Breastfeeding Accoutrements: Need or No-Need?

I love this article, “Breast Pumps, Nipple Shields, Hooter Hiders … Oh My!” from Kimmelin Hull on Science and Sensibility’s blog. As a nursing mother, I made much use of my nursing cover, and in fact will make them for friends who are driven to breastfeed but would rather nurse in a bathroom or in their car rather than in a public space due to modesty issues. In fact, my own breastfeeding pro of a sister (four breastfeed babes with a fifth on the way) had to walk me through public nursing when my little dude was two months old. We were both nursing babies at the time, and we were doing some after Christmas shopping in a very busy mall. It came time to feed both babies and I began to frantically look around for a hidden, secluded spot (a perfect time to get into our TN breastfeeding laws, but I won’t). She sat down on a circular bench in the middle of the mall, pulled out her nursing cover and her baby, and subsequently her breast, and began to feed. I took my place by her, babe in arm, and followed suit. It took my sister’s know-how and no-nonsense attitude to get me here. Never can enough be sad about having a sister who has gone before you in marriage, childbirth, or breastfeeding. I think there is particular stigma regarding breastfeeding here in the ‘south,’ and I feel that if a nursing cover can give a mom the confidence she needs to feed her baby, then have at it! Yet, I fully acknowledge that there is a point in which breastfeeding ‘accessories’ overwhelm what can become (after baby has established effective suck and mother’s supply is meeting demand) the simple process of breastfeeding. Read the article linked above.

For example, an expectant mother purchases a breastpump because, well, everyone knows that if you’re planning on breastfeeding you’re going to need a pump. After baby arrives mom cannot stand not knowing (this mom knew one way- measuring ounces) how much milk her baby is getting. So mom begins to pump and then feed baby bottles for every single feeding. Perhaps a consult with a lactation consultant could have let this mom know that the BEST way to know how much a baby is getting is by baby’s output: wet and poopy diapers. So, back to mom, this pump then bottle feed arrangement doesn’t sound so terrible (besides adding a middle man and taking more time to nourish baby), until, mom’s supply is going down because the pump doesn’t put as much demand on the breast as baby does. Remember, supply=demand. Then perhaps mom develops mastitis because no matter how great the pump, it just doesn’t drain a breast like a baby does. So what happens to this breastfed, then bottlefed with breastmilk baby? He becomes a formula fed baby. Who won? Perhaps the breastpump manufacturer? Which also happens manufactures bottles?

DO NOT GET ME WRONG. I believe that many of our accessories have a happy place somewhere in the breastfeeding continuum, including, especially, breastpumps. But as part of the flock to fill that retail need to be able to buy something that is the counterpart to our formula fed friends, do we purchase these accessories? Do ill-informed, though well-meaning, friends, family members, or dare I say childbirth educators or lactation consultants lead us down the rosy retail breastfeeding path?

Just as in childbirth and parenting choices, only you are looking out for what is best for your family. Evaluate what is on the market, consider what your goals are for feeding your child, and make your best decisions with carefully weighed research and advice.

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