Success Circuit

An Interview On Breastfeeding Advocacy

As this is my first interview for Success Circuit  an online friend kindly agreed to be interviewed regarding her strong advocation of breastfeeding. I am aware that this subject area may not appeal to some readers but I promise a variety of interests. Debra is a Social Worker and mother of two children living in America.

As an advocate of breastfeeding, what would you like to tell people?

I nursed my oldest for 26 months and my youngest for a little more than 3 years.

I became a certified lactation consultant in 2009.

What does that involve? How do you feel about people who never breastfeed?

I understand people who never breastfeed. I had never planned on it. Was one of those women who never thought it was for me. My husband encouraged me to give it a try, and though it was extremely difficult for the first three months with my oldest, once I started I refused to give in, despite horrible advice and uneducated people.

In another way, I think there needs to be a tremendous culture switch so that not trying is the exception instead of the rule. I hate this country’s (USA) dependence on formula and that formula is the “norm.” So I do tend to be disappointed in most women who never try breastfeeding.  In many ways, I think if *I* can do it, or at least try it, nearly any woman can.

Most women get horrible advice though from pediatricians that are terribly educated if at all and from women who pass down old wivestales instead of truth. It’s sad. Breastfeeding used to be passed down from woman to woman. It was *the* way to feed babies. Now it’s an option, but it should be an option of last resort, not first resort.

What type of bad advise do women tend to get?

The biggest misconception is that it is supposed to hurt. The fact is, if everything is going well, it doesn’t hurt. The other misconception is that because it’s “natural” it either works or doesn’t work and if it’s not working in the first few days or weeks, women give up.

Is there anything that could encourage women to breast feed more?

Education will encourage women to breastfeed more.  Educating pediatricians would be the most important thing to do to increase breastfeeding rates because pediatricians are the number one influence in women quitting.

Do you have any suggesetions on how to do that?

My CLC class was 40 hours. Not much to add to required classes in any medical degree program.

For those that do not know, could you explain what CLC is and what is required

Here’s the place I went:

CLC certification means that a person has received training and competency verification in breastfeeding and human lactation support including assessing the latching and feeding process, providing corrective interventions,, counseling mothers, understanding and applying knowledge of milk production including in special circumstances and other commonly encountered situations. All of this give CLCs a strong foundation with which to help moms and babies.

So adding this to a medical program would allow medical staff to be able to better support mothers?

Absolutely. Most hospitals have Lactation Counsilor, though not all and not all are good at what they do. But few pediatricians are familiar with breastfeeding or have LCs on staff. Many pediatricians, especially older ones, favor formula, scare women into using formula, or give horrible breastfeeding advice that leads to not being able to provide enough milk for their babies. Which is almost always a woman’s biggest fear.

How long do you think women should try for before looking at alternatives?

I think it’s not about looking for alternatives, it’s about looking for solutions. I don’t think women should look for alternatives unless medically necessary. Formula should be treated as medication, not food.

There are a lot of brochures and leaflets about ‘Breast is Best’ and explaining the downfalls of formula milk. There are also many charities that advocate breast milk, so why do you think that women and medical staff still over use formula?


Why would they fear something that has been happening since the beginning of time?

Good question! Lack of knowledge of how breastfeeding really works, how it is supposed to work. They fear babies not gaining properly, formula is brought in as a “rescue” but anytime it is brought in it undermines the breastfeeding relationship.

Women fear not being able to feed their babies and don’t have the proper support. Breast is best, but formula’s ok too is the message they get. Medical staff fear liability. The fact is, the art of breastfeeding was lost when formula was touted as better in the 1950’s and is only slowly being regained.

The first few weeks as you know is the most vulnerable time in a mother’s life and formula companies exploit it by sending coupons and free formula, WIC offers free formula, and formula companies tell you you it’s ok if you don’t succeed.

And pediatricians raise fears instead of soothing them. Then, even when women are successful, they get society’s biases about how long they should continue. Formula is probably a good idea for women who cannot physically feed their babies themselves.It’s great to nurse a baby, but nursing a toddler is seen as “obscene” in many states still.

Formula is an absolute necessity in a minimal number of cases, yes. But the percentage of women who physically cannot feed their babies is about 5%. Most of women who “can’t” comes from poor advise. Women need to hear from other women that they can be successful, they can do it and here’s how.

I belonged to an amazing support group on livejournal, without which I would not have been successful for 3 months much less 5 years.

There are many online sites and mothering groups around for people to seek advise if required.

Yes there are, and I think those sites are saving breastfeeding. I’ve also heard that the UK is more supportive than the States.

At what age do you think women should stop breastfeeding?

My experience is US based remember. UK can be different. Women shouldn’t stop breastfeeding. Children stop breastfeeding. I firmly believe in child-lead weaning, which allows children to wean at their own rate.

Yes, I think the UK is a huge advocate for breastfeeding. Mothers are generally made to feel inadequat and guilty if they do not atleast try to breastfeed.

The recommendation is that babies should be breastfed for 2 years minimum and then for as long as mutually desired. Most children wean between 2-5 years old.

That seems at though it could be awkward depending on when they start education.

Again, that’s an issue with perception. Nursing toddlers do not nurse like babies. Most nurse once or twice a day, morning and night, maybe when they are reunited with Mom, as children start to wean they can go days in between nursing. It is a gradual process. My youngest nursed his first few months of preschool still.

For those that may have issues with the latching process, would you advocate expressing milk?

Sometimes. It depends what the reason for the latch difficulties are. First the latch needs to be looked at and determined why there is an issue. If the latch is something not fixable, then you have to look at how that expressed milk is going to be given to baby. There are ways to continue to work on latch while expressing. Bottles are a last resort. Expressing milk is an option, but a second option to nursing, and is a much harder way to go long-term.

Thanks Debs, is there anything else you wish to add?

Well, I guess I would say to women who want to breastfeed…don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Become educated, learn how it works, and find supports before you start. Breastfeeding is perfectly natural but not naturally perfect, it’s like riding a bike. It’s a skill learned by both Mom and baby, it’s not always that just happens the first time straight from birth. It SHOULDN’T HURT and if it does than seek help from someone who doesn’t think that formula is an answer. Find a pediatrician who supports breastfeeding and has staff to support breastfeeding Moms and babies. And find other mothers who have been successful and will be supportive. Build a support network before you have the baby and keep it around you whenever you need it, whether it’s in real life or online. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Breastfeeding is the best gift you can give to yourself and to your children. It has so many health and developmental benefits for children AND moms. If it’s not working, seek help, don’t accept that there are no answers, and don’t let doctors, mothers or society do anything you feel is not best for you and your baby.My children are better off for having been breastfed and having nursed as long as they did. My oldest had allergies to dairy and eggs and would have been so much worse off if I had given up.

Thank you Debs for allowing me to discuss this topic with you.

Well there you have it, please feel free to leave questions and/or comments.

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