Monday, 19 May 2014
22:36 | Posted by Caz | Edit Post
A few days ago I saw this, a post expressing their disgust about a breast milk 'milk testing' service being advertised via a leaflet in the bounty packs. The packs we're all sent away with when we leave hospital with following the birth of our babies.
Now I'm not Bounty's biggest fan. I requested them not to come to my bedside on the post-natal ward, because no I don't need an expensive photograph of my baby taken and don't need pressure sales hours after having my stomach cut open. (Plus, my husband does a pretty good job of photographs, for free!) I refused the antenatal packs whilst pregnant with Alexander and Zachary because a) I didn't want to sign up to anything and then need to go through the agony of taking my name off the baby lists again if they didn't make it home and b) well, I just didn't need the tat being handed out in them!
However I did come home with the post-natal packs, mostly for the convenience of the child benefit form in the pack (yes I am too lazy with a newborn to go to the post office to collect it!) but some of the freebies weren't too bad this time around with Zachary either. Personally I feel we should follow the Finnish example and actually hand out something useful to expectant parents - but lets stay on topic.
Breast milk testing. In Bounty packs.
I was outraged reading about it.
Your baby is brand new. Likely your milk hasn't come in yet. If you want to breastfeed, you are likely finding it more than a little tricky just now. We are taught that breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, but what we're not taught is that it is actually a skill you and baby have to master, and lots of women find it difficult in the beginning. It probably isn't going to come together and be perfect overnight.
Baby; baby is a bit tired and disorientated from birth, your nipple is massive and their mouths are tiny, latching and suckling is HARD WORK. You; you don't know what the hell you're doing. Even if you've breast fed a previous baby, you've forgotten what is it like to feed a floppy newborn who needs a lot more effort and help on your part to feed than the older baby or toddler you finished feeding last time.
It is a learning curve. And you're likely going to need grit your teeth stubborn determination to make it work if you want to stick it out and really want to breastfeed.
New babies feed A LOT. No one really warns you about those epic cluster feed evenings for weeks on end. No one really warns you that at times it will feel like baby is constantly attached to your breast. No one tells you in antenatal that this is all perfectly NORMAL newborn behaviour. No one tell you you are going to feel exposed, possibly feel a bit like a cow and you're likely going to feel smothered or claustrophobic from time to time. If baby is cluster feeding, or feeding very often, well meaning people will suggest that maybe baby is a hungry baby or that maybe baby isn't getting enough milk. Well meaning people will suggest a bottle. Well meaning, but chip-chipping nonetheless at your fledgling confidence in your new breast-feeding journey.
We're often none-the-wiser that small babies want to feed more often than 3 or 4 hourly. Not when those baby guru's suggest those 3-4 hourly routines. My very almost six month old still only goes 3 hourly, so it is perfectly understandable why a newborn baby will only go an hour and half to 2 hours between feeds. Then breast-fed newborns feed often because breast milk is gentle on the tummy and takes less time to be digested than formula milk. It is normal, overwhelming yes, it feels just all too much to cope with at times, but normal.
The irritatingly annoying breast-feeding propaganda DVD they hand out when you are 28 weeks pregnant more or less glosses over the difficult weeks, (unless it has changed since the 4 years since I've watched it) and just says 'yeh it was tricky but what a beautiful thing it is now'. And it is beautiful, it is totally worth persevering through those difficult weeks for. I love breastfeeding. Now. But wouldn't I have felt more aware of those early weeks and those smothered feelings with Alexander if it has been spelt out that breastfeeding was natural, but it is really difficult for lots of people in the beginning. I just felt shell-shocked and I felt like I was doing it all wrong.
And then when you open those Bounty packs, already feeling a bit vulnerable and having doubts about your ability to breastfeed, you are confronted with those leaflets, those leaflets suggesting that maybe your breastmilk hasn't got everything in it that your baby needs. You better check it out right?
What if some one sends off a sample to be told their milk is lacking in 'this' and 'this' and 'this'? If they're already doubting themselves a report basically saying their milk isn't 'good enough' is going to be the nail in the coffin isn't it. Possibly a woman who desperately wants to breast-feed will switch to formula because she thinks that will be better for her baby than her.
Someone tell me how that got through any advertising board? How very dare these leaflets be in Bounty packs, knocking a new Mummy's confidence at best and taking advantage of the lack of confidence in it at worst.
Breast milk is clever stuff. It KNOWS exactly what YOUR baby needs at any given time. The milk you produce when you baby is a newborn is nothing like the milk you'll be producing when that baby is 6 months old, and that will be different to the milk being produced at a year old and so forth. Once established it always has the right amount there. Amazingly it listens to your baby each feed, taking note of the volume baby has had and how much to produce next time. It changes as your baby grows, providing exactly the right amount of all those vitamins and nutrients and fat content baby needs.
Currently exclusively breast-feeding Zachary I'm marvelling somewhat that this time I know I'm totally the reason for his weight gain these last six months, and I'm not going to deny that I'm proud of that. Maybe even a little sad that the 'exclusively' bit is about to end as he begins his food journey next week. Isn't that a bit crazy?! Emotions are weird things.
It is such a special time.
My breast feeding journey with Zachary has been so different to my experiences with Alexander in those early weeks. My early breast-feeding struggles with Alexander were well documented here. He never learnt to latch without nipple shields. I felt enormously guilty about that, felt such enormous pressure about it. He took an hour to feed, and then after an hour off would want another hour feed. After a few weeks I felt SO claustrophobic. I wasn't enjoying it. Sometimes I felt panicky feeding him, clawing at cushions and feeling like my skin was crawling. There was lots of gritting teeth. I wasn't passionate about breast-feeding in that time. I didn't feel like it was ever going to feel better.
I'm not going to pretend there was nothing tricky about learning to breast-feed Zachary. I was nervous of the whole nipple shields thing again and was beyond thrilled when I realised this little one was going to be able to feed without them. He's never used them. It had made feeding him out and about so much easier and that alone boosted my confidence this time no end. Zachary just seemed to know how to do it more easily than Xander did in those first few days. Of course he was floppy and it took time to get into a groove, some feeds were HARD. There were middle of the night feeds that I cried. But I had a better feeling about it all from day one. (Apart from when I thought it was all going wrong at 8 days old and he was poorly and having a tube put down to feed my milk to him.)
But none of those negative feelings have crept in this time. I've not once felt smothered or claustrophobic this time. And I guess that is because this time, in those early weeks when feeds were hard I knew it would get better. I knew the epic feeds or the cluster feeding wouldn't last forever. Even though he has me up in the far more often than his big brother did, I know that won't last forever either. I honestly love snuggling him in for every feed. Only I can do it for him, and that is special to me. Just Mummy and Zac time. Because goodness me the baby small has to share me and gets less attention than maybe he should the rest of the time! Well less attention than Alexander had as a baby anyhow.
This post isn't about formula knocking. Formula saved my breast-feeding journey with Xander. If it hadn't been for the introduction of that one bottle a day and other occasional use I really don't think we would have fed for anywhere near as long as we did in the end. Forumla has its place and for many families it is the right choice for them. Happy parents and happy babies. But there will be some women who use it and give up breastfeeding when they really really didn't want to. Some women will struggle to make their peace with that, and how awful would it be if this 'milk testing' was an enormous part of the reason in that?
I guess I just wanted to make the point that women do not need their milk tested for its content. From my understanding not producing enough milk, and not producing the right kind of milk, is rare. That usually it is a lack of support in those crucial establishing breastfeeding weeks is the real root of the problem. Not a milk supply or content.
So Bounty. Stop undermining those fledgling early breastfeeding efforts with 'milk testing' nonsense. How about instead putting booklets of national breastfeeding support helplines in the packs. Information on how to find a local breastfeeding support group, or peer supporter, or a independent lactation consultant. How about directing people to excellent websites such as KellyMom or the La Leche League.
Breast feeding mothers need support. Not milk testing.
- After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows. I'm Caz, Mummy to beautiful angel Belle and my wonderful rainbow boys, Xander, Zachy and Luc. Wife to Jon. Twitter @cazem Instagram @cazzyem
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