Breastfeeding: Mothers before me

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival! This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about how the mothers before you influenced your choice to breastfeed. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


My mother didn’t breastfeed. At the time, women were told not to. The wisdom of the time was that breastmilk didn’t have enough nutrients. It’s funny considering how many nutrients have been put into formula in the last few years and how the ingredients list still looks surprisingly like that of a Twinkie mixed with a multi-vitamin.

Beyond the recommendations of OBGYNs at the time, (and to be quite honest, I still find the recommendations of many OBGYNs to be unrelated to any actual research) I was adopted. My family has a long history of adoption. There are adoptees in most generations of my family. My brother just adopted his daughter last year. I know that people breastfeed their adopted children, but it isn’t common and wasn’t common in my family.

Those women trying to exclusively breastfeed in my family are seen as somewhat suspect. The generation older than me looks at them as if they are trying something wildly experimental and ridiculous. The general attitude is more like, “when they get older, they will get over it.”

I had experience with breastfeeding. I worked as a labor and delivery nurse and I worked in the NICU (newborn intensive care unit). That means that I was indoctrinated with the idea (from other nurses) that we had to help new moms out by directly contradicting their wishes. I watched many nurses feed newborn babies bottles after their mothers had expressed that they wanted to exclusively breastfeed. Ostensibly, this was to help the moms and babies “get some sleep”, but let’s be honest, it made the nurse’s job a hell of a lot easier.

I worked with OBGYNs who didn’t put the baby anywhere near the mom right after birth and poo-pooed the idea that babies would build that breastfeeding relationship starting right after birth.

Many of these nurses and doctors were mothers. Most new mothers believe that their doctors and nurses have their best interests at heart.

Raised how I was and working where I was working, I tried to buck the trend anyway. It was hard. Despite being a labor and delivery nurse, I had no idea how hard breastfeeding was really going to be. I had seen women struggle, but somehow thought they were fighting it.

I also had no idea how hard it would be for me to fight the mindset of my family and peers. I thought, I will just tell them I am breastfeeding and that will be it. It wasn’t.

Without solid role models and a good support structure, I floundered. When I was struggling, the women there for me told me to stop fighting it. They told me things that I knew weren’t true. “Your baby might be allergic to your breastmilk.” “Your baby is starving.” “She’s letting you know this isn’t what she needs.”

As a sleep-deprived new mom, it was impossible to resist these statements. The confusion and concern were overwhelming. I was trying to do everything right and failing. Maybe I really was doing everything wrong.

I’m amazed that I was as strong as I was. I eventually gave up breastfeeding my first child. I gave in. And, I regretted it and thought of myself as weak. But, without the support of those women who came before me, I was really showing strength in sticking with it as long as I did.

With my second baby, I knew I had to do it differently. I actively sought out role models. I had some serious conversations with my support team. I had a whole different structure.

And I did it. I breastfed my baby. I breastfed after I started my new full-time career. I breastfed through my double load in graduate school. I breastfed when my husband left. I breastfed while being sued over custody. I breastfed through horrible, traumatic times for me, my kids, and my parents. I managed to breastfeed while all of these things were going on at the same time.

The mothers who came before me did what they thought was right for their babies. That includes my mother encouraging me to stop breastfeeding. I’m still her baby. She saw me struggling and thought what she was doing was right. In the end, she was probably right. I was having such a hard time with my first. But, when I was finding so much comfort breastfeeding my second through my nasty divorce, my mom was right there supporting me and making it possible for me to breastfeed.

Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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Go you!

Wow. Your perseverance in breastfeeding your second child is truly admirable. The fact that you were able to breastfeed your first at all among all that adversity is incredible. I used to work as a nurse myself, and I totally understand that culture. If I had still been working in that field when I gave birth to my son, I'm not sure I would've been as successful as I was with breastfeeding (or would've felt as supported in my birth choices, either). Congratulations, really, and thank you for telling your story!

Submitted by Amy @ Anktangle (not verified) on Mon, 07/18/2011 - 13:05.
It's so true that women

It's so true that women believe that nurses and doctors automatically are experts on breastfeeding when often they are in the exact same place you were having not had kids yet or even having had them and not breastfed.

It's great that you were able to learn from yourself and breastfeed successfully the second time around. I'm sure that it helped your second child get through the stress in his/her early life.

Submitted by Claire (not verified) on Tue, 07/19/2011 - 17:33.
Way To Go!

You have an amazing story! It is so great to see women finding what works for them, whether or not it is viewed as "normal" in our circle of friends and family! Im proud that you have overcome the obstacles and succeeded (both times IMO)!

Submitted by Anastasia (not verified) on Fri, 07/22/2011 - 16:34.

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