When I was pregnant with M I got my first real taste of what some call the mommy wars. I knew they existed, I just hadn’t gotten to experience them first hand. My initiation came from a long time friend of the family. Someone who I thought of as a second mom. I was far enough along in my pregnancy to realize that things don’t always go the way you plan. When asked about my birth plan I told her I wasn’t committed to anything regarding interventions. I knew I didn’t want a c-section if at all possible (something my OB definitely supported), but I was staying open minded about pain control. I was honest with her, and I got blasted with what she thought was best. How women’s bodies know what they’re doing, and how she had given birth to a ten pound twelve ounce (now 18 and a baritone) baby boy without any drugs and all it took was an experienced OB who knew the right position to get her in to.
It stung. I knew that things could go wrong, that it doesn’t always go the way you planned. Working at a children’s hospital had taught me that. Getting an epidural likely saved my life by lowering my dangerously high blood pressure, yet all of these years later, I still feel hurt by her words.
I don’t talk much about breastfeeding on my blog. The reason is that I know it is something deeply personal. I worry that if I go on and on about how I was lucky, yes, lucky, enough to have exclusively breastfed my daughter for 19 months, that I will make someone who struggled to breastfeed at all feel inferior. I worry that if I talk about how she used a nipple shield the ENTIRE time she breastfed except this one night when she was really really tired, then I will incur the wrath of the breastfeeding purists. I worry that if I talk about how I successfully pumped from when she was born (stupid jaundice) until she was over 14 months old, while I worked full time, that someone will go after me for not staying home where I belong.
When I was struggling with oversupply issues (like I said, lucky) or when I needed info on how to handle pumping and working, I visited the LLL boards. I once, just once, made the mistake of veering off of the pumping and working boards. There I was met with scathing criticisms of anyone who would ever let their baby drink from a bottle. How you couldn’t call it breastfeeding if it wasn’t always from a breast. I can just imagine what that would do a person that, unlike me, wasn’t having success. Someone who was struggling and looking for support while they dealt with a premature baby who was too small to latch, or a job that didn’t allow them to pump, or the choice of taking medication to save their life or that of their infant.
At the heart of it, I am extremely pro breastfeeding. I was lucky enough to grow up around women who breastfed. There was never a question that if at all possible, that would be my choice. However, I know life doesn’t always work out the way you want it to. I hesitate to call myself a lactivist because I don’t want to be associated with people who use the title to make others feel bad for their choices.
I think that formula companies take part in horrible things, but I also feel for the women (and men) who know that they would be lost without something more nutritious than karo syrup and water to give their babies. (something I found in my father’s baby book, for the record) There has to be a better way to encourage and support women (and men), whatever their choices and realities are.
So, since I don’t talk about it, and this makes the most amount of sense to me as a way to neutrally bring it up, I give my bullet pointed lists of what worked for me, and what advice I would give, if I did that about this.
- Nipple shields are not the devil. They used to be, but they aren’t bad now. 19 months. The kid had an odd oral issue and if she didn’t have the top of her mouth stimulated, she wouldn’t suck. When she did suck though, she was a hoover, so it worked for us.
- Get a lactation consultant. Not your Dr, not some young one that has never breastfed, get an experienced one if you can. Best one I had retired shortly after I met her to be a grandmother. I still miss her. Check with your pediatricians office (if you see a GP, get a Ped for this reason only) because most larger Ped’s offices have them on staff and you don’t pay extra.
- If you must visit LLL for advice from other moms on pumping, or supply, or anything, take it with a grain of salt. They are peer boards, and sometimes people are nuts.
- Use Kellymom.com. She has some of the best neutral resources out there.
- Do not feel the need to justify your choices to me, or anyone else. If your sanity is at stake, take the meds you need to. Kids need a mom who is healthy more than they need breast milk.
- Know your rights. In Minnesota companies over a certain size must provide a place for women to pump that is NOT a bathroom. Ask your employer. My HR department failed to mention to me that my company had three mother’s rooms with hospital grade pumps in them. I found out from the admin on our floor who referred me to a manager of another department.
- Check with your insurance about what is covered. Mine, the year after I shelled out 300 bucks for my pump, started covering them.
- Family support helps. Take the class, with your spouse. You wouldn’t believe what some people think about the mechanics of breasts.
- I will answer any question anyone has about how it worked for me. How I was able to figure out scheduling and have enough on hand while I worked, how I dealt with excess liapase (scalding breastmilk FTW), how I dealt with crazy uncomfortable family members, how having a blackberry made me not worry about pumping at work, anything.
- If by chance you find yourself as a new mom with a formula sample you don’t need, consider instead of getting offended, donating it to a crisis nursery. They have good reason to have formula on hand. Throw in some diapers while you’re at it.