Some Facts About Breastfeeding


This is part two of a three part series about my experiences with the aftermath of pregnancy. If you find stuff like this unsettling, come back some other time when I'm talking about something else, OK? OK!

The care we received when I was pregnant and when Lenny was born from the midwives, nurses and doctors at Toronto East General Hospital was exceptional. They did their job. It wasn't an easy one, and in the end she was safe and healthy and really, that's all that matters. Except that's only partly true. Because in order for me to do my job and be a good mother to her, I was going to need a little help from them. The mother matters too. Unfortunately, everything that happened to me during my postpartum stay at the hospital would indicate that these health care professionals (with the exception of my wonderful midwives) thought of me as little more than a pair of walking boobs. Modern day health care practitioners in a "breastfeeding friendly" hospital are, in a lot of ways like a lecherous boss in a Benny Hill Sketch.

I'm pretty sure I heard this every time they wheeled in the breast pump.


When you have a c-section, which is major surgery that involves cutting through eight layers of muscle in your abdomen, it's going to hurt. When you're in that kind of pain, you're going to need some serious pain killers. I've got friends who have given birth via c-section in other Toronto hospitals who were given narcotics to help them through the pain. If they were being brave, the hospital would allow them to then downgrade to Tylenol 3. Since I was in a "breastfeeding friendly" establishment I was offered my choice of Regular Strength Tylenol or Regular Strength Tylenol. I should point out that Regular Strength Tylenol won't even help me when I've got a headache, so you can imagine how effective it was after major abdominal surgery. If I took anything stronger, I was told, there was a risk it would travel through my breast milk and poison the baby. That's right, stronger drugs would travel through my breast milk that wasn't coming in and poison my baby who refused to latch on. Just a thought, but if that really is the case, don't you think someone should mention it to all the other hospitals in town handing out the good stuff like it's Smarties?


They refuse to feed your baby any formula until they've tried breastfeeding for at least 24 hours. Lenny got nothing to eat until they realized she was straight up refusing to breastfeed on day two. At that point we had to feed her formula from a tiny plastic cup (the kind used to dispense pills) to avoid "nipple confusion". From that point on, every time we attempted to breastfeed, she tried to sip from my nipple like it was a cup. I had the song Ball of Confusion stuck in my head for weeks. "Nipple Confusion...that's what her world is to-day, hey, hey!!!"


Seeing this from my vantage point of my (really uncomfortable) hospital bed was little to no comfort.

Why is that baby on the left only a head?  Whyyyyyyy?


Sometimes, the people who are supposed to be there to help you, will act like pre-programmed breastfeeding friendly robots.

Me: Is it OK that she just spit up like that?
Nurse: Skin to skin contact is really important.

Him: Am I swaddling her correctly?
Nurse: How's it going with the breastfeeding?

Doctor: If there's anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
Me: I need stronger pain killers.
Doctor: Would you like me to make an appointment with the Lactation Consultant?


The Lactation Consultant was about as helpful as a bag of wet socks.


When you go home and spend all kinds of time hooked up to the electronic breast pump, trying desperately to squeeze that precious colostrum out of your swollen breasts while watching Quantum of Solace, you will realize just how truly bizarre your new life is.


Everybody and his brother feel that it is acceptable in today's society to ask a new mother if she is breastfeeding. Strangers on the street, cashiers at the grocery store, a random woman next to me in the gyno's office (when I didn't have the baby with me)! Note to everybody: It's none of your god damn business.


If you are unable or unwilling to breastfeed, you will catch hell from your friendly neighbourhood lactivist. I've given this some serious thought. I've tried to put myself in their shoes. They are passionate about children and health and aren't they just trying to help? Yes, I've given it lots of thought and it is my personal opinion that they are narrow minded and full of shit. Be gone, breastfeeding nazi. No. Soup. For. You.


If your baby refuses to latch on but can still smell her food through your skin, being around you will frustrate her. The day you realize that you and your milky smelling breasts are making your baby cry you will ask her father to return the electronic breast pump to the drug store, buy a case of formula and never look back.


I knew this was the right decision, but I still couldn't watch as he took the breast pump out the front door. I felt so guilty and like such a failure, it was as if he was taking any chance I had of being a good mother right out the door with that breast pump.  I only got through it by averting my eyes and singing a chorus of "Nipple Confusion" to my angry, hungry baby.


Formula feeding was always presented to me as a worst case scenario. But you know what? It has worked out great for us. Lenny is thriving. She has never been sick and we had no problem bonding without the aid of the breast, thankyouverymuch. I have had more freedom than a breastfeeding mom and her dad has had the opportunity to get more involved that he would have otherwise, especially in those difficult early days.

Formula feeding isn't the end of the world. And that's a fact.


  1. I love you. Every baby is unique and EVERY. MOM. AND. HER. BREASTS. are unique too.... every story is different and every solution and need is different too. xoxo

  2. Janet was one of those not latching babies. The one nurse at Scarborough General who was helpful and understanding couldn't be there 24 hours a day.

    At one point, the kid and I were doing our best in a room that also housed the incubators. When a dad came in to check out his kid the nurse hastily covered me with a blanket?!? So I'm supposed to be embarrassed by this beautiful, natural process?!? You really think that new father is concerned about what else is going on in the room?!?

    Two days later we're home. I'm in agony and imagining myself with those little pain indicating lines from comic strips around my nipples and backside (hemorrhoids). Janet is starving and screaming her little lungs out. Garry says "Enough of this bullshit" and storms out of the house, returning with a case of formula and the appropriate bottles. Janet eats! I feel guilty. Wonderful family doctor, Dr. Bill, consoles me with "Every woman and baby is different. You have to do what works to make the family happy" while he coos over what a beautiful baby we have.

    15 months later the cranky nurse at Women's College is giving me grief because I'm not breastfeeding Gavin. Hey, lady, I've been here before. Get off my back!

  3. Jen Andreae1:53 PM

    You know I've completely got your back on this. Also: go read that chapter in Ms. Bossypants. Tina Fey's totally got your back too.

  4. Jen Andreae1:55 PM

    Also, that picture of the baby/breast is ABSOLUTELY TERRIFYING. I will have nightmares for the next 3 weeks.

  5. Wow, it's nice to hear another mom say these words. I hear it all the time, but there's always guilt that you've done something wrong. It's no ones business but your own what goes on between your baby and your boobs, and the "lactivists" as you call them need to chill the heck out.

  6. THANK YOU!!!!! OMG! This is exactly (minus the scary painful c-section) what my (our) experience was with the same "breastfeeding friendly" team at the same hospital. Actually, I had limited contact with them post-delivery, because as a v-birth we were booted out of the hospital after 26 hours. Made two trips back to see the lactation consultant, who was very nice but not too helpful (see checklist approach above) and ended up in St. Joe's in our end of town for an overnight stay because Devon had lost too much weight. Night nurses there gave us formula in a bottle to supplement with (*phew*) but in the morning the lactation nazi arrived (another very dedicated nurse), pointed at the formula as though it were arsenic, looked me directly in my teary eyes and said, "WHAT is THAT doing in here?!?"
    In the end, we made it home, away from the uber milking machine and the hawk-eyed lactivist and proceeded to settle into our own routine of supplementing each breastfeeding session with as much formula as she needed to make up the difference. No nipple confusion, no tears (at least not over that), and no more worries about my precious daughter not getting enough to eat.
    Do what feels right and what keeps you and your family sane. Breastfeeding isn't going to work for everyone. And that, as you say, is a fact.


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