Friday, June 24, 2011

Breast is best, isn't it?

It's been a few weeks since I posted, and mostly it's due to my annoyance with people taking the blog personally, but I've also been very busy trying to get the house ready for my parents visit (which has now come and gone) and of course for baby too.  But now I have some more time on my hands, and lots more thoughts in my head so I write on :)

To get it out in the open, right away, it annoys me that we are a society that doesn't breastfeed as a common rule anymore.  Instead, nursing is scoffed upon by society, I have heard words like "gross, disgusting" and "I don't want to have to see that in public;" women are requested to use the bathroom, of all places, to nurse.  Who wants to eat a meal while sitting on the toilet?  Not me, and not my child either!   Besides, how unsanitary is that?  Yet, we don't provide places for nursing mothers to feed their children at most locations, and many people react negatively when seeing women in public nurse.  Over the years, I have heard nursing mothers share their unfortunate stories of people calling them "gross" or telling them to "go somewhere private."  Even popular Victoria's Secret, who openly allows nursing mothers to use their dressing rooms, had an incident where a female employee turned away a nursing mother wanting to use the privacy and comfort of their dressing rooms; this happened in 2005 and prompted a protest by nursing mothers to breastfeed at their local VS store.  (click here and here for articles on this subject).  Some of my friends at the time participated in the "Feed-In" protest, which I thought was awesome!

But a mother only has to read one article posted on yahoo or google about nursing, and then see the comments below posted by people, to know how vulgar people can be about nursing mothers, and even other women have this hang up!    Bill Maher, a talk show host who I usually enjoy even calls it an "intimate act" that should be done in private and is something "he doesn't want to see."  So is that supposed to mean that all nursing women are to be confined to their house, or out of the house in only short snippets between the feedings of their child?    Here is another good article about the stigma of nursing in public, which is actually LEGAL in every state and women can nurse where-ever children are allowed; and yet another article here about Americans getting over their hang-up about nursing.  Again, the comments on the post say it all, and the latter article is coming from a pretty progressive blog, even their readers still find the negative in nursing.

I'd like to know if a mother was ever kicked out of a place for feeding a baby with a bottle, my guess is no?

With all of this stacked against women, its no wonder many women just choose to not nurse.  But, that doesn't mean its the right thing for our culture.  Nursing has way more benefits than downfalls for both mom and baby, and recently it was found that it decreases childhood obesity, a huge problem in the United States.  Here are some other reasons to nurse: children who nurse have a higher IQ, less risk of SIDS, fewer allergies and illnesses, less gas, diarrhea, stomach upset, and many more reasons stated here.  Plus its cheaper and has a zillion of good benefits for mom too, like better bonding with child, loss of pregnancy weight faster, less risk of ovarian and breast cancers, its convenient, saves time, and its clean and safe to name a few.   With all of those positive reasons, why is it that I see so many women opting to just not nurse at all or quitting nursing after just a few weeks; I see this from women of all ages, I know nurses and doctors who didn't breastfeed, and many other mothers that absolutely did every single thing by the book while pregnant, but the moment the baby was out, they abandon the single best thing to do for the baby.  Why, I really don't understand?   To me, its disappointing that we are allowing this age old way to feed our children to fade away, and we are caving to society's distaste for nursing.  The stats are less than 50% of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months of age, and even less at 6 months of age.  This is from the 2010 breastfeeding data; find the chart broke down by state here.   Look closely at the chart, many women appeared to start nursing (other stats say the starting of nursing is solely from in hospital data) but when they come home, they forgo the breast for the bottle.

Many excuses that I have heard from women is that it hurts, my milk didn't come in, I didn't produce enough milk, etc etc; but these were the same problems both my mother, mother in law, and grandmother had, yet they pushed through it and kept nursing, because that was "the right thing" said my grandmother.  Why did this norm change?  Many women are going back to work after 6 weeks, and can't nurse due to time; but what happened to pumping, and employers must give a nursing mother time to pump/nurse when needed.  Maybe its because nursing is such a negative thing in society that women just don't want to do it anymore?  But, in my opinion we see more boob on a TV show, Victoria's Secret ad, or a bathing suit commercial than we do when a mother nurses, so how did nursing turn into something sexual?  Society, that is your fault!  We flaunt women's breasts as sex objects, but forget that women have them for an actual reason, to feed their babe.  Men can show their useless nipples in public, but a women doing so is sexual, even when they are producing food for their offspring?  We are mammals, and all mammals nurse their children, but we humans (in the United States) have such shame around this, which I find infuriating.

My sister in law, who is from Germany said something to me many years ago when she was nursing her oldest child;  she said in Europe you would never hear of such negative things regarding nursing.  She was shocked at the comments she received, even while nursing her child at a day care with other mothers and babies and mentioned her pediatrician kept pushing formula on her.  Which brings up another topic altogether, are physicians pushing formula like they are other drugs from popular drug companies who kickback physicians (even though this is illegal, it does happen, I work in medicine and SEE it happen in my specialty which is not obstetrics).  This could be another cause?  I remember very recently a friend on facebook posting over and over her concerns over her child's weight and pediatrician continually saying that the baby was underweight.  The mom kept saying, "he eats often and until he is finished, he is happy, he is growing and achieving other milestones" but she kept getting told that she wasn't giving him enough food.  She stuck to her guns, kept nursing and at the 4 month mark, he had a growth spurt (solely on breast milk) and is doing great, no problems, not underweight.  All babies do grow at their own rate, in the womb and outside.  Why is a doctor pushing her to do something un-natural when the baby is at the low end of the scale but still within the 'normal' range?  I have heard over and over, babies grow and develop at their own rates, so why are we trying to fit everyone into a certain box of height and weight?

Lastly, here is another interesting article about the history of how our society changed from a nursing culture, to a non nursing culture, if you read one article I posted today, this is the one.  Another other thing I will briefly mention in this post is that Michelle Obama has been integral in promoting nursing, and even was able to allow breast pumps to be deducted from flex plan funds (tax free) to promote using breast milk more, which is directly linked to childhood obesity, the cause she adopted while First Lady.  Here is an article on the breast pumps, one only needs to read the comments to see the negativity she faced for this decision. {One thing I do want to clarify is that the breast pump is NOT paid for by the government as many of the comments suggest, rather if you have a flex plan (which allows you to pay for certain medical expenses before taxes are taken out) you can use that plan to buy a breast pump, YOU are still paying for the breast pump, but its not taxed.  Just like using your flex card to pay for prescriptions, that money is coming out of YOUR check, not from the government.}  I don't think people really understand that concept.

I will leave you with this quote from the 1920's campaign to promote nursing instead of cows milk, which I thought was an interesting campaign.  And I hope to get your comments and post another blog on this interesting topic.

"To lessen baby deaths let us have more mother-fed babies. You can’t improve on God’s plan. For your baby’s sake—nurse it!”

----  since I have had so many people taking my blogs personally, please understand this is not aimed negatively at women who didn't nurse, I understand every mother does what is right for her and her baby, but I am trying to make people think differently about it, especially about women feeling comfortably openly nursing.  Nursing is normal and natural, and we as a society need to get back to thinking that way.


  1. Good post honey. I wish people would realize what breast are for!! they do have a purpose after all.

  2. I believe you are on the right track here, breast milk is best. However, many factors come in to play with a woman choosing this. I attempted to breast feed both of my kids. Morgan spent 6 days in the Special Care Nursery and was tube fed a good majority of the time she was there, that when it came time to try and get her to breast feed she wanted nothing to do with it. So I pumped every 3 hours at home, on top of feeding her, which became quite the process, especially being sleep deprived. When I went back to work after 3 months I made the choice to stop, not that my employer didn't offer accommodations for breastfeeding mothers, because they did. My job as a nurse is always unpredictable, I can't say that I could leave the floor every 4 hours to pump. I didn't want to walk around miserable and engorged if I were unable to get off of the floor. The same thing happened with Nick. I did what I could do, I breastfed as long as I could, which is better than nothing. Breasfeeding is an accomplishment and we can't get down on those who choose to stop. We need to change society's opinion of breastfeeding, showing that it is acceptable and natural! But there are some reasons when a woman cannot perform the act, and have to be understanding that formula is the next best thing to breast milk.

  3. Crystal, thanks for the comment! While I do think in some incidents women give up too quickly, (or don't even try), but that is my opinion, not my judgement. I don't know every woman's circumstance and don't judge them for choosing to bottle feed. And pumping is still giving your child those much needed nutrients, so I see it as good as nursing; just mom and baby don't share that bond. But I definitely agree that the bigger problem is society, we have sexualized breasts so much, that we have forgotten what their use is actually for; which seems so backwards since we SEE breasts on TV and in society all the time. But its always in a sexual manner. Whether a women chooses to nurse or not, I think that all women need to stand up for the right and *comfort* to nurse publicly because this is getting lost in society's new norms. Also, I think if we saw more role models nurse, famous people, etc, the trend would change, at least a little. Nursing is Natural, lets bring it back!

  4. This will all make sense to you after you have the baby. One of the most profound things I've learned as a mother is to never judge someone or something unless you've been there yourself. It's easy to say what you'll do or how you'll deal with things now, but it's much different when you become a mother. Every mother does what she thinks is best. Some mamas can't breastfeed for a number of reasons, even if they want to. Because you choose to breastfeed, cloth diaper your kids, eat organic foods, it does NOT make you a better mom. Frankly, I'm getting sick of the "holier than thou" attitude some mamas who choose the aforementioned lifestyle choices.
    Breastfeeding, aside from childbirth, was one of the hardest things I have ever gone thru. It was then that i realized what I was up against, the difficulty of it, the commitment. You do the best you can , as a mother. I'm sorry to say this so bluntly, but there are some things you will never understand unless you've been there yourself.

  5. Justine, thanks for the comment! While I have said this before many times in my blog, I'll say it again; my opinion does NOT constitute as my judgement of someone; people can have an opinion without judging others and that is the last thing I am trying to do. I have said so many times in this blog that our pregnant mothers are judged wayyyy too much in our society and I completely agree that you never know how you will fee until you have been there. I've noticed that numerous times just being pregnant. I personally don't think that eating organic, nursing or cloth diapering makes anyone a different kind of mother than another; the child is an extension of yourself, if I choose to eat organically chances are my child will too. Nothing to do with being a better mother than another person at ALL.
    Nearly every single person who I have talked to about nursing said that its hard (and that is not a small number of people), I almost curse mother nature for making feeding our children so painful and difficult, we carry these breasts around all of our lives for 1 sole purpose and then when it comes time to use them; its painful and difficult. But with that said, we are a culture that is loosing nursing in our society, most every other culture (from European to African) exclusively nurses their babies except for women in the United States, so what that says to me is that it can be done, we just choose to not do it. Plus society sure doesn't treat our nursing mothers very well. There is judgement on BOTH sides of that issue. What I said in my previous comment to Crystal's response is that whether women choose to nurse or not, all of us women (and men) need to support those mothers who do nurse; no more kicking women out of restaurants, and scoffing at them with words like 'gross'. We need to remember that feeding babies is what breasts are for, and not be so weirded out by that concept. The idea behind the blog post is that we need to support women, not judge them, for any of their choices.

  6. So glad to hear you promote breastfeeding on your blog. I breastfed both of my babies until they were done--which was at one year old. I just want to add a few points. I will assure you that after ten years in pediatrics, I can assure you that physicians DO NOT get a kickback on pushing formula. There is no prescription to follow and most pediatricians really do promote breastfeeding. A problem we face is that insurance companies push to get mothers out of the hospital as fast as possible (my mom stayed 5 days when I was born--now it is 24-48 hours without complications). In order to be discharged, a baby has to feed a certain amount of time. Formula was strongly suggested and most nervous moms (understandably with a new baby) would give in to the formula. However, in recent years this practice of pushing formula in the hospital has declined and most hospitals do not leave formula in the mom's room as they once did. Also, I wanted to add that it has been my observation that breastfeeding past 3 months old has seemed to increase in recent years. That may not be what your study shows but in my peds practice we have definitely seen an increase. Hooray for that. Best of luck throughout the remainder of your pregnancy.

  7. I agree with Josh!
    That's what they're there for. In fact, there aren't too many things MORE natural that breast feeding these days.
    When I worked in the "field", we took pictures of where women were asked to breast feed at work-- it was awful. Closets, utility rooms with chemicals, etc. It was sick.
    What's wrong with a little boob!?

  8. meant to say "aren't" too many things more natural...