Archive for the ‘Breastfeeding’ Category

Breastfeeding Expenses are Tax Write-Offs!

Please pardon a brief  interruption to my “professionalism for doulas” series. I like to repost this every year as a reminder to ladies to make sure that you count your breastfeeding expenses when you do your taxes. That means pumps, storage bags, nursing bras, nursing pads, etc. Don’t forget!!! Click here to read more:

Breastfeeding Expenses are Tax Write-Offs!.

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Guest Post: Life as an Exclusively Pumping Mom

Today’s blog post comes from Rachel at The Purposeful Wife. Rachel blogs on purposeful Christian womanhood, homemaking, marriage, and parenthood to a beautiful baby girl. Enjoy!

Maybe some women choose exclusive pumping as a means of feeding their baby.

For the most part, however, it seems that exclusive pumping is a fall back plan.

At least it was in my case.

My first choice has always been breastfeeding. I knew that it was good for both baby and me. My mom did it, my friends did it, why wouldn’t I do it?

Because my daughter came at only 27 weeks gestation, weighing just under two pounds. Oral feeds were not an option, and wouldn’t be for weeks. Breast milk was no longer an issue of preference, but of life and death.

The breast pump became my new best friend. I pumped- boy, did I pump! Round the clock, every two hours during the day, taking only a five hour break to sleep at night. I fretted and I prayed and I pumped, rejoicing as 2 ml a pump turned into 2 oz. a pump, then 4 oz.

Precious Colostrum, Warming in Baby’s Isolette

It was not the introduction to breastfeeding that I had dreamed about or planned, but I was thankful for this means of providing good food for my baby.

My daughter became stable, and once again my goal turned to breastfeeding. We began daily kangaroo care as soon as the doctors gave the go ahead. I held her against my chest for hours every day, turning her mouth towards my breast.

Unfortunately not much breastfeeding occurred. Lots of other good things were happening- my baby was growing, she loved kangaroo care, she was alert and thriving. Direct breastfeeding just wasn’t one of them.

After six weeks in the NICU, the doctors said she was ready to begin oral feeding. I continued to attempt breastfeeding during our kangaroo times. Sometimes she would suck and doze off, but mostly the nipple shield I needed to wear was just too big and awkward for her tiny mouth.

The doctors explained to me that although I was welcome to try exclusive breastfeeding, bottle feeding was the fast track to getting my baby home.

After seven weeks, I was tired. Tired of running around on empty. Tired of living in a hospital room. Tired of leaving my baby every night. Emotionally, physically, and mentally, tired.

So we gave her the bottle. I still worked with lactation consultants and attempted breast feeding, but almost all of her nutrition was breast milk via bottle. After a two month NICU stay, our baby came home. Life was bliss!

Our Little Girl, Bottle Feeding in the NICU

For about a month I continued my breastfeeding attempts. Because of my extensive pump use, even with a proper latch it was often painful. I would set her up to eat, a few minutes later she would doze off, and I would still have to feed her a bottle and pump. After weeks of this exhausting routine and zero progress, I quit.

I continued to pump and give her all the breast milk I could. Two weeks after her first birthday, I performed my last pump. Today my little girl drinks formula.

Pumping was draining. I felt literally chained to my pump- I couldn’t leave my house for longer than three hours. It was the first thing I did every morning, and the last thing I did every night. I spent on average six hours a day pumping and washing bottles and pump parts (35 hours a week- almost a full-time job!). My boobs hurt and I was spent.

When I told women about my plight, oftentimes they remarked on the probability of improper latch, lack of know-how, or lack of trying. This was indescribably frustrating- did they realize how many hours I’d spent attempting to breastfeed? That I’d worked with three different lactation consultants on numerous occasions? That I’d read the same books they had? That my situation had been extremely trying and unorthodox?

If you’ve found yourself in the same position, please know that you are not alone. The more I’ve met mothers of preemies, the more I realize there are many exclusive pumpers out there. We’ve been there, done that. We know the pain, the exhaustion, the frustration, the “if onlys…”. You are not alone.

If you were blessed with the ability to breastfeed your baby, that is wonderful! I sincerely hope to have this experience some day. Thank God, and be happy. When you run into a woman stuck in the boat of exclusive pumping, please be gracious and understanding. Assume that she gave it her best shot, commend her for her intense commitment to giving her best to her baby, and let her know that she is not alone.

Exclusive pumping is grueling. It is a serious commitment. It requires discipline, a lot of self-denial, and being spent for the welfare of your child. It is not the easy road, and it is very rarely a choice.

Our Healthy Peanut, One Year Later

The exclusively pumping mother needs all of the encouragement and support that can be given. Here’s to you, pumping mom!

My Personal View on Extended Breastfeeding

Welcome to Part 4, the last segment of my Time Magazine blog series. Thanks for following along! If you’ve missed any posts, you can go back to read my response to Time’s cover, article, and to attachment parenting. Today I’ll be talking about my view on extended breastfeeding.

For sake of definition, “extended breastfeeding” generally refers to nursing a baby past 12 months, though some may reserve the term for those who nurse well into toddler-hood and beyond.

Why this post? First, Time Magazine’s cover of a mom breastfeeding her 3-year old son roused a lot of attention nation-wide, and I want to contribute to the discussion. Second, I’ve found myself defending extended breastfeeding among friends who thought it was gross or weird, when I never thought I’d be one of “those moms!” This post is helpful for my own sake in clarifying how I got to this point- because I never used to think extended breastfeeding was cool. My mind was changed little by little, over time and exposure to research.

Growing up, I always thought it was bizarre to hear about a woman nursing her toddler (and particularly boorish if the child was school-aged!). I guess this view grew from assumptions of those around me, because I never heard it from my parents. Regardless, when I was pregnant, I planned to breastfeed- I myself was breastfed (though I self-weaned before a year), and it only seemed natural to me. My initial goal was to make it at least 6 months, but I knew I’d be happier if I could make it to a year.

When I had my son, our breastfeeding relationship got off to a great start, not by any merit of my own. Any struggles I had with nursing were minimal. I loved nursing him, but I still thought extended breastfeeding was a little weird, though less so than before-mostly due to my care providers’ influence.

Months went by. I was reading several books for my doula certification (such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, The Baby Book, The Complete Book of Breastfeeding) and they discussed weaning in terms such as “normal,” “timely,” and “child-led.” Then they proceeded to talk about nursing babies not just in terms of weeks or months… but in years! Either all of these books were written by quacks, or there was something to this long-term nursing thing.

Since then, I’ve looked into “extended” breastfeeding more. And here’s just a taste of the supporting information I’ve found for it:

  • The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months, and then continued breastfeeding along with “nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods”  for up to two years or beyond.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding  for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.” (Check out the whole article entitled Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk in the publication Pediatrics. This is a superb read if you are looking for more evidence-based information about breastfeeding as the “normative standard” for infant feeding and nutrition.)
  • UNICEF states that, “It is well recognized that the period from birth to two years of age is the “critical window” for the promotion of good growth, health, and behavioral and cognitive development. Therefore, optimal infant and young child feeding is crucial during this period.” What do they define as optimal feeding? You guessed it- “Optimal infant and young child feeding means that mothers are empowered to initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and continue to breastfeed for two years or more, together with nutritionally adequate, safe, age appropriate, responsive complementary feeding starting at six months.”
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians states that it is estimated that a normal weaning age for humans is between two and seven years, despite the fact that this is not the cultural norm in the US. The academy also states that, “The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer.” What a bonus!
  • One informative post by Stephanie Hanes quoted these amazing breastfeeding statistics: “In the southern African country of Malawi – one of Save The Children’s top ranked developing countries for moms – 77 percent of children are still breastfed at age two. That number is even higher in Bangladesh, where 90 percent of children still nurse, and in Nepal, where the number is 93 percent. Moms in India nurse 77 percent of their two-year-olds, and mothers in Rwanda are still breastfeeding 84 percent of theirs.” Wow!
  • Save The Children states that “Optimal feeding from birth to age two [which includes breastfeeding] can prevent an estimated 19 percent of all under-five deaths, more than any other intervention.” The Center for Sustainable Development echoes similar statistics.
  • Did you know that the US currently ranks last among 36 industrialized nations for breastfeeding support?  Perhaps this is part of why we have such a hard time wrapping our minds around nursing a baby for a year, much less beyond that.
  • Breast milk is not just about food. It’s true that toddlers may not need it to survive in our developed nation, but its immunity properties continue for as long as it is consumed. Contrary to popular misconception, it does not lose its value at any point. In fact, the immune protection in the milk actually increases as suckling frequency decreases.
  • Many point out that breastfeeding’s comfort qualities are also not to be brushed off easily. Jaime Lynne Grumet, herself nursed until she was six, remembered breastfeeding this way: “It’s really warm. It’s like embracing your mother, like a hug. You feel comforted, nurtured and really, really loved.” La Leche League often stresses that breastfeeding is one of our simplest, most accessible, and most effective parenting tools. Why be so swift to do away with it?

(All emphases mine.)

Wow. Suddenly all my sentiments of grossness are fading. It seems that major health organizations, as well as organizations promoting and providing for optimal well-being of children around the world are all in agreement: breastfeeding should continue for 12 months at the very least, and most recommend at least 2 years. The health benefits are absolutely phenomenal, not to mention various other benefits (just click on a few of the above links to find out more!).

This is not to guilt formula feeding mothers, or to pressure women who don’t feel that they can continue that long, or to scold mothers whose children weaned before a year. Rather, it is to inform those who find “extended” breastfeeding strange- or worse, “wrong” or “abusive.” Believe me, I used to be in the same boat as you! I’m not saying that you have to do it yourself. But please, consider international context and broader health recommendations when forming opinions about breastfeeding longer than our country’s average.

As for me personally? I weaned my son from daytime nursing when he was 13-15 months. He is currently 19.5 months and nursing once or twice in the early morning. This works well for our family, and I know he’s still getting the health benefits of my milk. Plus, it’s nice to still share that close snugly time with him once a day.

A bit of anecdotal evidence for the health benefits of extended nursing: whenever my son’s playmates are sick, he either never catches the bug, or if he does he has a very mild and short case of it compared to his non-nursing friends. My son has only been markedly sick a total of four times in his life, only one of which was anything to write home about. Obviously, I cannot guarantee that every nursing toddler would have the same results.

None of this is meant to boost myself as “more of a mom” than anyone who weaned earlier- remember, I employed “mommy lead” daytime weaning at 13 months because I was just feeling ready to be done with it at that point (though I felt comfortable continuing with one or two night/morning feedings). If that’s where you are- tired of handing your breasts over all day- there is no judgment here.

While I would not try to talk anyone into nursing longer than they were comfortable doing so, I do want to share my experience in hopes to encourage those who are considering nursing longer, despite cultural pressures to the contrary. I also hope that some of the links and information above will help you find what is best for your child and your family in your own nursing  journey.

How long will I continue nursing my son? I’ll be honest- I think I would be (mostly) okay with it if he weaned now. But, knowing what advantages breastfeeding has, I’m happy to continue nursing him til age two. I think at that point I’d probably work on actively (and lovingly) weaning him. But, then again, that’s what I said about the 18 month mark too. And here I am, still nursing. And, as my midwife’s assistant once said, motherhood is full of surprises and changed minds, and sometimes you find yourself doing something you originally never thought you’d do.

What do you think, ladies? How long did you nurse your kids, and why? Please share!

Photo Credit

Reminder: Breastfeeding Expenses are Tax Write-Offs!

Just a quick interruption to my belly series to give a reminder to write off your breastfeeding expenses on your 2011 taxes! I blogged about this last year, but I thought I should repost it before it was past tax time. Click here to read last year’s blog: Breastfeeding Expenses are Tax Write-Offs!

Multitasking While Nursing

I like to try to get things done while nursing. Here are some of my favorite nursing activities:

  • Eat. When you’re shaky from needing food, don’t feel like you have to wait until your baby is done. Grab a plate before you start, set up your baby, then eat one-handedly!
  • Read. How glorious to sit with a book while snuggling in with my little guy!
  • Blog/check email/loiter on facebook/etc. Yes, I am nursing while I type. Even as we speak.You’d be surprised how good you can get at typing one-handedly.
  • Snooze. This might be controversial, but I sometimes take cat naps when nursing my baby while laying down.
  • Pump. While the milk is flowing already, I sometimes try to take advantage by pumping or self-expressing milk on the side from which my baby is not eating.

If you have a woven wrap, you can also do hands-free nursing holds, as shown here:

 This can be great if your little one is a slow eater. Finally, my very favorite activity while nursing is to…

  • Admire  my son! There’s nothing better that soaking up every bit of that tiny little face as you nurse. Make sure you take time to do this each day. Don’t rush those beautiful hours with your child.

What are some things that you have tried while nursing? What’s the craziest thing multitasking you’ve done? Looking forward to hearing what other moms have done!

Breastfeeding Expenses are Tax Write-Offs!

“A Harvard Medical School study published last spring in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90 percent of American women breastfed, 900 premature infant deaths would be prevented and patients and hospitals would see savings of $13 billion in lost wages and saved health care costs – so you might assume that doing so would be a tax write-off…

“Last week, the Internal Revenue Service finally agreed to allow 2010 taxes to reflect the costs of pumps and milk bags, as all the myriad ways in which to maintain breastfeeding while working or on the road can make “free” suddenly cost quite a bit of cash.” says Sarah Wildman in her article IRS Says Breastfeeding Expenses Are Tax-Write-Offs. Finally.

Too bad I didn’t realize this when I did my taxes!

I might be behind the times on this realization, but I am so happy to hear that the IRS is recognizing the many expenses that breastfeeding women encounter as tax write-offs. Even though breastfeeding mothers don’t have the recurring expense of formula, there are still plenty of items to purchase. Wildman reflects some of the following examples: a manual or electric pump (ranging anywhere from between about $30 and $360, depending on brand, capabilities, and features), extra parts for the pump (if you’re a working mom, you can’t have something break or go missing when you’re in the middle of your work day!) breast milk storage bags, and cooler packs for traveling- not to mention the nipple creams, breast pads to prevent leaking, as well as the expense of seeing a lactation consultant for much-needed guidance.

While I don’t believe that women would choose breastfeeding solely for monetary reasons, I do hope that this decision helps to encourage women to breastfeed. Working moms might find some relief in knowing that their investment in a good electric pump and all the supplies that go with it will be counted as a write-off at the end of the year.

I also hope that this decision helps raise some awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding. Unfortunately, I still know of many women who are told by their mothers to switch to formula because it’s easier and better for the baby. Misinformation abounds on this topic, and I think it is imperative that women are fully informed of the advantages of breastmilk over formula. The IRS made the decision to count breastfeeding expenses as write-offs because of its health benefits! Hopefully this will be good publicity for the benefits of breastfeeding!

All that to say, if you haven’t done your taxes yet and you’re a breastfeeding mama, make sure to count in your expenses!

Resources for Breastfeeding Information and Support

My last post was about the bad breastfeeding advice women so often receive from health care providers, including lactation consultants that work with new mothers in the hospital regularly. The comments I received made me realize that there is, unfortunately, a lack of understanding of the basics of breastfeeding in many moms, and a wide lack of proper support for these new mothers. Without gaining knowledge themselves, or receiving help from those who do have it, it is very difficult for moms to have successful breastfeeding experiences.

Thanks to Stork Stories Blog , Melissa from Luna Lactation, and Jo Martin at I Want to Breastfeed, I’ve been put on to a plethora of resources for breastfeeding mothers. I want to share some of these resources in order to help mothers who want to breastfeed their babies but may not have the proper support to do so successfully. It’s not much, but any little step to spread accurate information and help find local support is a step in the right direction for moms who want to breastfeed.

The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners has released a video that addresses some of the problems we have discussed. We need qualified  lactation consulants, spread of evidence-based information to mothers who wish to breastfeed, and proper support for mothers to work through breastfeeding challenges and continue breastfeeding for longer periods of time. This is a great short video on these topics.

Best for Babes is a great sight for promoting breastfeeding and finding resources to do so succesfully. It also helps moms avoid the “booby traps” of breastfeeding!

KellyMom is a great site that’s full of articles that address commonly asked questions about breastfeeding, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding/tandem nursing, what is and isn’t safe when breastfeeding, and herbs when breastfeeding. It also has tons of parenting articles covering a variety of topics and forums to discuss breastfeeding and parenting issues with other moms.

Dr. Jack Newman’s website offers lots of breastfeeding help, including informative and clear breastfeeding videos. Videos really helped me out in those early days (and nights) of figuring out how to get my son to latch and nurse effectively.

Finally, we certainly can’t forget La Leche League International as a great place to find local support and tons of  breastfeeding resources for mothers and providers, including publications, links, breastfeeding education, and answers to various nursing questions (including breastfeeding and the law).

This is just a small start, but I hope to keep adding breastfeeding websites to my resource page as I go. It’s a tiny step to improving the information mothers get on breastfeeding. Please feel free to add other resources that you know of in the comment section.