – breast-feeder and bottle-feeder alike, while strongly supporting breastfeeding to make it a healthy and rewarding option for more mothers.
Breastfeeding articles, solid food articles, planning guides, and blog posts are available here to support you. Please enjoy this start, and check back or sign up for our newsletter to catch additional articles that will eventually share Mara’s full monty on baby-feeding.
Get Ready! Look at the Should I Continue Breastfeeding? Planning Guide.