By: Mary Targia Almonte
Since the announcement of the Latch On NYC initiative by Mayor Bloomberg’s administration, I’ve been fuming over this topic. Actually, rewinding a little further, my “Spidey Senses” first started tingling when the controversial Time Magazine (that no one could stop talking about) hit the stands. With this being National Breastfeeding Month, I figured it’s about time I give a YUM’s perspective on the matter.
My son is 18 months old… and still nursing. Pause for reaction.
Actually, no pause necessary.
I’ve heard several of your gasps of horror and felt your disapproving glances through the computer screen before I could get the word “nursing” out. I’m used to it. These are the same shrieks and stink eyes that I get from 99% of my family, friends, and even strangers, usually followed with the question of the year: “When are you going to stop that?!”
However, before passing judgement, please take into consideration that it’s a bittersweet situation for me.
Other nursing moms out there would agree, nursing can be pretty taxing on the mama and can often feel like an extension of the pregnancy, with pressure to meet the required increased caloric intake, deprivation of alcoholic beverages, soreness and/or engorgement of your boobs and, oh, and can’t forget leaking being just a few of the daily annoyances that come with the commitment.
I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t love to have a day to myself without having to pump, or an evening where I can go out, drink myself into oblivion, and be able to do so without having leaked breast milk all over the front of my little black dress – but such are the sacrifices we make in the name of motherhood.
In my case, I am fortunate that my son had no problem taking a bottle and subsequently a cup of cow’s milk in alignment with the developmental time lines posted in doctors’ offices across the country. However, when he feels sleepy or distressed, he looks for ye ol’ boobie or “teta”, as he so affectionately refers to it. (Side note: this also happens to be an endearing term for the boob en Español – so “Yay!” for bilingual babies). When I see the comfort and security that nursing provides him as he drifts off to sleep, I feel as though the bond fostered through this act is a natural part of my motherly instincts, organic even, and I can’t yank the rug from beneath him just yet.
Breast Is Best, But Not Easy
I, personally, feel that “breast is best.” However, I don’t think less of anyone who has a difference in opinion. For the record, I was formula fed and lived to tell the tale (obviously). Several of my other YUM colleagues chose to go the formula route, and that’s ok as well.
The reasons vary, but I think the bottom line is this: breastfeeding is NOT easy.
Particularly in those first few days after giving birth, when your body has already gone through hell and back producing and delivering another human being. Your emotions are going haywire thanks to those lovely hormones, which got us into this mess (or created this miracle, depending on how you look at it) in the first place. The fresh trauma of the situation certainly doesn’t make for ideal circumstances to deal with the toe-curling pain of your little darling’s first suction on the teat. If one makes it past the pain, they often are confronted with the worry that their baby is going to starve, as it takes a few days for actual milk production to kick in and the colostrum that is initially released never seems like it will be enough. Making it past this point requires great determination, and is often reliant upon and reinforced by SUPPORT.
While Mayor Bloomberg is planning on hiding formula in hospitals and making new mothers feel defeated by having to ask for it as a last resort, I sure hope that he is reallocating those resources to ensuring that there is trained support staff (i.e. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) on hand at all times to educate and instruct these women from the moment they give birth until they’re discharged.
Also, how about supplanting some actual books,videos nursing bras and pads, and simple manual breast pumps in the standard hospital bags that departing mothers receive in place of the formerly included formula? In this hyper-digital age, there certainly should be a government funded YouTube/ Facebook page/website with in-depth visual instruction and FAQs, along with interactive assistance and forums, Mr. Mayor.
I’m all for encouraging breastfeeding. However, simply concealing formula can hardly be considered encouragement. In this scenario, the expression “out of sight, out of mind” will not apply.
The phrase “whatever works” takes on new meaning in the life of a mother. This is absolutely applicable to breastfeeding – with so many different lifestyles, family dynamics, physical capabilities, and career demands, what works for one of us could not possibly work for all. Nonetheless, if we keep sight of the goal – raising physically and emotionally healthy children while doing what is best for our families – and ENCOURAGE our fellow mothers to do the same, we can’t go wrong.
When co-founder, Mary Targia Almonte, isn’t taking the digital world of Fortune 500 Companies by storm, she’s probably running after her toddler son or tween daughter instead. Almonte recently married her long-time boyfriend, Edward, and celebrated a beautiful wedding with friends and family in their hometown, Staten Island. This boobie article isn’t all Mary’s talking about these days, you could e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @maryTheYUMama.