Tuesday, August 7, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week Guest Post #7: Jo Ann's Breastfeeding Story

          Today is the final day of World Breastfeeding Week, I hope you have all been enjoying the stories shared in celebration of this wonderful week. The following story was submitted by a friend of my mother-in-law, Jo Ann, who also kindly sent me the book, Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Morbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, when Daniel was born. This book was amazing and helped me a lot in the beginning, especially since I had no nursing family members or friends to ask questions of at the time. Thank you very much for the book, Jo Ann, I now recommend it to all of my pregnant friends who are considering breastfeeding. Without further ado, here is her story:       

          Four out of five of my girls have had children and all four of the moms have breastfed their children.  Back when our youngest was in college and got the opportunity to study abroad for one semester, she emailed for a bunch of articles on breastfeeding, the cultural influences mothers, the anthropological angles, etc. She was writing a paper on breastfeeding, of all things.  During this particular email sojourn, I remembered thinking back to when I became pregnant with my first child and whether nursing was a conscious decision or just one that came about naturally.  

          I did not have any recollection of weighing the pros and cons of formula vs. breast milk.  I also did not have the advantage during the first seven months of my first pregnancy to hit my mother up with a million questions.  We lived overseas and my parents lived stateside---snail mail was the principle means of communication as there was no internet, cell phones, etc., and overseas calls cost a fortune.

         In hind sight, I think ignorance was bliss.  By the time we moved home two months prior to the birth of our daughter, I had already determined to nurse.  I think I thought that MOST moms did---that's why I say "ignorance is bliss."  It was only after I was well past the early days of being a new mother that I quizzed my mom on her breastfeeding experiences.  Our daughter was born with hip dysplasia, so my focus in those early days was eating, sleeping, nursing and regular trips to the pediatric orthopedist for fittings for a hip brace and check ups.  

          When my mother was having her babies, the trend was:  nurse about six weeks and then change over to the "pre-formula" concoctions they use to make at home which was some combination of Karo syrup and Pet Milk  (canned, condensed milk).  Holy mackerel, it's no wonder some of us grew up to be "chunky"!!!!!  Physicians were not particularly encouraging of breast feeding---moms were encouraged to do what was convenient for them.  I truly believe that if they had had access to the information we have today, more moms would have breastfed.

          Keep in mind, too, that having a wet nurse was a practice that came out of aristocratic European cultures, and I think that concept was what gave birth to generational ignorance in the breast feeding department.  So called "wealthy" women didn't "nurse".  That was a "primitive" practice used by the lower classes.  After World War II, with so many women having gone to work in factories or volunteering in hospitals during the war, nursing took an even bigger hit.  That's when all my siblings and I were born---I guess we are officially baby-boomers!!!

          But, like any trend, the pendulum always swings way to the other side when things begin to change.  The pendulum never stops in the middle ground, initially.  So, when I was nursing my children, there were some pretty rabid types out there making lots and lots of folks uncomfortable.  I never ran in to too many of the real radicals, but I knew of them.  And I think, in their enthusiasm to correct society's way of thinking, they made lots of moms feel guilty.  

          I am truly passionate about the "rightness" of breast feeding, but I have tried very hard to just lead by example...and occasionally giving new moms breastfeeding books!!!!   It is interesting, but my youngest daughter, Gillian, who has a whopping 2.5 month old BIG BOY, is changing the mentality of her mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law.  Oh, they are very supportive of Gillian, and recognize that she is a fabulous mother.   But they actually have commented to her on several occasions that they wish they had nursed their children, seeing how efficient it is, how content the baby is, and just how appreciative they are of the maternal bonding they are witnessing.  They also see how supportive dad can be doing lots of other things that can help mother and child.  (That dad has to give the child a bottle is one of those excuses that really burns me up!!!!)

          Another one of my daughters used to regularly inform people, usually when they were commenting on a bumper sticker I used to keep on my kitchen cabinet, that Jo Ann Molera's daughters WOULD all nurse their children.  I never put pressure on my girls to nurse....but they knew my thoughts on the subject very well.  I used to be part of a breast feeding task force here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia but that kind of went by the wayside when the physician who organized it moved to Charlottesville, VA.  I tried to keep the task force going but I had no real credentials to be the driving force behind it other than the fact that I had been a nursing mother.

          Our local hospital still gives the new moms a diaper bag with a can of formula in it----happily supplied by some formula company.  I don't think any real organized effort has been made to point out to them that supplying a new mom with formula is a great way to get her "hooked" on the practice, even when she has originally said that she wants to nurse her baby.  Also, the practice of sending moms who want to nurse their children home after 24 hours  (barring any complications), with no lactation support, is the death knell for a successful breast feeding experience for that mom.  It takes a lot of perseverance to hang in there, especially if the new moms do not have any support from their mothers, either because their mothers didn't nurse, or because they actually have cultural prejudices against nursing.

          We are having a disposable diaper drive at our church for our local health department and Rural Health clinics.  The cost of using disposables is astronomical, as you well know---as is the cost of formula.  It blows my mind that there is no public campaign putting two and two together:  Using formula and disposable diapers is THE most expensive route a young family can take----so why take it?  Children are NOT convenient---get over it and get on with the raising of them.  That's my story and I 'm sticking to it!!!

About the Author:

Jo Ann is a mom to 5 grown daughters and enjoys spending time with her many grandchildren.

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