Thursday, December 8, 2011

More on Breastfeeding: Let's talk about Booby Traps

I have to admit, I didn't know much about the term "booby traps" when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. I was however, aware of some of the situations and pressures I may find myself in.  For someone as stubborn as me who was completely determined to breastfeed and did not want to consider any other alternative, I was fooled more than once.  

I set myself up to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with E.  I educated myself by reading a lot of the right books. I attended a pre-natal breastfeeding course. I met with lactation consultants at breastfeeding clinics in the first few weeks. I made sure to include Hubby in the process as it is important to have someone close that supports you in your decisions. I took myself to infant playgroups and surrounded myself with other breastfeeding mothers.

I was lucky to have been breastfed and watch my Mother breastfeed my younger brothers and sisters and so breastfeeding has always been naturally normal to me.  Some women don't grow up in this environment and may have never seen a women breastfeed until they attempt it themselves.  This is a huge problem in our culture.

It makes me so sad that women may not be as supported by their family, friends, doctors, etc which may have a negative affect on their breastfeeding relationship. I felt very isolated in the early days with E because I did not have any close friends who were Mothers and my in-laws who live close by are not familiar with breastfeeding. I was lucky to have a Husband to support me, a Mother to call and the perseverance to work though any issues I had.

Breastfeeding is natural, yes. But it is not all roses and unicorns.  Many women face small struggles in the beginning and as difficult as it can be, unfortunately there are many outside sources or "booby traps" that can damage your relationship even more. 

Here are some of the institutional and cultural "booby traps" I encountered while breastfeeding E:
  • When pregnant I attended a baby trade show and signed up for some contests. Instead I "won" free formula samples and coupons in the mail. Little did I know that these formula companies were given my contact details.
  • When shopping at a maternity store and signing up for their "rewards club and newsletter", instead I received more coupons in the mail from formula companies. (I even had a friend who received a complete Nestle "gift" in the mail complete with formula, bottles and a cooler bag. I thought I missed out at the time, until I read more into formula companies marketing tactics).
  • When E was born I had a lack of skin to skin time, therefore missing out on the most important time - the magical hour.
  • In the hospital I had very delayed assistance to initiate breastfeeding with an inattentive nurse and no lactation consultant on staff. This resulted in a lethargic baby, a weak latch and a sleepy nurser.
  • Formula samples were sent home from the pediatrician to "supplement" when slow weight gain was a concern in E's first few weeks rather than a referral to a lactation consultant. (It's a good thing I made my own decision and went to a breastfeeding clinic).
  • After orders from the pediatrician to give supplementing a try, I supplemented my son once after a feeding, which turned out to upset his stomach even more. (After my own research and trouble shooting I discovered his "failure to thrive" was due to a dairy protein allergy).
  • Being the first of my friends to breastfeed they did not understand the importance of breastfeeding in public and extended breastfeeding, therefore making it uncomfortable for me.
  • My family-in-law did not breastfeed and therefore questioned feeding schedules and parenting. "He's hungry again?". "Why fuss with pumping when I can just give him formula?" "You still haven't weaned him?"
  • When I started to wean E from his daytime feeds while I prepared to go back to work after 12 months, the allergist and nutritionist I met with did not approve of me giving him rice or almond milk as a daytime substitute. I was given dairy allergy sensitive formula and tried it for 2 weeks until I decided it wasn't working and that I had been duped into a silly booby trap.  I continued to nurse E in the mornings and evenings and followed my gut and he drank water or rice or almond milk while at daycare.
  • At 16 months, I weaned E after feeling cultural pressure.
As you can see, even someone as determined as myself can get trapped.  You can only imagine how much longer the list above could be for a mother who doesn't necessary prepare herself. If you aren't aware of how these situations can directly affect your breastfeeding relationship you will get trapped into weaning too early or cutting your relationship too short. While I believe it is usually society that fails us, not the mother that fails at breastfeeding, I do tell my friends that they need to prepare themselves to succeed.  Saying, "I'm going to give breastfeeding a try", does not hold up in our culture often.  I was lucky to have had a natural birth therefore didn't have to worry about any medical interventions causing problems to early nursing. I have spoken to many friends who weren't so lucky.  Sometimes these situations can't be prevented and in that case I believe that dwelling on the past does not do us any good.  Looking to to the future and informing others, does.

Here are some more breastfeeding and related posts I have written:

My Top 10 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers
Reaching out to a new mother
Breastfeeding Support

And here are some absolute MUST reads about breastfeeding that can also help explain how some of the "booby traps" above could have and did directly affect mine and many women's breastfeeding relationships:

The Truth Behind Common Breastfeeding Myths by Nurtured Child
Just 3 Things Every Expecting Mom Should Do by Best for Babes
What are the Booby Traps? by Best for Babes
Why do moms quit breastfeeding? by PhD in Parenting
We live in a bottle feeding culture by Your Birth Coach

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