Thursday, April 08, 2010

Breastfeeding this Week

Earlier this week, news came out about a new study that analyzed the costs of our country's low breastfeeding rates. I first saw the news on Twitter which took me to the LA Times, but pretty much every major news station did a piece on it: CNN, ABC, etc. The CNN site quotes the study as saying,

"The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations."
Wow. There were quite a few reactions to this news and I'll link to just a few.

Best for Babies analyzed the language in the ABC news article and discussed the way we talk about breastfeeding. Highly recommended reading.

The Feminist Breeder's article "When It Comes to Breastfeeding, We Can’t Handle The Truth" packs a punch and went so viral that her hosting service shut her site down for a while because of the traffic. She discusses the hot topic of breastfeeding guilt and the discussion in her comments is interesting. Again, I definitely recommend reading it.

Not soon after all this, I ran into this piece which mentions, "One 2004 AAP survey of pediatricians showed that 40 percent did not feel knowledgeable about breastfeeding. More than a third of pediatricians responding to the survey said they didn't receive any education about breastfeeding while in medical school or during residency." And these are the people we trust to give us good information about feeding our babies!

And then this morning, Margaret became famous in today's Matador Life article, "The Most Obscene Debate on the Internet." McKay would like me to clarify that he was the one that took the picture, so it should really say "Photo by McKay Farley" under Margaret's picture.

Both the Best for Babies and The Feminist Breeder articles reminded me of a couple of older articles I've read. The first is Jack Newman's Breastfeeding and Guilt. The second is the famous Watch Your Language article by Diane Wiessinger.

Those are issues I run into a lot on when writing about breastfeeding. I've received criticism in both comments and emails of how I refer to breastfeeding. When breastfeeding is "normal," then formula or other substitutes are "inferior." But that makes people feel guilty. But when breastfeeding is "best" or "ideal" suddenly it's a lofty, almost unattainable goal so breastmilk substitutes are seen as a "good enough" option. And unfortunately, according to that new study, it's not good enough for over 900 American babies a year. And I don't know what to do about it. I don't want to cause guilt, but I can't pretend formula and other substitutes will ever come close to breastmilk. I mean, can you imagine a company trying to put stem cells in formula? White blood cells?

I've also been considering what I've done/will do to help moms have access to breastfeeding information, support, and other mothers' milk. I do think breastmilk needs to be more accessible for moms who can't breastfeed. Unfortunately, milk banks are few and the cost is high- I've read $3/ounce!

Right now, I simply can't pump or donate any milk because I'm only making pregnancy colostrum (but apparently it's still yummy, as I'm currently NAKing). When Margaret was a newborn, there was a mom in our playgroup who was accepting breastmilk for her adopted son. She had induced lactation and used an SNS for months, but sometimes hormones just win out and she needed to supplement a lot. I feel terrible of how much of my milk ended up soaked in my bra and on our sheets, blankets, towels and carpet and I did nothing to collect it for her. I really should have, and I think if I have oversupply next time I'll do more to save it for someone who needs it. Maybe I'll invest in a pump.

Anyway, that was this week in breastfeeding along with some of my thoughts and guilt over not doing more. Tomorrow I have a post scheduled for the API Speaks Blog Carnival in which I talk about how breastfeeding a toddler is hard sometimes. No, it's not all roses and puppies. I haven't done a "How to UP/UC" post in a few weeks, but I have a couple more ideas. It all depends on whether I can find time to film another vlog.


  1. I don't think it is a big deal that peds don't know all the ins and outs of breastfeeding... they are doctors, after all and their purpose is to deal with pathology and disease/illness not baby nutrition and sleep.

    It is more important that they know when and how to refer *out* to LLLI, *good* LCs or CLEs and have a practice that promotes and supports breastfeeing... like prescribing Billi-blankets for jaundice, quick newborn appointments, banning formula samples/ads/"freebies" and educating themselves on the growth curve for newborn breastfed infants.

    But should pediatricians need special breastfeeding training? Nope, I don't think so.

  2. I don't think you should change the way you write about breastfeeding at all. Speaking as a mom who formerly felt a LOT of guilt for not breastfeeding past 3 months, I can tell you that YOU are neither causing nor are responsible for the guilt non-breastfeeding moms feel--it is largely self-inflicted. You never demonize or criticize moms who use formula; you simply present facts and provide your personal opinion and experiences. In fact, it is your commitment to breastfeeding that has inspired me to not give up breastfeeding so easily when my next child is born this summer. I admire your conviction and courage to tell the truth in the face of criticism. Never change!

  3. “Guilt is anger directed at ourselves -- at what we did or did not do. Resentment is anger directed at others -- at what they did or did not do.” - Peter McWilliams

    Honestly, it's time we all own up for reponsibility for our own actions.

    I could feel guilty when women talk about how they were able to be strong and NOT consent to an epidural or a pitocin induction or I could admit that I was naive and consented when I should have exercised alternatives and then my son and I wouldn't have had the c-section birth.

    Just because others know better or are stronger doesn't mean I need to feel guilt and doesn't mean that a mother who chose formula feeding or didn't know how to find good education and support to assist her in breastfeeding should feel guilt.

    We as women need to admit our shortcomings and failures and learn from them.

    We shouldn't try to keep others in unhealthy situations because WE are afraid to own up to our mistakes.

    Please keep on advocating for babies and their right to breastmilk!

  4. Thanks for the great post and links. I breastfed my daughter until she was 13 months old. At first, I really struggled. I also have friends who have struggled to breastfeed their children for various reasons. One of the recurring themes I've encountered when I hear my friends' stories and looking back at my own experiences is the lack breastfeeding support available. Neither my mother or grandmother breastfed their children. They were told (especially during my grandmother's time) that formula was best. And when I needed support during those early weeks of my daughter's life when I was struggling with breastfeeding, I couldn't rely on their experience because they had none to give me.

    I hope that when my daughter's generation reaches its childbearing years, things will have changed dramatically.

  5. I always appreciate reading your take on thee things. You have a way of finding the part of a discussion that wasn't discussed and offering a very valuable two cents. Thanks. This is highly tweetable! :)

  6. If you need more information on pumping and donating (privately, not via a milk bank), please feel free to contact me through my blog. I pumped and donated my milk after the birth of my first surrogate son in 2008. I am pregnant and due in June with my second surrogate son, and once again I will be pumping and donating. :)

    Obviously EPing and donating when one doesn't have a baby to feed themselves is different. But if you do find you have extra, and don't have a need to store so much or room for it, I encourage donating. It's not as daunting of a task as some may think. :)



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