Saturday, November 19, 2011

The truth about failed breastfeeders

Our lovely second boy was born just over a week ago and really has been a pretty great baby so far...except that he won't breastfeed. He can't attach, he won't suck, and consequently I'm not making much milk, but he's a big and hungry baby (born 9lb 2oz). So I've had to face the fact that this little guy is going to be formula fed plus whatever I can pump out, which in the absence of a sucking baby is not a great deal.

When I'm at my most rational, this is all fine with me. I had the same situation with Leo and I can now see that he has turned out healthy and happy which is all that you can ask for in a child. However, when I am feeling a little bit more fragile (which is not an uncommon side effect of the sleep deprivation that comes with a newborn), any question or comment about why I'm not breastfeeding instantly has me wanting to burst into tears. This is not to say that I can't recognise that the questions from family and friends are well-meaning or just genuinely curious about why my one-week-old baby is having a bottle. It's just that it is perhaps a more emotive subject for me, and I assume other failed breastfeeders, than would be instantly apparent. Because of this, I just dread anyone even raising the topic with me even if I know the intention is in no way sinister. I think it's sort of in the same vein as asking people who are desperately trying to conceive why they haven't had kids yet - but obviously that issue is more sensitive again.

The thing is, I really wanted to breastfeed and I promise I gave it a red hot go. I know as well as anybody that breast is best and that it is the cheapest and most nutritious way to feed a baby. I won't go into graphic detail but it's fair to say that pretty much the only thing I did in my four days in hospital was try to get milk out of me and make the baby drink that milk. I know that I am reading into people's questions more than is intended but I can't help feeling that there is always a suggestion that there is more that I could have done and if only I would persevere it would happen.

With Leo I went to two breastfeeding clinics, spoke to five lactation consultants, took prescription medicine and herbal supplements, and expressed milk every three hours to get my supply up (which really messes with your sleep) - and now I know that this sort of perseverance doesn't necessarily make it happen. It also results in you being more tired and stressed than you would otherwise be with a newborn. Not to mention that on top of this you are spending hours sterilising a mountain of breast pump and bottle feeding paraphernalia.

I guess all I am trying to get off my chest (pun intended) is that for new mums struggling to breastfeed, and no doubt short on sleep, regardless of the intention, it is worth steering clear of lengthy discussions around the benefits of breast milk. The truth is that we know the benefits of breastfeeding and we want to do it but if we can't achieve it, at least we can move forward to raising a happy, healthy child.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Too much information! Or maybe not enough?

I've had a booming week for discovering random facts about nutrition - mostly due to a book that I am reading called "Eat Your Heart Out" by Felicity Laurence, but also some radio news from today.

According to ABC radio today, hospital admissions for kids eating disorders have trebled over the last decade which has led some groups to point to the influence of the media and photoshopping. I think this is a bit of a stretch as there are so many factors that influence children's eating habits and body image.

Mia Freedman came out with a very sensible response on the program saying it's really a parent's job to provide good role modelling as opposed to just saying the right thing. Mia basically said that it may be ineffective to be telling your kid to go out and climb a tree when you are working on your computer eating a tim tam (bit close to home I might add). The segment didn't give a good summary of how widespread eating disorders are among kids or what causes them but the growth stats for eating disorders were a bit of a shock.

However, not as shocking as some stats from the UK that are in Laurence's book that state that British children in the UK aged five to nine years consume an average of 106 pounds (say about $150) worth of confectionary in a year and a similar amounts worth of soft drink. I hate to think what the equivalent figures are in Australia where childhood obesity rates sit around 20% and our overall obesity rates are higher than the UK.

The outcome of the radio segment was that parents need better quality information on nutrition for themselves and their children and I'd tend to agree. But where should this come from??

Taking it easy on yourself

With only three days until my due date for number two (an inside baby that has been lovingly named 'Pompf 'by child number one) I have been reflecting on how you keep a family fed when operating on no sleep. I actually remember having the distinct thought that I would never be able to cook a meal again in the first sleepless days after Leo was born. The baking dishes full of lasagne and pots full of apricot chicken that were delivered by friends and family could not have been more valued.

I've discussed it with a few other mums as well and it seems that the answer is to just get through it and don't worry about it too much. The very wise words I heard today were "the first aim is to get everyone to eat something healthy and if that fails, the second aim is to get everyone to eat".

This came into play last night when for some unknown reason, Leo didn't want tortollini bolognese - I'm sure I've mentioned this sort of event before but who knows what goes on in toddlers fickle little heads. In the end, there was a late supper of weetbix and watermelon which is not the worst outcome (noting that lunch had consisted of lollies, sausage rolls and some plain white bread at a third birthday party therefore this was actually a considerable step up).

So here's looking forward to the coming months of makeshift meals, hopefully without too much sleep-deprivation fed guilt! As is my mantra with housecleaning with small children, you are probably better off temporarily lowering your standards than stressing about the situation.