Tag Archives: Breastfeeding

Dear Alpha Parent, re. women giving up breastfeeding “too easily”


Dear Alpha Parent,

I read with interest your “NEWSFLASH- Breastfeeding requires effort” post last night. I was conflicted about it for various reasons which I will explain in a moment.  I tweeted:

and understandably a lot of very upset tweeters tweeted back at me.  144 characters is not enough to do my thoughts justice so I am expanding upon them  here.

*Personal breastfeeding story klaxon*

Firstly I need to say I should be one of the 2% of women who actually can’t breastfeed. A bilateral breast reduction when I was 19 removed 7lbs of breast tissue and I was told it was 50:50 whether I would breastfeed.  However I was one of the lucky ones.  I have written extensively about my exceptionally hard early breastfeeding experiences of Oddler (here, here) and Omble (here, here,  and here). I hoped it would be easier second time around but if anything it was harder!  But in summary here is a chart of most of the trials and tribulations we conquered.

Oddler

Omble

Breast reduction- large amount of tissue removed. can I feed?  Health care professionals doubtful. Breast reduction- have predominantly breastfed before, can I exclusively feed this time?
14% weight loss in first week. Everyone panics. 9.7% weight loss, most people stay calm.
6weeks to regain birthweight- Health Visitors and Midwives worried 5.5weeks to regain birthweight- Health Visitors and Midwives still worried but less so than last time
Crazy intense relentless exhausting hellish pumping and top up routine Crazy intense relentless exhausting pumping and top up routine but this time I have a toddler to care for too and a dad to grieve for.
Tube fed baby won’t latch on for first week. Will only latch on with nipple shields for first month. Won’t latch on for first 36hours, then only with nipple shields
Agonising cracked nipples that won’t heal. Agonising cracked nipples that won’t heal.
Tongue tie diagnosed and snipped at 7weeks, latch improves, nipples damaged further Tongue tie dismissed at birth but diagnosed and snipped at 3 weeks. No improvement in latch, nipples still being damaged
Bacterial infection in nipple crack diagnosed at 9 weeks. Antibiotics mean nipple heals 4 bouts of mastitis- 3 I cleared on my own, one requiring antibiotics as my breast was oozing pus
Baby on NICU for first 5days of life, I am on a hospital ward away from her. I am given minimal advice on how to establish breastfeeding in that situation. Treated for breast thrush as deep stabbing pain whenever I feed, treatment doesn’t improve situation
Flat almost inverted nipples makes it hard for baby to latch. Nipples aren’t as flat anymore thanks to a year of breastfeeding Oddler but they are still a very difficult shape to get a good latch in early days
Hugely traumatic birth and worries about a possibly brain damaged baby, affect establishing bonding and breastfeeding. My dad dies when Omble is 3weeks old, I am utterly devastated, milk supply crashes with the stress
No skin to skin after delivery- first cuddle at 24 hours old. Omble gets cold after cold making it very difficult for her to feed from me.
Born with a poor suck reflex, it does improve but breastfeeding incredibly hard to initiate. Very clicky latch despite tongue tie snip. Feeding is very noisy and painful. Tongue tie reassed but not much more they can do- Omble is just a crap feeder.

I am incredibly proud to say that despite all of this I breastfed Oddler til she self weaned at 13months and Omble is still going strong at 6months.  Oddler was mixed fed from birth as NICU put her on a 10ml an hour regime and if my supply wasn’t up to that she was supplemented with formula. When she lost 14% of body weight she was put on 30ml top ups every three hours by the paediatrician, as much as I could manage of breastmilk and the remainder being initially of Diaorlyte but we soon switched to formula as she was just sloshing with liquid. However by 15weeks I managed to get Oddler to be predominantly breastfed with a bottle of formula at nighttime. Omble was exclusively breastfed for 8weeks and although I was hoping to go longer, I was utterly floored by my 4th bout of mastitis so LordCurd took both the girls away to give me a break and I slept and pumped but we didn’t have a store of breastmilk so she had formula and from then on  has had a bottle a day too.

By my own success criteria I am a fucking legend. But in your eyes would I be a failure because I didn’t try that little bit harder and not supplement with formula!?  I only found out with my second child Omble I could actually exclusively breastfeed and have her gain sufficient weight but I have no idea if I could have exclusively breastfed to 6months like the recomendations. I doubt it somehow. I have started weaning her now anyhow, earlier than 26weeks. Is that another failure? Am I now making excuses?

There is no doubt breastfeeding is a very good thing but it occupies such a tiny part of your child’s life and within a few months babies are experimenting with food and given that whilst weaning Oddler I gave her things like quavers and rich tea biscuits as finger foods, and Omble has already tried Jamaican Ginger Cake and I drink alcohol whilst breastfeeding and I have an utterly shite diet,  then I don’t think I can be at all smug about giving my kids the “best start in life”.

Therefore by some people’s “sucess criteria” it might be said that I am failing my children, but I have decided that I cannot judge anyone except myself against my own success criteria, sometimes I feel a failure as a mother, other times I think I am the world’s most amazing mother, and I think most other mothers feel the same. It makes me sad when we judge and compare each other for making different choices to our own.  Which is also why your post rankled with me, who exactly are you to decide the success criteria of breastfeeding mothers!?

Originally before I started breastfeeding thinking I would be completely unable to due to the breast reduction, my success criteria was “If I can just get them to have a bit of colostrum then I will be happy” as it turned out I far surpassed that, but I think individuals should decide their own breastfeeding success criteria, not anyone else. If they are happy with their choices then so am I.

However one thing that came out of your post for me, was reading the comments where women highlighted some of the reasons they gave up breastfeeding, whilst other women shared the difficulties they had overcome, the difficulties were fundamentally the same in some ways, the choices different.  The reason I highlighted my own difficult breastfeeding story is that I do think it is important to celebrate breastfeeding stories in the face of such adversity and I do get a bit cross that women are expected not to champion their pride in their own achievements for fear of upsetting other women who are dealing with their own sense of failure around breastfeeding. I am not writing this to deliberately make anyone feel bad- those that know me, know I go to great lengths to avoid upsetting people, (mainly because I am a complete wuss when it comes to confrontation!) but I am worried this letter may upset some of the people reading it because the terrible tendency us women have to compare and measure ourselves against others. As I said in my comment on Glosswitch’s post “Being proud of my own experience and choices doesn’t mean I think other people should feel ashamed of theirs“.  I am not other people, I am me, only the expert of my own experience, no-body elses.

Feeding the baby, typing furiously on the internet. My life for past 2.5years.

However I didn’t used to be so wise or pretending to be wise.  A few years ago I was incredibly naive when Oddler was about 10weeks old and I posted on Mumsnet “Am I being unreasonable” the following “AIBU to think that some women give up breastfeeding too easily“.  ie. I thought much the same as you do.  My thinking behind such an inflammatory statement was “If I can do it in the face of all this shit then why am I seeing person X, Y, Z giving up after a measly cracked nipple or slow weight gain- pah wimps, I’m hard me!” Of course quite rightly I was completely and utterly flamed on the thread, and then I had the really sad realisation that the ONLY reason I stuck with breastfeeding despite all the shit was because I FELT GUILTY. I felt I had let down Oddler during her birth, I had given up, I had stopped pushing, I wanted to die, I didn’t care if she died, and as a result she was possibly brain damaged. Succeeding at breastfeeding was the ONLY way I felt I could make it up to her, and so I did, despite it being the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.  I have had a huge amount of therapy since then and I don’t feel that way any more but lets face it – that is a pretty sad and crap reason to stick with breastfeeding and how is that any better than the “crap” reasons for giving up breastfeeding you highlighted in your post?

My crap reason for sticking with breastfeeding my second baby Omble despite it being fucking hard again was because I had done the same for Oddler and I couldn’t give up, as it wasn’t fair on Omble, and it was about equally as hard (or in some ways easier and some ways harder anyway) breastfeeding her as it was to feed her sister and if I had managed it once then I could again. But had I not had my crap reason to breastfeed her big sister and managed it, then the liklihood is I wouldn’t have been so bloody minded second time too.

When I realised that the only reason I stuck with breastfeeding was misplaced guilt I realised therefore that I couldn’t judge other mothers for their choices as who knows the real core truth what was going on for them to make them stick at or give up on breastfeeding, I certainly didn’t realise my own for a good while.  I felt so awful about posting my thread on Mumsnet and I persuaded them to pull it as I was too mentally fragile to keep dealing with the fallout.  Very kindly they did and thanks to all the posters who accepted my apologies and those that understood where I was coming from, though I hadn’t expressed it very well.

My key learning from that episode is that  IT’S NOT A COMPETITION to see who had a shittest time of breastfeeding and using that as criteria to judge others successes or failures because ultimately that is not only cruel but futile, they are incomparable as we are all individuals.  In fact Motherhood in general IS NOT A COMPETITION. But being called the AlphaParent I am not sure you will see it like that.  I have my breastfeeding experience, and others have theirs and it makes me sad that we can’t celebrate and comiserate equally without the baggage and judgement which comes with discussing infant feeding choices.

Breastfeeding symbol

Breastfeeding symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having rambled on about my feeding experiences for long enough (amuses me how any breastfeeding comment always attracts everyone’s personal stories), I will now try and explain why I was conflicted when I read your post.  I think it was because I agreed with an aspect of what you were saying but not how you were saying it.   I do agree there is a a “culture of ‘failure acceptance'”which there currently is around breastfeeding. “If Woman X, Y, Z didn’t manage it, then I don’t need to feel so guilty about stopping either.”  ie. it makes it much easier for women to stop perhaps before they have explored all the avenues for possible solutions to the difficulties they are experiencing. However there is a huge amount bound up in that- it is too simplistic to solely blame the woman herself for making the excuses. Ledoux made an excellent comment on your post about that.  Personally I feel the crucial issue central to successful breastfeeding is support.  With the right support I reckon most women would succeed at breastfeeding if they wanted to.  I had a group I went to every week, I phoned helplines, I have a very supportive husband and family, I had supportive midwives and health visitors (and some crap ones which I ignored), I had done a huge amount of reading beforehand. All of these things contributed massively to my breastfeeding successes despite the huge obstacles I faced. But I was lucky.  A scary amount of women don’t get the support I did.  I have read blogposts by women explaining why they gave up breastfeeding for reasons such as “because my baby lost weight”, clearly not realising that it is entirely normal for babies to lose up to 10% of their birth weight in first few days. 😦

I do think the way you expressed your opinions was unnecessarily harsh and unhelpful in the “breast vs. bottle” debate which has trundled on for far too long already. Alvarrson commented very well on your post and  I don’t think furthering the guilt mothers feel is helpful to anyone. It is pointless in fact. (Much like the pointless post abortion guilt I wrote about previously)  I am viewing my stance on breast versus bottle to be the same as my pro-choice stance.  I am pro-choice here too, women make choices right for them and their families, if we stopped with the judging and the guilt and the defensiveness and instead recognised and celebrated individuals rights to truly informed choices then I think the world would be a much happier place. But the caveat is the “truly informed choice”,  I would hope that women have the opportunity to explore every avenue for support or solutions to the issues available to them before making the decision to stop breastfeeding (and if they decide to stop after that- they absolutely should- no judgement), but I am realistic, I know this currently isn’t happenings so how can we change that?

Being a solution focussed kinda gal I would like to see the following put into place:

  • Personal breastfeeding supporter for every woman on call until the baby is 12weeks, with 3 visits a week for first few weeks, weekly thereafter if the woman wants them.
  • Breastfeeding support groups being offered weekly within a 10mile radius of every woman.
  • Tongue ties being assessed at birth and again after a few weeks (Omble’s was misdiagnosed as not present initially) feeding and snipping should be easily accessible without requiring mum and baby to travel miles for the procedure.
  • Women and their support networks being properly educated about breastfeeding and what breastfeeding sabotage looks like.  This can and should start in school.
  • Championing and celebrating breastfeeding at every opportunity- normalising it.  Breastfeeding in public being accepted and normal.
  • Personal Jamaican Ginger cake supply for all breastfeeding mothers. At least three cakes a week to be delivered to your door for free. 🙂
I think putting energy into things like that is far more productive than putting everyone’s backs up in National Breastfeeding Week. But then again- you got us all talking and discussing so maybe aspect of your rather judgemental ranty mean post has been successful. 
So yeah that is why I was conflicted, in 14306 characters- rather more than the 144 I was trying to explain my position in last night!

Love

LadyBetaParentCurd

Advertisements

Dear Cake or Sleep?


Dear Cake or Sleep?

Cake or Sleep is bigger than the 90’s Daddy or Chips dilemma. (Totally Chips won by the way- my dad always nicked our chips- grrrrr!).

Currently I can eat cake, ALOT of cake. In fact I eat at least a Jamaican Ginger Cake a day, plus the odd glass of wine, a fair amount of chocolate and not enough fruit or veg. I’m not putting a jot of weight on, in fact I am losing it because of the breastfeeding.  I am currently  lighter than I was when breastfeeding Oddler (she was mixed fed but predominantly breastfed, Omble is pretty much exclusively breastfed as she keeps bottle refusing but we do offer her the occasional bottle top up as her weight gain is a bit crap).

Generally I am not all that bothered by my weight, it fluctuates and I have a pot belly and big old childbearing hips, but heck I have had two kids neglects to mention the fact the pot belly was pretty much the same size before kids if not bigger  but I must admit am rather enjoying the compliments (and the “you need to eat more cake you are too thin” comments) and the fact I have brought new clothes that actually look good on. I haven’t been this slim since I was about 14!

If I remember correctly Oddler weaned early and fast. By 7months old she was down to 3feeds a day by 13months she had lost interest completely- in those 6months I did put a bit of weight on (I was living on my own with Oddler in Somerset knowing no-one, while LordCurd commuted while we tried to find CurdHall- it was a tough and lonely time and I think I probably also comfort ate as well as continuing the eating pattern I had established while breastfeeding.)

Then I fell pregnant again, it was ectopic, then pregnant again and in the ensuing vomitous months my pregnancy body did its usual trick of losing weight from everywhere except the bump- my legs, arms went slim, my cheekbones verged on emaciated. Omble Baby was eating me alive, just as Oddler before her. I know I am a bit of a freak of nature to be at my thinnest when at my belly is fattest!

So now here we are- Omble is almost 20weeks old- we are miles from weaning her- Oddler was far more advanced (much bigger so was rolling and grabbing and  was nicking food).  Definitely won’t be starting weaning until the 26weeks reccomended and even then I have a strong suspicion she won’t take to it like Oddler has. Let’s say Oddler has inherited my appetite and frame and I think Omble is going to be a different kettle of weaning fish entirely.

I know once Oddler started weaning life got so much easier – suddenly my life had a vague structure to it, breastfeed, breakfast, nap, breastfeed, lunch nap, breastfeed maybe a snoooze, dinner, breastfeed, sleep, nightfeed (just the one if lucky), and Oddler’s sleep got so much better.  So part of me can’t wait, but then also part of me wants to breastfeed her til she is 18 so I can still eat this much cake and still stay slim! Have I mentioned I love cake?

However currently I am getting bugger all sleep , as Omble literally feeds all night, so I am tempted, before we started weaning, to add a bottle to her night feeds to try and tank her up so she sleeps for a longer stretch (at the minute she wakes every 40mins or so!). This does involve effort and I am quite lazy plus the knock on effect will be on my milk supply, if she is feeding from me less then cake will stop being calorie free. I like calorie free cake, but I also like sleep.

So help- what do I decide- cake or sleep?

At the minute Cake is winning to be honest. Mmmmm cake…

Love

LadyCakeLovingSleepDeprivedCurd

Cake?

Sleep?

Dear Extreme Breastfeeding


Dear Extreme Breastfeeding,

I have now breastfed my daughters in the following *extreme* locations

  • On a moving bus -standing up!
  • On a long walk – whilst walking with hands free (thanks to @Consumatechaos‘ borrowed wrap I have now finally mastered feeding in a sling!)- We went to the park- I should have gone on the slide, climbing frame and swings too add the the *extreme* 😉
  • On a crowded London tube- takes tube passengers not making eye contact to a whole new level!
  • In the car? I have vague recollection of leaning over Oddler in the carseat and sticking a boob in while H drove but I think I must be imagining it as I’m sure I wouldn’t be that stupid, plus the angle must have been impossible! Maybe I tried for about a second til we realised we had to stop as it wasn’t gonna work at all!
  • On a Saturday in a very busy shoe section of a popular ladies clothes shop.
  • At a meeting full of the top honchos for my sector- ie. very very important people I needed to impress as it was the first time I was meeting them.
  • At a wedding.
  • During my dad’s funeral wake.
  • Breastfeeding at a pro-choice demo, standing on a triangular traffic island with busy traffic
    driving all around me!
  • And I think my ultimate has to be yesterday- breastfeeding sat in the middle of a road on a T-Junction, holding the toddler to stop her running into the road as the Olympic Torch went past!

Forget extended breastfeeding, extreme breastfeeding is where it’s at.

So what would be the most extreme place to breastfeed? Your answers on a comment postcard.

Lots of Love

LadyAdventureCurd

P.S I’m pondering proper extreme breastfeeding- you know like bungee jumping or hang gliding or spelunking (spelunking is the best word ever!) but um given I would be a bit scared to do all of those myself let alone with a tiny baby I think that level of extreme breastfeeding is not for me- although I wonder if taking the baby to feed in Wookey Hole Caves would count?

Dear Cradle Cap


Dear Cradle Cap (or Cradle Crap as I like to call you),

Please stop being so moreishly pickable as I breastfeed Omble. I shall blame you for making me scalp my daughter.

Yours Sincerely,

LadyPicksAtStuffOnHerKidsAsAChimpLikeBondingRitualHonestCurd

20120424-170950.jpg

Dear Oxytocin


Dear Oxytocin,

You are my absolute favourite of all the hormones. You promote pair bonding and motherly love. You are just all round totally awesome (see here for more info on the fascinating science of love). You are even released at Orgasm. ( here is an interesting article on the neuroscience of sex- though not convinced an orgasmless marriage is the perfect way to keep oxytocin levels and hence the pair bond steady?! ;))

On Pair Bonding Wikipedia says:

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate.[21] Many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear.

(Although bit scared to read this also on the Wiki page “The inability to secrete oxytocin and feel empathy is linked to sociopathy, psychopathy, narcissism and general manipulativeness,” that explains a lot about a few people I know 😉 )

On Breastfeeding, Oxytocin and Maternal bonding I recently found article on breastfeeding, oxytocin and neglect tweeted by KellyMom, to be fascinating. I know for me, following an incredibly traumatic birth, breastfeeding massively helped with my bonding with Oddler. Initially I felt quite detached from her (I had thought we were both going to die – it was a protection mechanism) but breastfeeding was definitely the thing that awakened my maternal bond. (That’s not saying people who don’t breastfeed are not as attached to their babies, that would be stupid, it’s obviously not the only thing affecting a maternal bond, but it has been found to help strengthen it.)

I even have my own oxytocin anecdote (every girl needs one!), I was double pumping a breastmilk top up before bed and LordCurd came over to give me a snog goodnight (he’s been relegated to spare room while Omble feeds all night) and suddenly my milk yield had a huge temporary increase- I could see it in the pump kit! It was hilarious a simple snog must have released Oxytocin and helped with my let down reflex.

I spoke to a lactation consultant about it, and she thought it absolutely brilliant “what a lovely wonderful thing, it obviously proves how much you love him, he must have been really pleased!” Erm he was more creeped out than anything else! I found it funny and weirdly cool, but perhaps a tricky and somewhat odd thing to implement- lots of snogging while pumping to help milk yield. 😉

But yay for Oxytocin. I loves you I do.

Hormonally Yours

LadyPair&MaternallyBondedCurd

Dear Breasts


Dear Breasts,

Or knorks, funbags, boobs, dirtypillows, knockers, breasticles, breastie dumplings, Bristols, spaniels ears, fried eggs, ninnies, Jubblies, puppies, Daphne and Celeste, mammaries, melons, wangers, jubblies, love hubs, chesticles, lungs, baps, bangers, hooters, boobies, top bollocks, chest cannons, fun bags, pillows, john beatons, bastards, tittybangs, bath toys, thruppenny bits, Dave, whaloomfers, The girls, whammers, (thanks Twitter for all your assistance with this list- even if some of you are very strange individuals 😉 – that was fun!)

but never tits, I utterly loathe the term Tits- it really REALLY gets on my… well you know.

Well I am just writing to you to say how awesome you are. You serve two amazing and distinctly separate functions. You are rather awesomely sexy whatever your shape or size and you make a very comforting pillow for after plus you can usually MAKE MILK which is a superpower in itself.

I think by now I probably owe my own breasts a devoted fan letter so here are my ponderances:

You have now successfully breastfed two babies despite a breast reduction 11 years ago where 7lb’s of breast tissue was removed the weight of a flipping baby! and let’s face it thanks to the surgery you have gone from being able to hold 2 beer bottles in your cleavage (which was handy on nights out- I miss that) to never failing the pencil test (previously you could hold a whole pencil case under them ;)) . Whoop!

No-body thought you would be able to breastfeed but it turns out you are as bloody minded as your owner. Your first breastfeeding story was tough and unfortunately although second time around, when it is theoretically supposed to be easier, for you this wasn’t the case. Omble has had the same weight gain issues with the relentless expressing and topping up, plus the agonising shredded nipples, the tongue tie, the clicky crap latch despite the tongue tie snip, the four bouts of mastitis (which you never had with Oddler). But now we are at 12 weeks and suddenly at the pretty much painfree feeding, and although Omble can sometimes be on again off again and tends to sleep on the boob all night long, I think we are finally at the happy point of breastfeeding being lovely and easy and the super special thing that only I can do for her. Hurrah! I loved feeding Oddler til 13months til she self weaned, and hope to continue for longer with Omble dependent on teeth and other circumstances!

So yeah dear breasts it was totally worth the rants and the tears and the pain and the stress.

So breasts thankyou for making that happen, for enabling me to feed my daughters in the biologically normal way, despite the major initial difficulties using you to feed my girls will always be my proudest achievement in life.

Plus you are always lovely for a comforting squeeze, or naughty fumble. 😉

*Gives you a big kiss and a cheeky grope and checks for lumps because I am a hypocondriac*

Lots of Mammary Love

LadyLactatingCurd

Feeding Oddler

Feeding Omble

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. I love how both my girls tiny hands clasp on – too cute.

P.P.S Dear Facebook, Those Photos are not Obscene, Love Me.

Dear Jamaican Ginger Cake


Dear Jamaican Ginger Cake,

As a breastfeeder, cake is my friend, I am constantly starving hungry in a way that only huge amounts of sugary stodge can fix. In the absence of a wonderful Cake Fairy doing a delivery, then you, my dear darling Jamaican Ginger Cake, are my favourite.  I generally need to eat one whole one of you A DAY!  Such greed I hear you cry- but I will have you know that the Jamaican Ginger Cake& Breastfeeding diet is one of the best there is.  I am now below my pre-pregnancy weight and still losing because my little Mothersucker is eating me alive,

Anyhow let me share how easy it is to devour you in a day, this sequence of pictures were taken last Wednesday prior to the Cake Fairy‘s wonderful and unexpected delivery on Friday.  (I would have posted the sequence of devouring that enormous cake of wonder, but frankly I was too busy stuffing it into my face  and it’s too late now.)

20120330-174006.jpg

9am - Just get you out of the cupboard as I put the kettle on

20120330-174032.jpg

Peeling back your scrumptious layers

20120330-174045.jpg

Cheeky gnaw on you while waiting for the kettle to boil

20120330-174112.jpg

9.10am first third of cake slice with a cup of tea

20120330-174131.jpg

Second "slice" hunk at 11.30 as I was just passing the kitchen

20120330-174147.jpg

1.30pm A slightly more modest slice for pudding

20120330-174302.jpg

2.43 A cheeky sliver on my way past to the loo

20120330-174249.jpg

2.45 Another one on way back from the loo

20120330-174317.jpg

2.45 Ah sod it- seems silly to leave such a tiny piece

20120330-174329.jpg

2.46 scraping the paper clean with my fingernails frantically getting every last crumb

And that is how a breastfeeder eats a Jamaican Ginger Cake.

I also lied about the timings- lets just say that last picture was actually taken um  before elevenses.

Gingerly yours

LadyAteAllTheCakeCurd