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Saturday
May152010

This is why I'm a breastfeeding advocate

People often wonder why I bother with breastfeeding advocacy. This is why. Someone posted a link to my 50 reasons to breastfeed anytime, anywhere on one of the message boards at the bump. The mother of a 3 month old baby wrote:
Thanks for posting this.  It's like a high five :)  Just when I was starting to doubt EBFing, it has given me a boost to keep going!!

It's so sad that BFing is seen as more inconvenient than bottle feeding!! I shouldn't have to be stressed about where to feed my child. Sometimes I think a bottle would just be easier.  That's it. I'm not getting stressed about it anymore!! F-Everyone! :)

If what I've written on this blog has helped one woman to be able to overcome breastfeeding difficulties, to avoid booby traps, or to gain the confidence to meet her breastfeeding objectives, then it is all worthwhile.
« Breastfeeding and Early Weaning | Main | 50 Reasons for Breastfeeding Anytime, Anywhere »

Reader Comments (36)

exactly!

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

I'm pretty sure all my ranting and raving and BF tips has helped at least one mama BF successfully, so I know exactly where you are coming from. Keep up the good work :)

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

That's awesome, Annie. Way to go!

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill @babyrabies

I found your blog shortly after I gave birth to my second daughter. I StumbledUpon your Economics of Breastfeeding post shortly after the whole Hannah Rosin thing happened. Before I had read that, I just thought I was doing what was natural and easiest for my child. I hadn't REALLY looked at what I was doing or what the REAL benefits were of it. (Not that easiest and natural aren't real benefits.)

At that point in time though, I was having a few difficulties. Mostly just those middle of the night doubts. I had a can of free formula sitting in the back of my cabinet that wandered into my thoughts during those times. Before I had read your post I would think, "Well, it wouldn't be SO bad if we were one of those 'hybrid' families who both breast and formula feed. Surely it can't cause that much harm to the breastfeeding relationship." Luckily before I would get to my breaking point, Kairi would finally latch on properly and nurse herself to sleep.

But after reading your post (and then submerging myself in the rest of your blog) I realized how true all the warnings were in the how-to books I had read.

I am so thankful for you and for this site. I wrote you a thank you in my Carnival of Natural Parenting post, but it really doesn't do any sort of justice to the gratitude I feel for you and this site. Keep on advocating because you've helped tremendously!

I am a new mum of a 10week old angel boy. I am pro-choice. I supplement feed because I believe I would be a raving lunatic I'd I had to BF my son as much as he asks. I don't feel guilt about that and believe he is getting the best of both scenarios, 1. The benefits of my breasmilk, and 2.a satsfied tummy.

I dislike the negativity that you cast on my decision which was made not only for the benefit of my son, but also my health. I have a very supportive partner - he supports me to make the decisions that keep me being the best mummy I can be.

When our kids are graduating high school, I doubt we'll discuss the fact that he filled up on bottles as an infant.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I am also pro-choice, while recognizing that when all things are equal (http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/05/14/when-it-is-not-breast/" rel="nofollow">which they unfortunately too frequently are not), that exclusive breastfeeding is the preferred way to feed an infant.

I'm sorry if you feel that I've cast negativity on your decision. I generally try to be very careful not to do so. If you can let me know what upset you, perhaps that can help me to improve my choice of words or approach in the future. My breastfeeding advocacy is NOT about putting down formula feeding moms. It is about helping create conditions of success so that more moms can meet their own breastfeeding goals.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'd be interested to hear your take on pumping and bottle feeding vs. feeding from the breast. I have a few friends who pump and bottle feed, not due to work reasons or problems with breastfeeding, just because they prefer it that way. They think it's easier. I'm the other extreme and avoid pumping at all costs, since it's so much easier for me to breastfeed, at least now when I'm home on leave. I know I'll have to pump when I go back, but I'm not looking forward to time spent pumping or cleaning bottles. I'd like to try to better understand why so many women (at least in my area) are choosing to exclusively pump and bottle feed. Any ideas?

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAbbie

What a great post.

You have helped a lot of people. I met you on Kellymom, a place I am so glad I found. Without women like you, I would not have known the information I do know now, nor would I have the ability to give out facts to the myths. Without people like you I don't think I would have breastfed for as long as I am, I did not get any support or even know where to get it.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOur Sentiments

Thanks for your reply.

I am not upset, just hoping to evoke some alternative thought from your readers.

I think we should encourage positive parenting in whatever form feeding takes place. I love breastfeeding and there's a lot of support available for nursing mothers. I get disappointed that there isn't the same support for non-breastfeeding mothers (or combos, like me).

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I am a new mom and quite overwhelmed with information. This all-boob-all-the-time approach reminds me of Israel Patik's "Monkey Love Theory".
... Is it connected?

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSheila

Annie, having known you for many years on various boards, I have some idea of how many mothers you have helped, both on this blog and elsewhere on the web. You have a lot to be proud of!

@Abbie, I speculate that women who want to EP instead of bf are dealing with an "ick" factor when it comes to having their baby latch on. I think we also live in a culture of technology and disconnect from our natural bodily functions - so moms are trained (by our culture) to think that pumping is just as good/easy as bf. Just a theory of my own, but my convos with women who are choosing to EP seem to bear this out.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

You are a critical lynchpin to the success of the breastfeeding movement Annie for more reasons than I could list here (hmmm . . . maybe I should start a list of 50 reasons why we need phdinparenting.com) and that comment you posted from a mom on the Bump really puts a lot of wind in all our sails when we are pushing the rock up the hill. Not only are you motivating, inspiring, preparing and empowering women indivdually but you are educating and influencing the media on subjects like Nestle & the WHO Code. You are bright, ethical star and I for one am grateful you do care about breastfeeding!

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

I don't think Annie casts negativity on your decision or anyone's decision to give formula - Annie is simply firm that breastmilk is the perfect food for babies. If someone decides to give an alternate to breastmilk, such as yourself, that is your decision. I have similar views to Annie. If someone, like yourself, tells me they are combo feeding I will never say "you are making the right choice" because breastmilk is superior to formula and a mother's milk is tailor-made for her baby. Therefore, giving formula is not what I would call the right choice.

If you are looking for praise for formula feeding, a person like Annie or a person like me is not a person who is going to give that praise! If you are looking for information on how to help your 10 week old achieve a full tummy while still exclusively nursing, then a breastfeeding advocate would be the person to consult!

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlina

I suspect those moms are not comfortable nursing in public. I was out for dinner tonight and watched another mother fighting with a cover, getting the baby latched, fighting with it again to adjust her bra afterwards... that must be such a pain. Clearly her baby is getting the best food and she is doing what makes her comfortable, but I can see that long term that would be a huge pain in the butt - perhaps EBM in a bottle is easier in that case?

I'm with you though - I haven't even bought bottles for my new son (threw out the ones I bought for my daughter because of the BPA scare) because the thought of going through pumping and washing again - urgh.

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuliette

Me too. It's all about making a difference to one person and then another and then another. Fantastic!

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelodie

There really is nothing better than knowing you've helped a mom meet her goals. And I'm sure that you've helped many. Go, Annie!

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

F-everyone...LOL! She sounds rejuvenated!

I make it a point to sit down and nurse everytime I see another nursing mama. It's been harder to do lately as toddlers develop a mind of their own but I still offer it.

In fact on Friday we went to the zoo and a mama was sitting on a bench trying to nurse with a blanket over her little baby so I plopped down next to her, latched on DD and smiled at her. What do you know, a few seconds later she took off the blanket and smiled back. DH bless his heart had no idea what was going on when he walked up but smiled at the mom and told her the baby was cute.

:) We can make a difference. It's not all gloom and doom!

May 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGuggie

Abbie:

I think there can be several reasons why moms choose to pump and bottle feed rather than feeding from the breast:

1) They wanted to breastfeed, but either their baby wouldn't latch on at all or ended up refusing the breast at some point due to early introduction of bottles or pacifiers. Since they weren't able to get their baby back to breast, they eventually decided (often with a lot of regret and sadness at losing the nursing relationship) to just pump and bottle feed. They decided it wasn't worth making a big fight out of every feeding, trying to battle with the baby to get him to latch on. I think this situation often comes about due to unnecessary interventions (e.g. giving a newborn a bottle or a pacifier), bad breastfeeding advice, or undetected but fixable problems (e.g. tongue tie).

2) They feel like it gives them more flexibility and independence. Some women do not like the idea of having a baby physically dependent on them. They feel that by pumping and bottle feeding, they can separate milk production from feeding, thereby making them more independent. They can go out without having to worry about taking the baby or when the baby's next feed is. They can drink and then pump and dump for a while without worrying that the baby might want to nurse while they are intoxicated.

3) They are squirmy about breastfeeding and are not comfortable having a baby nurse at their breast or are not comfortable nursing in public and therefore decide to just pump and bottle feed instead.

4) They want to share everything equally with their partner right from the start and want him/her to be involved in the feeding of the baby. Personally, I think there are many other ways that the partner can be involved and don't believe that EVERY task has to be split 50/50.

Those are the reasons why I think some women do choose pumping/bottle feeding over feeding at the breast. I do think it is a great alternative in the event that nursing doesn't work out (better than switching to formula). However, there are some benefits that come with nursing that the mother/baby would be missing out on if they choose to bottle feed instead:

1) There is an enhanced immune response that comes from having the baby nurse at the breast. As http://parenting.ivillage.com/newborn/nbreastfeed/0,,98xx-p,00.html" rel="nofollow">explained in this ivillage article, "Mothers will also start to produce specific antibodies to illnesses when exposed directly to a germ, so if there is a cold or other minor infectious illness going through your family it might boost your baby’s protection to provide more freshly pumped milk at that time."

2) Ease of night feeding. Rolling over to nurse is a lot easier than getting up, warming a bottle, feeding a bottle, and then pumping for the next feed. When I was doing the latter (because my son wouldn't latch), it was a 40 minute ordeal each time and I had trouble getting back to sleep afterward. When I was nursing at night in bed, it was usually a 15 minute thing that didn't involve getting up or turning on any lights and it was much easier to fall back asleep afterward.

3) Bonding. While I do think that "bottle nursing" is possible, I think it is easier to ensure a bond and close skin to skin contact when you are nursing right at the breast.

4) Logistics. No need to worry about buying and cleaning bottles, always having your pump with you, always having to find a place to pump, having to store the milk, etc.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Amy:

What type of support do you think is missing? Moral support (supporting the mom's decision)? Or technical support (how-to)?

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

What an awesome feeling!

DD is almost 1 years old and I'm trying to wean her to 2 feeds a day (when she gets up, and before going to bed) because she's starting daycare. Hope it works out! So far she's been messing with my supply and getting up during the night. BF is hard work, but not giving up is worth it in the long run!

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterstella

Moral support and practical advice on Infant health and bonding alternatives. Eg. Which formulas are best and why, addressing the concerns that bottle feeding mums have about bonding.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

I don't seek praise, but support. Thanks for nothing.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Amy:

In terms of practical advice:

- Regarding bonding: What is generally recommended for bottle feeding moms is that they "bottle nurse". This means holding your baby close to your breast when you are feeding. You can also do some skin to skin feeding - i.e. baby in just a diaper and you topless, so that you still get that skin to skin bonding, even though your baby is not feeding at your breast.

- Regarding which formulas are best: All formulas are regulated by the government in developing countries. Despite what formula companies will tell you, there isn't really a "best" formula and, in fact, there are some concerns about some of the things that formula companies are artificially adding to formula to supposedly make it more like breastmillk. There is a good discussion of some of the issues around formulas here: http://communities.canada.com/vancouversun/blogs/parenting/archive/2009/02/20/president-s-choice-formula-vs-similac-enfamil-nestle.aspx. It is looking at the situation in Canada, but I expect the same would hold true in most countries.

On the side of moral support, my position is that we need to support moms. We need to help them to meet their goals and we need to support their decisions. Where it becomes tricky for me, sometimes, is when a mom who had trouble breastfeeding starts warning others about it, telling them to quit, or spreading myths or misinformation. It is often a fine line between having empathy for what a mom went through and is still going through (which I always do), recognizing that everyone has different limits (which I try to do), and also ensuring that women sharing their own experiences does not contribute to other moms difficulties. If one mom quit because of bad advice and she passes that bad advice along, it just perpetuates the situation and can prevent more moms from meeting their goals.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thanks Annie.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Thanks so much for your well thought response. I also recently read that bottle feeding doesn't provide the same reduced risk of future obesity, even if it is EBM. I have a friend who recently told me she plans to pump/bottle feed, and she's not even pregnant yet. I didn't know what to say, so I just went on nursing my baby. I don't want to condemn her choice, but I think she has no idea what she's talking about. I plan to bring it up and discuss it with her more privately, so I really appreciate your ideas here!

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAbbie

Abbie:

That is possible due to the overeating factor. When babies nurse at the breast, they only take what they need. However, the way that a bottle works, it encourages the baby to keep gulping until it is empty. This is one reason that a lot of breastfeeding moms have trouble keeping up with their baby's demand for expressed breastmilk (either while at work or if exclusively pumping) and end up thinking they need to supplement with formula.

When you return to work, I would suggest using slow flow nipples and having your caregivers give small portions frequently. Generally aim for 1oz per hour, so 2oz bottles every 2 hours or 3oz bottles every 3 hours should work in most cases.

May 16, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

New nursing mums need a lot of support. I was absolutely determined that my little girl would be 100% breastfed from day one.

I had a massive showdown with the paediatrician at the hospital who was trying his best to screw up my plans (insisting that I needed to supplement with formula as my perfectly healthy baby 'wasn't getting enough' as my milk took 5 days to come in). I had people telling me how 'tiny' my bub was and joking 'isn't your mum feeding you enough' constantly - making me wonder if I was. She is fine featured - like my husband - and slender but by no means underweight. Looking back I was just overtired, overwhelmed and as a first time mum didn't have the confidence to know for certain that she was thriving.

Then there were the bottle-feeding friends with their helpful advice to 'just give her a bottle' as their solution to everything. I didn't dare mention that she wouldn't sleep well - how dare I complain when the solution was so simple! Just give her a bottle, it sticks in her tummy much longer! Not putting on weight as fast as the doctor's charts says she should? Easy - just give her forumla! Can't come out for a girls night out? Well, if you just gave her a bottle...

So it was tough at times to keep up the faith that what I was doing was the best choice for my daughter. It would feel lonely, even with my mum in my ear all the time giving me constant support and advice. I would LOVE going to the parents room at the shops and seeing other mums breastfeeding, especially the older bubs. It normalised it for me. You've provided that on the internet, a place to go and get support when you are starting to feel like you are the only one out there struggling away at it, or even just doing it.

Nine months on and my little firecracker is bouncing (literally - she dances her way around the room, destroying everything in her inquisitive path!) about the place healthy, happy and and 100% exclusively breastfed. Gone are all the early issues and we are left with a fun, easy cuddly time together that we both love and look forward to.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNursingMama

I just want to add my "hear hear!" to the masses. Breastfeeding was way more difficult than I ever anticipated, and if I hadn't had blogs like yours to lend support and reassure me that I was making the right decision and it would get easier and be worth it in the end, I may have given up. (Seriously -- I had a natural birth, and thought that breastfeeding was waaaay harder at first!) Thank you for all you do Annie!

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I am still not sure what kind of support you are looking for. According to the numbers, the vast majority of women in North America are at least supplementing if not exclusively bottlefeeding within months of birth -- I don't see that translating into lack of support for the choice in this society, quite the opposite in fact. If you've reserached your choice and know the risks, and accept them, and you absolutely feel you've made the best choice for your child, how can pro-bf sentiments "cast negativity" on what you are doing? Especially when those of us who do see value in exclusive bf are in fact in the minority?

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

I agree completely with Alina. It's hard for us breastfeeding advocates to support you (and other combo feeding moms) who appear to be doing so because of bad information. If you truly have a medical issue (anatomic or hormonal) causing low supply, then combo-feeding might help you to continue breastfeeding rather than giving up completely. But many, many, MANY women are misinformed about how babies eat and think their babies are still hungry when they really just need to suck for comfort, have gas, or myriad other issues that are not hunger-related. Or their supply is affected by stress, diet, fluid intake, lack of sleep, or supplementing.

Your son is only 10 wks old - you are still in the "4th trimester" which is usually very difficult for the entire family. Only speaking for myself here (not Annie or Alina), but it sounds to me that you have resorted to supplementing ("combo feeding") without realizing all the risks and without realizing you have options to avoid it. Unfortunately, by replacing some breastmilk feedings with artificial milk, you are signaling your body to make less milk, which can lead to a downward spiral in your supply and unintentional early weaning. That's a fact, not an opinion. I hope you will spend some time at http://kellymom.com to learn more about what you're doing and the possible consequences on your milk supply and your baby's health.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca M.

Thanks again for the advice. I'm going to start having my husband feed our baby a half-ounce at night, when he's cluster feeding, since I want him to get used to the bottle. My mom exclusively breastfed my brothers and me, and we refused to take bottles so she could never leave us alone, which worked fine most of the time. However, I want my son to be able to take a bottle since I will have to go to work. I personally hate to pump, but I've been using the Milkies Milk Collector to gather about 1/2 to 1 ounce of leaking on the opposite side while I breastfeed.

May 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAbbie

That was definitely it for me, I had to be seated in a comfy chair with my nursing pillow to nurse my first, was/am terribly uncoordinated, so a bottle of ebm for outings was my choice for a few months (until I could no longer stand pumping forever for an ounce or two!) I also briefly toyed with the idea of exclusively pumping when my baby wouldn't latch in the early days, until I realized how hard that would be -- so I am awed by women who can keep that up because they have to (i.e. back to work early or baby doesn't latch after many, many tries). I am so glad my baby and I eventually figured it out! I do have a friend who thought she'd pump and bottle feed due to being squeamish, but she was giving bottles of formula (her choice, the nurses did try to dissuade her) in the hospital, and not surprisingly, her milk "never came in", so it didn't happen. :(

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrea

That honestly makes me want to cry. If I can help one mom keep breastfeeding, all of the time and effort I put into advocating for breastfeeding it worth it.

May 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClaire

You've done a great job of summing up the reason why women choose to exclusively pump. The one thing I would add though is that often when a woman is wanting to breastfeed but having difficulty, it isn't always the fact that she isn't wanting "to make a fight out of every feeding" but that emotionally the struggle and the cyclical routine of breastfeeding/bottlefeeding/pumping takes an enormous toll and often women can simply not fight any longer, especially if there are other concerns such as a premature birth, health concerns, or weight loss. I know this was the case with me. I do agree, however, that given better information and support, many women who end up EPing would never have ended up making the switch.

I do hear from a lot of women who state their reason for wanting to pump is so their spouse can feed the baby and bond in that way and women who believe it will be easier and not so demanding on them as mothers.

Although the "breast is best" campaign has been well heard, I think it's done a poor job of saying breastfeeding is normal and certainly has done nothing to make women know that breastfeeding is easy (or should be with the proper supports in place). Women head into it believing it is difficult, time consuming, painful, and demanding.

I always present EPing as an alternative to formula, but it is often seen- and recently presented by media- as an alternative to breastfeeding. This saddens me and is something I continue to try and change.

Just found your blog and love it! I will keep reading to be sure.

May 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

All too often it is assumed that a breastfeeding mum will scurry off to do the deed behind a locked door and well out of sight.

May 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

I've been reading your blog for a few months and I love it. Thanks for your advocacy on breastfeeding and natural parenting. I have 3 children and more than 5 years of breastfeeding experience, but even still I feel like I need a boost now and then to know that I'm doing o.k. and the right thing for my kids. Your posts are perfect for that! My 1st baby breastfed for 3 years, my second for 2 and I now have an exclusively breastfed 5 month old. None of them has ever had a bottle and we're all just fine!

March 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterIzzy

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