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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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On breastfeeding [20141215|11:38]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
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[the weather today is |grumpy]

At my last visit to the midwife, she waxed lyrical over my assertion that I plan to breastfeed Keiki as I did Humuhumu for the first six months, tapering off once I went back to work and switching to the bottle. I found myself getting deeply uncomfortable as she carried on talking and became more obviously comfortable extolling the benefits of breastfeeding over bottle-feeding. I distinctly felt as though she were trying to make me feel somehow superior to someone who replied, “No, I plan to bottle-feed from the start,” and I did not enjoy the experience.

It reminded me of the NCT* classes we took before Humuhumu was born two years ago. We have made some good local friends from the classes, so overall I was pleased with the outcome, but there was one portion of it that I loathed: the breastfeeding session. It was held on a Tuesday evening, and we sat for 2.5 hours listening to a woman bang on about the gloriousness of breastfeeding. When we asked if any information about bottle-feeding was to be presented, she reacted not quite with horror, but certainly with disapproval, and ultimately refusal.

Of the eight sets of parents in that NCT group, two of us ended up breastfeeding our babies. (One very determined mother couldn’t get her baby to latch, but she pumped milk for five and a half months, every four hours, and bottle-fed her little girl. I don’t like to imagine how exhausting that must have been.) All the rest ended up bottle-feeding, and found it their stress levels elevated because of the lack of information and encouragement given in our classes. In my opinion, everyone in our class should have been given a checklist of the size and number of bottles that would be needed, the type of teats to use, sterilisation techniques and a quick tutorial on measuring and mixing formula. Figuring all that out on the fly when the need became immediate was terrible for the new mums in my group, especially the ones who had difficult births and were very unwell in the early days.

I am not a big fan of using ignorance, scorn and guilt as tactics to force people into a certain course of action. I consider this to be pretty clear (albeit anecdotal) evidence of why that doesn’t work.

My own experience with breastfeeding was not all sunshine and roses. The first two weeks were a nightmare. Humuhumu didn’t know how to latch properly at first and the damage her little mouth did in the first few days took some time to heal. I was in excruciating pain. I very nearly gave up and switched to bottle-feeding until I discovered Lansinoh (lanolin cream). It became easier after I’d healed, but it is still no picnic being the one who has to wake up at least twice a night for weeks in order to feed the baby, with no help from your partner**. Nor is it fun working out how to breastfeed in public. It takes practise to do it discreetly, and even if you are nicely covered you still get people glaring at you. Because despite the pressure to breastfeed because of its benefits (most of which are both temporary and slight), no one actually wants to see a woman doing it, so we should all stay at home until our children are weaned. Slow-clap for society on that one.

I was also absurdly lucky in that Humuhumu began to sleep through the night at two months. (I tend to keep this fact to myself, as it often elicits disbelief and rage from other new parents.)

There are enough pressures on new parents to do exactly the right things for their children in order to raise them in the best and healthiest manner possible. I’m tired of seeing people judge one another for their choice of breast v bottle. Judgy person, you have no idea why a mother at the cafe is bottle-feeding her child instead of breastfeeding. Maybe that’s pumped breast milk because her nipples are really sore. Maybe her newborn was tongue-tied and couldn’t latch. Maybe she went three continuous weeks without more than an hour of sleep a night. Maybe she’s on medication that enters her bloodstream and could be harmful to the baby. Maybe she had to go back to work as soon as possible to support her new family. Maybe her boobs blew off in a typhoon. Maybe it’s none of your damned business.

* National Childbirth Trust, which offers classes for clueless middle-class career people in how to look after an infant after a couple of decades of selfishness. They don’t advertise that way but that’s effectively what they are.
** I hasten to point out that this is not necessarily because Partner is unwilling to help, but because it makes more sense for Partner to get some sleep and be able to take care of things like cooking and cleaning and holding down their job.

This entry was originally posted at http://nanila.dreamwidth.org/955863.html. The titration count is at comment count unavailable.0 pKa.

[User Picture]From: bryangb
2014-12-15 13:30 (UTC)
Helma had a lot of trouble and despairing tears trying to breast-feed the first time around, and nearly gave up. Luckily as well as support within the NCT there was a support clinic at our local hospital and I *made* her go to it - well, I drove them there and insisted they get out... (-: The staff there were great and helped a lot; she's now a breast-feeding zealot and has helped others sort out their latches and what-not.

I'm in two minds about your suggestion about bottle-feeding info. On the one hand, yes it's important to know about if you go that route; but on the other, better support could help more mums breast-feed - and do it discreetly etc - and having the bottle there going "Use me! Use me!" will discourage some from getting the support they need.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-15 14:59 (UTC)
...having the bottle there going "Use me! Use me!" will discourage some from getting the support they need.

I completely disagree with this. My sister-out-law gave me a breast pump, a set of bottles, new teats and a steriliser before Humuhumu was born, and she said, "I know you plan to breast-feed, so this is just in case and/or for when you go back to work." It helped enormously to have had someone explain how to use all the kit even though I didn't need it until around four months after Humuhumu was born.

As I said above, keeping those [educated, middle-class] mums in ignorance of how to bottle-feed safely and effectively did nothing to assist them in determining whether to breast or bottle-feed. All it did was make them feel upset and guilty afterward.
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[User Picture]From: bryangb
2014-12-15 15:38 (UTC)
Well, I do know mums (of various classes) who couldn't make it work and switched to bottle, when proper support could have helped them make it work.

I wonder if the dilemma is worse for NCT members, who have after all already self-selected for determination, even if the information and support is often then sadly lacking.
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[User Picture]From: owlfish
2014-12-15 14:14 (UTC)
Our NCT class breastfeeding session was also infuriating useless, a feel-good session of yay breastfeeding which did not deal with any of the actual challenges we faced with it. We "diligently" planned to just breastfeed, which meant it was a complete surprise when I was told I would not be able to* by a midwife, and C had to rush out to the shops first thing when they opened in the morning to buy bottle-feeding supplies. I really wish we'd had some bottle feeding education in advance too!

* It took three more days to find a midwife who said "yes it will work for you, and here's what you need to do"; three months for the (necessary in my case, honestly) constant pain to stop; and seven months before I could deal with night feeds that way.

Edited at 2014-12-15 02:14 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-15 15:07 (UTC)
a feel-good session of yay breastfeeding which did not deal with any of the actual challenges we faced with it

Yes! Yes! Exactly! Making lists on big sheets of paper about why breast-feeding is wonderful and makes you feel all connected and blissful does nothing to prepare you for the reality of being totally exhausted after labour and fiddling around trying to get a tiny wailing red thing to attach to your boob, and not realising you're both doing it wrong and have inflicted damage that will take weeks to heal. It would be far more helpful to say, "Look, a lot of people have difficulty with this. It's harder than it looks in National Geographic pictures. If it hurts, get help. If the help you have sucks, get different help. And if it's still too much, you can always use the bottle. Here's how to do that safely and effectively." I was never breast-fed because my mom couldn't (those wondering why can see the last sentence of my original post >:E).

Your determination to keep on trying is impressive, and I'm very glad you found a midwife who could help.
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[User Picture]From: bryangb
2014-12-15 15:40 (UTC)
Oh yes indeed to all of that (even at second-hand!).
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[User Picture]From: owlfish
2014-12-15 18:10 (UTC)
A trivial and related pet peeve: NHS compiles its "breastfeeding statistics" from whatever a baby's first feed was. Therefore Grouting is not recorded as a breastfed baby.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-15 20:53 (UTC)
Wow. It is patently absurd that Humuhumu should be considered breastfed and Grouting not, especially given the relative lengths of time that they have been so.
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[User Picture]From: daphnep
2014-12-16 00:57 (UTC)
Because her boobs fell off in a typhoon?

No, I have nothing good to add, I just like this post and wanted to approve. Consider this dumb joke my equivalent of an up vote. (Also, a chance to use an icon I particularly like.)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-17 15:40 (UTC)
Ha, pretty much! :P (And a fabulous icon. POINTY BOOBS)
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[User Picture]From: dizzykj
2014-12-15 23:50 (UTC)
One of the many reasons I love Bravissimo is their leaflet on pregnancy and boob size. After a description of all of the changes to expect whilst pregnant, it then has a section called "If you bottle feed" with appropriate into, followed by an "if you breastfeed" section. No moralizing, no judging, no "this is what you should do". Just the info you need.

I think that all of my friends who have kids wanted to breastfeed but quite a few of them ended up bottle feeding. While the resons that they did this differ (raging from serious illness to work stress), all of them felt guilty about it and that they were somehow *letting their child down*. I cannot explain how angry it makes me that on top of having just grown an entire fucking human being, they have been made to feel guilty.

There are many ways to encourage breastfeeding as a good thing to do if you can without adding shame and humiliation and judgement.

Edited at 2014-12-15 11:55 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-17 15:48 (UTC)
I cannot explain how angry it makes me that on top of having just grown an entire fucking human being, they have been made to feel guilty.

Yes! This! Times eleventy million! It's not like a bottle of formula is the equivalent of a bottle of gin, ffs.
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[User Picture]From: mysterysquid
2014-12-16 11:08 (UTC)
Yes, not helpful. A friend of mine wrote this, and it went a bit viral over here:

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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-17 15:45 (UTC)
The decision to stop apologising for not wanting to breastfeed must have taken an incredible amount of strength. Kudos to your friend for doing that, and writing publicly about it. \o/
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2014-12-17 15:30 (UTC)
Terribly irritating. Yes, indeed.
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