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Unbuttoned | Books for Nursing Mothers

May 19, 2009

I found these book club discussion questions on NursingMothersCompanion.com. I thought they’d be a great way to outline my thoughts and feelings on breastfeeding.

1. Some of the women who write about their experiences in Unbuttoned had mixed feelings about breastfeeding. In what ways has breastfeeding been a positive experience for you, and in what ways has it been negative?

I really enjoy the time I get to spend with Penny, but on the flip side, it feels like every time I turn around I have to feed her. I am glad that it is cheap (free) and easy. But it was hard to get going, and nursing in public is still a bit of a feat.

2. If you plan to have more children will you make the same decisions about breastfeeding? Why or why not?

The same thing I said when I was pregnant with Penny: as long as we’re both willing and able to breastfeed, we will do it. Now that I have done it, I will fight to be able to breastfeed (if we’re having any problems).

3. Many of the writers in Unbuttoned had unrealistic expectations of breastfeeding. Why do you think this was so?

Haven’t read the book. Think I’m going to have to though.

4. Some of the writers in Unbuttoned got fixated on pumping; one even practiced competitive pumping. Do you think that many women are overly dependent on breast pumps? If so, why?

I had my own brush with pumping, aka a pushy nurse at the hospital telling my that if I didn’t start pumping by the next morning I was going to lose my milk supply (that hadn’t even come in yet). I still have a pump.. or two. I’d really like to be able to pump some excess milk for evenings out and whatnot. Even though I know pumps do not re-create the same effect as a baby suckling, it depresses me to pump both sides and get maybe half an ounce. And I don’t know if I’d consider hand expressing, because every experience I’ve had with it is nurses basically walking up, grabbing my breast and squeezing as hard as they can. OUCH! So I’d have to say I’m dependent on a pump to a certain extent. I could say that I don’t know what I’d do without it, but you know… I’d figure something out.

5. Breastfeeding rates in the United States are among the lowest in the world. Why do you think this is the case? Do you think pediatricians and government health experts should play a bigger role in encouraging women to breastfeed?

I have to apologize to who did write this for hijacking it, but I particularly like their idea. I agree that women should have to sign something before they leave the hospital, saying that they’re aware of the health risks to non-breastfed babies. In other words “the benefits of breastfeeding”. I think they should have to sign that they tried it and list their reasons for not continuing. Somehow there should be repercussions for not giving breastfeeding a full effort, or awarding moms that continue with it. Breastfed babies are overall less of a drain on the health system (generically speaking). Oh wait, then how would all the American HMOs make all their money? (I apologize for that one. I am Canadian. And I think that’s a huge can of conspiracy theory worms that even *I* don’t want to open.) I think health professionals should be following up with moms at home (more than they do). The time spent in the hospital is a blur. Wait until mom gets home and THEN deal with all the issues in detail. The government should be doing more to restrict formula companies’ presence and should seriously promote breastfeeding. Make breastfeeding more appealing. Quebec in Canada pays moms to breastfeed. Ah, so many opinions on this one. Also, maybe any follow-up with new moms should include these discussion questions. Maybe if a public health nurse or lactation consultant could discuss these questions with new moms, they could help sway them to breastfeed by dispelling myths or offering advice on how to deal with situations like breastfeeding in public.

6. Have you ever felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public? Did anyone ever confront you while you were nursing? What was your reaction?

I have been very lucky not to have anyone say anything to me yet. I am not completely comfortable breastfeeding in public though. I will make an effort to feed where I am less likely to get comments (like in the car in the parking lot at the off-leash dog park). I will also ask for tables at restaurants, whereas we used to enjoy booths more. Booths don’t afford enough space for you and baby between the seat back and the table (unless you’re 72 pounds and baby is a newborn). But ultimately, if I don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding somewhere, I will either go out to the car or we will head home. I would like to progress to the point where I am comfortable breastfeeding in public. I don’t want to feel like I have to cover up (and I feel like I’m smothering Penny every time I throw a blanket over my shoulder to cover her).

7. Do you think that women who have chosen to breastfeed are too judgmental of women who have chosen not to? If you’ve fed your baby formula, have you ever felt that you needed to justify your decision to do so?

I see 3 camps of baby-feeding women:

  • the very vocal, very pushy breastfeeding advocates, who ARE judgmental of non-breastfeeding women;
  • the women who choose to feed either way and to them it’s their personal decision regardless of what anyone else thinks of it. They don’t care what people think of their choice, and they don’t care what other women choose to do;
  • and the women who wish they could have done differently. This might be due to judgment from others or from desire to do it the other way and not being able to for whatever reasons (and I don’t necessarily mean wanting to breastfeed. It could be a breastfeeding mom who wishes they could formula feed and simply can’t afford it

There are some women that don’t fall into any of these, but that will always be the case. I think these are the major 3 categories.

8. Do you think that women from previous generations felt the same angst about breastfeeding that the current generation seems to? What is it about our modern culture that seems to provoke so much discussion about the topic?

I think only the 2 previous generations to me (my parents and my grandparents) faced the option of formula versus breastmilk. This would have come about with the emergence of formula companies. Prior to those generations, I don’t think formula really existed, so it wasn’t a question or an option.

9. Breastfeeding can sometimes be a divisive issue. Did you ever have a friend or family member criticize your choices about breastfeeding—whether it was because you opted not to breastfeed at all, or because you nursed your baby into toddlerhood or beyond? How did you react?

I find that I am becoming more active in promoting breastfeeding, although I sincerely hope I never hit the point of zealotry. I want to educate people about breastfeeding and the benefits and all sorts of things I’ve learned about it. But I don’t think so many people want to hear what I have to say. No one has criticized my choice, in fact I’ve had the opposite. But I think I might get criticized shortly for how vocal I am about it. I feel like people think I should be a “closet breastfeeder” – quietly disappear to feed Penny, and sneak back with a happy baby with a full tummy.

10. When your children eventually have their own babies, what will you tell them about your breastfeeding experiences? If you didn’t breastfeed, will you encourage your daughters (or daughters-in-law) to try it?

Well, becoming a lactation consultant is crossing my mind, so at this point I’d have to say I would encourage women to try breastfeeding. And by try, I mean longer than 24 hours in the hospital. Hospitals = bad vibes = stress for mom = stress for baby = bad breastfeeding experiences.

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