Pumps For Preemies

This is my second year raising funds for the March of Dimes March for Babies. Sadly, last year we were not able to actually walk because we were ill the week of the walk, but I am very excited to this year. I am also excited to beat my goal last year and I count on all of you faithful readers to help me do so.

Peanut was not born premature. Honestly, I only know one person who was born prematurely. Even at that, I never actually witnessed it because we were the same age. Last year when I started raising funds, people were amazed that I was doing so when I didn’t have a personal story.

Do you know why I care? Because I’ve heard stories. I’ve heard of women who have their babies long before they were planning to and the struggles they go through in the aftermath. Of course there are many hardships with having a preemie, but I always focus on breastfeeding. That’s why I have this blog, right?

I’ve heard of moms struggling throughout their entire breastfeeding relationships with pumping and feeding, nipple shields, and even ending their breastfeeding relationships much too soon. Sadly, these babies are the ones who need it the most. These babies not only need breast milk to heal the damage of being born before they’re ready, but they need the kind that comes from their moms. Yes, moms to babies who are born prematurely produce a different kind of milk. The actual composition of the milk is meant for these babies. Here’s a quote from La Leche League

The milk produced by the mother of a pre-term infant is higher in protein and other nutrients than the milk produced by the mother of a term infant. Human milk also contains lipase, an enzyme that allows the baby to digest fat more efficiently. Your breastfed premie is less likely to develop infections that are common to babies fed breastmilk substitutes. He will be protected by the immunities in your milk while his own immature immune system is developing.

That is amazing. Babies born prematurely are at an increased risk to infection and disease, both while growing in the NICU and for the next year or so of life. They need the immunity properties of breast milk even more than babies born full term. They also need that protein and fat to help them grow. It’s amazing how our bodies work to make milk that’s perfect for each of our babies at a specific point in time.

Many hospitals are realizing this and at least offering pumped donor milk to premature infants in the NICU, but this needs to go a step further. As the La Leche League article explains, the milk needs to be as fresh as possible. It needs to come from mom as much as possible. And while this may not be possible for weeks or even months, it needs to come directly from the breast as soon as possible. Moms need extra support to breastfeed their baby in these circumstances, but often we give them even less support than other moms.

This system needs to stop. We need to realize our priorities and get mothers of preemies the support they need to breastfeed. We need to help these tiny babies born too soon so that they can live longer, healthier lives. Whether or not a mom succeeds at breastfeeding should not be determined by protocol or routine. We should give them the absolute best chance to succeed, and then give a little more.

So here’s how you can help. If you can donate anything at all, please do so. Even if it’s a dollar. Anything helps. Here’s the link to our team page. If you’re reading this and you’re in the area, come join our team and walk. Proudly hold our banner saying that preemies need breast milk and we need to work our hardest to get it to them.

Misery Loves Company

I don’t put a gate at the top of my stairs.

That’s just what works best for my family. Yes, I am putting Peanut at risk by not protecting her from the stairs. I have decided to assume that risk by not putting a gate up to prevent her.

Would I blatantly recommend all parents shouldn’t gate their stairs? No. Would I say that people who gate their stairs are lying about the benefits of the gate? No. Would I say that gates are obviously unnecessary because my child hasn’t fallen down the stairs? No. If a mother came to me with a situation that called for her to also not put a gate at her stairs, I would gladly tell her how we handle the stairs and maybe even advise her to do the same. But I do not know everyone’s situation.

(To stretch the analogy a little too far)

Maybe a mother would see my recommendation of no gates when she is very frustrated and ready to throw her gate out. Maybe she has a different situation than mine that can be simply fixed by a different type of gate. Now she gives up on gates when she didn’t necessarily need to and her child is also put at risk of falling down the stairs. Maybe my child is lucky and doesn’t have an ill effects of her lack of gate, but who says this child is as lucky?

Now replace that gate with breastfeeding.

Yes, formula feeding is something that works best for some families. It’s something you have to decide on after weighing the benefits and risks—and there are many risks of formula feeding. Would I ever judge a mother for making that decision? No. I will judge the system that didn’t help the mothers that had to make that decision, but never the mother. Each mother does what’s best for her family. Yes, that includes the decision to stop breastfeeding in some cases.

Just because you made that decision doesn’t mean it’s best for all other moms. Don’t try to hide the risks of formula feeding. It’s not fair for you to take that educated decision away from other mothers. You can’t say that formula feeding didn’t hurt your child and therefore isn’t bad. Formula feeding runs the risk of lower IQ, more illness, and (in and out of the US) even death, but a risk is just that—a risk. If your child had zero ill effects of formula feeding—which you can never know for sure because you don’t know what your child would have been like had they breastfed—that just means that your child is lucky. Don’t let your guilty feelings rob another mother of her happy, healthy child.

Misery truly does love company.

The Guilt

There’s a war going on in the midst of the mothering world—breastfeeding versus formula feeding. I may be biased as a breastfeeder, but I feel that the formula feeders have more hate. When advocating for breastfeeding rights, I never say “oh, you should have tried harder” or “you’re an awful mom because you formula feed” (because it’s the system’s fault, not the moms), but it seems like no matter what I say it is taken that way. I blame this on The Guilt.

Recently, I tweeted about a study I found:

I basically just shortened the title and posted a link. Immediately afterwards, I had a “Twitter argument” with @madamemenu about correlation versus causation and the like which ultimately ended in a “agree to disagree” type of thing. It was not until a week or so ago that I found out I was prominently mentioned in this post by Fearless Formula Feeder. Once again, it was misinterpreted that I was trying to make causation when saying “more likely” directly equals correlation in my mind, but that isn’t the point. The point is this constant war between formula feeding and breastfeeding moms.

Breastfeeding moms who often struggle to get to the point they are at with breastfeeding and formula feeding moms who likely turned to formula because of the same struggles—it would make a perfect team. So why do we decide to hate each other rather than band together to fight the system? I blame The Guilt.

I realize most of the people who read my blog breastfeed, but play along with me here. As a lactivist, I always look at breastfeeding and pregnancy and think about all of the formula ads I saw, the cans of formula that were sent to my house, the bag of formula they gave me at the hospital, et cetera. Imagine you formula feed/fed your baby. From this perspective, rather than being bombarded with ads for formula, you’re instead bombarded with constant messages that breast is best—implying you’re not doing the best for your baby. No matter what your reasoning is for chosing to not breastfeed, being told you’re not doing the best for your child will make you feel The Guilt. No matter how true it is, you start to resent those ads and eventually even the women who do breastfeed. You feel judged. You feel angry. You feel The Guilt.

As many of you know, I co-sleep. I have thoroughly researched the benefits of co-sleeping and have done everything I can to eliminate the risks. I am entirely convinced this is the correct decision for my family and I quite often discuss the benefits of co-sleeping with others as well as how to eliminate risks. That said, I still occasionally feel The Guilt. The American Academy of Pediatrics (the same organization I quite often cite for their breastfeeding recommendations) says it’s not safe. So does the Consumer Product Safety Commission. No matter how convinced I am that this is the right decision for my family, being told that it isn’t the best or safest makes me feel that same guilt, feel that same judgment, and feel that same burning fury in my chest that wants to kill any person who dare claim I am endangering my child.

In my lactivism, I never try to make a formula feeding mom feel guilty. Every time before I write a post, tweet, or even comment on someone else’s blog I contemplate two things: 1. Do I sound accusitory to formula feeding moms? How will my statements be read from the other side? While at the same time walking the fine line of 2. Am I sugar coating it for formula feeding mom’s benefit? Am I in any way implying that formula feeding is just as good a breastfeeding? I don’t want to tip toe around The Guilt and give soon-to-be or one-day-to-be moms the impression that they don’t even need to try. I want them to understand that sometimes breastfeeding is really, really difficult in the beginning and some moms don’t get the proper support to get to that point where it’s easy breezy, but that just means they need to try to surround themselves with the support and do as much as they can to educate themselves before they’re in the middle of it all.

Lactivism is not meant to cause guilt, it’s meant to prevent it.

Breastfeeding Prevents Death

I am very passionate about breastfeeding. Many moms do not realize the real risk you take when you chose to formula feed your baby. I know that this picture is intense. I know that it probably will cause a lot of emotion on either side of the breastfeeding argument. Sometimes you need to offend people to get your point across.

When you chose to formula feed your baby—and because breastfeeding is the biological norm, it is a choice to not do it—you take the risk of a variety of health problems in both immediately and in the future. Obviously you risk mixing the formula incorrectly. This can cause the baby to not gain weight properly or even contaminate the formula. If the formula is contaminated, the baby could get very sick or even die. This risk is incredibly high in third-world countries where they quite often do not have clean water. Even formula fed babies in developed countries have these risks. Moms are quite often not taught how to properly formula feed and even if they are it’s easy to make mistakes—especially when it’s 3am and the baby is crying. You can’t mix breast milk wrong or contaminate it.

Beyond the immediate dangers, formula feeding has many lifetime repercussions. Formula fed babies are more likely to have asthma, lower I.Q. scores, and are even more likely to be obese later in life. Moms who don’t breastfeed are more likely to get reproductive cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer.

New moms are not informed of these facts. Instead, they are bombarded with formula companies giving them coupons throughout pregnancy, free samples at the hospital, and ads in all of the parenting magazines. These formula companies have slogans that insinuate that they’re just as good as breast milk. In reality, we have yet to figure out all of the “ingredients” in breast milk so formula companies don’t even know what to copy. Of the things we know are in breast milk, there are things like antibodies and even stem cells that formula simply can not duplicate because it is not living. Even the vitamins and minerals that are in breast milk are easier for a baby to digest than the ones in formula.

Since our hospitals and politicians receive money from the formula companies they’re obviously not going to tell these new moms the truth—you are putting your child at risk by formula feeding—I decided to create this image. I hope that it will make more pregnant and new moms investigate the risks to formula feeding.

Boycotting WIC

I’ve decided I am boycotting WIC (Women Infants and Children). For those who do not know, WIC is a government program that gives vouchers for specific foods to low income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, babies, and children.

As you know, I am poor. I have been counting the days until Curtis graduates and I’m not poor anymore (December! Yay!), but until then I need a way to feed my family. Therefore, we are on food stamps and WIC. As of right today, I’ve decided to boycott the latter. Here are my reasons.

1. The number one reason I’ve decides to boycott WIC is concerning my last visits. During my consultation, they weighed and measured Peanut. She is right in the middle on all of the scales of percentiles–which she has been since day one–so all is good. After going through all this info, the WIC employee says “Wow, she’s doing so well for being only breastfed.”

Are you kidding me?!? WIC, a program that claims to support breastfeeding and has even recently decided to give more foods to breastfeeding moms and babies (for problems with that, see Reason 2) is telling me my daughter is doing well for being exclusively breastfed? As if they expect her to be deficient?

Of course, the woman who was obviously embarrassed and realized she misspoke immediately retracted the statement by saying something along the lines of Imeanyouneverknowwithbreastfedbabiesbecauseyoucan’ttellhowmuchthey’regettingandthemommighthavealowsupply. But the damage was done (and don’t even get me started on the problem with the second statement.)

2. WIC has decided to give more foods to moms and babies who breastfeed. Yay! They’ve also decided to give baby food to babies instead of just rice cereal. Yay (for other moms who aren’t doing baby-led weaning)! So get this brilliant idea, babies who are breastfed only not only get fruit and vegetable baby food (like formula fed babies do), they get meat baby food too. Yay?

They tried to play it off as this awesome benefit for my baby since she’s breastfed, but I saw right through it. You think my baby is iron deficient. Yes, this happens RARELY to breastfed babies. Yes, formula fed babies need not worry because their yummy iron-fortified formula. But seriously?

Just because I’m breastfeeding means my baby is iron deficient. Just like it means my baby is vitamin C deficient. Gah! Anger noises!!! Ayubtezhfegudvmi!!!!!!!!!1

3. Now we move on to the lactivist reason. Before my recent visit, I had been feeling iffy about staying on WIC out of principle. WIC gives free formula to low income moms + breastfeeding is hard at first = why not just give up and formula feed? I mean, all of those ads say that so-and-so’s formula is the closest to breast milk, implying it’s just as good as breast milk. GAH MORE ANGRY NOISES!!!!

I understand that women were feeding their babies powdered milk and that’s why WIC was created, but if it’s FREE isn’t that a bit too easy? Charge something. Even if it’s one dollar per can, at least it won’t be free. Or as _breastfeeding said on Twitter, charge the same price as powdered milk.

4. Last, but not least, going into WIC makes me feel sad. Every time I go in and see all of those babies being formula fed (I’m always the only breastfeeding mom) I get heavy in my chest. You know that feeling when you are about to cry? I feel so sad for all of those babies who will have more problems–both emotionally and physically–through childhood and into adulthood than my Peanut. I wish I could change things for them. It really puts an unneeded stress on me.

I don’t think this is the right option for everyone. I have means of providing this food for my family without WIC (through budgeting, family help, and food stamps). Though WIC would definitely help my situation, I am willing to go through a little more hardship to stand up for something I believe in. I plan on going in and returning my packet and explaining why I don’t want to receive their benefits anymore. I’ll let you know how that goes.

IMHO: Breastfeeding

This is such a difficult subject to talk about with other moms. You find two types of reactions (from formula feeding moms): guilt and anger. I recently went to visit an old friend from High School. Breastfeeding isn’t something I’m just going to start preaching because I believe every woman has the right to choose (though I will try to have you make an informed decision), but when I started breastfeeding Peanut, she started talking. She told me about how she tried and tried and it just didn’t work. She felt so guilty. She wishes she would have tried harder. It breaks my heart to have to hear this. I never, never think that it is the mothers fault when they actually tried to breastfeed and it didn’t work. Society is not geared toward the breastfeeding woman, formula companies are constantly pushing their product on new mothers, and most mothers don’t get the support they need from doctors, hospitals, or even their family.

The second emotion is anger. Though I would have thought that guilt and anger coincide, they generally come from two completely different people. I’ve only experienced it a few times, but it has happened. Sometimes it’s an angry glare from another mom when I’m feeding my daughter in a public place, sometimes it’s angry people on the internet (it’s amazing what people say when you can’t see their face) and I’ve even experienced it from my own mother (who breastfed exclusively with me until her doctor misinformed her). I do feel that the anger stems from the guilt, but that’s another story.

The sad thing about most women who don’t breastfeed is the ignorance. They don’t know all of the benefits of breastfeeding: from the little things like better smelling poo to the big things like less ear infections and higher IQ. They don’t understand the bond that me and my daughter get from the fact that I sustain her life with my own body. I feel that it’s other women’s anger and guilt that make breastfeeding mothers get ridiculed for feeding their children in public, why women get arrested for offending the officers, why I no longer speak to someone who was a very dear friend to me.

Don’t get me wrong, formula has it’s place (though I agree that a milkbank would be better). One of my friends supplemented while her milk came in for her adopted child, another friend couldn’t breastfeed for weeks because she almost died while giving birth, so many stories where formula was a life saver. That’s what it was invented to be: a life saver. Instead it is used as an easy way out. It is devastating to our future.

Inform yourself. Be ready for adverse reactions. Know your facts and you will do the one of the best things you possibly can for your child. Breastfeeding doesn’t make you a better mom, formula feeding doesn’t make you a worse mom. It’s simply knowing what’s best for baby.