Why I Am Thankful for Formula

Summary:

Whether I should breastfeed or use formula is something I thought a lot about when I was pregnant in 2012. Back in the ’70s when I was an infant, formula was more popular and so I was bottle-fed. Nowadays, breastfeeding is back in style, and it’s deemed healthier and more economical. In some cases this […]


Whether I should breastfeed or use formula is something I thought a lot about when I was pregnant in 2012. Back in the ’70s when I was an infant, formula was more popular and so I was bottle-fed. Nowadays, breastfeeding is back in style, and it’s deemed healthier and more economical. In some cases this is true, but not in all.

When I was pregnant, my husband and I took an intensive childbirth class. It included a session on breastfeeding, where I learned about all of the benefits, how to do it easily (or so I thought), and how to pump. I decided it was what I wanted to do when my child was born.

However, things didn’t go exactly as planned. When I was still in the hospital after my son was born, I met a lactation consultant who tried to show me how to get a proper latch. But it didn’t work so well for my son and me. Every time I tried to get him to latch on, he would scream at the top of his lungs and turn bright red. Even when I left the hospital, he latched on sometimes but wasn’t getting the nutrition he needed. He didn’t seem to like breastfeeding, and because of his reaction, I didn’t like it much either.

At that point, I decided to move to formula. He started with a brand that was provided by the hospital when we were there. My son seemed much happier on that for a while, but soon he started crying a lot during the day and incessantly through the night. I took him to the pediatrician, who thought he had colic, and we changed his formula to a different brand. That changed everything. He stayed on that until he moved to solid food.

Another reason that I decided to use formula, outside of my son’s tummy issues and inability to latch, was that I knew that I wouldn’t have much of a maternity leave because I had started a new job that year. While I could have pumped, formula feeding was just much easier.

The fact is, while I took the less popular route in today’s society, I had a choice between two healthy options. I can’t help thinking about women who currently live in developing countries who don’t or mothers in the past who didn’t. According to a BBC.com article, “Breastfeeding: Was there ever a golden age?,” women who had their milk come in late or were unable to breastfeed at all had limited, and usually unsafe, alternatives. Many hand-fed babies died because of the germs and non-sterilized bottles and accessories. It was the relative instability of these hand-feeding methods, along with an explosion of infant deaths accompanying the immigration and employment booms of the industrial revolution, that led physicians to seek a safer way and to the creation of formula.

I know that some mothers think of themselves as failures because they have to use formula because they couldn’t provide the amount of milk their babies needed. There’s no reason to feel this way because we have another healthy option. Like parenting in general, everything is trial and error. Some things that you thought would work for you change when you actually become a parent—the same goes for the choice between breastfeeding and formula.

My Choice Not to Breastfeed Cost Me a Friend

Summary:

When I was pregnant with my first child, my momma bear instinct was in its initial phases. It was just starting to develop and blossom into its full potential. And although it was small, it was mighty. I had no idea how mighty until I walked away from a friendship because of it—because of breastfeeding. […]

When I was pregnant with my first child, my momma bear instinct was in its initial phases. It was just starting to develop and blossom into its full potential. And although it was small, it was mighty. I had no idea how mighty until I walked away from a friendship because of it—because of breastfeeding.

Before having my first child, I was a confident, self-assured woman. But once I had a baby, I realized that I stepped into a world that was beyond my wildest understanding. Babies were foreign creatures to me. I had barely babysat in my childhood and felt completely unprepared for the barrage of questions that come during pregnancy. Would we swaddle the baby? Would we let it have a pacifier? Would we put it in a stupid costume for its first Halloween? (Spoiler: Yes. It’s the law. You are legally bound as a parent to put your kid in one for their first Halloween.)

But there was one thing I knew for sure: I didn’t want to breastfeed.

Here’s the thing, I have large breasts. And unlike many big-boobed women, I don’t love mine. They don’t fit in T-shirts; they always want to pop out of bras; and they are often the target viewing location for creepy men. But through it all, whether I liked them or not, they have always been sexual organs to me. Nipples are meant to be caressed, and breasts are meant to be nuzzled. I like them being sexual parts of my body. It didn’t gross me out to watch other women breastfeed, but the idea of a baby sucking on my boobs definitely never sat well with me.

I never thought about breastfeeding actually being a controversial decision because only men had taken an interest in my boobs throughout my life. I wasn’t thinking women, let alone mothers, would care what I did with them. But I was wrong—very wrong.

While six months pregnant, I called a friend of mine who had a son who was just turning 1. He was sick with a common virus for the first time in his life. I told her that although I was sorry to hear her son was ill, I hoped my child would also have the good fortune to not be sick in the first year of her life.

“Well, that won’t happen,” she said, bluntly.

I thought she misunderstood what I was saying, so I tried not to sound defensive, which is extremely challenging for a New Yorker.

“Why? What do you mean?” I asked.

“Because you aren’t planning to breastfeed, you won’t provide the baby with the nutrients for them to prevent illness,” she said.

“What?” I said, stunned.

She continued, “No, I’m serious. You’re being selfish by not breastfeeding. If your baby gets sick, it’s really your fault.”

I didn’t have a response. I just stood there with my mouth open and my head spinning.

“See,” she went on, “studies show the breast is best. You want to make sure…”

She kept talking, but I stopped listening. I was confused. Not confused about whether or not to breastfeed. But rather, confused as to why someone cared about what I did.

I shook my head, snapped out of my stunned state and said, “I’m going to have to interrupt you, but I’m sorry, this really isn’t your business. I have to do what is right for me.”

“But it’s not about you,” she replied.

“Yes, actually it is. I’m the one who had sex. I’m the one that has morning sickness, and I’m the one that has to birth this bowling ball of organs. It actually is all about me,” I said.

“But once the baby is born, it isn’t about you anymore. It’s about what’s best for the baby,” she said.

“And what’s best is up to me. I think that’s what being a mother is all about, right? Figuring out what’s best?” I replied.

She tried to make an argument about the perils of formula feeding, but in the end, I made up a fake reason to get off the phone and put a stop to the conversation. After that call, we hardly talked again. She eventually stopped calling, and in time I stopped waiting for her to apologize.

But I did learn something from it all.

I learned that there is no “right” way to do anything when it comes to parenting. No “right” way to get a baby to sleep or to walk, and definitely no “right” way to feed them. We all have to find our own path. And in the end, that’s what I want my children to know is important in life—supporting each other when we choose our own paths, even if that means having to find the courage to walk away.

How to Choose—and Use—a Lactation Consultant

Summary:

If you’re able to weed through all the information and opinions and finally decide whether you’re going to breastfeed your baby, then comes the hard part—learning how to do it. Enter the lactation consultant. Alissa Gomez-Dean, certified lactation consultant with Breastfeeding USA and mother of three, says there are three types of consultants, who range […]


If you’re able to weed through all the information and opinions and finally decide whether you’re going to breastfeed your baby, then comes the hard part—learning how to do it. Enter the lactation consultant. Alissa Gomez-Dean, certified lactation consultant with Breastfeeding USA and mother of three, says there are three types of consultants, who range from international board certified lactation consultants (IBCLC), who have the most training and are considered experts; to middle range certified lactation consultants; to volunteers/mothers who don’t have accreditation, but who have “been there, done that.” Gomez-Dean answers common questions she hears from breastfeeding mothers:
Why should I choose a lactation consultant?

In the past, women simply relied on advice and support from friends and relatives, but if they didn’t know someone who breastfed, they were stuck. Lactation consultants have increased in popularity because women can turn to certified experts for advice if they have no other support system.

“Breastfeeding can be hard, especially if you have nobody to ask questions to or turn to for support. It can be scary when you don’t know if you are ‘doing it right.’ Consultants are there to answer questions, identify issues, such as tongue ties or latching problems, and come up with solutions with the mother as well as reassure mothers when they worry about things, such as low supply or if baby is getting enough. They can also help mothers with issues, such as pumping and returning to work, preemie babies, relactating or using supplemental nursing systems (sns),” Gomez-Dean says.
Is this service only for new mothers or can veteran mothers benefit, too?

Gomez-Dean says every breastfeeding relationship is different, and even mothers who have previously breastfed are still likely to have questions. In the end, it’s nice to have someone knowledgeable to turn to, should the need arise.
If I’ve had a negative experience with breastfeeding, will a consultant be able to address my concerns?

Absolutely! That’s where the support part comes in. Many moms struggle with lack of support or have other negative experiences with breastfeeding prior children, but they still want to try with future children. These mothers will benefit the most from talking to someone before their baby is born so the issues can be addressed early. Close communication and positive interaction after birth is also important.
How do I find a lactation consultant in my area?

Gomez-Dean says your OB or your hospital may suggest some resources. If not, you can search Breastfeeding USA’s “Find a Breastfeeding Counselor” or the La Leche League website. Depending on your locale, you may find many options or only a few. Check for certification or accreditation. Many hospitals advertise lactation consultants who are really nurses who took a half-day class. Without certification, anyone can be called a lactation consultant.
What services will a consultant offer me—before and after birth?

Before birth, a consultant can help give you an idea of what the overall process will be like. She can also help identify any apprehensive feelings you may be having and provide support.

Right after birth, consultants help with feeding positions, finding a correct latch and nursing on demand.

“Immediately after birth is probably when a consultant is most helpful; breastfeeding can be difficult the first few days, weeks, even months. It takes dedication and trust in your body. Many mothers have serious questions; others just need some encouragement. A consultant is there to answer those questions and reassure the mother that they are doing things right. They can also reassure them that some of the startling behaviors of their newborn, such as seeming to want to nurse or be held constantly are also normal.”

Later on, a consultant will be able to identify problems that might need to be addressed by a physician. She can be available to answer questions about issues that arise, such as thrush, mastitis, clogged ducts, returning to work, nursing in public or handling negative comments from family members.
What if I’m not comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding, can a consultant help?

“If you are not comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding, seeking out a consultant may be a very good idea! Most often, women feel uncomfortable because of our modern culture that has hidden it from view. They don’t know other mothers who have breastfed. Another big issue is that many women have only seen and thought of breasts as sexual objects. It is hard to see them out of that capacity when, from childhood, women have seen ads, movies, etc. showing them in a sexual manner. Discovering the real, amazing power of breasts, and therefore women, is empowering!” Gomez-Dean says.
How will I know how to choose the right consultant for me?

Gomez-Dean says the only way to really know if you’ve found the right consultant is to talk to a variety of people. Interview possible supports, just like you would for any other job. It will be hard to take advice and help offered from someone who you don’t feel comfortable talking to!

“A consultant should be educated and not afraid to tell you the facts without being wishy-washy, but also accepting and nonjudgmental, or forceful in her delivery,” Gomez-Dean says.
Does a consultant provide medical help or medicine, or is should that be given separately?

A consultant cannot prescribe medicine, unless she is a doctor, but they can be helpful in suggesting if a doctor’s help is needed. Certified consultants are also able to suggest galactagouges, which are supplements the mother takes to promote milk production. Some common ones are fenugreek, blessed thistle, oatmeal and Brewer’s yeast.

Myth vs. Fact: Which Solid Foods Baby Should Start With and Why

Summary:

While introducing your baby to solids is an exciting rite of passage, it can also bring a lot of uncertainty, especially for first-time parents. Whether the conversations are taking place in a mommy group or on a message board, many parents circle around those age-old questions about how to give baby the best start possible: […]


While introducing your baby to solids is an exciting rite of passage, it can also bring a lot of uncertainty, especially for first-time parents. Whether the conversations are taking place in a mommy group or on a message board, many parents circle around those age-old questions about how to give baby the best start possible:

“When do I know when my little one is ready?”
“Which foods are best to start with?”
“And what about food allergies?”

As the science and baby food landscape continue to evolve, parents can find that even between their first and second babies, the answers and available food options have changed. But let’s start with some basics: according to the USDA, during the first year of baby’s life he transitions from being able to only suck and swallow to being able to hold his head up independently and chew more textured foods. On the inside, your precious little one’s digestive tract also undergoes changes as it matures—at first taking in only breast milk or formula, but soon digesting a wide variety of foods. While most babies begin eating solid foods between 4 and 6 months old, every child is different. So talk with your pediatrician and look for signs of readiness in your own baby to make sure he or she is truly ready for the spoon.

To help you have confidence and enjoy this exciting time of transition, here are some common myths many parents ask me about, along with what the latest science suggests.
Myth: If my baby grabs my plate or tries to touch food, it means he or she is ready to start eating solid foods.

Fact: A perked-up interest in food may or may not indicate readiness. A better strategy is to watch your baby’s development for a cluster of behaviors that offers a more reliable signal your baby may be ready:

Your baby can sit upright without being held.
Your baby opens his/her mouth when offered food.
Your baby begins to notice and express interest when you are eating.
When full, your baby will turn away or lean back to show that he/she doesn’t want to eat more.
Your baby reaches out, grasps for things and brings them up to his/her mouth.

Myth: Offering my baby fruits before vegetables will give my baby a permanent sweet tooth.

Fact: Strained single fruits or vegetables are both wonderful first food options because they provide babies with an important array of vitamins and minerals that support healthy development. What’s more important than “which” fruit or vegetable is to be sure to continue to offer your child a wide array of nutritious foods that have a broad range of tastes and flavors. It’s also a good idea to offer an iron-rich option as one of baby’s first foods. That’s because between the ages of 6 to 9 months, a baby’s own iron stores may naturally decrease. You could choose a iron-fortified cereal, such as rice, oatmeal or even quinoa; alternately, you could offer finely milled meats, poultry and even fish. Yogurt is also a great early food because it contains calcium and protein. Be sure to add new foods one at a time and wait a few days before introducing more foods to watch for potential signs of food sensitivity or allergic reaction. And choose organic options, such as Earth’s Best Organic® 1st Bananas or Earth’s Best Organic® 1st Carrots, to minimize potentially harmful exposure to synthetic pesticides during this important time of growth and development.
Myth: It’s best to avoid foods that may cause a potential food allergy to keep my child safe.

Fact: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its guidelines in February 2013. It now says foods considered highly allergenic, such as peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish, can be safely introduced to most healthy children between 4 and 6 months of age, with the exception of whole cow’s milk, which should be avoided until after 1 year of age. Babies can’t digest milk protein until their gastrointestinal tract has fully developed. No conclusive evidence exists that delaying the introduction of highly allergenic foods decreases the risk of food allergies. In fact, growing evidence suggests delaying these foods might actually increase the risk of a food allergy. Talk with your pediatrician about your own family history and when you can safely welcome these foods onto your baby’s high chair.

Kate Geagan, award-winning nutritionist and expert for Earth’s Best, has been coined “America’s Green Nutritionist.” She is the author of “Go Green Get Lean: Trim Your Waistline with the Ultimate Low-Carbon Footprint Diet” (Rodale). Kate’s expertise has been shared on Dr. Oz, Katie Couric and Access Hollywood.

Do Hospitals Discourage Breastfeeding by Gifting Formula?

Summary:

For decades, hospitals have supplied new moms with gift bags filled with blankets, booties and baby formula. But formula freebies are increasingly disappearing from these goodie bags as studies show that mothers may view the gift as an implied endorsement from doctors that formula is better than breastfeeding. “At the time of birth, many women […]

For decades, hospitals have supplied new moms with gift bags filled with blankets, booties and baby formula. But formula freebies are increasingly disappearing from these goodie bags as studies show that mothers may view the gift as an implied endorsement from doctors that formula is better than breastfeeding.

“At the time of birth, many women are sitting on the fence on their decision to breastfeed or not,” says Rafael Perez-Escamilla, director of the Office of Public Health Practice at Yale’s School of Public Health. “Formula samples received from a medical facility signals to the mom that formula feeding is medically endorsed.”

But it’s not, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatricians recommend breastfeeding over formula for myriad health benefits—from boosted immunity to lower rates of conditions such as allergies and asthma to reduced obesity, diabetes and ear infections.

Meanwhile, seven out of 11 studies of women who received free formula from hospitals found that such women had lower rates of exclusive breastfeeding rates, according to an epidemiological review by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The less a baby suckles, usually because formula is introduced, the less milk a woman produces, setting up a downward cycle so that eventually mother will have insufficient milk,” says Chessa Lutter, senior adviser of food and nutrition at the Pan American Health Organization, a regional arm of the World Health Organization.

This raises an obvious question: If pediatricians overwhelmingly believe mothers should be nursing, why do the latest CDC figures show that half of U.S. hospitals still give away baby formula gift bags?

The answer stretches back more than half a century. In the late 1950s, formula manufacturers began providing inexpensive formula to hospitals and pediatricians as part of their marketing campaigns. By the ’70s, three-fourths of American babies were being fed formula, according to researchers with The Journal of Nutrition. But marketing efforts pushing formula on mothers have been hindered in recent years by medical research that indicates breastfeeding provides numerous health benefits over formula for both mothers and babies.

Hospitals around the country are increasingly dropping formula from their discharge bags. The city of Philadelphia recently made headlines when all of its major birthing hospitals stopped gifting formula to new moms. Breastfeeding advocacy groups are pushing hospitals to bar the gift bags. The national campaign Ban The Bags reports that 26 percent of all U.S. hospitals and birth centers have banned the gift bag practice. The intensity of the movement stems from the belief that even occasional formula feeding can cause problems.

“Giving bottles here and there because you’re having a perceived low supply problem may lead to problems with breastfeeding down the line,” says Gail M. Herrine, director of Temple University Health System’s postpartum unit.

First, the baby doesn’t have an incentive to suck from the breast, and then a mother will struggle to maintain her milk supply if she isn’t regularly nursing. So rather than handing out formula freebies, hospitals and healthcare workers are taking a more organic approach: providing assistance to mothers during the earliest stages of nursing, such as:

Providing breastfeeding education. Educating caregivers, hospital staff and new moms is key. If more people know the best ways to help mothers nurse, it’s likely more moms will stick with it.
Chatting with moms. Some new mothers may not recognize the benefits of breastfeeding. If a new mom is struggling to decide how to feed her baby, healthcare workers can take one simple step: talk with her. And they should start the dialogue long before birthing, letting pregnant women know what to expect when the baby arrives and before it’s time to nurse.
Offering extra assistance. If mothers get the support they need in the first four weeks of a baby’s life, they are more likely to keep nursing, according to the CDC. Moms may need help with breastfeeding after they leave the hospital. Making such resources readily available can make all the difference.

Breastfed Babies May Have Lower Risk of Heart Disease in Adulthood

Summary:

Breastfeeding may protect against inflammation and heart disease when babies reach young adulthood, according to researchers from Northwestern University. Researchers evaluated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a signal of inflammation and predicts increased cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk in adulthood, in nearly 7,000 young adults, ages 24 to 32. They traced the levels […]

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Breastfeeding may protect against inflammation and heart disease when babies reach young adulthood, according to researchers from Northwestern University.

Researchers evaluated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a signal of inflammation and predicts increased cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk in adulthood, in nearly 7,000 young adults, ages 24 to 32. They traced the levels of CRP back to the young adults’ birth weight and how long they were breastfed. The results revealed that there is another benefit of breastfeeding: CRP levels were 20 to 30 percent lower in young adults who were breastfed for 3 to 12 months as babies compared to those who were never breastfed.

CRP is a protein produced by the liver that increases when there is inflammation throughout the body. High levels of CRP can cause infections and other diseases that could eventually lead to a heart attack and various other heart problems.

“The findings about breastfeeding and birth weight are particularly illuminating,” says Thomas McDade, lead author of the study, professor of anthropology in Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and faculty fellow of the university’s Institute for Policy Research. “The rates for many adult diseases completely mirror rates of low birth weight and low breastfeeding uptake and duration.”

The study also showed that:

Lower birth weights and shorter duration of breastfeeding predicted higher CRP levels in young adults.
For each extra pound of birth weight, the CRP level in young adulthood was 5 percent lower.

The benefits of breastfeeding keep adding up, and the World Health Organization describes it as “one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first 12 months of an infant’s life.

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