NYC Mayor Forces Breastfeeding, a mom’s response

This is one woman’s response to the post: NYC Mayor Forces Breastfeeding

By Christin Howard-Fankhauser

It upsets me! On one hand, I don’t mind the mayor taking a stance on a woman’s issue because he is in a place of authority and has the power to disseminate information. On the other, the stance he has taken upsets me greatly because its an issue he really can never know anything about because he will never experience what a mother experiences. I think it upsets me, not because I am a woman (and he is not) as much as the fact that he will never ever be able to understand what I have gone through concerning this issue.

As a new mom, you spend your entire pregnancy bombarded with the issue of breastfeeding. It becomes ingrained in you that you MUST breastfeed, and without directly saying it, you are only a good mom if you do so. My plan was to breastfeed. I wanted to try to go a whole year if I could, but felt that if I did 6 months that was acceptable (acceptable, Pft!) I unfortunately was not able to last longer than a month and it wasn’t a month of solely breastfeeding either.

My labor was intense and after 29 hours I had to have a c-section. My daughter was jaundice and we almost had to spend extra time in the hospital to get her bilirubin levels up. Part of the issue was that she was not getting enough nourishment from me, therefore we had to supplement with formula. I had nurses, doctors, and lactation consultants all telling me how to breastfeed; giving me all sorts of contraptions and home remedies to make it possible. I was for it because I wanted to do it.

However, the stress of being a new mom who didn’t really grow up with a mom, who never had younger siblings, never babysat an infant, had absolutely NO experience whatsoever was overwhelming. My hormones were off the wall. Every cry, every spit up, I took to mean that something was wrong. I would check every few minutes in the middle of the night to make sure she was breathing; still alive. I got hardly any sleep and that was all between feedings.

After we got home I had a regular visit with a local doctor, not my usual doctor because she too had had a baby the day after I did. I didn’t like this doctor. He asked me questions about how my breast feeding was going (because my daughter was still yellow even though she was deemed healthy enough to go home). He basically told me I would not likely last more than 3 months breastfeeding. I was devastated and angry! I thought “This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He’s crazy!” Everyone else told me, “Take this vitamin” “Use this contraption” “Do this massage and you’ll be fine. Your milk will come in.”

Well, the crazy doctor was right. I didn’t last a month, and not by my own choice, but because my body just couldn’t do it. There were a lot of contributing factors as to why I wasn’t able to breastfeed. Infertility issues, stress, the c-section–it all was a factor. All the massages, hot showers,supplements and crazy contraptions in the world would not have been able to help me. The worst part of it all was the guilt and shame I felt because of it. I would cry, uncontrollably because I felt SO guilty.

Why should I not feel guilty–I had everything at my disposal to make it happen. My friends could do it. My closest friends made it 6 months so I should have too. So obviously it was my fault I couldn’t produce, and I was a bad mom because of it. Except, that wasn’t the case for all of my friends. I saw one of my friends during the month I was breastfeeding and supplementing with formula. She had felt the same pressure I had, with her two children. She was shocked that I was doing both breastfeeding and formula, telling me that she had never been given the option to try both–that for her the doctors made it an all or nothing choice; that was upsetting too.

It took me months to get over not being able to breastfeed my daughter. My husband was a HUGE support, and my sister in law, who had my niece six months earlier was also a support. Her daughter was premature and in the NICU for a month. She too had all the pressure to breastfeed and the doctors and nurses and lactation consultants swarming her–but she is much more assertive than I. She was much more logical than I. She was not able to breastfeed because she couldn’t have the physical contact with her daughter. During my niece’s time in the NICU my sister in law was encouraged to pump and massage and take supplements, drink special tea, you name it. However the stress of her first born in the NICU made that impossible. She had resolved to formula feed only and was at peace with it much easier than I. She told me during that first month, when I told her of my struggles and that “crazy” doctor, that as long as my baby is getting what she needs, I am doing my job–she needs to eat and I am feeding her–doesn’t matter if that is breast milk or formula. If she’s getting it, that’s all that matters. She and that crazy doctor gave me hope–hope that I could still be a great mom, with or without breast milk.

They say that the number one benefit to breast milk over formula are the immunities that are passed from mom to child that can’t be fully developed in formula–therefore breast fed kids are healthier. Well, my daughter has never had to be put on antibiotics for any illness, and yet my friend who breastfed for 6 months has not been so lucky. I’m not saying the reverse is true, but that the argument is not true for everyone–one less thing for formula feeding moms to feel guilty about.

Not everyone can breastfeed, and not by choice. To Mr. Mayor I say, “Please reconsider your stance on this very personal issue, that honestly only a woman can understand. Stop contributing to the sense of shame and guilt of mothers who want nothing more than to see their children thrive.”

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