World Breastfeeding Week – and my own harrowing tale

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I’d like to share my experience breastfeeding. I might be going way off topic here, but it’s the summer, there are no school lunches to eat and so I retain the right to blog about anything remotely related to food, nutrition, education, and schools. Breast milk is a baby’s first food and is an infant’s perfect made-for-baby food. Since studies show that breastfeeding prevents obesity, I believe it is relevant for the blog. If you don’t want to read about breastfeeding, feel free to skip the below. You have been warned…

I wanted to breastfeed my baby for 12 months like all the experts recommended. I knew my mom had breastfed my sister and me, but I knew that we had been bottle fed too. I learned while I was pregnant that my grandmother had bottle fed my mother exclusively (it was the 1950’s and formula was new and en vogue).

I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital while I was pregnant. My husband and I jointly took a birthing class at the hospital and breastfeeding was covered so he was exposed to similar information. My husband was supportive of my breastfeeding because he was exclusively bottle fed and has severe asthma. We had read research that breastfeeding decreases the risk of asthma and we both wanted our baby to not have a medically-involved childhood like he had experienced.

In the hospital after the birth, my little baby was interested and excited to breastfeed. I was encouraged by his little baby bird mouth and proud of myself for feeding him. Towards the end of my two days in the hospital, one nurse came in and said, “I don’t think he has a good latch. I’m going to send in a lactation consultant.” I was slightly offended mostly because she was the first nurse to notice a problem. But my breasts were taking a beating from his vigorous sucking so maybe she was onto something.

The lactation consultant visited me just before we were going to leave the hospital. My milk hadn’t come it, but I figured I was providing colostrum so it was no big deal. She said, “I’m very concerned.” Her demeanor was gruff and rude and I took it personally that my baby was not feeding properly. I started to cry. I told her, “Look, we are just about to leave the hospital with our baby. I don’t want to hear this right now.” She left and came back with nipple shields. We left the hospital with formula samples in a formula company provided, hospital approved diaper bag.

My husband and I went home hoping that everything would be alright. After a night of about 90 minutes of sleep, we were supposed to see the doctor the next morning. We went to our pediatrician (a great guy) who told us that the baby had lost too much weight and we needed to supplement with formula. I was devastated. My pediatrician’s office has a part-time lactation consultant/nurse practitioner on staff, but she was not in the office so the doctor sent us back to the hospital to see their lactation consultant again. I told my husband I couldn’t go back to that terrible woman who saw me before. Thankfully it was a different lactation consultant on call that day. During the session she gave our son two ounces of pre-mixed formula and we rented a breast pump.

Finally the next day my milk came in (FINALLY!). I started pumping because I couldn’t get the baby to breastfeed. Pumping is a weird feeling, but I got used to it. My mother also arrived to help us. I was so happy to see her that I cried. Unfortunately because of her work commitments, she could only stay for 48 hours even though she wanted to stay longer.

I discussed breastfeeding with her and I asked her, “How long did you breastfeed me for?” Her reply, “I weaned you when you were three months old.” It seemed like an insanely long time to have breastfed but it seemed doable. But I vowed that my goal would be to equal what she had done for me. I would do this for three months.

Unfortunately I could not get the baby to nurse. Every time I put him to the breast, he would cry mightily in protest. This vocal insult felt like a rejection of me. Thankfully, my milk production was high and I was able to meet all of his needs while pumping. But I wanted to find more lactation help. I was determined to get him back to the breast.

I was pumping exclusively for our son. During the day and throughout the night my husband would reheat a bottle of breast milk and feed our baby while I pumped for the next feeding. Lactation consultants advise that the mother should not give the baby a bottle if the mother also offers the breast. In my case this was especially important as he wouldn’t nurse. It was traumatic that I couldn’t feed my baby in my arms, but at least I could feel proud that he was getting breast milk.

Two weeks after birth I was so exhausted and my husband went back to work. I noticed a large red spot on my breast and called my pediatrician and my OBGYN. I had mastitis and I was put on antibiotics. It felt like having the flu with aches and pains, plus weepiness. My OBGYN referred me to a social worker and I was screened for post-partum depression. The diagnosis was “the baby blues.”

While sick with mastitis I met with the lactation consultant at my son’s pediatrician’s office. She did the unthinkable: she got my son to nurse! I was thrilled, but when I got home I couldn’t repeat it. I told my husband that if I had to pump exclusively for our son, it was ok because I was getting used to it. The constant rejections from my baby were almost too much for me. I ended up having to give him a bottle myself.

I quit offering the breast to my son because it just seemed like “too much work.” And when he was six weeks old, I got mastitis on the other side. Luckily I caught it early and went straight to the lactation consultant. I told her I couldn’t get the baby to breastfeed. She was able to get him to breastfeed during the session in her office. She looked me in the eye and said with all seriousness, “You’re going to have to push his face right into it.” That still makes me laugh!

I went home and took her advice. He started crying when I offered the breast and I just pushed his face right into the breast. He nursed! I was overwhelmed with relief and pride. From that point forward he stopped getting breast milk in a bottle.

Shockingly breastfeeding became easy. I was able to nurse during the night quickly and efficiently though not lying down, which I never mastered. There were no more smelly bottles to wash. And my husband didn’t have to get up in the night, which made him very happy. All of a sudden I felt a bond to my son that I had not experienced before. I viewed him differently. He was no longer this alien being, but my baby. I’m sure it was oxytocin because nothing else had changed. That’s one powerful human drug!

Just as breastfeeding was finally getting easier, I had to gear up to return to work when he was nine weeks old. I was worried that all my work to breast feed would be for nothing. I invested in a breast pump and returned the hospital’s breast pump that I had been renting. I was able to pump at work in a small, semi-private/private room. When I wasn’t at work I was able to breastfeed my baby at home. The only bottles we washed were the ones from daycare. As a working mom, breastfeeding was a great way for me to be able to be close to my infant in a way that no other caregiver could be.

After that difficult start, I was able to breastfeed for 13 months, thereby far exceeding my original goal of three months (the length of time I was breastfed). There were dips in my milk production after seven months and formula had to be supplemented sporadically then, but whenever I was with my baby I was able breastfeed him. Around 13 months of age he refused to nurse and self-weaned. I never had to wean him off of a bottle since he wasn’t crazy about the bottles he got at daycare and didn’t drink from a bottle at home. Additionally I lost almost all the weight I gained during the pregnancy though I’m still carrying 5-10 stubborn pounds. My little guy was a massive, chunky baby (gotta love those fat rolls) but is now a slim, active toddler.

I have a healthy, thriving child who is the inspiration of this blog project. My kid is in childcare so he gets sick a lot (like every toddler I’m told) so a history of breastfeeding can’t prevent everything! We’re still waiting to see if our son develops asthma. But my husband and I continue to be breastfeeding advocates. Recently I caught Mr. Q on the phone discussing breastfeeding with a buddy of his who is about to become a father. I got a little choked up when I heard him talk about the benefits.


What I learned and now believe:

1) No woman who wants to breastfeed should leave the hospital prior to her milk coming in, in effect without a way to feed her baby. It’s criminal to let mothers like me leave the hospital with formula samples. If our country is serious about increasing the number of women breastfeeding to help combat a host of ailments, we need to be entirely more baby-friendly and less formula-company-friendly.

2) All new parents should accept every offer of help they get from family and friends. We told family not to come right after the birth because we wanted to “bond” with the baby. Can you laugh with me! HA HA! We were so bonded we didn’t have time to pee, eat, or shower.

3) If a woman is screened for post-partum depression and results come up in the “baby blues” range, someone should still follow up. The social worker asked me when I was two weeks post-partum, “Do you experience moments of joy during your day?” I replied, “Of course, I have a beautiful baby.” “Then you are not depressed,” she stated emphatically. However, when I compare how I felt during those first six weeks with my baby to how my friends felt with a newborn, I can find only one friend who went through what I did. Normal people were a lot happier than I had been. When/if I have another child I’m going to be more aware and GOD FORBID I have another rough time of it breastfeeding a newborn!

Since there are a lot of Moms who read this blog, if you blog about breastfeeding for World Breastfeeding Week, please link to it below:

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74 thoughts on “World Breastfeeding Week – and my own harrowing tale”

  1. Thanks for your story! It is similar to mine as I did end up nursing my babies for over two years after rocky starts with both. And by "rocky starts," I mean LOTS of pain, big babies (10 lbs 9 oz), c/sections, and mastitis several times. Also the fun thing called a milk blister. Ouch.

    But all that was indeed in the first three months. After that, well, it wasn't a BREEZE, but it was much, much, easier than making formula every few hours (and cheaper! etc.).

    Since your blog is about childhood obesity, I am always shocked that women do not fight to breastfeed since formula is a proven risk factor for obesity. It *is* a fight sometimes, but it can be done even with multiple obstacles. Thanks for your blog, too.
    –Chickpastor, a fan

  2. I had a very similar experience with my first baby. It took a wonderful lactation specialist to help me get it. Oddly, the person who made it the most difficult for me was a breastfeeding zealot who commented about "women today" needing a class to do what women have been doing on their own forever. It was very discouraging.

    I agree with all of your points! My middle child had asthma. When I asked the doctor about all those health benefits, he told me that this was a pretty mild case (he never had to be admitted to the hospital) and he believed that if my son weren't nursing he would have been much sicker.
    I don't know that we need to stay in the hospital that long, but there should absolutely be lactation visits built into insurance coverage, and scheduled just like postpartum and well baby visits.

    I think this is right on topic. Just like eating better, breastfeeding is sometimes difficult and requires a pretty strong will. Also, like eating organic or local, it isn't possible for everyone every time. (My poor niece nearly starved despite lots of help due to a physical issue. Watching my SIL feed her with the equipment adoptive mothers use was both heartbreaking and inspiring.)

    We need to strive for the best we can do for our own families, be supportive in community, and back off on judging others.

  3. What awesome determination! I'm so glad that you succeeded in going past your goal. I submitted a post that is a few months old, but says all I feel about the topic. Thanks for writing about breastfeeding. We need to start thinking and talking about it as a public health issue, not a lifestyle choice.

  4. Regarding your point #1: I wholeheartedly disagree that it's "criminal" for a hospital to provide you with food to feed your baby. That's taking it WAY too far, Mrs. Q. Sometimes, as was my case, the milk never comes in. And although I can afford to buy formula myself, having it there immediately was quite literally a lifesaver for us all.

  5. Mrs. Q, I am a HUGE FAN of this post. Thank you so much. I, too, am a huge breastfeeding advocate. I only breastfed my daughter for 9 months, and my goal had been a year, but I'm hoping to do better with my next one.

    However, I think your experience at the hospital in regards to formula might not be the norm, or at least it wasn't my experience. As soon as my daughter was born, a big sign went on her bassinet that said, "I'm a breastfed girl." While lactation consultants were available, I didn't find the ones at the hospital terribly helpful, but certainly no one tried to give me formula. I've actually heard from formula moms who delivered at the same place that they felt slightly uncomfortable because there was such a push for breastfeeding.

    Anyway, thank you again for bringing this important issue to light. It is definitely relevant to the blog!

  6. i think this post has LOTS to do with what we're feeding our kids. this is where it begins. we have an economical and naturally perfect gift we can give our children when they are born, yet hospitals and even some doctors are perfectly ok with formula. what's even in formula? a list of things we've never heard of…no doubt a derivative of corn?

  7. I fully agree with all of your points, 1, 2, and 3! My milk did not come in for FIVE days, and we should not have been sent home after only one day in the hospital. My baby ended up having to go back for jaundice for 3 nights since it was getting worse since he was not getting any milk. My husband called me a 'train wreck' during his first month of life and trying to breastfeed. Looking back, now we can laugh, since he's a healthy almost 2 year old and I lasted 12 months breastfeeding. But, that month was the hardest month I've ever gone through. I wish more people would talk about breastfeeding and how hard it is. Thank you for being so open.

  8. Mrs Q I read your blog all the time but have never posted a comment until today! I am a new mother to a 4 month old and am breastfeeding him exclusively! In the hospital I had to argue with Nurses that I needed to feed my baby! He was briefly in the NICU and nurses told me that I should rest and let them feed him a bottle! Thankfully I met up with an awesome lactation consultant who helped me. Luckily my milk came in quickly!

    I wanted to share a facebook group with you! People are trying to get breastfeeding bags into hospitals to prevent women from being sent home with formula! its called the Laramie Breastfeeding Bag Project!

    Thanks for talking about your breastfeeding experience! =)

  9. In hindsight, I guess I had a pretty easy time breastfeeding — no mastitis, no problems latching — but it was still so, so hard the first month. I felt like all I did was nurse, and it HURT. I ended up relying partly on formula my baby's entire first year, because the formula samples were in the cabinet and I was crying and the baby was crying and it was just easier.

    It ended up being wonderful, and at 23 months we are just winding up the nursing relationship.

    I agree with you about the formula samples, but I've taken an Internet beating for saying so. I think at its most innocent, it's sneaky marketing.

  10. I ended up breast feeding for maybe a week after my son was born. The lactation consultant at my hospital was TERRIBLE! My milk came in before I left the hospital, I breastfeed in the hospital but I was so unsure of what I was doing when I got home and didn't get any support when I called the L.C. afterwards. My son was fine – is fine 20 years later.
    Support from family – HA! The "support" I got was my sister in law dropping my GRANDparents in law off at our house the day after I got home and they stayed for 3 days. I was soooo pissed. I just wanted them gone AND it was the first time I was meeting them – after 5 days in the hospital from a C-section.
    Great article!

  11. This is a great post. There definitely needs to be more economic support from insurance companies. It is in their best interest to do so since a little extra care in the start of a young infant's life could mean less medical complication due to chronic illnesses and obesity in the future. Less money on future medical expenses means more profit. They should consider it an investment since they are more concerned about the bottom line.

    My daughter I was only able to breastfeed 3 months and she was switched to soy. My son I feed for 14 months, but I had to pump and give him a bottle. I later found out that with my daughter, if I hadn't been drinking so much milk (3-5 glasses/day), she could have breastfed longer since it would not have passed through to the breast milk. With my son, I ignored everyone's advice to drink lots of milk and .we had no issues. I have never been a milk drinker, so this time around I decided to simply not drink it and eat veggies loaded with calcium instead. Both my children drink soy milk now.

  12. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences! I didn't realize so many of you went through similar struggles. I feel validated.

    @Becky – I'm sorry you had trouble. It sounds like a medical issue, which is the point of formula. I'm sure you can understand why formula samples from the hospital undermine women who want to breastfeed during those critical days pre-milk.

  13. Great post! Everyone's experience is different and I commend you for working so hard to find the help you needed to make it work. I was lucky enough to have very few problems and to be at one of those hospitals where they totally supported my decision and never offered formula. I also am lucky to have a pediatrician who is very supportive and never pushed formula even though my babies lost weight in the beginning. She just had me nurse them more often and did more frequent weight checks. Breastfeeding babies always lose weight at first and unless they are very small, there is no reason to supplement with formula. I nursed my oldest until he was 17 months (supplementing with cow's milk after 12 months) and my second until 13 months. My husband also had severe asthma as a child that required hospitalization. My oldest is now a thin 4 year old who has successfully avoided any asthma or illnesses other than the colds that come with being a kid. My 19 month old, who was born right in the middle of cough and cold season with a snotty older brother around, has barely ever been sick. I'm 8 months pregnant with my 3rd child and even though it is a struggle sometimes (pumping, pain, etc) I can't wait to give the gift of breastfeeding to my newest bundle of joy. My wish is that every mom tries breastfeeding and evryone who wants to breastfeed gets the help they need to be successful. I believe everyone can be successful (execept for the few with special medical circumstances) with the right help and support.

  14. Thanks so much for this post. I also had a really difficult time getting breastfeeding started too. We ended up using a nipple shield and that was the answer for my daughter. In fact, even though I offered her the breast without it every day, we used the shield for every nursing session until she was two and a half years old…and suddenly she didn't need it anymore (she weaned at three years old). Just wanted to put it out there for those who use a nipple shield to feed. It is not a failure, it is a tool! And you can have a successful breastfeeding relationship even if your child never stops using the shield.

    I actually disagree that people should stay in the hospital until their milk comes in…I think that is a recipe for formula supplementation and undermining a woman's confidence in her ability to feed her baby. Instead I would say most women should either have the support of a family member who has breastfed OR a postpartum doula already lined up before she gives birth. Also, connecting with other breastfeeding mothers WHILE PREGNANT will provide a supportive community after the birth, someone to call and troubleshoot with, someone else to watch breastfeed to learn how to do it.

  15. Thanks for this post! As I was reading the story, I thought it was going to end with you having to quit breastfeeding, so it's awesome that you perservered and made it 13 months!! My 15 month old son is starting to slow down on nursing, and may be weaning. I'm just so proud we made it this far, and consider it a great accomplishment.

    I agree with your points. I attribute my breastfeeding success in part by how long we were at the hospital. My son had ABO blood incompatibility-related jaundice, and was in the special care nursery. That meant instead of 2 days in the hospital, we were there 4.5. It was great, because my milk came in on that 3rd day, and I was able to get a ton of help from the lactation consultant and the nurses. I'd hate to think about being alone at home before my milk came in.

    I was at a pretty pro-breastfeeding hospital, but they still gave us a sample bag of formula. I think this really does undermine breastfeeding… if you're struggling, and there's that handy can in the cupboard, what's stopping you from trying it. And in the beginning, it's all supply and demand, so even one bottle of formula can really threaten your milk supply. I feel they should only give the free samples to those who request them.

  16. Woohoo! Go Mrs. Q. I love to see people advocating breastfeeding. I cannot believe how infrequently this precious gift is not used! I am of the volition that if for 160000+ years women fed their babies this way, it can't be wrong. If you're having problems right off don't give up! Babies have the will to survive and when they get hungry enough they will latch- keep sticking it in their face 😀

    And don't even get me started on the C-R-A-P they put in formula…

  17. If anything should be outlawed, it should be those blankity blank nipple shields. The nurse slapped one of those things on me when my eldest was having a hard time latching a few hours after birth. All it lead to was a stomach full of blood for her, lasting nerve damage for me, and persistent refusal of the breast from that point on.

  18. I think the particular hospital makes a big difference in the formula vs. breastfeeding issue. Where I had my babies, the hospital specifically promoted breastfeeding, had great consultants there to help both in the room, at the 3-5 day postpartum visit and always available in the large breastfeeding center. They also did not distribute the formula and diaper bag package unless specially requested. They boast one of the highest breastfeeding rates in the state probably because they promote it so much and almost actively discourage the use of formula unless medically necessary. My two experiences with my kids were quite different; the first lasting a pleasant 13 months and having to start out with the shields, and the second only lasting about 8 or 9 months because it was never comfortable. But the facility makes a big difference. If you've got your heart set on breastfeeding, check out the support available where you intend to have your baby.

  19. i absolutely agree. hospitals are way too quick to offer the easy way out by pushing formula instead of taking the time to consistently offer assistance until nature kicks in, as it did with you.

    i, too, breastfed for 13 months until my daugthter self weaned (my goal was the year mark. the american academy of pediatrics recommends a full year and the world health organization recommends two. it was ALOT of work, i can't stress that enough, but i would have kept going had she not self weaned). it's sad to me that only 16 percent of women make it to that year mark.

    formula should be the absolute last option.

    it's nice to have a good lactation consultant, but women should be their own advocates and read, read, read! it's not going to be the same at home as it was in the hospital and preparation is key.

    you would think with all the benefits that breastfeeding provides people would be more supportive of it. instead, we get home to open our bags and see small cans of formula tucked in, since it's so common now for women to simply bottlefeed, even though it's very rare for a woman to physically not be able to, despite all the women that use it as an excuse. and when we're out, we're expected to cover our babies' heads while they feed, as if it's shameful. how is it okay for a baby to eat with a blanket or wrap on it's head?
    it's just kinda ridiculous how nutrition doesn't take the forefront. and it starts here.

    thanks for this wonderful blog =]


  20. Great post!

    I breastfed my two boys for 4 years each. I know that freaks some people out, but now that they are happy, bright, well-adjusted, and perfect in every way 😉 at 8 and 6, I can say it, right?

    But I would NOT have been down with having to stay in the hospital until my milk came in. It wasn't until 6 days with both of them! I left the hospital 48 hours after the first was born, and 18 hours after the 2nd was born. Having to stay in a shared room for even a few more hours (the second) would have flipped me out. 😉 I was so much more relaxed at home.

    It should be discussed, though! The mother should know that it can take a few days for milk to come in, and it's STILL NORMAL. The pediatricians should not freak out about weight, if the milk hasn't come in. My babies were not miserable. They still did get colostrum. Oh, and mothers should absolutely not try to schedule feed at all ever in those first few weeks, and particularly not if their milk isn't in yet. My kids nursed every 1-2 hours that first week. So be it.

  21. And I should say–I had wonderful hospital experiences. I was never even offered formula. When I had questions with my first, the LC was helpful. I think I present with a huge amount of self-confidence (even when I don't feel it!), and that kept interference to a minimum. When I was sure I wanted to go home at 18 hours post birth, I stated it clearly, and wasn't swayed by the negative nellie nurses who were sure I would be miserable at home. Try having to share a bathroom post partum with your roommate's visitors. THAT was miserable.

  22. YES! I had never thought of a solution to the milk not coming in. I almost killed my first baby because I didn't know it hadn't come in, and he wasn't getting anything at all. He was severely dehydrated, and we only took him to the hospital where he stayed another 5 days because his bilirubin level wasn't falling!

    What's the difference between a normal baby and a lethargic one?? And, how's a new mom who's never had a newborn infant to care for full time supposed to know? I should have noticed that his dry mouth was not normal. But, I was still new to parenthood. You are right. Mom who want to breastfeed should be checked to make sure their milk has come in. I had NO IDEA what let down felt like until it happened.

    Good topic!

  23. There is likely to be alot of comments on this because it is such a hot topic. I LOVE that you posted this. I had so much trouble nursing my oldest son that after 4 months I pumped only. I did that for 3 more months and supplemented with formula and dies a little inside when I watched my friends and the ease they had with breastfeeding. I decided then and there that my second would be a good nurser come hell or high water. I am pleased to say that my Thing 2 will be one next week and has never tasted formula. As a mom who works full time (50 hours a week including commuting!) I feel this is a feat.

    I don't agree with you about women staying in the hospital until their milk comes however. What I think would be a better intervention is pediatricians who welcomed their newborn patients every day for a weigh in (mine did) and pedia's who are more familiar with latching techniques to help moms. I got alot of the same negative feedback from the lactation consultants that you did but my child was just fine. Same as you I supplemented my first son with formula around three weeks and he was off it by 6 weeks (until later as I mentioned).

    As new mothers, we need support from our doctors and nurses and OBGYN. But the truth is that those who are really good lactation consultants are few and far between. Our mothers by and large didn't breastfeed long enough to teach us how to do this in the modern age. I know there are some who did, but much information has been lost. Hopefully in another generation the problem will go away because more women will be able to teach their daughters.

  24. I breastfed both my girls for well over 2 years.
    I threw the samples of formula away when I got home from the hospital.
    One of the girls was fed a bottle of formula in the nursery Even though I had said No I was breastfeeding.
    Before my first child was born I read everything I could get my hands on about nursing my child. I talked to friends who had breastfed over the phone. I was several states away from family and I was lucky in that I didn't have too many problems. The nurses in the hospital were no help at the time. When my mother came to visit she was no help either as she had bottle fed me and my brother.
    I think hospitals are more open to promoting breastfeeding now and I even have a relative who is a lactation consultant now.
    This was a great post Mrs. Q! and right in line with good nutrition for our children.

    And for Laura S. yes some infant formula does indeed contain HFCS. HFCS affects the still developing baby brain, so why would it be in infant formula? mind boggling isn't it?

  25. I think it's wrong to generalize that breast-feeding is the cure for asthma and obesity, as well as other illnesses. Both of my children were formula-fed from birth. Both grew appropriately and are even below average on weight growth chart. They don't have asthma, have rarely been sick aside from colds (even with being in daycare), and most certainly are not on the road to obesity.

    Breast-feeding is best for babies, but the formulas available today provide a worthy alternative for those that can't or don't want to breast-feed. I'm just tired of the superior attitude of those who think breast-feeding is the only way to go and they must care about their children more if they do it.

  26. Becky, the hospital doesn't provide formula for you in case your baby needs it. The hospital provides free formula samples because they get kickbacks from the formula companies to do so.

    And why do the formula companies do this? It's not from the goodness of their hearts – WIC will provide you with formula if you can't afford it and can't or won't breastfeed. It's because they know that if they do, you're more likely to use their formula in the future. They do it SPECIFICALLY to undermine your ability to breastfeed.

    The hospital should provide formula for sick infants who cannot nurse, yes. But they should not provide samples as a matter of course. The job of the hospital is not to be a marketing campaign.

    Incidentally, breastfeeding does NOT reduce risk of asthma or diabetes. Breastfeeding is normal. Formula feeding, while a boon for people who otherwise would not be able to feed their babies, has some severe detriments, including INCREASING the risk of asthma and diabetes in the infants who are fed it.

  27. I think this is a good topic for discussion, but can become dangerous real fast. As mothers we need to spend less time competing with each other and more time being supportive. I only managed to make it about three months breastfeeding my daughter for a multitude of reasons. I could never seem to create enough to meet her demand. I always wonder when people point out that this is the way women have fed their babies for thousands of years, if they realize that lots of babies didn't survive. A child who wouldn't latch, or one born to a mother who wasn't able to provide enough sustenance died. We should be grateful that we have an alternative to breastfeeding even while encouraging mothers to give it a fair try. I think formula samples in hospital bags are fine. I recall receiving an additional bag that had pamphlets about breastfeeding, nursing pads, and ointment for sore nipples. If we spend less time comparing our successes with others failures, and more time helping each other learn to parent, everybody wins.

  28. Thanks for sharing and you are not alone in your experience! With my first, who is now 6 years old, my milk did not come in for 7 days!!! We went to our checkup and had a horrible nurse tell us we were starving our baby. What a great thing to tell a new mom who is doing her best to keep it together. We had to supplement with formula. However, once the milk came in, she breastfed for 13 months and then self weaned. A rough start, but totally worth it.
    With my second, who is now 3 months, we had to supplement in the hospital as his sugar was not stabilizing. He still took to the breast like a champ though. My milk came in much faster but I had some serious nipple issues. A lactation consultant told me his latch was fine, but that his chin was a little recessed and his mouth was small. The real culprit turned out to be my giant nipple. One is bigger than the other, go figure. So for the first 2 months that nipple was constantly sore. Now though nursing is a breeze and he is a chunky 15 lb. boy. Given, he was a chunk at birth at 9lb 1oz.

    Bottom line is nursing is not always easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it! I totally agree with you about all the formula samples and junk they send you. I still get coupons and just throw them away.

    I think we as a culture need to take back our children's health and let companies know that it is not for sale. Hear that McDonalds? Soda companies? Ultimately, we as parents are teaching our kids what is healthy and what is not. We lead by example and our kids are always watching us.

  29. Thanks for this fantastic post!! I don't have children yet, but I feel very strongly about this topic. I can't even stand the thought of formula, let alone the smell and god knows what is in it! Most of my friends have kids and NONE of them breastfed. Mostly for vanity reasons, but some because they just didn't have the support, and they had formula pushed on them.

  30. I always find it fascinating that breastfeeding advocates must point out how much healthier breast milk is for babies. My own experience is quite the opposite. My two formula fed children have been very healthy…no ear infections, no food allergies…barely even a cold or runny nose. But the many breastfed babies I know have all sorts of allergies and are always sick. Perhaps my children are just the exception to this "breast is best" rule. Regardless, I'm glad that you were able to feed your baby the way you wished and it all worked out for you.

  31. AWESOME post! My favorite one so far, and I've read them all. I could have written this myself as we had such similar experience. I couldn't get my son to latch in the hospital. The nurses threw a shield at me w/o explaining how to use it and then offered formula supplements at every shift change. I had one GLORIOUS nurse who encouraged me to pump and actually took the time to explain the breast feeding process and mechanics of it (I read every baby book in the world but as a naive first time mom, I assumed the most natural thing in the world would just come naturally).
    I agree that there should NOT be formula given in so called "breast feeding support" bags. I hid the formula I received on the top shelf in the back of my pantry so it wouldn't be staring me in the face every time I opened the cabinet…especially in those tough first months (yes, MONTHS).
    Finally, the PPD screening process needs to be re-evaluated and taken more seriously. When I filled out the form at my 6 week checkup, the nurse AND doctor said "well, you passed the crazy test" (no lie!) so later when I was experiencing symptoms, there was NO WAY I was going back to my doctor.
    Thank you again for your post Mrs. Q. I hope it encourages even just one new mom to stick with breast feeding.

  32. Fantastic post, Mrs. Q!

    I wrote a blog a while back about the insidious nature of formula company advertising. I'll post a link.

    Basically the United States has never consistently enforced the laws of ethical formula advertising. I feel this is extremely detrimental for women, as they are constantly bombarded with pictures of formula (and bottles) and see far fewer pictures of women breastfeeding or pumping.

    Not to mention the "free formula" bag, which is an important part of the birth experience for lower-income women (low income black and Hispanic women have the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the U.S.) I feel the free formula just sets women up to fail!

    Sadly, many doctors are misinformed. With my third child, I was having a hard time nursing and my pediatrician simply handed me a can of formula.

    I breastfed my fourth child for a year, and I'm pregnant with #5 now, and plan to nurse for as long as he or she wants!

    Here's my post on the ethics of formula companies:

  33. I don't get what the big deal is about formula samples at the hospital. Either take them or don't. Some of us wanted/needed them, but if you are not one of those people, just say no thanks. Do we really need to ban them as a political statement?\

  34. I breastfed all 3 of my children for a full year each. My biggest problem was fining a place to pump. I worked retail with all three, so some places are more accomodating than others. I worked at one place where I pumped in the backroom/office (the bathroom had no electrical outlet). I would just let my coworkers (all women) know and they would stay clear of the backroom unless absolutely necessary. I was also the boss, that made it easier. 😉 With my thrid, I managed a portion of a large department store and there was no place to pump, so I did it in my car! (I bought a battery pack) It was so surreal. Anyway. . .

    I would like to say that no woman should feel pressured to breastfeed. Present them with the facts and allow them to make thier own decision. I had a friend who was so hormonal that it affected her relationship with her husband and child. In her heart she knew it was better to breastfeed, but she could not adjust to the emotional roller coaster. She breastfed for 6 weeks, than called me in hysterics. I told her it was ok to stop, if that was what she felt was in her and her family's best interest. We must all make our own choices.

  35. Go Mrs. Q!
    I love your Blog and read it regularly. I am a first time mom of a 6 month old darling little girl. My husband and I live in a small town in the South and my daughter was born during the coldest set of days that we had had for quite a while. My daughter had jaundice and my milk did not come in for 5 days as well. But I was bound and determined to breastfeed, and even though it hurt the first minute or so of feeding her and my nipples were adjusting to breastfeeding I was going to do it. My pediatrician told us we needed to supplement because her jaundice was so bad, and she asked me if I had brought home the formula they give you at the hospital. I said no, and so my husband went out to get formula. Thankfully my daughter would not take the formula, so she lived at my breast for two weeks. But I am very happy that I did and I agree that they push formula too much.

    Thanks for everything you do and for all the wonderful posts

  36. My experience was completely the opposite of yours, and after reading this, I know how lucky I was. My daughter took to nursing very easily and our family doctor completely supported it. I also found a La Leche group to have more support since family wasn't local.

    My daughter always refused, however, to take a bottle of expressed milk. My husband could never feed her to relieve me late night, I couldn't leave her for more than 2-3 hours at first, and when I went back to work, (she was 3 months old) she reverted to nursing all night long because she didn't eat all day.

    I did get some bad advice from a mid-wife though. I was pregnant with my second daughter when the first was 8 months old. The mid-wife told me I had to stop nursing immediately, because neither my daughter or the new baby would not get enough nutrition. I am happy to say that I changed to another practice, continued nursing until my first self weaned at 12 months, and that the girls are currently healthy 9 and 10 year olds.

    I think the point of what I'm trying to say is that we should trust our instincts. How you feed your child is a very personal choice. If you know that your baby isn't thriving nursing, use formula. If nursing is working well, keep it up as long as it's right for both of you. When they're older, if you want to feed your child a traditional diet, a vegetarian diet or an organic diet, make it work for you. Those of us who can afford the choices are all doing the best we can in our own situations.

  37. Thanks to everyone who has commented. I was honest about my breastfeeding journey. I'm proud of myself for sticking with it. I gave my main reason for breastfeeding: to decrease my son's risk for my husband's debilitating asthma and allergies. My son already is sick frequently. If breastfeeding conferred a benefit, then I'm grateful I did it or else I'd have a very sickly child. I didn't want to look back and regret not breastfeeding if my son turned out like my husband. I can say I did my very best.

    I hope there is nothing too pushy in my post. I just wanted to be frank about the challenges I faced. There is a lot of pressure to breastfeed these days since research finds new things about breast milk and what it can do. No one should feel like the length they breastfed is "bad" as any amount is better than nothing.

    Mothers in general take a beating in the media for their choices and mothering is totally devalued. Stay-at-home moms get little respect from the press and working moms (like myself) feel guilt. Mothering is hard and I'm not going to judge your choices if you don't judge mine. I'm certainly not trying to hold myself up as a model. If anything this story might convince you never to breastfeed!

  38. kudos to you for being so determined!!!! i breastfed all 3 of my children until they weaned themselves…all at about 11 months…for the same reasons you stated. in retrospect, they were all relatively easy and we adjusted to each other quickly. however, i was also very determined to MAKE it work. for such a beautiful, natural way of feeding it did not feel at all natural in the beginning. i always find it interesting when i hear new moms say they are going to "try" breastfeeding. i tell them they need to make a commitment because just "trying" it will prove to be a disappointment. i think women need to be encouraged and supported and told the truth about the difficulties they may face, but also that the long-term benefits FAR outweigh the initial learning phase. even by my third child it still took well over a month before i felt confident that we had mastered our feedings. now working out a feeding schedule…that's a whole other post!!!!

  39. You do realize that some women don't get their milk until one week (sometimes slightly longer)out… that would be a really, really long time to stay in the hospital, waiting for that milk… even the most determined mother wouldn't do that, I don't think.

    I'm one of the few women who think breast feeding is… disgusting. I can't stand to think of milk coming out of breasts… they are purely a sexual organ for me. I was not breastfed, I am a very healthy thin 30-something woman… if I ever have children NO WAY will I breastfeed. BUT, I totally respect women who wish to breastfeed. I just don't want to think about it myself!

    Kudos to you for sticking to it!

  40. I think it's an interesting comment on how our society has changed over the years –all these storied about needing support for breast-feeding. That support used to come from family members –mothers, older sisters, aunts, etc. Now we are all so far from our families, that we need lactation consultants.

    I breastfed my daughter, and was one of the lucky ones, without too many problems. She never would take anything out of a bottle, and changed to a sippy cup at 9 mos. I'm happy, however, that formula was invented, for women who have real medical problems that stop them from breast feeding.

    A friend of a friend had fraternal twins –boy and girl. She breastfed the girl, but not the boy. I think this is another comment on our society –breasts are first and foremost for feeding, and it's a shame that they've become so sexualized that a person would find breast feeding disgusting.

  41. The best advice I ever got about breastfeeding was towards the end of my 1st pregnancy and that was: it takes about 2 months to really get nursing well established, especially with the first baby. I found that to be true! I breastfed baby #1 for 13 months. With baby #2, I knew what I was doing and it didn't take long to get breastfeeding established at all – she breastfed for 2 years (gradually decreasing as she ate more). Then baby #3 came along; I was deathly ill and baby #3 had to be delivered 6 weeks early to save my life. She was fortunately healthy, but I had to be sent by life flight to a larger hospital 90 miles away, and I was there for 5 days. I got better, but I couldn't even pump my milk until I reached a certain point in my recovery. During that time, baby #3 got preemie formula – there was no choice. When I got home, I was able to start supplying my milk as we began working on establishing breastfeeding. But, in the NICU, it just didn't go well. I was uncomfortable and I think the baby picked up on that. It got to the point where her being able to eat on her own was the only thing keeping her in the hospital, so we told the nurses to go ahead and give her a bottle (rather than feed her through an NG tube and have me attempt to get her to breastfeed). I figured that once we got home and settled in, we could get breastfeeding going. I was right. It wasn't long before I had no problem getting her to latch on, and after a little while longer, we were nursing with no problems. She breastfed for about 18 months.

    While I know that breastfeeding is no guarantee of anything, if I can do something to at least reduce my children's chances of certain problems, then I'll do it.

    I do think that the formula manufacturers and their samples need to be banned from hospitals. People know that the formula is out there; if someone wants to perhaps sign up online with a manufacturer to get their information, coupons and samples, then that's fine. Let the people who are interested in receiving that sort of stuff seek it out on their own. But some new mother who lacks confidence in her abilities to breastfeed but yet still wants to try ought to be encouraged, not have the alternative thrown at her at every opportunity.

  42. Awesome post. I have twin girls and I was determined to breastfeed. Unfortunately, things did not work out that way. Nobody ever told me that if you have PCOS you have a greater chance of having a low milk supply. That along with having TWO newborns, and having to feed them every 3 hours, plus pumping and not getting much. I just couldn't keep it up. Oh, and I also had post partum depression. I knew I was at a high risk for it, but my OB wasn't as proactive as he should have been. When I first called about my mood, he should not have brushed it off as "baby blues" and should not have had me take a B supplement for a few weeks.

    Anyway, I agree with all your points.

  43. I'd like to say I have no idea how people breastfeed twins! I could not manage that! I'd also like to add that I loved being in the hospital with all the help from the nurses. That's probably why I would have loved a few more days of that!

  44. This is one of the things I dread most about when I eventually become a parent. I know that breastfeeding is best. I know that my babies would benefit from it, especially since, like your husband, I have allergies and asthma. I also know that breastfeeding will not be an option for me: I have to take medication each day for a sleep disorder that is not safe to take while breastfeeding. If I stopped the medicine, I would be unable to drive, and I doubt I would be able to be an attentive, effective parent (especially once I have more than one child). But, since my condition has no visible physical symptoms, I will undoubtedly be the target of plenty of self-proclaimed "advocates" who will label me as selfish or lazy. I doubt I will manage to get through even a single child's infancy without some stranger coming up to me and trying to convince me that I need to put down the bottle.

    If the most important thing is nutrition, why do we focus so much on its source? Just for once, I'd like to see a discussion about what we can do to make healthier, safer formulas available, rather than a discussion about how much better breastfeeding is! It's all well and good for a healthy woman to say "formula should only be used as a last resort", but what about those of us who have to skip straight to that "last resort"? It's demoralizing. Why must our only choices be so polarized? Why can't we advocate to make it so that when our babies grow up and become parents, they have TWO excellent, healthy options? Instead of shaming the moms who choose formula, let's shame the companies who create the stuff, and the regulators who let them. I'm sure it's possible to make good, healthy formula that's not synthetic chemical soup, just like it's possible to serve kids good, healthy lunches at school – but it's not going to happen unless we stop judging other parents and stand up and demand change.

  45. I am definitely a supporter of breastfeeding, but I don't entirely agree with your first point.

    My daughter is almost two and I planned on breastfeeding her for at least a year.

    Hospitals cannot keep all women until their milk comes in. They just don't have the space. We were in the hospital for six days after my daughter was born and my milk didn't come in for two more days after that. They kept me a day longer than they normally do because we were having difficulty breastfeeding.

    If they hadn't given me formula to feed her, we would have had a host of other problems – she was severely dehydrated and that makes newborns more jaundiced. While my milk eventually came in, I never had enough to solely breastfeed my daughter, we had to supplement with formula so that she could gain weight. I ended up weaning her at nine months because I could barely produce one feeding a day. I went regularly (2-3 times/week) to the breastfeeding clinic, we had a pump to help stimulate production, but we needed formula.

    Moms who choose to use formula, for any reason, face so much criticism and the worst critics are often other moms who had difficulty breastfeeding and managed to get it to work for them. I experienced it and spoke to so many other moms who experienced it. Bottles are not bad. Formula does not cause obesity. Most women who choose formula over breastfeeding ARE aware that breastfeeding is best, but sometimes it's not best for their baby – in our case our daughter would have been malnourished.

    I agree with most of what you said and most of the time I agree with most of your posts, but I do find that when you get passionate about something (which is awesome!) you do also tend to get a bit judgmental – women who have had to make an often difficult decision to use formula need more support, not more criticism.

  46. Thank you for sharing. I had a little trouble with my first but our hospital has great lactations. They were very helpful and invited me to a weekly group. I loved it so much I could not wait to go back when I had my second. We are thinking about baby three and I hope breastfeeding is just as easy. Glad you got support (finally!)

  47. My daughter breastfed for about 13 months as well; and then had about 3 months of a freezer stash of breast milk that went into her sippy cup. I had *horrible* asthma and allergies as a kid and my goal with breastfeeding was to give my daughter a better chance than what I had. She still has asthma, technically, but she has not used a daily inhaler in 2 years and she has not needed a preventative inhaler for a year now. She's 6. I honestly think breastfeeding made the difference.

  48. Mrs. Q, sorry I'm behind on comments. 🙂 I still don't see how sending women home with formula is a bad thing. It was a medical issue for me, but I tried for 10 days. I *did* want to breastfeed. But I just couldn't.

    I don't find it undermining at all, and I guess I'm just not seeing why it would be. What if, God forbid, something happens to the mother? Dad certainly can't breastfeed.

  49. "I am always shocked that women do not fight to breastfeed since formula is a proven risk factor for obesity. It *is* a fight sometimes, but it can be done even with multiple obstacles."

    Ouch. That hurt. Be shocked all you want, but when it comes down to a choice of surviving postpartum depression and breastfeeding, the choice (in my case, anyway) was survival. Breastfeeding may have been a fight for you, but had I kept up, I would've given up my sanity. Actually in my mind it wasn't even a choice. I was unable to breastfeed because it would have killed me. Maybe not literally, but *I* wouldn't have survived. And that's a big maybe on the literal part… it was BAD. Baby blues ain't got nothin' on full on PPD. I know, because foregoing the breast with my second child – after the hell that was postpartum with my first – was a whole different ball game. I had the baby blues (women with a history of PPD often do), but nowhere near what I experienced with my first. And it was a whole different first few months. It was a whole different first year.

    If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't even try with my first. I lost so much over trying to do what was "right" that I didn't do what was best. And it was a huge, huge mistake that I can never correct. No lasting damage for either of us, thank God, but I will never have his first few months back.

    One thing I'm not seeing a lot of, with the breastfeeding campaign, is that mom needs to be taken care of too. We need to support each other, not be shocked by things we have no possibility of understanding.

  50. This is a good post, Mrs. Q. From all the comments, you can tell women feel passionately about feeding their babies and that's where it all starts. I bet the women that breastfeed are the same ones who worry about what their kids are eating for lunch at school!
    When I breastfed (32 years ago -yikes!) I also had a difficult time. My problem, however, was that I had enough milk to feed a nursery! And we all know the more you pump…the more it comes. For help, all I had was a little book sent home with me from the hospital. But like you, I persevered and now I have a son who is 6'4 and daughter who is 5'10.
    I guess it was worth it:)

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