Jewish Mother Guilt and Breastfeeding (Updated)

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Marjorie Ingall wrote an article in Tablet Magazine called Bottled Guilt, where she argues that Jewish women are set up to feel guilty when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. The desire to raise intelligent and healthy children is entrenched in our genes, and for most of us successful breastfeeding is our first parenting goal. The only Jewish women I have met who (admitted that they) did not intend to breastfeed either had medical contraindications or were traumatized by their first experience.

I think another reason modern Jewish women are predisposed to breastfeed is that Jews in the Diaspora are used to going against the grain of popular culture.

I completely agree with Ingall’s point that mothers aren’t usually at fault when breastfeeding fails. She writes, “. . . it’s unfortunate that women are guilted for not nursing when a big chunk of blame should fall on our culture.” She blames limited maternity leave, but that is only one factor. Often it is the mother who is trying the hardest and wants it most, but she gets insufficient support from the hospital, pediatrician, and family.

Ingall devotes a long paragraph to unhelpful remarks made to struggling mothers:

My sister-in-law, struggling to nurse twins, called the La Leche League, an international breastfeeding support group, for help. The woman on the phone told her, “Breast milk is like a blood transfusion for a baby. Formula is like a hot dog and fries.”

La Leche League Leaders are trained not to speak disparagingly about formula. It’s counter-productive, and Ingall is right to call out that Leader. I hope Ingall’s example won’t stop anyone from approaching LLL’s volunteers for free, high-level help.

A good friend of mine was told in disbelief by another mom, “Your kids seem healthy and smart, and they weren’t breastfed!” (My friend pointed out that actually, two of her four children had nursed a bit. The woman smiled and said, “Oh, but you cheated with formula, right?”)

Who cares? People say all kinds of stupid things.

Another friend called a lactation consultant, sobbing, worried that her newborn daughter (who was born with a pinched nerve in her neck, leaving her unable to nurse) was starving on the meager amounts of breast milk she was able to pump and feed through a tube. The lactation consultant urged my friend not to give her hungry baby formula. “It’s like feeding her poison,” the consultant said in a hushed voice. “It will damage her kidneys and take three months to get out of her system.” My friend worked herself into a frenzy, pumping every two hours, waking the baby constantly to get her to eat, crying regularly.

As I said above, breastfeeding helpers shouldn’t bash formula which is a necessity for some babies. If Ingall is reporting accurately and the baby was only receiving “meager” amounts of milk, the lactation consultant is negligent or worse. Rule #1 is “Feed the baby.”   Ingall is right to call out this one too.

Still, I object to Ingall’s implication that formula isn’t so bad and that people make too big a deal out of it (“recent research showing that formula isn’t poison”). She is making a judgment just like the breastfeeding helpers she quoted, but with less authority. And it’s one-sided to give examples of unprofessional advice by breastfeeding advocates while ignoring misinformation and advice by pediatricians and hospital staff, whose voice carries more weight. Moms I talk to are regularly told that there is no such thing as thrush, they should give a bottle to tide the baby over till the milk comes in, they need to wean for breast infections or jaundice, their baby is too old to nurse, and that it’s fine for a breastfeeding newborn to have a bowel movement once every few days (it’s not).

Ingall quotes LLL Leader and expert on insufficient milk supply Lisa Marasco, who describes some medical conditions related to low milk supply. This is valuable information. Then Ingall adds her own examples:

Postpartum depression or stress can certainly be factors too, and nagging doesn’t help. We’ve all had friends who tried to nurse exclusively, but wound up in a sobbing heap on the bedroom floor at 5 a.m., sending their partners out for formula. Finally, if a baby latches improperly, over the long term he or she may not get enough milk and nursing will hurt the mother like a mofo. Lactation consultants may be able to help. Or not.

I guess Ingall is trying to comfort mothers who feel bad because breastfeeding didn’t work out, and perhaps this will work. But her cutesy remarks won’t help future mothers.

I wish mothers didn’t retain guilt feelings about past weaning. I advise mothers who regret having weaned to talk it out, forgive themselves, resolve to learn more for next time, and move on. Guilt interferes with effective parenting.

The bottom line is that mothers make the best decisions they can based on the resources available to them at a stressful time. We should avoid judging mothers. Instead, we should work to make sure that all parents receive objective, accurate information and as much support as they need. Let’s empower parents to make decisions that are right for their families.

If you like this post you might also enjoy:

No, Emuna, There Are No Lactation Police

Sex vs. Breastfeeding: Response to Rabbi Boteach’s Misguided Weaning Advice

Modiin Mom Told to Nurse in Changing Room

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Comments

  1. “I feel for the mother and wouldn’t blame her for quitting, but I wouldn’t tell her she’s better off giving formula. Only she can decide.”

    You wouldn’t tell a mother who’s baby is clearly starving that she’s better off giving her baby a bottle? Really? If a mother is pumping and nursing every two hours and her baby is still hungry, that’s clearly a problem. Why does the baby have to suffer because formula is not as great as breastmilk?

    I think it’s pretty much an established fact that most healthy babies thrive on formula just as they do on breastmilk. I know you’ve posted some research to the contrary, but it’s pretty easy to see that millions of kids around the world grow up fine on formula. I’m sure there are individual babies that could be a allergic or could have problems with formula, just like there are babies that don’t tolerate vaccines or are even, chas v’shalom, allergic to them. But in the mainstream medical community (not the quackdom of the internet) vaccines are still considered essential to public health.

    A hungry baby needs to be fed and if the breasts aren’t making enough after the milk has clearly come in, it’s time for formula.

  2. In spite of being told otherwise, I half and halfed my babies: when they were with me they nursed, and when they were with the babysitters they took formula. When the girls were newborns I nursed 90% of the time, except for one formula feeding that my husband gave them in the evening or in the middle of the night. None of my babies experienced the “nipple confusion” that others told me about. After about six weeks I started training my body and the baby by following what was going to be my work schedule. I returned to work after 3 months. It worked like a charm even though I was told it wouldn’t and that it would shortchange my babies. I did not feel guilty at all about it and would not have felt guilty about not breastfeeding either.

    I guess my point is as mothers we all choose what’s best for us, our kids, our lifestyles. Feeling guilty about our breast-vs-bottle feeding choices? On the bottom of my Jewish mother guilt-list.

  3. This article sounds singularly unhelpful, like The Atlantic article from several months back.

    I personally would like to lay the blame for more mothers not breastfeeding at the feet of the medical establishment. In my experience, one of the greatest barriers to early nursing successes is a typical hospital birth (I can’t speak for Israel, so I will speak for the US), which includes a surgical delivery for up to 40% of moms (depending on the hospital), lactation consultants who work only on the day shift during the week, the refusal to allow babies to room in with mom (and then not waking mom when baby wakes), not permitting moms to nurse babies with jaundice (based on what?), etc, etc. OBs and some pediatricians/post partum nurses know next to nothing about the mechanics of nursing. This is the environment where women spend their first 2-4 days after giving birth. It’s no wonder it’s not working!

    There are horrible stories out there. I know someone who was not allowed to nurse in her first post partum hours because her HIV test results were missing from her file (!). She delivered on a weekend and it was almost two days before the missing piece of paper was found. Unacceptable! But she was, of course, not in a frame of mind to raise hell and get it resolved faster.

    And then, of course, women who go back to work often do so between six and eight weeks, 12 at the outside. That’s just not fair. Pumping is another job on top of the mothering and working. I think longer maternity leaves would be helpful to breastfeeding rates, but it’s not supported by the working culture in the US.

    I have no idea what I would have done had I gone back to work. I’d like to say that of course I would have pumped in the bathroom (just cubicles on my floor), I would have managed, I would have been superwoman. But? impossible to know.

  4. mominisrael says:

    Abbi, I did say that the LC should recommend formula if she feels the baby is at risk. I misread the description about the baby only getting “meager” amounts of breastmilk. If Marjorie is reporting accurately, you are correct and the baby should get more food.

  5. mominisrael says:

    Abbi, I appreciate your pointing out my mistake and I corrected the post. By the way it’s very hard to tell from someone’s description, especially second-hand, what is really happening with a baby.

    Baila, glad to hear it. For some mothers half and half works fine. But for others, starting with bottles leads to a downward spiral.

    Kate, thanks for your comment. I guess the “medical establishment” is also heavily influenced by society including work and parenting culture. I mean, many parents want doctors to tell them how to put their babies on a schedule and wake up less at night. Not to mention painless birth. Well, we all want that but you know what I mean.

  6. Twenty years ago we heard the same hardline nonsense from la leche and militant breastfeeders. There is nothing wrong with formula. Generations were raised on it yet today With the growth of breastfeedjng we have an explosion of disease, mental illness, learning disabilities, autism and the like. You so for your child what is not only best for them but what is good for yourself and the rest of your family. It is the hardliners and their self- righteousness that gets in the way. Children are supposed to be a source of joy not inadequacy which is invariably directed at the new mother. I wish women would stop picking on each other and try to help each other instead.

  7. I also agree that people should forgive themselves if necessary, resolve to learn more next time, and move on. (And that works, too! I have several friends whose first attempt at breastfeeding was unsuccessful but who resolved to learn more, try again, and seek help when necessary, and went on to have happy nursing relationships with subsequent kids.) And absolutely, the problem is SO MUCH BIGGER than one person’s choices: the amount of misinformation floating around out there (and the amount of it that comes from otherwise intelligent, highly trained medical professionals), the lack of help and support for new nursing moms, the lack of adequate maternity leave in the US (in Canada, where I live, one can take up to 50 weeks’ leave with unemployment pay), the persistent idea that dads “need” to bottle-feed their babies in order to bond with them, the idea that formula is “normal” and breastfeeding is “best” — in some places it really seems like you’d need a will of iron to keep at it when the going gets tough.

    But I also really, really, really hate breastfeeding-related articles (or TV programmes, or whatever) that cherry-pick the most outrageously negative anecdotes the author can get his or her hands on in order to “prove” that the choice to nurse or not is no big deal and/or that BF advocates are dogmatic ideologues and shrieking harridans. Seriously, she couldn’t find one mother to quote who got good advice or help and support from an LC or a LLL leader?

  8. Right, and parents think that all the nightwaking isn’t “normal” and something is “wrong.” What I loved about my pediatrician in the States was that she always asked how I was doing, and knowing that my babies were big nightwakers, asked me to try to nap with them from time to time. (Not trying to change THEM, being normal babies, but rather suggesting a change for ME.)

    If there were painless birth maybe we’d get men to do it. :) I kid. But seriously, after watching me go through two labors and two C-section recoveries, I think my husband is more than happy to get a pass on it. He’s a little jealous of the breastfeeding though.

  9. “The only Jewish women I have met who (admitted that they) did not intend to breastfeed either had medical contraindications or were traumatized by their first experience.”

    “I think another reason modern Jewish women are predisposed to breastfeed is that Jews in the Diaspora are used to going against the grain of popular culture.”

    I think these comments are too general. Among the kollel wives who are the mainstay of our girls’ educational system here in the US, most of them plan to return to work quickly and a lot don’t plan to breastfeed.

    And in the US, most Jews are concentrated in or near large cities, where education is better and breastfeeding is more popular. I wouldn’t call breastfeeding in the NY area going against the grain.

  10. Mom, it did work nicely. I nursed two of my babies ’til just under a year, and my middle child ’til about 7 months when I had to stop bec. of an infection I got. But I should say that I worked a relatively short day (home by 2:30). I don’t know if it would have worked had I worked a long day with a commute.

  11. RaggedyMom says:

    Nursing my babies while giving one bottle of formula has worked well for me. The combination, and letting go of the all-or-nothing thing is part of what I credit with having nursed my children for as long as I did. (Child A for 18 months, child B for 14 months, child C for 18 months, and Child D is seven weeks old, and going strong).

    Despite the very part-time nature of my teaching post kids (10 hours/week has been my busiest since the kids were born), that one bottle of formula helped a lot. For my oldest, it was a sensitive baby formula that made a big difference with her reflux issues, and for all of the kids, it has meant less pumping torture (it took me an hour to get a few ounces even with a very good pump), and also the reassurance that if I was truly unavailable, sick, etc. the baby was accustomed to another alternative.

    Another help with the second that I’m trying to re-establish with the fourth baby is using a pacifier – another controversy, I know… Without it, I become the baby’s pacifier, which is fine at 2 months old, and less fine (for me) at 15 months old.

    Lastly, I think that what we all mostly agree on is that mothers need to find the balance, let go of the guilt, and support one another. We’re not harmed by one another’s choices in this arena.

  12. Y’asher Koach — It’s a strong post.

  13. Kayza Zajac says:

    Kate, unless a huge amount has changed in the last few years, what you describe as a “typical” hospital experience is simply not true.

    In my experience, I got equally good / bad advice from medical types and nursing advocates. I do know of one nursing advocate who was considered an “expert” who gave seriously dangerous advice, but has, according to my friends, finally moderated her views – she no longer acts as though formula is poison to be at all costs.

    The over-the-top negativity towards formula and all or nothing approach, are not, in my experience, at all just the voice of a tiny minority of advocates. And, I have seen a number of women driven to stop nursing by this type of thing. I know that if I had listened to the lactation consultant, I would have HAD to stop nursing, because it was either I get the baby’s weight up, or he winds up in the hospital, and that would have been the end of any hope of getting my nursing back on track. As it was, I listened to my pediatrician (who is unusually knowledgeable about this) and did something that every nursing advocate I have ever talked to says (backed by at least on well respected org) to NEVER EVER do – ie I started skipping the night time feeding and stayed away from the pump.

    Kellymom (one of the major nursing sites, after LLL) used to recommend that women nurse every two hours around the clock, waking the baby, especially if they had any supply issues. (It seems that they have stopped recommending that – the advice I’m seeing now from the pros is “at least 8 times in 24 hours”.) I’ve had several arguments with hard core advocates over this, in fact – and was told that I don’t know what I’m talking about, despite the fact that I have actually successfully nursed 6 children, and that all the evidence we have shows that women who are exhausted are likely to have supply problems.

    The bottom line, in my opinion is that Marjorie Ingall makes some seriously valid points. Yes, doctors, and often hospitals, can create and / or exacerbate nursing problems. But, the reality is that far too many “lactivitsts” do create a huge pressure, and often provide the kind of insane advice that she quotes, and it’s hugely counter-productve. She also correct that at the same time there is all of this pressure and guilt piled on, in many ways our society is not nursing friendly. It’s not just a matter of needing to go back to work – it’s what happens at work. It’s also how people react; many people are as obnoxiously outspoken in their opposition to nursing as the “lactivists” are pressurizing about the need to nurse. And, even when it’s not that blatant, there are so many negative signals. Unless you have a very strong sense of self and about how to handle nursing, it’s an extremely difficult place to be.

    • mominisrael says:

      Hi Elise. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 8 times in 24 hours is recommended now for pumping mothers. I do advise mothers with any kind of low or borderline supply to wake up at least once at night so the breasts do not fill up so much. Feeding once at night does not usually lead to exhaustion.
      What evidence are you referring to?
      Mothers get a lot of contradictory messages, and not just about breastfeeding.

  14. Kayza Zajac says:

    I don’t have an issue, in most cases, with waking up once a night to feed (or pump). In most cases, that’s not going to create an exhaustion problem. But, when, for whatever reason you are starting out a bit sleep deprived, and your nipples have also gotten messed up and desperately need to heal, that extra block of uninterrupted sleep was more important to my supply than the extra feeding. The point is not that women should routinely skip the night feeding, but that but that the doctrinaire insistence that this is always absolutely necessary to improve milk production is an example of a larger problem.

    I agree that the current recommendation of 8 feedings in 24 ours is not unreasonable – I only mentioned it to be fair. But, not too long ago (about a year ago), they supported the more extreme version – every 2 hours round the clock. And some “lactivitsts” still push that. I’ll give Kellymom credit, though – not only have they apparently pulled that recommendation, they actually have references to the evidence I mentioned including some studies.

    LLL still recommends 10 -12 feedings per 24 hours if there are any supply issues, while saying “Make sure you are getting good nutrition, adequate fluid, and lots of rest.” They don’t explain how you are supposed to do that – their advice to “Allow others to help you with your responsibilities while you focus on your baby.” doesn’t quite cut it, because part getting adequate rest for most people is having some UNINTERRUPTED rest. It doesn’t have to be a full 8 hour stretch in most cases, but this doesn’t even give someone something decent.

  15. If you nurse at 6 a.m., 8, 10, 12, 2 p.m., 4, 6, 8, 10 and finally at midnight, that’s 10 times a day and you still get a good 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. And if you are lying down for several of these — say, the 2 p.m., the midnight nursing, and the 6 a.m. nursing, that helps a lot too.

  16. A very good post. I agree with you that mother’s should not be blamed for not nursing their babies. I think the link in your next post about breastfeeding in Mongolia sums it up: society has the most influence on women’s breastfeeding choices.
    I spoke with a doctor at Tipat Halav (well baby clinic) who works in two different cities: Maalei Adumim and Beitar. She told me that in MA 30% of women breastfeed, while in B it is almost 100%. These two cities may be close geographically, but have large cultural differences. So even in a tiny country like Israel we have cultures sending very different messages about BF with significantly different results.
    I always am super sensitive around bottle feeding mothers not to insult their choices.In fact, I try to be very supportive. Most bottle feeders have guilt like you mentioned and small comments can make them feel terrible.

  17. I should add that the courtsey is not reciprocated. Most bottle feeders and many breast feeders say negative things about my nursing my 2.5 y/o :-(

  18. mominisrael says:

    Kayza:
    They say lots of rest, but fatigue isn’t a major factor in milk supply. It helps the mother, not the baby. All new mothers are tired and very few get six hours of uninterrupted sleep, yet most make plenty of milk. If I were writing it I would say to lie down as much as possible and try to do nothing but nurse the baby and rest for a day or two. If she has older children and no relatives available even inviting a young teen over can mean the difference between getting up 2-3 times or 15 times.
    I also explain to moms how milk supply works: Studies show that the key is not rest or diet, but “emptying” the breast as frequently as possible. When milk builds up in the breast so does FIL, feedback inhibitor of lactation, a substance that signals the breasts to produce less milk.
    If a mother wants to wean from bottles or the baby is not gaining well, assuming there is no technical cause like tongue tie or bad latch, I suggest frequent nursing, breast compressions and pumping. I explain that these are suggestions, she may not do them all or not at every feeding but the more she does, the faster her milk supply will pick up. I warn her that not to let herself get exhausted and she should choose a pace that works for her. And always cut down bottles gradually while monitoring weight gain.

    One mom called me because she started giving bottles. She got up one morning (she was at her mom’s) and complained that the baby hadn’t let her sleep. Her aunt, a Tipat Halav nurse, said, “If you don’t sleep well you won’t make enough milk!” According to every sign the baby had been doing well and the bottles were unnecessary. Some mothers do report that fatigue affects their supply but in general it’s just another thing for mothers to feel guilty about.
    Mothers say all the time, I don’t have enough milk and I’m sure it’s because I don’t rest enough or eat the right things.
    If you look at breastfeeding literature published by formula companies they emphasize rest and diet a lot, because they know new mothers “fail” in this area, at least according to their standards.
    Ingall didn’t say it but new mothers, even those who are quite successful and tough in life, are vulnerable after birth and comments that make them feel guilty or inadequate can be detrimental.

  19. Mrs Belogski says:

    How would you know if you didn’t have enough milk? i’m currently nursing No7 (currently as in while typing!). i have always been told that as long as the baby has wet nappies and is either sleeping or happy between feeds, then it is getting enough milk. Maybe weighing babies too often causes concerns about this. Our babies always seem to bring back quite a lot of milk – sometimes it looks like a whole feed!- but b”H have all thrived on my milk. i feed them in bed in the night and nap when possible when they are very tiny. almost all of my contemporaries in the UK seem to nurse successfully – the prevailing culture in frum circles seems to encourage breast feeding. i should add that both my mother and MIL breast fed, even though it wasn’t popular that long ago!

  20. Hi mominisrael. I did not mean that breastfeeding causes these problems. I apologize that my post could be taken that way. My point was just that formula is not bad either. That formula fed generations did not have the explosion of neurological disorders that we have around the globe today (what is causing this is hotly debated but never never is breastfeeding an issue), and if formula was that bad for the baby there would have been an exponental explosion of developmental traumas for these past generations as well. So whichever way you choose to feed your baby as I said earlier it has to be what is best for you, and your family. That I think we need to stop making new mother’s feel inadequate if they choose to bottle feed. Everyone is entitled to make that personal decision. It’s hard enough with a new baby without your supposed support group holding you up to dericion.

  21. Kayza Zajac says:

    Sorry, it’s not just the formula makers that say that enough rest is important. And you can be sure the LLL did NOT say “get rest” to make them feel better, but because there is evidence (I saw the links on the kellymom site) that this does make a difference.

    Telling someone to get more rest is no more blaming them than telling them to nurse more often. Either one CAN be said that way, and that’s a bad thing. Saying, or implying that “if you REALLY cared abut the kid you would get more sleep so you could nurse” is way out of line. On the other hand, letting a woman know that adequate sleep for her is important to the baby, rather than being “self indulgence”, “laziness” or “incompetence” is important. On the other hand, saying, or implying, that a woman who is not ready to nurse 12 times a day is “selfish”, “self indulgent”, or “influenced negative western ideas” is also way out of line. (I am unfortunately NOT making this stuff up!) Don’t get me wrong. I think it is hugely important to encourage (not push) women to feed as often as they can and to help them understand how the supply and demand process basically works (when not messed up by other factors, as can happen.)

    The bottom line is something I think we are “in violent agreement” on – New mothers really need to NOT get criticism, negativity, judgments, pressure and / or bad advice. What they DO need to get is good guidance, support and encouragement (and practical help, if youcan give it).

  22. Kayza Zajac says:

    Elsie, while I agree that we need to step back, and avoid making women who don’t nurse feel guilty, it’s important to realize that, in fact “generations” were NOT raised on formula.

    If Wikipedia is to be believed (and the sources it cites seem pretty solid) before the 1940’s a fairly low percentage of children were given any sort of formula, and even fewer were solely formula fed, because the issues were so obvious. Once iceboxes and inexpensive condensed milk became prevalent, a shift did begin, and by 1950 over half of American children were being raised on formula. However, it was not until much later that this level of formula feeding became common in less industrialized countries. In the US, by the 1960’s nursing had become the somewhat rare exception, but by the mid- 70’s the tide was turning, at least in the US.

    “breast is best” was not a marketing slogan made up by “earth mother” types who are into “natural for natural’s sake”, but based on a lot of empirical evidence that, all other things being equal (and they often are not) even good formula does is not quite the same as nursing.

  23. Mrs Belogski says:

    ps i loved the breastfeeding in Mongolia article, although when i told my husband that i had just read this fascinating article on breastfeeding in Mongolia, i wasn’t surprised when he burst out laughing!

  24. mominisrael says:

    Elise, I did read your comments that way. Thanks for clarifying.
    I don’t believe we can look around and make generalizations about formula/breastfeeding based on our own observations. By the time children grow up they have been exposed to so many things that may affect health, and it’s hard to isolate breastfeeding. Even defining breastfeeding is difficult: Does it mean exclusive bf, and for how long? There are too many confounding factors like income, education level, geography and demography. Studies like this one that carefully examine and analyze a large number of studies,
    http://www.ahrq.gov/Clinic/tp/brfouttp.htm,
    are the best way for a layperson to get an idea of the real picture. That picture is changing all the time as new studies are published.
    We can’t say that breastfeeding is a panacea and will prevent every problem. But we also can’t say it doesn’t make a difference. Even if it’s hard to see individual differences, breastfeeding rates significantly affect public health.

  25. mominisrael Thankyou for the link.

  26. It’s silly to think that if you bottle feed your children they’re destined to be a loser. I was bottle fed with formula and I somehow managed to graduate from law school with a B+ average. Both of my brothers were breastfed, one of them has an IQ just shy of super genius (no joke) and the other is just “garden variety” smart.

    Also, I don’t think it’s just Jewish mothers that feel pressure to breastfeed or feel like failures if they don’t. My non-Jewish have talked about all the same things. In my family, things were exactly opposite from what was described above. My Jewish maternal grandma actually pressured my mom to not breastfeed (breastfeeding was for “low” class women) while my non-Jewish paternal grandmother was very supportive of my mom breastfeeding (breastfeeding was normal, cheaper, and more convenient).

    • mominisrael says:

      Fern, agreed about the bottle-feeding. At any rate no one says breastfeeding is the difference between average and a genius. The geniuses get it from genetics. If it does affect IQ (0 to 7 points according to various studies) the effect wils be significant across society and not on an individual level. And I’m sure you are right, the Jewish community is not homogeneous in this matter. I am reporting what I have seen.

  27. I can just weigh in that I wanted to BF, and everything went downhill after the first 24 hours. The nurses pressed me to give formula, my son developed jaundice, which prevented him from having enough energy to nurse, and eventually he basically forgot how by Day 10. Then…we called in an amazing LLC, who was not fanatically anti-formula, but used it as a supplement to build a healthy nursing relationship. I was an abysmal failure at pumping enough while at work, and so my son lived on 30% formula, 70% breastmilk for a year. Now, at 14 months, we still have an AMAZING nursing relationship!!!
    Lessons learned: 1) Formula isn’t the end of the world – and sometimes it can HELP create a successful BF relationship. 2) If at first you don’t succeed…give it 10 weeks. If by ten weeks, your nipples still bleed and you still hate every moment of it…well, I don’t know…because for me, by then, everything was back to normal. 3) Find a lactation consultant who will work WITH you as opposed to merely spouting dogma. any questions? feel free to email at reccabec@hotmail.com

    • mominisrael says:

      Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing your story. How the mother feels about the breastfeeding relationship is extremely important because it affects how she feels about being a mother, and this in turn affects her feelings toward the baby. And a successful breastfeeding relationship isn’t only about the amount of milk produced.

  28. One factor many forget is that some babies have weak mouth muscles, and they just don’t have the strength to nurse well in the beginning. Doctors and baby nurses tell the women who report that they spend hours nursing, that their “milk is like water.”

  29. thanks for the link!

    breast is best if you can do it. if you can’t, for whatever reason, i still maintain that you should not feel guilty, no matter how intensely other women want you to. yes, we can call out our sisters’ failures until the cows come home, but that is not the way to create meaningful societal change. in the (much longer) Babble article, i present plenty of research showing that breastfeeding is correlated with better health outcomes…but it’s far from clear that it’s the breastfeeding that causes them, since breastfeeding is correlated with all kinds of other health-supporting behaviors (and better-educated, healthier women tend to breastfeed).

    i nursed my own kids, and strongly support nursing moms’ rights. (if you think my position is similar to that of hanna rosin in the atlantic, you haven’t read my work!) but i also believe that creating a culture that supports ALL families, by working for humane family leave policies and by making sure insurance pays for lactation consultation — those are helpful ways to channel our energies. making individual women feel bad: not so much.

  30. Shalom!

    I just wanted to comment that I do not notice Jewish women nursing more (unfortunately), and on contrary in frum circles it is often seen as very impractical because you don’t want anyone to see or mention it for tznius reasons.

    I do know many many Jewish or frum women who never nursed their numerous children, as well as young ones who don’t plan to even try one feeding, go on nursing out of the hospital, or after a couple weeks… These women range from secular to ultra charedi, from very low education to PhD, from early 20’s to grandmothers.