Sunday, July 3, 2011

Time to Own It

Often when lactivists and other breastfeeding supporting people discuss why our breastfeeding rates are so low, we zero in on the care providers. They are failing our mothers in the hospital, at the clinics, everywhere. Women are NOT being given the information and the support from the FIRST LINE of defense against the "F" word.

But wait wait a minute...aren't we each thinking individuals? Don't we think for ourselves? Can't we go out and find information? In this day and age, isn't there endless information to help us find our way to everything? 

Today I'm giving the doctors, nurses, Lactation Consultants a break and I"m challenging women to take ownership of their health care. This goes for birth choices, medication choices, health care choices, and breastfeeding CHOICES. It's all in the choices! When I got pregnant I made a conscious CHOICE to have a natural waterbirth and to breastfeed my babies. Do things happen along the way during a birth? Yes, but we are not powerless to the system...we choose our care providers, we can learn and research, seek out supportive care givers and prepare ourselves mentally and physically for birth. That's no guarantee that it will turn out as we want, but it's better than saying "i want to try to have a natural birth" and waiting to see what happens. You wouldn't say "I hope I win this football game" and then never learn how to play, birth is the same! So is breastfeeding! 

You can't just say "I'm going to try to breastfeed my baby." It doesn't work that way in our society. Your mother probably didn't breastfeed, you may not have sisters or friends who have breastfeed, you don't know a lot about breastfeeding...until you make the choice to learn. The internet is a POWERFUL tool. You can find information by tapping a few keys on your keyboard. A simple search on google will turn up several reputable sources of breastfeeding information such as Kelly Mom and Dr. Jack Newman. You can even find local support! You can even take classes. 

Sure, some information is better than other information, some classes are better than others, but I think most people have the intellectual capacity to tell the difference between a good class and a bad class. If the class is telling you about breastfeeding, and giving you formula samples, coupons, or trying to sell you any kind of product (nipple shields, formula, bottles, pacifiers, "must have" breastfeeding accessories, etc) chances are, it's not a good class! It's just like going to a weight loss class and being sent home with donut would NEVER go again, and you would know that the information you were given is suspect. I'm of the opinion that any information that any information on the internet not from a reputable source should be double checked, and yes, you should always verify what you read here and understand that we are NOT medical professionals. Moms responding to posts on facebook or breastfeeding forums are NOT medical professionals either and are usually NOT breastfeeding experts so most of that information is anecdotal and experiential and, while useful, may not help YOU in YOUR situation. 

Just like that football game, you need to prepare ahead of time. Moms should find a good class, connect with their local La Leche League group, read strongly recommended books on the topic and GET FAMILIAR with the mechanics of breastfeeding! 

With all of these resources at our can mothers STILL blame ONLY their care providers when they throw in the towel? As women we MUST be in charge of our own health. As mothers we must be in charge of our children's health. So while our care providers are continually failing us, women are also failing. They are failing to take ownership of breastfeeding, to learn it, to do the research so that they know where to find information and help when they need it. It's NOT that hard. So if you are struggling, and you don't go find the support you need if it is not your care provider...then it's on you. Like Mother Hen said...don't even tell me you tried if you didn't. The information is there, the resources exist, help is readily available. SO WHAT if your care provider is an out dated, misinformed nut job...YOU are an adult, a woman, and a mother. There's no reason you can't FIND what you need to succeed. 

Make your choices. Inform yourself. Arm yourself. Most of all, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. We are not helpless.  


  1. While I agree with your point of view to an extent, not all moms have access to the internet (easily) or know how to tell what is a good source and what is not. I was one of those moms, who had no good advice from healthcare professsionals, family who didn't breastfeed longer than a week or two, no access to internet at home, and thought I was getting great info from the What to Expect books. I know better now, but I did the best I could at that time. I see what you are saying but it feels like you are blaming women who don't have that knowledge. What about the women who do but aren't sharing?! WE need to SPEAK UP!

  2. I appreciate this point of view, and think it's incredibly important for moms to take initiative and educate themselves in all aspects. . . but I do think that correct lactation information and compassionate support should be expected of professionals in the medical field, especially those who deal with prenatal and post-partum moms and also pediatric specialists.

    That said, I just helped out a neighbor of mine today who got some abysmal advice from her hospital IBCLC - and I'm positive that the reason she is going to succeed with having a positive breastfeeding experience is because of HER empowerment and initiative. If any other mom had received the advice she did, they would probably not think twice and follow it - but she questioned it, did some digging, asked for help, and ended up in my living room learning loads about milk transfer and the way babies nurse and grow.

    Before I even suggested reading certain articles and viewing certain websites for additional info on what we talked about. . . she was already talking about visiting and researching ways to improve milk transfer. I was incredibly happy that she had such drive to be successful at forging a nursing relationship with her newborn. Lots of moms could stand to have a fraction of her enthusiasm and initiative!

  3. First, I had to start by saying how much I love this blog! I've been reading for a while but never posted a comment before, I felt way too shy, but this is a topic which hits home for me and I had to add to the discussion.
    It's true that the concept of personal responsibility seems to be lacking in our society. You have a car accident, you call the police. You need your house painted, you call a contractor. If you're sick or hurt, you call a doctor. It's not until someone has their own negative experience that they begin to question the trust we feel for these specialties. I never would have thought to question the advice of my doctor because I had no idea that it was necessary to doubt the "expertise" of someone who had gone to school to become the specialist they were supposed to be. Who distrusts the police until they've been mistreated or wrongly accused? Who distrusts contractors until their carpet is speckled with paint?
    I had a great deal of guilt and regret over FFing my first two children. The first time around, after 36 hours in labor via induction because of low fluid levels and an emergency c-section delivery I was given too much replacement fluid during surgery and landed back in the hospital with congestive heart failure. Copious amounts of Lasix were necessary to get the fluid out of my lungs, and my milk dried up. Second time around, got 6 weeks in when the ped convinced me to FF because my baby wasn't gaining enough weight. Can anyone say Booby Traps? And yet, despite the fact that these unnecessary medical interventions obviously interfered with my ability to BF, there were choices that I could have made for better outcomes, and there was a deeper part of me that couldn't accept that I had done all I could to BF. There is a deeper part of our psyche as women that grieves the loss of that relationship, no matter how well their child does after having FFed. The anger, the denial, the hostility, the shame, the guilt, are all just a part of the grieving process. It wasn't until a female relative who not only believed passionately in breastfeeding but was also well-educated put me in touch with blogs like this one and support groups online that I was able to heal. I can now say from an objective point of view, "No, I didn't do everything I could to BF. Yes, I made some terrible choices and consented to have these things done to me, and vicariously my children. I can accept these things as a part of the past, and move forward with a greater sense of trust in my own ability to feed my next baby."
    Just recently, another female relative gave birth to her first baby, who is two months old now. When baby started cluster feeding at six weeks old and the ped tried to tell her that he was nearly FTT in the same day (turns out the ped didn't have a growth chart for bf babies, just like many others), she called out for help. My own confidant had no personal experience with struggling to BF and couldn't really relate, so the ball was in my court to give her the support she needed. So I told her my own story and directed her to LLL and Kellymom to get the facts on clusterfeeding and growth spurts, and they're still going strong today! He gained 9 oz in about a week! I relish in her triumph, as I believe we all should relish in the triumph of any mother who BFs through the obstacles that can arise. The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child" should really be changed to, "It takes a community of people who are truly invested in eachother's well-being to a raise a mother."