WARNING: These shenanigans are kind of political, and provide pictures of, *gasp*, breasts. I’m providing this warning not because of the pictures, but mostly because some people really aren’t interested in any kind of politics but may want to scroll through in order to see all the boobies.
“Honey, I was expecting our free formula samples to arrive yesterday. I thought they were coming via sabre toothed tiger post, but at this rate I bet they sent them wooly mammoth,” said no stone age woman ever.
Sample bottles and formula given to me at baby and maternity stores, and that I received in the mail
Breast-feeding is as natural as breathing and people who are made uncomfortable by it need to get over it, in my humble opinion. Where would we be if our ancestors didn’t know how to breast-feed? Gee, I just had a kid and my boobs are killing me and dripping this white stuff. My child is constantly nuzzling my breast, targeting the nipple. Coincidence!? Hmmm…
My baby lies on my bed, legs kicking, sucking on his fist. He removes his fist from his mouth and looks up at me as I fiddle with the snap of my ridiculous nursing bra. His slate grey eyes get wide as he opens his little mouth, lips parted yet pursed looking almost like the open beak of a baby bird waiting for its mama to regurgitate some delicious worms, an eager “ah-ah-ah-ah” escaping his throat. He’s not anticipating regurgitated worm mush though; he’s eager for the boob. The second he has his lips wrapped around the target he quiets. His legs stop thrashing as he contentedly swallows and makes his happy baby sounds. I lie on my side curled around his body as he drinks himself into a milk induced slumber, nestled tight against me.
Elsewhere a mother sits in a rocking chair, her child’s head cradled in the crook of her left arm, her right arm poised, holding a bottle full of formula. She lowers the plastic nipple, carefully placing it between the baby’s lips and holds it at just the right angle so baby is getting only the liquid and not air. This baby too sucks and swallows contentedly as she drifts off to sleep in mama’s warm arms.
Both of these are intimate moments between mother and child. Both are mothers caring for their babies, ensuring they are nourished, safe, warm and loved. Why is it then, that the mother in the second scenario may provide this environment for her child wherever she goes, yet I may be asked to leave a public area for breast-feeding my child?
This is what happened to an acquaintance of mine (she’d probably be a friend if we lived closer… she seems pretty kick ass!) in a Calgary Walmart just two days ago.
The employee that asked Lindsay to leave insisted that all babies could be bottle fed before forcing her to leave the store to nurse Clay in the car. Might I add (though it’s beside the point) that it is also winter and this happened in Alberta where it is friggen freezing! Not only does this show complete ignorance about babies and breast-feeding in general, it also undermines the mother’s choice to exclusively breast-feed her child. Some people believe in nipple confusion and some people don’t. I can only say from experience that it does exist. So, if I decide to exclusively breast-feed my child, I should be able to do so wherever I please.
Is this really so offensive?
Besides, since when doesn’t the public enjoy boobs? Women expose as much of their breasts as they can get away with all the time. Why do women that run around with this porn star cleavage fly under the radar of judgemental Walmart employees while those that just want to nourish their child are asked to leave (against Walmart’s policy and in violation of human rights laws, by the way)?
I bet no one’s asking Katy Perry to leave Walmart
I will also ask you this: Would you rather take a passing glance at the picture of the woman breast-feeding above, or listen to my baby scream bloody murder in a public place because the only thing that can console him, my breast, must remain locked behind
Baby H chillin’ at the boob, makin’ some calls
Baby H lost over 10% of his birth weight and the hospital would not discharge him after the usual 48-72 hour period following his birth, as per hospital protocol. They had me on a strict feeding schedule of pumping, nursing, and formula top up. I fought tooth and nail against the bottle and although the nurses tried to tell me I was causing both myself and my baby unnecessary strife, I fed him the formula via a tube taped to my finger. I wanted my baby to be exclusively breast-fed and was afraid that using a bottle would turn him off my breast.
Finger feeding is much closer to breast-feeding
It is normal for babies to lose weight in those first days when the body is only producing colostrum. No, it doesn’t come in great volume, but it’s called ‘liquid gold’ for a reason. Penelope Leach (2011, p. 69) writes that as the mother, for term babies who are not ill or under special care,
” You can produce all the food and fluid your baby needs now that he’s born, just as you did beforehand. Your colostrum is exactly what he needs today. Your milk will be exactly what he needs in a day or two. You can make enough milk and you can deliver it to him. He will like the taste. It will suit his digestion. It will nourish him perfectly.”
These are empowering and encouraging words and they are what a new mother needs to hear. Instead I was hearing, “You are not providing enough for your baby and we need to intervene.” What this translates to in an exhausted, confused and drugged new mother’s mind is, “You fail.” I cried and cried. I tried to fight them on the formula too, but eventually gave in after being told repeatedly that Baby H could become hypoglycemic, experience seizures, and suffer permanent brain damage. They told me this despite having checked his blood sugar three times and all three times the reading was normal. I was, however, not in a state to be arguing with medical professionals.
After a night on that horrible feeding schedule where I perhaps got two hours of sleep, Baby H was still over the acceptable 10% weight loss. At this point they discharged me, but kept my baby. What choice did I have at that point other than to bottle feed him and hope that he would put on the weight and come home with us later that evening? I was so angry.
Yes, he ate. Yes, he gained weight (although we later learned that it was actually never as bad as they said because there was a discrepancy between the OR scale and the portable one they brought to my room). Yes, he came home with us. He also developed a preference for the bottle and fussed at my breast where he’d taken it readily before. I was exhausted, so I let others bottle feed formula to my new baby. However, my milk had come in and I was in so much pain. I became so engorged that my underarms swelled to the point that I couldn’t lower or put any weight on my arms. Pumping didn’t bring relief either. Having no abdominal strength due to the c-section I was literally immobilized. It was painful, humiliating, and heartbreaking.
Of course, formula does have its place. Some women cannot or choose not to breast-feed and they should not be ostracized by the breast-is-best crowd either. The point is that it’s my baby and it’s my choice. I know what is best for the both of us, and should I need to make a switch I will.
After much perseverance and intermediary tools and tricks, Baby H is now breast-feeding like a champ. It pains me to think after fighting so hard to have a breast-fed baby that I might be told I can’t feed my child in public unless I use a bottle. Breast-feeding is normal, natural, and it’s damn hard work. Do not undermine a woman who has chosen this difficult route. It’s her prerogative.
Besides, when you withhold the boob he cries and pouts. Do you really want to be responsible for that pout?
Global Calgary. (2012). Mother angry after being asked to leave Walmart while nursing. Retrieved Dec 7, 2012, from http://www.globaltvcalgary.com/mother+angry+after+being+asked+to+leave+walmart+while+nursing/6442767623/story.html.
Leach, P. (2011). Your baby & child from birth to age five. New York: Knopf.