Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Breastfeeding + God-Sized Dreams

When I got pregnant with Lizzy, I knew I wanted to breastfeed for the first year. I had no illusions that it would be easy, but I figured that it would definitely be do-able. Just to be clear here, I don't actually think that breastfeeding is best for every family and every situation, but I had read a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding, and it was something that I wanted desperately for us and for our family.

As it turned out, breastfeeding was much harder than I expected. I can honestly say that I didn't ever enjoy a single nursing session like I've heard a lot of other moms talk about. Lizzy was a super active baby (she was walking around 9 months), and it was hard to keep her focused for a whole nursing session. Every single session was a battle, and I ended up in tears more often than not. She was very small, and I'm so thankful that we had a pediatrician who never pressured me to supplement with formula--I have no doubt that many others would have recommended just that for a baby who was in the 5th percentile. It seems crazy to say that through it all, as much as I hated it, I still wanted desperately to breastfeed.

When Lizzy was around 9 months old, she just stopped nursing. If it was a nursing strike, it was sure as heck the longest one I ever heard of, because I never actually got her to start again. We had introduced solids and she was eating quite a bit of them at that point, but we did end up having to supplement with formula...which was something that I never really imagined we'd have to do. And I was super irritated because I had set a goal of breastfeeding until Lizzy was 12 months old, I didn't accomplish that goal, and there was nothing that I could do about it. And consequently, I had a pretty hard time mentally and emotionally--being upset that I wasn't breastfeeding, being disappointed in myself for not being able to do it longer, being irritated with Lizzy that she couldn't just nurse like a "normal" kid, and being mad at myself for being somewhat relieved when we finally made the decision to switch to formula.

(Edited to note: Reading info like the above sign from Pinterest were both the reason that I wanted to breastfeed so badly AND the reason that I felt so terrible about not making it to the goal that I had set to exclusively BF for 12 months based on the recommendations of the AAP and WHO. I feel conflicted about the sign now, because while I think it gives some great statistics about breastfeeding and its benefits, I also feel like it unnecessarily bashes moms who choose to formula feed, and I think there's a better approach, which I'll get to later on in this post.)

During the whole breastfeeding experience with Lizzy, I never had a "nice" pump. I had a crappy one-sided electric that took FOREVER to pump with, and it was terrible. In retrospect, I think having a Medela or Ameda quality pump would have made a huge difference for me--heck, I think I probably would have been able to give her pumped milk instead of formula once she started refusing to nurse. But at the time, for our family, spending $200 or $300 on a breast pump was about as feasible as going to the moon.

I did some research then, and I've done some more this time around since I hope to be able to breastfeed #2 as well, and what I've found is that most advocates of breastfeeding will tell you that many moms need more support in order to breastfeed exclusively. I've been told that in Oregon, 91% of mothers initially breastfeed. But by 6 months, only 62% have continued (source). I've heard stories from many friends who said that they breastfed until they returned to work, and after that point, they just didn't have a pump that made it possible to pump enough milk in the time they were allowed.

The problem is that if you can't afford a $200 or $300 pump, you're often out of luck. Some insurances cover pumps, though at least mine doesn't actually reimburse you for a pump, just applies whatever you've spent towards your deductible (and since our deductible is $5,000, that's kind of worthless to us). Our local hospital doesn't offer rentals--the WIC office does, but they only have a couple, and priority goes to moms who are on WIC and working full-time. So what I see locally is that moms who can't afford to buy a pump often use a second-hand one from a friend or relative, which is not recommended at all and comes with its own set of risks and dangers.

I keep hearing from state health departments, the AAP, WHO, and the CDC that they want to promote breastfeeding...but if that's really the case, then it seems to me that instead of spending time and money trying to convince moms who decide to formula feed that they're making a bad decision, maybe a better place to start would be in offering better support to those women who do wish to breastfeed. One of the many ways to do that would be by offering all women better access to breast pumps at a more affordable price point.

I've done a lot of Googling--I figured there HAD to be a non-profit out there somewhere that provided women with breast pumps or grants for women to purchase pumps...but I can't really find one. So some day, I think I'd like to start one. Though, after some initial-research into what it takes to start a non-profit, funding sources required, etc-- that would be a God-sized dream for sure.

But that's not to say it's not possible :)


  1. Yeah, that sign makes me feel bad. I was one of those moms who desperately wanted to breastfeed both my sons for 6 months. The first son it didn't work out for a number of reasons. The second son I got to five months before I had to start taking medication that was unsafe for BF.

    I agree, that sign does nothing in the way of being supportive. At least that is my opinion. All it does is help BFing moms know that they are doing the right thing and tells formula moms that they are screwed.

    I will say that breastfeeding Brigham was one of the best experiences of my life. I miss it so much. I will forever be an advocate of it even though I have also formula fed both my babies.

  2. I'm totally with you. Those signs are not very supportive. Olivia was not breastfed. After seeing multiple doctors and LC's, it just didn't work out for us. And honestly, I was ashamed. I've spent a lot of time mourning it, but I've been coming to terms with it. Olivia was formula fed, and that's okay. She's happy and healthy, that's all that matters.

    I'm with Molly as well, I'll always advocate for breastfeeding.

  3. Breast feeding was hard. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but when you are sleep deprived, and it is 3 am... no one prepares you for those moments when you just can't seem to get the latch right and are screaming in your head from pain. Especially since I had no one in my family that ever breastfed for more than a few months - and that was the long end. I was lucky that my hospital had an amazing lactation team and support group. Without a place to go with questions and help - I would have never made it.

    When I went back to work, I had a nice pump. Our insurance didn't pay for it - but we used our health savings account to pay for most of it and stretched out some other payments on hospital bills until. I agree - support (especially financial) for breastfeeding moms just isn't there. I know I left the hospital with over a $100 in formula cash, cans of formula and bottles... but nothing for breast feeding. Coupons for bras, tanks, a pump, storage bags, creams... that would have been nice.

  4. I think the sign is informative though. Supportive? No. And also I went through the ringer with nursing. Had I not had a support system I would have gave up and crashed hard. I wish there was more out there. More people helping those who truly have the desire and capability to nurse...and I get so frustrated with doctors (most of them honestly) who tell you to supplement, especially when they lose their standard few ounces in the hospital. I mean, COME ON. They all do that. They scare new moms a lot of times. Anyway. I had my goal(s)..I met a few of them but my final goal of 12 months I didnt make b/c Eme quit on me (which you know)-But all in all--we'll try it again with baby 2 and see what happens. I don't even know if I have a goal, honestly. I just will try my darndest like I did the first time.

    I think the idea of a non-prof is awesome. It's a shame it doesn't exist isn't it? A good pump helped me out (although I only did that to up my milk and get milk for the on the go)--but I borrowed last time. This time, I have my own (thanks to FSA money, which is, ultimately, our money!). Hoping it all works out.

  5. I think this country has horrendous breastfeeding support. Even though I met with many lactation consultants who I adored, they still weren't there with me in *those moments*. When my baby was hungry and my supply was dwindling I did not have time to wait "at least 24 hours" for a call back. Certain BF websites just have a condescending tone to them as well and I chose not to visit them anymore.

    Right now, at 7 1/2 months, we're still nursing but we're also formula feeding. I feel great about that choice. Gabriella is full and content, I get some freedom and she's still getting benefits of breast milk and nursing. If someone wants to tell me I'm doing it wrong, they can lose sleep over it, not me :)

    Suggestion? Could you guys put aside $10-20 a week for a pump? By the time baby gets here, you could afford one then. Luckily I have a great friend who let me borrow hers. And I couldn't care less about the rules against that!

    Good luck, mama.

  6. While pregnant, I knew I wanted to BF, but didn't really set a goal. I thought I'd definitely BF, for 3 or 4 months maybe, but didn't "plan" on much more than that. I BFed Cameron for 9 months, and Kylie for 6. I genuinely think that setting shorter goals (and setting a new goal once the old one has been met) helps not feel possible failure. Because if I had set a goal of one year, I'd probably feel like I failed, or I quit! Instead, even though I formula fed each kid as well, I feel like I did great and did my best. For the record, I always had a small supply- I never had a freezer full of BM like some others! I barely had enough for each session. It's great that so many women set long term goals for BFing, but I get sad when they feel discouraged and let down if they somehow don't meet those goals.
    Also, when you say that 200-300 dollars for a breastpump isn't feasible, do you mean upfront cost? It seems like a cost of a breast pump is far less than formula- even 4-5 months worth!

  7. I'm a huge advocate for doing what is best for YOUR family, and in the end, that's all that matters... but I also am a HUGE advocate for breastfeeding. I would agree though, that the information posted would absolutely make a FF Mom feel bad, which I hate.

    I know "they" say you shouldn't buy used pumps, and I agree that I would never buy one from someone I didn't know. When we had Jaxon my hubby bought that pump that you pinned for me, and I honestly never thought I'd make it. My cousin visited us the following weekend and brought her Medela, and left it with me. I obviously know her well and had no issues with borrowing a used pump since I knew who it came from. Obviously to each their own on this subject, but that's my opinion. With Cohen, I was able to get a brand new one (Medela) through our insurance company. They paid for it as long as I had a doctors script for it.

    I love your dreams... dream big friend!

  8. I love the sign, but that's coming from the perspective of someone who was able to breastfeed without any big obstacles and never had the guilt of having to choose formula. I'm sure I would feel differently if I wasn't in the position I am in.

    My question is this though - how do you get that information out there without hurting a formula feeders feelings? I think it's incorrect to assume that everyone who is formula feeding is making an informed choice. A quick visit to the WIC office (for our foster child) drove the point home to me that it's far more a cultural decision than it is an educated decision. Some moms who formula feed are doing so because it's "just as good" as breastfeeding - that's what our culture tells us, regardless of signs plastered all over the WIC office walls. So really, I feel like I've answered my own many ways, the info is worthless, because it doesn't make a difference. It's the culture that's affecting our country's breastfeeding rates, not lack of information.

    Regardless, I couldn't agree with this more: a better place to start would be in offering better support to those women who do wish to breastfeed.

    I can say from personal experience that being a part of a weekly breastfeeding group encouraged me and gave me FAR MORE reason to keep going on tough days than any health statistics did. I wish support groups like that were more the norm.

    PS - I'll work for your non profit. :)

  9. My daughter and I are just coming up on six months of exclusive breastfeeding, which has been an roller coaster from day one. I could tell my whole story but it would take too long. Short story is Clara wouldn't latch in the hospital, I developed nipple vasospasm (truly horrible), she had a high palate an tongue tie and I had supply issues. I would have never made it as long as we did without the help of our local breastfeeding non profit Milkworks.

    From what I'm hearing in the comments is that everyone needs a local Milkworks. Good support emotionally and financially is difficult to find. I thank my lucky stars that we have such a great local resource or I would have quit. I struggled for three months with horrible pain after every feedin and it wasn't until she got older that it went away. Breastfeeding has been THE most difficult thing I've ever done and I still think about quitting weekly. But we keep chugging along! (sorry for misspellings my iPhone is being silly)

  10. I had BFing "issues" with both of my girls. I set small goals and when I met those, I made another small goal to work towards. My problems with Caroline really started right in the hospital - where I waited 3 days for a LC that never showed because they "couldn't find her." I live in the MS Delta in a rural town. The hospital didn't help at all - no hospital grade pump, they didn't understand BFing at all, and there wasn't a LLL meeting for 160 miles. Support is definitely needed! Very, very few people around here BF. They push formula in the hospital instantly, and even mothers who had originally planned on BFing ending up just using formula since it's the easier option at the time.

    As for the sign, I really don't think it's meant to make formula moms feel bad. It's simply stating true statistics. Statistics don't take feelings into account...KWIM? How could they give those statistics and facts without the other side feeling "bashed"? I just don't see how they could do it any differently. The sign wouldn't carry a lot of weight if it stated at the bottom, "But formula feeding is just as good!" or something along those lines to keep from hurting people's feelings. This is coming from someone who eventually formula fed both of my kids after BFing. But even while I FF, I knew that BF was far superior. It's just statistically true.

    Am I making sense? I feel like I rambled. Either way, just set your mind to BFing #2 - it may be a totally different experience! And I agree with others, just try to set aside $10 a week or so. In the longrun, you're saving more money than you'll spend on formula if you can stash it away for a decent pump. There are some "closed system" pumps you can get on ebay, too.


Thanks for visiting La Buena Vida and taking the time to leave a comment--I love hearing from you!

Please know that you do not need to agree with me in order to leave a comment! All comments that are respectful and not anonymous will be published. Thanks again for visiting!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blog Archive


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.