Celebrating Each Mother's Journey: Not every breastfeeding relationship looks the same. There are mothers who exclusively breastfed, exclusively pumped, breastfed with supplementation, breastfed for three hours or three years, never breastfed but wanted to, or did some combination of these. The important thing is that each mother is supported and given accurate information. Today let's discuss how we can celebrate every breastfeeding relationship.
We can celebrate every breastfeeding relationship by acknowledging the variety of ways that women can feed their babies. As described in today’s topic prompt, there are more ways to feed an infant than breast to baby. Besides breastfeeding, there are relationships where the MotherBaby, “exclusively pumped, breastfed with supplementation, breastfed for three hours or three years, never breastfed but wanted to, or did some combination of these.”
In addition to those scenarios, there are also women who educated themselves and participated in human milk sharing, or maybe allowed a friend or relative to wet nurse. These are all available options besides the two most commonly acknowledged and debated food delivery systems: exclusive breastfeeding and formula feeding.
As a childbirth educator, it is my honor and privilege to offer information about breastfeeding in our classes and to introduce our students to the wide world of breastfeeding support for their journey. Although I am not a certified lactation consultant, I have been the ear for mamas on their path to feed their children with their own milk. The mothers in our student base have run the gamut all of those options. Due to the amount of support our mamas have, so far all the families have found a path to breastfeed for at least the first six months of infancy as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I have heard their tears of disappointment, and wept with joy when they share the news that their baby finally latched. We celebrate when they are no longer pumping and cleaning pump parts and bottle-feeding systems.
These MotherBabys succeed in their pursuit of a breastfeeding relationship because they do not feel judgment for their inability to exclusively breastfeed. Instead, they are provided with a plethora of options to support them in their journey to feed their human babies human milk. They are provided with lists of breastfeeding support groups in our area that offer information and camaraderie. They are offered names of lactation consultants when they need one-on-one support. Even if a MotherBaby does not live in a metropolitan area with face-to-face support options, the age of the internet has given rise to video resources and websites available 24/7 via the world wide web (see some of our student's favorite resources at the end of today's post).
In order to celebrate the variety of ways that families feed their babies, I propose that we find some new ways to communicate about breastfeeding that are not so divisive. In our eagerness to share the joy of breastfeeding, it is easy to forget that the questions we ask may unintentionally put people on the defensive.
Instead of asking, “Are you breastfeeding,” with the implication that they should be, we can ask, “How are you feeding your baby?” If the answer is not breastfeeding, then we can ask, “Did you want to breastfeed?” If the answer is another “no,” we can share the benefits of skin-to-skin and eye contact when a baby is being bottle-fed, maybe let them know about babywearing, and then move on, making our best effort not to pass judgment. We can also share information about milk sharing to open the door to the possibility, and offer to share more information in the future: “I don’t know if you knew that some families are choosing to supplement with human milk instead of formula. If you ever want to know more about that, I would be happy to send you some resources so you can look into it.”
If the answer is something akin to “I tried and it hasn’t been working out for us”, we can follow up with “Would you let me help you find the resources to help you breastfeed? Although it is natural, it is not always easy and there are many women who have needed help getting off to a good start.” By asking gently, the door is open for us to share any and all information to help the MotherBaby develop the breastfeeding relationship that works for them.
We must also focus our ire on the lack of information about all the different ways to feed infants human milk where it originates. Instead of pitting the breastfeeding camp against the formula feeding camp, we need to go back to the source of the challenge: the formula manufacturers.
It is not in the formula companies best interest to have the majority of the population exclusively breastfeed, so the lie that formula is “as good as” breastmilk has persisted. I am not anti-formula. I know that formula is a great option to provide the necessary nutrients when there is no other option available. However, the wholesale equality that has been attributed to formula has kept women and children from taking advantage of nature’s best nutrition simply because we are trusting. We trust that our doctors would not withhold information, we trust the advertising campaigns, and we do not question the status quo.
So do celebrate breastfeeding in all its forms. Commend the mother who is exclusively breastfeeding. Praise the woman who exclusively pumped, because that is the mother of all commitments. Support them women who breastfed with supplementation, and ask them what you can do to help them if they want to exclusively breastfeed. Congratulate the woman who breastfed for three hours and educate her on how she can still achieve a breastfeeding-type bond with her child. Cheer the woman who breastfed for three years, and encourage her to tell her story so that other families know it has been done and they are not alone. Mourn with the woman never breastfed but wanted to, inform her that her past relationship does not dictate her future breastfeeding stories, and help her find the support groups to try breastfeeding again with her future children. Applaud the human milk donors and the wet nurses. Theirs is an ancient tradition that is coming out of the shadows of time and back into awareness.
Last of all, we can celebrate by sharing a smile. No matter how you see a woman feeding her child, smile at her because we are all sisters on the journey of motherhood. Accept her, because in spite of different choices, we are all mothers doing the best we know how to do today. At the end of the day, our children may be playmates, classmates, friends and lovers.
Let’s set the tone for celebration and acceptance by living love, starting with the mothers who know of our sleep deprivation in the newborn phase, the tickle in our bellies when we get to share a smile with our baby, and the pure joy that we feel every time we look at the miracle that we loved so tenderly from their first moments on earth. That really is something to celebrate.
Breastfeeding Support Groups:
La Leche League~ http://www.llli.org/
Breastfeeding USA~ https://breastfeedingusa.org/
Hospital Support Groups – call your local hospital to see if they offer classes or support groups
How to find a Lactation Consultant:
Read THIS post that explains the different designations in lactation consultants. Training can vary from a 16-40 hour course, with and without clinical hours, to IBCLC's who have the equivalent of a college degree in human lactation.
IBCLC:The gold standard in lactation care, these support people have the equivalent of a college degree in human lactation. You can find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant HERE.
Human Milk Sharing:
Eats on Feets~ http://www.eatsonfeets.org/
Human Milk 4 Human Babies~ http://hm4hb.net/
BreastFeeding, Inc.: “aim is to empower parents by ensuring they receive the most up-to-date information to assist them with their breastfeeding baby. We strive to provide them this information through breastfeeding resources which include, but are not limited to, free information sheets, video clips, and articles.”
KellyMom: “our goal is to provide support & evidence-based information on breastfeeding, sleep and parenting. I am the mother of three lovely children, and I am an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).”
Stanford School of Medicine: Videos and articles about breastfeeding
Infant Risk Center: "The InfantRisk Center will be dedicated to providing up-to-date evidence-based information on the use of medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding."
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The material included on this site is for informational purposes only.
It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult her or his healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation. Krystyna and Bruss Bowman and Bowman House, LLC accept no liability for the content of this site, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided. This blog contains information about our classes available in Chandler, AZ and Payson, AZ and is not the official website of The Bradley Method®. The views contained on this blog do not necessarily reflect those of The Bradley Method® or the American Academy of Husband-Coached Childbirth®.
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