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April 08, 2010


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I get so tired of the people who want to make war between those who breastfeed for years and those who never offer anything but formula. Once again you are a voice of reason. Thank you.

So. Very. Excellent.

Well said. Written. You know what I mean.

Oh, this reminds me. You may remember when you and Moxie kindly got on the phone with me in the spring of 2006 after my sister had her first baby and ran into real trouble nursing. Thanks in part to your wise counsel, and her willingness to keep looking until she found the right LC, she managed to sustain breastfeeding.

For four years.

Through two more pregnancies.

(Not that I'm a big advocate for nursing-through-pregnancy. OUCH.)

She just delivered her third baby a few weeks ago, and is now tandem nursing a 2-year old and a newborn for the second time.

Everyone has different goals, and those goals shift over time (my sister ended up nursing a LOT MORE than she expected or wanted when she started), so this comment isn't meant to be prescriptive for anyone.

I just wanted to say, on her behalf, THANK YOU. Your assistance, from a distance and through a third party, has made a big difference in my sister's entire mothering life.

(Just to be clear: if breastfeeding hadn't worked out, that would have been OK, too. But my sister really wanted it to work, and it was not easy, and having helpful, trained people in her life made the difference.)

I've been a volunteer lactation support layperson for many years and recently started coursework toward a bachelor's degree in social work. A lot of the training social workers get would benefit anyone in a "people" field, and also reminds me quite a bit of the communication skills training offered by La Leche League.

Social work also focuses on building an eclectic skill base as well as seeing a person in her environment (what's going on around mom to support her ... or not) and building on strengths (like you've said above about incremental changes).

I could see a social worker with lactation training of the what's normal/what's not sort being an excellent front-line "triage" person. So much of lactation support is listening to a mother's concerns and reassuring her that what she's experiencing is normal.

My own fantasy is an army of postpartum doulas who are experienced breastfeeding mothers who have had breastfeeding peer counselor training.

Thanks for this. I am comforted, although I don't know why. It doesn't change the fact that I'm suffering through a (self-diagnosed) "tortuous case of thrush" and dreading going to a doctor I have never met on our out-of-the-States military clinic. It does mean, though, that there are more of "me" who are staying in the pews instead of slipping out. Which, theoretically, means more help for me the next time I have trouble-at-the-breast, right?

As usual, Jamie, this is just wonderful. You're a voice of reason. Thanks for taking the time to put this together!

BRAVO, my friend!! It feels like the old blog all over again. Thanks for this very thoughtful post, yes, we have to make an effort so breastfeeding doesn't make us stupid -- either when supporting it or not.

I try to be an "informal" breastfeeding support people as often as I can to friends and family members. I almost became an LLL leader, but the timing wasn't right (I began the process when Linton was over 12 months old and by the time I was getting ready to get to the more intense part, he was almost weaned two years later, so I lost my mojo). And I wish I could become an LC, but I'm just not in the health care field or any related areas and I'm not willing to pay to go back to school for a totally unrelated area after getting that phd of mine. So, yeah... I'll try to help anyone I come across.

I LOVED to hear Jody sharing her sister's story. And I'll probably email her to talk more about it. I nursed through my pregnancy too, and it was FINE! (except that it did hurt -- the nipple and the strong cramps/contractions -- but it never started labor or anything).

Thanks again!!

Outstanding post. I'm 8 years removed from having an infant but you completely held my interest.

Jamie, I recommend you add explanations of your acronyms to this post...

Jamie for President! or Emperor of the world. You pick.
And - can I add one thing to the list? Nice people make a world of difference, here more than elsewhere. I had perfectly efficient and knowledgeable LCs who made me feel awful, inadequate and stupid, even when it wasn't my first baby. I did everything in my power to avoid their useful advice and turn to the more patient, kinder, friendlier nurses. Postpartum women aren't stupid - but they do need some kindness, not just good advice.

I was that person who was lucky enough to have a midwife to prescribe an oral medication for thrush (intraductal yeast causing horrible stabbing pain far worse than unmedicated labor). I tried twice to get a supposedly very breastfeeding-friendly family practice physician to prescribe it for me, and twice he refused, saying he didn't believe in thrush in the milk ducts and I should have a beer and relax. Seriously--a beer for someone who had been calm through unmedicated labor and was reduced to sob-shouting the Hail Mary by latching, even while taking loads of ibuprofen. The fluconazole got rid of the extreme pain within 24 hours, after I'd been enduring it for two weeks. If it was a placebo, it was a darn good one. Thank God for CNMs!

Thanks for all the encouraging comments!

Jody, so glad to hear about your sister.

Freyja, I absolutely agree that social workers can bring valuable skills to breastfeeding support. Social workers without specialized training don't have a big role to play in supporting breastfeeding mothers, and Goldin's comment suggests to me that she is not well acquainted with the needs of mothers attempting to establish a breastfeeding relationship.

Maia, thrush is SO demoralizing. Email me if you need some encouragement. (My husband is out of town and I am running a little behind on email, but I'll keep an eye out.)

Lilian, I have a fun surprise for you. Maybe tonight!

Bearing-Erin, I'll do that.

Rachel, you are right about the kindness factor. Sorry to hear about your experience with LCs. :-(

Everybody else, thanks for reading and responding!

Jamie, I don't know what your PhD subject was exactly, and I don't know your specific career goals, but seriously. Please include advocacy in your thinking - I'm not sure academia would give you the soapbox you'd need to influence the policy decision makers, but you have such a great way of analyzing and summarizing the various positions on this topic (and others, I'm sure).

On the other hand, I always felt stupid somehow when I was breastfeeding. I'm talking estrogen deprivation stupid. Not behaviorally out-of-touch. Still miss those days tho!

Fabulous post. As a 3rd time mom who has been pregnant and/or nursing for 5 straight years now, I fully agree that better support straightaway from birth is so important to establishing and maintaining the breast-feeding relationship. And I plan to quote you: "incremental changes do matter", when I attend my local breast-feeding support group tomorrow morning! Keep up the great posts.

"These incremental changes matter." Ab-so-lutely! Incremental change is just about the only kind that CAN be made. My transition from a "oh my god I will NEVER breastfeed that is disgusting yuck yuck yuck" type of woman, into the Lactivist-still-nursing-a-2-year-old that I am today, was slow, slow transition. It didn't happen overnight. It all came from a spark - a seed - an idea. One mother said "hey, what about this" and then another and then another, and here I am today.

I'm so tired of people trying to silence lactivists though. If there were none of us, I think breastfeeding would soon be going the way of the do-do bird.

Great. Thanks so much for a well thought out post.

Thank you thank you thank you for saying what I've been longing to hear--support of breastfeeding that includes giving other women the benefit of the doubt. I especially loved point 7, as I often get the feeling we're comparing AP practices like Boy Scout badges, and a mom doesn't deserve children if they don't have enough of them. I have heard loving women say, almost word for word, what you said about goldfish in the last paragraph, and it blows me away. Really? Seriously? You feel your friend doesn't deserve to have a child if she uses formula when she raises her child in love with wisdom? I may not be slipping out of the pews when the crescendo hits its apex (I've nursed three kids into toddlerhood and am working on four now), but I lose a lot of respect for the preacher at that point. Thank you for saying so eloquently what I've felt for a long time!

Fabulous post. Thank you!!

Thank you for writing something I have been feeling, and couldn't explain!
I am a breastfeeding mom and absolutely pro educating new moms and supporting all.But I have witnessed a LLL leader being so pushy with a mother I know from playgroups, I almost wanted to cry! My friend decided to wean her 22 months old because she's pregnant and maybe there are other reasons she did not want to tell. The LLL leader was pushing so hard to convince my friend that she did the wrong thing, that she herself still nurses her 4 year old, that the OB didn't know what he was talking about, that she should try to revert... I didn't want to be rude, but it made me really sad. I'm not talking about a mom who nursed for 22 days, she did it for 22 months! so I wish more people would read your blog and think about your points, so everybody could be more comfortable!

Totally agree with you. I am no breastfeeding counselor (only had breastfeeding experience continuously for more than 5 years including tandem nursing) , but try to provide assistance to new breastfeeding mothers who are at our shop, as well as friends. If I am unsure of the advice to give, I refer them to LCs. Some have successfully breastfed and this gives me strength to give out my number to people whom I come across and may need that little bit of encouragement and support. Often, I find that this is what matters and what helps. Granted, some give up along the way for various reasons, but it was good for them to know that they tried. :) Wonderful post! I'm gonna share this.

I was just linked over to this post this afternoon. Beautifully written: I love the way you've put this together. Thank you.

Good lord, but it's good to have you back on the blogging scene, Jamie.

You asked about my reaction. Sorry it's taken so long - finally got it posted at http://goodenoughmummy.typepad.com/good_enough_mum/2010/04/the-bartick-study-and-breastfeeding-disclaimer-syndrome.html

That really is good news! I love breastfeeding, but it is not always easy. I'm glad you can be so reasonable about such a sensitive subject. I once wrote a post on my old blog equating breastfeeding with justice, about how I felt that women and babies were being robbed of something so fundamentally human by AIDS, by corporations, by negative attitudes. Boy, was I made to pay for that! Of course the woman who had difficulty breastfeeding and so went to the bottle thought I was talking about her, and it just got ugly from there.

I had my son at the 1st Baby Friendly Hospital in Maine and they were FANTASTIC. I love(d) my CNMs. I loved the LC's, some were a little wacky, some were hip, all over the map. The single best thing the hospital did for me was that they were available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at the Nurses Station. One night about 2 weeks postpartum, I called at around 2am crying, a wreck, my son wouldn't sleep, wanted to nurse around the clock, etc. (all normal stuff... but I didn't know that then), and she told me to try lying down nursing and see if it helped me get some rest. If I hadn't done that, I think I would have... I don't know what. She gave me implicit permission to try cosleeping, even though many had made it seem BAD. Another time right before my 3 month postpartum appt I was afraid my supply was gone. I was having trouble finding time to make food/eat/etc. This fantastic LC came to my house within a half hour, and showed me that my breasts had plenty of milk, she helped me relax, helped me feel like I was doing a great job, not to give up. She also said if I remember correctly that she could get milk "out of anything." haha. But seriously though, what you're saying about support is PARAMOUNT. I didn't go into my BFing relationship with my son expecting to be going this long, but I'm super proud of myself. I have been following my son's lead since his birth, and he is healthy, intelligent, and wonderful.

What I'm trying to say is that the biggest thing is not just having information, it's having SUPPORT around that information, hands-on help, and also feedback about trusting your instincts. That's what I was given and it has made all the difference.

P.S. I just found your blog and I love it. Thank you!

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