Thursday, September 23, 2010

Breastfeeding and Hiking the Grand Canyon

I just love it when someone else writes my posts for me! This is an awesome note written by my friend Michelle, who is a wonderful doula and breastfeeding advocate (and who, incidentally, is teaching a breastfeeding class for expectant mamas on October 1st at our newly opened birth center, Blossom Birth and Wellness Center). I loved it and asked if I could post - so here it is! Thanks, Michelle!


"I just wrote this in response to a comment in a friend's FB thread. I posted a link to Dou-la-la's blog post, "The difference between "I can't" and "I won't" - and why it matters to all of us." . I decided to publish this to my notes because I feel it sums up how I view a major hurdle in the breastfeeding debate: setting mothers up for failure rather than success.

"The article I posted was a great reminder that we should not judge each other for our parenting choices, but I think that is only part of the point. The real issue is that our system does not provide women with the adequate support to achieve her goals for breastfeeding and undermines her attempts to succeed, then pats her on the back with words like, "At least you tried," and gives her a free can of formula.

"Of course there are situations like the ones that Matt pointed out where breastfeeding is difficult to the extreme or impossible. But those cases do not make up the 25% of mothers who are formula feeding by the time they get home from the hospital, or the 50% of mothers who stop breastfeeding before the baby is six months old. Within those numbers are women who sincerely wanted to breastfeed and yet were told "it's okay to quit."

"When I was preparing to hike the Grand Canyon from top-to-bottom, an athletic feat that I had a mere six weeks to prepare for, I never heard someone say, "Oh, you're too fat to do it. You're too out of shape. It's too hard. I couldn't do it, so you probably won't be able to either. I tried, but didn't make it more than a little ways in before I quit. Don't feel bad if you give up. Don't be afraid to quit. Hiking one mile is just as good as hiking all seventeen."

"If I had heard that, I would not have made it through the whole hike, and might not have even tried.

"Women are regularly told, "Breastfeeding is too hard. It's painful. I couldn't do it. You're breasts are small like mine so you might not make enough milk. Don't feel bad if you give up. Don't be afraid to quit. Breastfeeding one month is just as good as six months."

"No wonder women feel so conflicted about breastfeeding. No wonder they project their feelings about not meeting their goals on the people around them.

"What I heard when I was preparing to hike: "That's awesome! Good for you! I know you can do it! I can't wait to hear about your success! I will train with you! I hiked it too--here's what I did to make it through. How exciting! You're going to love it! I wish I could do that! You've inspired me, I think I will hike the Grand Canyon too!" And from my hiking partner: "I know we can do this -- we can help each other. We will be able to tell our amazing story afterwards. It will be great!"

"How many more women will succeed at breastfeeding if they get the same encouragement as I got for a two-day hike?

"When a woman and her partner work together to bring their baby into the world, then they work together to learn to take care of that baby, the community should support, encourage, help and praise them -- not set up roadblocks, use discouraging language or get judgmental and condescending for their choices. Maybe some women will succeed at breastfeeding, maybe some will have to combine bottle and breastfeeding, and maybe a few will have to stop breastfeeding all together. But if we set them up to succeed, rather than fail, then we will all be happier in the end."

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