March 30, 2009

"The happiness of the mother is far, far more important in shaping the life of the child than whether or not the child was breast-fed as a baby."

"If breast-feeding is an undue burden, or if breast-feeding creates tension between the mother and father, then it might be time to buy some formula."

95 comments:

American Liberal Elite said...

Sacrilege!

Peter V. Bella said...

Oh wonderful. An article on breast feeding written by a guy who does not look old enough to buy a drink.

jmm43 said...

My kids have been split. Two breastfed, two formula. We just did what worked best for us at the time. Happy, sane parents are always best for the baby. We have never given in to the hysteria that seems to accompany this very personal choice.

Jennifer said...

Not that I'm going to argue the underlying logic, but it makes me sad to think that some mothers consider nursing their children to be an undue burden. I so loved those quiet interludes with both my children. Breaks my heart to think what that must be like to feel trapped and miserable instead of close. I can't think of the right word here, but nursing made me feel potent. I thought it was pretty awesome to be able to produce and deliver my children's food all by myself.

Joe said...

Of course it's a cult; my oldest three wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding--my oldest wouldn't even try, the others were too impatient. My wife really wanted to breastfeed my youngest. So, my youngest daughter was born but took two weeks to get the hang of it. In the meantime, she wasn't getting enough nutrition, so we made the decision to supplement with formula. By change a woman from La Leche League called. She became almost hysterical at the news. She kept insisting my daughter would learn. It quickly became apparent the woman meant that once my daughter started starving to death, she would breastfeed out of survival instinct. It was one of the most vile conversations I've had in my life.

One other point, most the literature distributed by breastfeeding proponents is full of lies and half-truths. Their bullshit is almost as bad as penis enlargement companies. If breastfeeding is so great, why lie about it? (Clue: it isn't--at best its marginally better, but that isn't going to stop a long string of lies and half-truths in this very thread of all sorts of claimed benefits, almost none backed by well constructed scientific studies [most are based on anecdotal longitudinal studies which allow you to arrive at pretty much any conclusion you want].)

Jennifer said...

Ha, should have clicked through and read that before commenting.

Breast-feeding is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way....This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is "free," I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It's only free if a woman's time is worth nothing.

Because obviously taking care of your own child is not a worthwhile use of a woman's time. This lady is why, when people whine about breastfeeding fascists, I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It goes both ways, people. Goes. both. ways.

Bissage said...

The larger point is that the happiness of the mother is far, far more important in shaping the life of the child than whether or not the child was breast-fed as a baby.

True.

So very true.

Which is why it worked out so much better for me that Mom got so very much cheerier after she aborted my sister.

Trooper York said...

Of course the father will be much happier if the mother also allows him to play with her breasts. Just sayn'

Richard Fagin said...

All those bottles back in 1956 and 1957 seemed to get me through the end of law school in 1999 just fine.

The only bigger lied about item than the supposed benefits of breast feeding is the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome. Women are scared to drink a diet Coke during pregnancy for chrissakes. Glad the ol' lady had enough sense to have a drink every now and then when she was expecting me.

I don't suppose that witch from La Leche League grauated from law school, do you, Joe?

David said...

My mother did not breastfeed me and was by and large an unhappy person.

I am quite happy and have been so in one form or another for all of my life.

Go figure.

MadisonMan said...

Here's what I've learned in my life.

Things to say to a new mother:

(1) You are beaming, even though you look tired. I remember those times.
(2) Your child is beautiful. I hope everything is going well. You're doing a great job.
(3) If you're comfortable with it, I'd be happy to watch the baby for an hour or three to give you a break. And by the way, here's a casserole (in a dish you can keep) I've made for your dinner tonight. I'll bring another one next week.

Those who try to influence unduly the choices of a parent of a healthy child aren't helping.

Mary Ann said...

For the record, I breastfed both my kids, and was happy to be able to do it. However, my first experience was like that reported by Joe with his youngest and it led to a life-threatening situation for my baby.

La Leche League had/has such a stake in portraying breastfeeding as easy and natural that their books and materials contained NO useful information on how to handle breastfeeding difficulties. I learned through a lactation coach that these difficulties are not at all rare, either. Further, the chapter (in the book I had in the 1980s) on how to balance work and breastfeeding offered up the guidance that quitting work is the only good 'balance'.

I have no use for those people and I think they cause harm.

MarkW said...

My wife breast-fed our children only briefly--it didn't work out very well for them or her. But, the advantage of the bottle was that she wasn't stuck with all the middle-of-the-night feedings. In fact, we did every other night, which meant a lot less sleep deprivation for her (though a lot more for me). Which means I totally get this joke in a personal way:

Q: Why do most mothers hold thei babies on the left side?

A: To keep the right hand free for the remote control.

Alex said...

Jennifer - stop it with the extremist views. We live in the 21st century. Women are not supposed to cater to every baby's whim anymore. That is what womens' liberation is all about. Your attitude is so retrograde, misogynist and backwards.

Quayle said...

From the article: Breast-feeding is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way.

Meaningful being.......what? Working full time in the labor market? How about running a corporation? That's meaningful?

Imagine you spent the last 20 years forgoing raising your kids full time, but rather running a company, carefully nurturing the stock price and shareholder value.

Now the stock price and value has tanked to 1/4 of what you started with.

Meaningful work?

Dust Bunny Queen said...

. Breaks my heart to think what that must be like to feel trapped and miserable instead of close

Jennifer, there are a lot of reasons that breast feeding doesn't work out besides feeling trapped or resentful of the baby or being concerned about the time it takes.

Sure, to be able to bond, relax and hold your child's warm little body close while breast feeding is the ideal. Sometimes it just doesn't work that way.

I was on leave from work for 6 months after my child was born and breast feed for several months. The problem was that my daughter would only feed for a very short time maybe 10 minutes, fall asleep and then wake up in about 40 minutes to feed again...around the clock. What to do? Keep her awake so she would feed more? That didn't work...she just got really really cranky.

So the upshot was that around the clock I was getting at best 1 hour of uninterrupted sleep at a time. She was gaining weight and was healthy. This went on for over 3 months.

I was rapidly losing weight and literally hallucinating from sleep deprivation. Falling asleep while sitting up and moving around in a fog not remembering anything for hours and sometimes even days. I was often unable to distinguish between reality and my waking dreams. I was becoming delusional and a danger to my own child.

The doctor told me to just supplement the breast feeding and she would sleep longer and I might be able to get some rest too.

Problem solved. Happy baby. Mother who wasn't a zombie.

Alex said...

Quayle - snark aside, the basic point is that womens' lib has freed womens' mind to the greater possibilities then just raising babies.

Alex said...

DBQ - according to Jennifer you are an unfit mother!

compassionateliberatarian said...

While I agree that breastfeeding proponents often present marginally scientific evidence, there is another line of evidence in favor of breastfeeding that all of you are missing.

Women who breastfeed lose weight at a much higher rate than those who do not.
Furthermore, for the period of time when an infant would be breast or bottlefeeding, breastfeeding will save the mother around $300-400.

Lisa said...

I nursed my oldest child for 15 months. It was HARD at first. He wanted to nurse constantly and I was trying to pump to set aside milk for when I went back to work. I was either nursing or pumping almost constantly around the clock and crying through most of it for about 6 weeks. Pumping HURT because my nipples were so large they rubbed constantly against the flanges. We couldn't really go anywhere unless I had pumped milk because breastfeeding was still so awkward that I was uncomfortable nursing in public. The lactation consults were horrible; they pinched my breasts constantly and were mean.

My doctor finally told me to give up the pumping and let him have formula when I was gone or when we were in public. It saved my sanity. After about 10 weeks, we got it right and while I didn't hesitate to give my son formula if I was gone or we were out and about, I eventually got over being shy about nursing in public and would do so if needed.

I thought that nursing would be easier when my son was born a few weeks ago and in a way it was... I wasn't afraid of formula and I didn't feel intimated by the lactation lunes. This little guy didn't get an easy start and had to be given some formula from his second day until the jaundice was gone and he regained his birthweight. I've pumped when I felt like it and given him formula as necessary but I nurse him on demand despite a painful bout of thrush.

I'm not crazy this time because I know it will get easier. When he gets a little bit bigger and has more head control, nursing will be much easier.. easier than formula. In fact, by 4 or 5 months, it became a pleasure.. at least during the day.


So many moms give up breastfeeding in this early period when it is hard. I wonder how many would keep going if they knew it would get easier as their child gains more control.

Kim Priestap said...

Whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, it doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things.

Here's an interesting article about the topic:

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200904/case-against-breastfeeding

Steve Reynolds said...

We (well my wife)breast fed all three of our girls, my wife really liked doing it and there were no real problems.

But we weren't freaks, we also used formula and stopped anywhere from 10-14 months.

I'm amazed that compromise is such a hard concept. We knew people that did nothing but for like three years.

tim maguire said...

My wife is breastfeeding our almost 9-month-old daughter. She originally thought she wouldn't be able to do it. I couldn't believe how complicated the dang thing turned out to be. We had to get a breastpump to get her started, a visit from a lactation consultant at some cost*, some formula to supplement until baby got the hang of it. But now that we're slowly weaning the little tyke, my wife is reluctant to give it up altogether. These are some of her happiest moments, when she feels completely close to our baby. And it's the baby's favorite thing in the whole world by far. Sure, by the time she's 3 or 4, it won't matter in the slightest if she breastfed or not, but for now it is a positive part of our parenthood, certainly not a sacrifice because my wife could be off making money instead of lying next to our baby feeding her.

The fact that there are breastfeeding nazis and interest group liars in the world does not detract from this incredible experience nearly as much as some people on this thread seem to want it to.

*In the hospital, she worked closely during the day with an on staff consultant and got nowhere. She spent 20 minutes with a no nonsense night nurse and got her first successful feeding.

Lisa said...

I think I need to clarify something..

So many moms give up breatfeeding in the early months when it is hard and regret it or feel quilty about it.

I think a little formula and the knowledge that it will get easier would help a lot.

TMink said...

"Breast-feeding is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way."

Well, breast feeding is a serious time commitment. And it is difficult, especially for mom's who are more sensitive to touch and do not crave closeness. Our need for physical closeness is a trait acording to the research.

I find the last part of the statement amazingly insulting: "pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way."

Where do I begin? The neural research shows that infants develop their ability to attach to and care for other people from 20 weeks gestation to 9 months. After that, the attachment parts of the brain are done. They do not develop past that.

Children without the ability to attach at all grow up to be dangerous adults who harm others habitually. They tend to prey on other people because they are NEUROLICALLY INCAPABLE of empathy and attachment. They are socio or psychopaths, can lie without any pangs of remorse. They can be monsters.

Children with a poorly developed attachment system grow up to be unable to effectively calm themselves when they are upset. They grown up to be borderline personality disordered folks who are completely innefective socially.

So in this article, giving the infant that you made and brought into the world the love and attention they need is described as something other than meaningful work? Bullfrackingshit.

I know that ther article is speaking in terms of nursing. And the research they share about nursing is accurate. But mothers and fathers who feel that spending close, intimate time with their infants is a burden should give their children to people who are emotionally equipped to parent. Or not have children in the first place.

What is more meaningful work than giving children the emotional health that they can take with them the rest of their life?

What is worse than stealing it from them?

Trey

rhodamine said...

I just wanted to thank Lisa for her thoughtful comments. btw kudos for sticking with pumping! I found it horribly painful and gave up right away (pumping). was always amazed by women who pumped!

Chip Ahoy said...

Jonah Lehrer is writing about something Hanna Rosin wrote. Hanna is the one asking why every mother she knows has become a breast-feeding fascist when the studies do not support that. Jonah recaps what the studies actually do say and what the meta studies say about the studies. They both make sense to me. Jonah sounds quite measured. Yes, he appears young and he's a guy. So what?

Incidentally, I just finished Nina Planck's Real Food and she writes at length on the glories and virtue of breast feeding. She makes sense too. But all this made me think how weird it is for us humans to breed cows to deliver unnatural quantities of milk and for us to be drinking the milk intended for baby infant cows in the first place. Doubly weird to go on then and make cheese out it. Triply weird to rebuff the intended purpose of mammaries and then usurp the milk of another species that wouldn't even exist were it not for the pursuit of that distorted purpose. Now don't get me wrong, I love milk and cheese and I consume them both in quantity every day, I'm just admitting that to be human automatically is to be little weird.

DADvocate said...

As usual, it's all about keeping the woman happy. Screw the kids, husband etc.

Mom said...

In the early weeks of breastfeeding my first child, I developed intensely painful cracked, bleeding nipples. When my doctor's remedies didn't help, I called the local chapter of La Leche League. The lady who answered told me that breastfeeding was natural and good, therefore problems like mine could not occur, therefore I must either be exaggerating or completely inventing my difficulties.

Needless to say, labeling the problem as fictional did not solve it. Without the encouragement of my mother, who had breastfed five babies of her own at a time when few other mothers did so, that conversation with the La Leche League lady would have put me off nursing for good. As it was, if my skin hadn't toughened up on its own within a few days, I have no doubt that it would have been better for both my baby and me to switch to formula. While that pain lasted, try as I might, I could not help fearing and wanting to avoid breast-feeding sessions. That is no way to raise a baby!

The La Leche League is not really there to help anybody. Their purpose is to advocate a point of view, and as Joe also discovered, woe betide anybody who doesn't share it. If raising three kids has taught me anything, it is that there's more than one right answer to most problems of parenting. Anybody who tells you that they know the One True Solution to any child-rearing conundrum is best avoided.

Lisa said...

Trey...

I think I would have gone crazy if I hadn't worked some after my son was born. I worked 3 hrs a day from the time my son was 8 weeks old. It was just enough adult time that I didn't turn into a quivering pile of jello (a definite possibility those first months) and not so much that I didn't get plenty of cuddle time with my son. My husband was able to care for our son two days a week while I was gone and we had a lovely woman (who still cares for him two days a week) with him the other three days. My husband really regrets that he doesn't have that special time with our newest.

Our country's maternity leave is pathetic. Most developed countries have 6 months of paid leave at least.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

As usual, it's all about keeping the woman happy. Screw the kids, husband etc

That wasn't what I gathered from the article. It seemed to be more that if one method of child rearing (breast feeding) was causing difficulties, insufficient weight gain, unhappiness in not just the mother but in the entire family....Dad included....that there was no earth shattering, life ending crisis in switching from breast feeding or in supplimenting the breast method with formula.

I agree with Trey that the bonding and closeness of parent to child in the early months and years is critical in raising well adjusted human beings. Some people just should NOT have children.

However, you can bond and have just as much closeness in lovingly holding your child and feeding with a bottle, singing, rocking and smiling. There needs to be no less time spent interacting with your child merely because breast feeding wasn't working for you. Just leaving you child in a crib with a bottle propped up on a pillow is cruel, inhuman not to mention just plain lazy.

bearing said...

The thing that made me roll my eyes about that pathetic Hanna Rosin piece: It's always about relatively wealthy, well-educated women. Women with lots of choices.

The first line of the header: "In certain overachieving circles..."

It is just really hard to get myself all worked up feeling sorry for women "in certain overachieving circles" because there exists generous support for breastfeeding and some (finally!) stigma about choosing not to breastfeed.

Women who haven't been lucky enough to enter the ranks of the "overachieving circles" often don't GET to breastfeed, because employers aren't supportive, lactation assistance is low-quality, the social networks of mothers and sisters and aunts have been completely disrupted, and economic necessity forces them back into the workplace too soon.

Reading that article one certainly gets the impression that non-breastfeeders are lonely strugglers against the tide, with "everybody else" sneering at them. As recently as 2003, only 70 percent of new mothers were breastfeeding their babies when they left the hospital. By six months of age about half of these women have already quit. The problem is still that not enough children are breastfed and not for long enough --- not that too many women are pressured into breastfeeding.

bearing said...

By the way, the stats on how many women breastfeed are from The March of Dimes.

molly said...

Breastfeeding is just one of many parenting choices -- why is it always the one taken as automatic, the one the entire public gets to weigh in on? I don't go around shaking parents and demanding to know why they don't feed their children diets of 100% garden-fresh and organically grown food, or yell at people for letting their babies watch TV, or call CPS on parents who spank their children in a grocery store. But choosing not to breastfeed seems to be justification for getting torn apart as an inconsiderate parent. I think it would be better if everyone stopped acting as public health advocates on this front.

bearing said...

Molly, nobody "goes around shaking parents" who don't breastfeed. Nobody "yells" at people who don't breastfeed. Nobody "calls CPS" on parents who don't breastfeed. I for one have never seen someone so impolite as to challenge a mother's decision in mixed company, even.

What many of us do is express disapproval in public forums of the individual's elective choice to feed artificial milk, and of the social failure to support more women (outside the elite) in breastfeeding their babies as long as is mutually agreeable for mother and child.

Somehow, exercising the right to speak my disapproval of a harmful choice is equivalent to physical assault, to shouting, or to calling a government agency for intervention? Hardly.

I make no apologies about expressing my public disapproval of any elective choice that has data backing it up that show it's harmful. Including letting babies watch TV, by the way. (Let me know if you have any data about the harmfulness of non-organic vegetables or of spanking.)

Synova said...

Do people really confront bottle feeders but *not* confront the TV sitters, play-pen putters, diaper disposers, and child spankers?

Really?

Because I got chewed out in public a couple of times (and I'm still pissed about it) because I wasn't parenting to someone elses specification... kids in the car for 5 minutes with the car never out of my sight... got lectured by strangers for that. Lost my daughter in Target for about 5 minutes... got chewed out for that. I got "warned" that bad parents like me got reported for child abuse because my four year old was bumping the baby all over in the stroller while I chased down the three year old.

Heaven help me, I should have had that kid on a leash... it would have been safer for her, but I've no doubt I'd have gained public censure for that, too.

No one ever said a word to me about nursing or bottles, though I got a "look" or two over the binky.

BTW, I praise God I nursed my first because we went through a volcano and trip half way around the world when he was 3 months and many of the ladies with newborns were bottle feeding and didn't have formula, couldn't *get* formula, and no longer had milk. I realize that that situation is somewhat unique.

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

I make no apologies about expressing my public disapproval of any elective choice that has data backing it up that show it's harmful

So, do you, in public, show your disapproval of cigarette smokers, people drinking alcohol, eating twinkies, double whoppers with cheese fries, riding bicycles without helmets? Or do you only become Big Nanny and express your public disapproval on this issue?

traditionalguy said...

The issue of Happy baby and Anxious baby is really about the type of emotional comfort and available persons to share emotioal reactions with during the first year of the baby's growth into personal give and take with the other adults and the other children in the child's life. Therefore the breast feeding may help or not help depending upon the consistantly sane personality vel non of the person with the breast. Bottle fed kids with a good family of consistantly sane adults and kids around them that first year will not miss anything in the personality department.

bearing said...

Synova: I do "in a public forum." Such as this one, or the letters section of the newspaper.

I was raised with some manners.

I view this "I'm being torn apart for not breastfeeding" as yet another whine from the "I have a right not to be offended" contingency.

bearing said...

Sorry, I was replying to Dust Bunny Queen, not Synova.

Jennifer said...

Case in point. Like I said, goes. both. ways. I don't know what it is about parenting - and especially breastfeeding - that brings out the fascist in so many people.

For every person who makes someone feel guilty for choosing not to nurse, is another making some nursing mom feel like a dirty exhibitionist for daring to feed her child in public.

DBQ - I completely understand where you're coming from. My first was much the same way at first, and I have never felt so stupid or lost in my whole life. Amazing what sleep can do for you!! But, my comment on trapped and miserable is what I gather from the tone of the writer, NOT a general commentary on mothers who opt not to nurse.

Alex - snark aside, the basic point is that womens' lib has freed womens' mind to the greater possibilities then just raising babies. Oh the irony. SO glad Alex gets to decide what the greater possibilities are. Better not leave it up to those silly little women to decide for themselves!

Donna B. said...

There have always been women who cannot breastfeed. No amount of research will make it possible and there is absolutely no reason to portray these women as "less than a True Mother" in any forum.

That is exactly what the breastmilk pushers do.

What the article said is that the needs of the mother should be balanced with the needs of the child.

Let's face it folks, the mother's health and sanity is extremely important to the health of the child. If breastfeeding is difficult for any reason, the added stress harms the infant in two ways - poorer nutrition than from formula and lessened bonding with the mother.

We are so incredibly fortunate that we have the option of formula. It's silly to portray it as evil as far too many breastmilk pushers do.

Just because something is "natural" does not automatically mean it is good. Childbirth is natural, but many women have died a natural death giving birth. Thank goodness we have unnatural means of preventing that in most cases today.

It's nature's way that a second O+ baby born to a an O- mother die. Go to an old graveyard and you might find four or five infant graves from the same family... and then tell me that the unnatural act of giving the O- mother a RhoGam shot is a bad.

Mother Nature is a bitch and I'm glad we are escaping a few of her naturally heartbreaking ways.

Chris said...

An undue burden? Sandra Day O'Connor's going to tell us when to breastfeed?

tim maguire said...

bearing, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, a neighborhood near me, I think people do accost mothers who don't breast feed and yell at them (and I know they do on the parenting websites). It's a big deal there.

One of the easy things to forget is that, while you do the best you cna and hope for the best and some things make for a happier babyhood than others, breast feeding and all the little milestones--when she crawled, when she said her first word, etc.--unless there's an actual medical or genetic issue, all that stuff means absolutely nothing by the time they start school.

Jenny said...

Breast-feeding is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way....This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is "free," I want to hit them with a two-by-four. It's only free if a woman's time is worth nothing.

Whether a mother raising her child is meaningful work or not (and it is), this statement is patently false. I have nursed and pumped while working full time with an hour and a half round trip commute since my daughter was eight weeks old. My baby did not have any formula at all or any solid food before seven months old. Just the milk I produced. It is a time commitment, but it is definitely possible.

Peter V. Bella said...

Hey,
Rememebr that moron from a few weeks ago. The one who was breast feeding, talking on her cell phone, and driving her kids to school at the same time? That moron? I wonder what the advocates of the Tres Leches Society have to say about that?

Donna B. said...

Jenny... whoohoo and good for you! Your experience is meaningless to anyone but you.

My daughter tried her very very best to breastfeed but was physically incapable. (It happens, ya know?) Not only that, but her breastmilk wasn't good for the baby because said baby did the meconium thing inside Mama, thus Mama needed antibiotics.

Then... Mama and baby would both be dead if one them so-called unnecessary C-sections hadn't been done. Well, maybe Mama would have survived, but not likely.

Count your blessings Jenny instead of assuming everyone else is as lucky as you.

Donna B. said...

Jenny, please note too that I could (if I were a moron) say that you denied your child the care it deserved by working.

After all, even though my daughter could not breastfeed, she is a full-time mother.

What the hell happened to judge not lest ye be judged?

Jeremy said...

Peter - They'd say it was illegal and dangerous for the kid, mother and other drivers. Don't be an idiot. That's like saying that Joe and Alex above are actually pharmaceutical corporate shills (in disguise!) for Bristol-Myers Squibb because they support the use of formula.

And what's with the "breastmilk pushers" meme? Nobody's calling the other side "chemical agents" or some such nonsense.

DADvocate said...

DBQ - I understand that there are problems with breast feeding at times. But, I see the continuation of the attitude that mommy's and possibly daddy's needs become before the kids' needs. The rational is almost always, "If I'm/we're not happy, the kids won't be happy..."

It's an immature attitude. Adjust, learn to be happy even when things aren't as you want them to be. Putting our kids above our needs won't kill us.

"Most folks are as happy as they make their minds up to be." - Abraham Lincoln

blake said...

This isn't that complex: Breastfeeding is best. The child's welfare is paramount. That means substitutes are needed, and this doesn't necessarily reflect negatively on the mother.

Also, nothing most of us ever does is going to compare with the impact we make as parents. Breastfeeding impacts your ability to have meaningful work? Having a freakin' child is supposed to do that!

Male or female, if you're being a good parent, your work is secondary. (By definition.)

That said there are some serious brown-maternity-shirts at LLL. Nursing can be challenging for both mother and child. A good nursing coach is a help in this world of sub-nuclear families.

Also, brewer's yeast will turn most women into Guernseys.

madeleine said...

I'm white, college-educated and, high-achieving--and I *chose* not to breastfeed my two children because I knew I would be easily overwhelmed and unable to cope. Of course my mental wellbeing was as important as the baby's physical wellbeing--how could I care for him if I were not caring for myself? How could I provide for his needs if I were on the verge of a breakdown whenever I picked him up? Just because mother and martyr both start with M, it doesn't mean they're the same thing. Twenty years later, my babies are now well-adjusted and happy young men--with *zero* ear infections *ever* and great SAT scores. I'm still waiting for the breast-is-best busybodies to mind their own business and let everyone else mind theirs. Sheesh...

Synova said...

Maybe it's because we have so few children anymore.

We obsess.

We take advice from people who only had one, or at most two, and act like they have a clue.

We're so scared of doing any little thing wrong that we find it difficult to ignore disapproval even when we know we should.

TMink said...

Lisa wrote: "Our country's maternity leave is pathetic."

Amen. And I say that as a conservative, a small government conservative. Supporting mother's in their infant's first year is just economically sound.

And I hope my yelling from my soapbox did not come across as a slap against you for working three hours a day. If so, I am sorry, that was not my intent.

Happy mom's are important, that is why I would kick my wife out of the house on Saturday mornings whenever I could when ours were little. She needed some adult time. I got mine at work, hers was stolen by three little time bandits!

Trey

Jack Okie said...

My ex-wife is an ob-gyn RN. Our son was born in 1975. She wanted to breast-feed, so we went to a couple of Le Leche League get-togethers. At that time they were quite helpful and supportive; I sensed no rigidity in that particular group in OKC. I was in the delivery room for our son's birth, and my wife was able to breast feed - both things really seemed to help bond with our son. We were able to do without her income until our son entered school, so she didn't have to use a breast pump (although I think she would have done so, if necessary).

She has worked at her hospital's birthing center for many years now - while we were still together it seemed she would get at least one card or letter a week thanking her for helping the new mom get started with breast feeding. She has always been sympathetic to and supportive of those women who can't breast-feed - the only time I heard her criticize was when the new mom was some kind of drama queen. Overall I think our son benefited from breast feeding, both from the nutrition / immune system angle and the closeness. I would encourage women to breast feed if they can, but not worry if they actually can't (as opposed to "can't be bothered").

I'm disappointed to hear these negative things about LLL. They seemed pretty cool back in the day.

blake said...

Jack Okie--

The branch matters. There are still some cool LLLers left. There are two in our area: One is helpful, one you stay a mile away from.

Jack Okie said...

Thanks, Blake. I'd hate to think that everything goes to hell with age.

ricpic said...

My mother withheld her breast from me
And I've been searching, searching ever since
For a paradise that I'm convinced is out there,
Like a fruit that's hanging from a tree.
There are melon trees, n'est-ce pas?
Let's hope it's not a quince.

Peter V. Bella said...

I'm still waiting for the breast-is-best busybodies to mind their own business and let everyone else mind theirs. Sheesh...

They can't. All that public and private grant money is at stake.

Jenny said...

Wow Donna B. You projecteth much. I made no judgments. I consider myself very fortunate to be in my position. My only comment is that my experience alone renders false the notion that "breastfeeding...guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way." It is possible to work full time and breastfeed because I have done it for months. I'm sorry your daughter could not nurse her baby. It is obviously a painful subject.

Peter V. Bella said...

La Leche was formed with the merger of Tres Leches and Dolce Leche. The latter two realized there was more money to be made and power over people to be had if they switched from sweets and pastries to mother's milk. It was nothing but unbridled greed and the need to become the dictators of the lactators.

mcg said...

I think a free-market approach would be better. That is, instead of being dictators to the lactators they should have been speculators in the lactators. But hey I'm just a spectator, what do I know.

mcg said...

Count your blessings Jenny instead of assuming everyone else is as lucky as you.

Pull the formula bottle out of yer ass, Donna. Jenny's right, you read way too much into her statement.

Freeman Hunt said...

Most of the anger in this thread is not coming from the "breast is best" crowd. In fact, there seems to be a lot of irrational near rage at the pro breastfeeding folks.

I agree with Jennifer, blake, TMink, and others. Breast is best and worth the investment of time if you can make it. Benefits extend far beyond a baby's health. If you can't, you can't, and no, it's not the end of the world, but yes, among those who can't there are also many who can and simply don't or can and don't know it because they were given bad information (many here have mentioned such instances.)

But breastfeeding is like anything else. In life, some people are jerks. Anyone who would accost a stranger over breastfeeding or not is a jerk. Anyone who acts like the world is going to end because someone else did or did not breastfeed is a jerk. Such jerks are probably jerks about other things besides breastfeeding. No need to impute special jerk status to breastfeeding just because there exist jerks among those who advocate it. Jerks are universal.

It also seems kind of silly to rail against breastfeeding advocates because they "make people feel bad" or "create enormous pressure on women." It's pretty obvious that they don't. The vast majority of women do not breastfeed anywhere near the length of time recommended by the AAP. So if a woman doesn't breastfeed, she's obviously not alone, shunned in some silent plight. She's among most women.

And Blake is right about LLL. That varies enormously by chapter and even by member.

Full disclosure: I wrote most of this comment while breastfeeding.

MadisonMan said...

When my daughter has kids -- in about a decade unless she pulls a Palin on me -- or when my future daughter-in-law has kids, the most important piece of advice I can give them will be:

People will give you advice, unsolicited, on what to do with your children. You are under no obligation to listen to them. Why think that they know more than you? Simply smile and say Thank you and then discard their words. Listen to yourself and your kid's pediatrician.

MadisonMan said...

Freeman: Congratulations on the little one!

Freeman Hunt said...

MM has great advice. Anyone who can't follow that is, in my opinion, being a bit neurotic.

(Though I would modify that you don't even always need to listen to the pediatrician. Especially when they stray out of medicine and into general personal parenting advice.)

mcg said...

MadisonMan's advice is sound but somewhat unnecessary---because if you listen to other people's advice about child-rearing long enough, you'll accumulate contradictions in just about every possible area.

Carolynn said...

Breast-feeding is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way.

That is so insulting. And untrue.

For babies who nurse easily (and it is the BABY, rarely the mother with issues) breast feeding is economical and incredibly convenient. Especially if paired with formula.

There are lots of work arrangements (telecommuting/part-time) that breast feeding is compatible with.

MadisonMan said...

mcg, that's true enough, but I'm not sure if a new parent will realize it. There's lots of room for insecurity when you have a new kid, and it's easy to forget that you're not stupid, you're just inexperienced when you find it difficult to change the baby, answer the phone and put on your coat all at once.

MadisonMan said...

Let me add: When daughter was born, wife was working at an enlightened East Coast school. One of those hard to get into, harder to flunk out of schools. She found it incredibly difficult to pump, in part because of her co-workers -- all male, mostly gay -- joked about it. They weren't mean, just absolutely clueless. But at that time, the sense of humor wasn't really working. LLL in this case was no help: Working mothers were evil in their book (eyeroll).

Son was a voracious suck the teat dry in 10 minutes and want more more more kind of feeder. Then he would burp it all back up! I vaguely recall that he was on solid foods pretty early because his sister -- who he did adore and still does -- was eating solid foods and he's not gonna let her do something he can't!

I have no clue how this feeding has affected them. Sadly, we did not have twins and therefore could not perform a controlled experiment. It's not something you worry about, though, once the kids get into school. Other far more worrisome things take precedence.

Joan said...

Sadly, we did not have twins and therefore could not perform a controlled experiment.

LOL.

Jenny, you've handled yourself really nicely here when it would've been easy not to. Thank you.

I'm right there with Trey on the infant-attachment research (had that class last spring). Breatfeeding doesn't have to be traumatic but a lot of new mothers are floundering and don't know that. It can take a lot of practice before the baby gets it. Even then, some babies force dietary restrictions on their mamas that are difficult, and if nursing is barrier between mother and child as a result, it's much better to switch to formula.

richard said...

My wife had a horrible time trying to breastfeed our first. the poor child was only six lbs. when we left the hospital and lost almost a pound by the time my wife threw in the towel. We had two other children neither were breastfed. I used to really enjoy feeding my children. I was the second oldest of eight and we were all bottle fed. my father was a sportswriter and was constantly traveling. as a result I used to help bottle feed the the last two babies. I don't know why this choice of bottle over breast fed raises so much controversy. Breast feeding is time consuming and demanding is not for everyone. Those who demean or belittle this decision are ignorant and intolerant busybodies.

blake said...

Full disclosure: I wrote most of this comment while breastfeeding.

Oh, and now Big Lact weighs in.

Heh. Sorry, couldn't resist.

My mom had zero support--it was pretty downplayed at the time--and felt guilty about not nursing--probably still does. It's nice that women today can find support for either choice.

And FWIW, I'm reasonably functional, don't get sick and am not a serial killer. (Unless I'm doing it in my sleep.)

TMink said...

New mom Freeman wrote: "Though I would modify that you don't even always need to listen to the pediatrician."

Tell me about it!

At a recent checkup with the pediatrician the nurse asked me if I had guns in the house and I answered "Yes and I always will. Do you need one?" She looked a bit confused, and asked if I stored the bullets away from the gun and always made sure it was unloaded. "What would I do with an unloaded gun? Throw it at the madman inside my house?"

She dropped the line of questioning after that.

Trey

Donna B. said...

Ah, I've been accused of projecting... that's almost as good as bringing up Hitler, isn't it?

Jennifer you got on my nerves with the "potent" comment because it was just so............ over the top.

Good grief, woman. You're normal and like most other women can make milk and your baby can suck it out through your teats. It's a mammal thing.

I thought you had read the article before you wrote that and that made it sound even more condescending. Why no, even women who can be as potent as you may perhaps choose not to.

But then, after you read it, you got insulted by the comment that a woman's time is valuable.

Then Trey and you (and others, I'm not re-reading this thread!) chime in on the bonding issue. Fer goodness sakes, don't you realize that bonding takes place when a bottle is used too? How INSULTING to Dads to you want to be?

It's the cuddling, eye contact (much harder when breastfeeding, btw) and time spent holding the baby that contributes to bonding.

Then Freeman Hunt chimes in with the fact that she typed that comment while breastfeeding... oh my... now that's some quality bonding time, eh?

It's pretty obvious that a lot of the supposed pluses of breastfeeding are contradictory.

I have more than one daughter and it further ticked me off that the daughter who had no trouble breastfeeding (that little girl latched on first try) got all sorts of pats on the head for being such a great mommy, while her sister got nothing but grief for allowing her baby to be bottle fed while she was on antibiotics.

Yes, one specialist told her that the antibiotics probably wouldn't hurt the baby, and that if my daughter were honest with herself she'd realize she didn't need them anyway. She actually said 'you're not the first woman got pooped in.'

The daughter on antibiotics pumped and dumped until she was off of them and continued pumping until production dropped to a point it wasn't worth it (about 4 - 6 oz. isn't much for a six month old).

The cost of the pump pretty much negated any savings on formula.

I breastfed with no problems until my youngest got meningitis. A lot of good that month of breastmilk did for her immune system, eh?

Jennifer said...

I'm sorry it annoyed you, Donna B. That's how I felt. Having babies is just a mammal thing, and yet most human new moms feel pretty incredible about the whole thing. The fact that other people and animals are capable of something doesn't lessen the profound enjoyment it can bring any individual person. I'm also sorry that other people's attitudes toward your daughters have clearly affected you. In my experience, everyone is going to earn the disdain of the mommy brigade at some point for some choice. So be it.

I could not agree with you more, Freeman. MM's advice was great. But, a pediatrician is just a doctor and I don't think they are any more qualified as general parenting experts than neurosurgeons are as mental health experts.

Jennifer said...

And for the record, Donna B, I wasn't insulted by the comment that a woman's time was valuable, I disagreed with the idea that the only valuable use of a woman's time is earning wages. And having been a stay at home for years before returning to work, I'm very familiar with the fascist tendencies of some to devalue any choices a woman makes that don't conform to their world view. Hence the annoyance when those same people wonk about breastfeeding fascists. It goes both ways.

Freeman Hunt said...

Donna is illustrating that "irrational near rage" I mentioned.

And yes, Donna, it may enrage you, but breastfeeding allows for bonding even while the mother is sometimes doing something else. It's just that potent...

mcg said...

I AM NOT SCREAMING!

TMink said...

Donna wrote: "Fer goodness sakes, don't you realize that bonding takes place when a bottle is used too?"

Absolutely Donna, I know many children whose primary attachment was with their father. Mine eldest daughter for instance.

Also, please note in my post that I barely mention breast feeding. That is because I was not writing about it.

Why did you think I was?

Trey

Patricia said...

I'm not sure if "potent" is the word I would choose to describe it, but I will say I am incredibly proud of being able to nourish my second daughter from my body so well. She's only 3.5 weeks old, so we're deep into the intensive part of breastfeeding- around the clock, every three hours or so, sometimes sooner (sometimes longer, thank you baby!). The first week and half or so was so hard- I had scabbed over nipples, and I had to have my husband's help in latching the baby on because I was so sore, I was involuntarily recoiling from putting her on. I wanted to quit every night- and I even knew what to expect, having nursed my first- but I'm pleased and proud that I have stuck with it. At 2.5 weeks, the doctor told us that she had gained 22 oz. in 13 days, which far surpassed the goal of an ounce a day. I am proud of that.

Yes, it's just a function of being a mammal, but we are so far separated from our natural roots, particularly when it comes to food, that I think something so natural comes as a surprise. And it is, to me, awe inspiring that a product of my body can cause my child to grow so well (in a similar way that pregnancy is awe inspiring- that I have grown a whole new person). Again with the remove from the sources of our food- certainly all animal products that we eat are products of those animals' bodies, but we don't think of them that way, or I don't at least.

Breastfeeding is HARD, though, and a huge time commitment. I am lucky that I have a generous maternity leave, and I can't imagine trying to establish nursing if I had a much shorter leave like so many women. I definitely appreciate the need for parents to do what is best for everyone, especially given the relatively incremental benefits of breastfeeding. I think one of the most off-putting things about the whole debate is the insistence that breastfeeding is so much better that formula may as well be poison, when I think that is far from the case. Breast is best, sure, but let's not get carried away here. There are lots of factors that can make breastfeeding impossible or impractical, and no one should feel bad about doing what they have to do to survive and be well.

TMink said...

I think that first time parents who want to be great parents get a little neurotic. I know I was, and I have a doctorate in psychology with an emphasis on human development.

But being a great parent was SO fracking important, still is. And I got a little neurotic. I feel much better now. 8)

One of the problems with pregnancy is that there is a sizeable portion of the population that feel it is ok to come up to an expecting mom and give her unsolicited advice or even to touch her.

Most of these folks are well intentioned, but you know what the road to hell is paved with.

And I have heard the accounts of LLL nazis from my patients for years. Is breast best? Sure. Is it necessary? Not by a long shot. Give me loving parents who bottle feed but attend to their child any day.

Trey

Jennifer said...

Yes, neuroticism is definitely a hallmark of early parenting. Most of us don't have the mental energy to keep up that kind of obsessiveness for long, though. Thankfully. No matter how potent we are. :P

I hear LLL horror stories, too, but my only contact with them has been two women I've known socially. They were not nazis in the least, so I know good volunteers are out there.

I think part of the reason people who have successfully breastfed their children are so vocal about recommending it to others is that aside from all the scientific benefits and blah blah blah, it can be such a wonderful experience. Most people want others to experience something that they love. Nobody flips out when you recommend a great restaurant, but god forbid you open your mouth and recommend breastfeeding.

Donna B. said...

Trey, why wouldn't I think you were posting about breastfeeding on this thread?

Jennifer, there's not an established medical guideline about great restaurants.

Freeman, it's not rage or anything close to it - it's age and disgust with all the smugly interfering bs advice being pushed on everybody about everything -- believe me, I'm not going to tell you how to raise or care for your children.

The most important thing to a child is his/her parents and the child wants them to be happy.

So, like the adult putting on their oxygen mask first so they can survive to care for the child, it's important that parents care for themselves and do things that make them happy so that they may care for their children.

The pressure to be a "perfect" mother is not any healthier for women now than the pressure to be a "perfect" housewife was in the 1950s.

I'm all for education about breastfeeding for new mothers and I've always thought it silly to be offended by breastfeeding in public, but it's being taken too far. It is in the realm of pressure now. That's not good for anybody.

TMink said...

Donna B. asked: "Trey, why wouldn't I think you were posting about breastfeeding on this thread?"

Oh, I don't know, by READING THE TEXT OF THE POST YOU WERE CRITICIZING?????

I thought my statements would have an impact on your narrative. Silly me. This is what the other people are referring to by stating that you are projecting. That is when inner issues are so loud that they impinge on our perceptions of external reality.

Like when you stated "Fer goodness sakes, don't you realize that bonding takes place when a bottle is used too?" Lady, I am a licensed clinical psychologist and I know a thing or fifty about bonding. You would recognize that if you read the post you were criticizing.

I don't need you to read everything I write, much of it is only of passing interest to one or two people here, and some do not rise to that feeble standard. But it behooves you to read and understand the text of a post that you critique. Otherwise, you look loony.

Trey - who is always willing to help like that

PatCA said...

I thought the whole issue was health benefits for the baby. I didn't realize it had become another activist-driven ideology.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

I don't know if it's activist-driven or hormone-driven. Mothers who do, don't, want to and can't, or just don't want to bf have enough to deal with without complete strangers judging their decisions. Is the baby healthy? Yes? Then shut up. I read about a woman who wanted to bf but had to bottle- because of medication she was on; a COMPLETE STRANGER came up to her in the grocery store while she was feeding her baby and told her, "you know, breast is best". She burst into tears. I had a family member who had a Reynaud's syndrome, which caused intense pain during breastfeeding, yet she did it for a year. Tears of pain on her face, really. She told me that she intellectually knew the baby would be OK on formula and rationally she should put her on the bottle and quit doing that to herself but she just...couldn't...do it. To watch her go through that, and then read some of the claptrap I've read about how "society doesn't support nursing mothers" makes me want to scream. Maybe a little less support of nursing mothers and a little more encouragment of "do what works for your family" actually would be a good thing.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

a COMPLETE STRANGER came up to her in the grocery store while she was feeding her baby and told her, "you know, breast is best".

This happened to me as well. My response was "Eff off, lady!!. Minding your own business is best too." Loved the shocked look on her face.

As I said in my own case. I wanted to breast feed, greatly enjoyed it and continued to do so even when supplimenting with a bottle.

The supplimenting was for my own sanity and the safety of my child. Getting less than one hour sleep at a time never allows you to go into REM sleep. I was sleeping at best 3 to 4 hours a day and in tiny increments. The result is not just tiredness, but hallucinations and irrational behaviour. Sleep deprivation is a torture technique.

It is no one's business if you breast feed or not. And I agree with Trey that the bonding process can be done just as well with or without boobs.

As to the time issue. Just having a child is a full time job but some of us didn't/don't have the luxury to be able to devote all of our time to child rearing and have to work to put food on the table and pay the rent. I was very lucky in that my job allowed a 6 month paid maternity leave, practially unheard of at the time. Sadly when my time was up I had to return to full time work.

There should be no judgement issues for either situation. These are personal choices.

Freeman Hunt said...

Again, I don't understand the getting upset at the judgments made by other people, even complete strangers. I know plenty of people who, for example, think it's bad that I don't use cloth diapers. So what? I don't care. I don't feel compelled to get upset and cry, "It's so horrible! These people think I should use cloth! It's awful! I am consumed with guilt! Leave me be!" People will give you flak for anything they disagree with. And the world is full of rude people. Putting yourself at their mercy is pointless.

As Jennifer pointed out though, you shouldn't conflate the rude people with the people who just want to share that they really enjoyed breastfeeding themselves and would recommend it--just like many here are recommending formula for situations where they feel it really helped them out.

Also, again I would point out that there's obviously plenty of support for formula feeding as that's what the vast majority of women actually do. And finally, the idea that only rich women breastfeed or stay home with kids is nuts. Most of the stay at home moms I know are a lot closer to poor than upper middle class. They make a lot of material sacrifices to do what they do. That's their choice.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

Freeman, if you don't have those drive-you-crazy postpartum hormones that some other women have, you're damn lucky. I remember crying my eyes out over the most trivial crap in the weeks after my daughter was born. Fortunately my mother had warned me and my husband about the baby blues so we knew what it was. If you've skipped that, seriously, thank your lucky stars.

blake said...

Plastic diapers have gotten so much better these days. Cloth used to be better on the basis of just being more comfortable. I mean, seriously, if you say to yourself "Which would you rather wear?" 20 years ago cloth, hands down.

Even then it was dependent on changing often.

Now, the plastic ones are great.

It's not really a hill to die on.

Bottle feeding is great, especially for dads, but I don't think, chemically, it's the same. It's like saying adoption is the same as having a kid.

Ultimately, the relationship is the same, unless there's a pathology behind the physiology, but there's a fundamental biological difference in the process.

It is what it is, as they say. None of it really should be a battle.

Laura(southernxyl) said...

"Bottle feeding is great, especially for dads, but I don't think, chemically, it's the same. It's like saying adoption is the same as having a kid."

Blake, this is the kind of thing that could cause the mother of a baby to cry her eyes out. "If I can't breastfeed her, I'm not really her mother." My daughter was born 22 years ago today, as a matter of fact. She declined to nurse from me and lost quite a bit of weight until I gave up and bottle-fed her. I cried about it but we both survived. Reading what you wrote brings all that back, two decades later. I could promise you that by God I am her mother ... but I know that's not what you meant. This is a subject about which many, many women cannot be rational. Can't. It's nature and evolution and so forth. As you say, it is what it is. We can at least refrain from making each other's lives hell about it any more than necessary.

blake said...

Laura--

You know, I knew that, and almost didn't post. I was hoping that it was detached enough to not be too evocative in that way.

But my mom didn't nurse me, either, and I think she still feels bad about it sometimes, which is just horrible.

So, believe me, I understand. And I think the whole thing is evidence of a dysfunctional society: We absolutely have to make everything into a battle.