The birthing hospital that delivers over twice as many babies than the next highest competitor has a baby fair next weekend. The baby fair, held on the hospital’s campus has the local parenting magazine as its media partner. I learned from a hospital employee that formula companies would have booths at the baby fair and I was shocked. I really didn’t believe that a hospital would invite formula representatives to have direct access to moms. Before you leave hate-comments for me please know I do NOT think formula is unnecessary or unimportant in doctor-prescribed situations. I do think we, as a community, fail new moms by talking about how important breastfeeding is and then through obstacles, cultural barriers, hospital policies and misinformation we sabotage the new mother’s ability to nurse and then make her feel guilty about having to stop breastfeeding before she’s ready.
I called the owner of the parent magazine who agreed to tell the formula companies they couldn’t participate in the baby fair if the hospital would just note that request in an email to him. I then talked with two administrators (one I had asked to be on my board which I’m now so grateful she declined) in Women’s Health at this hospital and was first told it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to tell the formula companies they couldn’t come because they probably had already made travel arrangements and bought materials to be handed out. But for future events, I was assured, the hospital would add language that formula companies could not participate in events. Later, the story changed to formula companies would be welcome at events. I could not believe it. With all of the work by national leaders releasing studies about breastfeeding, quotes that breastfeeding is a public health issue, the Surgeon General, IRS, American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Disease Control, Department of Labor and MORE desperately trying to help new moms breastfeed and the WHO Code calling for formula companies to have NO direct access to moms. Evidence-bases studies have proven that free gifts and free samples by formula companies (again, against WHO Code) shorten the duration of breastfeeding.
I did make them nervous enough that a PR person from the corporation that owns this hospital phoned me to “assure me my voice had been heard” but as long as she had anything to do with events, formula would be welcome.
Selfishly one of the hardest things about this is that I don’t yet have the power to create change. At this point in my advocacy I’m “heard” but not respected enough (or feared) to influence important decisions such as this one. I talked with a few advocates with bigger titles and much larger organizations than Julie’s Village but for one reason or another, all have bowed out from making a phone call or email or at least giving me a quote I can use when asking them to tell formula companies they are not welcome.
So, for now, there will be hundreds of moms in a big room with breastfeeding talks on one side and formula companies on the other. What is the message this sends? That both are equal and if breastfeeding doesn’t work out then here’s three popular formulas to try. Ridiculous. Unacceptable. Still gonna happen though.
This past Saturday I was honored to speak to almost 300 moms at the Metro Health Department’s Baby Fair. What an awesome experience! I spoke over and over about preparedness and what expecting moms can do now, before the baby comes, to help them meet their breastfeeding goals. I really focused on building their support teams and educating them on skin-to-skin. I talked about skin-to-skin’s benefits and to request it starting when they arrive at the hospital to deliver. I wish I could follow all those moms to prove the preparedness talk made a difference.
There was a mom of four that came to the breastfeeding table and sat down exhausted with a 3 week old baby girl and three boys between the ages of four and ten. She talked about being overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a single mother and her depression but also about how proud she was of that new, precious baby girl. She got out her big formula can and water and mixed her formula bottle right on top of our breastfeeding education table! That had to be an interesting sight. I asked her if she needed a hug and she said “actually, yes, I don’t get hugs.” We moms need to SUPPORT each other! I mentioned her to a peer counselor and in a few minutes I saw a few health department professionals talking with her and connecting her to services that could help her. This is one reason I’m so proud of my certificate in lactation counseling that fits my personality so well. I love the one-on-one conversations with moms and I love giving the gift of acceptance, non-judgment and encouragement. Moms deserve those gifts.
Another pregnant woman sat down at the table with her mom and her mom asked me what her daughter needed to be doing to rough up her nipples to prepare for breastfeeding! I know I had to have groaned audibly before being able to assure her that roughing up nipples is no longer recommended. We talked a little about latch and who to call if breastfeeding is painful AT ALL. Breastfeeding is NOT something to be endured. Another myth that sabotages precious new mommas. Just sayin.
SO honored and thankful for that direct access to pregnant women to encourage and help them reach their breastfeeding goals.
In my advocacy work I hear doctors, nurses and others warn that if we talk too much about breastfeeding we’ll make current moms who couldn’t/didn’t nurse feel guilty. Must we sabotage the next generation of new mothers to keep from hurting someone’s feelings?
It is short-sighted and close to criminal to attempt to keep health information, resources and assistance from one person because we failed at offering those things in the past. Let’s race to get the information and resources to expectant and new moms so that the moms who stop breastfeeding before they are ready become fewer and fewer.
To moms who’ve tried and struggled and felt forced to stop before they were ready, we breastfeeding advocates say to you that we are desperately sorry. Our culture, our networks and resources and our hospitals failed you. Likely, it should not have been the emotional and challenging experience that you endured and it has nothing to do with your determination, your wanting what’s best for your baby and has everything to do with how breastfeeding as an art and as the normal way to feed our babies has almost been lost.
From one person who struggled GREATLY with breastfeeding and was completely unprepared to breastfeed I apologize to you and ask you to join with me to protect these tender and precious new moms and babies. Together we can empower women through preparedness so that challenges are minimized and more moms are able to breastfeed to their goals – whatever those goals may be.
To breastfeeding advocates, if you meet resistance because of the “guilty” claim – ask the person(s) what their story is and then ask them to join you in changing history for new moms and babies and together attack the barriers – and not each other.
I hear so many second and third-time expectant mothers tell their struggles with breastfeeding with their first and sometimes second child(ren) and declare they they are absolutely going to breastfeed this time! Moms having their second (or more) child are more confident, more researching and more determined to breastfeed. I want to encourage these moms to take a great breastfeeding class! Find one in your area that focuses on preparedness (more than teaching you medical terminology), gives you honest information about your hospital stay and provides professional resources so you’ll have someone to call if you have a question (before a small bump in the road becomes a major challenge).
Breastfeeding classes are definitely not just for first-time mommies! You never know, you might even become a mentor to a newbie in your class!
I recently overheard two people complaining about some products on the market, how they were unnessecary and how the root of all our problems is advertising. Being an advertising executive and a lover of great advertising (not to mention the freedom we enjoy to advertise and be advertised to) I always have the same reaction to these comments: Our decisions are our own – we as consumers and particularly parents are responsible for our actions and further, our buying decisions. Advertising is a tool we can use to learn about new products it is never supposed to be the one source for decision-making.
I always use the “pull-ups” example. Pull-ups are well advertised and if you didn’t talk with experts or research potty-training, you’d think that was the natural next step after diapers. Experts advice? Never put a pull-up on a child (until there is a demonstrated problem which has been discussed with your pediatrician). This scenario actually applies to me. I thought pull-ups were the automatic next step and thankfully my all-knowing mom stepped in and recommended I not put a pull up on my daughter (she was a little over 2 and I was pregnant with twins and desperate to potty-train before I had THREE in diapers). We did “big girl panties” and she only had a couple of night accidents. I could go on and on with anecdotal stories from others that when they got the nerve to take away the pull-ups, their child had one or two night accidents and that was it. Obviously there will be times and children (and likely at least one of my twins since I’m using this as an example!) where pull-ups are exactly what is needed. Which actually brings me to my main point: formula advertising.
With all the formula advertising about brain growth and eye health, etc., etc., one might think that formula was a natural part of feeding a baby. Worse are the claims about being “close to mother’s milk” or at least closer than the competition formula. As parents we MUST make decisions not based solely on advertising but based on research and advice from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
If for medical reasons and on the advice of a knowledgeable medical professional (and I recommend a second opinion, too) one chooses formula, then thank goodness that is there for that situation. But there are studies after study, stats, facts and proof that breastmilk reduces disease risk in both mom and baby, reduces risk of obesity, protects baby’s GI system, has immunity properties and is the perfect food for babies even changing as the baby grows. No formula can come anywhere CLOSE.
I’d like to actually change the questions and what we research as moms. Instead of breastfeeding vs formula, I hope our questions become Q) How might a professional (like a doula) help me breastfeed and Q) which hospital in my area is the most breastfeeding supportive (also called “baby-friendly) or Q) what few supplies might I use to help me breastfeed more comfortably?
If we can change the focus of our conversations and thus change the questions, we will automatically reduce the acceptance of the extremely inefficient claims from formula. Instead of restricting a company’s right to advertise (truthful statements), let’s raise our own discernment level.
One last thought: Once a new mom is researching formula and comparing the “promotion of eye health” between one kind or another, we’ve already failed that mom. It’s too late for label warnings to matter at that point. Work with me to prepare women and expectant moms BEFORE delivery with research and information on breastfeeding so they never even have to face comparing one non-sterile, processed, dead formula against another.
On Mother’s Day, I got to spend the day with my mom. We ran a few errands together before we went to the movies. One of the errands we ran was a return to a clothing store. My mom had bought an outfit but when she tried it on, it just didn’t have that wow factor she was hoping for. We pulled up to the store and I could sense her hesitation. I offered to run in the store and make the return for her and she was so relieved! Returns can be emotional when the sales clerk is bratty or you shop there often and they know you, etc. I was happy to take care of this for her and she would’ve absolutely done the same thing for me. What’s interesting is that we have the courage to take care of each other and fight for each other when necessary oftentimes when we don’t have the nerve to stand up for ourselves.
I immediately translated this into a breastfeeding scenario. New moms in the hospital and especially the first few days home after delivery NEED an advocate! These moms need someone to advocate on their behalf when they’re trying to nurse in the first hour and keeping the hospital staff from whisking away the healthy, term infant for a bath and keeps him in the nursery for 4 hrs. It’s too hard to leave everything up to this new mom – this stage is so tender.
Please help your sister, daughter, neice, granddaughter, friend by asking her how you can help her and support her in every way you can while she establishes breastfeeding. My sister was a huge advocate for me with both my hospital stays and my mom found a doula to come to my home when I struggling so much right after I brought my twins home from the hospital.
Be an advocate – have the courage to fight for breastfeeding on behalf of a loved one.
Have an experience where someone was your advocate or where you helped someone else? Leave a comment and let me know!
During one of my later doctor visits while expecting my twins I was becoming increasingly concerned about my safety as well as theirs during delivery. My OB mentioned he would do everything to protect the babies and deliver them safely. I then asked who would be present at delivery to protect my health and he said that responsibility was his as well. This threw up a red flag for me but I wasn’t educated enough about my options to have someone in the delivery room specifically focused on me. I wanted someone watching and protecting the babies and someone different watching and taking care of me.
Everything went great with delivery and my precious babies were born healthy and naturally (vaginal delivery). However, I hadn’t taken a few simple steps to help prepare me to breastfeed them so I got into serious trouble within a few days trying to nurse them. My mother and sister contacted a doula who came to my home and saved my ability to breastfeed my boy/girl twins. They are 21 months old tomorrow and I am still nursing them!
How much do you know about doulas? They do have a lot of experience with breastfeeding help but they can offer you so much more. There are doulas who can help prepare you for delivery including offering information and help on pain management alternatives and doulas who can help you establish breastfeeding and help with the transition of bringing baby home. You can easily search for doulas with specific training, experience and certification by visiting dona.org. This is an international organization for doulas.
I could’ve had a doula with me during my delivery of the twins and I recommend researching this as an option. Whatever your concern (or fear) or need is, use DONA and dona.org to interview a doula. I am so grateful for mine!