Just Talkin’ Tuesday: Breastfeeding & PPD – What Advice Would You Give?


justtalkingtuesdaybuttonBreastfeeding is such a rocky road for those of us who struggle with a Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorder, isn’t it?

We worry if it’s not going right. We worry about being put on meds. We worry if our babies are getting enough, we worry what people will think if we stop, we measure, we pump, we wonder about working, supply, the additional frustration of it all can really wear us down. Sure, a lot of our concern is the same as a mom who isn’t struggling with a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder but we also have to worry about how it’s affecting our PMAD or how it will affect baby if we decide to take meds.

I’ve been invited to participate in a telesummit with an organization focusing on encouraging breastfeeding mothers to take care of themselves properly. Of course they want to encourage and foster the breastfeeding relationship but you and I both know that sometimes, it doesn’t work out when a PMAD hops aboard the Motherhood train. Before agreeing to participate, I asked if they would be open to discussing the possibility that breastfeeding doesn’t go well if a PMAD shows up. They were very open to it, happily.

This is where you come in – of course I can share my own experiences and talk about how I know it’s gone for others in the past, but I’d really like to have the community chime in with their tales and share what worked for them, what didn’t work for them, and how to deal with the issues that crop up when it doesn’t work (because that guilt is like no other!) well.

Breastfeeding is one of two things when you have a PMAD, the one thing that’s going right, or the one thing that’s really exacerbating the issues at hand. I always advise mothers to do what’s best for THEM and their situation – and above all else, put their mental well-being ahead of themselves.

If you have any practical tips, ideas, stories, etc, to share, please post them in the comments. Tips on how to talk with your partner, doctor, a lactation consultant, etc, would be particularly welcome.

Can’t wait to hear from y’all!

Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression – Again


A recent research article, posted by The Postpartum Stress Center on Facebook, looks into the relationship between postpartum depression and breastfeeding.

The findings? Women who breastfeed are less likely to experience postpartum depression.

Here’s what The Postpartum Stress Center had to say about the study on Facebook:

“Uh-oh. Here we go… research shows reciprocal relationship between PPD and breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed were more likely to have PPD and women with PPD were less likely to breastfeed. Now, that being said – this is NOT what I see in my clinical practice. In fact, we see more evidence of women feeling BETTER when they stop breastfeeding. For a number of reasons that vary from woman to woman. This is why it continues to be important that we read the studies, but not jump to conclusions that may not relate to each individual woman.”

Here’s my reaction:

Caveats:

  • Small study – only 137 women
  • Mentions employed mothers who were formula feeding but the abstract makes no mention of employed breastfeeding/pumping mothers.

As a blogger focused primarily on Postpartum Mood Disorders and emotional health for moms, this study raises my hackles.

I’ve blogged about the whole breastfeeding v. not-breastfeeding thing during a Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder thing before – several times- and each time, I conclude the same thing.

YOU have to do what is BEST FOR YOU. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says, it doesn’t matter what the research says, it doesn’t matter what is best for baby food-wise. What matters here, the most, is that you are addressing your needs, healing, and doing so in a manner which alleviates the most stress and anxiety for you.

Your motherhood journey is just that – yours.

The only thing which matters is that you, your baby, and your family, are thriving. If your path includes breastfeeding, great. If it doesn’t, that’s great too. When you struggle with a mental illness, your emotional health absolutely comes before everything else –at least in my book it does.

If you wanted to breastfeed but find it’s too stressful because of your Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorder, talk it over with your care-provider. Let them help you make your decision but don’t let them pressure you into continuing simply because the research claims breastfeeding is “protective” against PPD. Guess what? You’re already struggling. So unless breastfeeding is the ONE thing to which you’re clinging and the ONE thing which helps you heal, helps you feel like you matter, it’s OKAY to stop.

It’s okay to use formula.

Frankly, it’s sad we have to give ourselves permission not to breastfeed in this day and age. Moms use formula for a variety of reasons –as long as baby is growing, healthy, happy, and loved, it shouldn’t matter what form of nutrition is used.

So go. Do what feels best for you, for your family, and for your sanity –and don’t let anyone judge you for it.

#PPDChat Topic: Breastfeeding & PPD: A delicate balance


Psssst. Have you seen the new #PPDChat t-shirt? Go get you one!

Rabbi Shmuley, Breastfeeding, and Guilt


Here at My Postpartum Voice, I strive to empower and encourage women to be educate themselves and then move ahead forward filled with confidence in the choices they make for their family.

Of course I have my own set of beliefs which have worked for my family and set of circumstances.

This post is a bit of a deviation from the standard topic but I am so disturbed by this article I feel I must speak up.

I believe in breastfeeding.

But I have also bottlefed.

One of the biggest issues I struggled with while nursing my first daughter was the shift from viewing my breasts as sexual objects to the functionality they now served. It is absolutely amazing that a woman nourishes life from conception until well after birth.

I remember not wanting my husband to touch my breasts while I was nursing.

Today, I read an article at beliefnet.com by Rabbi Shmuley, the host of TLC’s Shalom in the Home.

Beliefnet’s mission is to “help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.”

With said mission in the forefront of my mind, I am appalled they published the article, “Can Breastfeeding Hurt Your Marriage” by Rabbi Shmuley today. Nowhere in this article does he offer one shred of comfort, hope, clarity, strength, OR happiness. Instead, he tears women down, treats them as sexualized playthings and utterly disrespects the directives set forth by his OWN faith in regards to breastfeeding.

According to the good Rabbi, nurturing your marriage is infinitely more important than breastfeeding. Your marriage is more important than protecting your baby from diarrhea, cough, or colds. (The Rabbi’s words, not mine.) He also points out that women should cover up whilst nursing, even in front of their husbands to avoid de-eroticizing the breast. Oh, and that place where the baby came from? A mere birth canal if your husband watches you give birth. Mere? Mere? Only if that’s short for MIRACULOUS, Rabbi Shmuley, because I highly doubt you could do down there what WE sexualized playthings are capable of with our downstairs. Frankly, I’d like to see you give nursing a shot too.

Nowhere in this article does the Rabbi refer to biblical verses which support breastfeeding. Nowhere does he prove his reasoning. This type of article is absolutely reckless and stands to set several mothers up to fail in the already shaky realm of breastfeeding. And for that, Rabbi Shmuley should be ashamed of himself despite his barely there attempt toward the end to support breastfeeding as always being best for the baby. Even then he points out that nursing should always be subordinate to the marriage.

The first example he gives of how breastfeeding ruins a marriage involves a couple in Pennsylvania. The wife held onto an “obsession with breast-feeding well into the child’s eleventh month.”

Ok, Rabbi, Schmuley. Let’s talk about that, shall we? Based on the Old Testament, right?

Moses.

Baby Moses, rescued from the fanatical infantacide of Egyptian Pharoahs, nursed by his own mother as a wet nurse for the Princess (Exodus 2:17), was nursed for close to two years according to Section 1:31 of the Shemmot Rabbah, which is a rabbinic commentary on the book of Exodus. This same resource, Breastfeeding from the Bible by Larry G. Overton, goes on to point out an ancient Babylonian tradition in which babies were nursed until they were three years old.

It also further points out this passage in reference to a woman named Hannah in the book of 1Samuel:

21 When the man Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the LORD and to fulfill his vow, 22 Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always.” 23 “Do what seems best to you,” Elkanah her husband told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the LORD make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him. 24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the LORD at Shiloh. [1Samuel 1:21-24, NIV]

Correct me if I’m wrong but I would think that an infant would be fit to present to priests at a Tabernacle for lifelong service, thereby implying the child was nursed longer than a mere few months. (According to this same resource, Breastfeeding and the Bible, further reading into 2nd Chronicles reveals this verse: Besides those males from three years old and up who were written in the genealogy, they distributed to everyone who entered the house of the LORD his daily portion for the work of his service, by his division, [2 Chronicles 31:16, NKJV], implying that Samuel, the child from the above passage, would have been at least 3 prior to making said journey to the Tabernacle, having just been weaned)

Another resource, The ILCA Conference Reviewed: The Benefits of Nursing By: Yaelle Frohlich, Posted: 8/24/08, states the following in one of the last few paragraphs:

Breastfeeding is discussed in Jewish texts. Arthur I. Eidelman describes the positive impact of Jewish culture on breastfeeding rates among the orthodox in his article in “Breastfeeding Medicine” Volume 1 Number 1, and notes that the Talmud puts minimum nursing length at two years. Yevamot 12B even discourages a widow from remarrying if she has a baby under 21 months, lest she get pregnant, lose her milk supply and become unable to nourish her existing child. Additionally, according to tradition, biblical figures such as Isaac, Moses and Samuel were also breastfed for two years or more.

Breastfeeding and the Bible ALSO points out the following passage from the Apocrypha, the book of Maccabees specifically:

My son, have pity on me. Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day. [2 Maccabees 7:27, Today’s English Version. Emphasis mine., (Larry G. Overton)]

And yet here Rabbi Shmuley is tearing a woman down for daring to nurse well into the child’s 11th month as he freely admits, “I told the mother that in being so devoted to her son, she had committed the cardinal sin of marriage, which is to put someone else before her spouse, even if that someone is your child.” Wait. It gets better. “Furthermore, I said, her obsession had turned one of her most attractive body parts into a feeding station, an attractive cafeteria rather than a scintillating piece of flesh.”

Say what?

Let’s go there. Yes, let’s.

First and foremost, breasts are functional. Their sexuality is icing on the cake. Again, back to Pharoah and Moses. A  wet nurse provided sustenance for little Moses so that he might live. Why? Because breasts are MEANT to feed infants. In fact, it’s the very attitude of the sexualized breast which Shmuley presents which has contributed to the difficulties mothers face today as they nurse in public.

Next up: “If breast-feeding gets in the way of the marriage—if it means that a husband and wife never go out on dates, or that the mother is so tired from always waking up with the baby that she has no energy to ever be intimate with her husband—the child will probably end up worse off, however many colds or bouts with diarrhea he now avoids.” – Rabbi Shmuley

Now, if Mom today had half the amount of help available to her ancient counterparts, she might just be willing to go out on a date with her husband. If her husband or other family members would help with the baby duties at night by changing baby’s diaper and bringing baby to her so that she may get a few extra moments of sleep, she might just feel up to being sexual with her husband. Of course, there’s also the very real fact that Mom just gave birth to a baby from her “mere” birth canal. THAT may have something to do with not wanting to get busy. Just as with any other physical change or “injury”, it takes time to heal from birth. Some women take longer than others, even if they formula feed. I wonder how long it would take Rabbi Shmuley to bounce back after giving birth.

There’s simply no excuse for Rabbi Shmuley’s atrocious article. There’s no scientific basis. No faith basis. Nothing.

As you read the article further, clicking through to the second page, you’re suddenly clued into why Shmuley feels this way.

“When I was a young boy, all I wanted to see was two parents who loved each other. A daily vitamin also would certainly have done me a world of good. But only my parents’ happy marriage could have provided me with peace at my center and the more secure personality I sorely lack. I would take the diarrhea and cough any day over the permanent sense of brokenness that affects children of divorce.”

So if I’m reading this correctly, Rabbi Shmuley seems to think his parents divorced because breastfeeding destroyed their marriage. Wow.

I am SO sorry if that’s the case.

Sorry your mother was not supported in wanting the best for her children.

Sorry your mother was not supported in what YOUR OWN faith states is expected of mothers in sustaining their children.

Sorry you were raised in a broken household in which there truly was no integrity, respect, accountability, or compassion.

I am sorry.

It’s possible to nourish a child and your marriage. There’s a fine line. There ARE decisions to be made, with that I agree whole-heartedly. I made that decision as I pumped exclusively for our second daughter. I had to choose between giving my daughter breastmilk or my relationship with my family and my own mental health. As I drove home with formula, I wept. Openly. But I gave it my all. Had it not come down to it, I would have kept on pumping. Had I had more support, I would have kept on going. I would have given anything to have had an infant like a limb – anything!

Rabbi Shmuley – please. Please heed the words of those within your own faith. Those within the medical community. Those of the mothers struggling to do the best they can for their own families. Words such as those published at beliefnet.com are damaging at best. Do you believe breastfeeding is best? I dare you to prove it. I dare you to support nursing mothers. I dare you to support the family dynamic intended by God from the very start of our existence. I dare you.

This week’s Postpartum Voice: Miranda of Not Super Just Mom


Miranda of Not Super Just Mom, is sharing as this week’s Postpartum Voice. She’s been hosting guest bloggers on the topic of  PPD/PPA over at her place this week as part of Mental Health Month and the D-Listed Blog Hop. Miranda and I met via #PPDChat at Twitter (I’ve been meeting SO many new moms there lately!) and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her.

Miranda’s story starts out with disappointment after delivery didn’t quite go the way she had planned. I’ll let her tell her story in her voice now….

Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you one thing. I am an over-achiever. I expect my best from myself in all things. I do not settle. I never have. Slowly, however, I’m learning to accept that sometimes my “best” has to be “good enough.”

I began battling depression in late high school. I fought with anxiety and depression off and on for years.  Once I got to college, I had pressure to keep my scholarships, to not disappoint my parents, to make sure I paid my mortgage and car payments and insurance and utility bills on time. To maintain a social life and find the person with whom I was going to spend the rest of my life.

I finally got help during my junior year of college when I broke down and realized I couldn’t continue to live the way I’d been living. What I was facing was something bigger than me. The clinicians and psychiatrist who helped me were amazing and I owe them a debt of gratitude for teaching me how to “deal.” While I was in treatment, I met a wonderful guy, got married, and set out to suburbia. Eventually, we decided to expand our family.

I knew I was meant to be a mother.  I knew that I would be good at this.  It was my destiny.  How could I not be a natural?

So imagine my shock when, two days after having my beautiful plans of a natural, vaginal, med-free delivery shot down due to “failure to progress,” I found myself crying into my meatloaf.  Apparently, someone having an “inappropriate response to meatloaf” has become code-language in my doctor’s office for “watch out for this one.  She’s on the fast-track to medication.” Or something like that.  But see, that wasn’t normal.  And I didn’t know it.

And when I wrote that post, the anger over my C-section was definitely present.  I was angry.  I am angry.  Even now, 14 months later.

And that’s how my PPD/PPA started.  With anger.  And bitterness.  And resentment.

And then the anger and bitterness and resentment turned into sadness over how things didn’t go the way I planned.

And then I heard the words “you’ll have to supplement” at my son’s first newborn visit after being discharged and that’s where the no-no “F” word started creeping in.

FAILURE.

I had only been a mom for five days and already I was a failure.  I’d failed to get him here the way I’d envisioned.  I’d failed to keep him from losing 10% of his birth weight because my stress and anxiety over the surgery (and the pain! Sweet baby Jesus in a manger the pain) kept my milk from coming in.

And I just KNEW that supplementing would be doom for breastfeeding for us.

And then I’d be failing at yet ANOTHER thing and I was BARELY EVEN A MOTHER YET AND HOW CAN I ALREADY BE SO BAD AT THIS?!?!?

When my one-week postpartum check-up came around, Peggy-the-PA and Dan and I discussed my “inappropriate response to meatloaf” in the hospital while Joshua, ever the little stinker he is, slept peacefully in his carseat.  A carseat that he HATED for the first four months of his life (which effectively trapped me in the house because the sound of him screaming would send me into what I now think were mild panic attacks…WHILE DRIVING).

While we were at that visit, Peggy wrote me a prescription for an anti-depressant.  She thought it’d be a good idea for me to go ahead and start taking them.

But I didn’t.  Because I wanted to believe that I was stronger than that.  I wanted to believe that this was just the “Baby Blues” and that they’d go away and I’d realize that I was a natural at this.  That I was a PERFECT mother.

But I wasn’t.  I’m still not.  And the “Baby Blues” didn’t just evaporate.

It didn’t help that a mere seven days after giving birth, I was flying solo with this tiny bundle of lungs and poop.  I couldn’t drive because it still hurt to sneeze, so I still needed to take pain medication. But I couldn’t take pain medication and be home all day with the baby because what if he needed me and the medication made me drowsy and I was sent a baby who wouldn’t sleep so there was no “sleep when baby is sleeping” in this house for at least three weeks.

I resented my husband.  I resented the fact that he got to leave every day and go to work.  He got to get out.  He got to see people.  If I tried to leave, even to go to Target, I’d have the baby screaming his tiny baby lungs out the whole way there.  The whole time we walked around the store.  The whole time we drove home.  It just wasn’t worth it.  So I didn’t leave.  And when Dan left for work, I’d cry.

And because I was so mired up in my own grief, I didn’t feel connected to my son.  I’d read blogs written by women who would gush and gush about how when they saw their baby it was love at first sight and they knew instinctively what to do and what their baby needed and part of me screamed “THAT IS BULLSHIT” and then part of me cried.

Because that’s what I wanted.  I wanted that instant bond.  That connection.  That look from my baby that said “You are my mommy and I know this because I have heard your heart for 40 weeks and 5 days and it is the greatest sound in the world and I love you, Mommy.  And I promise to sleep all night long and save all the poop-splosions for Daddy.”

And I didn’t get that.  Even close to a year out, I still didn’t feel that.  Even now, there are times where I look at my son and go “WHAT PLANET ARE YOU FROM!?!?” because he and I just don’t seem to understand each other very well.

The times that I felt most at peace were the times when my mother came down to spend the day with me.  She’d get here early in the morning and do a load of laundry or dishes or sweep my floor.  And then?  Then she’d hold Joshua while I napped in the bed.  It was glorious.  But it was brief.  My reprieves from the resentment were short-lived.  I knew she’d leave soon, so when it would be time for her to leave, I’d get all anxious in the pit of my stomach and I’d feel the lump forming in my throat.  And then she’d walk out the door and I’d be choking back tears and trying to hold it together.

And in the midst of all of this, Joshua was diagnosed with reflux and a milk protein allergy.  Which meant mixing up little packets of Zegerid twice a day and me cutting out all yummy dairy goodness for as long as I planned to breastfeed.  Me and Oreos became BFFs because they are totally, completely dairy free.  And some days, I’d eat Oreos.  All day long.  That’s almost all I’d have to eat.  Maybe I’d sneak in a graham cracker and some peanut butter.  But I didn’t have much of an appetite, despite the fact that I was a dairy-free dairy cow.

(I think the fact that we finally got breastfeeding worked out is the only thing that helped me keep it together.  It’s the only thing I knew I didn’t totally suck at, even though it had its own set of drawbacks…like growth spurts, and nursing every hour, on the hour, all.night.long. AND GIVING UP CHEESE AND COFFEE CREAMER.)

At my six week postpartum visit, I finally admitted to Peggy, and my husband, and my mom, and myself, that I needed to fill the prescription she’d written me six weeks earlier.  I knew that this was not something I could do alone.  So, I drove to the pharmacy, filled the prescription, and started taking them that night.

And I didn’t feel instantly better.  I still have days where I don’t feel better.  I have days where I just want to cry.  Or where it physically hurts to move my body because I’m just so weighed down with my thoughts.  And there are times when Joshua screams (um..hello…he’s a Tiny Terrorist.  That’s pretty much all he does is scream) and I feel my heart start to beat faster and I kind of lose my train of thought and I become robotic.  GET.DIAPER.ON.NOW.PICK.UP.BABY.NOW. And I just sort of “do” it.

One of the things I’ve come to realize through my battle with PPD/PPA is that I have to take every day as it comes.  I’ve also had to abandon the quest for “perfection.”  Nothing is perfect.  Especially not me.  Which is the purpose behind this blog.  I’m not perfect.  I’m never going to BE perfect.

I’ll have perfect moments, and moments where I go “Hey, I don’t suck at this!” but I’m not going to have those moments all the time.  The “perfect” world of mommyhood that I envisioned for myself prior to actually being a mom doesn’t exist.

And slowly…slowly, I’m becoming more and more okay with the lack of perfection in my life.  And I’m finding something kind of perfect in the imperfection.  I’m finding me.

Miranda can be found at Not Super…Just Mom. She’d like everyone to know that she is not, in fact, a Supermom. But with a cape and a tiara she could probably save the world.