…Contemplating the Core Elements of a Modern Breastfeeding Lifestyle
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Breastfeeding on Reality TV

The reality show, Bethenny Gets Married, has just ended its first season. I was the first lactation consultant at Lenox Hill Hospital (1988-90) where Bethenny gave birth to her daughter Bryn Hoppy via Cesarean Section on 8 May 2010.

I was most interested in seeing how breastfeeding would be depicted both in the hospital and after Bethenny was discharged home. The pump was introduced in the early days after her C/S; the baby “nurse” Gina was shown following her around with pump parts and pumping seemed to be encouraged as a frequent part of Bethenny’s daily breastfeeding routine.

This is a candid clip of Bethenny talking with her therapist about the luxury of having a baby nurse and her impressions of breastfeeding before and after the birth of her daughter.

Bethenny’s experience has much in common with new mothers everywhere. However, having a baby nurse seems to be more of an urban phenomena.   It is an expensive option which seems luxurious at first glance, but has the potential to alter the long term success of breastfeeding. I will discuss that in more detail in my next post.

For now, I am curious if you also have been encouraged to pump and give bottles from the very beginning of your breastfeeding experience?

If so, has it added to your sense of overwhelm, fatigue or anxiety about your milk supply and/or caused problems with your latch?

21 comments

1 Tweets that mention Breastfeeding on Reality TV — ConsciousBreastfeedingConnections.com -- Topsy.com { 08.09.10 at 10:27 pm }

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2 Marcy { 08.10.10 at 6:57 am }

I started pumping and giving bottles of breastmilk at 3 days after birth. My son had severe jaundice, enough so he was too tired to nurse effectively and had to spend 3 days in the hospital under the blue lights. When the nurses at the hospital determined that he’d only drank 1oz of milk after a 30+ minutes breastfeeding session, they brought me a pump and I went into the routine of nursing, giving him pumped milk, then pumping for the next feeding. Did that every 3 hours, for 3 days straight until he was better, nursing effectively, and able to go home.

Once at home I kept pumping and giving a bottle about once a day. It allowed my mom and husband to feed my son once a day, which was nice. Generally this was the last feeding before we all went to bed (we tried replacing a nightime nursing session but since I had to pump anyway didn’t help me sleep any longer anyway).

The pumping was a bit of a PITA. I don’t feel it caused any latch issues. It did, however, allow me a few breaks to do something outside the house once or twice, like having dinner with hubby, while I left my sub-1month son at home with my mom (outings were maybe 2 hrs). In retrospect, it was nice to get those few opportunities since at about 2 months of age my son then refused bottles completely. From then on it was boobs only (and eventually solids) for him.

3 Lauren { 08.10.10 at 7:05 am }

I wasn’t encouraged but felt pressure to start pumping right away because I would have to do some teaching when my child was young and I knew she’d need to eat. Pumping absolutely stressed me out, and worrying about which bottle was right, when was too early/late to intro a bottle, etc, was a source of huge anxiety. I wish I could have just avoided it (I have mostly avoided pumping with my second child for that reason). I have noticed that a lot of mothers around me start pumping right away for no real reason, and am alarmed when I hear mothers talk about exclusive pumping as a good way to nourish your child. Obviously expressed breastmilk is better than formula, but exclusive pumping is REALLY hard to sustain longterm and seems like a recipe for disaster to me. Both of my daughters are mostly fed straight from the tap, and that’s how I’d encourage anyone who can keep it that way to do so. But I think a LOT of this pump mania is linked to mothers having to go back to work so soon after the baby is born. It’s really, really sad that women can’t get a full 12 weeks or longer to establish breastfeeding. Think about it: if a woman in the US could have a YEAR of maternity leave, then pumping would be of no concern. How awesome would that be?

4 Dani M { 08.10.10 at 7:08 am }

I breastfed my toddler for 2 years and am currently bfing my almost 1 year old. I never pumped or used a bottle with either children. I think that’s a luxury that these days only some SAHMs have. It was definately the right option for me and I didn’t want the hassle of pumping and storing. Bt for moms returning to the work force, it provides them the opportunity to feed their children breastmilk much longer if they begin storing their supply early on.

5 heather { 08.10.10 at 7:12 am }

My 1st daughter did not latch on well, and I gave up within the first few days and pumped. I tried to keep up with the pumping schedule, but it was very difficult to be a ’slave to the pump’ and I gave up within 6 weeks… with my 2nd I was determined that he would nurse. and he did. He never had formula and nursed until he was 18 months, and I was Pregnant with my 3rd, who is currently 11.5 months and still nursing strong!

6 Sonia { 08.10.10 at 8:35 am }

No one encouraged or pushed me to pump or give a bottle. Actually I think it was the opposite. I was very encouraged to only breastfeed. Baby is more efficient at getting milk than any pump and therefore can help increase supply. And I certainly didn’t want to create any latch issues. I had no NEED for pumped milk so there was no reason to put all that extra time and strain in. I only pumped when engorged. You still have to nurse the baby just as often and then adding pumping on top of it is a lot of work. The hospital I gave birth at is extremely supportive of breastfeeding.

7 Miyuki { 08.10.10 at 8:41 am }

My midwife encouraged me to nurse on demand and not even bother with pumps, bottles or pacifiers for the first 4-6 weeks. Sometimes I felt overwhelmed, but as soon as those 6weeks were up, I sucessfully pumped and turned over the 5am feeding to my husband.

8 Maggie { 08.10.10 at 9:22 am }

This is very interesting. I have caught “Bethenny” from time to time and was curious whether or not breastfeeding would be a topic discussed when her baby arrived. I had my daughter in April (we’ve been exclusively breastfeeding for 17 weeks!) and ever since then, I’ve been very aware of the glamorization of pregnancy, labor & delivery and motherhood on television. Everything about Bethenny’s baby prep was very glamorous–going to a couple of trendy boutiques and just buying furniture off the floor to fill the baby’s nursery (I think she said “I’ll take all of it,” when looking at a set of furniture that she liked in one store)–and then when I saw the episode with the baby nurse, my first reaction was “Well, I guess she’s not going to be breastfeeding.” I felt disappointed in a way, and annoyed. It seemed so typical–wealthy career woman living in a posh NYC pad hiring a baby nurse. I thought, “Hey, I’m in the trenches, here sweetie!” My husband and I are really changing our lifestyle so that I can stay home from work with our baby and I did the time in the mid-night nursings because, hey, I’m the mom!

This clip showed Bethenny in a different light and I’m glad to hear that she overcame her early struggles with nursing. My daughter and I had to learn TOGETHER how to nurse–it was not just hold her up to the breast and get latched on and all that jazz…no way was it that easy. I hope that Bethenny continues to nurse Bryn as frequently as she can/wants to. The benefits for both of them, not just the baby, are countless.

Pumping & formula-feeding is strongly supported on my husband’s side of the family while nursing is strongly supported on mine. Needless to say, I’ve managed to stick it out despite not always feeling supported by all of those in my “family,” and have done what’s best for my daughter and me. It hasn’t always been easy and there have been some issues and struggles among us about the “convenience” of pumping vs. nursing, etc. I knew I didn’t want to start pumping and giving bottles. That was a conviction that I held close. I didn’t even buy a pump. I use the hand pump I was given in the hospital on the rare occasion I want to pump a bottle. I have some friends who are pregnant and have pumps on their registries. I want to ask them “Why?” or I wonder if they have even considered the fact that they might not need it or want it. Motherhood and nursing is very much “To each his own.”

There are SO many talking points brought up by this clip and my own experiences. Talking about breastfeeding is good, but DOING it is even better :)

9 Jeramie Anna { 08.10.10 at 12:42 pm }

I was encouraged to pump and bottlefeed by my daughter’s pediatrician. I told her I was a stay at home mom, and would never be away from my baby so I didn’t need to pump. She insisted, and warned me that ” If you don’t give her a bottle by the time she is four weeks old, she will never take one, and you will never be able to get a babysitter or go out!” She almost scared me into it. I am so glad I resisted. My daughter is 14 months old and never had a bottle or pacifier.

10 Christen { 08.10.10 at 2:34 pm }

I was encouraged to pump when my milk first came in and people told me to introduce the bottle sooner rather than later since I was planning on returning to work. So, at 3 weeks, we offered her to bottle, but only my husband offered bottles… while I cried at the end of the hallway as she struggled to learn to take the bottle.

11 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 9:55 pm }

Jaundice is often the reason cited for pumping right after delivery. Pumping and giving extra breastmilk to increase the appetite and nursing effectiveness is far better than taking the baby off the breast. Unfortunately that is a common practice which introduces bottles and formula into the mix. You seemed to have been in a supportive environment and from the sounds of your comment have had a successful breastfeeding experience!

12 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:09 pm }

You are definitely not alone in feeling stressed by pumping. Good for you that you have successfully breastfed your girls. I agree with you that it would be great if we had maternity leaves which allowed for US mothers to exclusively breastfeed without the need to pump. Breastmilk is better than formula and pumping when employed outside the home does help to extend the breastfeeding well beyond the mother’s return to the work force. You are so right that exclusive pumping is hard to maintain. Exclusive pumping ignores the fact that this is not just about expressing the commodity of breastmilk, but rather it is about establishing the relationship of breastfeeding.

13 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:17 pm }

Good for you! That’s years of breastfeeding. You were lucky to have only breastfed as it is more the exception than the rule these days. You are probably right that it is more likely to work for SAHM’s. However, sometimes creative strategies such as breastfeeding in the daycare or having the baby brought to the office make it also possible for some mothers employed outside the home. More flexible working situations such as telecommuting, etc. can be used to the advantage of breastfeeding.

14 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:24 pm }

Congratulations Heather. It is so heart warming to hear how your breastfeeding success increased with each baby. I have helped many mothers who had a similar experience with their first go on to breastfeed their other babies. I am happy that it worked out for you.

15 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:29 pm }

I’m glad to hear you were lucky to give birth in a very supportive hospital. They are few and far between. The policies are there on paper, but the problem is implementation. Pumping is extra work and is something that only the mother can do. I never could understand why some mothers pump even when they are always with their babies.

16 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:33 pm }

Thanks for your comment Christen. You are not alone. Many moms are encouraged to introduce the bottle early just in case, especially if they plan to go back to work. Sounds like your husband and you worked together as a team to make that transition go as smoothly as possible.

17 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:37 pm }

Good for you! Unfortunately, many Pediatrician’s counsel the introduction of bottles. They probably think they are sparing you frustration down the road. I’m glad that you were able to stand your ground and have been able to maintain an exclusive breastfeeding relationship with your daughter.

18 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:39 pm }

Good to hear your midwife was so supportive. It is wise to establish a solid base of breastfeeding before any bottles are added. Sounds like you found a style that works for your whole family.

19 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.10.10 at 10:55 pm }

Thanks for your thoughtful comment Maggie. I also thought it was interesting to hear how Bethenny felt about her breastfeeding experience. Living here in NYC, I am very familiar with the glamorization of all things baby and the emphasis on the trappings that this reality show portrayed with some humor. This is an element of group think that is not always favorable for breastfeeding success, especially when it involves a dependence on pumps and bottles. It may not be long before pumps are on the wedding registries, for those unlike Bethenny, who are marrying before they become pregnant.

I’m with you actions speak louder than words. But we will not get anywhere without first opening up the conversation. Thanks for your input :-)

20 Patty Blaney { 08.11.10 at 6:02 am }

I was not at all encouraged to pump. I was given the option in the hospital and found that my son would get really frantic if he was hungry and have a hard time latching, so in the hospital I pumped for just a minute or two and got an ounce or so of colustrum out and gave that to him with a syringe….once he had a little something in his belly he latched like a champ and would nurse very efficiently, so no the pump didn’t stress me out and actaully allowed me and my son to work on latch and everything a little more relaxed. I pumped at least once a day for the first few weeks in between his first and second feeding of the day and it actually reduced my stress level becasue I knew I had some milk that was there in case we needed to add to what he was nursing and allowed my husband to occasionally take a feeding and allow me a little extra sleep. I think in the long run it made my transition back to work easier since we didn’t have any issues with my son switching from breast at home to bottles at daycare and he easily went back and forth between the two. It also allowed me to get a good stash going for when I went back to work so I didn’t feel as stressed at work if there was a day when I got a little less. I also feel like my once a day pumping early on helped me to increase my supply even more and be able to provide my son with breast milk as his only liquds until he was 1 and still nurse until he was 18 months old and self weaned.

21 Máire Clements RN IBCLC { 08.13.10 at 9:13 am }

Thanks for sharing your experience Patty. I am glad that you had such a successful extended breastfeeding relationship with your son.

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