Friday, February 1, 2013

About Boobies

Om nom nom.
Breastfeeding is exceptionally important for babies. Really, all mothers should breastfeed if medically able to for at least the first three months of their child's life. Ideally the first entire year! Even if you cannot feed baby at the breast, pumping breast milk and feeding via bottle, cup, or dropper is just as well.

Formula just isn't the same and even poses significant risks to newborns, such as improper preparation resulting in malnutrition, introduction of bacteria to your baby, and (due to the lack of antibodies found in breast milk) an increased risk of diarrhea and pneumonia: the leading causes of infant and childhood deaths. Breast milk also provides a resistance to allergies and is directly related to creating a lifelong healthy metabolism, meaning less chance of obesity. As added bonus, breastfed babies are also less gassy, less likely to develop colic, and are far less likely to spit-up.

Not all benefits are for baby, either. Breastfeeding helps mom return to her pre-pregnancy weight faster, shrinks the uterus back down to size after delivery, and reduces the risk of both breast and ovarian cancers. All of which are pretty significant pros! It's also a free resource, meaning financial hardship can never impact your ability to provide. It also helps establish a bond between mommy and baby and babies who have breastfed have been shown to be more receptive to being held and cuddled (who doesn't wanna cuddle with their little one?!).

Sure, there are cons as well. Breastfeeding is an acquired skill -- it's not something you and baby will be experts at from the start. It's also uncomfortable at best and painful at worse, in the beginning. It takes a week or so for your breasts to get used to their new role in life, but once you're over the proverbial hump -- you're over it!

So long as the latch is correct, soreness should fade in short order. If it doesn't, you may want to speak with your physician to try and figure out why. It's rare, but sometimes there are underlying conditions (with either mommy or baby) that make breastfeeding painful. Even then, that doesn't mean you need to resort to formula. There are options. You could champion through the discomfort like a Spartan, or pump and give baby the liquid gold (breast milk) that way. Pumps aren't as powerful as a baby's latch, so it is often not as hard to cope with in these circumstances. What's important is that your baby gets that vital breast milk -- not how baby gets it.

Sadly, very few women stick with it. Statistics show even though many mothers intend to breastfeed exclusively for the first twelve months, most don't even make it out of the hospital breastfeeding. That means in less than two days they've given up. Now, I'm not blaming the moms here. There are many factors involved in this outcome and usually it has little to nothing to do with the mom. Suchas...

In many states, hospitals aren't baby-friendly. This means they do not educate mothers-to-be about the benefits of breastfeeding, encourage skin-to-skin right after delivery, or encourage mom to try breastfeeding within the first hour after baby is born. The single most important hour of your breastfeeding lives. Nurses may supplement baby with formula or sugar water with or without parental consent, making baby even less likely to bother with the breast when introduced. Newborns are picky eaters and bottles are way easier to eat from (the flow is much quicker). Formula is also harder to digest making baby feel fuller, longer. A one-two combo that leaves baby wondering why he'd ever bother with mom.

Lack of a positive support network is also a culprit. Anxiety can impact milk supply. So being around family or friends, even if they're well-meaning, who do nothing but criticize can really kill the chance of success. "You're positioning her wrong." "You're not feeding him enough." etc., etc. While the intention is maybe in the right place, the execution is poor.

Even if your wife is blatantly doing it wrong, making her feel dumb about it in this vulnerable, hormonal postpartum state is really not going to help her whatsoever. She's already feeling anxious and inadequate about the situation, you need to approach the subject carefully. Increasing her anxiety will only hamper her let-down process, which will in turn make her feel even more inadequate. A cycle which spirals out of control quickly once it starts. She'll get it, it sometimes takes up to a week, but she'll get it. Encourage her. Don't criticize.

In the same vein, being embarrassed can hamper let-down also. So inviting everyone into the room while she's topless and looking like Death due to sleep deprivation and blood loss isn't going to help. Limit guests to people you know she'd be comfortable half-naked with. And if you're worried about anyone seeing her boobs, stfu about it. If she isn't insecure about her body image, trying to cover her up or telling her to leave the room to breastfeed so no one sees is only going to make her so.

Some women can breastfeed like gold medalists but cannot pump for shit. This is normal! Even the best electric pump under the best of conditions is only half as effective as baby at expressing milk. Don't take what your wife pumps as a sign of what your child is getting at mealtime. So long as baby is maintaining his or her weight and is growing, they're getting plenty. Don't worry mom that she may not be providing enough. If that's really a problem you'll find out from the pediatrician during your frequent well-checks.

Going back to work often conflicts with breastfeeding and/or pumping. Many places of employment lack facilities for pumping and frown upon breastfeeding in the workplace, meaning you need to find someplace else to do either of these things if you intend to do them. If you cannot find such a place and need to work, often times it boils down to breastfeeding or working. Considering having a place to live is also important for babies, through no fault of her own, work generally wins out.

In some states breastfeeding in public still isn't legal. Which means if you plan to ever leave your house, you'll need to either bring expressed milk in a bottle or formula. However, either of these options interfere with on-demand feeding to maintain supply.

While a number of states now protect a woman's right to bear her breast and nurse her baby in public that does not mean the public condones it. A lot of women wind up feeling ashamed while trying to breastfeed out in the open due to public reaction to the sight. This is why there now exists such a market for nursing covers, to hide what you're doing from prying eyes so that you can do it whenever and wherever you need to without dealing with naysayers.

Breastfeeding is how babies are meant to be fed! This is the sole function of breasts in the first place. Why then is it such a taboo?

Unless you never plan to leave the house, being a nursing mother can be tricky. You need to be able to get at your breasts at a moment's notice (one handed) should baby be hungry and yet still stay covered much of the time, because we're supposedly a civilized country. Since you are expected to wear clothes, you'll also need to protect them from milk, which can be unruly at times. This means you need to buy stuff. Thanks to capitalism, this needed stuff is naturally expensive because they're deemed specialty items.

You'll need nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing pajamas, and nursing pads. You'll probably also want a nursing cover of some sort due to reasons mentioned above. If you bought merely one of each of those things, it would run you about eighty dollars minimum. And that'd be a lucky bargain. Thing is, you need several of each of those things. The kicker? These things aren't necessarily easy to find.

While many stores have maternity departments, they often only deal with pregnancy clothing. Not post-pregnancy items such as those needed for nursing. The internet makes this hunting a little easier, but no less expensive. Granted, breastfeeding costs are still miniscule in comparison to formula feeding costs.

See my tips for convenient nursing on a reasonable budget here.

The amount of misinformation about pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing that persists these days is mind boggling. We'll just touch on the misinformation related to nursing here though. While I have no fucking idea why, it is a common misconception that breastfeeding will ruin your breasts. Now, there are all sorts of things wrong with this perception. Really, it's kind of absurd.

Breastfeeding is the reason your breasts even exist. So using them for their purpose is hardly going to ruin them. Changes in the breast are usually temporary anyway (you know, like your giant pregnant belly was), and take place long before you put baby to breast! Your breasts undergo their metamorphosis due to hormones at least a month before your little one is even expected to make their appearance in the world.

So if this is your reason not to breastfeed... it's kind of a flawed one.

Medical Conditions
Sometimes there are legitimate medical reasons why breastfeeding doesn't work out.

Difficult labor resulting in severe anemia or injury can damage your milk supply so much that you need to also give formula so baby doesn't starve. Which incidentally further impedes your milk supply, meaning you may need to supplement permanently or switch to formula completely.

Certain hormonal imbalances prevent proper milk supply from ever establishing itself, resulting in much the same. Hormonal imbalances, if caught right away, can be treated though. So don't give up right away. Working alongside your physician, you may be fully capable of establishing a normal milk supply.

Some physical deformities (under-developed or damaged ducts, for example) can impact milk supply or prevent it from ever coming in to begin with. Generally there is nothing that can be done for a problem such as this. Even if you made colostrum, there's probably not going to be enough milk to satisfy your baby.

Even in situations such as this though, there are options available to ensure your baby gets at least some breast milk -- even if it's not necessarily yours. There are a few services out there that provide donated breast milk to women in such circumstances as this, who want to breastfeed their child but literally cannot. Sometimes even free of charge!

If you're concerned about supply but suffer from no prohibitive underlying condition, there are methods of increasing your supply. I suggest contacting a lactation consultant (the hospital you delivered at can put you in touch with one if needbe). Otherwise I'll touch on this in a later blog, as I had a hell of a start, myself.

Postpartum Depression
Depression saps the will to accomplish even simple daily tasks out of anyone, super depression such as PPD even moreso. Your milk supply is hampered by emotional lows, particularly prolonged ones! Breastfeeding is often not bothered with or given up on by women experiencing postpartum depression for many reasons, all of which essentially boil down to: too depressed. If your postpartum blues last longer than a month or you have thoughts of harming yourself, your significant other, or your baby -- seek support and help right away. PPD is of such severity than it often does not resolve on its own.

Some women just don't want to breastfeed. You know what? Whatever, that's fine if you just really, really, really don't wanna. Formula feeding is way easier. I'm sure we've all eaten a Poptart rather than a real breakfast because it was quick and simple. Just prepare a bottle and you're basically done. It takes five minutes instead of thirty. Baby is full longer, meaning he'll sleep longer, leaving you with more free time for yourself (work, sleep, chores, hobbies, and so forth). Anyone can feed your baby for you. You don't even technically need to be there, which isn't technically a bad thing. Being able to pass baby off for a few hours to get some rest does wonders for a speedy recovery!

In summary, I find it strange that in a society that by-and-large knows the facts, breastfeeding is still a taboo surrounded by misinformation, shaky (sometimes well-meaning) support structures, and a surprising lack of available resources.

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