By Dawn Kersula
Here in Vermont and New Hampshire, most babies begin their lives breastfeeding. According to the latest available data, 86 percent of Vermont babies began their lives breastfeeding, and at six months 58 percent were still breastfed. In New Hampshire, the numbers were 78 percent and 50 percent.
Several months ago, Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s Birthing Center participated in a Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care survey (mPINC) conducted by the Centers for Disease Control Nutrition Branch. The composite score of 88 (out of 100) ranked well above the state average of 76 and the national average of 70, a result due largely to the emphasis we place on breastfeeding for purposes of both infant nutrition and mother-child bonding.
But breastfeeding doesn’t work for every mother. I’ve written about this before in the Baby Steps blog on bmhvt.org, but some members of the Birthing Center staff wanted to share their own experiences and feelings on the subject in hopes of helping other new moms out there who have questions or concerns about what it means to breastfeed or give a baby formula from a bottle. Here are their stories in their own words.
TAMMY GENO, RN/LCCE: How do I begin to write on a subject that goes deep into the hearts of every mother that was, is and is to be? For me, like many women, there were several factors that went into my decision to ultimately bottle feed my children.
In today’s society there is an overwhelming amount of responsibility that parents are dealing with. This includes juggling schedules, finances, careers, housing and the list goes on and on and on! The choices we make as parents begin with how well we balance our lives. In my many years working in the Birthing Center at BMH I have had the good fortune of working with many families from many walks of life. From what I’ve observed, pure love and joy of a newborn knows no economic or social boundaries. I’ve also observed that whether a mother chooses to breastfeed or bottle feed does not change the deep love that a mother feels for her newborn.
The recent National Breastfeeding Campaign and Accreditation efforts are bringing this “skin deep” subject to the already scarred surface for those women who have or will be bottle feeding their precious little ones. It is the desire of every nurse, doctor, midwife and pediatrician in the Birthing Center to let our mothers know that what is most important is your ability to bond with and nurture your newborn. However you choose to feed your baby is your choice and is respected and supported. Breastfeeding is not for every woman and we understand the journey you take to make this decision.
DEBBIE PARTRICK, RNC: When I first became pregnant I was very young and naïve. The thought of breastfeeding was more than I could wrap my thoughts around. My mother had breastfed all of us and she talked to me about breastfeeding but I wasn’t ready. My doctor strongly pushed me to breastfeed and being a stubborn teenager I held my ground.
I had two other children and didn’t breastfeed them either. I don’t feel they suffered any ill effects from not breastfeeding and I don’t think I could have possibly loved or bonded with them any more than I did. You are not less of a mother because you choose to bottle feed! Bottle feeding worked best for me and I have never regretted my decision.
We all hear how breastfeeding is better for your baby for many reasons. While those reasons are important they are not the answer for everyone. The thing to remember is that you are giving your baby enough to eat for them to grow and be happy. If you do that with formula they are still getting the nutrients and supplements they need to accomplish both of those goals.
We all have choices we make on a daily basis but we don’t all make the same choices. That’s what makes us unique. Whether you bottle feed or breastfeed is totally your choice. At the Birthing Center we will respect your decision and help you to have the best experience possible!
I encourage all new parents (dads too!) with questions about breastfeeding and bottle feeding to join us at a New Moms Network meeting. These free information sessions for new parents are held every Wednesday morning from 9:30 to 11:00 AM in the BMH Exercise Room on the lower level of the main hospital. No matter what decision you make, there is a community here that supports you and your child.
Dawn Kersula, RN, IBCLC, is a perinatal specialist and lead lactation consultant at BMH. She is also president of the Vermont Lactation Association. She can be reached at 802-257-8226.