Breast May Be Best But Formula Is Fine!

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Florence Leung's husband's emotional and heartfelt Facebook posts about his wife's passing and the role that breastfeeding may have played in her post partum depression is an opportunity to raise awareness and educate women so we may better recognize the symptoms, treat it early and honour her life.

Dear New Mom,

Congratulations  you're going to have a baby. Such an exciting time! Doctor or Midwife? Home or Hospital Birth? Car seat, carriage,  cradles and cribs, oh my goodness what about bibs? It's all so exciting and going to be great. But there's one thing I must tell you that you just might hate.

Much like the truth about labour which few women share, breastfeeding or moreso breastfeeding struggles are not often discussed. Breast is Best. But is it? Not always.  There are studies that support the benefits of breastfeeding; fewer serious illness, less asthma, eczema, respiratory and ear infections. But this is not to say that babies who are fed with formula will get these illnesses, be less intelligent or athletic.

Not every woman can breastfeed and the reasons are many. Yet we have a breastfeeding vision in our heads of a happy, thin beautiful, coiffed woman sitting comfortably in a rocking chair (not recommended for breastfeeding ) as her babe nestles into her breast gently suckling for routine feedings that provide optimal nourishment so the baby can sleep. For many women, this couldn't be further from the truth.

To breast feed a baby often requires a lot of ammunition and it can feel like war for many women. Those rosebud lips vs. a gigantic areola is often the first battle. The chances of a tiny baby gaining access to the heavily loaded (engorged) breasts that seem to be rapid firing spurts of white or yellow stuff are slim.

Bring on the breast pump, a workhorse promising to suck every drop of white gold from your breasts which ironically stimulates milk production. Just what you need, right? Never give up, let the next battle begin.  Pump. Pump. Pump It Off.

Your back is broken, from the body contortions you never knew in order to get that tiny tyke into the football hold,(whatever that is you say, it's not football girls play). Your nipples crack, your fever soars, diarrhea is calling at the door. Chills and spills, darn you could've sworn that cap was tight! Next time get it right! Your baby cries all day and you wonder if purple is OK. If I could just get this breastfeeding thing underway.

You're leaking from every orifice, urine, blood, breastmilk and stool. Why didn't anyone tell me this wouldn't be cool? Exhausted, depleted, sobbing and defeated, hardly fed, intrusive thoughts enter your head. What if I harm her, what if she's dead? If only I could get some sleep in my bed.

So you phone a friend and tell her your troubles. I'm thinking of bottle feeding, your head in a bubble. Your baby will get allergies, eczema and certainly won't be smart. He'll never be called up by the NHL to start. "I loved breastfeeding, we are now so close," she says. You're just anxious. Relax. We shame women for breastfeeding at a mall, we shame women for not breastfeeding at all.

When breastfeeding doesn't go well,  a woman is at greater risk for Postpartum depression especially if she is a Type A personality.

Postpartum depression is depression that may start during pregnancy or at any time up to a year after the birth of a child and it may affect a mother or father, but is more common in women. Depression is a mental illness that affects a person’s mood.

Signs of depression are:

  • Feeling sad, worthless
  • Guilt
  • shame
  • Loss of interest in activities or her baby
  • Anxiety
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Poor concentration

A woman with PPD may believe she is not doing a good job.

New moms may also have scary thoughts about harming themselves or their baby although these thoughts are rarely acted upon. This is a serious situation and requires urgent medical care. If you believe that you or  a loved one is in danger, please call 911 or your local crisis line. Please understand that post partum depression is serious and no one is immune.

There may be something that is contributing to the shame associated with women who do not or cannot breastfeed. Many hospitals have initiated a "Baby Friendly Initiative" based upon the World Health Organization's efforts in 1991 to improve the role of maternity services to support mothers to breastfeed so as to provide what is considered the best start for babies.  The criteria for a hospital to be "baby friendly" includes breastfeeding policies, training of staff, education of pregnant women, breastfeeding demonstrations and support, rooming in and encouraging on demand breastfeeding.

The Baby Friendly Initiative restricts the use of free formula by the hospital. Many Baby

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Friendly hospitals go so far as to hide formula from sight which isn't fair and may be sending the wrong message to all moms (that regardless of circumstances formula is poison) but especially to those who cannot breastfeed for one reason or another. Hiding anything is associated with shame including baby formula.

The baby friendly initiative may not be so friendly to new moms and it may be time for a review. Maybe it should be a Baby and Mother Friendly Initiative. There are many reasons a woman may need to feed her baby formula. She may choose to, her baby may be ill, she may have a medical condition and/or her baby may outright refuse. Women should never be judged for their decision on how to feed their baby by anyone. It's time we put the problem on the table and the formula in plain sight.

Breast may be best but formula is fine!

Maureen McGrath hosts the Sunday Night Sex Show on Newstalk 980 CKNW. A sought after speaker and TED speaker, she is an RN in women's health and was Head Nurse of the Maternal/Child Program at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver British Columbia.  She is in clinical practice in North Vancouver, British Columbia.  Her website is backtothebedroom.ca. Follow her on twitter: @back2thebedroom

Maureen is Keynote speaker at The Birth Fair on February 25 & 26, 2017 at the Cloverdale Agriplex in Surrey, British Columbia.

 

3 thoughts on “Breast May Be Best But Formula Is Fine!

  • February 23, 2017 at 4:15 AM
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    Hi! I also suffered from post partum depression so many times, every time I had a new baby. And since I had four kids, I had PPD four times in a row! But one of the best bet against PPD is my husband who doesn't only love me to the moon and back but also who understands what I am going through. He doesn't pressure me to breastfeed my babies every waking hour. We take turns feeding the baby at night. First hour, I breastfeed the baby. After two hours, he wakes up to feed the baby using a bottle that contains my milk. After two hours, my turn, and so on and so forth. He even supported me when I decided to work again even after only two weeks after giving birth. He understands that work keeps me sane and that it keeps my PPD at bay.

    Reply
  • March 18, 2017 at 4:45 AM
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    If you have sleep apnea, you need to know that you are not alone. Sleep apnea is fairly common and millions of people around the planet have it. If you have been wondering what a sleep apnea diagnosis means for your life, read on to learn what you need to know about it.

    You really need to do your best to lose weight if you have sleep apnea. Those who have sleep apnea typically have a neck circumference of 17 inches or more. This excess weight around the throat causes the airway to collapse more easily during sleep. Reducing your weight by even ten pounds can have a beneficial impact on your sleep apnea.

    Some people have problems using the CPAP machine to deal with their sleep apnea. The best advice is to stick with it. It is not a cure, but it does treat your sleep apnea. If you stop using it, you still have sleep apnea, so you need to keep using the machine regularly.

    Do not take sleeping pills if you suffer from sleep apnea. These pills are not recommended if you suffer from this condition because they relax the muscles of your throat. Skipping them can actually help you get a better night of sleep because your apnea symptoms are not aggravated.

    Sleep apnea can benefit from a good diet that results in your losing weight. Normally people are quite surprised to learn that unhealthy eating is a major source of their sleep apnea. It's been proven that poor diets can contribute to the severity of sleep apnea.

    If you think that you may have sleep apnea, set up a video of yourself as you sleep. Just be sure that the video recorder has sound capability. When you wake up, look at the video, and if it seems like something other than snoring is going on, it may be time to go to the doctor.

    Remember to keep your medical ID upon your person if you make use of a CPAP for your sleep apnea. If you are in need of medical attention, it is important that the people helping you realize you have sleep apnea and use CPAP therapy. With your ID you can inform medical personnel about your sleep apnea and your CPAP device.

    Avoid any type of drugs or alcohol if you are experiencing any type of sleep apnea. Drugs and alcohol will slow down your respiratory system, and that is known to be one of the causes of sleep apnea. If you are struggling with this issue, try to get some professional help to overcome these addictions.

    If simple changes in your lifestyle, such as regular sleep hours and losing weight, have not eliminated your sleep apnea episodes, it is time to consult with a sleep specialist. The specific causes of your sleep apnea can be evaluated, and an individual treatment plan can be designed for you.

    Make no mistake, sleep apnea is one of the most disruptive conditions a person can have, largely due to its ability to rob sufferers of the sound sleep they need to stay healthy. The best way to effectively deal with the condition is to understand it completely. Keep the information in this article handy in order to stay on top of this dangerous condition and reclaim peace of mind.

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