Saturday 23 February 2013

The Sunday Parenting Party - Breast feeding

Taming the Goblin

Its the Sunday Parenting Party, please have a read of some of the great posts that are linked up, there is truly something for everyone. If you have a parenting post old or new please link away (as many as you like, we love reading them). Please don't link kids activity posts, while they are great this link up is just for parenting, so please link activity posts to Kids coop instead. This week I'm linking the following:
I think by now there isn't a pregnant woman in the developed world who isn't aware of the fact that breast feeding is best for your child because it passes on important immunity from mother to baby. 

This information is bolstered by the many excellent posts across the internet sharing wonderful stories of the bond that breast feeding can bring, and how natural it feels - This is not one of those posts.

Because breast feeding is good, people including medical professionals, seem reluctant to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about breast feeding. Instead breastfeeding is made out to be magical, wonderful, pain free and easy. I took a straw pole of six close friends, as well as many lovely bloggy buddies, and concluded that more mums have difficultly with breast feeding, than don't. So why is it so hard to find posts or information that tell it how it is. 

By perpetuating the myth that breastfeeding is easy, instinctive and doesn't hurt, we are making every woman who struggles with it feel like a failure. I agree that breastfeeding should be encouraged. But there is a difference between encouraging something and becoming militant about it. And I think we have gone too far. 
This isn't a post telling people not to try and breast feed or suggesting that the bottle is better. I breast fed Goblin and I'm very glad that I did, but it was really hard and no one ever told me it would be. So I wanted to be honest about some of the things you may not get told by midwives, lactation specialists, health visitors and even well meaning relatives and friends who are very pro breast feeding. 
To assist me with this I enlisted the help of some dear friends who have experienced difficulties with breast feeding (their comments are in quote marks - many thanks to them for sharing). 

1. Many mothers need help getting started 
It is not unusual to need help when you are trying to get your baby to breast feed. And you certainly aren't unusual or a failure if you fall into this category. 
"I don’t remember being told how many people would man handle your breasts to try to get your baby to feed, but at the time you want to do what is right for your baby so just go along with it."

2. Breast feeding can consume your entire day
No one really tells you how long a baby will feed for and some books suggest it will only be 30 minutes at a time. If you are lucky this might be true, but don't be surprised it it takes 40 minutes per boob at every feed, every 4 hours. 

3. It hurts like hell and you aren't necessarily doing it wrong if it does
The common response from many health professionals if you tell them that breast feeding hurts, is to tell you you aren't doing it right. It is true that if a baby doesn't latch on properly it can be very painful. And sometimes not latching on is due to the baby not being held in the right position. But there are other reasons. For example no one ever told me about  tongue tie. This is a condition that can effect as many as one in ten babies and yet its not mentioned in the breast feeding classes, and when I complained that breast feeding hurt, at no point did anyone check whether Goblin had tongue tie. 
Breast feeding can also hurt because of cracked nipples, mastitis, thrush, or milk blisters. And it can hurt because your baby chomps. 
It is implied in much breast feeding literature that these things only occur in the early days of breast feeding. This is simply not true
"The final straw was a second batch of mastitis along with the nipple thrush that had been there for weeks. Both just made the feeding even less enjoyable, the mastitis made it sore to feed as the whole area felt so tender and pressurised and the thrush left me with a burning sensation in my nipples after each feed . At this point he also was beginning to reject me (maybe because with both infections the milk was starting to taste funny)"
"It hurt so much I used to dread when he would want feeding"

4. Breast feeding can make you cry
"I had this hormonal/emotional  release thing which health visitors don't talk about... Everyone is scared to talk about it just incase they are told they have post natal depression, but it's all about the the release of milk and it comes over you like a wave and makes you feel very low. I used to cry when feeding [my son] it was that strong a feeling." 

5. Not everyone can breast feed
There is a suggestion that every woman can breast feed. However  "sometimes your milk can be delayed, limited or not come at all". 
For women who want to breast feed and find themselves in this situation it can be heart breaking. 
"Whilst I was prepared for a bit of pain, the potential for thrush and mastitis, in a million years I never expected to not be able to breastfeed, and the emotional pain that accompanied that - looking back, it was far more traumatic than my labour."

6. Struggling to breastfeed can undermine the relationship with your baby
If you are struggling to breast feed it can make you depressed, can make you feel like a failure and it can make you resent your child, especially if it hurts every time they do feed. 
"[I was] Spending 3-4 hours a day in total attached to a [expressing] machine whilst [my son was] fed by his father, and the bond that I had from birth was gnawed away at as I was just there to produce milk, and not to be a mother."

7. Stopping early can fill you with guilt
With all this in mind it is not surprising that many women choose not to breast feed, or stop earlier than the recommended 6 months. But unfortunately rather than being met with understanding, they are often made to feel guilty about their parenting choice. 
"I felt like a failure."
"Every time I am asked if I breastfeed, I feel like I need to apologise, even though my baby is now perfectly happy and healthy."
"I started to think about completely switching to bottle feeding at about 8 weeks, but felt so guilty because of all the ‘breast is best’ literature that it actually took me another 4 weeks to do it. "
"It’s wonderful if you enjoy it and it works for you and your baby, but if it doesn’t I think it makes a hard decision harder at a time when your emotions are already all over the place".
"I heard a story about someone who was too embarrassed to bottle feed at a children centre and left to go home to do it."

As parents we need to try and be supportive of the decisions each other make. Often when we look at a situation we don't know the full story. I know many people feel very strongly that breast feeding is important. But next time you look at a mother bottle feeding please bear in mind that that mother may share your strong views about breast is best, but they may not have been as lucky as you in their ability to do it. 
Here are three posts about personal struggles with breast feeding. 
Persevering with breast feeding ~ Toddling into Madness 
Breast feeding a baby with a toddler in tow ~ Toddling into Madness
Struggling to breast feed ~ Kitchen Counter Chronicles
And here are my top 5 faves from last week
Helping kids get a good nights sleep ~ Minisaurus
Being the Grown Up ~ 3 Children and It
The importance of play ~ Lessons Learnt Journal
Making excuses... the reality of parenting ~ Mummy Musings and Mayhem
A Sticker for Single Mommies ~ Single At Home Mom
And now to the linky


  1. I love this post. I wasn't able to breastfeed my oldest and I felt like a complete failure because of it. I was able to breastfeed my youngest and it hurt so badly in the beginning that I was sure I was doing something wrong and again felt like a failure. I really wish there was more honest information like this out there. It seems like it's only after you have problems that you find out you're not alone.

  2. Well done on this post. I breastfed my first until 23 months, just shy of the 2 year recommendations, and it was hard work. People (childless friends for example) seem to think it was easy just because I breastfed for so long. Latching on pain (especially the first fortnight). Constant "getting my boobs out" in public embarrassment, especially since early days my babies fed every 1.5 hours. Worry over supply - either over or under depending on the day. Wanting my body to myself again. People don't talk about this stuff...

  3. What a great post! I wish I had read this before having my kids, would have saved a lot of unnecessary guilt. Just beautiful and thoughtfully presented!

  4. This does definitely need to be said. Breast feeding is not always possible, and when it is it is possible it's nt always easy. It's a great shame the whole subject has got so political because no one feels like they can tell the truth. I have two sons and two stories. Neither is easy to tell. My first story is that some babies cannot BF. No really. Physically impossible. My other story is that sometimes it is easy, straight forward and doesn't hurt at all.

    Number one was born with a cleft lip and palate so breast feeding was out of the question as he couldn't physically suck. That said I'm very proud of the fact that I expressed for over 3 months exclusively for him and fed him my milk in special squeezy bottles because of the lack of sucking. It was very hard work, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone and would probably not have managed it if he had been number two. Number two was completely different. I don't know if I would have got started with him if it hadn't been for a really nice nurse in hospital who got us started. I kept telling the midwives that I didn't know what to do and even though it said otherwise on my notes they should treat me like a first time mum, because I'd never done this BF thing before. However once I got started I was lucky. It was easy for us. It never hurt. He didn't lose any weight even from day one, gained a pound a week for the first five weeks and never looked back. Yes it was hard work having a boy who wanted to feed for ten mins out of every hour but after son number one it was a dream! son number one who could take a whole hour having a bottle of milk squeezed into him, a further hour to bring most of it up again, and at least half an hour to express enough for the next feed, not to mention the time it took to wash up and sterilise everything.... So take hope new mums sometimes breast feeding is easy, at least compared to some of the alternatives!

  5. But it gets easier and easier everyday! You should also do a post on why you like it, if you do like it :) I enjoy it. Thanks for sharing and hosting!

  6. Thanks for writing such an important post. I was lucky that breastfeeding my two children was a wonderful experience except for the initial soreness. But for mothers who have difficulty, it's so good for them to know they're not alone.

  7. It's good to read about other mum's breastfeeding experiences. I really love breastfeeding, and once I got past the sensitive first couple of weeks first time round I was pretty lucky. Good attachment and supply. I did get the occasional lump but the main challenge with Dino Boy was how much he liked looking around while feeding! With Little Miss Q we have been lucky it ha been easy. My challenge now is managing people's reactions to me still feeding her at 20 months. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Wonderful post. I couldn't agree more. I've had two friends in the past couple of months who have had babies with tongue tie issues! Sharing all over the place and Pinning!

  9. Do you mind if I share a thought from the other camp? I formula-fed my older son, but was determined to try breastfeeding my younger son, mostly because of (what I see now as) mommy guilt. I tried BFing Pie the night he was born (it didn't work) and then tried pumping the next day (I pumped for 30 minutes and got about a teaspoonful of milk). I wholeheartedly decided to give up. When I saw my grandma the next day and she asked me if I was breastfeeding or not, I told her the whole story, and she gave me the biggest affirmation ever: "Good for you. Trying to breastfeed a baby when you have a toddler in the house is just too dang hard!"

    Bottom line: we all do what's best for our families. I'm not judging anyone's decision.

    (Oh, BTW--I'm one of three sisters. My mom formula-fed me and my middle sister and breastfed my youngest sister, who became a Ph.D. We always have a laugh about that.)

  10. I think it is true that breastfeeding is a complex endeavor, like most of mothering. There have been many, many times that I have felt like giving up breastfeeding for many of the reasons that your mention above. I wish that I had support and encouragement to continue. Unfortunately, I don't have anyone to turn to who breastfed. Luckily, my husband has been very supportive and I have been able to make it through the rough times. The benefit to my daughter has outweighed the rough patches for me.

    I do want to add one thing to your point about depression, though. Breastfeeding releases Oxytocin, which is known to decrease depression.

  11. Thanks so much for featuring me this week and for commenting on my blog too! I will now link up another post for this week too x x

  12. Does anyone have advice on breastfeeding toddlers or weaning? I didn't have a hard time starting breastfeeding (I know, lucky me) but I'm having a hard time stopping. My daughter is 29 months (2 and almost a half) and it's been great but I never thought I'd be breastfeeding a toddler. I wanted to "mostly" do attachment parenting and she is very attached.

    I heard other mothers say their kids just stopped on their own or that they slowly backed off the number of feedings. It's not working. I tried vinegar on the nipples and that didn't work either. It doesn't help that my husband cries when she cries (he hates her being upset for any reason), so "crying it out" is disasterous since she can cry for hours.

  13. YogaMama, I stopped when Goblin was 7 months because I went back to work, so I don't have experience of extended feeding. But I asked some bloggy chums who do and here are some suggestions.
    "Replacing one feeding every few days with either a light snack or a distraction, depending on the time of the feeding. The feedings in between naps and bedtime I would try to wean first with a distraction, playing games, telling LO to wait a few minutes and ask a bit later (sometimes they forget to ask again), maybe create a box of fun things they can play with only when the child asks to nurse. Then before sleep nursings I would take slowly, one every couple weeks. Naptime I'd do a light snack and water to fill up bellies and figure out what soothes your baby, for example, my babies liked to be patted on the back. For bedtime I had to do a whole new routine, bath, jammies, book, back patting. No more rocking from me because they could smell it!"
    "I slowly cut out one feeding every week or so. Daytime feedings were easiest bc you can distract with activity. And for nap and bedtime I matter of factly told her there was no more milk left. I made sure to feed her yogurt right before bed. My oldest weaned at 22 mos. She is also very logical so just telling her there was no more milk worked."
    "When my oldest was still nursing at 3.5 and I was done, we threw him a weaning party. We had a cake and streamers and got him prepared for "no more mommy milk". I'm not sure if that would be doable at 29 months - depends on the child!"
    I hope some of those suggestions might help.

    1. Another suggestion from my mama tribe
      "What we did when my son was just 3 was Daddy began to take him to his own bed and sleep with him there to ease him into the transition (until this point he was co-sleeping with us and little sister and only nursing at night). It did take a while before Dad was back in the big bed, but in the meantime they were able to have some special time together. 2 years on and it's still Daddy that tucks him in at night while I nurse little sister."

    2. Thank you for working so hard to find me these suggestions! Just hearing about other moms weaning at 3 and up makes me feel better. I was feeling like the only mom on the block still nursing and honestly it's hard to feel like the odd (wo)man out. I really need to get hubbie on board with a plan. I think he likes not being responsible for sleep times :)

  14. Thank you so much for writing this post! I tried EVERYTHING (from pumping to a supplemental nursing system, to herbs and special diets) and could never get a full supply for any of my three kids. I was able to breastfeed my daughter (with tons of formula supplementation) for 8 months, though. I think between the 3 kids I experienced every challenge possible: tongue tie, lip tie (with a frenulectomy), NICU babies who weren't allowed to nurse at first, low supply probably due to my own hormones/insulin levels since I was Diabetic. It was exhausting and discouraging and left me feeling like I had missed my babies' first months because I was so focused on trying to build supply and improve latch. I'm glad I tried everything I could - it was important to me, but I learned full well that breastfeeding is not for everyone and is a VERY personal choice. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

  15. Thank you for this post...i had tears in my eyes as i read it as breastfeeding has been such a huge source of guilt for me and contributed to postnatal depression twice. I tried so hard with my first baby and did the same with the twins...thought i was 'better prepared' and had support and help from a lactation consultant and i tried and tried...i was continually on the breast pump just to keep some milk coming but i finally realised i was in a cycle of guilt and depression again and my girls were hungry. I had to forget how society would judge me and just do what would ultimately be best for my health and that of my girls. I wholeheartedly believe that breastfeeding is best but that is not the issue for the majority of Mum's who don't continue feeding...there are so many reasons as to why a Mum may not be able to and i wish for the day when we can all stop judging each other and recognise that not everyone can do it no matter how hard they might try...and it is their right to keep their reasons private and not have to justify.
    Thank you so much Ray...i am often too scared to write about this topic but i applaud you for going there and writing such a balanced post!
    Thanks also for featuring me this week...xxxx

  16. Love your post, I nursed my first child for 6 months, the second for 9 months, and my current child is 4 months. There is definitely nothing easy about breast feeding. In the beginning with all three I got sore nipples, engorgement, one I got mastitis, two I got thrush. Not to mention exhaustion in the beginning from being the only one to get up and feed them, which usually took an hour. They say it helps with weight loss, I was always starving and didn't really lose the rest of the weight until I was done nursing. I mostly pump because I work full time and finding a private place to pump isn't always easy. I also pump because I always feel awkward nursing around people, even relatives. Weaning isn't painless or the easiest either. I do it for the health benefits for my kids and save on formula costs. I have noticed that my kids didn't get sick as much as the other kids at daycare. My current child has been pretty healthy so far, when others have been pretty sick with respiratory issues the winter. There are also times when it is nice to get that one on one bonding time and snuggle with them. I think whatever works for baby and mom leads to a happy family. Breast feeding to me is kind of like exercising/working out. It takes a lot of dedication and after about a month it gets easier and more of a routine, but not always my favorite thing to do

  17. An amazing post that will help a lot of mothers feel not so alone with their breastfeeding

    Just wanted to let you know that I featured this post at this week's Sunday Parenting Party. =)

  18. This is a great post - we're having an extra link up at the Baby Shower this week specifically for breastfeeding posts and would love for to link this up, Alice @ Mums Make Lists x

  19. I just had my first beautiful baby girl ten days ago, and man did I need this post! It makes me feel 100x better!

  20. Thanks for this post! I breastfed both daughters pretty easily but I do think there is a lot of unnecessary guilt that goes on. I also want to remind mothers of babies to try to have long term perspective in mind. While we all do our best on these choices when they are infants, there will be a whole lot of parenting to come. The day will come when you are able to look back on the early days and realize the breastfeeding decision is but a small part of what you will do for your child. Try not to sweat it and be gentle on yourself.

  21. All so true. I got so tired of hearing that my latch must be wrong if it hurt. Both my babes were good latchers, but chompers. I gave up early with dd#1 for a variety of reasons and I felt guilty and sad. With #2, I decided that nursing her was my job and we survived chomping and thrush and early weight loss to nurse for seven months. Not the full year that is recommended, but I felt so much better about it. In all fairness, a number of things were different with #2, including her temperament and the presence of a supportive husband. We do need to remember that natural does not always mean easy. :)

  22. Thank goodness for some rationality and common sense in the cyber space world of mommy-hood! All too often I feel like woman get beat up on for not parenting in what others consider to be the "right" way and it's like these people just can't stop banging the drum. Look at even a few of the comments here where people felt the need to chime in with why breast feeding is beneficial . . no one argues that it isn't, but if you can't or it's not realistically working out, how is that beneficial? People need to be more open, understanding, and supportive of each other. People also need to realize that parenting a certain way doesn't make them a better parent or a better person. Each individual has to make unique choices for their own children and families.

  23. When I had my first child I felt pressured into breast feeding. I went ahead and did so, but it hurt extremely bad. My daughter had cut one of my nipples right off the bat. The other nipple just hurt. I tried to speak with several medical professionals about what to do. I tried speaking to a lactation specialist. I kept getting told not to give up and it would get better. I was told it was what was best for my daughter. I was told to continue using the cream on my nipples as that would heal them. I kept at it for two weeks, until I found myself crying in the middle of the night while she breastfed as it hurt that bad. I spoke with my cousin the next morning who encouraged me not to quit, but to bottlefeed her for a couple days and only pump. She also told me to quit using the cream. I was told how bad of an idea this was by several people including the lactation specialist. I was told that by doing this, she would not latch back on as babies don't go back and forth from bottle to breast. I thought to myself it's either I do this or I quit. So I tried nipples caliced over in two days and I was able to breast feed her with no issues after that. She had no issues swtiching back and forth. For anyone who is thinking about quitting due to how bad it hurts, I would suggest trying what I did first. I'm getting ready to have my second child and intend on breast feeding again.


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