Monday, May 25, 2015

Are You Good Enough?

In my line of work I talk to a lot of breastfeeding moms. I also talk to many moms who are thinking about breastfeeding but aren't 100% sure, as well as many expecting moms who want to breastfeed longer with this baby than they did with their last.

Of the moms and expecting moms who want to breastfeed or are thinking about it, there is one very common theme to why they aren't sure, or why it didn't work out last time.

What is it you ask?

Milk Supply.

I talk to first time expecting moms whose own mom (or sister, or friend, or cousin, or neighbor's cousin's daughter) "wasn't able to make enough milk", so they aren't sure how it will go for them, either.

I talk to expecting moms who "weren't able to make enough milk" with their first.

I talk to currently breastfeeding moms who "aren't able to make enough milk."

So......what in the world is going on? Why are so many moms not able to produce enough milk for their babies all the sudden? For thousands of years mamas had to produce milk or their babies would die. Is it something going on with with the human race? Did something suddenly happen that we aren't able to create milk the way our great great grandmas were? Is there something going on with babies? Are they not able to nurse as well as they used to? Or is there something else? Is something going on in our culture and environment that has caused this effect of a great human-milk shortage?

Well, I have a theory. In addition to many things that have been proven to reduce milk supply, I think that a lot of it has to do with our culture and the ongoing and persistent message that womens' bodies aren't good enough and that they are going to fail them and their babies. Whether from the media or their friends or family, the message is clear: pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting, sucks. You aren't going to be good enough, and even if you think you are and want to do what's best for yourself and baby, "just wait - it'll get worse."

It starts in pregnancy: "Oh, I was SO sick - enjoy your morning sickness!" "You're feeling good in pregnancy? Just wait....soon you'll be so uncomfortable you won't want to move" "You're pregnant? Congratulations! Just wait until the heartburn sets in" "Just wait until childbirth - I just about died when I had my baby!"

Then in childbirth: "Isn't that baby here yet??" "How long are they going to let you go?" "Oh, just get the epidural as soon as you walk in the door - you don't have to be a hero." "Thank god my doctor saved my baby - he did an emergency cesarean at 5:04 pm last Friday because my body just wouldn't progress past 6 cm." "You're going to try for a natural birth? Good luck with that."

Then with breastfeeding: "They told me at the hospital that I didn't have enough milk, so I had to give my baby formula." "I was only able to breastfeed for 2 weeks with my first, then my milk production just stopped." "My doctor told me I had to quit breastfeeding so I could take the meds I needed." "I dried up" "My body just couldn't produce milk" "My baby was too hungry and needed more than I could give him"

Then with parenting: "Oh, what a cute baby! I hope he doesn't have colic like my babies did. It was terrible." "Your baby has colic? Just wait until he reaches the terrible twos!" "Your toddler throws fits at the store? Just wait until she reaches the tween years!" "Your tween is moody now? Just wait until she is in high school!"

"Just wait - it gets worse!!"

Seriously - what IS it with our society? Why in the world do we think we have to spread the worst possible scenario all the time? And why is it a bragging right to have the worst thing happen to you?

I truly believe that our breastfeeding rates and successes have plummeted in part because of this pervasive attitude that our bodies won't work for us - I mean, they don't for anyone else, so why would mine work for me?

Even some doctor's offices have issues with this. I was talking to a new mom recently and she shared something with me that I remember happening to me with my first baby, too. She is an exclusive breastfeeder. Her baby doesn't get a bottle of any kind. When she went in for her baby's well baby check, the nurse asked her how much her baby eats. She said "I'm not sure. I nurse when he's hungry." The nurse asked "well, about how much does he eat when he does?" Mom says "I can't measure that - I exclusively breastfeed" Nurse says "So you don't know how many ounces he is getting?" basically saying "How do we know he is getting enough?"

I remember having that exact conversation when Vienna was a baby. It was like the nurse didn't know any other way to measure a baby's intake than by how many ounces she was getting. And how do we regularly know how many ounces a baby takes in? By feeding them a bottle*. Not that bottles are bad, it's the implication that there's no way to measure health except by the ounces taken in. So we should bottle feed so that we know how much they are getting.

And then there's employers who aren't on board with providing their employees a private place to pump when they go back to work, nor enough breaks and time to do so.

And don't even get me started on some doctors telling moms to just stop breastfeeding for one reason or another. Instead of digging in and finding out what may be causing any issues, it's much easier to just put that baby on formula and not have to deal with it anymore.

Well, I for one want to make a change in the way moms think about and see their bodies and their abilities as parents.

I want to scream from the rooftops: YOU WERE MADE TO DO THIS - YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH!!

You can grow your baby in your womb. You can birth your baby. You can feed your baby from your own body. You are the perfect mama for your baby, and you don't have to "just wait" until it gets worse. You are perfectly equipped to take parenting as it comes and will do a great job! Just follow your God-given mama-instincts and you will be just fine. It doesn't have to be the horrible experience that everyone is so quick to tell you it will be. It's ok to enjoy it. It's ok to be good at it. It's ok to not let the tough times dictate what you share with other, younger moms. It's ok to be an encourag-er.

I'm here to tell you: you CAN do it, and I'm confident that you are GREAT!


As a side note, I want to acknowledge that there are legitimate medical reasons that a mom can't grow, vaginally birth, or breastfeed their babies. This commentary is directed toward the way culture in America makes so many believe they can't, even when they can....

*There are other ways you can measure how many ounces your baby is getting even when exclusively breastfeeding. Talk to your lactation consultant for more information.

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