Thursday, August 5, 2010

Breastfeeding as a Teen

Boobies. Tits. Funbags. Ta-ta’s. BREASTS.

Breastfeeding myths and misconceptions are abundant in today’s society. Our grandmother’s raised children around the time formula became mainstream and everyone used it. I once asked my grandma about her breastfeeding and using formula. She told me that women were essentially “brainwashed” and told that “formula was just as good as breastmilk”.

Wrong! Formula is derived from cow’s milk (and sometimes soy), not human milk. Cow’s milk is to be given to baby cows to help them grow into 1,000lb+ animals and not meant for human babies. Then chemicals and synthetic enzymes are added to the formula, some iron (which can cause constipation), and the potentially dangerous algae-derived DHA. It does not contain the same proteins, antibodies, or chemicals found in breastmilk.

Breastmilk is truly amazing. It is easily digested food, which reduces the chance of stomach upsets, gas, and constipation. Breastfed baby poop smells a whole lot better than formula-fed baby poop (that stuff could clear a room!). It is easier to clean up, and is water-soluble, so it is less likely to stain. It contains a pain reliever and sleep inducer. You can use it on your baby’s eczema to help clear it up. It’s fantastic.

On top of that, babies breastfed for 6 months or more have higher IQ’s when they are older, and less psychological problems in adulthood. A recent study showed if all American mothers breastfed for 6 months, it could save the lives of almost 1,000 infants and save $13 billion.

So why should YOU breastfeed? If you don’t care about any of the above (which I certainly hope you would), then continue reading.

You will get back in to shape faster. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin, a chemical present during an orgasm or labor. It will contract your uterus (with some discomfort) and help it return to its former size more quickly.

It burns up to 500 calories a day. Most mothers who breastfeed weigh less at 6 months postpartum than formula feeding mothers. However, this weight loss will not be long term unless you breastfeed for a MINIMUM of 3 months.

It’s easier in the long term. Getting up, making a bottle, feeding baby, burping, and then having to wash the bottles sucks, plain and simple. Why not just lift up your shirt, latch baby, and go back to what you were doing? I am typing this WHILE breastfeeding.

It’s cheap. Yeah, you might have to pump on occasion and feed a bottle if you attend school/work, but a good manual pump is $40 and a few bottles can cost up to $20. $60 one time sounds better than $150+ monthly.

It helps with postpartum depression. There are still quite a few hormones in your body while breastfeeding, and every time you breastfeed, oxytocin is released. This has been called the “love hormone”. It relaxes you, lifts your mood, and promotes bonding with your baby.

Now, onto the issues of teen breastfeeding.

Breasts as something that isn’t sexual is odd to most teens. We are conditioned that breasts are sexually appealing and for our pleasure and men’s pleasure. While the breast can be a sexual spot, it serves first and foremost as nutrition for your baby. That is what they are there for! Breastfeeding will not stimulate you sexually, and no, it will not make your breasts sag. Pregnancy makes your breasts sag (if they do), not breastfeeding. However, the stretching your skin will do while drying up milk…now that might make them sag.

Meddling mothers and grandmothers. This was an issue for me. A baby will want to eat, eat, eat, and eat some more in the first 6 weeks. It’s hard, it’s tiring, and at times you feel like something is wrong. Your family might say that the baby isn’t getting enough to eat, you’re not doing it right, that formula is easier. Then ask them, how many of them breastfed? Formula fed babies sleep longer and don’t eat as often because it is difficult to digest, unlike breastmilk. It’s like eating a whole lot of carbs and a turkey dinner, all you want to do is sleep. Stick with it, and if you are concerned, consult a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League.

Breastfeeding is gross, why would you want a baby sucking on your tit all day?” Hold on, I might slam my head into the keyboard as a response to this. Breasts are for babies, there is a reason you make the milk. They are not there to please your boyfriend. They are not there for other men to oogle. They are to feed your baby. Before formula, all babies were breastfed by their mothers or wetnurses. The idea that babies are meant to drink from bottles is a recent movement in popular culture. There is nothing gross about breastfeeding, it is natural and beautiful.

Do not be ashamed of wanting to breastfeed, do not be pressured into formula feeding by your peers. You wouldn’t let your mom or best friend bully you into giving away your baby or giving it soda in a bottle. Stand up and fight for your child. Breastfeeding is the food meant for our children, and everything else is substandard and could be dangerous. Do not gamble with the health of your child.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What is Teen Parenting?

After meeting up with an old friend who has a ten month old, she looked at me with a sad look in her eyes and asked quietly, “Is it everything you thought it would be?”

I was a bit put off by her question and asked, “What?”

“Is motherhood everything you thought it would be?”

We discussed her issues with being a teen parent for a bit, but the tone of her voice and that look in her eyes has stuck with me. On one hand, I feel bad for her for going through a rough time with her baby and parental support. On the other hand, I don’t know how to feel. What do most teens think motherhood will be?

When a teen discovers she is pregnant and ultimately makes the decision to keep her baby, what goes through her head in terms of expectations?

I thought that I would be a flustered, stressed out, frazzle-haired mom covered in spit-up and poop with a screaming baby 24/7. Imagine my surprise when I brought home my newborn and we made it through those rough first few weeks. I wasn’t horribly sleep deprived nor ready to chuck my baby out the window, or even close to wanting to take a bath with the toaster. I had imagined motherhood so impossibly difficult that when my daughter was finally born, I was relieved.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still hard. There were still nights when I cried trying to nurse my baby with a cracked nipple as she went through a growth spurt. I was frustrated and annoyed, and I felt like the worst mom in the world for being annoyed with my baby.

I feel like a lot of teen moms get overwhelmed with their babies because they don’t realize how difficult it will be. Of course you imagine all the good things. The cute smiles and giggles and dressing baby up in adorable outfits. You imagine baby pictures and those first steps or first words.

Many don’t realize that a baby isn’t going to come out saying “mama”, they aren’t going to be smiling and laughing or splashing in the bath for quite a few months. Their babies are born and suddenly the idea of a cute laughing Gerber baby turns into this tiny thing that cries, eats, poops, and cries some more. That sudden slap in the face from reality is enough to shake any woman, no matter her age.

Yet unlike a new mother in her late 20’s, when we get flustered and need a break, it is seen as immaturity and inexperience. We are judged and examined and even shamed. We have to be on our toes, and prove that no matter our age, we can be good mothers.

So you may wonder, what does being a teen parent entail? Let me outline this for you.

No more party weekends. Yeah, we all need a break sometimes, but your party days are over. The first 6 weeks of life, baby needs mama. Do the right thing and give your baby what he or she needs.

Fast food, movies, and going out. Expect it to be a lot more difficult. Want to run out for a quick bite or to get something from the store? Your 10 minute run is going to take at least 30 with baby in tow.

You will be judged everywhere you go. Teen moms are still looked down on, no matter how popular MTV has made them. Losing your temper, taking too long to respond baby’s cries, and even using foul language will have people silently judging you.

There will be little sleep for the first 6 weeks. Babies need to be close to mom the first six weeks to help establish a breastfeeding pattern and for comfort. Remember, they were inside you for 9+ months, having your warmth suddenly disappear will be upsetting.

School will be harder. Trying to stay focused in high school or college is difficult, and with a youngster needing you it will be even harder. Have you ever tried writing a paper with a happy 6 month old slapping your keyboard because she thinks it’s funny?

You will be frustrated, annoyed, cranky, over-tired, upset, and on occasion hate the world. You will be jealous of childless teens, and even little things like showering or using the bathroom by yourself will turn you green with envy.

Adjusting to life with a baby is difficult, because everything goes from being about you, you, you to baby. But remember, you chose to have your baby. It is not their fault they were born, and you owe it to that child to be the best parent you can be.

When you choose to give birth and keep your child, you give up the right to be a teenager. You give up the right to party. You give up the right to almost all of your free time. You give up the right to a full night’s rest every night. You give up the right to peeing alone. You give up the right to take your time eating a meal just in case baby starts crying.

Yes, baby giggles and smiles will light up your heart. Those smiles and sweet coos make all the hardship worth it. The keyword in there is hardship. Don’t forget that there is more to a baby that pink bows and dinosaur jammies.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dangerous Formula

I saw an interesting article today on the Peaceful Parenting blog about DHA/ARA additives in formula causing a list of dangerous and potentially deadly health problems for infants. Yet another reason I am thankful I made it through the rough first few weeks of breastfeeding.

The current state of breastfeeding in the United States is a dismal one. Breasts are sexualized to the point of shame, and yet everywhere we turn there is a scantily clad woman in an ad. Sometimes I want to go sit in front of the near-nude Victoria’s Secret posters in the mall while breastfeeding and DARE someone to say something to me. There is a rough estimate that 65% of infants are breastfed in the hospital, and only 29% are still breastfeeding at six months.

Why? The answer is simple: Formula.

I will never understand why, as teen moms, some of us choose to formula feed. I’ve heard the excuses. “I didn’t want to breastfeed.” “It hurt.” “It’s gross.” “I don’t want the baby attached to me 24/7.” These are not good reasons to feed your child substandard food.

A lot of teen moms are not employed, or do not work enough to pay for the cost of formula. The cost per year of feeding your infant formula? A staggering $1,188. That is money you could put in your bank account.

Can’t afford it? There is always WIC. But why are you going to ask the state to give you money to feed your child when you have 2 perfectly formed tools for supplying your baby’s food?
I have heard how great it is that I am breastfeeding more times than I can count. Why? Honestly, breastfeeding is so normal to me and a part of my life I sometimes forget that people formula feed. There is nothing weird, gross, or sexual about it.

Teens have a lot of misconceptions about breastfeeding. You do not become sexually aroused while breastfeeding, it won’t make your breasts sag (though you can thank the pregnancy for that one), and if you work at a baby’s latch, it won’t hurt. If it hurts, you should see a Lactation Consultant about the problem. Let me repeat: IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HURT.

But you know what does hurt? Drying up your milk. Many women experience painful engorgement when their milk first comes in (3-5 days after birth), but it subsides within 1-2 days. However, if you choose to formula feed, you must be in this horrendous pain for upwards of 10+ days in order to dry up your milk.

Let me describe this pain for those who have not experienced it: It is an eternally itchy pain that refuses to go away. Even your clothes touching your skin makes you want to rip off your breasts with you bare hands, stomp on them, and pour gasoline on them before lighting them aflame. I slept with icepacks on my breasts and popped Ibuprofen like it was candy because of the pain. It helped, but it was still unbearable. Now imagine that pain for more than a week.

Your newborn will nurse frequently, and then nurse some more. Then 3 weeks will hit and they will be suctioned to you like a barnacle because of a growth spurt (I will cover this at a different time). If no one in your family has breastfed, they will push for formula or a bottle because “you don’t have enough milk” or some other garbage that our grandmother’s were brainwashed with when formula was first introduced.

Stick to it. It is worth it.

I love my sleep, and as someone going to college, I need it. Do I want to be getting up in the middle of the night to make a bottle? No! Of course not. All I do is lift of my shirt, latch my baby on, and we both drift back to sleep as she eats. Not bottle warming/burping/rocking back to sleep.

There are so many more benefits to breastfeeding than extra sleep and the cost. There is less risk of illness, obesity later in life, and even a higher IQ. Formula cannot offer those benefits, and can even be harmful in the long run. Why buy something with artificial DHA when your breasts make it for free?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Don't Be a Sheep

Baaaaaah. That’s what I hear coming from the mouths of most teenage mothers today. Baaaaah. They are sheep. They follow blindly what they are told with no research behind what they are doing.

You say, “My mom told me to do this,” or “My parents did this with me and I’m fine.”

You know what I hear?


Are you really going to spend more time researching your new phone/car/computer/iPod than your own pregnancy? Your birth? How to raise your child? Are you really going to listen to everything your parents tell you to do with your child?

I’m pretty sure most teen mom’s parents said, “Don’t have sex.” Or at least they said, “Use protection.” But hey, guess what? Looks like you didn’t listen. But when baby comes and your mom says “You need to give that baby rice cereal at night so he’ll sleep longer.” Or when your grandma tells you, “Let the baby cry, it is good for the lungs. Don’t pick her up when she cries, she is manipulating you,” do you intend to let these things slide? Can you really sit there and listen to your baby scream for hours because they must learn how to sleep on your schedule, just because sweet old nana told you to?


A part of being a mother is sacrifice, and prioritizing baby in your life. Should you take care of your needs first and foremost? Of course.

Should you make your baby conform to your schedule for the sake of your conveince? Absolutely not. Babies have no concept of night and day, they don’t understand how manipulation works. All they know is how to cry to communicate.

Hungry? They cry. Wet? They cry. Cranky? They cry. In pain? They cry. Wanting to be held? They cry!

Babies want mom around. They want to suckle at her breast, they want to feel skin-to-skin contact, and they want to sleep near mom. You carried your child for 9 months, and now they are outside in this big cold world and they rely on you to make it safe.

The United States is obsessed with fostering independence. We separate mom and baby at night, either through using a crib or a completely separate room. We don’t encourage night-time cuddles or breastfeeding, or even tending to your child’s needs during the night because “they must learn or they never will”.

There are so many options and bits of advice that people will stand adamantly behind. To question the parenting techniques of your parents, to them, will feel like an attack on their abilities as parents. Remember, this is your child, not your mom’s or dad’s. You have a voice, and you can say “No, this is what I am going to do. Here is why.”

We live in the age of the internet, where information is at our fingertips. Maybe take a break from Facebook and Twitter, and spend some time looking into breastfeeding. Look into co-sleeping. Read some scientific studies about child-rearing, and learn about your life as a parent. Just because your mom/aunt/grandma/friend/random stranger says “This is how I did, you should to,” doesn’t mean you have to!

Break free from the flock. Don’t be a sheep. Make an informed decision.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mission Statement

My goal with this blog is to help educate pregnant teens and teen moms about proper pregnancy care and parenting in the modern age. As teen parents, most people assume we cannot possibly understand how to properly care for ourselves and our newborn children. Every little mistake or question on our behalves is seen as an incompetence in our ability to take care of our child. Even our parents tend to forget those first few weeks when they were confused and struggling to figure out the needs of their newborn.

Our parents feel the need to step up and help us, which is always welcome, but sometimes the advice of their generation is outdated. And that outdated information was given to them by their parents, which was outdated then as well. They mean well, but by perpetuating myths and misconceptions during pregnancy and after birth, such advice can be counterproductive and potentially harmful.

Even doctors and nurses give out information that isn’t up-to-date, and it can end up hurting the mother/baby relationship from the start.

Regardless of your race, age, or socio-economic background, teen moms are treated differently than a mother in her late 20’s or 30’s. A teen mom can’t possibly care for a newborn like a married woman can, right? She can’t possibly love and bond with her baby or even know what to do, right?


We carry our babies inside of us for 9 months, we go to the same doctor appointments, we have the same worries, and the same fears that our older counterparts do. We go through the same hormonal changes and the cravings and the mood swings, and we create a bond during pregnancy. We feel the same love a slightly older women feels for her baby.

Teen moms are different because we are younger, because we may not have jobs or stable relationships or a good support system. That, however, does not make us incapable and unfit parents. We have a hard road ahead of us, but the idea that a teen mom cannot care for her child is foolish.

As teenagers, we have a bad rap. Just watch an episode of 16&Pregnant or Teen Mom on MTV. What do you see? Teenage girls wanting to be teenage girls, ditching their kids on their moms and caring more about socializing that their child. They allow their children to cry alone, they make no attempts to breastfeed and seek help, and socializing and partying take precedent. These are the stereotypes of a teen mom.

Don’t be a stereotype. You are a mother. You are a woman. Stand up for your right to be a parent and not have that ability questioned. Accept help when you need it, and put your foot down when you must. Educate yourself, educate your parents, and be the best mom you can be.