Tag Archives: nursing

Why do mothers stop breastfeeding?

I make milk - superpowerLast week I joined a group of moms and their little ones for a morning of social gathering and playing. I didn’t know any of the moms and it happens that most were first-time moms with babies under the age of one.

For a couple of hours I got to hear stories I once told others regarding my little babies, who now are little men. The feeding on demand, the short and sleepless nights, the first rollover, the first solid food, the first crawl… Some of my babies’ past is becoming blurry. Sometimes I confuse which baby did what. But I also remember some moments in great detail, including the little suckling noises they made as I nursed them in the stillness of the night, their super cute smiles and giggles, their unique ways to crawl, their reactions to first foods, their first steps… It seems it all happened so long ago and yet, it’s just been a few years. Time really flies when you’re having fun. And even when it’s not all fun sometimes.

One of the inevitable new-mom subjects is breastfeeding. Here in California, where people are more obsessed concerned with their health, it seems most moms give it a try. California laws support breastfeeding, allowing it in all public places and requiring employers to provide a private place to pump (restroom stalls not included). Many moms I’ve talked to (working and not-working) have managed to nurse their babies for a year or more, just as I did.

I'm still breastfeeding T-shirtSo I was surprised to hear the mom of a seven-month-old baby tell another mom she had breastfed her baby since birth, but she stopped at six months, even though she was still producing milk. The most interesting thing is when the other mom asked her why she’d stopped, she didn’t have an answer. She said she just stopped. This left me perplexed.

Everyone who’s ever tried to breastfeed will tell you the first few months are the hardest. Baby and mom need to become acquainted and often taught how to nurse. Mom is exhausted, nursing on demand, and doesn’t get much of a break. After a few months though, the feedings space out and baby becomes a suckling pro. If a mom nurses for the first six months, she’s gone through the hardest part of it all.

So why would a mom who embraces breastfeeding for the first six months of her baby’s life suddenly decide to stop? This mom stays at home and doesn’t experience any pressures from outside work, has no older siblings taking her attention and breasts away from the baby, and still produces plenty of milk. Why make the switch to expensive and non-natural formula, deal with making bottles, and not want to maintain this special bond for a few more months?

I just don’t get it. If all is going well, why stop it? I can’t think of any good reason why. And clearly, this mom couldn’t either but still did it. Would someone please enlighten me?

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Breastmilk vs. infant formula: the never-ending discussion

Breastmilk vs infant formula

Breastmilk vs infant formula - click on the image to view the full document on the California Department of Public Health website

Just a few days ago I ran across an online discussion in which a mom blurted out that infant formula was “just as good as breastmilk”, since it contains the same nutrients. She wasn’t able to breastfeed her baby because of the medication she was taking, and thought formula worked just fine. In a way, she’s absolutely correct. Infant formula does what it’s supposed to do: it feeds babies with the basic proper nutrients and helps them grow. And for mothers who have physical limitations to nursing, formula can be a life saver.

The truth is, 90% of mothers don’t have these limitations, yet only 75% of them choose to breastfeed after birth. The numbers trickle down quickly and only about 25% of moms still breastfeed after six months. This is sad news because even though breastmilk and infant formula share many similar nutrients, breastmilk offers many more valuable ingredients that will never make it into industrially-processed formula (see chart on the right).

I think all moms who have breastfed their babies for a year or more will tell you the same. Yes, nursing is a tough habit to pick up. It does take a lot of practice, for both mom and baby. It does require commitment and huge amounts of support, especially from your partner, your family, nurses and pediatricians. Breastfeeding is a challenge, but one that women around the world have taken on for tens of thousands of years. And breastfeeding is usually cheaper than formula. A mother will spend a few hundred dollars in extra food for herself and possibly a breastpump, but it doesn’t compare to the average $1500 spent on infant formula for the first year.

With infant formula manufacturing companies heavily marketing their products (after all, they do make billions of dollars from it yearly!), 80% of hospitals releasing new moms with formula samples in their diaper bags, and an overall lack of education and support, making the choice to breastfeed is an uphill battle. And honestly, it shouldn’t be this difficult to do what our bodies were meant to do. But in 2011 it seems to be harder than ever.

If you’ve nursed your own babies and believe in the value of breastmilk, look around you and see who could use your help. Sometimes, one highly supportive person is all it takes to put a new mom on the right track.

As Mother Theresa once said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

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Voluntary recall of Medela Pump in Style breastpumps

Medela Pump in Style breastpump

Medela Pump in Style breastpump

Some of you may have heard through the rumor mill that Medela issued a voluntary recall on a selected amount of its Pump in Style breastpumps. There is no official recall through the US Consumer Safety Product Commission as the recalled pumps don’t cause any harm to individuals. All it looks like is a bunch of possibly defective breastpumps, and a great company accepting the defects and offering replacements.

Here’s what can happen with the defective Medela Pump in Style breastpumps:

  • the pump will not turn on,
  • the pump turns off on its own
  • the pump reduces or loses suction during the pumping process, or
  • the pump is making a clicking noise

Medela is offering to replace defective pumps at no cost. Breastpumps were manufactured between February 10, 2010 and March 3, 2010, so I’m guessing very few moms are affected by this problem.

For complete details about the Medela breastpump recall, including the serial numbers of the breastpumps being recalled, just visit the Medela website recall page.

I personally used a Medela Pump in Style breastpump to pump milk for both of my boys several times a day as I was working full time, and I never experienced any problems with the pump. It’s very durable and I would recommend it to any mom who needs a serious breastpump.

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Why is breastfeeding not considered a medical necessity?

With the current US administration undertaking the reform of healthcare in this past year, including eliminating pre-existing condition clauses meant to deny coverage, you’d think the US would be making progress towards supporting breastfeeding too. Well, it seems that is not yet the case… Even though some laws have been passed to allow more women to breastfeed in public, get a dedicated place to pump at work and get some unpaid breaks to do so, there is still a long way to go. One big sign that our government doesn’t believe in the “higher powers” of breastmilk? A breastpump is still not tax deductible, whether it is a manual or an electric breast pump.

Most US companies offer flexible spending accounts to their employees, allowing them to pay for their medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. Doctor co-pays, prescription co-pays, hospital bills and most dental procedures are covered. Breastpumps? Nope. I see why the IRS would be worried of opening Pandora’s box if breastpumps were a tax-deductible purchase. Moms who can’t breastfeed or decide not to breastfeed would complain that infant formula is a medical necessity in their case and that it should also be tax deductible. I bet the infant formula manufacturers constantly lobby Congress to get it on the list! But the issue would then be to wonder, is manufactured formula the same as breastmilk, when most of us know that both foods are not, and just can’t be the equal.

Why should the IRS consider breastmilk a medical necessity, deemed worthy of a tax exemption? Because liquid gold has been shown in many studies to:

– reduce your baby’s risk to catch many illnesses, or prevent them from getting as sick
– be more gentle on your baby’s digestive system
– can prevent your baby from developing food allergies
– contain growth factors that ensure the best development of your baby’s organs
– may boost your child’s intelligence (who doesn’t like that reason?)
– may protect your child from obesity
– offers plenty of health benefits to mom too!

I previously made my own list of the 10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding, but the list above has a little more scientific value, in case you needed that!

Medela breast pump, Pump in Style

Breastmilk still provides the most complete and optimal mix of nutrients, fluids and calories only a human being can provide to another. And a breast pump will help a mom continue to breastfeed her baby even after she returns to work. Using a breast pump, a mom doesn’t have to make a hard choice between breastmilk or formula, working or staying at home. With most breast pumps ranging from $100 to almost $300, a tax break of 10 to 20% would be nice. I was lucky enough to get my Medela Pump in Style from a family member and I loved it, using it several times a day for over a year for each of my boys. However most insurance companies don’t cover the cost or subsidize the purchase of breastpumps. Again, they don’t consider it a medical necessity.

To all of the health insurance companies and the IRS, I’d like to ask: why is Viagra only requires a co-pay and is tax deductible (= medical necessity) but a breastpump isn’t??? My guess is that the IRS and the insurance companies are run by older men, instead of real moms. Sometimes, I really feel that our boobs are underappreciated for what they can really do. I hope one day I get to see a change in our corporate world and government, and for someone to stand up and acknowledge that “breastmilk feeds life”. Liquid gold it is!

What’s your personal take on this issue?

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