03 Aug Breastfeeding: About More Than Breasts
Does that word make you smile or make you cringe?
It’s pretty crappy that I even need to ask that question, don’t you think?
Breastfeeding is an infant feeding method.
- an undeniable piece of human history.
- a topic that is exhaustively complex.
- for most, it is much more difficult than they wish it was.
Have you ever noticed that the posters, brochures, and informational videos on YouTube make it look pretty simple. Easy as Sunday Morning.
What is with that anyway?
The average family in the Pacific Northwest is being set up to struggle and in some cases, feel like they are failing when it comes to feeding their infant.
Breastfeeding is promoted and applauded as the supreme introduction to life on Earth, and the ultimate way to parent with loving care.
And yet, most families that I speak to, both inside my work as a Doula and outside of my work as a Doula, tell me their stories of:
- feeling helpless
- extreme physical pain
- indifference from their trusted medical teams
- uncertainties around baby’s wellness
- isolation within the struggles
Thankfully, I am someone who is aware of who can help and where a family can turn when they want to seek professional resources and guidance with infant feeding, including exclusive or part time breastfeeding.
And I can tell you without a doubt that:
Breastfeeding is about more than breasts and it’s about more than putting a baby to the breast.
There are many variations commonly incorporated into breastfeeding practices, which allow families to breastfeed in the ways which work best for them, and on their own terms. Did you know that? breastfeeding isn’t and doesn’t have to be, JUST feeding at a breast.
Let’s look at a few most common variations, knowing that there are more:
Pumping (Partially or exclusively)
Feeding an infant with pumped breast milk from a bottle, syringe, cup, or SNS is more common that you might realize. Families of all types utilize this variation. Though the hard work put into this variation is largely invalidated by our society, it is absolutely a valid component to any breastfeeding journey.
Supplementing breast milk with formula is a variation that is very common and is an important piece of the puzzle for many breastfeeding families.
- Formula during the work day, feeding at the breast at night
- Periodic feeding sessions with formula due to breast milk supply issues (whether working with an IBCLC or not and whether permanent or not)
- Primarily feeding with formula and maintaining periodic breastfeeding sessions for comfort and bonding.
There are many reasons donor milk might be sought. (Low milk supply, adoptive parents, same sex couples, etc).
In some areas, donor milk be found and obtained easily. In others, not so much. Each community’s resources around donor milk vary. Professional milk banks and milk sharing organizations are the most common.
For those who desire this option and it is available, it can create a way to facilitate an individual family’s preferred way to feed their infant. Which of course, can lead to greater confidence as parents -something that I fully support.
The act and practice of breastfeeding clearly takes on many forms. What form is best and most completely cares for each child will depend on the decisions and dynamics of the individual family.
I think it’s safe to say that there is an overwhelming amount of judgement directed at the choices being made by parents. Parents who are working hard to feed their babies.
How about we start looking past our own experiences in order to see another person’s perspective? How about we start celebrating the love and dedication other families have for their babies and realize that their choices, even if different than our own, are just as valid?
Join me! Join Doulas Northwest in not only celebrating breastfeeding, but all of the ways that parents may choose to incorporate it into their lives and homes.
Authored by: Kristyn Blocher