Monday, April 30, 2007

Immunity: Back up for grabs

One of the things I miss most about nursing my son is the whole “immunity thing”. While I was breastfeeding, he didn’t get sick once. If my husband or I got a cold, my son would maybe get a little bit of the sniffles for a day, but he would quickly bounce back while we continued to suffer. Despite the fact that I was staying home with him, we certainly weren’t living in a bubble – besides the normal rounds of playdates and such, my son and I were traveling quite a bit via airplanes. Furthermore, my husband was traveling twice as much. So yeah, my kid may not have been in daycare, but he has been exposed to plenty of germs.

I think one of the greatest misconceptions about breastfeeding and immunity is that much of the literature surrounding breastfeeding leads new mothers to think that breastfeeding is a Get Out of Jail Free card when it comes to illness. Of course, nursing your baby goes a long way in protecting your child, but it doesn’t mean your child will never, ever get sick. Particularly, it is very possible your child will get sick if he/she is going to a place where he/she will be exposed to germs that you yourself are not exposed to. For example, I’ll be curious as to how often my daughter ends up getting sick because my son is trotting off to nursery school this fall and will surely be “contributing” lots of fun stuff to our house besides colorful artwork.

I’ve heard many working mothers bitterly complain about the fact that their child is still getting sick even though they are breastfeeding. I would caution a breastfeeding mother from giving up because while you are still nursing, your child will at least get sick less often. And that still counts for something, right?

Friday, April 27, 2007


I've been very humbled by all the nice comments this week regarding my supposed "open-mindedness" and "non-judgmental" posts. Thank you - I am really excited by the variety and diversity of the comments I've gotten so far! Unfortunately, I can't claim to not be critical, although I do try to not be critical. And it's hard. Back in my cushy days of Armchair Parenting, before I actually had a child myself, I had lots of opinions. LOADS of 'em. And as such, I merrily dispensed advice to my friends as they had children. Co-sleeping was for the devil! Children should be weaned at 12 months - sharp! Ferber ruled! Formula was poison! Love and Logic was LOGICAL! Children should always obey their parents - don't give in! Then, I had a child myself and had to totally rethink EVERYTHING. And I'm still rethinking it and am basically flying by the seat of my pants now.

Sometimes, I am downright embarrassed when I recall some of the past comments I made regarding parenting and in particular, breastfeeding. I guess the upside is that apparently, I DO have the ability to admit when I was wrong and am capable of change. And that should stand for something. Maybe. Perhaps. Hopefully.

A few weeks back, while discussing our daughter-to-be, my husband said "Well, at least this time around we'll know what to do." I just chuckled to myself and let him smoke away on his little pipe dream all the while knowing that our daughter will probably throw just as many curve balls at us as our son did.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


Sidenote: First, I'd like to point out that The Lactivist has a great discussion going on here about the Christian perspective of public nursing. On the note of “perspectives”, I haven’t mentioned here yet that my husband is from South India, but I am definitely planning on discussing international perspectives regarding nursing in the future.

Okay - the comments on yesterday's post weirded me out because several of you brought up topics I was planning to discuss this week (yes, I have mapped each day's post this week). Yesterday's topic tied in perfectly with today's post I had planned, which is the subject of isolation – I almost included it with the “public nursing”, but that would have the post too onerous. The aspect of breastfeeding that I found to be the most surprising is how potentially isolating it could be - downright lonely, actually. Breastfeeding is something you do alone and often, in the bewitching wee hours of the morning. Over the first year of those eerie mornings, I remember often looking at my backyard neighbor’s lighted windows and using those as a touchstone – the gal who lives there is elderly and is up and about at ALL hours of the day. Seeing proof that another human being was alive went a long way in comforting me and it made me feel less alone - particularly when my husband was traveling.

However, there is the other aspect of isolation in that if you aren’t comfortable with public nursing, you will end up spending an inordinate amount of time sitting in your house. What many folks don’t understand is that feeding a newborn can go about every 2-3 hours and that is from the BEGINNING of each feeding. If you were cast the lot of an “every 2 hours newborn” that means this: You feed your newborn – let’s say, conservatively it takes 45 minutes. Add another 15 minutes for diaper change/cleanup/etc., you are looking at one hour MAX before the next feeding. This, my friends, is why public nursing is so very important. If you don’t nurse your baby in public, you are housebound.
With a squalling newborn.
For days on end.
And THAT is most assuredly a recipe for a gooey disaster. Fortunately, I had a crash course on public nursing when my son was 6 days old – he had jaundice and we had to go to a lab for the pin prick. I had no choice in nursing there and yep, it was HELL trying to nurse him there. But, after that, I had no qualms about running around in public which went a long, long way in my keeping my sanity in those early months of motherhood.

The other aspect of breastfeeding is simply this - it's something that others can’t do for you or even help that much. I know my husband felt pretty useless, but it was something only that I could do. And actually, I was pretty fortunate because I had my experienced sister and a wonderful breastfeeding support group. Furthermore, I could always pull out the Big Guns if needed – a cousin who is a lactation consultant at one of the hospitals in our area. So, yes - my heart really goes out to gals who are shy or who do not have a strong network of friends and family - I was always amazed at the gals who even after months and months of nursing, were reluctant to go anywhere.

But truth was, in the end, even with all that support, I was still alone.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Public Enemy #1

I’ll never forget once while eating lunch at an Applebee’s with my grandma I needed to nurse my son. My grandma asked if I couldn’t nurse him in the bathroom. I laughed, then sarcastically replied ”How would you like to eat YOUR lunch while sitting on a toilet?” She laughed and agreed that no, she wouldn’t like it very much. She never said anything after that. Generally, that’s how I’ve tried to approach the “nursing in public” thing – in a matter-of-fact approach with a touch of humor. My kid needs to eat, right? .

I’ve mentioned in my bio that I like to travel and it’s no lie. Before my son was a year old, we had gone on 7 plane trips. I have literally nursed him coast to coast – at beaches on the Atlantic coast AND the Pacific coast. I have nursed him in various airports and airlines. I have nursed him in the middle of the market area at Fanueil Hall in Boston, on George Washington’s front lawn at Mt. Vernon, the Desert Passage at the Aladdin in Vegas and near the corner of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. And not once, did anyone ever give me a hard time about it. I’ve never had a problem. Ever. I am not sure why – I don’t think I do anything special. I try to be respectful that not everyone wants to see my breasts, so I always take care to cover with a blanket.

I think what blows my mind is this: for those folks who don’t want mothers nursing in public, what do they expect us to do? Not leave our houses? I refuse to nurse in a bathroom – that is absolutely disgusting (and I think it is criminal when a mother is expected to pump at work in a bathroom). However, I am not comfortable nursing in my car in many spots because I feel like a sitting duck for a car jacker or purse snatcher. And NO, I am not being paranoid – the Target in my cozy suburb gets purse snatchers and a guy died in 2005 attempting to help a gal out when she was mugged. I guess I could try to use the fitting rooms at Target and such, but breastfeeding mothers have even been hassled in there for nursing. But still – what are the alternatives? A newborn eats every 2-3 hours and that’s from the BEGINNING of one feeding to the next. That leaves a very brief window of time to run an errand and more often than not, your precious progeny will start squawking as you are in the check-out lane or you are begging for the check from your kindly waiter. So, perfectly timing your outings is a master feat, believeyoume.

Obviously, breastfeeding in public is a hot topic and I shake my head at it. The stories seem so ludicrous, so ridiculous that I can hardly believe they happen. No, don’t get me wrong – I DO believe they have happened, but it seems SO crazy, I can’t wrap my brain around it. I’m curious - has anyone reading this ever been hassled for nursing in public?

Updated to add recent news stories surrounding the Ronald McDonald house in Houston (thanks Deanna for the heads up on the story!).......
New Yorks Times article - This article really muddles the issue for me. It's not clear what exactly happened. Previous stories I read indicated the mother was simply breastfeeding and was asked to go to her room after another father complained. This story indicates that the breastfeeding mother was not nursing in a private manner. If that's the case, then I would have to go with the Ronald McDonald House - I don't think as a breastfeeding mother I have the right to just whip out my breasts for all to see. I need to respect that others made not want to see "all of me" and as such, I use a blanket when nursing. Again, this article highlights how ambiguous these stories can be and that there is often two sides to the story.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Breast is Best

There. I said it. I wanted to clear the air, quite frankly. I do believe breastmilk is best - as do many, many experts so I can't even claim the statement is profound. Honestly, I don't think that statement is even up for debate - breastmilk IS better than formula. However, I do get rankled at the insinuation that formula isn't good enough. If that were true, I wouldn't even be here, as I was formula fed myself. So, while breastmilk IS best, formula is certainly not the equivalent of poisoning your child. I firmly believe the judgments surrounding the use of formula is just another weapon in the arsenal used against other mothers in the Mommy Wars.

My son has never had a drop of formula. I don't say that as a matter of pride, but rather with an immense sense of amazement and fascination. Not only did my body grow him for 40 weeks in utero, it continued to be his sole source of nourishment for the next 6 months until he started solid foods. Wow. That still amazes me. In the beginning of my new life as a mother, I was pretty wrapped up in the fervor of it all and was fairly radical about breastfeeding. I didn't understand how a mother could not want to breastfeed! Read that sentence again - I didn't UNDERSTAND it. To be fair, I also don't fully understand the Theory of Relativity, so my lack of comprehension isn't really saying much, eh?

Since I joined the ranks of mommybloggers, I have read post after post of mothers who either chose not to breastfeed at all, gave up breastfeeding, physically could not breastfeed, or needed to supplement with formula. Nearly all those posts were rife with guilt, apology, and extensive explanation. Probably with good reason, because there are people who are quick to criticize and question a mother's true motives when the mother says that "she couldn't and/or wouldn't breastfeed".

Okay, okay - if we lived in a 3rd world country with an unsafe water supply, I'd totally be beating the Anti-Formula Drum. And I do know personally of a case in India where the infant most likely died as a result of formula. However, this post is most certainly directed towards a Western audience - we have the privilege of a safe water supply. We can afford to focus on other things. And yes - there are FAR more important things going on in the world than for us to sit and wonder why someone doesn't breastfeed. I'd like to see less explanation and more simple statements to the effect of "breastfeeding simply didn't work for us". Then, we can move on to other topics. Besides, I don't know a single mother in my own life who doesn't truly love her child, so to indicate that a mother has failed because she feeds her child formula is simply not fair. No matter what the circumstance - whether she chooses not to breastfeed or is not physically able to - saying a mother loves her child less because she feed her child formula is just wrong.

Sidenote: Over at Ask Moxie, they are discussing breast pumps. Ask Moxie has an excellent core group of commenters, so if you are in the market for a pump, this is a post to watch. Since I stay home full-time, I actually have very little experience with pumps. I had an Evenflo Comfort Select that was AWFUL (and probably didn't help my engorgement problem!). Eventually, I gave up and bought a Medela Hand Pump that I SWEAR by. It's so compact, easy and convenient that I've been able to nurse AND pump at the same time with it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Story of Me

What makes me qualified to write a blog about breastfeeding?....scratches head searching for acceptable answer......

Okay, it's confession time. I'm a mother. Not an expert.

I gave birth to my son in October 2005. The first 2 weeks of breastfeeding was the usual hell of cracked, bleeding nipples and constant engorgement. Toe-curling HELL with many, many tears. The 3rd week was tolerable with significantly less tears. Then, it was a breeze after that. I had no problems whatsoever. My supply was so abundant, for the first 6 months, I couldn't leave the house without wearing nursing pads. I never got mastitis. I've heard of thrush, but have yet to see it. Since I stayed home, I didn't have to mess with scheduled feedings vs. pumping - I always nursed my son "on demand". Weaning was equally easy. When my son was 15 months old, we went on a visit to Boston. We were having so much fun that my son forgot to ask for nursing and I forgot to offer it. I nursed him on the flight back and that was it. The end.


I began attending a breastfeeding support group at my hospital when my son was 3 weeks old. I was still very awkward with nursing anywhere that wasn't within the safe confines of my home. I quickly discovered the group was a breastfeeding haven in public and I met a few gals there as well. But I realized that not everyone was having as easy of a time of it and that not everyone had a sister such as I did who could talk them from The Ledge during those first 2-3 weeks. So I continued to attend the group and stayed on for the next entire year. Over that time period, I've patted many a new, tearful mother on the shoulder. I've given loads of "Been There" hugs. And I've heard just about every breastfeeding horror story under the sun. Therefore, I certainly never, EVER took it for granted how easy breastfeeding was for me. Indeed, I was always very appreciative of my positive experience all the while acutely aware that it's not like that for everyone.

So, I weaned my son in January, but am pregnant with my daughter who is due in July - the roller coaster of breastfeeding will be taking off again. I would like to use this space to chronicle those early, tough days. I've heard time and time again how new mothers are simply unprepared for how mind-blowing those early days are - the standard literature and breastfeeding classes don't really convey how terribly frightening it is to face 3 am with a screaming newborn and bleeding nipples. They don't tell you that when you suddenly sprout cantaloupes on your chest, your precious progeny can't even latch on properly and will scream in frustration. They don't tell you that you should pump a little first and that DAMN, girl - you should have opened and sterilized that breast pump ahead of time. They don't tell you that it helps to chew on your own lips during those early weeks to distract you from the sheer agony emanating from your nipples. And sadly, they don't tell you how incredibly guilty you will feel for dreading that initial latch-on in those early weeks. Truthfully - I was actually fortunate since I knew from close friends and my sister that breastfeeding is not some miraculous experience as shown in the movies and TV. Real life simply does not have the benefit of a soundtrack and a soft focus lens, that's for sure. So, I'd like to use this space to provide a real-time, non-clinical account of those early weeks that won't be glossed over later with sentiment when the hormones have calmed down.

However, I don't want this place to become my personal breastfeeding diary. I'd also like to use this space as a forum for discussing a myriad of issues surrounding breastfeeding - nursing in public and perceived age limits for weaning your child (is 12 months too old? is two years? great balls of fire - four years?). I want to cover the laws being passed by various states (are they enough? are they fair to the public?). I'll definitely provide links to current news stories, as well. And finally, I want to have heart-to-hearts regarding the guilt and judgment that occurs when a mother either supplements with formula or doesn't breastfeed at all. I'd like this space to be open to everyone - I certainly hope to get input from non-breastfeeding folks - men, women, mothers, fathers. Whether you have a child or not, whether you breastfeed or not - your opinion is welcome here.

Nay, it is encouraged.