Category Archives: Infant/Toddler Feeding

Best. Post. Ever.

No, not one of mine. This post I read over at the Fearless Formula Feeders blog a couple days ago. Really. It is the best. post. ever. So I asked her if I could use it as a guest post on my blog, and she said sure! Yeah!

Below the post I am also going to include links to a number of amazing videos that the FFF did regarding the formula/breastfeeding debate. When they were first put up those of us in the ‘formula feeding community’ thought ‘we’ (meaning our beloved FFF) was going to get a whole lot of backlash. Somehow, by miracle, it didn’t seem to happen. I hope I am not tempting fate by re-publicizing them. Anyway, what I love so much about FFF, her blog and these videos is that she is supportive of all mothers. It is not about encouraging people to formula feed, it is about providing support for parents who find themselves there by choice or not. Anyway, enough of my rambling… here is her post.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

On letting go of guilt

Look to your right. See that little “ask me anything” box? That links you to a site called Formspring, which is pretty rad in the sense that you can literally ask me anything, completely anonymously, and I will answer you. Sometimes it takes me a few weeks to actually remember to check the darn site, but eventually, I will get around to it.

The cool aspect of this feature for me is that often, the questions people ask me on Formspring become fodder for future posts, and in these dog days of late-late-late pregnancy, I just don’t have the mental fortitude to come up with my own creative ideas. The other day, someone inquired if I had any tips on getting over the guilt of formula feeding, and I was shocked to realize that I’d never actually written a post specifically about this. And dammit, it’s high time I did.

Ironically, this issue has been on my mind quite a bit lately, as I work my ever-expanding ass off on my book, which deals with all the emotions surrounding our feeding experience; and as I sit here, 37 weeks pregnant, still ambivalent/confused/conflicted/undecided about how to feed Fearless Child #2. What is this thing we refer to as “formula feeding guilt”? Is the very fact that we feel it evidence that we should feel guilty, as Jack Newman and numerous others believe? Is it true that no one can “make” us feel guilty, and that if we think we have something to feel guilty for, we probably do?

If it’s not obvious from this blog, I don’t think guilt is a controllable emotion. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish; guilt is built into our genetic code, and even if you believe more in nurture than nature, the Jewish mother stereotype is spot-on (and as my husband and I were just discussing, sometimes dads can be just as effective in inducing this potent emotion – my father-in-law is a guilt zen master). Guilt is something I feel comfortable with; it’s an old friend, at this point in my life, and a highly effective tool that I am already using to discipline FC. Who needs time outs when a simple “do you want to make mommy sad?” can get the job done?

Seriously, it works. And you should try it, if simply for the sake of experiment, because that is the crux of my argument on formula feeding guilt: it’s a highly effective tool. Advertising executives know this. Politicians know this. Advocacy groups know this. It’s time we did, too.

This might sound odd, coming from me, but it’s okay to feel guilty about your parenting decisions. It means you care. It means you know enough to realize what society expects from you, and what you expect from yourself. It means you are lucky enough to have options, to have been given the luxury of making a decision.

Now, when it comes to formula feeding, things get a tad more complicated. Ask me if I think anyone has a reason to feel guilty for using formula, and the answer will be a resounding hells-to-the-no. And I can say that with a clear conscience, because I have spent two years looking at all the studies, research, politics, commentary, internet chatter, etc. My stance is that breastfeeding is a personal choice, like any other. No more, no less.

But just because there’s no good reason for you to feel guilty, does not mean that you won’t. You will feel guilty because you want the best for your child, and everything we are told is that breastfeeding is the superior choice. You’ll feel guilty because you wanted to breastfeed, and you feel like you failed. You’ll feel guilty because you’ll read something three months down the line about someone even worse off than you who “persevered” and is still happily nursing her two year old. You’ll feel guilty because you’ll read articles that portray you as a victim of the system, someone who fell prey to the “booby traps”, and you’ll hate yourself for being so naive and weak, because every other mom around you is nursing, and the booby traps didn’t catch them, so why you? You’ll feel guilty because you imagined yourself as a breastfeeding mom, and here you are with your bottles and expensive powdered food which apparently can now be spiked with bugs. Good, good times.

Or, you’ll feel guilty because you hated nursing, and turned to formula right away. Or because you never even tried. You’ll feel guilty because you hate your body so much, hate how large and out of control you felt through the nine months of pregnancy, and can’t handle the thought of not having that control back at the soonest point possible. You’ll feel guilty because someone hurt you, badly, many years ago, and now the thought of feeding someone from your breast makes you want to scream… and you already feel guilty about being abused, despite years of trying to work past it, so the guilt just builds, and builds. You’ll feel guilty because you’re putting your own needs before your infant’s.

If you are formula feeding, there’s a good chance that at some point, you will feel guilty. Because guilt is closely related to self doubt, and self doubt is part of being a parent. Of being a good parent. Self-doubt means you are flexible, that you are a thinker, that you question your decisions. It means you are not dogmatic, that you have empathy, that you are human. It means you are educated and responsible, because you have listened and read and absorbed enough to realize what the “right” choice supposedly is.

So… back to the original question: how do you get over the guilt you feel about formula feeding?

You don’t.

Don’t even try. Rather, you claim that guilt as a badge of honor. You taste it; roll it around on your tongue, and spit out the bitter parts. Suck out the kernel of truth that’s hiding in there, the truth that negates all the hyperbole that reduces mothering to a pair of mammary glands and an over-simplified vision of what it means to love and nurture a child.

Do your research. Read studies. Talk to parents who have breastfed, and those that have formula fed, and hear what they have to say about their kids. Seek out others who have had similar experiences so that you know you are not alone. But don’t do these things to erase your guilt. Do them to seek the truth. Do them so you can viscerally, intellectually, and emotionally feel secure with the path you’ve chosen/been forced to walk down. Trust me, if you do this, you will feel better. The truth is comforting.

By consciously trying to “get rid” of the guilt, you are telling yourself that you have something legitimate to feel guilty about. You don’t. At the same time, you have a right to feel whatever you feel about your experience, and it’s tough to shut out those ominous voices when you are already riddled with regret and anxiety. The last thing you need is to feel guilty about feeling guilty. Even my grandmother, the Grand Pooba of Jewish Guilt, may she rest in peace, would agree with me on that one.

Link to the original post.

Link to the video’s.


Questions for the #NoNestle Boycotters

So this week is International No Nestle week as a part of the 30+ years of Nestle boycotting. Last night there was a #NoNestle twitter party, with lots and lots of tweets on the evilness oh Nestle. First off, brilliant move making NoNestle week during Halloween, brilliant.

I have been quietly paying attention to Nestle Boycott for probably the last year. Truth be told, most people don’t hear about until they have kids. Mostly, because some of the strongest boycotters are also breastfeeding advocates. As I said last night in a tweet, I am still very much on the fence. That’s right folks. This is a once in a blue moon situation where I don’t know exactly what my opinion is. Shocking. Usually I am just bubbling with opinions and on this one all I can muster is a: huh.

So I thought I would share some of my thoughts and then ask the boycotters some questions. (I hope some of them make there way over here, I will send out some tweets). Please don’t misinterpretation my pondering for arguments against the boycott– I really truly don’t know. But my ponderings do represent skepticism– which is something I hope to resolve. Through discussion I am hoping to figure out where I really stand on this issue.

First my thoughts:

There are a lot of companies out there that do bad bad things. Because it is in their economic interest and because governments are not strict enough. And many of those companies do even more bad things overseas because those governments are even less strict- caught between a rock and hard place of desperately needing investment and still wanting to protect their people (well, some governments anyway care about this…) So I really really don’t doubt Nestle is a bad bad company. As are others. I also don’t doubt that if you were to put all the companies on a scale from “good corporate citizens” to “bad bad corporate citizens”, Nestle would be hanging out with a large large handful of others in the bad bad category.

So I guess, what my real question is is why Nestle and not any (or all) of the other large large handful of companies? Pharmaceutical companies give out samples to doctors and market their drugs, resulting in more and more people being on prescriptions instead of focusing on a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just formula buying into our health care system. Coke and Pepsi sponsor schools and then fill vending machines and school cafeterias with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) rather then healthy drinks like water or milk. Not to mention Coke and Pepsi aggressively market in many developing countries, where people drink their products rather then water. Just about every maker of processed food puts too much salt and added sugar in their meals, including toddler meals. Chocolate and coffee are two industries where many many of the players are getting supply in ways that harm the people of those countries and the environment. (But there are good options for ‘direct trade’ (a step beyond fair trade) for both.) And I am sure Nestle isn’t the only company controlling water supply and degrading the environment. I live in a Oil town, enough said.

Which brings us to Question 1:

So why boycott Nestle and not all these other companies? Why not turn the Nestle boycott into a boycott against all the worst of the worst unethical companies? (Although with the challenge of all Nestle’s brands causes to even know what your buying, could you imagine multiplying that by 10 or 15 or 50 companies?)

The other thing I have been thinking about is the boycott in relation to breastfeeding support. While I know the boycott is about more then just formula- Nestle has no shortage of bad corporate behaviors- the boycotters themselves are largely breastfeeding advocates- at least the most vocal ones. So I think it is hard to claim that this isn’t about formula. I get the Nestle does not adhere to the WHO code for Breastmilk substitutes. I don’t think any of the formula companies do (correct me if I am wrong). There are parts of the code I am 100% behind- like not giving out samples at hospitals, doctors offices, ect. I am good with formula companies not sending me formula in the mail or sponsoring a big banner on the top of a breastfeeding information article on the web or having their own breastfeeding support hot-line.  Seriously, that is all just crazy and inappropriately aggressive marketing.   They shouldn’t be able to claim their product is as good or better then breast milk. It ain’t. I am all for truth in advertising. But it is the instore stuff that bothers me. Because I think it is insulting to women to think anyone is going to be rolling her cart down the grocery store, a happy breastfeeding Momma, see a can of formula on sale and think “well hell, it is on sale, I might as well give up this whole breastfeeding thing.” It is my opinion that any women who is swayed by a can of formula on sale is already lacking the support she needs to be successful at breastfeeding- the issue is that lack of support, not the sale on formula. So while I can get down with most of the code, I get bothered by the concept and implications of formula as a ‘controlled substance’ and the idea that women are just sheep to marketing. And I wonder if the effort spend on boycott is not better spend on breastfeeding support.

Then again, many of the strongest Nestle boycotters also put a ton of effort into advocating for better breastfeeding support, so why does it have to be one or the other? Many of them do both. Why not Boycott Nestle?

Question 2: Why shift the blame from lack of support for breastfeeding Moms (adequate maternity leave, access to lactation consultants, ect.) to a company that makes a product? Does the Nestle boycott not take our focus on what really needs to change? Their marketing wouldn’t be as successful if we cut the supply. Their methods work because so many women struggle to breastfeed and don’t have the support to make it work.

Lastly, if we are really honest with ourselves, acts of protests like boycotting are about more then just what we are boycotting against. They are part of a desire to connect and belong with a group of people united behind a cause. Boycotting Nestle says something about who you are and what you stand for. It is a personal statement as much as it is a political choice. And when it comes right down to it- I am not sure I fit in. Before I made my way online I thought I was pretty crunchy- I have discovered I am not in comparison to the people online. And while I have a lot of respect for a lot of the boycotter bloggers- I don’t fit into the club. Or do I? After reading this post over at Sorta Crunchy about why formula feeders should support the boycott, I don’t know. She has a point.

Question 3: Who is a Nestle boycott-er? What similarities unite those that boycott and what does it mean to say you are a Nestle boycott-er? What personal statement are you making?

Additional Reading: If you are on the fence to and want some more info before you jump into this conversation, here are some posts to check out.

Annie from Phd in Parenting. (Ton of stuff on her blog, just liked to the most recent.)

Baby Milk Action

I also tried to find some thing about the ‘other side’ to represent thoughts of someone who doesn’t boycott Nestle and why- I couldn’t find anything. But if anyone has a good link to suggest- let me know. I am all for a balanced approach and hearing out both sides.

*Edited* Oh ooo I found this one: The Mom Slant about the boycott in relation to Halloween. Thank goodness for twitter.

Okay- now I want to hear your thoughts.

*Edit #2* Annie from PhD in Parenting has written a post responding to my questions. (Thank you Annie!) Check it out here. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on it, as well as the questions I presented. If you are following the boycott, why? If not, why not?

Advice for Mom’s-to-be

Annie from PhD in Parenting posted this question today on her blog. I was going to comment there, but realized that my response was going to be epic. So I thought it was better to just write my own post. Annie’s question is, essentially, what should we tell new/expectant parents and what should we let them figure out on their own.

Here is my list of what I would tell any new/expectant parent who asked for my advice/thoughts:

1) Be confidence and trust your instinct

This is a tall order. Being a new parent shook my confidence and self esteem to the core. I went from being great at my job to feeling like nothing I did was right. I would second guess myself all the time. So I am not suggesting that this piece of advice is easy to do, but I would still suggest that it is worth saying to a expectant Mom. Trusting your instinct and having confidence in your decisions will make a big difference. Not only will you feel better, but it will help your baby(ies) relax. Which brings us to #2.

2) Try to stay calm and confident.

Again, an other tall order. You won’t always be able to. Don’t feel guilty if you get frustrated, upset or sad. But, if you can try to stay calm, baby will sense that and it does help them stay calm. Especially during crying spells. The more worked up you get because you don’t know how to stop them from crying, the more baby senses you getting worked up, perceives that as something is wrong and then cry’s more. If you have attended to your babies needs and they are still crying, relax and accept that babies cry. The talent of staying calm will come in even more handy when baby is a toddler. Trust me.

3) Don’t feel isolated- reach out

I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was along in how I felt or what I was struggling with. But with just about any struggle, challenge or feeling, someone else has gone through it. Reach out to family and friends and share how you feel. Chances are they know exactly how you feel and can empathize. If you have a really unique situation, there is good support to be found online, so long as your are careful and find a supportive community to engage with. Which brings us to point number 4.

3) Take the advice of strangers, online or offline, with a HUGE grain of salt

Strangers don’t know you and they don’t know your kid, so don’t let anything any stranger says make you feel bad, guilty or wrong. Online in particular, is full of people with opinions across the whole spectrum of just about any parenting issue. For any decision you make you can find someone who is going to suggest that what you did is wrong. So while online support can be helpful, be wary. If you are reading something and it makes you feel bad, guilty or like you are ‘messing’ up your child: stop reading. Even if the advice may be the right advice for you, try to find it in a form that makes you feel supported, relieved and heard. If you feel, deep down, that you are doing the right thing, don’t let someone else make you feel bad or feel like you need to justify yourself.

4) Be wary of ‘theory’ parenting

Parenting theories can be helpful, they give you a general philosophy to follow and some methods to try. But no parenting theory is one size fits all. If there was a perfect way to parent which worked for every baby and every family in every social/economic/geographical/cultural circumstance, we would all be doing in by now. The truth is, not matter what any theory has to say, there is more then one way to raise a intelligent, caring and confident child. On that note:

5) Don’t try and make a round peg fit a square hole

Let’s say you follow parenting philosophy X which says the best way to put baby to sleep is Y.  You think philosophy X is the one most suited to you (and your partners) believes and values. So you try baby sleep method Y. You try. You really really try. Over and over again. You were calm and confident in your decision and tried again. And it doesn’t work. What do you do? Stop. Try something else and don’t feel bad or guilty. If Y doesn’t work for your kid, Y doesn’t work for your kid. Again, there in no one size fits all parenting method. You got to go with what works for your kid.

6) Remember your bag of tricks and rotate often.

I felt, on numerous occasions, that I was doomed to learn the same lesson over and over again. I would figure out this great trick that worked wonders. Like a song that A really liked and calmed her down.  Then it would stop working. Then a couple weeks later when I was at my wits end I would remember said trick again and PRESTO it would work. The thing is that babies change really really quickly. So mix up your tricks and re-use often. For the first year of A’s life we rotated regularly through various methods for moving her around outside or out and about. We had 3 kinds of baby carriers and a stroller. It seemed like every couple of weeks one method would work better then an other. One week she would scream if put in a stroller and the next week it was her favorite place in the world. They change. Go with it.

So, as you can see, my general philosophy when it comes to advice is not so much to give advice on which way to go on specific decisions. (Although I do have some opinions on particularly decisions. If someone asked me my thoughts, or I feel like rambling about them here, then I will share those opinions.) But in general, I think the best advice we can offer new/expectant parents is how to approach the challenges. Because the actual choices they make should be based on their circumstance and their child, not my advice.

ControverSunday: Food, plus bonus late Fess Up Friday

Thanks again to our lovely host Perpetua and our queen-o-badge Accidents. Go visit them. Oh and go read all the other contributions this week, they are awesome.
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This isn’t my first post about food. And it likely won’t be my last. Whether we are talking what A eats, what I eat or what our family as a whole eats… well…. I have a lot to say on the issue. So least this become an 8000 word blog post, I think I will look at two small parts of the pictures.

First, A. I have written complained before about A’s food woes. Some babies have sleep issues. My baby has food issues. Like from day 1. Fast forward 13 months and it is still the most challenging part of our day. But here is where I stand on food for A. I am trying, as best I can, to let her try new things in her own time. What is really important is that what she is trying is healthy. I don’t think there is anything wrong with giving your kid a treat once and a while. But I firmly believe that when it comes to kids and food, 90-95% of what they eat should be healthy and with as little processing as possible. Sugar, preservatives, salt, trans fat, stabilizers and all weird ingredients you can’t pronounce should be avoided. But sure, if they love them some ketchup or arrowroot cookies, fine, let them have it…. 90%-10%. But if your kid eats McDonald’s happy meals every day for lunch and then take out pizza every day for dinner… well….all I can say is that I would beg you to reconsider.

Anyway, back to A. Sure the kid only eats like 7 things. But those 7 things are healthy. Applesauce, (plain unsweetened) yogurt, nutrios (cheerios with out salt and sugar), pasta (made from quinoa and kamut), homemade bread, squash and avocado. The truth is, if you only offer healthy food, you kid will only eat healthy food.

So I am fairly confident that my kid will have a healthy diet, because my husband and I are committed to it.

Now- here is where I merge ControverSunday and Fess Up Friday into one.

The problem in this household, when it comes to food, is me. Me. Which makes me feel like a big hypocrite, especially because some of my first posts for this blog were about eating real food and the important of healthy eating. I watch Jamie’s Food Revolution and I say “Right On” and then I look down at my waist line and cringe.

First of all, I consider myself a bit of a foodie and someone who is very interested in the local/organic/whole foods idea. I know what a 1800 calorie diet looks like. I read labels. I know how to avoid added salt and sugar. I try to make most things from scratch. I try to meal plan. I try to eat well.

But. Truth be told, I am fairly overweight. Like about 50lbs. (And not 50lbs away from a size 2, 50lbs away from a size 8.) I whined a couple weeks ago in my ‘Fess up Friday’ about needing to lose some weight. I am really struggling with it. Because it is not as easy as just not eating junk food and fizzy pop. You see, sure I don’t drink pop (except Ginger ale when I am sick) and it is once in a blue moon I will have fast food or chips/candy. I don’t eat a lot of processed foods and my meals are pretty healthy. But I have a couple pretty strong addictions to the following not so healthy but totally foodie things:

-Chocolate. Dark dark chocolate.

-Baked goods, especially cookies, cupcakes and muffins. (Micheal Pollan in his latest book “Food Rules” has a rule (39) which says you can eat all the treats you want, so long as you make them yourself. Um… he totally underestimates my love of baking)

-Wine

-Cheese

-Bread

So I have a relationship with food that is both good and bad. Good in that I know what I should eat and I eat pretty healthy meals. I love fruits and vegetables. A good salad makes me happy. Bad in that I snack a lot and eat too much of my indulgence foods.

I really want to get my act together, as I am worried about the impact on A of having an unhealthy Momma. They say kids that grow up with overweight parents are more likely to be overweight themselves. I want to deal with my weight issues for me, but I also realize that impact they will have on her. But honestly, I just can’t seem to resist the treats. They are everywhere. And I know I won’t be successful on a diet if it is too strict. So I need to find a way to cut down on the ‘extras’ without just totally binging later on. And actually, what I think I need, is some way to replace the feeling I get from eating a treat with something else. I am 100% an emotional eater. And 3pm and 8pm are the worst times for me. I want something. And I want it sweet. But really, I want to treat myself. It isn’t really about the food so much as it about wanting to sooth stress or give myself a reward. So I need to find a new reward. And I need to get into an exercise routine. I know I can do this. Now I just have to make it happen.

Late Mamageddon Post: the breastfeeding debate

Yes, I know. I am about a week behind to really talk about the whole ‘if 90% of women breastfed to 6months we would save over 900 lives and millions of dollars’ thing. The tweet storm, the blog storm. It be over. And yet, here I am, taking it on anyway.

Truth is that I have tried to write this post about 5 times, only to send drafts to the trash. I hesitate to say anything, because

a) I have this weird love hate relationship with drama, online or otherwise. I see it, have opinions and want to say what I have to say. But I am also a big scardy cat and I shy away from conflict. You know, it is my dual personality acting up.

b) There is nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said. And better.

And yet, I am going to give it a go none the less. What can I say? I am a gluton for punishment. Here I go:

I have a number of issues with the recent study/news cover/mommy blogging reaction to this whole thing.

See, the thing is (in my opinion), a study like that and the spreading the word of that study, is only beneficial to the breastfeeding cause if:

1) a significant portion of the population is not breastfeeding because they believe formula is ‘better’, or at least, are not informed about the ‘risks.’ What I am saying, is from a Mom perspective, if that story would have solved the problem of why I don’t breastfeed, then it would be useful. But, it is my belief, that a very very small percentage of women who do not breastfeed have not heard a study like that before. And even if they haven’t, I don’t think it addresses the issues they experienced or the reasons they made the choice they did. What I am saying (not particularly articulately) is that 99% of Mom’s don’t not breastfeeding because of lack of knowledge about the benefits or breastfeeding. They don’t breastfed because it is hard, they lack support, they don’t have sufficient maternity leave, they don’t have access to a qualified lactation consultant, they had a traumatic birth, they had other health problems, they experienced postpartum depression, they have a personal reason not to, their baby had an untreated tongue tie, ect. ect. ect.

2) if you believe that not breastfeeding is, as it has been suggested online, a ‘public health risk.’ I don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I truly believe that breastfeeding is the best option. But I do not believe my formula fed baby is anything but healthy and thriving. I get that ‘studies have shown..’ but it seems to me that these studies point more to a correlation then a causation between formula feeding and health risks. (Go talk to the Fearless Formula Feeder if you want a good critique of most studies linking formula feeding to significant health risks. I am not getting into it here.)

3) if, by quantifying the impact of higher breastfeeding rates in terms of lives and money (things that get people to listen in our society), it would push the government to take action. This is the one I could maybe buy. This perspective, which was suggested by a commenter on Fearless Formula Feeders blog, was something I had not considered. I had been looking at it from the perspective of a Mom, who is hurt when someone tells her that she is ‘harming her baby with formula’ and not from a political perspective. A political perspective where there needs to be sufficient cause in order to convince a government that an issue is worth attention. The truth is that in both Canada and the US (but far more so in the US), we need our governments to address a number of women’s issues that are very important in their own right, but also happen to be connected with breastfeeding rates.

-longer maternity leaves that women can afford to take

-lowering the c-section rate, supporting women to have natural births and better care in maternity wards

-flexible work schedules

-access to healthy food to lower income parents and their kids (for everyone, really)

And then there are more specifically breastfeeding things like:

-pumping rights for women of all income levels

-better access to qualified and kind lactation consultants

-breastfeeding friendly hospitals (and by breastfeeding friendly, I do not mean formula feeding unfriendly)

We need these things. But if we are going to get them out of our government, the government needs to see that they can justify the money spent on such things…. hence the studies.

A light bulb went off in my head when this commenter suggested this and it did change my perspective somewhat.

The problem with all this is that it is a double edged sword. While maybe the government and its constituency need these studies to convince them of the benefit of policy change, the impact on Mothers is not positive. Why do I say that?

It is my belief that the focus on formula’s risks in the pro-breastfeeding camp is actually hurting breastfeeding rates. How? Think about it this way. Take brand spanking new Mom A and brand spanking new Mom B. Mom A has heard that 900 lives (aka her baby) are at risk from formula feeding. Mom B has heard that breastfeeding is better, but formula fed kids turn out fine. Who do you think is more stressed during those first 8-12 weeks when nearly all new Mom’s encounter some struggles with breastfeeding? That’s right- Mom A. The stakes for Mom A are super high. If she doesn’t succeed at this breastfeeding thing and does end up giving the kid formula then she will be hurting them, possibly worse. I am no breastfeeding expert, but I think a stressed Mom has less of a chance of getting through those struggles then a less stressed Mom. You may not agree, but that is my opinion.

I guess what I am saying is that I understand why the pro-breastfeeding camp wants to retweet and talk up and tell everyone about these studies. It is an important issue. I do think there are benefits to breastfeeding. Anyone who knows me can tell you I tend to prefer the ‘natural’ option. The problem is that the issue is highly emotionally charged and there is a whole bunch of us (Even with Canada’s higher breastfeeding rates, 46% have supplemented with formula by the time baby is 6 months) who just don’t like being told that our choice is a public health risk, or that our choice is causing harm to our child. We. Don’t. Especially because most of us have at least some emotional scars about having to do it in the first place. And, as I have said, I don’t think that message is helping the Mom’s who are struggling to make breastfeeding work either. And I think that those talking up these studies should be more sensitive to that. There has got to be a better argument we can use to get the government to change its policies.

ControverSunday: Extended Breastfeeding

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As always, thank you to Perpetua from Our Lady of Perpetual Bread Crumbs for hosting ControverSundays and Accidents from Accidents will Happen for the amazing badge!

Participants this week:

Mommy-in-Chief

Ramble Ramble

Fearless Formula Feeder

Excellent Walker

Oh goodness. I don’t know where to go with this. First of all, sorry to anyone who read my past posts on breastfeeding where I promised I was done with the topic on my blog. But I can’t turn down a ControverSunday topic. For those of you who didn’t read those posts, here is a brief summary:

I breastfed, unsuccessfully, for 3 1/2 months, until I finally came to my senses and figured out the kid was just not getting enough and was never going to get enough. (She weighed the same at 3 months as at 2 months, just in case you think I am exaggerating.) In those three months I was miserable, sad, and yet still determined that my baby HAD to be breastfed. But despite the ridiculous amount of time, effort, drugs, herbs, galactagogues, pumping, breast massage, switch nursing, Supplemental nursing systems, cluster feeding, ect. ect. to try and get my milk production up…. there were just too many odds stacked against us. So A happily sucks back her soy formula and I have finally come to peace with that ‘choice.’

So I kinda feel like I have ‘no comment’ on this topic. I can only speculate what I would have chosen if breastfeeding had worked out. And I really have no opinion when it comes to others choices on the matter. Knock yourselves out. (And I really don’t mean that in a sarcastic way or a ‘I’m jealous of you’ way or a ‘your crazy’ way. I just mean that I really have no opinion on others choices in the matter.)  Despite this, I will continue to discuss the matter for about an other 800 words. I know, I have amazing abilities to ramble on about a topic.

First of all, I will define. Because, well, I do that. To me, extended breastfeeding is longer then two years. Why two years? Because:

1) WHO recommends breastfeeding for 2 years

2) Alberta Health Services (who rule the land where I live) recommends breastfeeding for 2 years (with the minimum recommendation being 6 months)

3) I read somewhere that the world wide breastfeeding average is 2 years

So the number 2 seems to come up a lot, therefore it makes sense to me to be the cut off where beyond is ‘extended.’ Quite honestly, I think anyone who figures out how to breastfeed successfully for six months (or 1 day or 1 week or 1 month or 3 months…. you get the picture) deserves a standing ovation. I take that back: Anyone who gives it try deserves a standing ovation. (And anyone who chooses not to try…I am sure you get a standing ovation for something else…. I support you too. It’s just, well, breastfeeding is hard.) I know that it can also be wonderful but easy it is not. I don’t know anyone, successful or not, who told me it was easy, at least at first. Anyway, I digress. Extended breastfeeding definition a la amoment2think: Two years.

When the nurses first asked me what my goal was I said I wanted to breastfeed to two years, but would be happy if we made it to a year (ha! That turned out to be a bit ambitious for my body!) And if all had gone well I might have very well have done that. But I do wonder….. My daughter doesn’t exactly like to sit still. By 6 months I couldn’t cuddle her when giving a bottle, she would squirm and scream until I sat her up and faced her out to drink. You see, a bottle is a lot easier to move around to suit a squirmy baby then a boob is, I assume. (And while I know there are Mom’s out there that have successfully managed breastfeeding squirmy baby/toddlers, I am not sure if I would be so tolerant of the antics.) Now I can’t keep the kid still for any length of time. This week she started refusing our long honored tradition of cuddle in the glider reading “Goodnight Moon” before bed. I could read the book if I wanted, but staying on my lap she was not. Anyway, my point is: When I said that I wanted to breastfeed to two years I had only been a Mom for a couple days and I really didn’t know what a 6 month old or a 11 month old or a two year old was like. So what I would have actually ended up doing…I don’t know.

What would I do if/when we have baby #2? Honestly, I would be pretty darn happy if I could breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and have the little monkey gain weight. Anything beyond that would be icing and totally optional in my books. (If that didn’t work out I sure wouldn’t put myself through the guilty I felt this last time around. Whatever works is fine with me.)

But beyond two years? I don’t think I would do that. Why? I don’t actually know. Because I think I would be ready to say goodbye to that stage? Because I would feel like I have met my WHO obligations and therefore had ‘done my time’? I don’t know. I just wouldn’t. I don’t think. Cause I wouldn’t.

I know some people that think any child that can articulately request to breastfeed is probably too old to breastfeed. (You know, like “Mother I would like to nurse now” versus “Mama, milk?”) But whatever. I don’t see the harm in it. If a family feels it is to their benefit or their preference- go for it!

I can’t say I wouldn’t look twice if I saw someone breastfeeding a four year old…. I mean that is not something you see every day. But would I disagree/be bothered by it/ judge it… no. It might be worthy of notice, but none of my business. And if the international average is 2 years, there must be a fair number of Mothers breastfeeding 4 and 5 year olds in other parts of the world to make up for the prevalence of under 3 months and under 6 months in North America. So I see nothing wrong with it. I just don’t see what the benefit would be such that I would consider it for myself/my child. And, as I said, I would be so happy to just make it to 6 months… so 3 years just doesn’t even make it to my radar.

What I will say though, is that I wouldn’t follow any advice to leave the decision totally up to my child. Why? Extended breastfeeding or not, the decision to continue or not continue that arrangement should be mostly up to me. I am the adult, the parent, and the one with the boobs. I know there are those out there who talk a lot about things should be ‘child-led’ and I agree that paying close attention to the changing needs of your child and not pushing them too hard, too soon. But only if it is working for you. If somethings ISNT working for you then I don’t think you should have to wait for your kid to take the lead. As the parent, I want to be leading the situation in the direction I want it to go and think is best for them. So -aware of where my child is at and the impact on them of a transition- yes. Tailoring the transition to a rate at which your kid feels comfortable and recognizing if they are struggling with the transition and being flexible -yes.  Letting the kid call all the shots and being held at “booby ransom” by my kid- no. But that is just me.

Lastly, I don’t think I should end this post without acknowledging that the practice of extended brestfeeding is linked in North America to the general parenting philosophy of attachment parenting. And while I agree that forming a strong bond to your child is important and I think the attachment parenting tool kit  has some good ideas that both make life easier and promote a strong bond (like babywearing and co-sleeping) I disagree with elements of the philosophy, especially practiced at its most ‘to the letter’ form. (Not to mention some very strong claims and polarizing discussions by AP ‘experts’, particularly online.) But I am not going to go into it. Because, as I said on an other blog recently, I think most parents pick and choose methods and practices from a wide range of philosophies based on what suits them best. Even if someone is practicing one philosophy or an other in a “to the letter form”, I believe that no matter what philosophy we follow, some kids will grow up happy and well adjusted and some kids will grow up messed up. This is more about how someone applies their choices and preferences, rather then certain choices= messed up kid. And so, instead evaluating extended breastfeeding as a part of attachment parenting, I am choosing to not go there and just look at it as an isolated practice. Ask me about attachment parenting an other time. The topic has come up a lot lately, so I may just have to take that one on.

Oh- look- I did have an opinion!

Help! The ‘What should I feed my kid” edition

So lately I have been on a quest- to figure out what to feed my kid as she gets closer and closer to her first birthday. I have been asking other Mom’s (via my trusted Facebook), searching the internet and have started the process of finding someone through our family doctor to help us. But I still feel totally lost. And a bit stressed out. (I know, I need to stop worrying so much… but I am sooo good at it.)

Why is this so complicated you ask? Here’s the thing:

1) She is allergic to dairy, which eliminates a whole bunch of ways to get both protein and fat in her diet

2) She is currently on Soy formula, which I am okay with if it was just part of her diet, but not as comfortable with as her only source of protein and fat. (Soy is great, but it does have estrogen mimicking compounds that I worry about when it is such a high proportion of her diet.) Soy was never something I felt great about being her sole source of nutrition, but it seemed slightly better to me then our other option of hypoallergenic milk formula (which must be really processed).. so we went with it. But now that she is on solid food I have allowed my brain to re-open the debate on this.

3) Also, for those of you who read my post about the search for corn in our cupboard, you might have noticed I did not look at the formula. I didn’t want to know. Well, curiosity got the best of me the other day and I looked. The first ingredient is organic corn syrup solids. Awesome (insert sarcasm). If processed corn syrup is something ‘they’ say adults should stay away from how is okay to be the main ingredient in baby formula?

4) She had GERD for the first 9 months of her life and has just started to not spit up 24/7. She is very adverse to new textures in food and often spits up after eating something new.

5) She is picky. New food typically require about 8 introductions before she will eat it regularly. (Oh the wasted food!) She will eat just about anything pureed, but is very slow to eat things which are mashed or in chunks. She also won’t eat egg or meat she can taste/feel the texture of (she will eat meat if it is a tiny amount hidden in a veggie puree). I also haven’t been able to get her to eat any lentils yet. I need to try that again.

So my goal in the next 6 months is to:

a) Get her off soy formula completely (obviously I can’t do this until she is getting enough protein and fat from other sources).  This would allow me to introduce some soy sources like soy yogurt and tofu.

b) Get her on a balanced and healthy diet that is dairy free and not totally depended on soy.

c) Have her eating as much home-made, non-processed food as possible.

Here is what she will eat:

anything pureed except plain meat or lentils

bananas, soft cooked apples or pears, avocado (sometimes), baby fruit leather, apple sauce

squash, sometimes sweet potato

cheerios, pasta, baby cereal, adult oatmeal cut in chunks, sometimes muffins

Here is what she won’t touch so far:

eggs, pureed plain meat, chunky or pureed lentils

Mashed or chunks of potato, carrot, peas, green beans

bread, toast, pita, ect.

So, I figure it is worth a try to ask the blogosphere for help. I know a few of those who tend to read my blog have babies who are formula feed and/or babies that have milk issues. Thoughts? Or any good resources you know of that would tell me, for example, a typically weekly diet for a dairy free, minimal soy baby-transitioning-to-toddler? Ways you got your kid to eat meat/eggs that was sneaky? Good sources of fat for babies? Special ways you cooked veggies that did the trick? The only thing I am not worried about is fruit and carbs. (Obviously her mothers daughter.) Seriously, I need some help before I get lost in the abyss of internet searching. Also welcoming comments that can convince me to stop freaking out and worrying so much.

Breastfeeding; lets move on to the ‘third wave’

(wow- I never thought I would be writing a blog post that talks about feminism… but here goes)

Yesterday, I read a blog post on my friend Cheryl’s blog, written by a friend of hers, about breastfeeding. (http://amoment4mommy.com/ See the name resemblance… oh how friends think alike and Mom’s are obsessed with the concept of time) The post is called “Thoughts on breastfeeding” (http://bit.ly/aDJEtj), take a moment and give it a read. The first sentence gives you the basic idea: “I make milk, what’s your superpower.” My friend Cheryl, having read my post on breastfeeding (http://bit.ly/c4SKV2), wrote me a note saying she was dying to know what my reaction was to the post.

So I started thinking about it. My first reaction? Sadness and jealousy. I guess that makes me a non-superhero Mom. I am sans superpower. I mean, mixing powder with water and heating is not exactly challenging. I make really good muffins, does that count as a superpower? But do I begrudge this Mom her wonderful breastfeeding experience? No. I am proud of her. It obviously positively impacted her view of herself and made her feel fulfilled. She was able to give her kids the best nutrition available for a baby.

Then I started thinking some more. Why is it that, despite my support for anyone who did master the art of breastfeeding, I feel so crappy every time I hear or read a pro-breastfeeding story. And then it struck me. Breastfeeding is stuck in that ‘second wave feminism’ trap.

*Side note: Before I really tick anyone off, let me first just say that I am not a student of feminism. I took a few Political Science classes in university that touched on the main points, but other then that I don’t know much. I am basing this on my impressions of feminism, not extensive research and study.

To me, second wave feminism was all about loud and proud. It was a ‘shout it from the roof tops’ kinda movement that sought to enlighten everyone, especially women, on just how oppressed they were. And in doing so, it also alienated a lot of women. Especially women who truly loved staying at home, raising kids and cooking dinner. Instead of liberating those women, many felt like they were being told that they weren’t good enough. That they weren’t whole unless they got out of the house, went to work and discovered ‘who they really were.’ They were told that they were being brainwashed to believe that they liked their lives.

To me, the breast feeding movement as a whole, is sending the same message. I am all for an individual being loud and proud about her breastfeeding success. I think, like the second wave of feminism, this is a natural reaction to so many years when breastfeeding was in the shadows. Something done in secret and in private. I get the need to go the opposite direction and convince everyone that it is natural, beautiful and something to be celebrated, not shunned.

The problem is, when organizations, governments and health care providers take such a strong stance on the issue, they leave behind a wake of women being told they just don’t cut it as a Mom. They have been told it is because of societies bias against breastfeeding that they weren’t able to do it. Or if they choose not to, that they were brainwashed. I wasn’t brainwashed, thank you very much. It wasn’t societies bias against breastfeeding that got me. It was a series of unfortunate events.

You take a women, who has just been through the most emotionally and physically exhausting ordeal in her life, stick her in a two person hospital room where she doesn’t feel comfortable, and hand her a little baby she has no idea what to do with. Then send her home two days later with very little help except a quick lesson on latching. Someone who is just not the type to stay in bed for 3 days nursing, like they recommend. Then you add a group of health care professionals who hem and haw about a tongue tied baby for 8 weeks. Then you shuffle Mom and baby to a million appointments here and there, giving her all different advice. And lastly, you add a medical condition that predisposed her to breastfeeding issues (PCOS- some women product too much milk, others not enough, according to recent studies. For more info: http://bit.ly/dvUXMi). I wasn’t hoodwinked- I was unlucky.

We need to bring on the ‘third-wave of breastfeeding’. Where we accept and support each other despite our differences. Where we don’t talk down to one an other and tell each other how we are victims of societies anti-breastfeeding stance. Where we don’t suggest that the only way to really experience motherhood is to breastfeed.

In some ways the breastfeeding discussion is like the Stay-at-home versus Work-outside-the-home Mom debate. There is a choice involved, but a choice that some people don’t have the luxury to make. For some families, both parents need to work outside the home to financially support the family. For others the cost of day care is so high that one parent needs to stay home. Either way, these families are faced with a ‘choice’ where circumstances stack the odds on one side of the debate, making it not so much a ‘choice’ as they would have liked. My experience with breastfeeding was one of those situations where ‘choice’ was limited by circumstances.

*Side note: I will acknowledge that the two debates have their differences. While I believe that kids can thrive in either a stay-at-home or a day-home/day-care situation, it does seem clear, from a nutritional standpoint, that breastfeeding is better then formula feeding. Although, when read the sentence I just wrote, I have to say that I feel that babies can thrive on either formula or breast milk… so I don’t know.

Really, when you think about it, ‘choice’ is an interesting concept in parenthood. One of the hardest things I have learned about parenting so far is that sometimes you have to make a ‘choice’ that really isn’t your preference. It is all about hard decisions, where the odds are stacked in such a way that limits your ‘choice’. Maybe I need to stop regretting and just accept this part of parenting. I should forgive myself for making what was a crappy ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ ‘choice’ and stop feeling like a failure every time I hear about somebody elses’ great breastfeeding experience. I am sure going to try.

Okay, I am done. Last breastfeeding post you will read from me. (At least until the if/when of baby #2 happens… which won’t be anytime soon!!)

And now it gets personal…

Ever since I published my post on our health care system I have been thinking about what I did not say in that post. You see, I left something out. It is much more personal and I just was not ready to talk about it. In the context of what I was saying in that post it seemed to rant-y and off topic. It is also one of those topics that people get on their soap box about.  I just didn’t feel comfortable diving in right away. But I think it needs to be said. I need to get it off my chest. Therapy, if you will. Here goes:

My other complaint about the health care system: Political stances taken by the health care authority and nurses towing the line, rather then being trained to provide situation specific advice. First, let me say that I didn’t meet a nurse who wasn’t an amazingly caring person just trying to do their best. The health care workers are not the problem- it is the health authority. The health care authority that really pushes breastfeeding, but doesn’t provide consistent support.

Actually, now that I think about it, they really push a lot of things. From where your baby should sleep to when they should start solids to which vaccines they should get (all of them). These are very debatable ‘hot’ topics in the parenting world. Personal decisions, as far as I am concerned. Things that parents decide based on a lot of thought, personal circumstances and ones own values and beliefs. Short of having your baby sleep outside in the snow or feeding your 1month old raw meat (both bad by the way), most decisions are shades of gray. And frankly none of the health authority’s business.

Their role should be to inform new parents of the options out there and then encourage them to consider all relevant information. I am okay with them saying “we generally recommend x.” I am not okay with them getting into a debate with an obviously well-informed parent, who has clearly done their research and considered all the options. I trust the opinion of my doctor (we are lucky to have a great doctor), not some nurse who has known me and by baby for all of two minutes. No two families are the same, so why should the health authority be pushing the same advice on all? But I digress…

Breastfeeding. There were a handful of different nurses that tried to help me in the hospital- most of them very new, with very little training. There was no lactation consultant at the hospital. I saw numerous nurses in clinics for the first couple weeks after we left the hospital, all of them with different advice. I finally saw a nurse certified as a lactation consultant. More different advice. Then, finally, I was sent to a doctor who specialized in lactation consulting.

At 8 weeks my babies tongue got clipped, something that should have been done in the hospital as far as I was concerned. (If you have never heard of a tongue tie and want to know what the heck I am talking about:  http://bit.ly/8fuTNS) We were told when she was born that she was tongue tied and that it might impact breastfeeding. Everyone we asked after that hemmed and hawed, and said it didn’t look too bad. Despite the clip at 8 weeks, problems persisted. (Actually, truth be told, they did the tongue clip twice, because the doctor that did it the first time didn’t clip it enough.)

I got a lot of advice and I was told to keep trying. Keep trying. Even though anyone who would have really talked to me would have known that it just wasn’t working. I tried every vitamin/tea/galactogogue food possible. Don’t even ask me about pumping. It wasn’t until 3 1/2 months in and my baby not gaining much weight, when the specialized lactation doctor finally looked back at my chart and realized that I had a medical condition that predisposed me to having troubles with lactation. The ‘what is wrong with me’ insecurity finally had an answer. And then I let go and gave the baby a bottle. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It still makes me tear up to think about it. I wonder what my first 4 months with my daughter would have been like if the health care system had supported me and my baby, rather then supporting their position that ‘breast is best.’ Yes, ‘breast is best’, but health care should be provided to individuals and every individual is different.

What did I learn? What would I do differently if I had it all again to do?

1) I would have gotten a midwife. Alberta Health started covering midwives 7 days after my daughter was born. I am told by people that have used a midwife that they were very helpful with breastfeeding. Hopefully they would know me well enough after helping me through pregnancy and delivery to give me better, consistent and more individualized advice.

2) I would have trusted myself more, let it go sooner, and not listened to so much advice. I would have realized that nurses are wonderful people, but they are trained with specific answers to specific questions. Ultimately, the mother knows best.

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