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"Breast Is Best": A Mantra to Promote Infant Health? or Stigmatizing Adage to Guilt Moms

Nurses Article   (19,052 Views 174 Comments 1,461 Words)
by cjcsoon2bnp cjcsoon2bnp (Member) Writer

cjcsoon2bnp works as a ED NP and Clinical Instructor.

8 Articles; 24,174 Visitors; 1,156 Posts

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In my last article “Becoming Dad: A Humbling Birth Experience of a New Father and Nurse,” I discussed my journey to becoming a first-time parent and included some of the challenges that being a nurse and a parent present when it comes to the health of your children. This article continues on my journey with the battle we fought against the “breast is best” movement, which advocates that mothers exclusive breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life. You are reading page 11 of "Breast Is Best": A Mantra to Promote Infant Health? or Stigmatizing Adage to Guilt Moms. If you want to start from the beginning Go to First Page.

BlueDawnRN has 5 years experience as a BSN.

3,799 Visitors; 108 Posts

I had postpartum depression which went undiagnosed until he was about a year old, and it stemmed from not being able to produce enough milk.

Same here. I was so set on breastfeeding but much like OP we had to supplement due to weight loss. Weighted feeds with the lactation consultant showed she was only getting 0.5 ounce per feed. I ended up with PND due to my incredible sense of failure at not being able to exclusively breastfeed. We put way too much pressure on women to exclusively breastfeed. Fed is best.

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SmilingBluEyes has 20 years experience.

5 Likes; 2 Followers; 64,385 Visitors; 19,471 Posts

OK I have stayed out of the fray this long. First of all congrats Organized Chaos on your new baby.

I had a late-term preemie son. He was 34 weeks. He was a big preemie, 6lb. I was pumping like crazy while he was in an isolette, fighting a bacterial infection, and feeding it to him when he was awake. I was also putting him to breast when it was finally allowed. It worked for a couple of weeks, til he got healthy and grew like a SHOT. By age 1 year, he was 25 pounds. I made enough milk to feed a nation, but it was still not enough. ( I pumped about 13 oz AFTER 30 minutes of nursing-----supply was no problem). He just was hungry. All.....the....time...... He would nurse and nurse and nurse and then the pedi finally "gave me permission" to supplement with formula. It saved our sanity. My screaming, crying, inconsolable son was suddenly happy, content and slept more than 30 minutes at a time. The relief for us both was amazing.

I still nursed him to age 1 year, with supplemental bottles, until at about 8 months he needed actual FOOD to satisfy him. Then I began puree'ing my own baby food from fruits/veggies and boy did he love that.

I am not gonna tell others what to do, I am just sharing my experience. I don't regret supplementing him. He grew too fast for me keep up; I know that now. But the guilt I felt then was horrible. I had La Leche League and other friends urging me to STOP the bottle; it would hurt him.

My daughter, a different experience. Nearly full term, (38 week) 9 lb but content with my milk. Never needed a supplement and nursed 2 years without bottles.

Each kid is different, as is each family. Do what works for you----and feel proud like I do, when they become adults and do well. Both my kids are healthy, strong, independent, accomplished young adults now. NO REGRETS!!!! HOW I fed them was important but not as much as how I RAISED them.

Don't let anyone guilt you away from your instincts as a mom. Listen to your baby and your body, and respond accordingly. It will all work out in the end. Trust me.

Edited by SmilingBluEyes

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quazar has 20 years experience.

2 Likes; 9,739 Visitors; 603 Posts

Each kid is different, as is each family. Do what works for you----and feel proud like I do, when they become adults and do well. Both my kids are healthy, strong, independent, accomplished young adults now. NO REGRETS!!!! HOW I fed them was important but not as much as how I RAISED them.

Don't let anyone guilt you away from your instincts as a mom. Listen to your baby and your body, and respond accordingly. It will all work out in the end. Trust me.

I love you so much for this. Spot on. Thank you!

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Just the fact that some posters have used the word "heartbreaking" to describe their reaction to not being able to breastfeed is illustrative of how women have been manipulated and hounded into unquestionably believing the whole "breast is best" dare I say, propaganda. Millions upon millions of babies are fed with formula and grow to be healthy, intelligent, successful members of society. Breast feeding is cheaper and for some, convenient. There are claimed health benefits, which sadly, were not realized in my own child or any of my sister's 4 children. (All breastfed, 3 out of 5 wound up with tubes in ears, 1 has allergies to egg, dairy and peanut, 1 with meningitis, 1 with RSV, 3 with asthma, 1 with autism, 2 with chronic sinusitis and probably other health concerns I'm not thinking of right now.) Anecdotal yes, but after a while when you hear SO MANY "anecdotes" from friends, family and acquaintances, you start to go with your gut, which for me is, the benefits of breastfeeding are overblown. I'd much rather have new parents be better informed and more concerned with child development and parenting skills and modeling healthy relationships, than worrying about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Not vaccinating, benign neglect, a chaotic living environment, substance abuse, poverty, lack of health insurance, homelessness and just plain being a rotten, ignorant parent are MUCH more detrimental in the long run for a child and society than having formula fed your baby.

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565 Likes; 3 Followers; 25,919 Visitors; 5,224 Posts

When my son was born 7 years ago he would latch, but my milk did not come in for 3 days. Until we were at home.

It's normal for milk to not come in for 3-4 days. It's too bad your lactation consultant didn't tell you that so that you wouldn't feel you were struggling or had "issues."

The important thing is your baby was loved and cared for.

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Just the fact that some posters have used the word "heartbreaking" to describe their reaction to not being able to breastfeed is illustrative of how women have been manipulated and hounded into unquestionably believing the whole "breast is best" dare I say, propaganda. Millions upon millions of babies are fed with formula and grow to be healthy, intelligent, successful members of society. Breast feeding is cheaper and for some, convenient. There are claimed health benefits, which sadly, were not realized in my own child or any of my sister's 4 children. (All breastfed, 3 out of 5 wound up with tubes in ears, 1 has allergies to egg, dairy and peanut, 1 with meningitis, 1 with RSV, 3 with asthma, 1 with autism, 2 with chronic sinusitis and probably other health concerns I'm not thinking of right now.) Anecdotal yes, but after a while when you hear SO MANY "anecdotes" from friends, family and acquaintances, you start to go with your gut, which for me is, the benefits of breastfeeding are overblown. I'd much rather have new parents be better informed and more concerned with child development and parenting skills and modeling healthy relationships, than worrying about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. Not vaccinating, benign neglect, a chaotic living environment, substance abuse, poverty, lack of health insurance, homelessness and just plain being a rotten, ignorant parent are MUCH more detrimental in the long run for a child and society than having formula fed your baby.

It's weird. You admitted that your experience is an anecdote. So it seems like you are aware that this in no way whatsoever discredits the extensive research that supports the exclusive breastfeeding recommendations... but then you use your anecdote to attempt to discredit it.

Do you really think that these huge medical organizations( AAP, WHO, CDC, USPSTF) know less about the benefits of breastfeeding over formula than you?

I'm not sure what the point of bringing up the stability of a child's home was. I don't know of many newborns that have the option to be breastfed by violent drug addicts or formula fed in a stable two parent middle class household.

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I can't help you. My post is very clear. Yes, I believe anecdotal evidence, when voluminous, matters enough that it needs to be considered. The "breast is best" is overblown, especially when long term developmental outcomes are factored in. All of the factors that I listed about a newborn's environment are ultimately much more crucial than whether the baby is being formula fed or breastfed. What's important is that the baby is eating regularly enough to meet her nutritional needs. You're very lucky that you apparently live in a community for which poverty, domestic violence, homelessness, addiction, lack of healthcare, ignorance about vaccinations etc. isn't a concern. These environmental, psychosocial factors are much more crucial to a baby's well being and development than whether or not she has been breast fed. These factors are what we as a society should be tackling in order to protect babies. Not silly mommy wars about formula vs. breast milk.

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5 Likes; 3 Followers; 17 Articles; 65,644 Visitors; 5,259 Posts

Anecdotes are fine for telling a story, but aggregate data are better when making policy. The benefits of breastfeeding have been demonstrated over and over and over and over - transcending race, culture, and socioeconomic strata. Considering how few absolute contraindications there are to breastfeeding, it's embarrassing that we as a society cling to archaic beliefs about what breastfeeding is and is not.

There is no need to browbeat mothers who choose not to breastfeed. But there is a great need to support - actually support - mothers who do. I'm talking in-home visits, decent paid parental leave, a cultural shift that supports public breastfeeding (this includes more clean areas designated for mothers who wish for more privacy), and explicit employer support for employees who wish to breastfeed.

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eatenbylocusts has 13 years experience and works as a RN.

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"Ignorance about vaccinations"- This statement gets me. I know what education I got in nursing school about vaccinations which consisted primarily of the schedule. I got great grades on all my tests, but it wasn't until years later that I started wondering why we were vaccinating newborns who don't have an immune system that is able to make use of the vaccinations given. Newborns are fighting off assaults to their immune system with what they acquired in uteru and then with the antibodies they receive in breast milk. How in the world can anyone discount the value of immunity which is passed on in breast milk and then tout the value of a vaccination that doesn't work on newborns, but does harm some which of course you know after studying the differences between infants and older children/ adults taking into consideration that more permeable blood brain barrier of the newborn. Have you considered that some of those breast fed babies that got sick were actually kept alive because of the breast milk? Their prognosis without the extra antibodies might've been much graver.

My daughter benefited greatly from the immunity I was able to share with her and I was being prepared by her medical team for a poor prognosis.

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565 Likes; 3 Followers; 25,919 Visitors; 5,224 Posts

Let's not hijack a breastfeeding thread with vaccination debate.

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SmilingBluEyes has 20 years experience.

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Let's not hijack a breastfeeding thread with vaccination debate.

THANK YOU!!!

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It's weird. You admitted that your experience is an anecdote. So it seems like you are aware that this in no way whatsoever discredits the extensive research that supports the exclusive breastfeeding recommendations... but then you use your anecdote to attempt to discredit it.

Do you really think that these huge medical organizations( AAP, WHO, CDC, USPSTF) know less about the benefits of breastfeeding over formula than you?

I'm not sure what the point of bringing up the stability of a child's home was. I don't know of many newborns that have the option to be breastfed by violent drug addicts or formula fed in a stable two parent middle class household.

Anecdotes are fine for telling a story, but aggregate data are better when making policy. The benefits of breastfeeding have been demonstrated over and over and over and over - transcending race, culture, and socioeconomic strata. Considering how few absolute contraindications there are to breastfeeding, it's embarrassing that we as a society cling to archaic beliefs about what breastfeeding is and is not.

There is no need to browbeat mothers who choose not to breastfeed. But there is a great need to support - actually support - mothers who do. I'm talking in-home visits, decent paid parental leave, a cultural shift that supports public breastfeeding (this includes more clean areas designated for mothers who wish for more privacy), and explicit employer support for employees who wish to breastfeed.

I might have missed the post but I'm pretty sure that no one said not to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.

And that the post in question with the anecdotal evidence was not intended to discredit the benefits of breastfeeding.

Edited by Libby1987

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