The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), whose mission is “to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding,” holds World Breastfeeding Week every year in August. This year’s theme is “Talk to me! Breastfeeding - a 3D Experience,” and refers to new ways of communicating globally, to “spread breastfeeding information beyond our immediate time and place to activate important dialogue.” In other words, they ask advocates to encourage dialogue beyond our own communities, with others in addition to pregnant and lactating women, and across generations, cultures, and genders. A blog is a perfect forum for this type of discussion!
In order to encourage you to contribute to the conversation, I will host a raffle for a signed copy of my chapbook Familia. [FYI: this raffle took place in 2011.] You will receive one entry in the raffle if you leave a comment on this post, follow this blog using the blue “Join this site” button on the left (current followers are automatically entered), or follow by e-mail using the subscription form on the top right. If you have been thinking about following this blog, subscribing via e-mail or leaving a comment, now is the time! I am aware that some of you follow or subscribe via Google reader, bloglovin’ or other reader services; I appreciate your readership, but since I can’t view subscriber lists for these services, I can’t put you in the raffle. So, if you’d like to enter, please contribute to the conversation.
You can learn more about Familia (and my other publications) by clicking on the My Publications tab above. If you already have a signed copy of my chapbook, you can always give another as a gift if you happen to win this raffle. I must thank my friend Sylvia for the raffle idea and disclose that she is already a follower, so she is automatically entered in the raffle.
In my post Natural Mom TV, I briefly mentioned my breastfeeding story, and my friend Karen encouraged me to tell more. Writing about my difficulties may help other women understand how to overcome breastfeeding problems, so I think it’s a good way to start a conversation during World Breastfeeding Week. By the way, the Texas Department of State Health Services is celebrating World Breastfeeding Month with the theme “Every Ounce Counts”, so feel free to join this conversation through August 31; I’ll close the raffle that day.
My difficulties with breastfeeding were multiple, some physical, and some due to societal pressures and attitudes. I have two physical issues, both of which made it difficult for my babies to latch on, but which are possible to work around. The problem is, since my mother, other relatives, and close friends did not breastfeed, I had no one to talk to about this. Also, my family, and even the night-shift nurse at the hospital, due to prevailing cultural attitudes, felt that it was more important for my first baby to eat something, than it was for she and I to spend time learning how to breastfeed.
I was using a nipple shield to substitute for my flat nipples, but I sometimes let her try to latch on directly to my breast. Because she was also drinking formula from a bottle, she learned that a bottle would give her food much faster than my body would, so she didn’t put much effort into learning to nurse. I tried for two months, while using a supplemental nurser with formula, and I also pumped my milk for her to drink from a bottle.
Another problem we had was my fear of asking for help. I did meet with lactation consultants at the hospital, I talked to them on the phone, and I hired one for a home visit, but we needed more help. I knew about La Leche League, an organization that “help[s] mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education,” but I didn’t attend their local meeting, partly because I was ashamed that we couldn’t get it right, and partly because I didn’t know how much talking to other women could help. I desperately wanted to breastfeed, so I was devastated and frustrated that we couldn’t seem to work it out. I cried about this every day.
After two months, my baby had learned to drink from the tube of the supplemental nurser better than from my breast. I gave up nursing her and pumped my milk, but didn’t have enough and continued to supplement with formula. After nine months, my supply ran out. Plus, my daughter was very active by that age, and I could no longer take the time to pump.
I did successfully nurse my second child, after similar difficulties, but I’ll write about that another time. My story highlights the need for women to talk to other women about breastfeeding in order to learn, to help, and to encourage each other. Once a woman has decided to breastfeed, the support of her family, friends, and community can help her succeed, especially if she encounters difficulties. In a culture that sees bottle feeding as the norm, breastfeeding is a counter-cultural act. The support of others is essential when women who want to breastfeed face pressure to bottle feed, whether due to difficulties, societal attitudes about nursing in public, or insufficient pumping breaks at work.
So, now it’s time for your part of the conversation. In the comments, I encourage you to briefly tell your breastfeeding story, to discuss how you have supported or helped lactating women, or to share your thoughts on societal attitudes toward infant feeding. I can’t wait to read your comments, and to see who wins the raffle!
In 2013 I am linking with: Breastfeeding Support & Tips