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Got Melke?

I just read this quote on facebook:

‘In 1970, breastfeeding rates in Norway were as low as those in Britain today. Then Norway banned all advertising of artificial formula milk completely. They offered a year’s maternity leave on 80% of pay and, on the mothers’ return to work, an hour’s breastfeeding break every day. Today 98% of Norwegian women start out breastfeeding, and 90% are still nursing four months later.’ ~ Deborah Jackson

I read this and thought it was inspiring.  So I posted it on my FB page.  Then I read it a second time, and it got me thinking.  Ninety percent of women in Norway are still going strong at four months.  Ninety Percent! Only ten percent of women are not breastfeeding.  Ten Percent!

But here in the formula dependent United States seventy-five percent of mothers initiate breastfeeding and only forty-three percent are still breastfeeding at six months (CDC Breastfeeding Report Card 2010).  Now a huge chunk of the problem is that we have awful maternity leave conditions and so many moms have to go back to work far too soon.  But what drives me nuts is the way we look at breastfeeding in this country.

When Cooper was a few weeks old I took him for a check up at the pediatrician.  The office was running late (as usual) so I stood in the waiting room and nursed him in the babyhawk. Two very young, (one of which was very pregnant) girls behind me began talking about breastfeeding- and the non-preggy one commented that I made it look so easy but it wasn’t- she had tried for five whole days but her milk never came in.  The other made faces and told her friend she couldn’t “do THAT.  It’s, like, gross to have a baby suck on your boob.  Formula is way better.”

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me “I wanted to nurse but I COULDN’T because my breasts wouldn’t make milk.” I would be blogging from a gold-plated laptop by now. If it was really THAT difficult, if milk “didn’t come in” THAT often, we would never have survived as a species.  Most women can breastfeed.  But if you live in a country with poor breastfeeding rates it is almost like preparing for a war.  You have to be confident that you WILL do this for your baby.  You have to educate yourself, and arm yourself with a lactation consultant and facts and figures to wave in the faces of your family and friends.  Because so many unqualified (or just plain ignorant) people will be ready and waiting with bad advice, misinformation and bottles of free formula.

I don’t understand why we have such weird ideas about something that should be thought as normal and natural.  My own mother recently told me “My mother HAD to breastfeed me for a whole year because we were too poor to afford formula.” Or as an even worse example, I stumbled across a twitter conversation about breastfeeding where one pregnant woman tweeted “Organic formula is way better than anything that comes out of my tits.” *face palm*

In any case, either Norwegian women have weird super boobs OR the majority of women are giving up too quickly or getting booby trapped.  Imagine how well we could do if all mothers could be part of a culture that understands the importance of breastfeeding!

23 Responses to Got Melke?

  1. I have heard all sorts of things like this. My favorite *facepalm* came from a friend of mine, who told me I was SELFISH for wanting to exclusively breastfeed…that I was taking away my husband to be’s way of bonding. Then she told me that formula was JUST AS GOOD AS BREASTMILK…then further used her children as ‘great’ examples of formula fed kids(both have ADHD and behavioral problems).

    When I told her it was easier to breastfeed than make a bottle of formula, easier to pop a boob instead of heating up a bottle. Her response? Just throw it in the microwave, same thing…OMG, I nearly choked on air when she said THAT.

    Ignorance, they say, is bliss, but this type of ignorance is DANGEROUS….

    • Oh that is just TERRIBLE!!! How can someone be so cavalier about their baby’s FOOD. “Just throw it in the microwave.” Ugh. I don’t use formula but even *I* know that is a great way to give your baby some serious burns. How awful.

      • I know, it was ridiculous. The worst thing is this woman is a person my dear hubby to be turns to for advice because she has two kids. I basically have to follow up everything she says with facts, figures, and a huge reality check, undoing the damage she’s done.

        The worst thing? She’s supposedly adopting a child this summer from a friend of hers who does not believe she can care for the child.

        A part of me fears for this child….

  2. Posts like this kind of upset me. I chose not to breastfeed, and sometimes I feel like other moms look down on me for it. I hadn’t made the decision to breastfeed or not and I didn’t have the chance….I am on a strong anti seizure medicine that passes through the placenta and breast milk. I gave it up for 9 months and almost at my due date, had a seizure, so once Sophie was born I had to go back on it immediately.

    • Well then you would be part of that ten percent that actually can’t breastfeed. My problem is with the women that CAN and don’t because of the pressures of this culture, ignorance, or just sheer laziness.

  3. This is an age old (well since formula) argument that raises a lot of emotions in a lot of people. Being a mom of one formula fed baby and one nursing baby (for 12 months) I can understand both sides. I personally thought it was super, super cool that our bodies grow a LIFE and then make the food to nourish it! That is just nuts! I was SO depressed when I could not nurse my first but my second was a pro. My son (formula fed) is just as healthy as my second. And although the first has high-functioning autism, I don’t blame formula for it. I had a terrible, terrible delivery WAY too much medication and it was all just wrong. I don’t think people will ever agree on this subject as long as there are those who think it is “gross”.
    Funny story though. My sister-n-law who was TOTALLY grossed out by me nursing would freak out and leave the room. Said I was “whipping my tit out like an ignorant trailer trash mom” Whateva … BUT when she got pregnant I told her to at least TRY! She did … OMG and nursed her first for 10 months, and her second for 4 months! A HUGE accomplishment for her! And I helped her every step of the way. Through it all!
    There’s my two cents!

  4. My mum was one of those 10% who couldn’t nurse do to insufficient glandular tissue and she still feels that the lack of is part of the reason for my allergies and insomnia issues.

    I know a few people who said the same thing about being to poor not to nurse. It was a major factor in my determination to nurse as long as I could.

    It’s getting frustrating now because the people who supported you nursing a baby get weird as they get bigger. Piggles is the size of a 1 year old and I get dirty looks a lot. Even my mother is talking about when I wean at a year. I’m not if I do. It’s sneaks up on you, the disapproval.

    • I hate those looks. And I know what you mean. The last time I was at my family’s house for a party, I felt uncomfortable nursing and distracted Cooper with food instead. I couldn’t take the looks from my grandpa.


  5. I love seeing posts like this, even though they make me sad too. When my daughter was born, she had problems taking food by mouth. I had several lactation consultants come and help us try to get the latch right, we used nipple shields, I borrowed a pump from WIC so that I could pump at home when she should have been nursing at night. We did everything that we were told to do, but she just couldn’t get it …. she finally did & we had one or two successful feedings & then I got severe mastitis. After that, she refused to go back to my breast. I still pumped until I wasn’t getting enough volume & thought I’d dried up & then we put her on formula.

    I honestly grieved over not being able to breastfeed. Not because *I* couldn’t produce enough milk, but because my baby wouldn’t & the pumping was not sufficient to feed her. Maybe if I’d been able to hold her immediately, instead of having a 3+ hour separation before holding her it would have been different. Maybe if she hadn’t come so early it would have been different. I’ll never know. But I do know that I did everything I could to do the best for my babe, and she’s an incredible child now. Healthy most of the time, very smart, considerate, sweet, etc.

    She amazes me & I still wonder how I managed to get such a good kid. I don’t think it’s all parenting – some of that has to be just her.

    Thank you for posting about difficult topics. Thank you for getting the information out there to more people so that hopefully more expectant and new moms will decide to do whatever it takes to breastfeed.

  6. The most incredible thing about breastfeeding my two is that both seem to have allergies (seasonal outdoor variety) but symptoms didn’t start showing up until after they stopped nursing. Mommy milk kept it at bay until they were big enough to have something to help with it. (for the record I am going to get them allergy tested and start on desensitization therapy as soon as they can)

  7. I tried so hard to breastfeed both of my girls and failed. We had latch problems, I had no idea what I was doing, and the “Lactation Nazi” was horrible to me. She basically told me I would never be able to do it, and damn it if I didn’t believe her.
    So I quit.
    I have always felt terrible about it. My husband felt helpless and I still have a terrible sense of guilt.
    We need more knowledge, more support, and more acceptance of breastfeeding in our society.

    • Aww. Kasi. I am so sorry. It is horrible to want to do something and not be able to accomplish it. But GOOD JOB for trying mama! I think it is awesome. Don’t feel bad. You did the best you could.

      <3 <3 <3

  8. Were it not for the amazing support from my mom (who breastfed both myself and my brother), my postpartum doula, and TWO lactation consultants, I would never have been able to breastfeed. My little guy (full term and healthy) was completely unable to latch, but I was fortunate enough to make amazing quantities of milk so I could pump and bottle feed. Exclusively breastmilk! But I was driving myself crazy with the stress and sleep deprivation.

    After several visits to the pediatrician (who was so unhelpful and said only that it takes awhile to learn breastfeeding) and two lactation consultants, finally the RN lactation consultant said she thought my son had a tongue tie and referred me to an ENT. (My pediatrician had told me flat out when I asked her that there was no tongue tie.) Well I didn’t believe her and went to the ENT and sure enough, he did have one! A short in-office procedure and another visit to the lactation consultant the next day and my little guy was nursing like a champ! He was one month old and only bottle fed at this point, and was able to transition over to the breast just fine.

    Later I found out that he is extremely allergic to milk, to the point I can’t drink it because it goes through the breastmilk, and I am so grateful that we were able to get breastfeeding to work. It is 1000 times easier than pumping and bottle feeding.

    My little man is 22 months old and still nurses before bedtime. :-)

    • My last baby had a tongue tie. It hurts SO bad to nurse them. Good for you for sticking it out and advocating for yourself and your baby!!! I am so glad you are still nursing him! You are totally a ROCKSTAR!


  9. I had no choice but to breastfeed my little guy, he was born with what they first thought was reflux, but now know was just extreme food allergies. There is no formula out there that he could tolerate. Months of crying and not being able to keep anything (including breast milk )down. Lots of nights with us both crying our eyes out because the second food hit his stomach it would come right back up again. My mother could not understand why I just didn’t quit because it was hard, but by the time they figured out what was wrong with him he would have been half starved so I am really glad breastfeeding was so important to me.

  10. I think part of the issue is lack of any real maternity leave! At 6 to 8 weeks you are just starting to feel human, finding a rhythm and can put your baby down for 10 minutes so they van play! American society now expects you to return to work!!!!! Them there is a 9 week growth spurt that you end up not being able to nurse every hour and both Mom and Baby suffer!!! It makes me incredibly sad.

  11. I’d like to repost the statistics on Norway’s breastfeeding rates but I don’t like to do that without fact checking them. Does anyone have a link to an academic or “fully vetted” source that will back up the numbers given? I really want to inspire moms by posting this on some of the breast milk donation/exchange sites.

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