Is there a RECIPE for Breastfeeding Success?
- One mom who has informed herself on breastfeeding and wants to breastfeed.
- One baby who has been born healthy and in their own time.
- Put them skin-to-skin in a biological nurturing position and leave them alone!
So, is this really that simple? In almost all cases the answer should be yes. If a woman wants to breastfeed she will find a way to make it happen, but if a woman doesn’t want to, she won’t…right? So to define WANT: crave, demand, desire, need, require, yearn, wish…
On first glance, I say this is absolutely true. I have friends who did not want to breastfeed, were “grossed out” by it or misunderstood breastfeeding and so didn’t bother. I have met many moms who had really lame excuses for not breastfeeding… things that, to me at least, would be a simple fix. Informed moms are empowered moms. They read a book on breastfeeding, read a few articles and take a class on the basic stuff like milk supply or diaper counts and are more prepared. If things are not going well, they call an IBCLC or ask a nurse or breastfeeding counselor for some latch advice and go for it. Breastfeeding is natural and normal. If we looked at breastfeeding not only as “best” but as the healthy default we would truly fight for it. Rather, as a culture, we have normalized artificial feeding and made breastfeeding just “better than”.
On the other hand, I think about the hundreds and hundreds of moms who have called or emailed me in my capacity as a volunteer or just as a friend. Each call or email has almost the same concerns over and over… I am in pain, I don’t have enough milk, my baby won’t latch, the doctor says I need to use formula (for either a medication or because baby isn’t in a certain weight category), I am heading back to work or am having issues getting enough (from the breast or the pump), etc…
I had the benefit of hearing Suzanne Colson speak and to read her book An Introduction to Biological Nurturing: New Angles on Breastfeeding. Her wonderful work looks at newborn innate reflexes to self attach to the breast. Like other mammals, human babies have reflexes that help them breastfeed. Mothers also seem to have instincts to do things like put a safe “nest” around their babies, to open their mouths to show baby and to initiate feedings in the first place. It really can be that simple and that natural if moms go into it expecting breastfeeding to be successful and if there are no interventions for the majority of mother/baby dyads. After all, no polar bear or horse or fox or elephant or bear has to study before they latch. What countless moms really need is to be let alone and not micromanaged by others and encouraged not to micromanage breastfeeding. What they need most is to be able to trust their bodies and their babies. And of course there has to be a sense that moms WILL succeed and not “try” to succeed with breastfeeding.
If only we all lived in this bubble where we were not influenced by the bottle-feeding culture filled with marketing of formula for babies and breasts for selling beer or cars. My experience tells me that many moms want to breastfeed and feel deep loss when they don’t meet what they feel is success. It is over simplistic to say if they just wanted to they would. I have looked into the eyes of elderly women with grown children and grandchildren who have tears of joy or of loss depending on their breastfeeding experience. I have had moms who pumped and dumped for months because their misinformed but well-meaning doctor told them that they couldn’t breastfeed due to a medication or aliment. I have met moms who wanted to breastfeed but had premature or ill babies who were separated from them and fed formula while they tried to find a pump. I have met moms who went to lactation consultants for help with non-latching babies only to be handed nipple shields and be told to go home and keep trying. I have met moms who read books on every subject but were asked (or ordered) by their partner or family to wean. I have met moms who were completely conflicted about medications they were on for depression or anxiety and desperate to do “the right thing” for their child. I have met moms who had no option but to return to work only a few weeks after birth and did not have opportunity or influence enough to be able to continue pumping at their place of employment. I have met moms with children with congenital or sensory issues or other medical conditions who couldn’t latch – period. I had one friend who pumped for months while trying to get help with latch only to discover an undiagnosed cleft palate. I have friends who had fertility and hormonal or thyroid issues and ended up with low milk supply or even no milk supply. There are well-meaning breastfeeding supporters who are not always ready to admit they don’t have all the answers.
Let me be clear, while my heart is filled with empathy, it is not pity nor am I trying to justify not breastfeeding. I do not think BREASTFEEDING is a choice…I do feel NOT breastfeeding is a choice in almost every case. I also sense that breastfeeding has been co-oped by several groups and medicalized over the past few decades – for better or worse. I presume most loving moms want what is best for their babies and that would always include breastfeeding if there were truly a positive foundation for it and society were informed of the risks of not breastfeeding.
So, here is a little table of some of the factors I see personally with regards to the statement: “If a woman wants to breastfeed she will find a way to make it happen, but if a woman doesn’t want to, she won’t”. I am sure there are many additional factors when thought about from the angle of the doctor, midwife, mother, child, family, society, and more. It could be more of a web than a table but for ease I created what you see below. These are not cut and dry either…for instance I know obese moms who breastfeed with no issues or moms who have addictions that they battle and overcome to breastfeed. I know moms who are physically fit and educated and are blind sided challenges as well.
What would you add to the table?
|YES, it is natural and if they want to, they will||No, it isn’t that simple|
|Baby: Healthy term babies are born to latch on and breastfeed.Born with natural reflexes!Sense of smell and taste preference towards breastmilk.Other mammals don’t need help…milk is species specific.Have you seen the Breast Crawl video?||Baby: Born preterm or “late preterm” rather than term, birth interventions, jaundice,Gi issues, reflux, immature neurological system, hypo/hypertonic, tongue tie,Cleft lip/palate, early bottle feeding, respiratory issues, congenital issues, sensory issues, vaccines, circumcision, etc…|
|Mom: Vaginal, drug free, low-intervention birth, informed and educated In breastfeeding basics and myths, following gut or instincts, trusts self and body, good body image, commitment and level of determination, positive self image, healthy, good nutrition||Mom: Cesarean section birth, obesity, diabetes, heart issues, medications, medicated birth, multiples, not understanding or educating self on milk production or normal biological development of infants, irresponsible and misinformed health care, abuse (either in a relationship or as a child), addiction, economic factors|
|Society: Laws protecting “legality” of public breastfeeding, laws encouraging pumping at work, good family support system, good partner support, gratifying economic factors and first-rate maternity/family leave, informed medical support, positive community for public breastfeeding, peer support system, positive media images||Society: We see pictures of bottlefeeding or baby latched “upside down” more than “laid back”. Families are encouraged to schedule, religious based myths, subcutural traditions, poor maternity/family leave, economic factors, breastfeeding being undervalued and under practiced in peer group, woman as consumer, marketing and sales of formula, governments that do not endorse and support the WHO Code|
Great Book Resources:
Biological Nurturing: New Angles on Breastfeeding by Suzanne Colson
What Mothers Do; especially when it looks like nothing by Naomi Stalden
The Problem with Breastfeeding; a personal reflection by James Akre
So, that’s what they’re for! By Janet Tamaro
Breastfeeding, Take Two: Successful Breastfeeding the Second Time Around by Stephanie Casemore
Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher, Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and Jack Newman
Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding & Caring for Twins or More by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada
Defining Your Own Success by Diana West