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12.31.2000

Because I kind of agree with him... kind of.

This is probably going to cause some controversy, so I'm going to get my two cents out there before the storm, so to speak. This morning on The View Barbara asked Dr. Oz (not really my favorite person) about breastfeeding, and if giving formula is "really that bad."

His response- breastfeeding is better, no question, but if a mom is stressed about breastfeeding she should just go with formula.

And I kind of agree with him when this statement is taken only at face value and not put into cultural context. No mom should be SO stressed about any element of parenting (even breastfeeding) that she is loosing sleep, ill, depressed... etc.

However, when applied to breastfeeding I think this can be a little dangerous. Breastfeeding is one of the few elements of parenting that you can say, without any question, is best for the child. The risks of NOT breastfeeding have been proven and, while not usually life threatening, are costly to the parent (who probably chose not to breastfeed so she could go back to work) in both medical costs and time lost from work... not to mention the general suckiness (for the child) of being sick. And that's if your child avoids all of the long term chronic illnesses that are associated with not breastfeeding (asthma, food allergies, diabetes, etc).

And breastfeeding is HARD at first. It hurts, it takes forever, it's awkward... So telling a new mom that "it's okay not to breastfeed" when she's in that phase where it (no pun intended) sucks royally is giving her license to quit during a time when she really isn't physically or emotionally equipped to make a decision like that.

No, I don't think any mom should be berated or unduly pressured to do anything. But a little pressure (or more accurately, unwavering support) for the first few weeks when things are hard is imperative to breastfeeding success. The goal of us lactavists isn't to put a gun to every mom's head and force her to breastfeed, so much of the time any perceived pressure is self inflicted. In order to completely eliminate pressure to breastfeed we would have to completely excise women's tendency towards feeling guilty (for everything!). Unfortunately this is impossible. But we can still work towards creating an environment that makes moms feel more comfortable with breastfeeding and that provides resources for all moms to learn about and help them with breastfeeding. The desired result is a society that expects new moms to breastfeed, where breastfeeding in public isn't even looked at twice, and where formula samples aren't allowed anywhere near hospitals. One can hope, right?

So while I agree with Dr. Oz (on the surface), I have no sympathy for moms who tried for a day, or two days, or even a week and quit because "it hurt/it's too hard/insert excuse here." Because that's the thing about having kids- it hurts sometimes, and it's hard sometimes. But you are the mom, and you need to suck it up and deal with a little pain for the sake of your child's long term well being. Don't stress about it- take some ibuprofen, take a deep breath, and just do it. It won't feel like this forever.

But I also don't think it's helpful to make any mom feel bad for past choices she can't change. No one is going to be willing to change future behavior when made to feel awful extrinsically about past behavior (intrinsically is another matter).

If you're a new mom who is worried about breastfeeding I have this to say to you- first, kudos for considering it at all. Second, seek as much help as you can (other women in your life who have breastfed successfully are your best bet, a supportive husband is also helpful, and a trained professional like a lactation nurse can be a lifesaver if you encounter problems with your latch, your baby can't suck, etc). Third, be confident that whatever you choose to do for your child will be the best you can do... (confidence in parenting is half the battle). And last, make a pact with yourself that you will exclusively breastfeed your baby for 2 weeks (or 3 or 4... I wouldn't go more than four, it may seem unattainable and make you want to quit out of frustration) and vow to stick to that pact unless your baby is loosing weight in the second week of life (all babies loose in the first few days). I promise you that breastfeeding will be like second nature to you by that third week.


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