Happy Birthday to me!! As part of my birthday, today, I’d like to share with you part one of my own personal story about breastfeeding. Over the next few days, we’ll post a series on breastfeeding.
Other posts in this series include: The Financial Impact of Raw Milk Formula on Families
My children are now out of the baby stage, so I haven’t blogged much about my experience with breastfeeding and natural family living. My current blog began not long after my youngest weaned. However, there has been so much negative press surrounding breastfeeding in traditional food circles that I wanted to blog about how it can be done successfully, even long term, and even in tandem.
What Nursing Did For Me
I’ll soon tell you how breastfeeding helped my children, but today I’d like to tell you what it did for me.
Breastfeeding allowed me to finally come to a point of loving and accepting my body, flaws and all. It gave me the positive outlook I needed to withstand the cultural onslaught that women’s bodies aren’t good enough, no matter their appearance.
You see, when I was a premature infant, I had to have a surgery that damaged one breast and left a large scar. A scar that I deeply hated. A scar that made me feel ugly and ashamed of my body. I wear a prosthesis to hide the damage when I’m dressed, but it’s impossible to not notice when I’m undressed.
To say I lacked confidence in my breasts was an understatement. Having a large scar on a body part that is deeply part of your feminine identity is very difficult, especially when you’re growing up. It defined the clothes I could wear, it kept me from feeling confident.
A scar that meant a portion of that breast didn’t produce milk as the ducts were severed. Despite it, I was able to nourish two children, even at the same time. A scar that soon faded in my mind when I saw how my children were growing and thriving despite it. A scar that I came to accept as just one part of me, part of my story in life, instead of something that was inflicted upon me. I no longer hated it and came to accept it, even though the scar hasn’t changed- my image of myself and my confidence in my body’s abilities are what changed.
Nursing gave me my confidence in my body back. It gave me strength I never knew I had. It convinced me in my ability to persevere despite difficulties. It gave me the power I needed to stand up for myself and my children. It gave me the strength to go against culture, against popularity and even go in a different direction than my friends. It made me in tune with my children so I could anticipate and respond to their needs before they would have to ask.
Nursing Gave Me…
Nursing allowed me to sleep at night and be the most well-rested mother many of the bottle feeding moms around me had ever seen- they often remarked on how well rested I was then would turn around and chide me for co-sleeping, never connecting the two. Not having to get out of bed to bottle-feed meant I was well-rested and I didn’t have to worry about a sleep-deprived husband crashing his car on the way to work from exhaustion. Because he worked a full-time job with a very long commute, over an hour each way, I was always concerned that he not be over-tired lest he have an accident.
It allowed me to bond with my children quickly, even after a harrowing, extremely difficult birth. It allowed me to anticipate their needs without their asking. It taught me that there is far more to communication than words. It taught me how to comfort my child in ways that no one else could provide for them.
Nursing also allowed me to slow down. It made me have to take time out regularly, and allowed me to not over-schedule our lives and really enjoy the time I had when my kids were small. I couldn’t prop a bottle, I couldn’t hand the baby to someone else and walk away, I had to sit down and rest. I believe that sped up my recovery from the births. And I never regretted a second of the cuddle time.
Nursing prepared me for tougher days ahead. I used to think that the hardest part of raising children was when they were little. Boy was I wrong! I learned to work with their temperaments to respond to them both in ways that respected their needs while also respecting mine. It’s often said that the first manners a child learns are at its mother’s breast. It’s a very true statement.
Nursing gave me freedom. I didn’t feel tied down to my children or their paraphernalia. I could drop and go anywhere, with them in tow, at a moment’s notice, only grabbing extra diapers on the way out the door. I didn’t have to pack half of the kitchen to go somewhere.
Nursing made me a happy, agreeable mama and a much less difficult wife. The hormones involved in nursing helped smooth the relationships with the other people in my household, even those who were not my children.
Nursing was convenient. I don’t like washing dishes. I don’t like interrupted sleep. I don’t like having to fuss and muss with things. I don’t like packing lots of stuff to go somewhere. It was the perfect reason why the babies couldn’t spend the night away before they were ready.
Christine Northrup said, “Countless women have regained trust in their bodies through nursing their children, even if they weren’t sure at first that they could do it. It is an act of female power…” I believe this quote is the crux of the issue- empowerment. The formula-dominated culture is afraid of empowered, capable women who have confidence in their bodies and its purpose.
Nursing let me find my power.
I’ve written elsewhere on the blog about going through infertility and repeat miscarriage. That experience instilled a doubt into me that my body was capable. That crock of crap was repeatedly instilled into me everywhere I turned- the media, radio, TV, baby books, pregnancy books, nutrition advice, culture, even friends. I felt assaulted by it at every turn. We are bombarded with the message that women’s bodies don’t measure up, aren’t capable, can’t successfully produce and feed children without constant, necessary intervention. The message was that intervention was common, necessary and was therefore normal.
One of the most difficult moments of my pregnancy was around the 5 month mark, when I discovered the information on the WAPF website about breastfeeding and the raw milk formula. I remember reading that one evening, having found it off of the Mothering dot com forums, and laying W-I-D-E awake that night, late into the night, worried that I probably would not be able to produce enough milk to feed my child. I spent the night worrying about what I would do if my baby couldn’t nurse- after all, I had trouble getting pregnant, I had repeat miscarriages, my body obviously wasn’t capable of producing a health child and sustaining it without interference, right? I was so afraid of my body failing me yet again and the WAPF articles fed that fear.
“Our interpretation is the following: the diet of modern American women is so appalling, and their preparation for successful breastfeeding so lacking, that their breast milk provides no better nourishment for their infants than factory-made formula.”- Sally Fallon and Mary Enig Source
Getting An Education
Thanks to the education I had received about breastfeeding though LaLeche League and other pro-nursing outlets, I was committed to nursing my first child for a year, and even went so far as to look for donors from well-nourished mothers if it didn’t work out- I had had it drummed into my by the WAPF materials that not having enough milk was a likely problem I could face and that it was far more common that what lactation consultants wanted to admit.
As my child grew and I met more nursing moms, I began discovering something critical- lack of milk wasn’t the major issue I was seeing. It was lack of accurate information to maximize milk production, often sabotaged by bad advice from everyone and everything being given to the mother. Schedules, cribs, bottles, pacifiers, ‘me time,’ the rush to get a newborn to sleep through the night and most of what the low-supply mothers were being told to do only made their situation worse, not better. Their doctors were no help, and sometimes were the source of the bad advice.
These mothers were being sabotaged. When they turned to traditional food baby boards I was on at the time, fixing the mother’s supply issue and temporarily supplementing the baby while working on that issue wasn’t the focus and donor milk from a well-nourished mother wasn’t ever mentioned. These moms were just told to stop nursing and go to the raw milk formula instead. If that’s what a mother wants to do and it’s of her own choosing, then that is fine as it is her choice. But what about all of these mothers I was meeting who did NOT want to wean and weren’t ok with being bombarded with the ‘raw milk formula is just as good as if not superior to your breastmilk’ message and were actually looking for help that they weren’t getting? What about the mothers who couldn’t locate or afford the very expensive raw milk formula? At the time, I was paying almost $10 a gallon for milk due to the cost of having to drive to another state- I couldn’t imagine the cost of the formula on a single-income, middle-class family! Or the time commitment involved- preparing formula and washing bottles takes time, and bottle feeding at night is extremely interruptive to the adults in the family getting adequate rest. A mother who is exhausted, strung out and past tired is very likely to stop breastfeeding, but that doesn’t solve the problem of night feedings! The problem just gets transferred from one thing to another and nothing gets solved.
In the women who truly had low supply, they weren’t encouraged in traditional foods circles to use a supplemental nursing system or a similar method so they could work on increasing their supplies while still making sure the baby got fed and the baby’s latch wasn’t worsened. Instead, they had bottles of formula pushed at them in lieu of increasing their supply. Their want to continue breastfeeding didn’t matter. they were told to throw in the towel and just use formula instead. The mourning, the experience of loss, the pain, the feeling of failure and the other emotions that some of these mothers experience isn’t acknowledged. It gets brushed aside, as if there was nothing else that could have been done. There is nothing farther from the truth.
This is obviously a failure of both the traditional foods community and the culture at large. But there is no excuse for it. Pumped milk from a child’s own mother is second choice to nursing directly from the breast. Donor milk from a well-nourished mother is the third best option. Raw milk formula is a distant fourth. An even further distant fifth place is commercial formula.
It’s insulting to repeatedly have donor milk treated with disdain in the traditional foods community. To make the assumption that a mother would go to the ends of the earth, as it were, to find grass-fed cows and gather all of the ingredients to make raw milk formula but she wouldn’t possibly be able to screen a donor and have a few medical tests done is ludicrous. It’s is ridiculous and insulting to the core to assume that a woman can’t be as well nourished as a cow. And it’s representative of our culture’s war against women. But that war on women’s bodies and abilities and the cultural lies should have no place in traditional food circles.
To discourage these women from seeking help from places like La Lache League so they can continue to nurse as they want to is deplorable, all because LLL doesn’t give real food-style nutritional advice. There’s a biased slant against receiving help from lactation consultants or the LLL in traditional foods circles. There are many non-nutritional reasons why a mother might have low supply. Nutrition is only one of many. Let’s not sabotage those women, too. While studying to become a lactation consultant, I met many women whose supplies came up by changing their nursing routine, improving their latch and other such issues that have nothing to do with food. Stuffing the mother with all of the nutrient-dense food in the world isn’t going to help a thing if the baby has a problem latching or the mother isn’t breastfeeding often enough.
In my eleven years of doing traditional food, I have met many women who walked away from the movement due to the push for raw milk formula in the community. It’s horrid to see mothers who would otherwise benefit from the real food movement and high quality nutritional information turned off because of the demeaning breastfeeding information.
Opportunity for Confidence
Every woman who wants to nurse should have the same opportunity to experience strong confidence and self-acceptance. By pushing straight to formula and by instilling the fear that large swaths of women can’t nurse, that ability is lost. By convincing a woman that other options for feeding their infants are better, they never get to experience the freedom that comes with nursing a baby.
Why are traditional foodists perpetuating the myth that women’s bodies aren’t good enough? That really is the crux of the issue for most women upset by the nursing information posted on the WAPF website. It has bothered me for years and I’m glad that I finally took the opportunity today to speak out about it.
Did nursing give you confidence in your body? Do you feel women who don’t have a successful breastfeeding experience are often sabotaged by bad advice? Leave a comment below telling us what you think.
Welcome to the Breastfeeding Support Blog Party! Bloggers around the world have gathered together to share posts which provide current or soon-to-be breastfeeding mothers with a wealth of well-researched information, personal stories, and statistics designed to help you have the most successful breastfeeding experience possible. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to learn more about this movement as well as to link to and read more informative breastfeeding support posts.
This gathering of breastfeeding support comes in response to the Weston A. Price Foundation’s (WAPF) continued stance on breastfeeding, which we all have a great concern with. While the WAPF does support breastfeeding as the best option for feeding babies, it does so with a caveat. Breastfeeding mothers must follow the strict tenants of the WAPF diet and mothers who are not following their nutrient dense diet recommendations would be better off feeding their babies homemade formula (based on the WAPF recipe). In addition, they are outspoken against using donor milk.
The bloggers sharing posts today are concerned with the confusion this may cause breastfeeding mothers. Not only does research support the myriad of health benefits of breast milk for babies regardless of the mother’s diet, it also outlines additional benefits of breastfeeding such as better bonding, deeper trust, and a long list of other emotional benefits. Let’s not forget the health benefits for moms!