Friday, September 29, 2006

Ok time for another breastfeeding rant. Tonight on CBS evening news' "free speech" segment a mother and writer Lori Leibovich rants about the pressure and guilt she felt placed on her to continue to breastfeed her child. She even rants about the recent PSA's highlighting the risks of formula feeding. Saying that "It's infuriating that the same government that's telling us that we're risking our children's lives by not breastfeeding also doesn't provide mandatory paid maternity leave. "

My take on this is two-fold. First no one can "make" you feel guilty about anything. Guilt is a choice, usually stemming from a person's doubts about their own decisions and choices. I believe that if you inform yourself, do your best effort, and make a solid informed choice about anything in life then there is no need for guilt. This includes the decision to breastfeed or not.

With my oldest son, I felt horrible for giving him 4 ounces of formula after I had a medical test done and couldn't give him my milk. I felt guilty about my choice because I wasn't fully informed about what my options were. With my second I needed to work and tried and tried to pump, but because my body just wouldn't let down for a pump I ended up suplimenting with formula when I needed to be away from him for more that 2 hours at a time. But, I chose the formula with the most natural ingredients I could find, not the cheapest on the shelf. I did my research and I felt good about my choice because he was still getting my milk most of the time. Again with my daughter I can not pump efficiently enough to supply her with my milk every time I cannot be with her to nurse her, or when my body is so worn out from all night nursing sessions that I need a break. So her daddy gives her organic infant formula made without corn syrup or chemicals. I recognize that there are still risks involved because she still is getting something other than my milk, but I don't feel guilty because she is getting the best mom she can get even if she isn't get my milk all the time.

Second, there are risks inherent in many choices we make in life. We have to know these risks in order to make informed decisions so that we do not regret the decisions we make. Risks associated with formula feeding are similar to the risks associated with eating any chemically engineered food. If it isn't as nature intended it then there are risks. For instance if you eating a lot of foods that contain high fructose corn syrup has been associated with higher risks for ADHD, diabetes, and obsecity. Another example, foods high in chemical preservatives raise your risk for developing cancer. If you know these risks, and choose to eat those foods or feed them to your children in moderation then you should be guilt free about your choice. Knowing the risks isn't about makeing someone feel guilty, its about allowing people to make informed decisions. Perhaps people would rather remain ignorant about the risks of formula and benefits of breastfeeding, so that they can say they "I didn't know" when their child is diagnosed with diabetes or is overweight at age 5.

I think that we as a society are so caught up in selfish, live in the now, don't tell me what to do attitudes that we forget that when you choose to have children you choose to take on the repsonsibilities and sacrifices necessary to raising them. Breastfeeding isn't always easy, many times the things that matter most in this world are not. There is help out there for someone who is willing to find it. Lacation consultants (certified by the IBLC not just RN's who have taken a breastfeeding class), La Leche League, Post partum doulas, and breastfeeding educators are available to help with problems that arise. Setting up a good support network of professionals and friends also helps. I know. I worked through many challanges with breastfeeding over the last 5 years. From plugged ducts, to mastitis (breast infections), to over active let down, thrush, contact dermatitis, eczema, and cracked bleeding nipples due to poor latch from a tongue tied baby. I have seen it all except low supply (which is rather uncommon if there is adequate stimulation of the breast by the way). Each issue I met head on with research, peer to peer support, and if needed calling a professional. I made sure that I chose pediatricians, primary care physicians, and OB/Gyn's that were knowlegdable and supportive of breastfeeding not only in infancy but beyond the first year. Because of this I have made informed choices that work best for my family. I don't have guilt over any of my choices.

The only valid point that Ms. Leibovich makes is that our government should not be preaching the need to breastfeed without supporting the actual effort to do so with adequate maternity leave. So many women need to work to support their families and cannot continue to breastfeed do to employers who don't support it. Making it federally mandated that women get 2 months paid maternity leave and that ALL employors must provide time to pump and a private place to do so would go a long way in helping mothers choose to breastfeed and to do so longer.

So as a disclaimer, I am writing this from the hospital at nearly 2am under the influence of oxycodone. Hopefully it makes sense to any readers out there.

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