Bad Mum

Magazine

10 July 2017

Feature: Word From The U.S!

A Breastfeeding Journey in the US


While I’m waiting for this little overdue munchkin to finally make an entrance into the world, I thought it would be interesting to write about a subject that I am quite passionate about, and as I have lived in the US for over 12 years now, and birthed all my kids here I have a great perspective on how easy or hard it is here. Bad Mum has recently featured a few excellent articles on feeding one’s baby and the pressures to either breastfeed or formula feed, so I thought I would provide my perspective from the US. To kick things off I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate. I believe that it has worked insanely well for us, it’s easier, cheaper, and all in all just the best option for us as a family. I also believe in trying to help others who want to breastfeed too. At the same time, I don’t believe in forcing mothers to feed their babies in one way or another, and I ultimately believe that everyone chooses what is best for them. So you will never hear me telling anyone what is best for them – only advice if asked.

I am in quite a unique situation because around four years ago I got pregnant with my first. Seven months after she was born I got pregnant with my second, and continued to nurse my first through my second pregnancy. I believe in self-weaning, so just tandem nursed both newborn and little toddler. Then last November I got pregnant with our third, 15 months after my second was born. I just continued to nurse both thinking that at least one would wean at some point. I am now 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant with this one and both toddlers are still nursing like mad, so we are heading into the unknown world of triandem nursing. I don’t even know what to expect, but we will figure it out altogether.

I think formula is a great alternative to breast-milk. Before formula there were wet nurses, and other options, but at the same time, the percentage of undernourished babies was much higher than it is in today’s world. What I don’t like is how formula is heavily pushed on women in the US. I don’t have a perspective on other countries apart from the stories I read, so this is mainly based on personal experiences here in the US. If you have read previous articles of mine you also know that I am quite passionate about universal healthcare – but seeing as that does not exist here we rely on insurance and therefore on doctors that our insurance covers. When I was pregnant with my first I did not have insurance and went to a low cost women’s health clinic where they helped me apply for state insurance and provided excellent prenatal care. I saw a midwife and nurse at every visit, and they reassured me that if I decided to breastfeed I would be fully supported. I visited the hospital and was told that there was a lactation consultant on call and they completely supported exclusive breastfeeding.

I didn’t have the easiest birth, and was exhausted and extremely weak, wondering why they had taken my baby away and left me waiting in a freezing cold room for what felt like hours. When we were finally reunited (the “where the hell is my baby??” seemed to work), I tried to latch her on, but had no idea what I was doing. The lactation consultant stopped by for 2 minutes, instructed me from afar what to do and walked out, while a nurse took pity on me and actually latched my child on and showed me what a proper latch looked like. Baby just wanted to nurse and sleep, so that’s what she did for a few hours, and we went on like that for a while. In the middle of the night she got extremely fussy, screaming and wouldn’t nurse, and instead of helping me the night nurse told me I was starving my child and that she needed formula RIGHT THEN, popping a few bottle in the bottom of her crib and telling me to feed her every three hours. We gave her a little but it didn’t change anything, she wanted my breast not a bottle.



So I persevered. We went home within 48 hours even though I could barely walk (I told you, a bit of a traumatic delivery), and my milk still hadn’t come in. The hospital paediatrician told me just before I left that I needn’t worry as they baby had not lost any weight and that all she needed was my colostrum. He was my saving grace. I hung on to those words for the next five days before my milk came in, nursing around the clock, through cracked nipples and a pain on latching that often had me biting down on a pillow. Blocked ducts were massaged under hot water and I constantly checked nappy output to make sure baby was hydrated. And then suddenly, everything fell into place. I started to breastfeed everywhere, without a cover because baby hated it (and it was the middle of the summer in NYC), and we started bed sharing to make sure we both got enough sleep. Even today at the age of three she is still a boob monster and I have no idea when she will decide to wean… But amongst everything else, our breastfeeding journey was one of learning that we must believe in ourselves and not let people push things on us without real explanation. I went on to nurse my first and also donate a ton of pumped milk to another mother who had legitimate milk supply issues due to surgery.

When I got pregnant with my second I changed clinic and hospital and the treatment was like night and day. Despite a bit of a complicated pregnancy I was encouraged to continue to nurse all the way through, unmedicated birth was supported but not forced, and skin-to-skin and immediate nursing at birth, even after c-section were encouraged. My second latched on within 5 minutes of birth and we had an easy breastfeeding relationship from that moment on wards. It was probably a combination of easy birth, knowing what I was doing and immediate skin to skin, but my milk came in within 24 hours, and tandem nursing came naturally. Over the years people have sometimes looked at me weirdly, and I have had friends and family members tell me that it’s OK to stop now, but I have never had anyone actually bother me outside about it. I have read and heard a lot of horror stories though, and many of them are actually started by other women unfortunately. The “mommy wars” are very much entrenched here too, mainly online, and you read a lot about how women need to be “modest” and stop “flopping their breasts out in front of others”, we “need to be mindful of boys and men”, and that “feeding should happen in the bathroom”. Another good one is “express milk and put it in a bottle to feed outside”. First of all when you are exclusively breastfeeding a pumping session of 40 minutes probably renders about 4oz tops. And then we don’t even mention how painful it can get once your breast start to fill and get engorged… I always think the modesty police should campaign against porn and swimsuit ads instead of against breastfeeding, because at least they wouldn’t seem so hypocritical! Not that I’m against any of those things, I believe that anyone has the right to wear whatever they want and express themselves as they want as long as they are not harming another person.

Anyway, I got pregnant with this third child in California, and my first concern was to find an OB who believed in providing support for breastfeeding during pregnancy and natural childbirth. I have had the most amazing support again, and am looking forward to meeting our latest and benefiting from all of the wonderful pro-breastfeeding support I will get post-birth. It isn’t the same for a lot of people, and a lot of people aren’t able to choose their doctor or hospital either. I shared a room with another mother after I had my second and I was happy with the treatment I got because I wanted all the breastfeeding support I could get. This other mother wanted to do half and half and was recovering from a second c-section, but the nurses kept pushing her to sit up and nurse her baby. There has to be better way, no? We can listen to a woman’s wishes and then support her in however she wants to feed her baby, no? There is no right or wrong way: there is only the way that works for each woman and her family. I will continue to breastfeed until it no longer works for us, but I will never judge anyone else for wanting to formula feed, pump and bottle feed, exclusively breastfeed or just do a combination of all of them. Just be aware that in the US, it’s up to each woman to research well beforehand and choose doctors, hospitals and paediatricians who support them.
Over the years I have written quite a few articles about breastfeeding and tandem nursing:



So Much Outdated Information Out There:

Tandem Nursing While Pregnant

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