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I know that there are lots of issues in the hopper that are politically important. But recently I came across a story on CNN: Is the medical community failing breast feeding mothers?

Well, I have pretty strong feelings on this, and I would say YES! But it's not just the medical community. Personally I believe that our society fails moms, parents, caregivers in general, and I sincerely hope that we have a paradigm shift with regard to these functions very soon.

When I had my kids, I was categorized as a Crunchy Mom or Granola Mom. I know this shocks some of you, but I was and still am, a health nut. I  went through natural childbirth with midwives, outside of a hospital, and fully intended to breastfeed for at least the first year, because there are supposed to be a great number of benefits for mother and child. However, things didn't quite go as planned. Follow me through the orange portal if boobies, pregnancy, childbirth and infant care, don't frighten you, or gross you out.

What I discovered is that motherhood, and pregnancy are highly politicized in this country. These are iconic states of being, that make for popular images for selling all sorts of ideological garbage. But that when it comes down to really helping pregnant women, birthing women, young mothers, and breast feeding mothers--I wouldn't count on much. Some things have gotten a tiny bit better, but at the time, for me, people acted as if placing a changing table in the bathroom was some kind of miraculous act, that should cause me to kiss their ass. Honestly, it's just common sense that we put facilities in every public place [with few exceptions] for parents with children, and for breastfeeding women.

But back to the story. The author nailed it. I wonder if they are going through this themselves right now.

That's because lactation is probably the only bodily function for which modern medicine has almost no training, protocol or knowledge. When women have trouble breast-feeding, they're either prodded to try harder by well-meaning lactation consultants or told to give up by doctors. CNN
Modern medicine treats women's health like a black box. It has only been in the last 20 years that we started covering drugs for breast cancer on insurance. It's only been in the last 20 years, that we consciously realized that using male physiological models for drug testing and studies fail to address women's unique and fluctuating physiological characteristics with regard to health and to illness of any kind. So seriously, even though the quote above is shocking, I have been alive long enough to not be shocked.
They're almost never told, "Perhaps there's an underlying medical problem --let's do some tests. ibid"
According to this piece, there are 70 studies on erectile dysfunction in our federally funded database, but only 10 on lactation. Talk about binders full of women. To me what this says is it's a non issue, no one cares.

I had trouble feeding both of my kids, and I got exactly the same advice. And even though insurance will cover little blue pills, my insurance did not cover breast pumps or much of anything else. With the first kid, I spent big bucks on a milking machine/torture device.

Breast Pumps are marketed a lot like tampons. They show happy, bucolic mamas with flowers and unicorns shooting out of their boobs, but in reality, these devices masticate your tits into sausage shaped pain factories. I have new respect for dairy animals of any kind. They make it sound like milk will be extracted with gentle sucking action--but I guarantee you, if a randy curious male got his penis stuck in one of these, there would be a law suit.

Breastfeeding in general is so mysterious that no one knows who should be medically responsible for instruction or diagnosis of problems. This is how NOT important women's issues are. I suffered through several bouts of mastitis, severe enough that I ran high fevers and had to be put on antibiotics. I was told to either keep nursing or to dry my milk up completely and stop.

Both of my kids had colic pre-mastitis and antibiotics [just so we are clear], and it seemed to get worse when I nursed them. I got all kinds of advice on what foods to avoid, and none of it worked.

We tried everything: Warm steam showers, swaddling, I went off of coffee for a long time [and let me tell how pleasant that makes me], no pineapples, or tomatoes, or acid foods, or sugar, omg, it was worse than the worst of crash dieting. It had no effect on my weight and my breast milk must have had the consistency of plutonium waste because it made my children insane.

Right about the end of all that I figured some things out. It took me a long time, because I was malnourished, sleep deprived, and suffered low blood sugar so that when I nursed, that it gave me the shakes. And no one had a damn thing to tell me. Oh I got tested for diabetes like a million times, which I didn't have, because you know that's the only chronic condition "fat chicks" can have, but like it did a damn bit of good. The kids still had colic, and I still had problems breastfeeding.  

I love the crap, about when you nurse, it's going to make you lose all that baby weight. Well it had just the opposite effect on me. At the time I thought I must have been a real freak of nature or something, but later met more women who had similar problems. Still, there was no diagnosis, no exam, no help.

The reason I gained weight? Oh it's because I was doing it wrong. I needed to stand on one leg while reciting the pledge of allegiance while wearing a funny hat or something. At some point it began to feel like I was performing some arcane ritual incorrectly, and that was why I couldn't make it rain or something.

Your choices when breast feeding go wrong are: be a hero-mom and breast feed your baby, OR be a looser mom, and deprive your child of success and fulfillment by giving them formula.

Seriously, if you don't breastfeed your child and they grow up to be a serial killer, don't say we didn't warn you!

These choices were not helpful. They made you feel like you were in an epic battle where good is fighting evil, and if you make the wrong choice, your child will forever orbit the death star, and become an agent of darkness along with mom--because any evil acts they commit in the future, any epic failures will be all your fault.

But you notice, there is no practical advice in there.

All parenting choices feel like that at times. And the less supported you feel or are socially, the more defensive you can get about the choices you make.

By then I had noticed that there was no practical advice anywhere, just a bunch of marketing schemes and political hucksters hoping to profit from me, as a pregnant woman or a new mother.

The second kid came along during the celebrity baby bump craze. Now all pregnant women were expected to dress like sexy strippers, instead of fashion-dead schoolmarms. [Oh Joy].

Oh I read books on it all. So many it seemed like my eyes would bleed. I went to support groups and meetings, and it would have been great if I needed tupperwear. I scanned the intertubz for any kind of advice, or tips I could find, and really came away dissatisfied, and disappointed.

I just kept getting fatter and fatter.
The babies cried non-stop
and my tits were like two swollen boulders that at any moment, were going to fall off, and roll into town, killing hundreds in their path while flattening houses and businesses along the way.

According to this piece in CNN, things are changing for the better. That the Affordable Care Act is going to require support and instruction for lactation. And that OBGYNs and Pediatricians are now addressing this issue. I think that's great. Because I wouldn't wish what I went through on any woman. But it doesn't stop there. The entire act of birthing and mothering--parenting, are highly charged topics for people who have children, for people who had small children and for those who never had a child at all.

Everyone has an opinion and on a bad day, they all stink too--just like a diaper pail.

Check out this cry in the dark over at the Huffpo: Do I have to lose myself to be a mother?

Our culture has weird ideas about womanhood, pregnancy and motherhood. I have lots of ideas on why we feel we get lost in this process. But first we need to explore some of the expectations.

When you are pregnant or have a new baby, you get pressured to be "joyful" because "everyone knows that you should just be so goddamned happy, you could shit yourself the minute you find our you are with child, or the moment you push that baby out!"

Right from the beginning you have media and culture telling you how you ought to be feeling, if you are proper and healthy and such. No--no need to form your own opinions, that might drag the masses out of their fantastical comfort zone about what being pregnant or giving birth or rearing infants is like. So if you fall outside of that forced-happy-orthodoxy, best keep your crap to yourself.

The fact of the matter is, being pregnant is hard work and it can be stressful and scary for a woman, whether it's her first baby or her 5th. And pushing that baby out is also very taxing. Delivering by c-section is major organ surgery. New mothers start out with an energy deficit, just giving birth. And we go through all sorts of hormonal fluctuations, in addition to normal stress and just plain old sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

And throughout this entire process, you are expected to have ALL the answers. This is why you read til your eyes bleed. Do you have a birth plan, will you vaccinate, will you delay vaccinations, do you have knowledge of your family history and his? And on and on and on! Just that by itself is exhausting. But you learn very quickly that if you don't learn it all, and make decisions, that some stranger will step in and make them for you. The pressure is quite intense to know everything, even though any rational adult will tell you, that such omnipotent knowledge is impossible for a mortal human.

What you discover is the Black Box of women's health, especially pregnant and lactating women's health. You discover that very little is known about the effects of drugs on your body or the fetus, all sorts of things are forbidden now because it either passes the placental barrier, or is transmitted through your milk, or simply because no one knows what will happen.

That's the best part about being pregnant [snark]. Being ill or injured and having to do without medication or [gasp] take it and hope your baby is not born with two heads.

Every day now for the past 2 years I have been watching commercial after commercial on the television telling women that if they took certain anti-depressants while pregnant, and their child was born with a deformity, they may be entitled to compensation. I guess prescribing these drugs to gravid females was an impromptu human drug trial? That's what it looks like. Yet enough of a hazard for women to try an avoid during their trip through the cultural and medical maze of pregnancy.

The knowledge deficit keeps building with each passing month, as your belly swells, or your child grows another inch, what we need to know and are expected to know explodes exponentially, faster even than the advancement of technology. And there is no shortage of individuals in your life, or on the street, or at the doctor's office or in the media, who are just chomping at the bit to tell you every horror story they can think of that will give you nightmares and make you second guess yourself right into the funny farm.

Meanwhile, we live in a culture, where so many of us do without the help of an extended family, or the instruction of older, experienced, and trusted females. It can be quite unnerving. Because right after birth, chances are you are not operating optimally when it comes to brain function. And as time passes after that birth, it gets worse for a while, because of round the clock feedings which equal long term sleep deprivation. If your child has any medical issues, that compounds the situation even more.

So when the author of the Huffpo piece complains about the new found lameness of her heretofore "Bad Ass BFF", there are things you need to understand:

Giving birth is a rite of passage. You are forever changed by this act. And in the beginning, you might be more changed, personality-wise, to the point of causing discomfort with your friends and family.

You are tired. You are so tired that you are addle-brained.

You have a new focus, a living breathing baby that is entirely dependent upon you for sustenance, cleanliness, warmth, love, and instructions on how to be in this world. And did I mention you are so tired, you cannot remember your own name?

You have this tremendous rush of hormones and they turn your instincts up to a fever pitch. Some people will think this makes you less reliable. On the contrary, for most of us, it is as nature intended, survival of the species has depended upon these instincts for a millenia. But no one said it would be easy or pleasant.

The joy that people try and force on you, will happen. But that happens in a moment, and you will have many moments, that punctuate hours of drudge work, feedings, diaper changings, baths, barfing, burping etc., So you will not be happy all the time, you will be tired most of the time, maybe lonely, and once in a while some happy moment will happen, that will give you the incentive to make it through another 60 hours of poop and barf, and tears. "Resigned to your fate," is a good phrase to explore.

Basically, all the energy you have left [such as it is] is devoted to this one person. So maybe you are a badass, but for now, you are the milk cow. Maybe you can do phenomenal amounts of tequila while partying all night, well for now--that stamina will be put towards other issues.

Maybe you have a helluva sense of humor, well your brain is otherwise occupied and so jokes may be slow in coming, even obvious 12 yr old toilet humor may be beyond you at first.

You are like a space ship, one that has been through the Kuiper belt. Your shields are down, your body has been beat to hell,  and everything you got is being re-directed to life support. So don't be expecting anything fancy for a while, you simply do not have the energy.

Welcome to lamo-ville, I shall be your guide, Mrs. Boring.

My friend used to smoke like a chimney and drink like a fish and hawl on blunts like she was bloody Rita Marley. Now, she is just anxious and lame. Huffpo
So you now know why she is lame, let me tell you more about the anxiety. Remember all there is to know? And it keeps growing? The media loves to scare the shit out of new moms, with the latest bird flu outbreaks, and drug side effects, crap in baby food, etc., More overwhelming shit, to add the already respectable pile you got in your head.

She has to make all these decisions and many of them she will have to make on the fly, alone. That makes new parents very anxious. Even when other experienced parents try to help, they overload you with so much information, so fast, that it can melt your brain. Somewhat reminiscent of that nail biting scene in Raising Arizonawhere Dot relays to Ed all the things one simply must do with a new baby to ensure their proper health and development. "We got a child now, everything's changed!"

And as your child grows, you have a new responsibility. You have to teach them how to be in this world. So your drinking, smoking, cussing, sexpot of a friend, who partied like crazy, might suddenly decide that her lifestyle is not suitable in the presence of small, impressionable children. She may lack the energy to do all those things, but also suddenly lack the desire as well, because who wants toddlers getting into your cigarettes, telling you to "fuck off mommy," while trying to steal your beer out of the fridge?

Not cool by anyone's standards.

If mommy is lucky, she may have enough of a support system to get to party down once in a great while, but don't be putting her into hangover-ville when she has to get up the next morning and make breakfast and whatever passes for small talk for jr. That should constitute torture of both the hungover parent and the children.

You do lose yourself in this new ROLE. It's not just a job, this is a new role you inhabit for life. You will from now on, be someone's mom. Whether you do it well or not, the fact remains, you are someone's mom [or dad] period.

I miss my party days, I do. I miss having what seemed at the time, to be unlimited amounts of energy. I hate that the fact, that it takes so long to recover from childbirth, that your friends, often cannot or do not wait around for that to happen. Or you end up letting them go because without children, they simply cannot comprehend just how much your life has changed on a fundamental level--you can no longer relate to each other.

Suddenly the brand of diaper you buy will become important to you. Your method of birthing will become an important topic, especially if you plan to do it again. How you teach your children will become of serious importance as well. And you will sound like every other MOM out there, and be horrified. You will yell or get angry and hear your own mother's voice emanating from your oral cavity, and that will freak you out! And all the things that you didn't comprehend as a child or teen or young adult, will suddenly make sense and if you are lucky--you will have the wherewithall to feel shame as a result, and maybe even apologize to hapless caregivers for your antics, from your misspent youth.

You life has changed. Your life is changing. Just wait til you get old and you find yourself talking about dentures, or E.D. or depends--hey it just keeps getting better!

I would tell you not to fight it, but I think for some of us, that is an impossible request. I fought this tooth and nail. It wasn't even a conscious decision. I embraced my duty and felt repelled and diminished by it simultaneously. I felt fulfilled by the role in my family directly, and yet rejected and ignored by our society, because motherhood= a loss of social status for women.

And so most of the bad stuff, I blame on misogyny that is focused on the act of being a mother. Nothing is more female than getting pregnant and giving birth, and nothing is more associated with the end of a social life or a professional life than these acts of getting pregnant and becoming a mom.

Women and girls are frightened of motherhood, and they should be. It is a role that is used as a chain to keep us from being active participants with personal power in society. It used to be marriage = Motherhood, but with more forms of birth control and better sex EDU and the freedom to chose to terminate unwanted or unplanned or defective pregnancies, that is no longer the case.

In some ways, the archetype of the Mother in this culture is more feared than the archetype of the Witch, because a Witch still has power and worth, she may be hated and feared, but it is because of her power. The mother is hated and feared because she disappears. And she does this because our culture makes her disappear. That is what many of us are really fighting. We are fighting the act of making us disappear upon achieving motherhood.

It's not the babies, or all the indignities that come with making and caring for them. It's the additional, unnecessary indignities visited upon us by a society that wants all the benefits of our work, but is too cheap to truly honor our place in society, much less pay us for it in any meaningful way for the fruits of our labor [pun intended].

That is why lactation is a black box. That is why various groups feel it's okay to decide for us, when we get pregnant, if we stay pregnant, and how we give birth, irregardless of our personal needs or desires. What we want doesn't matter, and what we need doesn't matter either--because we are to some degree, invisible.

Mothers should not be seen nor heard.

So yes, you will lose yourself, because the person your are now will change, even if you vow not to, you will.

And it is very likely you will become lost as well, because this culture doesn't want you to bring the indignities of pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting into the swinging single adult sphere of work. It's a real downer don't ya know!

The actual lame factor of your new life will ultimately be determined BY YOU. If you think that diaper brands and birthing methods and lactation are lame even as you give birth, then you are borrowing more trouble. But if you value the art of mothering and of parenting, it will pay off. It might not pay off in money, in this cheap-ass culture, but it will pay off in terms of your children's quality of life.

And who knows, if enough of us parents take our job as seriously as we should, perhaps in a generation or 10, we might be able to change this culture into something better.

That change could happen faster if we parents and caregivers stick together and advocate for each other, in society and politically as well.


When I became a Mom I :

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Comment Preferences

  •  incredibly important diary (12+ / 0-)

    I'm pro-breastfeeding and there's not a lot of good knowledge out there. If I could rec this 70 times so it makes the top of the rec list, I would.

    (FWIW I was NOT breastfed and was born C-section. I support the right for all mothers to make their choices and rather resent the implication by some --not you!--that I was somehow harmed by both.)

    just a little bit bored.

    by terrypinder on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:04:10 AM PST

  •  And sometimes Moms just choose not to be mom. (16+ / 0-)

    At least that's what happened to my kids.

    Mom just decided that she didn't want to deal with the stress, the drama and the responsibility of having kids.

    So, she just gave up.  Walked away.  Left the kids in foster care.

    I can't say that I'm an expert on how hard it is to be Mom.  I do know what it's like to be Dad when Mom isn't there.

    If it weren't for help from my folks, etc, I don't know how I would make it.  Even now, it's nearly impossible to hold a job with the responsibilities, since the new "Flexible Schedule" trend doesn't make exceptions for parents...

    sigh.  I'm ranting.

    It's hard for parents.  Period.  Used to be that people understood that.  Now, they just have raised their expectations.  So up yours.  (Kidding on that last one.  But it's what it feels like sometimes.)

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:10:59 AM PST

  •  Important diary (13+ / 0-)

    All those people out there who claim "having a child won't change our lifestyle" especially need to read this.

    I came to my 2 youngest after already caring for 6 foster children and having been trained as a midwife. I had way more knowledge than many, many other people.

    It still wasn't enough.  

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:14:00 AM PST

  •  Breastfeeding is the one thing that worked (12+ / 0-)

    for me in the whole pregnancy/childbirth saga. I had an emergency C-section and my whole birth plan was violated (except for the no episiotomy...go figure) even though I did everything possible during pregnancy to prevent just such an outcome.

    But breastfeeding went incredibly well and my confidence in my body began to trickle back. The incredible sleep deprivation was a shock...when the baby nurses every two hours (and they mean from the beginning of one feeding to the beginning of the next so feeding for 45 minutes means you only have 1 hr 15 minutes left) around the clock for the first four months you lose all sense of reality. The sense of accomplishment when your baby doubles her birthweight in less than a month is pretty spiffy, though.

    My challenge came when we did "extended breastfeeding" and my daughter self-weaned at 3 1/2 years old. Plenty of folks thought it was child abuse to nurse for "so long" despite the fact that other cultures nurse for much longer than that. And you're right when everyone feels they can express their opinion on your parenting choices.  We would treat with indifferent disdain a stranger criticizing our choice in shoes but any random jerk can spout off about how we're parenting and it rouses extreme anger/doubt/guilt.

    Thank you for raising this issue!

    •  Well excellent news--I am glad that (5+ / 0-)

      breastfeeding worked for you, especially after you went through all of that! What a fighter you must be. I think normal childbirth makes one insanely exhausted, but bouncing back with a baby after a C-section? Good grief, hats off to you! That makes me tired just thinking about.

      And thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      •  Couldn't have done it without hubby (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreenMother, myboo, Munchkn, Lujane

        He had saved his vacation and personal time from work the entire pregnancy and managed to have four full weeks of leave. He was home full time for the first three weeks and then worked afternoons only for another two made all the difference in the world! He did all the baby care except breastfeeding for the first month so I didn't stress my incision.

        After the first month we did "tag team" night feedings. I would pump during the day so he would have a bottle to give the baby for one of the feedings. He would take the baby for the first part of the night and handle the first waking/feeding. Then he'd pass her off to me when she waked again and I'd take her for the rest of the night. By sleeping apart we both managed to get a solid 4 hours of sleep and then whatever we could manage around the feedings.

        It was a bit lonely sleeping by myself but the fact that I was actually SLEEPING outweighed any other consideration. And it lasted such a short time, although it was timeless while happening....

        Makes me tired to remember it!

  •  An important diary (8+ / 0-)

    I am childless by choice, but even I am aware that there's very little support for breastfeeding women.

    One group that my childbearing friends have praised as being extremely supportive is La Leche League.

    "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible." -- Bertrand Russell

    by wide eyed lib on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:47:14 AM PST

  •  I'm a never-married dude with no kids, & I find (13+ / 0-)

    this really, really important.

    Mothers are kind of like "The Troops" as Michael Moore recently diaried: lots of people claim to support them, but do they really?  Does the culture, really?  Because we effing well should, & that means first listening to what mothers say they need, & then helping them with it.

    The deeply embedded structures by which we value & judge everyone by social roles are often working against us on levels we don't detect; a collective cultural subconscious, the kind that manifests on implicit bias tests.  I wonder, if Harvard/MIT did one for mothers & breastfeeding, what it would reveal about us...

    Before elections have their consequences, Activism has consequences for elections.

    by Leftcandid on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 08:48:29 AM PST

  •  I have 4 kids. (14+ / 0-)

    The first one was colicky. I tried to last on the breast feeding, but one day about three months later my Dr just suggested soya formula. That was the night he slept for more than 3 hours.
    I felt pretty inadequate. But I decided his comfort was more important,.
    My second, we managed to go for 11 months, with no formula at all, and no solids until 6 months. She was a chubby happy baby, and I think that was a success.
    Number three was on formula by three weeks. She was miserable, as was I.
    The last one. we struggled along for six months. We called her starvin' Marvin. She was always hungry.
    And I was in pretty bad shape after her birth from a hemorrhage, so in and out of hospital and surgery was not of much help.

    What I learned: Many make you feel like a TERRIBLE mother if you just cannot breast feed for any reason.
    Your description of breast pumps,YUP.
    Torture devices.
    Hospitals can be saboteurs of breast feeding success. They tried to give my second one formula without my permission. Just a nurse who decided it was what she thought was best. (yes, she was told she was acting inappropriately)
    And at the end of it all, if the baby is healthy and happy, you made it just fine. '

    Breast feeding is always best, but you should never be guilted into continuing on if it is causing harm to you and your sanity.

    All mothers need support, no matter how things end up.

    Fuddle Duddle--- Pierre Trudeau.... Canadian politics at......A Creative Revolution

    by pale cold on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:02:12 AM PST

    •  Yup, isn't that why they invented cows, to (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      feed our kids?

      In any event, even if you don't consider your kid to be a full nutritioned by a cow, infant formula IS getting considerably better than in the old days . .. .

      •  Formula (6+ / 0-)

        Lacks a lot. Breast milk arms a babe with immunities and enzymes and natural defenses.

        Formula also has fillers and fats and sugars in it.

        At one point I was getting formula that seemed pretty good, my babes liked it, it was affordable. Imported from Denmark.

        Then the packaging changed slightly, and when I opened a new can, the smell knocked me over. Putrid chemical smell.

        I looked at the back of the can and in tiny letters: Made in the USA.

        The ingredient list was now loaded with sugars and fats.
        I chucked it.
        So no. Formula is not considerably better than the good old days.
        Its a business.

        Breast feeding is best. Always. My point is that there is only so much one can do, and sometimes you have to let things go.
        Human milk and cows milk are not similar.

        Fuddle Duddle--- Pierre Trudeau.... Canadian politics at......A Creative Revolution

        by pale cold on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:55:29 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  You are awesome pale cold. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pale cold, Munchkn, Lujane

      Your comment could have been a diary and I would have rec'ed it! Thank you for sharing, you are a voice of sanity with all that experience behind you.

  •  Well it's been twenty-eight years since I fell (8+ / 0-)

    into that category, and a lot of what you said brought back some memories. While I didn't have the difficulty you did, I sure remember the fatigue. Dangerous fatigue. I call falling asleep at red lights the epitome of that.

  •  even in the 70s (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    arkylib, GreenMother, suzq, Munchkn, Lujane

    support was mainly from niche orgs like LLL .. and some of the LLL folks really took it to the extreme (breastfeeding 3+ year olds, anyone?).

    I think it's more about the inability of society to accept our mammalian heritage (and most of our bodily functions)

    "Electronic media creates reality" - Meatball Fulton

    by zeke7237 on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:04:40 AM PST

  •  There seem to be (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badscience, GreenMother, suzq, Munchkn, Lujane

    an awful lot of comparison / competition bars that you have to pass to get your A+ as a mother. I failed the natural childbirth bar miserably with two posterior (sunny side up) kids who wouldn't descend. I did fine with breastfeeding, but it does help to have somebody who can teach you about it. The first time I had a semi crisis point and luckily managed to get through it without having any resources available. The second time around the hospital was much better about it and had an absolutely FANTASTIC lactation consultant who visited me in the hospital. She was amazing. I wish I had had her the first time.

    It's a whole new world once that kiddo arrives and while there are good books (Touchpoints and the American Academy of Pediatrics book were two of my favorites) you pretty much have to learn by doing.

  •  I was one of those horrible women (6+ / 0-)

    who had pretty easy pregnancies, got to follow my birth plan, and had good luck with breastfeeding. I'm a bossy know-it-all in general, and had the very good fortune to bump into an acquaintance right at the beginning of my first pregnancy who had two Bradley home births. She leant me her Bradley Method book, and that is what I did.

    It is a little cult-like, but was 100% effective for ME. Pretty good education about what my body and baby needed during pregnancy, and how to optimize the childbirth experience, from within and without. I frightened the hospital staff with my bossiness. Not popular with the nurses.

    What women need is education about her body (really, it is amazing how much we don't know about it, and we need medical research about it!) the empowerment to make informed choices and the control over her body. As well as medical care! Tall order.  

    •  And to add: (4+ / 0-)

      colic with #1 (I had it myself, and was breastfed in 1962 for three months, sort of a miracle). #2 was a very fun, laid back infant.

      In my experience, true colic (not upset stomach, "gas," whatever) is a hardwired brain/gut issue, not so much a breastfeeding issue. This kid is tightly wound as a young adult, and suffered from sleep terrors (as I did) as a preschooler, is a control freak and stressy. That is just who she is! As an infant, she expressed her feelings about her new environment through colic crying. And it got better.

      •  My kid's colic went away when I stopped (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM, Noddy

        breast feeding them. My mother had similar issues with my sibling [I was not breastfed].

        Even gained weight like I did, while breast feeding.

        I posit that the problem with my breast milk and the the over production of milk, and all, was due to a hormonal imbalance, that later led to swollen ovaries and missed cycles. I have both PCOS and Endo. Although I suspect I didn't develop the later until the first time I got pregnant. And the pregnancy and the breast feeding hormones made it go hay wire and affected my milk.

        That's just my hypothesis. I suspect that lots of issues cause colic and hardwiring may be one. I know that the antibiotics given to me, and being told to keep breastfeeding after the fact made the colic worse for obvious reasons.

        I love my children, but I have to say pregnancy was hell and birth was meh--but after that, for the first year it was insanity at best.

        Best wishes to all moms and new to be moms out there. Don't let any of this scare you, it's different for everyone. I give permission to anyone who needs it, to have a happy healthy pregnancy and a productive, but otherwise uneventful birth as well as a darling new babies.

        I have that authorit-eye you know ;)

        •  "Birth was meh!" (2+ / 0-)


          I never felt closer to death than during childbirth. Transition was as bad as advertised! I know some moms "liked" second-stage pushing because it is active, but man, I'd go through first stage any day. That I could manage. That whole pushing thing was freaky.

          I think "colic" is sort of a catch-all for a lot of things. With my kid it was just clear that living and breathing and feeling things and experiencing the world and processing stimuli was just too much and there were no coping mechanisms in place except prolonged crying.

        •  My grandmother breast fed 5 of her 6 children. (4+ / 0-)

          Number 6 was allergic to her milk and became jaundice.  There's no greater sinking feeling than the realization that you are poisoning your baby.  

          Of course, this was in 1950, when the only reliable formula available was evaporated cow's milk.  He was allergic to that too.  Doctor's solution:  buy a goat, which they did.  He was not allergic to goat's milk.

          Imagine having to milk that goat every day just to feed your baby.

          He's now a father of two, doing just fine, living in the Columbus, Ohio area.  

      •  Mine are the same (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        #1 would not stop crying for a year and continues to be anxious / high need. #2 was a delightful baby and is a much more easygoing kid.

  •  As the father of two (7+ / 0-)

    with a wife that has struggled heroically with exhaustion, but even more with expectations (herself and others), I think that the culture surrounding sex/gender/parenting roles in the U.S. is incredibly sick.

    We live in an narcissistic activist society in which everyone must be like me and do what I think is right or they are evil and will harm society/the children/the future/themselves.

    It's strange paradox that in a place wit so much diversity, the universal attitude is one of extreme judgmentalism on every issue.

    In parenthood, it really matters. Mom is worn down enough already after nine months of pregnancy, any complications, and childbirth and any related complications, and breastfeeding and infant care on top of that, without having to be bombarded with crap advice.

    For our first, we split time evenly, and it made her feel like a horrible mother. She was supposed to be everything. When breastfeeding was killing her, I eventually took initiative in secret and got a bottle so that I could handle some feedings, and it was both a relief for her and a tragedy—it meant that she had somehow failed.

    That was the thread throughout the entire first year; I was exhausted, but hadn't had the previous nine months of total physical exhaustion plus delivery beforehand, and so I could enjoy being a parent despite the difficulty. For mom, however, everything she did felt like it fell short. Breastfeed but be so exhausted that you can't sit up straight or smile at your child = failure to be a good mom. Mix the breastfeeding with some bottle = failure to breastfeed. Stay home from work to be a mom = failure to be a modern woman. Finally relent and go back to work to take some financial pressure off and restore a career = failure to be a good mom. She feels failure if the house isn't perfect, and failure if she takes time away from the kids to clean. She feels failure every time I help out around the house (because she's failing to be a good woman supporting a breadwinning husband, not to mention to be a supermom) but also failure after she chases me away from the housework (because then she's a bad feminist and enabling male privilege).

    All along the way, no matter what she actually was doing, there have been no shortage of people, gifted books, articles, and comments in public to tell her that it was wrong.

    So while my experience of being a parent has been joyful, hers has mainly been one of feeling a bitter failure and trying to rescue some meaning and positivity from the ashes.

    She badly wanted a second because she wanted to "get it right," and for the second she decided to "stop listening to everyone" and go with her gut, which told her that she wanted dad to be breadwinner, to but out from the housework and childcare, that she would breastfeed and do what it took until weaning, and be the traditional mommy. She was sure it would be better.

    But with two kids under two, she feels completely used up, short tempered, overangry with the kids, and—once again—a failure.

    It does no good when dad says "don't worry about it; I'm gonna do some stuff around the house, period; tell me what you need and I'll do whatever part you need me to do" and when dad tries to step in and secretly take care of things like dishes, or laundry, or a nap here and there.

    It's the same dynamic all over again: dad enjoys being a dad, feels helpless to help mom, and mom feels miserable for having failed to meet all expectations.

    The thing is, the social expectations are:

    (1) Impossible to meet in their individuality
    (2) Incompatible with one another in their multiplicity

    That doesn't top everyone from bitching and moaning about what they think is the "right way."

    There's a good dead of pressure on men in a lot of ways in all of this, too (breadwinner vs. enlightened male, solid-rock father figure vs. sensitive man, co-parent like a good feminist vs. back off and trust the unique maternal wisdom of mommy that you violate and undervalue if you don't back off, etc.) but I think the pressure is less, the judgment is less (men seem to judge each other far less harshly than women judge each other in these areas, in my experience), and in our case, I've always been something of an anti-social black sheep with a limited ability to care for the criticism of strangers, while mom was always a highly successful, highly respected, highly groomed social butterfly—and now finds herself judged by everyone instead of admired by everyone.

    -9.63, 0.00
    "Liberty" is deaf, dumb, and useless without life itself.

    by nobody at all on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:52:03 AM PST

    •  That makes me sad. (5+ / 0-)

      I wish for all people that they could find peace and pride in what they do, and not worry about the critics and nay-sayers. Of course, there are bullheaded people who refuse to listen to facts and logic (people in congress?) but on the whole, so many women are damaged by impossible - not just "unrealistic" - societal expectations.

      It's a hard slog, but I hope your partner can find peace and pride in what she has done, and neither criticize herself nor accept the criticism of others about this issue.

      My good fortune is that I don't care much about what people think of me, so at least the externals don't get me down. :-)

    •  This too shall pass nobody at all. (8+ / 0-)

      You described me and my husband to a tee. And we survived and you all will too.

      It's going to be okay.

      Your house will never be perfect with small children. They are destruction mess making robots that never stop, even in their sleep.

      You will never have all the answers, there are simply too many variables.

      You cannot please everyone, so do what you can to do your duty and then please yourselves. I know it's hard to ignore, but whatever it takes.

      Ask her if she would be this hard on another mother and if she says no, then tell her to cut herself some slack like she would for any other mere mortal.

      I have a plaque in my house that says, "Yes you can touch, but please do not write in the dust."

      It suits me fine. I was never a big house cleaner to begin with, so I have what some may think of as minimum standards. Oh well. It is what it is.

      I feed the kids. I have bad days, the kids eat yogurt or leftovers, I have a regular day, we eat grilled cheese and fruit, I have a good day, I get all fancy with spaghetti.

      If that ain't good enough for some busy body, then I say, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out.

      If the neighbors don't like my dirty laundry, then they are free to volunteer. Same with yard work, or dishes.

      And if my kids are dirty, then too bad. They get way that sometimes when they play. I photograph them with mud on them all the time, I think it's healthy.

      I know for me, part of my extreme unhappiness was exaggerated by my hormonal imbalance that wasn't diagnosed until my second kid was 4. Oh lord what a lot of suffering could have been prevented if I had that diagnosis before then.

      Consider if she will let you, if she feels depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, etc., even after the kids are walking and talking, that maybe she needs to be tested for hormonal issues, including but not limited to, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, thryroid issues, etc.,

      Lots of health problems, often temporary ones, go undiagnosed in women after childbirth, knowledge that could save their sanity, prevent weight gain and avoid emotional problems and long term exhaustion.

      Because it shouldn't be this bad. I know that now and I am passing it on to you.

      •  All excellent advice up there. (4+ / 0-)

        Mothers never "get it right" as participants in a competitive sport. Parenting is a life-long job and there are many opportunities to figure out how to do it more effectively as you go on.

        Even if kids came with users' manuals, there is no guarantee the instructions would work.

      •  The first kid.... (5+ / 0-)

        All was perfect and new.

        Second, not as much.

        By the third and fourth, second hand works fine, and stressing over perfection is not an option. :)

        My Aunt used to have a needlepoint framed over her stove.

        "My house is clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy."

        Me? The stuff on the floor isn't deep enough to hide bodies. :)

        My kids have clean clothes for school, they have plain old school food to eat, mostly homemade. They get tons of books and toys from the thrifts.

        And we dont do the endless expensive activities that many parents stress over.

        Fuddle Duddle--- Pierre Trudeau.... Canadian politics at......A Creative Revolution

        by pale cold on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 12:37:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I bought all the toddler toys off eBay. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          GreenMother, FloridaSNMOM, pale cold

          Duplo blocks went through the dishwasher.  He didn't know or care that they were second-hand.

          I knew they'd get expensive over time, so I paced myself in the expense department.  Besides, they're boys, so I knew they wouldn't be picky about clothes or furniture.

          •  I didn't buy many toys at first. What I found is (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badscience, pale cold, FloridaSNMOM

            that my kids don't like too many choices. So it was cool to just have a few favorite things and let it go at that.

            But we did carry them around in baby slings all the time and they had lots of interaction with us, with toys and without.

            Babies get bored with toys, but they sure love attention from mommy or daddy.

            •  Yup (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              And another thing we have always found is simple works.
              My 7 yr old loves to build things from blocks.

              Her daddy made her some lovely wooden blocks from a project he worked on. Leftovers. Untreated kiln dried pine. Just the cost of the sanding paper and some time.

              Hours and hours of stuff she has made.

              I have other pics, she also made a very good copy of the empire state building. But she had never seen it, so it was really even more cool.

              Fuddle Duddle--- Pierre Trudeau.... Canadian politics at......A Creative Revolution

              by pale cold on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 02:14:01 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  It's true. I take childhood in phases. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GreenMother, mamamorgaine, badscience

        Some folks are really good with infants.  My first had severe colic and believe me, I'm an expert on that.  I have 50 ways to make a child burp or fart.  I should write a book.

        Toddlerhood?  Not my thing.  I worshiped my wonderful day care professionals who managed (somehow) to potty train my little urchins, get them to eat exotic foods and teach them how to share and get along with others.  

        Schoolage?  Now we're talking.  I dive into homework issues, ADD issues (both my kids have it,) enjoy working with teachers, school concerts, etc...

        We'll see what teenage years are like.  Each phase is different.  Don't expect to be good with all of them.  Other cultures give their children to the village to raise because they know that parents aren't good at everything.

  •  I had two very different experiences. (6+ / 0-)

    I breastfed my son for the first four months, but I had to supplement with formula and juice because he was severely hypoglycemic from birth and his sugar just wasn't staying stable with breast milk alone. I think that's why at four months he just stopped breastfeeding all together. It was more work for less sugar.

    With my daughter, the people at WIC and my OB were really pushing me to breast feed. BUT I was on a very very high dose of PTU for my extremely over active thyroid. The dose was high enough that what would have crossed over into breast milk would have been more than they gave a baby with hyperthyroidism. I refused. WIC declared I needed a doctor's note to get formula. Luckily, my kids' pediatrician agreed with me, and gave me the note. WIC's plan, by the way was to tell me that it would be ok, because there was little research done on how this drug affected babies in the long term, and they would monitor her thyroid and if her levels dropped they would allow me to switch to formula... after the damage was done. If the Pediatrician hadn't been a very open and reasonable woman who took the time to look up my concerns and agreed with me, we would have ended up paying for formula and doing without other things because there's NO WAY I was breastfeeding my daughter and hoping for the best.

    I think breast feeding is the best in most circumstances. The problem comes when they push it for mothers when it is NOT.

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 09:54:27 AM PST

    •  That is just crazy--what WIC did. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, pale cold, Noddy

      But then when I had my first, we were told to apply for WIC on the base, and they told me we made too much money for now with just one child and that I should hurry up and make another baby so we could qualify!

      What is wrong with these people! That is no reason to bring a life into this world.

      I agree entirely. Just because it's best, doesn't mean that it's a life or death decision for everyone. The benefits either way are close enough, that most people could choose blindly and come out just fine.

      Lets cut new parents a break and just help them wherever they are on things.

      •  I know, they can be insane.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        advocating for breast feeding is one thing, pushing someone who has a medical reason for not doing so is something else entirely. I think they were under the assumption that it was pregnancy induced hyperthyroidism and would go away. But I had been hyperthyroid for several years before pregnancy, and I was until my daughter was 3 and my thyroid was irradiated. And I was on 600 mg of PTU a day (if I'm remembering correctly, it may have been higher). I wasn't on the typical adult dose of 150. I took 150 four times a day. And even then I was borderline thyroid storm most of the time.

        All that said, hypothyroid is the version that is most prominent in my family. Why was I going to risk dosing my daughter with enough PTU to affect her thyroid hormone production and making her even more likely to be hypothyroid?

        "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

        by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 11:06:33 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thyroid dysfunction is very common after birth (0+ / 0-)

          and often goes undiagnosed, and I have no doubt this plays a big part in post pardum weight gain, and depression for many American women. Fluctuation in thyroid hormones happens during pregnancy and can cause temporary conditions that may be treated successfully if caught quickly.

          •  Yes.. but mine wasn't temporary. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            And mine existed before pregnancy. It wasn't going away just because my daughter was born, so that I could breast feed her safely. And they weren't getting that.

            "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

            by FloridaSNMOM on Fri Jan 04, 2013 at 11:55:18 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Oh yea, I understand that you had a chronic (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              condition and that the WIC people were being morons about it.

              I was adding to that, it's a common problem for other women too, as something episodic rather than chronic, but that the effects of it, untreated lead to all sorts of health problems after giving birth.

              that it's nothing to sneeze at.

  •  I think the most important part of your diary is (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GreenMother, badscience, Munchkn

    the part that compares lactation to erectile dysfunction.

    You see, there is no money to be made off of breastfeeding.  Oh, yeah, there are those expensive storage bag/bottle systems from Sweden but they cost nowhere near what a week's worth of formula costs.

    You can rent hospital grade breast pumps and if you have the money, buy a good breast pump, which is what I did.  But then, I used the same pump for two kids and gave it to a friend of mine for her two kids.  She has since passed it on to someone else (it still works!) So I'm doing very little for that company's bottom line, am I?

    But those little blue pills are still in the non-generic period and are a GOLD MINE.  So you have "confidential ED clinics" set up everywhere and I defy you to find a good lactation consultant when you need one.

    My first was born after 22 hours of hard labor (face up--had to be extracted with the vacuum and forceps and someone pushing down on my abdomen.  Fun!)  I lost a lot of blood and was anemic for weeks.  I couldn't stand up for more than 10 minutes at a time for the first week or so.  He was fed formula in the nursery and proceded to vomit all over the nurse that fed him.  They gave him to me the next morning and he happily nursed.  

    Two weeks later, however, I was engorged and he was on a nursing strike.  Something had to be done!  I found a lactation consultant, luckily, and she helped me pump off extra milk and suggested I rent or purchase a machine, which I did.  It really helped me through that rough patch and allowed me to go back to work and still keep breastfeeding, which we did for 18 months, when my son weaned himself.

    My second son was a reluctant nurser that first day and the nurses were concerned he was losing weight.  One nurse in particular asked me how quickly he was born.  It was a short delivery and took just two pushes.  She explained to me that when babies aren't pushed much, the meconium isn't squeezed sufficiently out of their tummies.  She suggested finger feeding some colostum.  So we pumped off some colostum and finger fed number 2 son.  About 30 minutes later, the most explosive poo you ever heard, felt or seen emerged from his behind.  Problem solved.

    THAT issue, by the way, was not covered in ANY of my lactation books (and I had a library.)  It took a nurse with experience to pull us through.  

    So next time you're watching tv and one of those insipid ED commercials come on, imagine if it were a commercial for lactation consultant services or just a public service announcement about the benefits of nursing.  

    If your next diary is about nursing in public, I'm all in!  I've got stories about that too.  

    •  Don't we all! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FloridaSNMOM, Munchkn
      If your next diary is about nursing in public, I'm all in!  I've got stories about that too.  
      I didn't do that much because I felt like people were "not" staring waiting for me to flop my boobs out and do the mashed potato, because you know, that's what breast feeders do!


      •  I was lucky and took #1 to Europe (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM, GreenMother

        to live for a year when she was 2 months old. Nobody batted an eye. She nursed and was changed, in public, in as many diverse places as you can imagine. No changing table? Cathedral pew will do the trick! Hungry? Nurse in Rembrandthaus! Even in Paris, hotel concierges and waiters were loving, helpful and friendly (quite a change from their attitudes when I visited as a student).

    •  That is amazing about the colostrum and merconium (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I have books too and never heard that one. Word to wise, I am going to write that down on the breast feeding pages in the margins!

  •  You're right (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There is no money or very little to made off breastfeeding.  There's tons of money to be made off formula.

  •  Using a pump should NOT hurt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Neither should breastfeeding.

    Many mothers have the suction on their pump set way too high.  It does not express the milk better or lead to higher yields of milk.  Some moms also need to use a different size shield.  A good IBCLC can help her evaluate that.

    If breastfeeeding hurts, then it is a sign that something is not right, usually with the latch, but a good LC can help fix that, too.  Not all LCs are up to snuff and not all LCs really are. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. IBCLCs have to take a certifying exam, have education and clinical experience requirements to meet before they can even sit the exam, and must meet certain continuing education requirements to keep their certification current.  IIRC, every 10 years, they must re-certify be exam.  

    Dr Suzanne Colson is a British midwife who has studied the impact of the infant's innate reflexes on newborn breastfeeding behaviors.  She has found that pretty much all of newborn infant reflexes are tied to being able to feed.  The stepping reflex- helps the newborn get to the breast.  The pushing they many babies do against the breast -tied to helping the baby get milk out of the breast.  Her work is very exciting to those of us in lactation work.

    One thing I should say is that there is a group of doctors interested in breastfeeding medicine:Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine

    •  I would like to see some kind of study done (0+ / 0-)

      on women with hormonal imbalances and breast feeding. I made enough milk for 6 babies, and got lots of clogging, had lots of pain, gained weight while doing it, and as stated up-thread it made the babies crazy.

      If too much estrogen makes me crazy and makes me hurt, I can only imagine what astronomical amounts of that would do to an infant if it's coming through the milk. It's the only issue I could not eliminate during that period of time, that would explain the effects on the babies.

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