Thursday, September 13, 2012

Success as a Mom is not measured by feeding method

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by Hank Osborne

I am a little abnormal on the subject of breastfeeding. My wife and I teach parenting classes for expectant parents and we cover the subject fairly thoroughly. We lead Preparation for Parenting which is a small group class format featuring videos of Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo teaching the exact same principles found in On Becoming Babywise. In my nine years of experience leading these classes that many if not most men are initially a little weirded out by the subject of breastfeeding. They don’t get it and are very often happy to let their wives run solo and make the decisions on whether to nurse or to bottle feed. It does not have to be this way and should not be this way in my opinion. Let me explain.

In our family this subject has hit hard with more than one of our four boys and my wife wanted my input and support from the start. Three of our boys simply didn’t nurse very well and our first child was the worst. And I can say without hesitation that my wife Sherry did not give up easy on nursing. She visited with multiple doctors, lactation consultants, nurses, experienced mothers who had nursed challenging children, and even consulted with our friend Anne Marie Ezzo herself. Sherry ended up abandoning nursing/pumping somewhere between 4 weeks and 16 weeks with each of our boys for various reasons. I added pumping because with our second son Caden she never got to nurse him at all due to his medical conditions that left him unable to swallow even to this day. Caden is almost 8 years old and has been exclusively tube fed since birth. She did pump for approximately 8 weeks and that breast milk lasted Caden for nearly six months due to the volume she pumped (over a liter per day) and the fact that the doctors insisted on formula supplements while Caden was hospitalized after his first open-heart surgery during his first two months. The point here is that the fact that our children did not breast for that first year like Sherry and I both wanted, that did not make Sherry any less of a mother in any way.

So why is dad’s involvement in this subject important? While many dads may not seem to really care, I encourage you to please make sure your husband knows where your heart is on this issue and try to discuss it before you end up in an emotional battle over whether to continue or not with breastfeeding. Ask for him to support you regardless of the direction you need to go with feeding method. Nursing is the one area of parenting where it seems that dads can do little more than go get the baby in the middle of the night and maybe wash some pump accessories when applicable. But just because dad is not involved in the mechanics of nursing does not mean he should be left out of the conversation. Drag him into the conversation kicking and screaming if you must. The reason is that there will likely be days when you will need to be reminded that your success as a mom is not measured by your success in breastfeeding. When your husband says this to you in the heat of the moment, it may surprise you how much easier it is to continue to nurse when someone you love and trust removes that pressure to perform. And last but not least remember that dads are just as capable of tracking output as moms. ;-) 


Hank blogs at Daddylife.net

5 comments:

TulipGirl said...

You are SO right. . . success as a mom does NOT come from success breastfeeding.

Have you considered that the Prep materials undermined breastfeeding for your wife and family? Quite frankly, it often does. You know this to be true -- and you I don't believe that you are willing to have your experience with lack of success breastfeeding lead you to question the parenting paradigm you have so thoroughly embraced.

Perhaps. . . just perhaps. . . the paradigm you've chosen does not mesh with God's design for how breastfeeding works?

Cordially,

TulipGirl said...

Btw, my comment above does NOT take anything away from your wife's perseverance! Good job, mom!

If anything, it takes MORE perseverance and dedication to breastfeed and pump when working against the way breastfeeding is designed to work.

Neither cue-feeding nor pdf are magic wands that make breastfeeding a breeze -- but with pdf you ARE working against infant development, milk supply and hormones, and the demand/supply cycle.

Hank said...

Alexandra (aka TulipGirl),

This article was intended to bring encouragement to a mom who might find herself in need of support from the one she loves most, her husband, when faced with difficulties that can come with breastfeeding. This article was not about what Babywise or Preparation for Parenting says about breastfeeding.

I said that when a husband says the statement (that you misquoted without the context) to his wife that "it may surprise you how much easier it is to continue to nurse when someone you love and trust removes that pressure to perform." The follow on that you skipped over is about how much easier nursing might be and is in perfect harmony with an encouragement to continue breastfeeding through support from your husband.

Babywise nor Preparation for Parenting was in any way responsible for my wife abandoning breastfeeding with any of our children. And no, I do not believe our lack of breastfeeding success has anything to do with our willingness to question our overall parenting philosophy. It was a personal and individual choice with each child to abandon breastfeeding and we do not look to blame or point fingers in response to our perceived lack of success in breastfeeding. My wife and I have always and continue to speak in stereo with the Ezzo's to encourage breastfeeding as being best for babies. Period!

However, there are circumstances where a mom simply can't breastfeed. You touched on one in your comments. My son's method of eating for the first several weeks was via IV due to being in an ICU after open-heart surgery. Since then he has been eating exclusively via a feeding tube for nearly eight years. This does not mesh well with God's design for breastfeeding. And I appreciate your acknowledgement that it takes a lot for a mom to pump during a time like this when she is not even allowed to hold her baby but maybe a few minutes per day at best. And in a case like this, in MY opinion, it is 100% correct for a dad to tell his wife that she is no less of a mother because she can't feed the child the way God has designed it to work. And you can't imagine the emotion that my wife experienced during those times and how much she needed to hear from me that it was okay.

And you know what, some parents simply "choose" not to breastfeed their child even after hearing our recommendations to do so. I do not consider them any less of parents as a result of their choice. It is not our place to judge regardless of how passionate we are about breastfeeding.

Plowmanators said...

I think, to be fair, if you want to blame Babywise for any "unsuccessful" breastfeeding experience, then you also need to give it credit for every "successful" breastfeeding experience. I doubt you would be willing to do so, though. I am sure you would decide my full success with three and complete success so far with my fourth is attributed to something other than Babywise. What? I don't know.

BUT if Babywise does not "mesh with God's design for how breastfeeding works", then how do people ever have success? And not just a select few.

Plowmanators said...

When my oldest was a baby, my OB told me that for me to breastfeed to 6 weeks old would be longer than most mothers ever make it.

A recent study found that only 32 percent of mothers breastfeed their babies to 3 months old.

WHO says around the world, only 40 percent of infants are breastfed exclusively until 6 months old.

Babies born in 2006: About 74 percent started off breastfeeding. Only 43.4 percent of those were still breastfeeding at 6 months old--and only 13.6 of those were exclusively breastfed. By age one, only 22.7 percent were still getting any breastmilk at all.

I would be willing to bet that Babywise moms at the very least are in sync with those numbers of the general population. I would even go so far as to say that the percentage of BW moms who are still breastfeeding at 6 months and one year is HIGHER than the general population.

So to try to blame anyone stopping breastfeeding on Babywise is just silly. What are all of the other moms stopping blaming? And like I said earlier, if you want to blame BW for anyone stopping, then you need to conversely praise BW for anyone continuing, and I Think if you did that, you would find much more praise than blame for BW.

See this source for stats:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57447515-10391704/most-moms-who-want-to-exclusively-breastfeed-their-baby-for-3-months-fail/

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