Another Breastfeeding Soapbox Rant

breastfeeding rant I awoke on the other morning to this article in my Twitter timeline. “Is the Medical Community Failing Breastfeeding Mothers?”. As expected, I jumped right into reading while my shower was warming. It gave me some good brain candy to chew as I washed.

Breastfeeding is one “thing” that gets me up on the soapbox. For one, I love it and two, I had to put in a lot of effort. Some might say too much for something that should “just happen”. While it is beautifully natural, it isn’t something you just get used to right off the bat. No volume of deep breathes and happy thoughts can prepare you for that on your nips.  Even the second time.

If I find out someone is pregnant, I start throwing breastfeeding tips and suggestions at them (if they plan to). I hate to be “that girl” about it but I feel like the pregnancy world (and the medical one, according to the article) are failing new moms. There is so much emphasis on birth. Birth classes, books, breathing techniques, what kind of tennis balls to pack in your bag, your birth plan, etc. You spend so much time worrying and preparing for something that will happen…one way or another. Yes, you should be prepared for problems to arise. You should know about pitocin, drug options, c sections, positions and the like. You shouldn’t go in blind but with all this energy spent researching one bodily function, another is often completely forgotten.

You may read a little bit in a book about how breast is best. You might have some friends who breastfeed. You might see some information about engorgement in the first few days and maybe a little anatomy. Some folks go to a class to just hear them tell you WHY breastfeeding is best. They don’t examine you, show you positions or even talk about pumping usually. An entire WORLD of information you are not privy to until it is 3 am as you are in tears googling on your phone why your nipples are on fire. It is a travesty. And then there is the big “if it hurts, you are doing it wrong” bullshit. If there was ever a line to make you feel like shit, it would be that one. Even with the stack of knowledge I had, when Landon was put on me in that first hour, I remembered that line and asked “I thought it wasn’t supposed to hurt?”.

So my first beef with the medical community is lack of education.  I personally think OBs should have an appointment or more devoted to breastfeeding.  What about a once a month seminar as part of your package? I know they are willing to answer questions but you don’t know what you don’t know. But until my dream comes true, self education is all you got. With that said, here are some tips I recommend to new moms-to-be:

  • Pregtastic Podcasts – Talked about them many times before. Great resource for all things pregnancy and new mom related. Tons of tips on breastfeeding from all different perspectives.
  • La Leche League meetings – Now I know this is scary for some. I recommend looking into lunch and learn type meetings. There are many in the Triangle area once a week. It is usually in a small shop where you can just drop in, chat, ask questions. I went while I was pregnant with Landon. BEST DECISION. I just went in and said “what advice do you have?” They were MORE than happy to load me up. Then I visited a few more times to just be there. Watch people feed their kids. Hear their struggles. I even got to see a new mom come in needing help with a 5 day old. I never felt like they were judging me or being extra hippy. Just normal women. Also know these women are there to HELP. Don’t be shy. It was nice to know I had that in my back pocket.
  • Isis Parenting webinars – Granted I didn’t know of these until like last week but HOLY HELL, BATMAN! What a great resource. They cover all kinds of issues and even have a live chat every Thursday at noon EST. I can’t wait to delve into them more!
  • Talk with your OB – Ask about what they recommend you do to prepare. You never know what they might have to help you. It may just be a brochure for a support group or a lactation consultant but it is SOMETHING.
  • Know you lactation consultant options – And now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you have access to free consults. Check out Mom in A Million’s post about that. Just know the number you might be calling in those first few days. Once again, they are there to help.

Then there’s Hollywood. I think breastfeeding isn’t mainstream enough. So many babies are just bottle fed, which I get it, breastfeeding is hard to “act” but they could at least attempt. Show a mom in a rocking chair with a baby across her lap. A cover even. But even more than that, they make birth scary. Miranda covered that here when talking about zombie birth but she is right. Hollywood makes birth so scary and full of drama. I imagine this is why pregnant women spend so much energy worrying about birth and never seeing the ins and outs of newborn life. Even shows like Bringing Home Baby don’t really show it. They show the family coming home to family and visitors and one night. I want to see a show about 2-3 weeks in. The REAL stuff.

So while things have definitely gotten better over time, it ain’t perfect. You still need to arm yourself with knowledge. So hopefully this list will get you thinking and researching before you have a baby because trust me, you don’t want to be researching after the fact.

How was your breastfeeding experience? Did you prepare ahead of time?

42 Comments

  1. My breastfeeding attempt was miserable…. I was merely successful for 2-3 weeks with my daughter. She didn’t seem to latch well, (Begin TMI) my nipples seemed way too big for her little mouth, my milk production SUCKED. She developed reflux at around a month so we put her on formula and life went on. I admire the women (as yourself) who breastfeed and alter their diet to make it work. When it came time for my son, I didn’t try. I had such a horrible time and zero support system that I didn’t have the energy. However, my current pediatrician has an in-house lactation person so I would have probably had better support. Of course, my son is allergic to dairy so it probably has worked out that I didn’t. I don’t regret my decision. There were times with my daughter that I dreaded feeding time and hated even more to have to pump. So with my son, I felt I would be happier without the added worry. Now my pocketbook probably wishes I would have been successful! 😉

    • It is always about what is going to work for you. I have friends who don’t breastfeed for a variety of reasons…and I totally get it and respect it (maybe envy sometimes) but it just angers me when people were just set up to fail. It is baffling that medical professionals know so LITTLE about something SO primal. I am glad to see in the article that it is being covered more in medical school. Also I think the bloom of more midwives will help.

      I am so sorry you had a miserable time. That is what I want to work against.

  2. This is great!! And the Isis seminars! I just wish I had known about them with my first!!

    I took a breastfeeding class and read literally everything I could find the first time. Even the second time around, which wasn’t that far behind I needed a refresher. When things got a little bumpy I pulled out dr sears’ the baby book and just read through step by step while working on getting a good latch with Bryce.

    • Yup. We had different issues with Oliver but I knew it could be different going in. We had our hiccups but I knew to keep trying for what I loved. I hate that some women never get to see the good side of it because of all the road blocks.

  3. I had major issues breastfeeding both my boys. The first time I was totally uneducated. I didn’t know about jaundice and how it can make your baby so sleepy that nothing can wake them up to breastfeed. They told me to supplement right off the bat so I did and my supply plummeted to the point where I was getting nothing. I had to quit at 1 month and beat myself up about it for months (still do, sometimes).

    The second time I contracted a MRSA infection in my breast and had to have it cut open to drain two large cysts filled with puss. I kept breastfeeding as recommended by the doctor but I was in so much pain. I had to quit at 5 months because I developed depression and needed strong meds that were unsafe for BFing.

    All in all, I would do it all over again. There were such sweet moments I experienced with both my boys. I would just hope that the third try would be free of drama.

  4. I’m so glad you wrote about this. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now but hardly ever comment, however this is a topic I’m tossing around lately. With my son (will be 3 in May), I breastfed for 10 weeks. My supply sucked and I just had a tough time with it. I had no idea how painful it would be. There were so many times that I was in tears while nursing and I’m sure that didn’t help with the supply problem. I pumped a lot too to have milk to give him via a dropper because I was terrified he’d develop nipple confusion and make the problem worse. He didn’t have trouble latching on one side but the other side (sorry if TMI) has an inverted nipple and that seemed to cause some problems. Plus my little piranha grabbed on so tight. I took some vitamins (Fenugreek) to help with supply but they didn’t help and I ended up just smelling like maple syrup. I was too embarassed to go and ask for help outside of the hospital so I quit. I’m now 11 weeks pregnant and am not sure what I want to do this next go round. My DH remembers how hard it was on me so he’s ready to go the formula route but I’m just not sure if I want to try it again or if I should just pass. I’m going to check out these sites and read what I can but any additional advice you have is certainly appreciated.

    • Oy. Bam bam bam. My first thing I jumped at was the piranha comment. Ollie chomped me. Every lactation consultant told me the latch was perfect…but it freakin hurt. I knew something was wrong. I insisted and went to see an ENT…sure enough he had a teeny bit of tongue tie. They clipped it and in 30 seconds I had a new baby and no more chomping. So keep that in the back of your head.

      Next, I did fenugreek and smelled like waffles with nothing else too. I found a compund called More Milk Plus that worked much better with less waffleness.

      But big thing, PLEASE don’t feel shy to ask. This is a great bond that deserves fighting for. You throw modesty out the window when that baby slides out of your junk. The least you can do is let someone feel you up. (I am a freakin poet with my prose, huh?)

  5. I could not agree with this post more. Looking back, I wish the 6 week childbirth class we took could have instead been a breastfeeding class. I get it, childbirth is a big deal (and I may have a skewed opinion because I had a normal delivery that went well) but no matter what, that baby is gonna be out of you in about 24 hours tops. But you spend hours/days/months/maybe even years breastfeeding, and there are SO many issues that can come up that no one tells you about.

    I went to a one-hour breastfeeding prep class at SmartMomma in Raleigh as a last-minute “oh crap I need to educate myself on breastfeeding” panic. But it was very high level and I wished I had had time to take the more in-depth follow up classes. But in reality, you can only learn so much beforehand. You have to really get into yourself to understand it and THAT’S when you need the education, help and support. For me, that was the breastfeeding support group at WakeMed Cary. (We’ve grown so much there is now a second group being offered at the WakeMed North Healthplex.) It has been an invaluable resource and is probably the single reason why my daughter is still EBF at 4 months old (and hopefully for several more to come).

    • Thanks again Megan. I also recommend the LLL Breastfeeding cafe at Smart Momma and their new mom class ( I went while on maternity leave). Great community to meet new moms and share issues.

  6. My breastfeeding experience? That’s funny. I didn’t really have one. Because undiagnosed hyperemesis plagued me from week 6 until literally the day of birth–puked in a bucket in the delivery room, with my feet in the stirrups, totally ladylike–I really wasn’t in the mindset of anything baby. Sure, I prepared the nursery and made a registry, but every time I’d sit down to read a book or a blog, I’d get fatigued or need to throw up. I worked full-time, was the senior project coordinator and department head at my school, and I was just totally overwhelmed. Some days, I wished I could pretend I wasn’t pregnant.

    Granted, a lot of it is my fault. I could have advocated for myself, informed myself. But when I had my son, I wanted my body back. I wanted to WANT to eat. I wanted to feel normal. And I was never 100% set on breastfeeding because of that.

    At doctor’s appointments, they asked what I planned to do. I told them I wanted to breastfeed at least for the three months of my maternity leave. They gave me no tips. In the hospital, they gave my son a pacifier without asking me, and when I first tried to nurse, they gave me nipple shields. I was contracting, exhausted, there were visitors out my ears, I was in pain, I was in tears, and no one really helped.

    By the time my son was 24 hours old, he had his first bottle. I relaxed, he relaxed, and I don’t regret it, but I do agree with you that more education MAY have meant a different scenario. When I got home, I tried but I was truly clueless. My son would thrash his head back and forth because he was SO hungry, and then the pain of engorgement set in… Oy. I started pumping, but then I found myself a slave to pump/feed/pump/feed over and over and over again.

    That’s may story…

  7. Thanks to friends like you & some breastfeeding multi-momma friends, I went into it knowing I needed to research & read all I could on bfing. My husband & I attended a breastfeeding class at Rex. I thought it was okay, but my husband was very new to babies & breastfeeding & I know he got a lot out of that class.
    Of course, as life would have it, Zach’s water broke just two days before the LLL meeting I planned to attend occurred.
    But for me, reading Mothering Multiples was a fabulous resource. I read it pregnant, and then I went back through it multiple times after the babies came home. I took full advantage on the NICU LCs too. I saw one almost every day of the 12 days the babies were at the UNC NICU.

  8. I just clicked on the ISIS breastfeeding page. Holy crap. What an awesome resource that I’ve never even heard of. ::bookmarking site now::

  9. The medical community failed me big time when it took my second baby to finally be diagnosed with IGT/Hypoplasia. IGT is a real physical limitation that can prevent you from successfully breastfeeding. One of the ways it is diagnosed is by the appearance of the breast. I know I’d received plenty of breast exams from Ob/Gyns and no one ever mentioned anything. Even with my second baby and seeing midwife and letting them know about my previous issues they still were not educated enough about breastfeeding to know to look out for this. I finally saw a good and very experienced IBCLC, even though I’d seen LCs in the hospital with both births, and she very quickly was able to see why my baby was losing so much weight. She saved our breastfeeding experience! Almost 6 months later and we are still nursing.

  10. I’ve been telling my pregnant friends over and over (without trying to sound preachy or be annoying) that the birth is ONE DAY. Then you have to take home a newborn, and THAT is the hard part. But, you’re absolutely right. The focus is put so much on labor and so little time is focused on breastfeeding, or if not that, then even just Recovery. The recovery (while exhausted and caring for a new baby) is the much harder part. So, thank you for saying this! I don’t feel like such a debbie downer now when I’m like, “Now, don’t forget the first weeks/months are the harder part!”

    Also, the “if it hurts you’re doing it wrong” is my hugest pet peeve. OMG. It hurt for three weeks for me. And when you think about it, of course it would. Something is chafing at a sensitive part of your body over and over and over. It’s going to get sore – come on!

    My experience was fairly normal, but it was never my favorite thing. I’ll try again with this second one, but I feel no pressure to continue if we’re just not into it. In the end, it comes down to letting go of the noise and doing what’s best for your family.

  11. I only breastfed for 4 weeks because my son had reflux and didn’t sleep. At. All. I was so exhausted and frustrated that I just switched to formula. Looking back, I wish I would have utilized more resources and tried things like changing my diet. Now that I’m pregnant with #2, I hope to give breastfeeding a better shot. I am going to bookmark this post to look back on if I have any issues.

    Thanks!

  12. Now that I’ve had two kids I agree there should be more emphasis on what to do *after* the baby arrives and where to get support — not just for breastfeeding, but for everything. Because you need a LOT of support. I was a mess after I had my first daughter. PP anxiety, chronic insomnia, wild hormones. It was a hard birth, and that tripped off a lot of my woes. I never made enough milk. I saw lactation consultants, but I paid for them out of pocked because my insurance didn’t cover them and the hospital didn’t offer outpatient support. It’s hard to stay dedicated to breast feeding when you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re exhausted and emotional, and you don’t have enough support/resources.

    I’ve also learned, though, after pumping exclusively for about 6 months with two girls (and then formula feeding) that it’s okay to bottle feed. Babies are going to grow up fine regardless of whether they get breastmilk or formula. There’s a new(ish) book out on that called “Bottled Up” — http://www.amazon.com/Bottled-Up-Babies-Motherhood-Shouldnt/dp/0520270231. There’s so much more that goes into caring for a baby than just whether or not they get breastfed. There’s a whole package of “care” that should be discussed more, along with how to handle (dare I say “survive”?) the challenges of being a new parent. It’s tough work!

    • I completely agree. With Landon I hit a point where I couldn’t keep up with the pumping demand. I had to add formula. It was a hard decision at the time but after that, you wonder why you beat yourself up over it so much. I always think it is better to just give all your can without worrying yourself too much. That is no good for anyone.

  13. Wow! I had a completely different experience! I live in Northern Virginia right outside DC, and the hospital system here is awesome about breast feeding education! My OB recommended that I take a class (through the hospital), my husband and I both attended and it was really great. Once my kids were born at the hospital, they have 2 lactation consultants on duty at all times, and you cannot get released without having a consultation. I had latching issues with my first and I would page the LC every time he fed while I was in the hospital. After I left the hospital, I would attend the free breast feeding support groups they would have, they were twice a week, but I would only go once a week. I hear from so many women about how they didnt have the tools or support they needed, and I feel so grateful to have such a great hospital system!

    • I didn’t really get into that in my post but my hospital was really awesome. Especially with Oliver. They are now baby friendly and expect breastfeeding. Every nurse had knowledge and I say LCs every day and could request it more (and I did).

  14. I feel I was totally sabotaged by the hospital where I had my daughter. She was taken to the Level II NICU right after birth and they told me they’d bring her to me after 4 hours. They didn’t offer a pump and I honestly didn’t think of it at the time. At the 6 hour mark, I had to call to the nursery to have her brought to me. They showed up maybe an hour later. With a nice little bottle of formula right next to the “Breastfeeding Mama” sign. So, with no LCs available anymore for the day, I tried to get my brand new baby, who’d just been tanked up with a bottle of formula to breastfeed. Goes without saying, didn’t go well. It was pretty well downhill from there…I had to beg them to bring her to my room, by the time I saw an LC and gotten a pump a lot of time passed and I was very behind in terms of creating any type of demand. I trusted that the “Women’s Hospital” would be helpful in starting our breastfeeding relationship but unfortunately, I got almost the complete opposite.

    Luckily, our pediatrician was very helpful and gave me lots of good info and advice but I still struggled. To the point, I was pumping a little but primarily formula-feeding. One day, after at least 3 of constant crying from my daughter, I tried putting her to the breast again. She was no longer inconsolable. I became determined to amp my supply back up and I’m so proud to say we breastfed until 15 months. Never exclusively but I’m a frim believer in some breastmilk better than none.

    This time, I’m going to be more prepared going in. I’ve chosen a birth center over hospital because of their added postpartum and breastfeeding services, I’m going to attend LLL meetings before baby is born, I’ll have chosen an LC that I can contact before I need one, etc.

    • LOVE this comment. The first paragraph makes me so angry for you but I am so happy it worked out. Both my boys have had formula…you give what you can and move along. Any BM is good!

  15. I’ve never commented on your blog before, but this post hit home. I totally, 100% agree with you. Breastfeeding takes a lot of work, patience, effort, energy, preparedness, etc. And people don’t realize it!

    I would encourage anyone who is serious about breastfeeding to really consider where they’ll deliver. I delivered my daughter at WakeMed Raleigh, which is a designated “baby-friendly” hospital. I had the best experience, so nice that I wrote a letter of thanks afterwards.

    Thanks for this post!

    • Hi Ellie! Welcome.

      And yes, I didn’t mention that. I did deliver at WakeMed Cary and they were AMAZING each time but I also think it was good for me to go in knowing what to ask for when I needed it instead of expecting them to tell me.

  16. Yes to all of this.

    When I was pregnant, I read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding & I’m glad I read it, but a few days in we had problems & I was panicking trying to find a lactation consultant. All the reading I did couldn’t prepare me for learning how to take care of a newborn & deal with breastfeeding problems at the same time.

    Long story short, Landon had a tongue tie, which destroyed my nipples. He got clipped, I got special cream so I didn’t get an infection & it took MONTHS before nursing him didn’t hurt. Nothing prepared me for this, I had to figure it out as I went. I wish things were different in that way because I felt very much alone in the first few months.

    By some miracle, we made it through. Landon is almost 13 months & we still breastfeed.

    • yeah…education can’t solve it all…but it can prepare you for the fact that it ain’t gonna be easy. I think that was my main point. You have to have the confidence of understanding what is going on to question it and get it fixed.

      Hats off mama, I only dealt with a few weeks of pain, i can’t imagine months. So happy it worked out!

  17. I didn’t breastfeed and decided not to induce lactation, so no comment on our experience LOL. However, breastfeeding is one of the topics I hope that blogging mommas can really make a difference with their blogs. I’m appalled at the lack of support and lack of genuine, helpful information many of you mentioned. Honest posts like yours, Brandy, about the problems, the pain, the dispelled myths, the joy, the reasons etc. will help other mothers. Who knows, maybe it will revolutionize the way breastfeeding is treated and perceived in this country.

  18. Thank you, Brandy, for your honesty! And yes, please, please, please, medical community, help us new mommas out! With so many benefits, you’d think they would push it a little more! I knew I wanted to nurse when I was pregnant but knew nothing about it until the week before J was born. I checked out American Academy of Pediatric’s New Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding and read it cover to cover my week on bedrest and the first week of nursing. I also asked for lactation consultants in the hospital. I nursed and pumped for 11.5 months and while I loved the cuddle time, it was a hell of a lot of work! I don’t regret it, but will say it is one of the reasons I want to wait a little longer before #2! My best advice to others is to be stubborn, stick up for yourself, and stay strong! (I also agree that everyone has to do what works best for them. 🙂 )

  19. Such a good and well needed rant! The medical community does fail new mothers in preparation of breast feeding. My twins were in NICU and so they did not even let them try for about a week and a half. By that time it was too late for latching 🙁 I am however pumping for them. I think new mothers need to know that is an option as well, and that it is not easy to exclusivly pump. It will be well worth it for your child/children.

  20. I saw the trackback for this yesterday, got sucked into a Revenge vortex, and forgot to come over and comment. So much about birth and breastfeeding and parenting and the way we prepare women for it makes me insane. It’s not scary. Is it hard? Yes. But hard doesn’t have to equal scary. There’s so much we don’t adequately prepare women for.

    Since having Emma, I’ve come to realize that motherhood would be better if we could have our second children first.

  21. I buy my pregnant girlfriends a copy of the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, the La Leche League book. It’s a bit extreme about weaning and telling you to breastfeed until age gagillion, but other than that, it is AWESOME! I read it when I started nursing, but I needed it before. Awesome post!

  22. Since I’ve been in the throws of newborn breastfeeding, I am just now getting caught up on blog posts and I’m so glad I saw this one! I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. There are so many question marks when it comes to breastfeeding and when you are home with your baby there is no one there to help you answer them. I totally understand why so many women don’t make it past two weeks! If I wasn’t as committed as I am I would probably be right there with them!

    With my first it did not go well at all. I ended up exclusively pumping and only lasted for 3 1/2 months. I’m only 9 days in with my second and we are both already doing so much better! I think I’m more relaxed, I have more knowledge, and she is even doing her part a bit better than my son did. But this is hard. Even as it is going better than before it is still damn hard. It hurts, it’s confusing, the exhaustion brings tears and self-doubt, and it is lonely in the middle of the night when things always seem to be the hardest. It is worth it and I’m told it gets easier. I’m not giving up!

    Loved this post!

  23. I’m so glad you posted this. I knew I always wanted to breastfeed my baby once he was born but the more I reached out for help I realized there really is lack of the want to teach about breastfeeding in the medical community. When my baby was born in July I asked to nurse him and was told to put him to my breast. He wouldn’t latch, he would suck, he wanted nothing to do with it. I asked for help EVERY hour it seemed like but no one would help me they just said keep trying (the nurses) it took me researching myself and finding YouTube videos to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. I wish doctors made it more of a priority to educate their patients on it!

  24. Pingback: The Big Babyhuddle Breastfeeding Carnival | dummymummy.co.uk

  25. I usually tell my friends that are PG for the first time that breastfeeding can be harder than the actually birth…at least it was for me. One of the hardest things I've done, physically, mentally-it's exhausting and extremely painful…and can put you over the edge. However…I also add that there is so much support out there, that if moms do the hard work and find the BF resources and support, the pay off is 100x over 🙂

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