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Kristen

Breastfeeding. Or not.

Posted by Kristen on March 26, 2009 at 9:50 AM in BabiesKristenNew Babybreastfeeding
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We took a special trip to the pediatrician on Saturday. Because with a newborn, can you ever really go to the doctor enough? This time was for thrush but I got a little extra when the baby didn't weigh what he was supposed to weigh.

Here we go again.

Breastfeeding is an investment. Sometimes it's cheap. It's like those writers who require merely a pen and pad a paper to draft The Great American Novel. Then there are those writers who would write absolutely nothing if it not for the combination of getting the typing award in high school and getting a fancy schmancy laptop that will one day inspire them to write The Great American Blog Post.

Nathan was my pad and paper. I think he actually crawled up my belly looking for some food. A glance at his frame will let you know that he hasn't stopped eating, even after weaning. He just moved on to food that was a lot more fun.

Ethan? He was one of these and a master's in journalism at Columbia when it came to the investment of breastfeeding. Minimal weight gain, every other day at the pediatrician's office, painful latch, supplementing with pumping while trying to avoid nipple confusion. The lactation consultant finally threw her arms up in the air and said, "I have NO idea what is going on with this baby." Ten weeks later, he started to nurse "properly" and all was right with the world. That, my friends, gave new meaning to breastfeeding as an investment. Everything was then a piece of cake and I got what I signed up for: 5 minute meals and NO CLEANING OR PREPARING BOTTLES. Oh, I'm lazy.

So then I had this new baby who was recently referred to as the "Happy Starver" at the pediatrician's office. I was advised to pump or to supplement with formula in order to get his weight back up to his birth weight, which was 9 pounds, 3 ounces. When I did not look properly concerned, I was scolded. Jaundice, thrush and now suggestions of "failure to thrive?"

I'll admit that I contemplated the formula route to get the big, bad doctors off my back. I was having post-traumatic stress disorder flashbacks to the hours and days and weeks I spent trying to "fix" Ethan's breastfeeding problems. A little formula wouldn't hurt.... A week of supplementing wouldn't make him less smarter than his brothers, would it?

Then I read "The Case Against Breastfeeding" by Hanna Rosen, and I'll admit it resonated with me slightly (ducking to avoid having things thrown at me by my fellow Supersisters Jen and Patience).

According to Rosen,

The IQ studies run into the central problem of breast-feeding research: it is impossible to separate a mother's decision to breast-feed--and everything that goes along with it--from the breast-feeding itself. Even sibling studies can't get around this problem. With her first child, for instance, a mother may be extra cautious, keeping the neighbor's germy brats away and slapping the nurse who gives out the free formula sample. By her third child, she may no longer breast-feed--giving researchers the sibling comparison that they crave--but many other things may have changed as well. Maybe she is now using day care, exposing the baby to more illnesses. Surely she is not noticing that kid No.2 has the baby's pacifier in his mouth, or that the cat is sleeping in the crib (trust me on this one). She is also not staring lovingly into the baby's eyes all day, singing songs, reading book after infant book, because she has to make sure that the other two kids are not drowning each other in the tub. On paper, the three siblings are equivalent, but their experiences are not.

In the end, Rosen really isn't necessarily making a case against breastfeeding. She's just making the case that it might not be as life and death a decision for parents as we have made it out to be. Will I be throwing in the towel for breastfeeding just yet, because I have to take a break to get the older two off the top of the fridge? No. Maybe this baby will be my
little pink netbook and I'm willing to hang in there. But if it comes down to it, I might just be buying that formula next week to stave off the big, mean doctors. I'm just saying.

6 Comments

Patience writes...

nothing being thrown from my direction...kate (our 4th sister) got formula and let's face it, she's smarter than all of us...

Vanessa writes...

I think Rosen is using breastfeeding as a scapegoat for all the other ways that life these days is challenging and overwhelming and unsatisfying for women today.

Missy K writes...

Breast is best, but not only. And I believe sometimes the decision to nurse or not is not only about the act of nursing itself, but what is best for the whole family.

Nothing thrown from here. It would be wonderful if parenting was a long string of either or decisions-- one answer that is right and pure and another that is wrong and bad, but it doesn't work that way. Including with nursing.

Let's be strong advocates for breast feeding, and understanding that we're all making the best decisions we can in the unique chemistry of our own families.

Amber writes...

At the end of the day getting food into the little guy is more important than what that food is (well, within reason, I would probably draw the line at Kool-Aid). And sometimes once babies get some more calories they start nursing more successfully. Or not. We're all just doing our best, and sometimes the answers aren't so straightforward, but all the same our kids are just fine in the end.

Carol writes...

My boy would only nurse 2 minutes on one side at a time. When I expressed concern to the doctor about it the doctor said try to make him nurse two minutes on the other side. So I did. Then within minutes he threw up. I never forced it again. But nursing was easy for me and my babies. I know it's harder for some.

Mary writes...

While a doctor's suggestions are really important I would also check with a certified lactation consultant. I worked closely with mine for 4 years and would take her advice when it comes to breastfeeding over most doctors. Doctors are only now starting to back breastfeeding enthusiastically and know very little about it. They often learn their info from seminars put on by the formula companies too.
Doctors do not know it all and it is our job to find what is right for us.
Breastfeeding isn't always easy and it does take a bit of determination sometimes. Thank you.

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