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Is breastfeeding a dying art?

by 2282 · September 19, 2013 at 8:46 PM

It seems like so many people I speak to in my age group (I'm 25) are foregoing breast feeding for their newborns and opting for bottle feeding instead. This of course does not apply to people who cannot breastfeed for whatever reason.

It seems really unnatural to me (and kind of terrifying) to opt for an artificial product over our own bodies naturally produced formula.

Is breatfeeding a dying art?

Is this a generational thing? (ie, in the past, breastfeeding seemed much more common place where as now most people seem to go right to the bought formula approach).

Have we made it impossible for young women to feel comfortable in public areas when it comes to breastfeeding? Is this a media/society thing?

Are we no longer educating our young moms on what is healthiest for our new borns or what the pros/cons are of manufactured formulas? If we're not, shouldn't we be? We're talking about future generations here.

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15 Replies

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32175 · March 14, 2013 at 7:52 PM

Please don't blame the moms--they need our compassion & support more than ever in this area.

I work in the pregnancy/birth world and I think it is very challenging for new moms who don't have support to breastfeed.

In some places in the States, you rarely see women nursing in public, and if your mom, grandma or aunty didn't breastfeed, you have to learn on your own (or with the help of an often rushed hospital lactation consultant.) My mom & my grandmother did not breastfeed, FWIW. Breastfeeding needs to be normalized.

And then you have to deal with the sexualization of the breast and how many folks are just not comfortable with breastfeeding in public & will make new moms feel embarrassed about a perfectly natural thing.

The rise of C-sections and inductions does nothing to help breastfeeding success. Studies show that babies who have been exposed to pitocin/anesthetic are slower to latch on--some never do.

Not to mention the hospitals that push formula and send new moms home with free gift packs of formula.

Only 1-2% of all births in the US are home births and the hospital environment is not the ideal place for a relaxed breastfeeding relationship to begin.

I am in awe that many moms breastfeed anyway, in spite of all these obstacles.

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26354 · March 15, 2013 at 2:32 PM

I am appalled at many of the comments here.

I have three kids, my first was breastfed for 9 months and then she quit. The second never latched on (despite $2000 in lactation consultants). With the third, my wife dried up around week 8 (again despite significant efforts with lactation consultants). She was absolutely devastated, and when a woman (we did not know) approached my wife at a park and gave her hell about feeding our child formula, my wife slipped very close to depression. Luckily we are financially in a position where we were able to get the counseling and support she needed.

All three of my children are smart, healthy, and active.

I support breast feeding, and certainly agree that it is the best when it works. But, for me, formula is a miracle. Two of my amazing children would not be here without formula.

Making judgments about parents who choose to feed their children formula is ridiculous. Some did not have the option. Others their schedule doesn't allow for it. Others make their own decision. It's their right. We need to work to create an environment that ensures that anyone who wants to breastfeed their children have every opportunity to. We do not need to talk down to people who choose not to.

Other than bitch on the internet, what have you done to enable women to make their own choice easier? Personally I have created a space at my office that allows women to pump at work as well as maintaining an under-the-desk freezer inventory to loan out to breast feeding mothers. I have also allocated an extra 4 hours per week for pumping so the women do not need to use their lunch hours and loose out on that social interactions or work reduced hours.

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10439 · March 14, 2013 at 5:27 PM

I think breastfeeding is coming back. It definitely took a hit in popularity, but I think even mainstream media has become hip to the wonders of breastfeeding.

  1. If it hurts that much, they're not doing it properly or they haven't done it long enough for their breast to become used to it.
  2. Hubbies, grandparents, babysitters can all feed breastmilk in the bottle for those times when mommy can't be around, or just so daddy can bond with the baby, too.

I have also heard the excuse of "I don't want my boobs to get yucky/saggy/chewedup." The sheer disgustingness of putting that level of vanity over the welfare of your developing child is really sickening to me.

IMHO, if you aren't willing to do what it takes to properly care for your baby, DON'T HAVE ONE. They aren't little dolls to dress up and have fun birthday parties for - they are little human beings. I think that's really the part that's missing for a lot of people. They think of babies like their key to the mommy social circle or as a fashion accessory.

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40 · March 14, 2013 at 7:53 PM

I am breastfeeding my third baby - he's 3 months. It's a full time job, but so worth it. I think a lot of people don't do it because it's just "too hard." It is hard... but I personally wouldn't have it any other way. That being said, I respect other people's decisions not to do it. I just can't imagine not doing it, for my own kids. For what it's worth, I DO feel like a granola munching hippie, whipping out the boob in public!

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5814 · March 14, 2013 at 6:17 PM

I have personally been surprised even within the paleo community to see a lack of holistic thinking applied toward children. What could be more paleo than breastfeeding? It shows that so many people view paleo as a diet or weight loss tool, not as a lifestyle.

I nursed my 4 children ... one until 12 months old, one until 15 months, one until 18 months, and one until 3.5 years old. You wouldn't believe the derision and mocking I have faced, especially with the last child. "Good grief, get that kid off your breast!" "Haven't you weaned him yet?" Etc. And this from people who eat healthy, whole foods, even paleo.

The child who nursed until 3.5 is the sturdiest, healthiest, most independent kid you've ever met. I wish I had nursed the others longer. One took a pacifier, and one started thumb sucking when I weaned them. They obviously still had a strong sucking need. (Most children lose their sucking need between ages 3 to 7).

It really is a short amount of time in your life. I spent 7 years breastfeeding, and I can tell you it was a blip. Yes, some days they felt like parasites! But long term it minimizes so many problems. With 4 children, we have had 3 ear infections. Total. 2 with the oldest (when I was young and stupid and thought giving babies juice was a good idea). And 1 in one of the other kids. Other than that, no antibiotics, no late nights up crying, nothing. I'll take the parasites any day. :)

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5324 · March 14, 2013 at 5:48 PM

To me this falls into the same vein as…

Q - Do you KNOW what they do to those chickens? A - No, but it’s delicious.

People today REALLY don’t know where their food comes from, at any level, and as much as I like most of you love the visual feast that is cleavage, I don’t stop to think what the fundamental purpose of breasts are, even though it’s two fold, a sign of fertility and a means to feed said late night fertility encounters.

Also, the amount of women who demand “C” sections is growing every year, which, I get it, the crying, the pain, feelings of helplessness…and that’s just the father asking universal questions like… “Does it hurt?”

I’m hoping when people stop trying to “burn at the stake”, mothers who breast feed in public, maybe then, everyone will finally remember how it is we got this far on the road of life…I wonder what those puppies get to the gallon, cause when you figure mileage to the gallon…….sorry, I was taking this in the wrong direction, I meant….Breast Milk is Awesome…wait, that sounded like I’m still….

Truth.

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2000 · March 15, 2013 at 2:14 AM

I especially don't think that anyone who hasn't had children has a right to judge. If you've never had a child, you have no idea what it is like in those first few days/weeks/months. Not only is it physically difficult, it is emotionally difficult (hellish for some). The doubt and second-guessing that goes into those early days can be nerve-wracking. If my mother hadn't breastfed and if I hadn't been reading up on it for 9 months, I'm not sure I would have continued breastfeeding my daughter. We got the hang of it, but it was hard at first. I don't think judging other women gets us anywhere. I think Dragonfly is right. If you are interested in breastfeeding and infant nutrition, be a good role-model, be an educator, be an advocate. Don't sit back and judge something you haven't experienced.

For what it's worth, I know a lot of moms who formula fed their babies and not one of them is selfish, lazy, ignorant, or superficial. Not breastfeeding your child doesn't by default make you any one of these things.

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2611 · March 14, 2013 at 7:18 PM

If it makes you feel better, breastfeeding is actually on the rise in the US and has gone up significantly just in the past few years. According to the CDC's breastfeeding report card it was up to 77% in 2009, and the 2008-2009 change was the largest annual increase in the past decade (this is women who initiate breastfeeding at any time, even if they don't continue it as long as recommended).

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15261 · April 18, 2013 at 1:49 PM

As others have noted, there are many obstacles to it, the actual mechanics of breast feeding itself sometimes don't come naturally to mom or kid, many doctors are ambivalent about it, and in the US at least it's often considered taboo to nurse in public and it can be frowned upon at the workplace.

I was formula-fed, and my mom would have preferred to breast feed but was strongly discouraged from doing so by her doctors (this was in the late 60's and early 70's), back then the male doctors all thought they knew better than the women having the babies I guess.

If you want to get a good source of support for breastfeeding I suggest looking up a midwives practice in your area, they tend to be very woman-and-baby-focused and have a more helpful and realistic view of breast feeding. My kids were breast fed until 18 and 20 months and we think this was great for both mom and kids.

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1353 · April 18, 2013 at 1:44 PM

My wife volunteers for a breastfeeding support organization and it's true that the majority of people who initially don't want to or have great difficulty either listen too much to the older generation, i.e. mothers and mothers-in-law who were themselves told that it spoils babies or ruins your figure etc., or they come from immigrant cultures that are gaga over anything artificial and man made thinking that that must make it superior. Then there are the women who listen too much to their mouth-breathing boyfriends/husbands who are so socially stunted that they find something sexual about seeing their wife or another woman breastfeed a baby, and therefor it makes them uncomfortable. Needless to say I don't feel too much sympathy for any of these cases. Just stop being stupid.

That said, there is a significant number of women who wish very much to do the right thing but can't due to insufficient supply, unusual skin sensitivity, or other reasons outside their control and it's very important not to judge as they are often totally devastated that they can't do it. In many cases they feel as if they've failed a basic aspect of being a woman and mother, which is tragic. In a natural society these cases would have been covered by the fact that the other women of the community would take on the responsibility for the woman who had difficulties.

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952 · March 15, 2013 at 12:46 AM

I'm 23, pregnant and will ONLY breastfeed. Even if I can't produce my own milk, I'm certainly taking advantage of donor milk.

I just don't really think our generation understands anything about nutrition. We were also raised by parents that formula fed. In my case, even my mother and her sisters were formula fed. Breastfeeding was seen as taboo in the 1950s-1960s. When I asked my grandma why she used formula she said, "It's just what women did back then." I just don't think that our age group understands the importance of breastfeeding since it's not ingrained into our culture.

I also don't think there's a huge support system for breastfeeding. La Leche League is doing what they can, and I applaud them for it. But breastfeeding CAN hurt when the infant doesn't latch correctly, and if no one is around to correct the baby's latch; then yeah. Of course women aren't going to continue - IT HURTS!

We live in a culture that doesn't prioritize well, which is a shame because it's really affecting the general population. All we can do is show our own children that breastfeeding is normal, and hopefully our good decisions will pass on to the next generation.

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1230 · March 14, 2013 at 5:51 PM

Just curious: Whatever happened to the concept of wet nurses? Why hasn't each community a pool of wet nurses available for hire?

'cause the reality is many career women simply won't do it. So why not pay the eligible minimum wagers and welfare moms a fair amount to fill the role?

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5 · September 19, 2013 at 8:46 PM

I am still nursing baby number 3-he turned a year on 8/31. I cannot believe I stopped at 10.5 and 9.5 months with my first two! It was my fault-I had listened to the doctors and family-they had juice cups and whatever snack they wanted. This child (food allergies) does not get a cup-he can have some of my water when he is thirsty or he can have ME. He eats when he is hungry but prefers breastmilk to "food" anyway. I sit next to the soccer field every or gymnastics room every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday and nurse my 1 year old in public, WIHTOUT A COVER (ha) and have only had ONE "mom" say to me "oh he is a breastfed baby..." my reply-" YUP he loves his boobies!!"

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233 · March 14, 2013 at 10:43 PM

I don't have kids and don't plan on ever having them... but if I did I would get them breast milk somehow. This is the most healthy and natural way of eating for any mammal in its infancy and even beyond sometimes.

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