The Line Between Support and Judgement

***EDIT:  This is my blog.  I can write what I want.  Have a problem with it, then please don’t visit.  I hate arguing in my comments, and having misunderstandings because someone didn’t comment on the post, but just went off on feeling judged because they are different.  This post is not about the troubles of breastfeeding, or why some babies don’t like to breastfeed.  This post is about why support is needed so the problems with breastfeeding can be found and understood! Women need to understand that breastfeeding is normal, and that saying you feel judged and just spreading anger don’t help.  Being a new mom is hard and with so much conflicting advice out there it can be hard to find out what you need to help you.  We need to be able to support mothers by not giving out free formula samples instead of numbers for certified members of IBCLC.  This entire thing is about support and how the system is what is failing mothers, not mothers failing themselves, although I do believe that even after so much failure with the system, the choice is yours how you educate yourself.  Just blaming others is not how this is to work.  You did play a part, and it may be hard to hear, but being in denial about it just makes your anger worse.  Trust me, I’ve been there***

All over the internet the last few weeks have been posts and articles about breastfeeding.  And with all these posts and articles come those that say us breastfeeding supporters are just trying to guilt those that “couldn’t” or those that chose to formula feed.

So, a question.  Is there a line between us judging and guilting mothers that formula feed and their imagination at what we are doing?

This study came out and said that  not only does formula feeding cost $13 billion a year in our countryalone, it also costs 911 lives a  year in the United States.

The first breastfeeding post I read about the newest breastfeeding study that came out was after it broke the internet.  The Feminist Breeder wrote her post titled When It Comes to Breastfeeding, We Can’t Handle the Truth.  Not only is every word in this post beautiful, but never does she guilt mothers for formula feeding.  My favorite parts:

So what’s going on right here on our own soil?  We have clean water.  Wehave a welfare program.  We have free vaccinations.  It is clear now that the formula itself, and the lack of breastfeeding, is what’s killing these 911 babies.  Okay, so how are they dying?  As CNN reports,

“Nearly all, 95 percent of these deaths, are attributed to three causes: sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); necrotizing enterocolitis, seen primarily in preterm babies and in which the lining of the intestinal wall dies; and lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia.  Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of all of these and seven other illnesses studied by the study authors.”

And for those Americans only interested in the bottom line, it should be noted that the same study found that if we can get 90% of mothers breastfeeding for the minimum amount of time recommended, thenwe’d save 13 billion dollars a year in medical costs.  (that’s BILLION, with a B, people.)

This is happening in our country.  In the United States.  A first world country, not a third world country.  We should be better!

Here is the cold hard truth ladies: You have been lied to.

If only 13.6% of us could make enough milk, the human race would never have survived. And it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of this system that completely fails mothers and babies, and sabotages a mother’s good intentions.  Somewhere along the line, some one told you that you couldn’t make milk, and you believed them because we’ve all grown up in a culture that tells women their bodies aren’t good enough for much of anything except being toys for men.  Is it easy to make this milk?  No, not always — but neither was bringing that baby into the world and your body did a fine job of that.  Think about that. Think hard. Your body created an entire human being inside from nothing more than the joining of two single cells. Your body is a miracle worker.So what leads you to believe that, after creating a whole person with organs and tissue and a beating heart, that your body would call it quits when it came time to feeding this thing?  The major problem here is that someone in your life probably put their own ignorance ahead of the short and long term health of you and your baby, and you believed them because women are used to feeling shamed.

Instead of making women feel guilty for not breastfeeding, she sights the system is why these women have been led to believe they couldn’t do it.  You could have all the want in the world to breastfeed, but as a new mom, and someone tells you that you aren’t doing it right or you aren’t making enough milk, whether you believe them or not, that feeling stays with you.  At 3 am and you are exhausted and your baby won’t latch, instead of having a support system to help you through, you have the formula samples you were sent home from the hospital with “just in case”.

Women in this country are set up to fail.  Even as early as right from birth!

Today, an amazing article from Melissa Bartick from A Peaceful Revolution on the Huffington Post has come out and shown exactly why only 13.6% of women are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months.

Motherhood and the $13 Billion Guilt isn’t about guilting mothers that couldn’t breastfeed, or were led to believe they couldn’t breastfeed.  This article is about why so many women truly don’t breastfeed their babies.

Birth #1 is how I would love to see all birth in the United States becoming.  So many women in other countries birth this way, and so many of the women in our country don’t think a birth like this is possible.  Not only that, but this shows how the system helps these new mothers after the birth of their baby so they can start on a great breastfeeding relationship.

Two days later, you see your pediatrician, who is a little concerned about the baby’s weight, but your baby otherwise looks healthy. He quickly refers you to a licensed International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, and all you pay is your standard co-pay. She does a careful assessment and advises increasing the frequency of nursing for a few days, and that does the trick.

You enjoy three months paid maternity leave, at 80% of your usual pay. Your baby sleeps within arm’s reach of you, and because you taught yourself how to breastfeed lying down in the dark, you awake fairly refreshed every morning.

Not only does this story show a beautiful birth where the baby is never out of mother’s site, even when routine procedures are done, they are started off breastfeeding the way that it should be done.  They have a trained person come and help them when there is trouble, not just an LC.  Even when the mother has to work, the system works with them, because they understand that breastmilk is the best thing for a baby and that relationship is important.

Birth #2 is so very sad, but it is truly how birth in this country is done.  Women are set up to fail from the start.

Your give birth to a healthy baby, and you’ve never heard of a birth doula.

The umbilical cord is clamped and cut before anyone can say, “It’s a boy!” Immediately, your baby is whisked across the room to the warmer where Apgar scores are assigned, he’s given a shot of Vitamin K, and antibiotic eye ointment is slathered in his eyes, clouding his vision. He’s placed on a cold scale and weighed and measured. He is examined by his nurse, who takes him to a different room to do her evaluation. He is bathed, washing off his mother’s scent. At last, he’s professionally swaddled into a nice tight parcel and handed to you to hold, cradled sideways in your arms.

He’s not skin to skin, and he can’t move his arms and legs to crawl to the breast. Before you know it, an hour has passed since his birth, and since he’s missed the window of “alert time” after birth, he slips into a deep sleep without having spontaneously breastfeed. You attempt to interest him in the breast, but he is really too tired to try very hard. Because he’s wrapped up and has been given a bath, he can’t use his sense of touch and smell to crawl his way over to find your breast. You don’t know enough to unwrap him and feed him immediately after birth, because your prenatal class didn’t stress the importance of skin to skin contact during the first 3 days of life. That was all discussed in a separate breastfeeding class and you didn’t really have time or money to take two classes.

Not only are women not informed and anactive part of their own births, even if you have a natural birth in the hospital, what hospital allows you to stay skin to skin with your baby uninterrupted after birth?  What hospital allows the cord to remain unclamped for at least a minute after birth, or lets it go until it has stopped pulsing?  What hospital allows the baby to crawl to the mother’s breast unhindered after birth without being wrapped in a blanket and still has the scent of amniotic fluid and the scent of mom on their skin?

An hour before you’re due to go home, the lactation consultant comes in briefly to check on you, but because her department is so understaffed, she couldn’t see you earlier when you needed it most, and she has little time to spend addressing your problems. On your way out, a nurse hands you a marketing bag from a brand-name formula company, complete with free samples of formula and information on breastfeeding that makes it sound a little hard and scary. She tells you if you have any questions, to just call your pediatrician.

The first night at home, things don’t go well. It’s the middle of the night, and your baby won’t stop crying when you try to breastfeed. You wonder if you should just give up. You reach for that ready-made bottle and his crying mercifully stops. The problem is solved, at least for now.

You are really motivated to breastfeed, so in the morning, you try to find a lactation consultant. You talk to someone you find in the yellow pages called a “lactation counselor” who is willing to help, but your insurance won’t pay. You find someone else called a “lactation consultant.” You have no idea what the difference is between a “lactation counselor” and a “lactation consultant.” Since these professionals aren’t licensed in any state, you have no way of knowing if they know what they are doing.

Not only do you receive little to no help with breastfeeding, especially since your baby and you do not truly understand breastfeeding and how to get it on the right foot, you receive formula on the way out the door “just in case”.

When you try to get help, you do not know the difference between an LC and someone professional like someone licensed through IBCLC.  It isn’t covered through insurance unless you file a claim, and with a new baby and trouble breastfeeding, who truly has the time to file a claim?

There is so much involved in breastfeeding a baby.  Women saying that breast is best and that formula should be something you need only if breastfeeding doesn’t work out are not trying to guilt the mother’s that use formula.  They are trying to change the system so women that need help breastfeeding their baby have more support right from the start, so they have more chance of success.  They want the system to change so that right from birth, it is mother and baby friendly.

When I was reading this, I wondered how mother and baby friendly the hospitals in my state are.  I looked at the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the United States sponsored by the WHO and UNICEF.  And it made me so incredibly sad at what I found.

ONE hospital in my state is listed on the Baby and Mother friendly lists.  ONE.

The University of Utah hospital, a college hospital, a teaching hospital.  The only place in Utah that follows the Baby Friendly code.  Even the birth center we have in the state, the only one, does not follow the code.  It makes me so sad and so incredibly sick.

Women need support during and after birth to be able to have the relationship they want with their child.  It isn’t easy, and there will be a lot of tears, a lot of worry, and so many calls for help, and they need people that will be there to truly help them, not make them worry more.  They need people there to answer their questions, to reaffirm that everything is okay.  They need support right from the start.

Next time you go see a new mom with her baby, be supportive.  Instead of asking to hold the new baby, do something for her.  She has a lot on her plate.  She is probably worried, sleep deprived, and her hormones don’t help.  Cook, clean, do the dishes, take other kids for the day. Just DO something to help.  New babies are adorable, but please don’t forget about the mother.  Please.

If you are a breastfeeding educator, a doula, a midwife, help them.  Be there for them to call, even if it is at 3 am.  These women need to realize that it is okay to ask for help.  They need to be helped so the system doesn’t fail them as well.

When you discuss breastfeeding and why it is needed, not only to save lives but to save money, it isn’t judging.  The system fails so many women in this country, we need to speak up to create change.  If we don’t speak loudly and truly believe change is necessary, it will never happen.

There is a difference between judging formula feeding mothers and speaking out to have change happen so that no more lives are lost and women have the support they need for a breastfeeding relationship.  It isn’t a mother war, it is change that needs to happen so mothers and baby have a great start to the very beginning of their relationship.  Nothing more, nothing less.

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10 Responses

  1. While I’m sure the intention is to educate and make things better, it can come across as judgement. It’s like the head cheerleader telling you how great it is to be in her position and then giving you pointers so that you can have a chance to be head cheerleader too. All the while you’re desperately trying to do those things anyway and feeling like a failure because you’re getting no where. Ok, so maybe that’s a bad example. But the point is, while it may be that someone is just really thrilled with how she’s running her family, the constant blaring neon sign that she’s a hip, progressive, tofu-eating, baby-wearing, co-sleeping attachment mama who breastfed her homeborn water tubbin’ baby till he was 3 just gets….old. It totally comes across as a “I’m better than you” thing. I mean, even the previous video talked
    about the struggling to-nurse-babies as “products of a medicated birth.” Products? Huh.
    My kids are older now, but THIS is totally how I felt when I had my firstborn.

    My first was eventually diagnosed with autism. From the very beginning she was different from most newborns. And all the “advice” (both the sincerely caring and unwanted cruel ones) did nothing to help. I tried for 3 months to nurse that child while people told me it was because I let her have a pacifier or I was just not trying hard enough. It would be years before she cared about food in any form and ate a normal meal. She never slept for more than 20 minutes at a time, and was happier lying naked on a bed alone than on my chest in her sling.
    This is something that people need to be aware of, especially with the numbersof autistic children out there now. It’s not just the mom. Sometimes it’s the baby.
    I didn’t need studies and disapproving looks and shining examples of how YOU did it. I needed someone with me on a daily basis, listening to what I was saying and helping me figure out what the hell was wrong. It wasn’t until my second child came along that I figured out it wasn’t me, there wasn’t anything wrong with me. A little compassion, some actual listening, and a different kind of help from the other side would have gone a long way to not make me feel like I was in the middle of the mother wars.

  2. BTW, this isn’t directed at YOU, the blogger. I’m just blog wandering tonight and this post caught my eye. It obviously brought up a lot of emotions regarding this subject and my post was directed at all involved in these “mommy wars.” I don’t know where the line is regarding education and judgement. But I’m not sure that people are really aware of how painful and in-your-face it can come across as. And I definately think there needs to be better discussions of WHY moms may be failing at breastfeeding their babies.

    • KM,

      It’s not the fact that mothers are failing, the fact of the matter is what is failing the mothers? It’s not the mothers at all. This study was not meant to be yet another study to prove breasting is what every mother should do. It presents factual numbers for everyone to figure out how to fix the problem.

      How many times has everyone heard that babies in other countries die because they are not given breastmilk? When that topic comes up here, I always hear, well it does not happen here, we have better health care and water… Breastfeeding support and the importance is disregarded all the time to people who are suppose to support the mothers.

      Yes, I am nursing my daughter, but it did not come easy. Still to this day I take her into the doctors and every ‘illness’ is because of my milk or the lack of it, even what I ate. It’s hard to look my doctor, who I have seen since 14, and know he gave me wrong information and can’t support me. I call a nurse service because our daughter had the stomach flu and they state to give Pedialyte and limit breastfeeding.

      I get angry, because un-expecting mothers go to these services for help, and they are told wrong information that leads to milk supply issues. I call to complain to the head office, all that is stated is that recommendations are read from the computers, but I will have someone to contact you to reach the right people to change it. Of course no call back.

      All mothers: Mothers who wanted too breastfeed and couldn’t and mothers who have succeeded must join together and fight for our children’s right to have a choice and have support when they have their children.

      Stories like yours need to be told and retold until everyone listens, it’s the unsupported mothers who can help make a difference. This study proves we can’t just believe anymore.

  3. The issue is a public health one. Changes made will better society as a whole, based on research, much in the same way food studies show that the way we eat in America is detrimental to mortality. The term Mommy Wars needs to just go away. This isn’t about an issue that divides one group of JUST mothers from another. It’s just about using facts to make ourselves a healthier society by changing habits that affect our children and enabling mothers to be successful in that goal.

  4. I agree with you, we need to do a MUCH better job supporting mothers. A much, much better job. I think we also need to do a better job of listening to their stories and validating their experiences. I think our failure to do so leads to a lot of grief and guilt, as women feel that their struggles aren’t honoured.

    As breastfeeding advocates, we absolutely need to do a better job of providing support and information to women. But I think that maybe we also need to listen to people who didn’t end up breastfeeding, no matter the reason. These are the people who can most help us improve, and teach us how better to help women like them. If we want to help mothers and babies, we need to involve everyone in the discussion.

  5. One thing that would make a tremendous difference is if the WIC program could get on the same page across the country. I hear stories from women in other parts of the country about their WIC program pushing formula, not giving any assistance with breastfeeding & a general negative attitude about nursing in general. So much that many women will drop from the program entirely. Yet here where I live, the WIC program is FANTASTIC and I would have given up breastfeeding my twins if it hadn’t been for the staff support and encouragement there. The Lactation Consultant at my WIC was 100% there for me (and really the only support I had in my life at the time when it came to breastfeeding). The program loans electric breast pumps free of charge to women who need them ,too. From what I’ve heard, this is not a typical WIC experience but it needs to be.

    • I completely agree. We went and got on WIC and at the first appointment they told me my daughter was too small and instead of saying to nurse her more often or anything, they said I had to go on formula. I walked out and refuse to go back. Even now, two years later, I still hate our WIC program here.

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