Happy mom = happy baby revisited

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Registered: 05-20-2008
Happy mom = happy baby revisited
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Mon, 01-10-2011 - 1:53pm

Note: I just added a missing point which I highled in orange.

Most if not all of you have probably heard of the phrase "Happy mommy = happy baby" and we have int he past discussed that on this board. Several recent Youtube videos I watched reminded of this topic so I thought I would share some new thoughts on the issue for debate. The whole argument is based on a assumption that I am not convinced is actually true. The assumption is that if the mothers is particularly unhappy (or maybe just unhappy to any degree) that the baby will pick that up and that that will cause psychological harm to the baby that would outweigh the risks of formula. I have never been convinced that for most mothers and their babies that this holds true. Unless the mother is experiencing sever mental issues while BF'ing

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Registered: 03-16-2010
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 2:51pm

I hope to have time to go through your specific arguments later, but for now I just want to say this.

In my struggles to BF, the only person who ever said anything like "happy mom = happy baby" to me was my second IBCLC, who said (at

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Registered: 04-18-2003
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 4:10pm

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Registered: 06-04-2004
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 4:17pm

I think your reasons provide good food for thought, Charleen.

I've just never been able to see the relevance of Mom's "happiness" to the situation. I don't see what it really has to do with anything. Mom choosing not to breastfeed because it doesn't make her "happy" to do so is a choice she's free to make, but she needs to understand that her choice, and her potentially increased "happiness", come at a cost to both her and her baby, but especially her baby. If she understands that, and is willing to work toward mitigating the risks incurred by her choice, then more power to her. Live long and prosper, Mom...

But that isn't what I see when moms I know quit BF for the sake of their own "happiness". IME, most of these moms soon recognize that BF only seemed like the largest (or the only) thing standing between themselves and blissful "happiness" in motherhood. I've seen it happen time and again, enough times to know that BF wasn't the problem. Adjusting to new motherhood, changing responsibilities and relationships, being deprived of "me time" and sleep...all of these were at the root of the problem, far more often than BF all by itself was. That doesn't stop them from talking about BF like it was a giant life-ruiner, however. They'll still often do that, whether it was actually true or not. BF, unfortunately, is one of the main scapegoats in the world of motherhood. It's the proverbial baby thrown out with the bathwater. I feel most acutely sad for those situations where Mom threw it away in the first few weeks before the reward period had a chance to come along, or did so without ever pursuing assistance or advice.

And though I am well aware that my opinion is unpopular, I'll share it all the same: I don't believe in complaining because motherhood isn't as fun as you'd imagined it was going to be. In fact, it's one of my major pet peeves with my peers in the parenting realm. Why does a parenting choice have to make you "happy" in order for it to be worth doing? I'll never be able to understand that. My providing my children with the basic necessities of life, as I see them, has nothing to do with my level of happiness. There are all kinds of things I do as a mother that I don't particularly enjoy, and some that I wish I didn't have to do at all, particularly related to my older child's congential health problems. Should I quit doing them because I don't feel "happy" having them in my life? I don't think so. I could, but I'd incur unnecessary risk. That seems foolish to me.

Oh, and standard disclaimer, for those who love them: yeah, moms whose PPD/PPP are so severe that they can't function, or might hurt their babies, or are committed to institutions...those moms probably do have a level of unhappiness that renders something like BF kind of a moot point in some cases. But if they were the only ones quitting BF because they weren't "happy", we wouldn't be having this conversation. Nobody would say "happy mom=happy baby". When we can also let go of the mythical idea that BF, all by itself, causes conditions like PPD, maybe more people will understand and respect the distinction.

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Registered: 11-29-2005
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 6:37pm
Hmmm....

It's interesting to me to come back to this topic at this juncture, as I've been dealing w/ stress and PPD. I have had to consciously make time for myself, take care of myself, and give myself permission to do this, b/c I had been neglecting my own mental/physical health after having my second child and going back to a particularly stressful work situation.

I know the old metaphor - you have to give yourself oxygen when the airplane cabin depressurizes, and only then give the mask to your child. That is, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. Which goes along w/ the "ain't nobody happy" saying.

BUT despite all of this, the one thing I never ever considered was giving up BFing. Not for more sleep, or less work, or whathaveyou.

Now, I will say, I don't have any major BFing issues or difficulties, so why would I give up something that makes my life easier and gives me permission to sit with my baby and cuddle and nurse?

But I don't know that *if* I had decided that BFing was one of my stressors, and *if* I had decided I had to give it up to give myself a break, that it automatically makes my baby happier. That's the part that doesn't make sense to me either.

I totally get that for a mom's sanity, she may feel that it's better for her not to BF (whether or not that's actually the case). But I don't really get how that negates the risks of formula. Sure, for some dyads you'll see that happy (FFing) mommy leads to a baby who's no less happy than they were BFing. But for some dyads you'll see that happy (FFing) mommy leads to a baby who actually is unhappy w/ FFing. Which could very well lead to an unhappy mommy again. And the problem is that you're not going to know in advance which scenario you're facing. And it's hard to go back.

So if asked to assist a mom who's having issues and is miserable, I'd certainly commiserate and empathize and encourage her to take care of herself. But I'd also encourage her to try to find BFing solutions for her BFing issues if she has them, so that this will hopefully become one fewer stress for her.

 


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Registered: 01-07-2005
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 6:56pm
>>I totally get that for a mom's sanity, she may feel that it's better for her not to BF (whether or not that's actually the case). But I don't really get how that negates the risks of formula. Sure, for some dyads you'll see that happy (FFing) mommy leads to a baby who's no less happy than they were BFing. But for some dyads you'll see that happy (FFing) mommy leads to a baby who actually is unhappy w/ FFing. Which could very well lead to an unhappy mommy again. And the problem is that you're not going to know in advance which scenario you're facing. And it's hard to go back.>> As you know, I had PPD and I am sorry to hear of your troubles. It is very important to take care of yourself especially when dealing with PPD. Taking time to oneself is utmost important especially when there is sleep deprivation involved or other stressful issues to attend to. I had a lot of stress in my marriage and sleep deprivation made it far worse. For a lot of my child's first months I have no memories. My mind refuses to go back. Formula feeding will carry risks no matter what your choices are. However, for mothers who may need to simply break from routine and have a nurse present as I did to help care for my child or have to be away from the baby for a few days, which was the case for me as well, I do not know how I would have breastfeed. Add to it a baby who has her own issues breastfeeding (breast aversion with refusal to latch), and the fact that the nurse in the maternity ward thought that this was not going to work (she could see my newborn, less then one week screaming for hours with still no latch), you end up formula feeding and realizing that sometimes the best laid plans do not always work. In my case, and I can only speak for me, my daughter was in tune with my moods. Less then a week old, and my mother said she cried more if I was distraught. She has always been highly tuned to me even to this day. In our house, it always held true, unhappy mother equals unhappy child. It is maddening even now that if I need space, my child will become clingy because she knows I am pushing a little for space, and she will push back. She was like that as an infant and for 10 days at 2 months I had to enter the hospital and be seen and she needed to be away because she was picking up on my dismal mood. Infants are programed to pick up on the caregiver's mood and if it is really bad, it can affect the infant. That is my two Canadian cents at par! :P






Lilypie




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Registered: 11-29-2005
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 8:38pm
I totally get that for so many reasons BFing wasn't going to work for you and K. I think you did (and do) a great job of parenting despite your PPD and stressors and the lack of support from your DH, and that you and K have a very special and close bond.

But I still don't think you can take that and turn it into "happy mommy=happy baby." Ot at least not "happy mommy automatically means happy baby."

Even when FFing seems on balance to be the best choice for the family situation, that does not automatically make the baby happy and risks making the baby very unhappy. Doesn't mean the choice doesn't make sense, just that the choice has risks.

 


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Registered: 06-17-2007
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 9:54pm

The strange thing for me is that I don't usually see it used in the context of "I've had mastitis five times in the past three months, I can't get rid of it, I had to have an abscess surgically removed. I want to keep bf but it's killing me." It's more like, "My baby is nursing way more often than every three or four hours and it's a major drag" kind of complaints. Far be it from me to judge the quality of someone's stress, but I see it so much more often used in situations I think generally don't call for it.

As for women becoming so stressed that formula is better than breastfeeding, I don't get that either. First of all, whether you're bf or ff, you still have to feed the baby. So unless ALL of your stress is tied strictly and irrevocably to bf alone, and there are no possible solutions for you to solve the problems causing it, then your stress will still rub off on your baby. Even if you are so stressed that you must leave your newborn in the care of someone else while you go out of town for a few days, baby will still feel the affects of the upheaval. I do understand being very stressed with a new baby. For example, when E was two months old, FIL and his sister came down to visit. They stayed with us, using a guilt trip as I really didn't want DH's chain-smoking aunt to be smoking around my infant. FIL has a lot of health problems and is on some serious painkillers. Well, he didn't get his shipment in time to go out of town so he was going through withdrawal during the visit. Not a pretty sight. He was pacing around, ranting and screaming. His sister was chain-smoking on our balcony, despite our repeated statements that she needed to take it outside and away from the door. I hid in our bedroom with the baby for something like seven hours straight because I was afraid to come out.

I tend to try to think about coping techniques for things you really can't get out of, as opposed to looking for the first and seemingly easiest way out. It isn't always the easiest, as it turns out.




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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-16-2010
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 10:54pm
gespenst wrote:

I totally get that for a mom's sanity, she may feel that it's better for her not to BF (whether or not that's actually the case). But I don't really get how that negates the risks of formula.

I don't think it negates

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-16-2010
Mon, 01-10-2011 - 11:15pm
hollyelizabeth2007 wrote:

As for women becoming so stressed that formula is better than breastfeeding, I don't get that either. First of all, whether you're bf or ff, you still have to feed the baby. So unless ALL of your stress is tied strictly and irrevocably to bf alone, and there are no possible solutions for you to solve the problems causing it, then your stress will still rub off on your baby.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-17-2007
Tue, 01-11-2011 - 3:35am
Jessica, I either don't know or don't remember the particulars of your situation. Even then I'd be unwilling to debate you on them, particularly on this subject. But that leaves me wondering as to what is your point?

If your point is that sometimes all a mother's stress is tied to bf, I'd already established that as an exception. If it's to say that ff was really easy for you, I'd say great but that really doesn't contribute much to or against my argument. If it's to establish that fathers can and do take over feeding for overwhelmed mom, in general I would have to disagree. On iV alone, I would say that at least 90% of the women who decided to ff so their husbands could help out (particularly at night) still ended up doing almost all the feedings.

So how does your comment relate to my argument. I still contend that the stresses new mothers face are usually much more complicated than bf. So in examining the idea that mom's stress can get so great it makes the risks of ff outweigh the risks of bf, I still maintain that this problem is generally not unique to bf. After all, this discussion is not just about mom's stress, but how mom's stress affects baby. And I still argue that a woman who quits bf on the basis that bf stress makes ff the better choice is still likely to "harm" her baby with stress over other issues. So unless quitting bf will immediately make you a blissful parent (which I think is highly unlikely), I don't think quitting bf solves this problem.




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