Pressure NOT to breastfeed?

I thought I was the only one who felt that pressure.  When I made the decision to exclusively breastfeed my kids, I found (strangely) that some people try to discourage it!  At first I thought I was imagining it.  With my first child I was young and naive and didn’t know what I was doing.  But now, with my third child, it’s all looking a lot clearer.

But everyone knows breastfeeding is the best thing to do for your baby, you might be thinking.

But what I’ve come to notice is that although a lot of people know breastfeeding is great, a lot of them feel that formula milk is still necessary.  I have seen that most prominently with the generation of our parents who had their own kids in the 60s and 70s (with the beginning of the formula milk hype).  Some of them genuinely believe that breast milk is not enough, and they pass on that belief to their children.


Sharifa’s message

Last month, I received a message from a friend who is trying to breastfeed her newborn baby.  Her message brought tears to my eyes because it took me right back in time.  I was in the exact same situation and I thought I was the only one.

So, now I’ve decided to post her message on my blog because there might be some mothers out there who are going through the same thing.  Read Sharifa’s message below and my reply to it.

Here’s Sharifa’s message

“Hi Alia.  Hope everything is fine with you….  My little boy is 10 weeks old and is exclusively breast fed. The problem is his weight is constantly on the lower end of the WHO average weight chart for his age. Everyone has been advising me to give him formula, saying that he must not be getting enough from me.  I know I am making enough milk, as I express after feeding him and have stacked a good reserve in the freezer.  Is there ANYTHING I could do to increase his weight??

I feed him every 2.5-3 hours during the day. And since three days ago he is happy to go 4-5 hours at night. He has plenty of wet diapers and good dirty diapers. He always goes at the same time everyday with his bowels. A very alert baby with a lot of gooing smiling and kicking.  I am getting desperate though as I started hating taking him out or having people around, they always comment on how thin he is, and I feel like a failure as a mom for insisting to just breast feed.”

And here’s my reply to Sharifa

Hi Sharifa.  My heart is with you. I totally sympathise because I used to get the same headache when I breastfeed (with all my 3 kids!). For some reason, in this part of the world, a healthy baby means a FAT baby.

I don’t have enough words to encourage you to keep on doing what you’re doing. Breastfed babies are never as big as formula-fed babies (nor should they be). People have wrongfully stuffed their kids with cow’s milk and solids at a very early age and now assume that every baby should be plump.

The signs you should watch out for are the ones that you already mentioned. So he’s fine. He does NOT need to gain weight. In fact, any extra unnecessary weight that he gains during the first year of life will increase his chances of obesity, heart problems, and much more. Breastfed babies are always lean and slender and that’s the way it should be.  Please do not try to fatten him. Just take care of your own health so that you can continue to breastfeed him as long as possible.

One of my own relatives used to give me such a hard time every time she sees my baby. A small comment like ‘shouldn’t he be bigger by now?’ would make me toss and turn at night in doubt. I used to come home and cry because I was trying so hard and I felt it wasn’t good enough.

Take it from me, breastfed kids are the healthiest kids, by far. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I even had days when I knew my milk supply was falling short and I just chugged along and it caught up eventually. So, even on low days, don’t give up. It’s the best gift you can give him. All mothers did it before formula milk was created, and kids then were much healthier than they are today.

I’ve been there and I know you’ll come out the other end with a super healthy baby!  Good luck.

And here’s her reply back

“Oh Alia. You have no idea how your message encouraged me, I reread it about six times. Thank you.
It really helps to know someone else believes in breast feeding too, and yes it’s just this part of the world with an ignorant look at breastfeeding as primitive and not sustainable for a healthy baby.  I cannot thank you enough, everytime I look at him now while he is feeding I am more confident and happy.  Many regards my dear.”

Come on people!

Breast milk is the best gift you can give your baby.  But it is very hard to breastfeed.  It requires time, strength, patience, perseverance, and a lot of determination.   So if you see any mother around you who chooses to breastfeed, please DON’T tell her about why you stopped breastfeeding or about all the reasons you think her baby may need a formula top-up.  Just encourage her to keep going, because God knows she needs it!

I’ve written a few months ago about my own breastfeeding experience in a post that I called Uggghhh Breastfeeding. Have a look.

If you are a breastfeeding mother, stick to your decision cuz it’s a great one.

Would love to hear your opinion on the subject.  Leave your comment below.

Thanks Sharifa for allowing me to publish this 🙂

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10 responses to “Pressure NOT to breastfeed?

  1. Well done Sharifa. Keep it up! Don’t let the doubters bring you down.

  2. Well done Sharifa and thank you Alia. Being a new mum is hard enough and its soooo hard to ignore all the “advice” you are given. My daughter is 1 now and i have breast fed her exclusively and plan to continue feeding her for another year if she wants it. I was bombarded with advice to give her formula because she had reflux, or was colicky… or so that i could go to the cinema to watch a movie that clashed with a feeding time (she won’t take my milk from a bottle). So many times i wondered if i should just give in and give her a relief bottle. I’m so glad i didn’t. Like you said, its a gift.

  3. People would always try to make fun of u breastfeeding, take it positivly … they couldn’t do it , and they wanna make it seem normal … it is not … u r giving ur kids the best gift ever … the gift of health .. so just keep it up … u r the best mum 🙂

  4. and breastmilk contains trytophan (what’s in turkey that makes everyone fall asleep after thanksgiving dinner); tryptophan is the enzyme that the body needs to create serotonin, the chemical that makes a person happy, balanced and calm. people who are depressed are lacking serotonin, which is why they need anti-depressants that contain serotonin. so babies who are exclusively breastfed, and for a longer period of time are loaded with this serotonin so they can grow up to be happier, less depressed individuals. perhaps that is why there is so much depression in the US, because until recently, most of us in this country were formula fed and lacking these necesssary serotonin levels. watch your baby, not the outdated formula based charts that pediatricians still use. and pediatricians will often encourage their clients to begin solid food at 4 months of age which is too early and will effect your milk supply.

  5. The reason I am writing this is that I fell in that trap and I do not want the same to happen to anyone. Before my baby was born, I had decided to exclusively breastfeed him and refused to give him formula even in the hospital when I was very tired and my doctor advised me to do that so I could get some sleep. People started telling me that my baby NEEDS formula because he is a boy and boys are usually hungrier!!!! I refused for a long time but I gave in in the end and started giving him a bottle for his last feed at night. I soooo regret doing that as he started liking the “easy way” better so breastfeeding him got very difficult. I tried and tried and cried so much because I really wanted him to continue to be breastfed but by the time he was 4 months old my milk dried up because he was not breastfeeding enough. I still feel upset that my baby stopped having my milk so early. Pleeeeease do not make the same mistake I did. I know breastfeeding is not easy but is definitely the best thing you are doing for your baby. Do what you think is best for your baby.

  6. Hi Alia,

    I just wanted to share with you this thought…. In Bahrain we are pressured to bottle-feed our babies from day 1, and for first time mothers they simply give in to the constant nagging of nurses and people telling us oooooh you don’t have enough milk… the baby is hungry…. we know you want to exclusively breastfeed but we gave the baby some water just to fill him up a bit! Everything they say is soooo not true. Why don’t we have experts here that support the idea of breastfeeding….. why don’t we have something like a La Leche League Leader?
    What we mothers produce in the first few days of birth (colostrum, and that comes out in small amounts) is high in calories and is enough for the baby’s tiny stomach. I was told that when a baby is born, his stomach is the size of a nut or marble, and by feeding the baby formula or water, you are actually expanding the stomach in an abnormal way causing it to expand faster than it is supposed to. And that my friends will lead to a baby that is constantly hungry and never full because your milk supply can’t catch up. So for all you mothers out there, DON’T give your baby anything except your own milk!

  7. I agree with CB about the bad need for breastfeeding support here in Bahrain (and in the Middle East in general). I had my son in Bahrain and being away from my friends and family during my pregnancy, all the breastfeeding info I was getting was from western sources (i’m an Arab) and i didn’t realise i should have different expectations for the support one receives here. After the birth, I was shocked that my son was given formula even before i had held him for the first time! no one even asked me first! Like someone else who commented here i too gave in to pressure and gave my little one formula supplements in a bottle. Not expecting breastfeeding problems, i had skipped all the ‘troubleshooting’ reading and didn’t know what to do at the time. anyway, now two years later i’m a near expert on breastfeeding issues but sadly my son mostly bottlefed (breastmilk exclusively from 7 to 15 months). Babies learn to nurse by nursing; one bottle means one less nursing session and therefore less ‘learning’ and of course less milk production. But i stuck with it as much as i could, expressing 6 times a day for nearly a year . Little one will be two next month and only 3 days ago stopped asking for ‘milky mama’! Breastfeeding trouble is emotionally draining. I went through nearly a year and half of constant worrying about breastfeeding/pumping/milk storage. Oh my, it’s emotional just writing about it now!
    Anyway, my point is, yes women here can do with breastfeeding support. i’m sure there are many other women out there who feel as strongly about the matter who might be willing to put together an informal breastfeeding support group. I’m not the right person to put this together but if someone else does, i’d be very happy to take part. Alia?

  8. It is unfortunate that industrialization has done away with many excellent cultural and dietary practices that we once had. Our grandparents breastfed all their children but with our parents generation it all of a sudden became a backward thing to do. The same goes for our eating habits. My mother says that they used to eat chicken and meat on special occasions only. Their daily diet consisted of fish, rice, grains, beans, legumes, eggs, vegetables and fruits. Now Bahrainis eat meat and chicken everyday and sometimes even twice a day and as a result 60% of us are obese! We need to revive our traditional diet and eat local and fresh. There is no need for us to go far to eat healthy or to pay more. Instead we should support our local farmers and fishermen who have been providing good food for bahrainis for centuries. Why is it that in western cities like New York people are active in the local food movement but in countries like Bahrain where people used to eat local and fresh just a decade or two ago, people are not?

  9. Hi. Would you have any suggestions on a lactation consultant on the island? I am a resource nurse and I have Moms that have been asking.

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