Thursday, August 16, 2012

Breastfeed Just Once, and Then Decide

I stumbled across a rather polarizing article on why a particular author decided even before giving birth that she wasn't going to breastfeed. I'm not going to link to it, because I found it offensive and simply argumentative, but it can be found on the Mommyish site, if you care to go hunt it down. The problem I had with her article was that all of her reasons for not wanting to breastfeed were uninformed nonsense. She clearly wrote the article just to antagonize and not to convince or even to simply state her position.

Look, I said this in my very first paragraph of my very first post here: "I don't so much care what you choose to do. I just care that you make an informed choice." And I hope that you feel my posts since then have held to that basic philosophy. So if you give birth having already decided that you just don't want to breastfeed, then you don't have to defend yourself. Simply saying, "I just don't want to" is perfectly fine.

But it got me thinking. How can you decide even before giving birth that you just don't want to? I understand if there are underlying issues, such as previous sexual abuse, body image issues, or emotional or health issues that make breastfeeding difficult or insurmountable. Those are reasons far beyond, "I just don't want to." I'm talking about perfectly healthy women who have had healthy pregnancies and healthy birth scenarios who immediately request formula to feed their babies. How do you know you just don't want to? What turns you off so much about it?

For those women, I have a proposal. Breastfeed once. Just once. As soon as the baby's born, the best place for her to be is on your chest, skin-to-skin. Why not give the baby that one dose of colostrum? Nurse for 20 minutes, an hour, just once, while they clean you and the baby up and get you ready to go to the maternity ward. After that, do what you want, but why not give it a try at least? It certainly wouldn't do any harm, and you might be surprised by how it feels. Maybe try it once more when the baby wakes up. And then switch to bottles. After all, those first few breastfeeds help you out almost as much as the baby, by helping your uterus contract, which will help prevent hemorrhage and help you regain your shape.

I'm not going to try to convince you to continue nursing. I'm not even trying to convince you to nurse that one time. I'm just asking, why not? The thing about breastfeeding is, it's almost impossible to change your mind later if you choose not to breastfeed. But you can always change your mind and stop breastfeeding once you've started. Every drop of colostrum and every drop of breastmilk your baby gets makes a difference in her health and in yours. More is better than some, but some is better than none, after all.

Feel free to ignore me. I'm not pushing anything on anyone. I'm just making a suggestion. You might ask my opinion on a car seat or where the baby should sleep or how he should be dressed for this weather. You might ask me whether I swaddled or if I used a pacifier or which pediatrician I like. You might ask me which hospital I delivered at and why. You might ask what stroller I use, whether I let my cats near the baby, and if I took any medications during pregnancy. And, you might ask my opinion on whether you should breastfeed or not. If you're dead-set against breastfeeding, then don't breastfeed. There are plenty of other decisions you have to make about your child, stretching into the long years ahead. If the idea of breastfeeding is just too overwhelming, or you don't want your breasts to belong to someone else for the next year or two, or you just generally find breastfeeding "icky," or you're afraid you'll get sexually aroused by nursing, or you're uncomfortable bearing your breasts, or you have sensitive nipples and you're afraid it'll hurt, or you think breastfeeding will make your boobs saggy, or you want to be able to hand off baby to someone else to feed, or you just don't want to, then don't breastfeed. I'm no one special, that you should listen to me more than anyone else, more than yourself. In the end, you're the mommy, and it's your baby, and you get to choose.

But, just a friendly suggestion, breastfeed once. All of your worries or fears or just not wanting to aside, one feed, one time, the first time will not change anything. If it hurts, then stop. If you get aroused (highly unlikely right after giving birth, I'd think!) and you don't like it, then stop. If you want someone else to feed the baby, then stop (or, you can pump and let someone else give the expressed milk - just a suggestion!). One breastfeed isn't going to make your boobs any saggier than pregnancy already has (although it's a myth that nursing makes your breasts saggy - it's pregnancy, gravity, and age that do that). And having just given birth, your breasts and all the rest of you are going to be bared anyway, so what difference does it make?

Breastfeed just that one time, and then decide. You can always choose not to breastfeed, any time from day one until day 730, but once you've passed the first few days without breastfeeding, it's going to be mighty difficult to choose to breastfeed.

The most important thing, though, is that you love your child, that you make the decisions that you think are best, and that those decisions are informed decisions.

Happy Breastfeeding Awareness Month!

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