Friday, February 18, 2011

Looking Back

Looking back on Lil Man's first few months, I realize there were a lot of things that I could have done differently that would have led to a more successful breastfeeding experience. Honestly, I feel the system failed me some. Not the system that subtly promotes formula masked as breastfeeding support- poor quality pumps, formula sponsored diaper bags, etc- but the system that is set in place to give breastfeeding moms an edge. The system that was supposed to set me up to succeed failed me. I also feel my personal understanding and education was lacking. Partially because those I knew that breastfed just did issues, no talk of the hard first few weeks- they just breastfed. Forget that they were on baby 3, 4, or even 5...I just saw them breastfeeding very easily, never struggling with their child.
I wish the breastfeeding class I took was better. I suppose all breastfeeding classes are hit and miss. There are so many factors involved- funding, material, who is sponsoring it, and who is teaching it. I did not attend the "Breastfeeding Event" at a popular baby store. Any class that starts out Ready, Set, Pump is not focused on breastfeeding- but on selling pump products and bottles to mothers. I did not participate in the WIC breastfeeding class either. I have actually heard wonderful things about the local WIC's class. I think partially because they really do want moms to breastfeed- to a point. I mean, it saves the program money, it is better for baby and mom, and many other things. I have other issues with WIC, but it has nothing to do with the class. NO, I attended the breastfeeding class taught by the hospital. Maybe that is mistake number one. Hospitals still receive a lot of funding from formula companies, so maybe they don't care much to have really good breastfeeding classes/education. Looking back, I would have chosen to attend LLL meetings, or nursing mom groups.
The breastfeeding class was beneficial- for Hubby. It got him on board. It talked about the many benefits, what the spouse could do to help, and then we talked a lot about 2 other things- latch and position. Honestly- positioning was a joke. A stuffed animal is way different then a newborn baby. OK, maybe it was not a joke. It does help a little bit to kind of know.
Now latch- that is a different story. The strong focus on latch led me to worrying about the latch TONS after Lil Man was born. The line that caused me the most worry - "If they are latched properly it will not be painful." I have since learned this line is not true- breastfeeding can hurt in the beginning, even if latch is perfect. Latch is something that should be watched, but we need to not over think it. I once read a blog comparing it to using chopsticks. Most people do not use chopsticks "properly" but it doesn't matter, because it works for them. Latch is the same way- as long as mom is not in immense pain, baby is sucking, and milk is flowing- it works. We need to not over think it.
The one other thing that bothers me about this class, they taught to feed on demand- and that demand should be every two hours during the day three hours at night. I really thought something was wrong with my son that he wanted to be on the breast all the time- so I started letting him have a pacifier on day 2 of life instead of being on the breast. I feel this was part of what led to my low supply.
I wish I had been more educated about birth weight, weight gain, and jaundice and how supplementing fits in with all of that. My son, had he been discharged 2 days after delivery- like a vaginally born baby- would have been right at the border of the "acceptable" weight loss. But, because I had a c-section, he was discharged a day later and was told he had lost "too much." I want to point out- this was not my sons pediatrician that brought this up- as he was on vacation the day we were discharged. "Too much" was only a few ounces over the "acceptable" amount. My son was zero percent jaundice, and my milk had not come in yet- so really, his weight loss was fine and I really didn't need to supplement.
Weight gain- I wish I had known that the charts most often used by pediatricians are based off 1) taller babies and 2) formula fed babies. I over-analyzed my son's weight gain for months. It finally was brought to an end at his 4 month appointment when HIS pediatrician told me, as I was distraught about him being in the 7th percentile for weight (and height I should add) and the fact that I could not get him to eat more each day, that he was PERFECTLY PROPORTIONATE and if he was eating/weighing any more he would actually be overweight for his height.
I must pause and say how I think it is funny that we base a child's health, as both parents and health care professionals, on how high up in the percentiles our children are. I have a friend who is CONSTANTLY asking if Lil Man's doctor is concerned about his size. I am repeatedly saying how he is "perfectly proportioned" and since both Hubby and I are short- he is fine. Of course, both of her children are in the 90th percentiles for both height and weight- so to her it is strange that my son is healthy being currently in the 3rd percentile. There has to be children at both ends of the scale- and unlike tests on knowledge- being in the 3rd percentile does not automatically mean your child is failing. I am actually happy that my son is perfect for his height. Now, if he were in the 50th percentile for height, and 3rd for weight- Yes,both his doctor and I would be worried- but he is, again, proportionate. This is one reason I am glad that the AAP has now adopted the WHOs charts for height and weight- because the WHO takes into account your child's height. Truth be told- Lil Man is in the 70th percentile weight wise for other children his height.
Back to the topic at hand- basically, just because Lil Man lost a little more than the "acceptable" amount was not a reason to supplement. I find it funny that there is an exact cut off as to what is or is not acceptable. I also think that mother's need to understand the "rule" about 2-2.5 oz per pound of weight is not LAW but a GUIDELINE. Lil Man has never taken in that much- and if I try and force him to- he just spits it up.
The last way I feel failed by the system is that the hospital, while it does strongly suggest breastfeeding, has LCs on hand, and more- still has human beings working there. They are not perfect. The hospital can be understaffed, and therefor- many nurses may suggest topping a baby off with formula if they are in the nursery at night. That happened in my case because I was so exhausted I did send Lil Man to the nursery one night and they didn't want to have to bring him back in right away so they said they could top him off using a special feeder so he wouldn't get bottle preference... Telling this to a mother who only got 45 minutes of sleep the night before she was induced and then had an emergency c-section and who had not napped that entire day, makes it very tempting. Why didn't I have him in the room with me? Well- EXTREME EXHAUSTION and because the nurses said that he would most likely wake EVERY HOUR if he was in my room and could smell me. They made it sound like I was doing both of us a dis-service by keeping him in there after his traumatic labor and delivery and with me being so tired.
I also know my education was lacking. I have also noticed, many first time moms either end up switching to formula, combo feeding or exclusively pumping....but later go on to successfully breastfeed their second child. I honestly feel that maybe this is a testament to how education and support are lacking. Mothers are forced to educate themselves as issues arise- sometimes finding answers too late after the fact. Hopefully, education will improve, women will be open and supportive of breastfeeding- and of those who formula feed- and that we will see a higher success rate in the United States of breastfeeding.



Mry Jhnsn said...


They call us fanatical but we have reason to be... There needs to be more info if you want to breastfeed. Kudos for sticking with it and being an advocate now :)

Lisa said...

Thanks for this Becca. This was exactly what I needed to read as I am a little over 2 months away from having my 2nd child. And yes, I am hoping for a way better BFing relationship this time around.

TheTamFam said...

I think your closing lines are so key; SO MANY moms breastfeed successfully on babies #2, #3, etc. after struggling with baby #1 because they didn't learn soon enough what they could have done differently. One of my friends is only about a month into parenthood with her firstborn, and feels like she has "failed" at breastfeeding because she is almost exclusively pumping (latch problems). I am thinking "Keep Trying--you are only beginning--of course there is a learning curve!" But I can tell she's getting worn down and discouraged. *sigh* What to do.