Thanks to my friend Marketing Mama, I've been thinking a lot about breastfeeding today. Her jumping off point was signage about nursing that used bottles. (See her post here). She expresses her point admirably and I'm not here to repeat the posts of others, but it did get me thinking about how we define breastfeeding in our society.
My question: Is breastfeeding defined by the location from which a baby drinks the food (ie breast or bottle) or by the type of food (breastmilk or formula)?
I think breastfeeding is typically associated with whipping out a boob and feeding a child whenever needed. And yet, the answer seems far more complicated than that. Many nursing mothers pump on a regular basis, particularly if they work, so that their child can eat without being fully dependent on the mother alone.
But I would argue that even though my son never figured out how to drink from the breast that he has been breastfed because he's had only breastmilk since he was born.
I've shared a little about the difficulties we've had breastfeeding here a little but not in depth. Since baby goat was born 7 weeks early he didn't have a suck reflex. For quite along time he was fed almost exclusively through a nose tube that pumped my breastmilk directly into stomach. I was pumping every 2-3 hours while recovering from the preeclampsia and the c-section and trying to care for him in the NICU too.
Eventually he started taking a bit by the bottle and we started breastfeeding attempts. We'd try when I was there to breastfeed and each time they would strip him down to his diaper, weigh him down to the gram, and place him on my chest for our attempts. We'd work at it for 15, 20, 30, 45 minutes getting increasingly hungry and frustrated. From time to time they would bring him back to the scale and see how many grams he'd gained. This was how many ml of breastmilk he'd drunk.
The majority of the time it was 8 ml or less. More times than I can even count, it was zero. 45 minutes of trying for zero food for my son. It wasn't for a lack of milk. The problem was his suck. He figured out something that worked for him when he had the bottle, but he didn't have the ability to draw it in, rather he chewed.
We tried Lactation consultants who were rude driving to tears about my inability to feed my child. I was told that if I just kept at it he would get the hang of it. We tried for a long time. The most he ever got was 20 ml, which was approx. a third of his feedings at that stage. And even that seemed to be a fluke as it was never duplicated.
As we went on, he started having his heart rate drop due to reflux during eating, particularly when he was in a horizontal position. This made breastfeeding even more complicated and frustrating for him and me (not to mention scary). We saw a physical therapist who tried some techniques to get him to draw milk in more fully. While we tried these techniques it didn't seem to help in the long run.
As all of these attempts were going on, baby goat was getting bottles whenever I wasn't there. Our insurance would only let us stay for up to 4 days round the clock once I was discharged, and we saved that for the end when he was about to come home. After 4 weeks I was out of vacation and he was still in the NICU so I was forced to go back to work which prevented me from getting to even more feedings.
It got to the point that breastfeeding attempts led to crying for him and for me. Him from hunger and me from my inablity to feed my child. But, I was feeding him. I kept pumping every 3 hours and I was renowned in the NICU for my milk supply. I think I was the only one who had a child who'd never needed to be supplemented with formula, ever, even after all that my body went through it still produced the milk to care for baby goat.
After he came home we tried for a while, but he'd figured out how to eat with a bottle and the damage (as it were) was done and he has been a bottlefed breastfed baby ever since.
But I still consider that baby goat is breastfed. I ache at the knowledge that I've missed out on a beautiful bonding experience. I am so sick of the breast pump too but I keep going. My goal is to make it a year.
But is baby goat breastfed? I hope so. I have felt guilty about not breastfeeding before, but I'm going to say that I do breastfeed baby goat, in a manner of speaking.
*Disclaimer: No offense was meant to anyone on any side of the breastfeeding spectrum. I'm just thinking through some of my own thoughts from my experience.*