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CDC should stop the drubbing and face the truth: Some women can’t breastfeed

Submitted by on Friday, 13 June 2008 No Comment

A few things I think we all can agree on: Breastfeeding is healthful, inexpensive and natural.

My second point, though, has me swimming smack against the mainstream: Breastfeeding is not possible for everyone. Believe me, I know. I tried twice — made it for a few days with Big Guy, a whopping two and half months with Little Guy but only because I supplemented with formula at first.

Which means the Centers for Disease Control considers me an abject failure. They just issue a press release today about people like me and the wicked hospitals that encourage my unhealthy habits.

“”New CDC study finds gaps in breastfeeding support in U.S. hospitals and birth centers,”" its headline reads.

The government’s breast-feeding goals — 75 percent of mothers to try breastfeeding, 50 percent to continue for six months, and 25 percent to continue for one year by 2010 — are laudable. The problem is in the execution, as is the case with so many government goals built around success by drubbing people.

The goals are part of the CDC’s Healthy People 2010, a program laid out in 2001. Which means hospitals were at implementation fever pitch about the time Big Guy came along in July 003.

Problem was, the staff at the place where he was born gave mixed signals. One RN was a real Nursing Nazi, scowling at the formula sample in my room. Meanwhile, baby Big Guy’s nurses plopped a pacifier in his bed, and a visiting relative popped it in his mouth before I could open mine to protest.

The Nursing Nazi’s words were all right and encouraging. But her attitude said something different. “”Why can’t we do this?”" I’d cry. “”He’s latching all wrong again,”" she’d reply clinically, time after time.

No one ever mentioned supplementing with formula, despite my protestations that the milk simply wasn’t there. First-time mother must not know what she’s talking about, the looks said.

No one ever checked my chart either. If they had, they would have discovered that my placenta was delivered in tatters — I think Big Guy shredded it on his way out in his first temper tantrum. Soon after, I started running a 104-degree temperature. I know now that those are possible signs that part of the placenta remained in my body. And that will interfere with milk production.

Fast-forward two years to Little Guy’s birth — same hospital but huge philosophical shift. And a placenta delivered in tact, which, I believe, made all the difference in the world.

This time, the nurses asked about pacifier use. They didn’t bring the formula samples. But neither did they let me lie in bed and weep in hysterical exhaustion at my inability to feed my baby.

“”There’s nothing wrong with feeding him a small amount of formula,”" said Georgia, whose warm smile and lilting Caribbean accent were instantly soothing. “”Just a little — no more than an ounce — until your supply is up.”"

It’s something the CDC frowns on: “”For newborn feeding, 24 percent of facilities reported giving supplements (and not breast milk exclusively) as a general practice with more than half of all healthy, full-term breastfeeding newborns, a practice that is not supportive of breastfeeding,”" yesterday’s study said.

Except in my case it worked. I was able to sleep without waking up in tears, convinced I was starving my baby. And less stress means more milk.

Breast-feeding still wasn’t easy. A few weeks later, I was popping so much fenugreek that I smelled like a walking IHOP. Two months later, I gave up. I simply could not keep up with baby Little Guy’s voracious appetite.

I don’t consider it a defeat. Heck, I’m a 32A — I’ll take what I can get.

And the CDC shouldn’t consider it a defeat either. Nor should officials drub hospitals into drubbing exhausted women with hormonal mood swings of Space Mountain proportions.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Genevieve said:

    Love this post. I was one of the ones who couldn’t breastfeed. Was told I was starving my child and cajoled into feeding him a bottle.

    The next nurse was aghast.Said no way would he starve in the 10 hours after I had them. It was natural for them not to want to eat right away.

    Oi vey. Anyhow lots of latch problems — in reflection I think my son had a weak suck. He choked on his food every meal later on until he was in preschool.

  • Debra (author) said:

    “Big Guy, too! To this day, he still has one of the touchiest gang mechanisms I’ve ever seen.

    And it might well be natural for them to not eat in 10 hours, but it felt very UNnatural to me to lie there and listen to my newborn bundle of joy wail. Looking back, part of it was probably colic, but no one had told me about THAT either.

    Sheesh! How did we AND they survive those first three months?”