Do you feel pressure to breastfeed your baby? Sometime we do this to ourselves because we were either raised in an environment supportive of breastfeeding or perhaps it wasn’t supportive of breastfeeding- and we want to change that. And sometimes the pressure comes from other sources. Regardless, it can result in a lot of guilt when things don’t work out the way you had planned. So, what do you do with all this guilt? How do you process it? And how do you overcome it?
The Boob Group
Dealing with Breastfeeding Guilt
Episode 172, Aug 31, 2016
Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.
SUNNY GAULT: Thanks to our friends at Rumina Nursingwear for sponsoring today’s episode. Their hands-free products make nursing and pumping simple, comfortable and convenient. Use promo code BOOBGROUP20 and save 20% off your order at www.pumpandnurse.com.
SUNNY GAULT: Do you feel pressure to breastfeed your baby? Sometimes we do this to ourselves because we are either raised in an environment supportive of breastfeeding or perhaps, it wasn’t supportive of breastfeeding at all and we want to change that. Sometimes the pressure comes from other sources. Regardless, it can result in a lot of guilt when things don’t work out the way we originally planned. So, what do you do with all this guilt? How do you process it and how do you overcome it? We are The Boob Group.
[Intro/ Theme Music]
SUNNY GAULT: Welcome to The Boob Group. We are here to support all moms who want to give their babies breastmilk and respect the choices of moms who want to feed their babies another ways. I am Sunny Gault. Well, how do you listen to The Boob Group because our shows are available on a bunch of different platforms, including iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, TuneIn, Google Play Music. I am sure there are a few other that I might be forgetting in this line-up.
We also have The Boob Group app, if you guys are app fans, out there there’s an app for everything, right. So, of course we have to have an app for our show and you can access all of our episodes from that app. You can download them, you can star your favorites, you can reach out to us directly through the app if you want to do that.
We also have the New Mommy Media app and that is a network app that has all of our podcasts on it from all of our shows; we produce a bunch of different shows including The Boob Group so if you want one convenient app to access everything in, then download the New Mommy Media Network app and all of these apps are absolutely free, you can download them wherever you get apps. So, let’s meet the mommas that are joining us in our conversation today. Ladies, tell us a little bit about yourself and family and Bridget, let’s start with you.
BRIDGET: Hi, thanks for having me. I’m Bridget, I’m from New York and I have two kids – two and a half year old girl and four and a half year old girl.
SUNNY GAULT: Awesome. Thanks for being with us. Candice?
CANDICE: Hi, I am Candice. Thank you for having me. I live in Massachusetts. I have two boys. The older one is 6 and the other one is three and a half.
SUNNY GAULT: And Graeme?
GRAEME: Hey, y’all. I am Graeme and I am in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve got two kiddos; my older one is three, he just turned three and my little girl is 7 months.
SUNNY GAULT: And you said “y’all” so we knew it was coming that you are from the south. It gave it away.
GRAEME: No, it is a secret – shh- don’t tell anybody.
SUNNY GAULT: I know, right? And Julie, tell us a little bit about yourself.
JULIE: Hi, I am Julie. I am in San Diego, California and I have one little boy who is three years old.
SUNNY GAULT: Awesome. Alright ladies, thanks for being with us today.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright, so before we dive into our main part of our conversation today, sometimes we do news headlines where we talk about articles that impact breastfeeding and pumping moms and this was an article I thought was really interesting and actually local news covered this.
But it is about child care centre so like a day-care, pre-school type of centre and they have designated themselves as being breastfeeding-friendly and it has a nice little photo of these ladies standing outside of the centre and they have this big banner that says “this centre is designated breastfeeding-friendly”.
And this is from … let’s see – the Winnebago County Health Department which I totally lost the state that is from … I knew – I was thinking Wisconsin but I thought I am not going to say it because I will be wrong.
So Wisconsin and Winnebago and they think that this is really important; they want to establish a supportive breastfeeding environment and they say in the article that that includes a private comfortable area for breastfeeding mothers to nurse or to pump and to have policies that support breastfeeding moms and the centre staff on how they are trained to handle breastmilk as you can imagine, you know, depending on how long your child is in the hands of the day care facility, the parent needs to bring breastmilk to the centre every day, right, if you are doing that and the mom is pumping.
And so how do you store this, I mean, believe it or not, a lot of centres don’t really talk about this in fact we have done an episode on The Boob Group prior about what moms should do and some guidelines and how to help child care facilities accomplish this, right. And so I wanted to get everyone’s take on this; I love the fact that they are calling themselves breastfeeding-friendly.
We hear a lot with hospitals the term baby-friendly, that term kind of concerns me a little bit because it makes it sound like if you are not breastfeeding, you are not baby-friendly. So I really like the fact that they are saying breastfeeding-friendly, I think it is a really good description of what is happening here. So anyways, just want to kind of toss it out to everyone and let me know what you think. Anyone can start.
JULIE: I was just going to chime in as a mom who went back to work after three months and really wanting to provide breastmilk for my son for as long as I possibly could. It was hard enough to figure out how to pump and get enough breastmilk for him during the hours that I was at work and I really think that if there was even, you know, one more challenge to making that happen, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.
So to have a centre that is supportive of that, I think is, you know, there are already enough barriers to trying to be a working mom and providing breastmilk. So I think this is amazing and really should be like a minimum standard.
GRAEME: Well I love it because I like that they have the area where a mom can come in and feed. Right now, I am working from home but part of the reason I am doing that is because pumping is not working for me with my daughter and she is home with me. So she is here, babysitter is here, I am here, the house is getting kind of stuffed.
It would be wonderful if she could go to the same pre-school day care that her older brother is going to but there is no place for me to breastfeed there. They are fabulous with, you know, handling stored breastmilk, they even let moms store it in their freezer – they are great with all of that.
But if you can’t pump, if pumping is not working for you and you need to be able to physically go there or if you just want to, you know, if it is close enough to your work or wherever you are that you can just pop in and get a little bit of snuggle time with the baby and feed them, that’s wonderful.
SUNNY GAULT: Absolutely. Anyone else have any thoughts?
BRIDGET: I think it is great. Breastfeeding is hard so anything you could do to make it easier at all and facilitated, I think that is fabulous.
CANDICE: I am a stay-at-home mom so I haven’t had to experience this but as attempting to breastfeed my first I was terrified to leave the house because I didn’t feel like enough places to feed my baby so I think any time that we can provide moms with that is just a step in the right direction. And also, if they can handle it properly, I just think that that is wonderful where anybody, any of the other parents to see what is going on – it is kind of a nice thing to incorporate into … to start culture in general.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright, well let’s hope that other centres kind of follow suit and just let moms know that they are on their side however they want to feed their babies but if this is the way that they choose to do it, then at least they know that there is support out there. And we will include a link to this on our Facebook page, if you guys want to check it out.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright, so today we are talking about breastfeeding guilt and how we can overcome this, how do we deal with this in general. I feel like a lot of moms have this guilt; I don’t know … that we really talk about it all that much, I kind of, lump this into the same category of postpartum stress and anxiety; it is like one of those things that it is a “hush hush” thing, right, we are not supposed to talk about it and we are supposed to just deal with it on our own term.
But that is not really how we grow, right? That is not how we process things. So let’s talk about breastfeeding guilt today. I wanted to start by just kind of polling everyone and getting your personal take on the type of guilt either you experienced in the past or maybe some moms are experiencing this currently. So let’s just kind of share a little bit of our own story. So let’s see … Bridget, let’s start with you.
BRIDGET: Okay, so I breastfed both my kids. My first daughter, I had a lot of trouble breastfeeding her. She went to the NICU and we weren’t allowed to breastfeed her until probably 17-18 hours after she was born and no one told me that meanwhile I should be pumping. So that kind of set us up for difficulties to begin with and she wouldn’t latch either.
So, I felt tremendous guilt that I couldn’t breastfeed her exclusively like I had wanted to; I thought it was supposed to be easy and it was so not easy – it was a struggle. I pumped, I eventually got her to latch with the nipple shield and I supplemented with formula and the nurses in the hospital made me feel terrible that I was trying to breastfeed my daughter. They were like “nope, we are going to stick to a schedule, she needs to be fed every three hours” end of story and they really pressured me to give her formula and to kind of keep up with the schedule. So I felt tremendous guilt while I was there and it was just really hard.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah. Candice, can you share your story with us a little bit?
CANDICE: Yeah, my first son … after he was born, I had to go into surgery and so when I came out, they immediately put him to the breast and I was completely out of it. And I feel like in my mind, I had screwed it up because I had done something wrong at that point, like my body didn’t produce … wasn’t able to expel the placenta so therefore it was my fault. So it was like almost immediate. I knew that from taking all the breastfeeding classes and reading all the books that I had missed that golden time.
So the guilt started very quickly for me and he was a screamer; he had a severe acid reflux that developed a little bit later but in the hospital he just screamed and I couldn’t even comfort him and I thought that was my fault. We started to notice some signs of dehydration but once we got home from the hospital, it was quite apparent that we actually had to go back. And the first doctor we saw really compounded that guilt by saying “by attempting to breastfeed, you are starving your child” and so that just kind of set me up for failure and I thought that I was doing something wrong, that I wasn’t able to be the mom that my son needed and I wasn’t able to give him what he needed.
I put all that blame on me and so it set us up for the next month of I was pumping collectively 2 and a half hours a day and the milk wasn’t making him feel very good, like it was really bothering him and he wasn’t gaining weight and he just wasn’t happy. So I internalized all that and so I think that was really difficult with my first.
My second was much easier, however once again I ended up in surgery and even though I was able to save the milk, my prolactin levels were really low and so there was a lot of self-blame. However, when he was on the breast, that’s when I felt my best so even when he wasn’t getting milk per se after six or seven months, I would still bring him to the breast just for my own personal comfort. And so it is kind of interesting for me, my first baby kind of made things worse by attempting to breastfeed and my second made them better so I think it is interesting to be one person with those two different stories.
SUNNY GAULT: I know, yeah, absolutely. And Graeme?
GRAEME: Oh, sorry, I just had to take a deep breath after hearing those. Yeah, it is powerful. It is all so similar, it is also familiar. I had an emergency C-section with my first, I don’t remember a lot but what I do remember is missing my baby. He was born at 10:44 at night and I didn’t get to see him until after 2 o’clock the next day. And I don’t remember who was that said it but that time that golden time was ticking away and I could just … every time I saw the clock. But I wasn’t healthy enough, he wasn’t healthy enough, he had some breathing issues and it was just one of those things.
Nobody told me either that pumping during that time could have helped; I know now that I could have started pumping before he was born to start bringing the colostrum in earlier – I had no idea. And so when he wouldn’t latch in the beginning, that was obviously my fault because I was obviously a terrible person and then when I started to have really bad … it is called dysphoria and it is just negative emotions and physical reactions to breastfeeding.
So I just felt disconnected, I had rage flashes, I would start sobbing, physical revulsion, just all kinds of horrible feelings coming that I did not want to be feeling about my baby and I could not control them and it happened every single time my milk came in – it happened with that feeling of let-down, came this flood of just horrible emotions. He would cry, I would cry – it went on for about three weeks and at that point well obviously I was a monster because breast is best and because every class that I took said that this is going to be the most natural and amazing thing that you have ever experienced.
This is what your body is supposed to do, your body will do this, you don’t have to worry about it – we need to trust our bodies. Which is true, I am not saying that any of that is untrue; it would have been nice to say as well “but if” there are any problems, there is support available for you. I did not reach out to lactation consultants that were available to me because I was obviously a horrible mother who could not feed her child. So I didn’t even get the support that was there; I went to a breastfeeding group one time and eventually developed postpartum depression and anxiety and I definitely believed that those things were linked.
But with my second baby I did some hard thinking about whether or not I even wanted to try and breastfeed at all because I didn’t want set myself up to feel like that again and decided to go for it with the caveat that if it hadn’t worked in two weeks that I would stop and that if I ever felt as horrible with her as I did with him that I would stop.
Just no pressure on me, let’s just see what happens and she was born via C-section, I was on the table and they put her on my belly and she started breastfeeding then and I say which is true – she literally has not stopped. She just eats like it is her job like a machine but with this one she has milk soy protein insensitivity … intolerance, sorry. So there was some guilt there too that somehow my milk was not good for her, that it was making her literally making her stomach bleed and that causes a little guilt there too. So I feel like there are all different ways we as moms are professionals at finding the way to feel guilty about something and digging our heels on that.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, exactly. I find it so interesting you had such a two totally polar opposite experiences, you know. It is just amazing to me that with your son that there was like all of this just …
GRAEME: It was horrifying, if anybody out there who is listening has demur or is having those flashes of feelings like I described, please go talk to your doctor about it obviously and go into Google and put DMER … this is probably what is happening to you and there are things you can do about it and nobody told me so hopefully somebody will use that information.
SUNNY GAULT: Right, exactly. And Julie?
JULIE: So my guilt experience was a little different than the other moms in that I did not face the sort of hospital anatomical challenges that the other moms had to deal with. My guilt started when I went back to work when my son was 3 months old and I had sort of built up this supply of milk and when I went back to work, it totally dropped and I was dead set on the fact that I would have failed as a mom if I did not provide him breastmilk for the full first year.
I had a lot of mom friends who went back to work and seemingly it was a piece of cake for them to go back and just pump a couple of times while they were at work and they had plenty of milk so I felt like if I couldn’t do that then there must be something wrong with me. I couldn’t do that and so to kind of try to keep up with my son’s demand I started pumping around the clock basically.
I would pump at work several times to the point that there were like maybe days where there was a 30-minute break between pumping sessions that I actually worked and then at night I would set alarms all night long basically to wake up and pump and it still was not enough milk. And I kind of became fixated on it and my relationship with my husband and my son really started to suffer. So when he was about 10 months old, I realized that I needed to be looking at our family as a whole and be a little bit more balanced in terms of taking care of myself so that I could take better care of him and started giving him formula and things got a lot better.
But by then I had been dealing with postpartum anxiety for that entire 10 months which had not been diagnosed yet and a lot of it had to do with this feeling that I had failed as a mom and not being able to produce enough milk for him and really comparing myself to what I perceived as the norm which is whether you are a stay-at-home mom or you go back to work you should be able, you know, if you just do these 5 things or if you reach out to a lactation consultant or you try a little harder or you know, wake up at 3 in the morning to pump – an extra session that you should be able to do it and I couldn’t do that.
So that was my experience; he is my only child and I think part of the decision between my husband and I to not have another child has to do with how our collective relationships really suffered from all of the pressure that I felt and even he felt to try to provide exclusively breastmilk for him.
SUNNY GAULT: I think that’s so important to keep in mind is that sometimes we are our own worst enemies, right. We keep thinking “well, if I just had done this…” you know, there is always one more thing we could have done or we just keep telling ourselves this and it just kind of … man, we just keep piling on top of each other – if I would have done this, if I wouldn’t have done that or if I had this type of birth or you know, if my breast were this shape or whatever the case may be. Man, sometimes we are our own worst enemy in this, right.
GRAEME: And we all also assume that everybody else is able to do it, like, we just assume that everyone else can do whatever we can’t and that it is easy for them. We never assume that the mom pumping next to us might be having just huge amounts of trouble pumping or might be desperately pumping just to try and keep her supply up or whatever. We just assume that she is just happily pumping and reading her magazine and everything is fine and that may or may not be true.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, it is true. We make a lot of assumptions; this kind of goes back to … I know not everyone does this but the persona that we put forth on social media is usually this rosy view of our life and how perfect everything is and on our kids’ cute and you know, here is my “brelfie” – me breastfeeding my baby … nothing is wrong with brefies, I am just saying. There is nothing wrong in celebrating the good in your life but I think we kind of get caught up in it sometimes and we look at everyone else, we are like “everyone else is perfect and I am struggling with this” and it is not reality, right.
GRAEME: Not at all.
CANDICE: And people do say that … you know, they tell you, I mean I got told breastfeeding is going to be hard, you just have to get through those first two weeks. And so I always assumed that okay I just have to get to two weeks but for me it wasn’t that. It was something totally different So I felt guilty because people are saying and almost in a dismissive way “oh yeah, well it is hard, breastfeeding is hard” so that’s it and I am like “I can’t even talk to you about what is really weighing me down” because I guess this is the way it is supposed to be but I don’t know how babies eve would survive if this is the way it goes, you know.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah. I want to talk about how our expectations what we think breastfeeding is going to be like weigh in to all of this and we have been kind of chatting about it a little bit. I feel like most of us do go into breastfeeding having some sort of expectation. So you know, how did that factor into the guilt for you guys? Was it a matter your expectations were just so different than reality?
BRIDGET: For me, I felt … I was always told that it was so easy and I saw all these women on TV and movies and out and about breastfeeding and they made it look so easy. And I struggled with it so much that I felt I must be a failure, I have to be doing something wrong. I am just obviously a failure at this and it was just terrible. I had such high expectations for it and my reality was not what I was expecting and it made it really hard.
GRAEME: And my mom used to tell me stories about how quickly I latched and how I was a little piggy and all of these stuff and I just kind of assumed that my experience would be the same as hers. And then I went to the breastfeeding class at my local hospital and I … Adam and I went to the parenting class … we did all the classes, everything that they offered.
And everything that we heard about breastfeeding was that your body knows how to do this, if you just trust your body, your body knows how to do this. And then with my experience, I really thought that that was how it was for everybody. I thought that it was one of those things that “okay, maybe everybody feels this way when it happens” and I just don’t realize “is this what bonding is supposed to feel like … I don’t think so”.
And then when I started to reach out, I got a lot of that “oh, breastfeeding is hard; it is just hard for everybody and just suck it up and it will be over” and I was like “wait a minute, you never said that; you said it is normal and natural and your body knows how to do this and now all of the sudden now you are flipping it to oh it is just rough” and I heard that to week number two, if you can just get through two weeks and I am like “okay, I am in week three and I can’t stop crying and neither can he and he is not gaining weight; maybe you guys should stop saying just push through it and give me some support”.
JULIE: And no one, I think it is really hard to admit that you are struggling with something that is supposed to be so natural and the social media and most of the information out there now is you know, the American Paediatric Association recommends 6 months and then it was raised to a year, breastfeeding your baby for a year and you think – how does anybody even do that if they are having this horrible experience.
So you feel like you just assume that nobody else is having this horrible experience; you can’t talk about it because everyone is afraid to talk about it because they feel the same way that you do. I was late in having my child in comparison with most of my friends and they had all figured out a way to do it and no one said to me this is hard and it is hard when you go back to work and it is hard to pump and it is hard to do all these things and it is really a huge sacrifice and you might feel really resentful and you might be afraid to leave your house like Candice said because what if the baby is hungry or you miss an opportunity to keep your supply up. It is a lot to deal with that people don’t want to talk about that and it adds to the isolation and the struggle and the guilt ultimately.
CANDICE: My mother wasn’t able to do any breastfeeding but she wasn’t really interested in doing it either so for me it was always like I am going to do things differently and I figured I just go full force on … I thought that the education, taking all the classes and reading all the books would illuminate that. I forgot how much of an actual natural process for me … how a natural process breastfeeding really is.
And so even though I was well prepared, I was not in touch with my body at that point and so I couldn’t really … I just … it didn’t work for me in that sense and I got a lot of pressure from her just to say “just give him formula, just don’t even worry about it” so you must become competitive with that and I think that also caused like I spiralled because of that. So I think for me it was the expectation that I couldn’t do it and I wanted to rise the occasion.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah, it was that internal pressure you put on yourself. Is anyone still dealing with breastfeeding guilt?
GRAEME: Yeah, a little bit because first of all I am still breastfeeding and she has got the milk soy protein intolerance thing which is just all kinds of fun and there are times when I ate an English muffin without thinking and English muffins have whey in them and they also have milk in them. And I just … we were on a vacation and I just didn’t think about it and I ate an English muffin which for anybody else is “okay, you ate an English muffin” and for me it turned into three days of my daughter screaming.
And you know, there is no way to not feel horrible about that; you can tell yourself “you slipped up, you made a mistake, you are human” you can tell yourself all of those things; the trouble is by the time you are telling yourself those things, you are saying it because you already feel guilty and I just felt horrible.
And then I feel bad because all I really want out of life is cheese, like that’s it – that’s all I want and there are times, there are days when I wake up and I am like “I just want a piece of cheese; why can’t she just let me have this thing; why can’t I just …” and I have resentment towards this tiny perfect beautiful – oh my gosh, you guys, she is amazing so the fact that I can resent her over something as silly as cheese well then I feel horrible about that too but the truth is that I like cheese, I am allowed to like cheese, I am allowed to resent the fact that I can’t have it; it is not that I would want to trade her in at all, it is just that I want to get us past this time to where she is eating solid food and I can too – that would be nice.
So there is a lot of weird guilt stuff that still crops up, thankfully I am still in therapy, well probably I will always be in therapy and so I have a place to talk about it, I have somebody to talk about it with when these stuff pops up and get stuck in my head.
SUNNY GAULT: No, at least you do, you are doing that, you know what I mean? As I said earlier, I think a lot of times we just kind of get these things stuck in our head, and we kind of keep putting ourselves down, and we don’t have this outlet for, you know, for someone to say no, that’s not right, like you are doing amazing things for your child, and not everyone is, you know, able to do this, and that’s ok. And you know, you are waiting for this two-week-mark, but it may take longer than that, or it may not, everybody is different. And so, at least you have that outlet, to be able to express yourself.
GRAEME: Yeah, it is super reeky!
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah! Alright! Well, when we come back, we are going to talk more about this pressure that we feel to breastfeed our babies and how it can impact the overall bond we have with our babies. And we also have some words of wisdom for the moms out there that are currently going through this. So we’ll be right back!
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SUNNY GAULT: Welcome back! We are continuing our discussion about breastfeeding guilt. And I want to talk about how you ladies process this guilt. And how it impacted you overall. And I know, you know, we talked a little bit about postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression. And you know, as you look back on your experience here, what would you say that this guilt did to you? What did it, you know, lead to, you know, happening in other areas of your life?
BRIDGET: For me, definitely it was one of the big reasons why I got postpartum depression. I felt like a huge failure. I felt like I couldn’t do what women are supposed to do. I mean, that’s why our breasts are here-to feed babies. And I wasn’t able to do that the way I was supposed to do. And I felt tremendous guilt. And it is just one of the big things I had to work through with my postpartum depression, for sure!
CANDICE: Yeah, I think it definitely impacted my anxiety! I also had postpartum depression, but the anxiety came from not knowing how much my son was getting. I couldn’t measure what was coming out of my breast. And that really… That was fuel for my anxiety.
JULIE: And I had a similar experience to Candice. I felt tremendous anxiety at not knowing how much milk he was getting, feeling like I was going to go a day without producing as much milk, or pumping as much milk, as he needed. And so I ended up getting very little rest at the… Or my rest I guess was lost at expense of waking up all night long in order to pump, to try stay ahead of the demand for the milk.
And it winded up physically and emotionally just totally depleting me and really affected my relationship with my husband, and with my son, because I had put breastfeeding at the top of the pyramid, that was the most important thing, and I really lacked the perspective and balance that I think is important to have when you’re kind of juggling all these things, and trying to figure out how to be a mom.
SUNNY GAULT: Yeah!
GRAEME: Yeah, and it made harder for me to reach out about other things. Because I felt like it was this big secret that I couldn’t talk about. I couldn’t tell anybody how horrible it felt. And so what I started to notice….My other postpartum symptoms started really, really early. And when I started to notice the other symptoms, I couldn’t talk to anybody about it, because I felt like they would somehow, once I opened up, the damn would break and they would find all of these horrible things. And that was the last things that I wanted to happen.
Now, where I am in this like second round, when I feel guilty about stuff I’ve kind of learned to double check and be like wait a minute, no, that’s silly! But that’s really hard to do in the beginning! That’s really hard to do without support! And that’s really hard to do when you’re not talking to anybody, even in your family or your friends! My mom, my mother in law, all the women around me, they thought I was doing great!
They thought I was breastfeeding like a champ! They had no idea! And so it’s really hard to be healthy just in general and to heal just from birth, whether it was a dramatic birth, or not, when you can't be open and honest about how you’re struggling.
CANDICE: And if you are experiencing anxiety, you hear a lot with breastmilk, with breastfeeding, while if you calm down, then your milk will do better. So it is almost like you…
GRAEME: You get anxious about your anxiety!
JULIE: You are causing it because you are anxious and so it doubles your fault, because you worry about it, and the fact that you worry about it makes your milk supply go down.
GRAEME: If you are just calmed down, your anxiety will be much better.
SUNNY GAULT: But then again, we keep putting it on ourselves, you know, we don’t cut ourselves any slack, like everything is our fault! You know, like we said earlier, our boobs are made to do this, why isn’t this working? It has to be our fault! Alright, so how do we overcome this? I know, I asked earlier, you know, who is currently going through this, and I know Graeme, I know like you partially feel like you are still kind of going through it, because you are still breastfeeding.
But for everyone else, like what would you say was… I mean, can you pinpoint something that said, you know, ok, now that I looked back, this is what really helped me get out of that place where I was constantly blaming myself and all of this guilt? What would you say that was?
CANDICE: For me it was my midwife telling me just to feed my baby. There was a point for me where I was so overwhelmed that she just kind of looked me in the eye, from a mother to a mother, and said: just feed your baby. And I think that was a big turning point for me.
SUNNY GAULT: That was probably just kind of let you off the hook. It was just like… Just like you know, it is ok. Like the most important thing is that your baby is fed.
CANDICE: Exactly! Because it was the perspective that I needed, you know. Because that was what was more important. And all of the sudden it became a much broader thing for me. I mean, I wish I had a crystal ball, I wish I could see no when my son is six years old and he is super bright, I can’t keep up with him, he’s got more energy that I know what to do with, and that was not… Him not getting breastmilk over a moth did not affect him in that degree. If he wasn’t fed, yes, that would have affected him.
SUNNY GAULT: Have you guys seen the #fedisbest? It is #fedisbest.
SUNNY GAULT: I know, and I love that #! And you that a lot, you know, with articles, and different posts, and people commenting on feeding your baby type issues. And it is so interesting that you mentioned midwives! I have found that the healthcare providers that seem to be the most understanding of all this, are people that have a very comprehensive view of what it’s like to care for a mother overall.
So nurses, midwives, doulas. Like it’s just more comprehensive view of things. They are like breastfeeding is important, it is important, but it is not everything. It does not define you as a mother, you know. And like we talked about earlier, there are things that can trigger if you have this guilt and this horrible feeling about you know, breastfeeding can lead to many more things that you certainly don’t want to deal with, you know. And it’s just interesting how people perceive it. But yeah, definitely, fed is best, I agree! Anyone else?
JULIE: I had kind of like light ball go on experience. I was about nine months in, my son was nine months old, and I had actually been seeing a therapist for several months. And he had encouraging me pretty much every week to think really hard about stopping the pumping cause he could see it was kind of just running me into the ground and other parts of my life were suffering.
And I kind of ignored him and thought no, if I just, if I keep going, if I wake up, you know, an hour earlier every day, I can make it, I can make it to twelve months. And then one afternoon I had come home from work and I had to rush inside and connect to the pump, and the nanny was leaving and she kind of just handed my son to me, and I put him in the bouncer, the little like bouncy thing with toys all around it, thinking ok, he can play with this while I pump for 25minutes.
And he was screaming crying, just tears, streaming down his face. And I was connected to the pump. And he is reaching out for me, just crying and crying. And all I was focused on the first 10minutes was the pump and how much milk I was getting out. And then it just clicked for me and I just looked out at him and I thought oh my, Gosh, I am… He just wants to be with me. I am missing all of this other and great, just as important stuff, bonding with my son! That’s not less important than giving him breastmilk! If not, maybe more important! And that was really like a turning point experience for me.
So I stopped pumping and slowly over the next month I was able to think of that experience and sort of get to a place where I was looking at our family and my relationship with my son as a whole rather than just being so laser-focused on this one part of our relationship. So at the time it was a really heartbreaking experience to have with him, because I wish that I had realized that sooner, because it maybe wasn’t worth it, I was giving up something else that was really important, my bonding time with him, but it was helpful. I think I needed the kind of something powerful to say hey, it’s ok if you stop doing this and there are all these other great things that you do as a mom.
SUNNY GAULT: You know, this is going to sound like a crazy question when I throw it out there, but do you think… And this is for anyone. Can breastfeeding guilt ever be a good thing? And the reason I bring this up, is because I, in researching this topic for today’s episode, I came across an article that was published by a medical doctor who’s very well known for being advocate for breastfeeding.
And he was talking about healthcare providers and their role in encouraging breastfeeding. And that the excuse, he said, that a lot of healthcare workers use in not really pushing for breastfeeding is that they don’t want to make the mother feel guilty. And this medical doctor was trying to call that out and just… He just said that that was just a ploy, that that was… He just really kind of through it to the side.
And I was really disturbed by that! Because I don’t think we realize how much damage we do when we just… It’s not so black and white! It’s just not… It’s not so easy for everybody! And so I wanted to get, you know, your, ladies, perspective on this. Because you know, having gone through this intense amount of guilt over breastfeeding, like when you hear something like that, like you know… What comes to mind?
GRAEME: It makes me absolutely livid!
JULIE: Me too! Absolutely!
GRAEME: Because we know, from the numbers, that most moms, like the vast majority of moms, I can’t look it up now, but it’s like 80% or 70%, I mean it’s a huge percentage of moms, when they’re pregnant, want to exclusively breastfeed. So we don’t need guilt! It’s not necessary! This is something that women already want to do. What we need is… And you can hear from just how all of these stories, we have things that are similar, but then we all have different triggers, and different reasons.
And what would have helped all of us is somebody saying: what do you need? Somebody saying to me: what do you need would have gotten a totally different answer from somebody saying to Bridget, or somebody saying to Candice, or Julie, what do you need? Because each of us had a different journey that we were going on. Maybe what we needed was somebody to hold our hands and say: you can stop, it’s ok!
Maybe what we needed was somebody to tell us about milk banks and say: ok, what you really want is for your baby to get breastmilk, here is another way to do it, if you can’t; here is formula, it’s alright; here is help getting your baby to latch, or whatever. I understand that we want to break the chokehold that formula companies have traditionally had on that whole birth system and on the hospital system. I get it. I really, really do. But at the same time they way that you do that is not by shaming or guilty moms.
The way that you do that is not by saying to moms, you know: you have to do this thing, or you are hurting your child! The way that you do that is my saying to each individual mom: how can I help you? What is your goal for your child? What do you want to able to do? You want to be able to hit 6months? You want to be able to hit a year? You want to be able to go back to work and pump? You want to be able to figure out a schedule that works for you at home?
Here is how we help you do that! And we have lactation consultants, and ABCLCs, and we have all of these professionals in hospitals, we need more of them, we need them to be better trained to work with different moms, coming from different backgrounds, and we need them to be trained to spot things like postpartum depression and anxiety. I will get off my silk box now!
CANDICE: I totally agree, Graeme! I think once I found what options were given to me, especially with supplementing, even just pumping a bottle, but then eventually giving the bottle to my husband and that really helped me with my guilt. Because I saw this bond happened with my partner and my baby, and it was amazing to me that… And I felt like I didn’t want to hold him back. So the options for me were really, really important. And I didn’t know about those options until it was like time to bring in the options, because there was no other choice. I was in such rough shape! So I agree with that, individual-very important.
JULIE: And it’s really just, I think, education is really important, education about breastfeeding is important. Guilt is not useful, and even detrimental. But education about it presented in a way that is balancing what your family needs as a whole and not ignoring the mom. I think a lot of times the way that the information is presented is like the baby is the only thing that’s important anymore. And of course the baby is so important, I don’t think anybody needs help with that, you know, with that feeling, most of the time. But the mom is really important too! If you don’t have the mom, you are not going to have the baby! So they are just, in my opinion, there just needs to be a little bit more balance and no more guilt.
SUNNY GAULT: Well, on that note, ladies, I couldn’t sum it up any better! So thank you so much for being part of our show today! I know you guys shared a lot of personal stuff and I really do appreciate it, and I think it will help a lot of moms out there just to, you know, just to kind of bring this subject to light and say: it’s ok, it’s ok if this what’s happening, and there’s help out there, and everybody is different.
So again, thanks for being with us today! If you are a member of The Boob Group Club, then please be sure to check out the bonus content for this episode. If you are experiencing breastfeeding guilt and it’s hard to overcome, sometimes there are little things that you do to help relieve that, all those things, that feeling of burden, that feeling of guilt, even if it’s just for a little bit, right?
You know, I know the big goal is to overcome it in general, but just little things that we might be able to do. So we are going to get everyone’s take on that. And that’s part of our bonus content.
SUNNY GAULT: Alright, so we have a question from one of our listeners. And this comes from Suz. In fact is Suz Slatts on Facebook. And she writes:
I listen to your podcast almost every day! You are like my on call girlfriends! Especially during the late night and early morning feedings!
I love it!
I have a two months old son and we suddenly return to work. I was working with my pump before I returned and that pumping would be as seamless as expected. However, my supply has significantly decreased to the point that I am only producing half of what my son eats while I am away. I have an appointment with a lactation consultant, but I am wondering if there is something I could have done before returning to prevent this?
HELEN HENDERSON: Hi, Suz! It is Helen Henderson, a registered nurse and one of the experts here at New Mommy Media. So your question about dropping supply that you noticed when you get back to work and start pumping again, is so normal!
We know that a pump does not empty the breast as efficient as a baby does which leaves milk in the breast and signals to your body not to make more. So what we need to do is be sure that whenever you pump you are getting the most milk that you can remove from the breast. And we do that by using hands on pumping. Hands on pumping is a wonderful technique that doesn’t take you any extra time, in fact it can decrease you pumping time, makes you a more efficient pumper and can increase your milk supply by up to a 100%.
So very simple! Get e hands-free pumping bra, there are some great ones out there, Simple Wishes makes a wonderful bra. You can also make some homemade ones if you want to go in that route. But you need to be hands free with something else holding up your pump and then you use your hands to press on your breasts. And your milk ducks. And you can feel the lumpiness in your breasts well decrease until there are very soft and no more milk is coming out.
This way you know your breasts are completely empty. Also be sure on your days off where when you are home before and after work, you’re breastfeeding instead of pumping, and you're breastfeeding on demand all the time, especially on the days that you are home from work. Be sure to be getting enough to drink. We know that moms that are dehydrated can sometimes have drop in supply.
Or you may also be sleeping less, because hey, you’ve got another thing to do back at work. So be sure, that on your days off you are not overexerting yourself, but instead you’re resting, you’re focusing on your baby, and you’re focusing on your breastfeeding. If you do these things typically we do see an increase in supply. So good luck! And sounds like you’re doing a great job!
SUNNY GAULT: So that wraps up our show for today. Thanks for listening to The Boob Group!
Don’t forget to check out our sister show:
∞ Preggie Pals for expecting parents
∞ Newbies for newly postpartum moms
∞ Parent Savers for moms and dads withtoddlers and
∞ Twin Talks for parents of multiples.
This is The Boob Group where moms know breast!
This has been a New Mommy Media production. The information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are believed to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.
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