Thursday, May 31, 2012

Best-feeding May Mean Less Breast-feeding

With my daughter, I breastfed pretty much exclusively for the first five or so months when she started displaying signs that she was ready for the introduction of solids (reaching for our food, no longer having the tongue ejection reflex, etc.). Her main source of liquid nutrition continued to be breastmilk until she was 10 or so months old, when it was decided that we should introduce formula into her diet in preparation for daycare. Before then, formula was very rarely used (I could probably count on my fingers the number of ounces my daughter had consumed it). That's not to say that my daughter wasn't accustomed to bottle feeding, she was, as we had introduced a bottle at around 5 days of age (I liked the idea of my husband feeding our daughter at least once a day - to give myself a break and to allow him to have those minutes with her)- but in general the contents of that bottle was pumped breast milk.

It's not that breastfeeding was difficult for me - it wasn't. I didn't have supply issues and it was not painful. My daughter gained weight and seemed to 'get' the hang of breastfeeding readily. In general, breastfeeding was convenient - there was always a meal, at the right temperature, and at the time it was needed.

However, looking back, it was also inconvenient. It meant that we had to buy a breastpump. It meant that I always had to wear clothing that would allow access to my breasts - and so after the maternity clothes served their purpose there was yet another wardrobe of nursing clothes. It meant that the child had to be with me or alternatively that I had to pump and plan for their to be a sufficient quantity of pumped milk on hand. While I pumped, I could not do whatever I pleased but had to engage in pumping compatable activities - so time wise, pumping did not so much 'save' time as it reallocated time. If feeding time happend while we were out and about, it meant I had to stop and find an appropriate place to nurse (at the very least somewhere to sit for a while). It meant that I had to watch what I ate or drank. It meant that when I couldn't nurse at the expected time, I could expect to become engorged or leak (there was a time or two when I woke up in a literal puddle).

I was quite happy when my daughter was fully weaned from breastfeeding shortly after her first birthday - I was happy to have my body back as an independent one from hers. After nearly two years (pregnancy + breast feeding) of sharing myself with her to such a physical degree, I was ready to end the breastfeeding relationship. And she really didn't seem to mind when the morning nursings ended and then when the bedtime nursings ended.

The inconveniences I experienced, are absent some of the real challenges that many women face when they choose to breastfeed. I had the luxury of a year-long maternity leave and no other children to care for while I was nursing my daughter - many women do not get maternity leave (those who are self-employed in Canada or do not have employer provided top-offs may find it financially difficult and those in the US). I did not need drugs or supplements to increase my milk supply - many women find this neccessary. I did not need to undertake an elimination diet due to food sensitivities of my daughter - many women do. Breastfeeding was not painful - it is for many women. I did not have a history of sexual abuse or eating disorders - many women are survivors. My daughter did not have problems with latching or gaining an appropriate amount of weight while she breastfed - many infants may fail to gain weight or may need assistance latching.

And yet looking back, knowing what I know now, I think I might do things a little differently this next time (even if it were under the exact same circumstances as the first time). For one, I will have another child to care for - an active toddler, albeit the plan is to keep her in her daycare full-time. But, also I am more aware that breastfeeding is not the only appropriate choice for infant feeding and that having a little more independence from my child might be good a thing. I also think that there's really no reason to believe that a mother can't have the best of both worlds and that more combo-feeding might be realistic goal this next time around. So for myself, best-feeding my next infant, very well might mean less breast-feeding.


  1. This is completely OT but have you seen this:?

  2. That is an interesting read and I think there's meat on those bones. Government does need to engage the physicians in this province more, and they need to engage patients more and they need to ask themselves some hard questions and not be afraid of the answers they might get.