Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trip to the Creative Discovery Museum

I decided it was time for a daytrip somewhere, so we headed to Chattanooga on Tuesday! While routine and repetition are good things for little kids, Cecilia has been in a rut lately, and when we go somewhere, she is in a much more pleasant demeanor! So we had a fun day at the children's museum.

The girls started off playing in the doctor's office area:

Caroline comes at me with an Ace bandage!

The traveling exhibit upstairs was about good nutrition. Cecilia loved this fish she found in a play kitchen area:

Cecilia met some new friends, live frogs in a tank, which she watched for several minutes. "Heyyyyyy, froggie froggie froggie!" she said in a high-pitched voice:

Caroline uses a pulley to lift some play food into a tree house:

Cecilia practiced her climbing skills a lot. She is strong and up to the challenge!

Outside, on the rooftop area... Caroline could pull herself up in the pulley chair, but Cecilia just enjoyed swinging in it.

In the four-and-under area...

And the best part, the water play area! There is also a climbing structure up above the water.

We usually stay at the museum until about one o'clock and then go get lunch, but today we got there a bit later than normal - 10:45 - and it was the first time I had to pay for Cecilia's admission, so I wanted it to be worth the money. So we stayed until almost 2:00 and then went to Greenlife, a natural supermarket, for lunch. We often go to Mellow Mushroom when we've gone here in the past with friends, but we'd had pizza the night before, and we had nobody to share a big Mellow Mushroom pizza with!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Well, they are a wee bit Irish...

...6.25%, to be exact.

While Caroline and Cecilia were playing earlier today, Caroline was running around singing, "La la la, it's Happy Hour!"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Random Bits, Photo Essay Style

The girls helped me to plant their marigold plants in the Mary Garden last week. They were looking nice and strong, so I thought they'd be okay when we transplanted them. Caroline promptly stepped on hers as she freaked out about the chickens getting in the Mary Garden and chased them out... they look like they might still make it. We still have a bunch of Marigold seeds too, so I think I'll just plant those straight into the garden and see how they do.

Cecilia enjoys one of her favorite books...

...while Caroline works on her Year of the Priest lapbook. I won this download, and we have slowly been putting together the pieces. Content-wise, much of it is over Caroline's level, but we are concentrating on the cutting and gluing as fine motor work, and it will be nice to complete it during the Year of the Priest and then have it for future reference in a few years when she is reading.

Caroline had her baptism anniversary on Saturday... we had an evening event to attend and waited until Sunday to celebrate. Here's here baptismal candle next to the white dessert I made - a strawberry coconut trifle with whipped cream on top - yum! We still have some in the fridge... it made a huge amount!

She likes it!! Cecilia doesn't seem to care for it now... she just liked it the first night, when it was fresh!

Pope Benedict's birthday was on Friday, and we also had bratwurst (cooked German-style, boiled in beer and then browned in butter instead of cooked on the grill!) and German beer on Sunday as a late celebration. Any reason to eat bratwurst is a good reason to me! ;)

The girls were not feeling well on Monday... Caroline with allergies, and Cecilia with a fever and mild cold symptoms (so maybe Caroline's is a cold too and not allergies? so tough to tell...). We had some warm tea with honey to help soothe their throats, and Caroline suggested having areal tea party, meaning we drink the tea out of her toy tea set cups. So, we had tea and trifle.

It was wild berry Celestial Seasonings tea. We even poured it out of the little teapot that goes with the tea set!

A chicken update: They are laying lots of eggs once again. We are usually getting four or five a day again. Here's Eat, aka 'Lorpie, engaging in one of her favorite hobbies: dust-bathing.

Here's Chicken, doing the same. The way we can tell which one is Chicken is very visible in this picture: the extreme curves in her comb. Caroline sometimes calls her "wobbly-comb." It does wobble all over the place as she struts around!

Here's the one who doesn't like us: Molly. She is very difficult to catch, unlike her sister, who is picked on and very submissive to both us and the other chickens. And she is becoming anti-social with the other hens and will wander away from the rest of the flock often, even though they don't pick on her much at all lately.

We're considering getting a patio put here by the sunroom... the hens will certainly miss their dust-bathing area!

Caroline holding 'Lorpie

Cecilia likes to pet the hens but doesn't want to hold them often... when she does, she sets them down after about two seconds! She seems to like the Australorp best of all the hens, for some reason... she continues to be a pretty dumb bird. She never makes it into the coop in time to get a spot on the roost when it gets dark. The other night, I helped Chris move the chicken tractor across the yard, and she was trying to sleep on the platform next to the nesting box, because the other hens were blocking her way to the ends of the roost. Chris finally managed to drag her out and set her on the roost, where she stayed while all the others got down and went out into the yard, assuming it must be daytime now, ha ha. At least 'Lorpie stayed on the roost until we turned off the flood lights, so I guess the others filled in around her once it was dark again!

Caroline holding Sally... she is easy for Caroline to catch, but not for me!

Enjoying the swingset

Cecilia fell and skinned her knee, and every time she looked at it she would get upset. I put a butterfly bandage on it, and so I drew a butterfly on it for her. I did this for Caroline the last time she got a butterfly bandage, too - it is a big hit! And such a simple thing to do (and cheaper than buying band-aids with characters on them!).

Does anyone else's kitchen look like this every night?

And these are just the dinner dishes! The breakfast and lunch dishes had already been done! It seems like I use every inch of my counter space when preparing dinner... and I didn't think this meal was an especially complicated one, either! I enjoy cooking, but I wonder if it is normal to have to take up to 45 minutes to clean the kitchen each evening... Last night, I made spaghetti (with previously-made sauce that had been frozen, even), and bread made the day before... and the counters hardly had any dishes on them! I didn't quite know what to think!

I don't have a photo of it, but yesterday Cecilia saw a rolie-polie (sp?) bug on the driveway... she kept calling it a "walk-a-polie," ha ha! It sounds kind of like how she says guacamole: walk-a-molie.

Cecilia has had major mood swings lately... she gets upset extremely easily and is hard to comfort. It typically happens several times a day, and often it is from something Caroline did, but it can also be from a minor setback or injury, and then it just escalates. She is also having trouble napping. I would say it is because she was/is sick, but she has been acting like this for weeks and weeks (although the nap trouble started just recently, but she's having a hard time settling to sleep in the evenings for weeks now). It is almost as tiring some days as it was taking care of an infant! So, please say a prayer for us if you have a chance! I am convinced often that moms with children - especially those with more than one - need support in their homes rather than being isolated. Too bad we don't have the tight-knit communities of the past. I'd love to send my kids out to play with the other children of the village in a common play area while gardening and cooking and sewing with the other moms! :)

I have been spending some time really thinking about our homeschooling "curriculum" for K, and I am getting excited about it! It looks like lots of fun, and I am going to need to start ordering a few supplies... I need to decide exactly what we are planning to do and then map it all out roughly. Still thinking about what to do specifically for math... something basic, hands-on...

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Assorted Parenting Stuff

So, did anyone hear the story about the woman in Old Country Buffet restaurant in MN being asked to stop nursing her six month old baby there? Crazy that this is still happening. The state of MN even has a breastfeeding protection law, stating that mothers can nurse in both private and public places, and that it should never be considered "indecent exposure." Apparently the police don't know the laws in their own state, because they were called and agreed with the restaurant staff. They also claim that the baby's father become loud and aggressive or something... unclear whether or not that is true, but had the restaurant staff not been confrontational in threatening this family that they'd have to leave if they didn't stop nursing, then there would not have been an issue to begin with.

If other patrons are complaining about a mother breastfeeding at another table in the restaurant, then management needs to know how to deal with this. They need to offer to move the offended party to a different seat and say that the mother and baby are within their legal rights. Mentioning that it is a family-friendly restaurant and that babies are part of many families could be helpful, and that babies who aren't fed when hungry end up much more disruptive to the dining atmosphere!

I know why this keeps happening across the US: ignorance. people who have never breastfed, or at least not for long, just have no idea what it entails and how it works. Every time one of these situations is made public, there are ignorant comments such as, "She should stay home until the baby can eat solid foods," "She should just pump and bring a bottle," and, "Just because the baby has a right to eat doesn't mean it trumps my rights." People apparently think they have the right to not have to be around things they see as offensive. If that were the case, we'd be kicking people out of stores and restaurants left and right: "Excuse me, your tight-fitting clothes over your overweight body offend me, so please put on larger clothes that fit you or leave." "You talking on your cell phone while I eat is offensive, so please take it to your car or leave." "Your tube top and short shorts are offensive to my eyes, so leave." Ha.

Some people think that restaurants have the right to kick out anyone they want, regardless of the law, because they are a private company and have the right to refuse to serve people who might be offending others in the restaurant. So, to people who think that, I want to know: are you saying that if patrons find the eating habits to be disgusting if a physically handicapped person cannot put his food into his mouth and chew it neatly and with typical "good manners," then they should be able to kick him out? Or ask him to cover himself or go eat in the bathroom because other patrons don't like seeing food falling out of his mouth and him chewing with his mouth open? You say moms should bring a bottle for use in public, so would you say this man's family should give him a feeding tube when they go out with him in public? Or they should just stay home until he can eat "normally?"

The breastfeeding laws often say that a mother can nurse her baby wherever she and her baby have a right to be. Old Country Buffet allows babies in their restaurants, so they are allowing breastfeeding there as well. I'm sure there are high-price restaurants out there that don't allow any children - and so they don't have to allow breastfeeding there either. People can eat there if they don't want to be around babies who might do normal baby things!

Speaking of all this, did you know there is a movement of people out there who hate children so much that they choose to be "child free" and actually have websites encouraging this, calling themselves "brat free." Do these people not realize that they were children once, and that the only way to continue the human race is to have more children? It is almost laughable, except that it is just evidence of the Culture of Death.

The latest news regarding the Culture of Death is just sick... a couple wanted one of their twins aborted because he appeared to have Down Syndrome. The doctor killed the other twin mistakenly. Then the parents went back to him so he could kill the "correct" twin. And then they sued him, of course. Sick, sick, sick! This article on does a good job of explaining why people feel like they have the right to do this... they think they can have complete control over reproduction.

And one last parenting topic I came across recently: Changing Minds about Infant Circumcision. It is a collection of comments from people about how they came to realize that it was wrong to choose to have their babies circumcised. Interesting range of comments, from nurses who had to assist in hospital circumcisions to parents who had their first son circumcised to people who didn't care one way or another until they watched a video of one being done...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Daycare Dilemma

After reading Jan Hunt's brief article The Day Care Dilemma, I have been thinking. It makes some good points. She says:
"Ideally there would be little need to use substitute care, nor would any mother feel a strong personal need or desire to do so."
She explores ideas for how to remedy this issue. Many people say that we need to have longer maternity leaves, easy access to and time for pumping in the workplace, on-site daycare centers... and while all this helps working mothers to be with their babies more than they might be otherwise, it doesn't get all the way to the root of the issue. It all still encourages mothers to work outside the home. Could it be that it may even make the choice to go back to work an easier one for a new mother to choose?

How do we get more mothers to make the choice to stay at home with their children, especially in those important first few years? I'm curious if anyone has ideas on this!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A New "Trend" in Breastfeeding

In the breastfeeding community, a certain article from Time has been making the rounds (online) recently: Mothers Who Opt for Breast Milk, not Breast-Feeding. It discusses how there is a growing trend in mothers who choose not to feed their babies at the breast and to instead pump their milk full-time (often called "exclusively pumping") to be given to their babies using bottles.

I have known mothers who had to pump full-time - not chose to - because of medical problems with their babies. The babies physically could not latch on to the breast, so thank goodness that the option of pumping all their milk was available and that the mothers were able to maintain a full supply by pumping (some mothers have difficulty maintaining a full supply using a pump alone). These babies were still able to receive the nutritional and immunological benefits of breastmilk overall, and this is of special importance to children who have medical problems.

I have also counselled several women who, for whatever reason, have ended up pumping exclusively and want to get the baby back to exclusively nursing at the breast. Unfortunately, these mothers who wanted to nurse their babies faced obstacles in the early weeks, such as hospital staff who insisted that the babies had to have bottles due to illnesses or prematurity (babies can develop a preference for the faster flow from a bottle nipple and should be fed expressed milk in other ways if the mother desires nursing once the baby is able to do it). Some of them had problems getting the baby to latch on (for a variety of different reasons) and pumped in order to maintain a supply and feed the expressed milk to the baby. Some had severely cracked and bleeding nipples and turned to the pump or were encouraged to do so by family and friends who wanted to help - yes, a quick fix, but understandable that relatives and friends would want to try to remedy the issue and fast. Husbands particularly can have a great desire to solve the problem as quick as they can because they so hate to see their wives and babies struggling. Some moms just had an emotional time getting started, and they were convinced by well-meaning people that they should "just pump," because then they wouldn't be "tied down" to the baby and could "get back to normal" faster (uh, life never goes "back to normal" after having that first baby! ;). There are so many reasons why moms who intended to nurse end up pumping exclusively... and then, when they want to get the baby back to the breast, the baby has forgotten how to nurse and sometimes even cries and rejects the breast, which makes an already hormonal new mother doubt herself. It is such a shame! That sounds kind of cliche, but it really is tragic to see. It is really unfortunate to see that it could have been prevented, and how much work it can take to get the baby back to the breast and to wean from the pump and bottles. Some of these mothers I have worked with are devastated that their baby won't nurse at the breast, but they are also very strong and courageous, as many of them present a positive attitude and continue to try offering the breast in a relaxed, no-pressure kind of way, so as not to get stressed out over it, yet hoping and praying that one day, the baby will nurse at the breast. Some of these mothers, when initially contacting me for help, seem almost apologetic and say things such as, "This might sound weird, but I just have this overwhelming desire to nurse my baby!" It only "sounds weird" because of the cultural views on breastfeeding. But it is not weird at all - that's a mother's biology crying out!

There are also some mothers who decide from the beginning not to nurse, not just because "it's weird" or "it's not for me" or "I just don't want to be the sole baby-feeder," but because of past sexual abuse. Some mothers have a really hard time coping with the idea of something intimate like that occurring due to the terrible things that happened to them in the past. I can't fathom how awful that would be, to have such bad feelings due to somebody violating them in that way. And for the ones who can still manage to pump even though nursing at the breast is too emotionally unsettling to them, then hooray for them! I can only hope and pray that these mothers are able to resolve the pain from the past and heal through therapy and whatever else it might take, and maybe even one day be able to nurse a future baby one day.

So, this apparent "trend" in mothers choosing to pump from the get-go, or after trying nursing for a week and then deciding "it's not for me" leaves me with many concerns. On the one hand, I am very glad that breast pumps have become so much better than they were in years past. If a mother or baby cannot nurse, then thank heavens for the pump, which can be quicker and more comfortable for many women than manual hand-expression. For mothers who chose to go the exclusive pumping route, thank heavens that their babies can still receive breastmilk. In years past, if a mother didn't want to nurse, then her baby had to receive formula, and in the days before that, a wet-nurse, although I would guess that far fewer women decided to just not nurse then because access to a wet-nurse was limited to the wealthiest people. So, it was nurse the baby or he starves. So thank heavens we don't have starving babies, and of course the expressed breastmilk is far healthier for babies than infant formula. If mothers are going to not nurse their babies just because "it's not for them," then I am glad that some of them are still willing to provide the normal nutrition for their children. I do wonder though, if this were not such a readily accessible option, would less mothers choose it? Kind of a "which came first" question.

I also want to say that exclusive pumping is a huge commitment - one that most mothers don't plan to make ahead of time because of the immense amount of work involved. Not only does one have to pump every 2-3 hours in the early months and thereafter every 2-5 hours for many mothers, depending on mother and baby, but she also must clean the pump parts after each nursing, she must maintain the pump and make sure it stays in good working order, she must pack it up and take it with her any time she stays away from home more than a few hours, she must clean bottles and nipples... oh, and she still has to feed the baby a bottle! Add to that the fact that she is unable to pacify the baby at the breast, and she may well spend the rest of her time trying to comfort her baby, as one cannot pacify a baby with a bottle for any longer than it takes him to drink the milk it contains! So, like I said, a huge commitment. All moms who have ever done it for any length of time should pat themselves on the back for not resorting to using formula instead. It is hard! Of course, lots of things in parenting can be hard, nursing at the breast included, although that usually improves after the first few months. Pumping doesn't really get better/different other than eventually being able to go longer stretches in between each pumping session.

So why would mothers choose, either before the baby is even born or after just a very brief time of nursing with only minor problems (or no problems at all), to pump exclusively? The reasons are ones I want to explore here. A few that come to mind are:
  • fear of nursing being "sexual"
  • fear of nursing in public (goes along with the first one in many ways!)
  • thinking nursing is "gross" (also related to the first one!)
  • pressure from other family members to be "equal" with the mom in baby care
  • fear of "being tied down" to the baby/wanting the baby to become "independent" (as the women in the article called it, "a lifestyle choice")
  • having pumped exclusively for the first baby and thinking "well, this is all I know" or wanting to be "fair" to both children
  • the concern that breastfeeding will be too much of a hassle or will be too difficult
I am sure there are more, but these are reasons I have observed and heard.

Before digging deeper into these reasons, I want to address the question: whose fault is this? Not because we need to place blame somewhere, but because it is not necessarily the mother's fault. I doubt there are many women out there who want to go through the trouble of pumping milk for their babies who also don't care about the well-being of their children. It wouldn't make sense! Clearly, most of them must have good intentions. So why do they choose this route? We have to look at their influences. I come back again to society/culture. Oh, how I love to blame everything on the media, pop culture, etc. ;) - because while they don't force people to make certain choices, they do shape and influence us in our decisions. So, things that may influence a mother to choose to pump exclusively from the get-go:
  • cultural/societal expectations about both women and babies
  • cultural/societal beliefs about breasts and sexuality
  • marketing
  • the "me" mentality of individuality so prevalent in our culture
  • the technology boom of the past two decades and the corresponding decrease in the virtue of patience
  • feelings of relatives and friends about nursing
  • advice from "experts" such as doctors
  • misinformation regarding nursing and/or pumping
So, let's break down these reasons and influences...

Mothers choosing to exclusively pump because of a concern of it being seen as sexual or as an inappropriate thing to do with breasts in front of other people:

Some people - many people, actually, in our culture - view breasts as sexual. They are to be covered up because they are a "private" part, and therefore feeding a baby with them is also something to be done only in private. The irony of this is that more cleavage is seen in skimpy tops worn by teenagers, on commercials, and in magazine ads. The message is being sent that it is okay to see parts of the breast as long as it is done in a "sexy" way, or a way that makes money. So how is it then something "private" when breasts are being used to fulfill their primary biological function? Shouldn't using breasts for sex be the thing that is done in private?

Cultural/societal expectations and beliefs: If our culture has an expectation for breasts to be sexual, then many people are going to see them this way regardless of how they are being used at the time. If our culture expects women to use their breasts for sexual purposes primarily, then people may get uncomfortable when seeing a baby attached to those breasts instead. When cultural views of babies are that they should be made to be independent, that they should have bottles, that they shouldn't have to be with their mothers (the cultural view that women should work outside the home to be of value and/or to be "fulfilled" comes into play here)... then these things influence people to see breastfeeding as unnecessary or even as a "bad habit" in need of breaking.

Marketing: Well, breasts are certainly used sexually in marketing... beer commercials, right? The other day, I noticed an image printed on the truck of a rent-to-own store, and the woman pictured (who was presenting the two glamorous options of a big screen TV or whatever else it was they were trying to sell) was wearing a tight-fitting top with lots of cleavage visible. It is used in all kinds of advertising! Then there's the marketing of women's clothing itself, and how stores display their revealing clothes as being sexy and fashionable.

But then the marketing of breastfeeding itself... let's think about that a moment. Some of the very things that are marketed for breastfeeding mothers continues to perpetuate the idea that breasts are mostly for sexual purposes and are therefore best kept out of sight: the Hooter Hider, for instance. The product itself is not a bad thing, because some moms desire this level of modesty particularly when they are still learning in the first few months, but it is the name that is a problem. Although the cover is for nursing, it refers to the breasts as "hooters," which clearly has a sexual connotation. The inventor of the Hooter Hider probably just thought it was a cute, catchy name without considering the message it might send. I have also heard about one called the "Udder Cover." Not a good choice of words there, either!

Nursing covers in and of themselves can probably be traced back to the cultural issues we have about breasts, too. Mothers would not even feel like they had to go to that much modesty if nursing were seen as just a natural and essential part of life. I have said lots more on the issue of nursing in public, go here to read it.

The "me" mentality: As it relates to sexuality, some women have a desire to make themselves as attractive as possible, at all costs - and that would be "attractive" in the way that society defines it in women, which really just means "sexy." As one person wisely said, "It takes nine months to grow a baby, it's going to take nine months to get your body somewhat back to normal." And bodies never go back to exactly the way they were once a woman has been pregnant. A big myth about breastfeeding is that it will make your breasts sag. Actually, the changes that happen to the breasts during pregnancy contribute to that regardless of whether a mother nurses, pumps, or neither. Aging also contributes to sagging breasts. So if a mother (who may have pressure put on her by her husband, or it may just be her own perception) feels like her breasts must be a certain way so they'll remain "sexy," then she might choose not to breastfeed at all if she hears this piece of misinformation.

Mothers who feel like they have to maintain a perfect body image may plunge themselves into such a rigorous exercise routine that they don't feel like they have time to nurse the baby. Perhaps they have time to express milk with a pump every three or four hours, but to nurse on-demand would not allow them the same flexibility with regard to working out intensely. Now, I have never heard of a mother exclusively pumping for this reason - maybe pumping part-time - but there can be many smaller choices that lead up to making the bigger choice of exclusive pumping, and this could certainly contribute.

Feelings of relatives and friends about nursing: This is a big one when it comes to breastfeeding being seen as sexual and how that affects mothers' decisions on nursing at the breast. Studies have shown that the main factor in a woman's decision to breastfeed is the support of the baby's father. Supportive family and friends are highly important as well, particularly the ones with whom a mother spends the most time. When relatives or friends see nursing as very uncomfortable to be around because of their subconscious (or completely conscious!) feelings of the breasts being sexual and therefore they shouldn't see a woman who is nursing, then they can make comments that are less than supportive and even extremely critical. When nursing mothers are made to feel as if they are doing something dirty, private, or sexual, then they often begin to feel uncomfortable when nursing around those whose attitudes lead to these feelings. So, many mothers end up trying to avoid nursing in front of others. They will go to another room for every nursing, pump for when out in public (or nurse in places like the bathroom or their cars), and even try to schedule nursings and hold off a hungry baby so that they can wait to nurse at home. Some mothers decide that the hassle of trying to avoid nursing in front of others is not worth it, and they turn to exclusive pumping - particularly if their husbands are uncomfortable seeing their wives nurse but agree that human milk is healthiest for their babies. Women who feel like they have to hide away for every nursing often feel isolated and lonely, which can lead to their desire to wean completely and to either pump exclusively or to formula-feed. I have known mothers who would never nurse in public, and by the time the baby was right at a year old, they were so relieved to be "done." They hated that they had to hide away to nurse. They were only nursing out of obligation because of what doctors told them about breastmilk being important for a child's development for at least the first year. What most people ignore is the "at least" part and think that must mean that babies are supposed to be weaned completely by their first birthday.

So, before I ramble too much, back to the mothers who are made to feel as if they must be confined to their homes in an isolated bedroom so as not to nurse in front of anyone... a mother's comment on the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog spoke volumes on this:
"One thing that worries me about this trend [choosing to pump exclusively] is that it might become expected that all breastfeeding moms pump and bottlefeed for public situations. I've already been chastized by my family for not formula feeding in public-seems that people like my relatives would see pumping as a "good" solution..."
The woman in the Time article who chose to pump exclusively for her second and third children even before they were born said this:
"I just did not like it. I felt locked away. I was young and self-conscious, and everyone would leave the room when I breast-fed. I was lonely."

What a shame that the attitude of family and friends can cause people to feel so isolated when they are just trying to do what is normal for their children! People callously say, "Oh, just go somewhere private to nurse!" But if a mother feels that she must do that at least every two or three hours for a year, then how upsetting! Humans are social creatures - we thrive on contact with each other, as a general rule. Some mothers do not mind being isolated when nursing because they enjoy the private time with their babies, but they have chosen to go somewhere private in that case - it is a very different thing when they are made to feel like they must go into seclusion every time they nurse when other people are around.

Mothers choosing to exclusively pump because of pressure from other family members to be "equal" with the mom in baby care:

Cultural/societal expectations of both mothers and babies: Mothers are seen as replaceable in our culture. Anybody can care for a baby, we are told. Women are "equal" with men, which really is construed as meaning that women are the same as men, and if that is true, then shouldn't men have an equal chance to feed the baby? This mentality, that women and men are the same, ignores basic biology. It claims that women who nurse directly at the breast for all feedings are being selfish when all they are actually doing is following their biology, the way God made their bodies!

Many people in our culture also expect for all babies to take a bottle at some point. This is an especially popular view with older generations, who often ask, "Well, when is he going to get a bottle?" Almost as if it is a developmental milestone which must be achieved and recorded in the baby book.! People sometimes think it is practically their right to be able to feed your baby a bottle.

Marketing: Bottles are everywhere. This leads to others within the family seeing them and potentially thinking, "Well, why can't I feed our baby a bottle?" When something is available so readily in all stores, and well over 99% of babies seen on TV shows or in commercials are bottle-feeding rather than nursing at the breast, then it slowly becomes ingrained in people's minds that this is what is done, and feeding the baby can be "fair" among everyone. Biology isn't always fair - males and females are designed differently! Unfortunately, people want to try to convince us otherwise nowadays in many cultural trends.

Breast pumps are also marketed as being practically essential for all nursing mothers. Family and friends may well want to buy pumps and bottles as baby shower gifts, thinking they are needed because "Dad has to feed the baby, too."

The "me" mentality of individuality so prevalent in our culture: It is supposed to be about what is best for the baby, not what other people want to make themselves feel good. Yes, it feels nice to feed another person's baby a bottle, because it is a loving act (I know - I have given bottles to babies while working in day care centers and while babysitting as a teenager). But making Grandma feel good is not a good reason to have her give the baby a bottle. She can do so many other things that are good for the baby: change him, hold him, play with him when he is older, help out around the house so that mom and baby can rest in those early months...

Misinformation regarding nursing: Some parenting books perpetuate the idea that dads can't bond with the baby unless they are able to feed bottles to their babies. While this may well help their bond, at what expense? Babies were designed biologically to form a primary attachment, and biology dictates that that be with the mother. Thankfully, babies are also designed to be able to adapt to other situations in case of maternal death, but in the ideal situation, the baby will bond first with his mother, the one inside of whom he has been growing and developing for many months. He can then form more meaningful bonds with others as he grows. Mother-baby separation stresses young babies, and it has a biological effect on mothers as well. So, many people will criticize that a nursing baby is "too attached" to his mother and won't accept comfort as readily from any other family members or friends. What is not recognized is that this is biologically normal.

Mothers who choose to pump due to fear of "being tied down" to the baby/wanting the baby to become "independent":

Cultural/societal expectations about both women and babies: Women may distance themselves emotionally from their babies, either willingly or subconsciously, in large part because of our culture's expectations about them and their babies. We are taught from an early age in the US that independence is one of the most desirable traits. We are told through parenting books, magazines, friends, family, and doctors that children should be taught to be independent as soon as possible, and that we must train them to become this way. Nursing a baby at the breast is not seen as aiding to this push for early independence. Many people seem to think that nursing a baby on-demand or nursing for comfort, particularly once the baby is past a few months of age, is "spoiling" the child and making him a "Mama's boy" who will never grow up, never be independent, and will have to have his mommy go off with him to college. Studies on attachment of children to their caregivers don't back up these myths - in fact, the evidence suggests that children who develop a close, trusting attachment in the early years will become more independent - in their own time.

So, mothers who are persuaded to ignore their instincts of nurturing their babies and instead to distance themselves from their babies - not picking them up when they cry, for instance - may very well see nursing as too close of a relationship and that if the baby gets pumped breastmilk, then he can still get those benefits while not becoming "too attached" to the mother and thus "spoiled."

Our culture also views mothers in a certain way - that is, expecting them to return to work soon after the baby's birth, as being strong and independent rather than admitting that biologically, they also need their babies! Mothers who nurse their babies for comfort or on-demand after a certain age are often seen as "hovering" or "smothering" to their children. While it is true that a mother can be smothering of her children as they are growing in independence, this does not happen in the first few years! This happens in situations where the child is really becoming independent after he is past the baby and younger toddler stage, but babies do actually need their mothers! Very young children still need their mothers, and breastfeeding is a natural way to meet their needs. Very rarely does a mother nurse her toddler or older child to meet her own needs of feeling important... as many will say, you cannot force a child to nurse!

So, if mothers are viewed as dispensable and needing to get back to their "real lives" after childbirth, and children are viewed as needing to be taught to soothe themselves and become independent as babies, then is it any wonder that some women may see the pump as a perfect tool for encouraging independence and fulfilling these beliefs about mothers and children that are held by our society?

The "me" mentality of individuality so prevalent in our culture: As mentioned before, we are taught along with independence being so important that having our own personal lives separate from our babies is of utmost importance. This is a bit different from having some time to yourself sometimes to take a relaxing bath or something, but it is more of an attitude that everyone has to have their personal "me time." We hear it in advertising a lot - pamper yourself. Treat yourself to some "me time," because you deserve it! Of course, mothers need to take care of themselves, and sometimes a walk alone or an hour to work on a project without children around can be very refreshing. But when we take it to the extreme - that we are deserving of our private time and how dare these little children's needs interfere, then something has gone wrong. As adults, we are supposed to be self-sacrificial because we can understand delaying our own desires in order to meet the needs of very young children. This is not spoiling them... buying them a toy every time they cry in a store is spoiling them! But making an effort to give closeness to your young child meets their need for security, whereas choosing to pump so you don't have to feel so "touched out" by your baby is purposefully distancing yourself from the baby who biologically expects to be up close to his mother much of the time.

Why do people in our culture feel this almost need for alone time, for not being touched much, for feeling like we'll go nuts if our baby is "too clingy?" It is apparently in our culture and the way we are brought up... other cultures are far more touchy than we are here. Americans seem to shy away from touch, and that is a shame since touch is so important to us thriving emotionally, particularly in the early years: touch helps to actually form connections in the brains of babies!

The technology boom of the past two decades and the corresponding decrease in the virtue of patience: This goes right along with mothers (consciously or subconsciously) not wanting to feel "tied down" to their babies. The technology of having a powerful breast pump allows them the "freedom" to be away from the baby longer.

Has anyone else noticed how the Internet, cell phones, etc. have led to decreased patience in younger people lately? We are becoming a society that expects to have things instantly at our fingertips. Having what we want when we want it can contribute to that "me" mentality, and it can also contribute to a lack of patience towards our children. Babies are so helpless and require lots of time, and that can be hard for us to accept when we are used to not having to be patient. Pumps are relatively quick, and they are often over-suggested by medical professionals as a "quick fix" to breastfeeding problems in the early days, or for moms who feel "burned out," because they are readily available and are mechanical - and we are used to dealing with mechanical things in our culture, while emotional and personal relationships (such as nursing) are much more complex to deal with. So pumps are prescribed as an easy solution and as a way for mothers to "get a break." But if mothers get to where they are intentionally pumping more and more in order to get away from the baby, it can easily lead to exclusive pumping - or to a decrease in milk supply and then weaning.

Feelings of relatives and friends about nursing: I have heard accounts on more than a few occasions where family or friends pressure a new mom to get back to the things they used to do without the baby, whether that be going out with them for adult-only time, or staying out late partying, or being able to just go anywhere at the drop of a hat (which we know is harder with children!). One mom told me that her relatives were repeatedly disappointed when she would turn them down on invitations and how they thought she was "no fun" anymore. If this happens, then a mother may feel pressured to bottle-feed so she can free herself up to make time for these other people. While it is important to spend time with people who mean a lot to us, friends and relatives shouldn't pressure new mothers to put their needs ahead of the baby's needs. This seems to happen particularly with friends who have not yet had children or whose children were young a long time ago and they have forgotten what it was like.

Mothers who choose to exclusively pump because of having pumped exclusively for the first baby:

This doesn't seem to be influenced by anything specifically, but I have heard it said before. And I have heard a lot of moms who ended up exclusively pumping the first time and saying, "Are you nuts?? That was hard work, and I'm going to do all I can to avoid getting onto that path again!" Many mothers who have pumped exclusively for one baby find that nursing future babies is easier and rewarding, and that that doesn't have to negate the experience they had with pumping for the first child. They are confident that they did the best they could at the time given their circumstances and what struggles they may have encountered that led to pumping exclusively, but they can do it differently for subsequent children now that they have more information or a different set of circumstances or more support. It is not in any way an insult to the first baby to nurse the next one at the breast, no more than it would be an insult to the first child if he was circumcised to then circumcise his brothers just so they'd all be the same and it would be "fair." If your first baby was hospitalized with pneumonia at a few days old, you wouldn't insist on leaving future babies in the NICU for a few days to be fair - that would be ridiculous, right? Life isn't always exactly the same for each child, and when we know differently, we do differently, and when we have different circumstances, we make different decisions.

All that being said, there are many reasons a mother may choose to go with the "status quo" for subsequent babies, and her decision may be based on a combination of many of the other factors already discussed, or simply on fear of the unknown and therefore just doing what she already knows how to do.

Mothers choosing to exclusively pump out of concern that breastfeeding will be too much of a hassle or will be too difficult:

Cultural/societal expectations about both women and babies: While our culture often thinks of breastfeeding as something to be done behind closed doors, it also views breastfeeding as "natural" and thus as coming naturally and being easy to do. Many mothers are surprised that breastfeeding doesn't just happen naturally for them in our society, and it is because of this paradox that we have this issue. If mothers are to be hidden away when nursing, then how will any of us learn how to do it without being exposed to it as being a natural, normal part of life on a frequent basis? Then new mothers hear the horror stories from friends and in magazines, and they become fearful of nursing - what if it doesn't come naturally for me? Should I even bother? Or if it starts out being difficult, the fear can set in and women may turn to the pump because it is easier and less of a hassle - at least it may appear that way at first when compared to overcoming initial difficulties with nursing.

Marketing: Expectant mothers are often influenced by marketing, which leads them to believe that breast pumps, bottles, and milk storage bags are essentials when it comes to breastfeeding. There is an excellent piece on the Blacktating blog that discusses this and is well worth the read. Please do read it; I promise it is shorter than my blog posts! ;) She asks,
"But are moms also being influenced by this message, that pumping provides the benefits of breastfeeding without having to deal with any of the stuff that might be uncomfortable or weird at first?"
Excellent point... and the comments there are also thought-provoking.

The technology boom of the past two decades and the corresponding decrease in the virtue of patience: When people become less patient, then hassles are to be avoided entirely rather than worked through until they are solved. If mothers begin to view breastfeeding as a hassle, then they may choose the pump because it is mechanical and therefore, there are less variables to contend with in making it work correctly. We are quick to rely on machines lately - how many people are lost without their computers? I sometimes am! ;) But this is a reliance on a machine that is replacing a natural act, and, like nearly all technology, it is designed to make people's lives easier - less hassle. But is it really less of a hassle in the long run to pump full-time, and even if that answer is yes, then is it worth it? Is it worth willingly sacrificing the natural act of nursing at the breast, which imparts so many benefits on mothers and babies?

Advice from "experts" such as doctors: I touched on this before... doctors typically don't know how to solve breastfeeding concerns, because most were not given much training at all on breastfeeding. So, it would be more of a hassle for them to try to help mothers remedy the actual problems if they can just say, "Switch to pumping." When things get tough, doctors should be encouraging while giving actual evidence-based help to mothers who are nursing, and if they cannot help, they should refer them to licensed lactation consultants or to La Leche League or both!

Misinformation regarding nursing and/or pumping: Again, the advice given to mothers that pumping is "easier" if they are having a difficult time... it may prove to be true in the beginning, but when a mother is still taking a half hour every time she pumps, feeds, and cleans the pump parts when the baby is nine months old, then it is not easier.


Certainly pumping full-time is a necessity for some mothers and babies. The trend of choosing it willingly certainly says something about our society. The problems with hospital interventions and such in the early weeks that lead to moms ending up pumping exclusively when they were hoping to nurse are unfortunate and yet preventable in many instances. Hospitals need to stop giving formula as a band-aid fix for babies who aren't gaining enough , aren't nursing well, or are jaundiced. They need to be using science and common sense to back up what they do for nursing mothers and babies: not separating them except for grave reasons (as long as a baby is stable, separation is not generally necessary), encouraging skin-to-skin contact, avoiding artificial nipples rather than insisting that sick and premature babies must drink from a bottle before nursing at the breast, using alternative supplemental devices instead of bottles with the mother's own milk as the first choice for a supplement, making sure nursing is well-established before sending mothers home from the hospital, and having lactation consultants available. Society as a whole could be more supportive of mothers when they are having trouble instead of thrusting a pump and bottles upon them, or bottles and formula.

For moms who really are unable to nurse at the breast yet they can produce milk - the baby has a physical problem and cannot latch, or the baby will not latch because of a difficult start - how disheartening to see people choosing not to do something that is available to them, something that these mothers would give anything to be able to do! It probably adds insult to injury when they hear of people choosing to pump full-time even though they don't have to. How discouraging! How they must question, "Why? Why were they given the chance and I was not, when they don't even want to use their opportunity to nurse?"

Finally, how did we get this way? How can we get back to the basics, to mothers trusting their own biology rather than trying to escape from it? How can we turn back to a time when society accepted nursing, when it was commonly seen and thus handed down from one generation to another, where interventions didn't set mothers up for failure, where mothers don't feel ashamed to nurse their babies around other people? Gosh, I don't know the answers here. I do know that the more women who nurse in public, the more "normalized" nursing will become, which can help to slowly shift the attitude away from nursing being something to be kept behind closed doors. The attitude about babies and their utter dependence need to change as well. I don't know how to get a culture who is intent on believing that babies are spoiled when they get physical closeness to change their misconception, especially with organizations out there who teach that it is Biblical to force a child into independence as an infant. [Of course that is not Biblical, and it is not how children in the Bible were raised!] And lastly, women need to be shown that this is normal, it is just what mothers do, and that there are people who will help them do it!

I don't think this trend is the fault of the individual women... not at all. It is a much larger issue within the culture. When a mother wants to nurse her baby and nobody in her family has nursed before, none of her friends have done it, her birth experience is difficult, she gets poor advice from hospital staff, she is confronted with the marketing of feeding gadgets and formula in her very own mailbox (thanks, Motherhood Maternity for selling our info to the formula companies!!!), when she either must go back to work financially or feels pressured to do so... she really has the cards stacked against her. Mothers want to give their babies the very best, and they know that breastmilk is the best source of nutrition, far above infant formulas. And so when they can't make it work, or don't want to make it work because of cultural norms that interfere with their biological maternal instincts, they turn to pumping exclusively. What can we do, other than help with accurate info and support, and to encourage them because we have known the bliss of a happy nursing relationship and want that for all mothers? I think it is going to take a lot of years to change ways of thinking. We can't just throw out the pumps - they are valuable tools when used for certain situations. We need to change ways of thinking at the societal level. We need to stop blaming mothers when they don't want to nurse and address the deeper issues of what it is that causes them to feel this way.

I am sure I have not covered all the reasons why a mother may choose to exclusively pump, but that is not to say that there are not more. I don't claim to know what everyone's reasons are for their decisions, but I have tried to summarize some that I have encountered in the reading and work I do as a breastfeeding counselor.

I want to end this with a quote I came across from Marian Tompson, one of the founders of La Leche League. I think it hits the nail on the head: "The world is better off when mothers are allowed to take care of their own children." She referred to pumps as a transitional tool until we as a culture come to our senses." from: