...and yet I feel compelled to jump into the fray. Because it's a big deal, apparently, this whole breastfeeding/formula fracas.
That's right...I haven't posted anything in over a month, and rather than write about something relevant to my life...you know, like about how I have pericardial effusion (fancy-schmancy term for fluid around the heart), and am now waiting to see a cardiologist. Instead, I'm going to write about this breastfeeding stuff.
When I was breastfeeding, the internet was still in it's fairly early days, and hardly anyone had blogs or got all their medical information online. Now everyone has a blog, and half of us diagnose ourselves via WebMD before we even make our doctor's appointments.
I was 22 when I had the midget. Young enough that I wasn't really prepared to be a mom, but old enough that no one saw me and went "Oh Em Gee, babies having babies!" Or whatever judgmental thing people say about teen moms. I was pretty big into the natural stuff, natural childbirth, breastfeeding. I figured I would have a baby the old fashioned way and feed her the old fashioned way.
I went ahead with the natural childbirth, but only because I got to the hospital four hours before the midget passed through my birth canal. About 30 seconds into pushing, I turned to the midget's father and said "I don't want to do this anymore." It didn't help that during the hours leading up to the pushing stage the midget's father would look at the monitor and say, "Oh, you're having a contraction, and it's a big one!" And I was all...no shit, Asshole. Because being in labor makes you say stuff like that. And frankly, being me makes you say stuff like that.
So, there I was set to breastfeed this child. I'd read a couple of books, so I totally knew how to do it, right? Wrong. First of all, the midget had low blood sugar at birth and so she needed to be fed...and even if we had been able to manage that whole breast feeding thing, the first couple of days after the birth, a woman's body only produces colostrum, which isn't high in sugar. So, she had formula, and they brought a breast pump in for me to use. Only this was nearly 12 years ago, so it was huge, not one of these cute "comfortable" pumps. It was a monstrosity. But we got through it and by the time she left the hospital her blood sugar was fine and we were breastfeeding sort of. We got through it, especially once my milk came in and we both got the hang of it...only...
I hated breastfeeding. It was "icky." I was 22 and breasts were for fun, not for producing dairy products. But, I persevered. I figured we'd get to a point where I was having those beautiful bonding moments mentioned in every book I read. But it never happened. Every day that I breastfed the midget, I hated it. I was grumpy, and uncomfortable. I had a nasty case of the baby blues, which I still haven't really ever talked about with anyone. I've alluded to it with a few friends, but it was dark. I imagined driving away and leaving my baby with somebody, anybody, sometimes even nobody, as long as I could leave...and that was on good days. I can't bring myself to type the thoughts that went through my mind on bad days. Some day, maybe with therapy...but not now.
Needless to say, the postpartum depression didn't help the breastfeeding challenge. Which is why, when I read this little article tonight, I got furious. When the midget's doctor decided to switch her to soy formula because she was lactose intolerant and that meant no more breast milk, I was thrilled...and I felt like the worst mother in the world. What was wrong with me that I didn't love breastfeeding? Didn't I love my kid?
I just don't get articles like the one I linked to above. How does choosing to feed your child something that is perfectly healthy and formulated perfectly for infant nutrition wrong? Yes, I get it that breastfeeding imparts natural immunities and I'm sure there are women right now judging me and blaming the midget's Type 1 diabetes on her not being breastfed (despite there being no link between formula or breast milk and Type 1 diabetes...so neither is to blame for diabetes, though not breastfeeding does seem to be linked to obesity rates in older children which can lead to type 2 diabetes). But I agonized over hating breastfeeding. I hated that I hated it...that and my not infrequent wish that the squalling midget was far, far away and I was a footloose woman with lots of freedom made me insecure about my parenting for years.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the postpartum depression disappeared not long after I stopped breastfeeding. Once I had no choice but to bottle feed the midget, I could enjoy her feeding times (well, except for the smell of that god-awful soy formula...blech), and because I didn't feel like a walking dairy, I didn't resent her as much. But I couldn't admit to other people that I was glad not to have to breastfeed anymore, because I knew how they'd judge me.
Since then, my most beloved Archaeogoddess has had a child, and we've discussed breastfeeding, including the fact that I hated it. She found an article that showed that there may be a hormonal imbalance that causes some women to dislike breastfeeding. See, because in the natural order of things, breastfeeding is supposed to trigger a hormonal response that causes mother/infant bonding. I was clearly a freak because that didn't happen for me. Or so I thought. And, frankly, the Archaeogoddess is the first person I ever told about my dislike of breastfeeding that didn't automatically think "Bad Mother." Of course, the Archaeogoddess is my go-to person any time I need to talk about something that could potentially cause someone to judge me. Because she doesn't. She doesn't look at me and think "Bad Mother" because I hated breastfeeding...she thought, huh, that's different, maybe there's a reason for that...and it's one of the eight gazillion reasons I'm blessed to have her as my best friend.
Mental illness issues are difficult, but when you don't have someone like the Archaeogoddess in your corner, not judging you it's even worse. I know I'm lucky...I cannot imagine how many women read articles like the one I linked to above and think, what the fuck is wrong with me, and I should just keep my damn mouth shut about hating breastfeeding, or even the idea of it, and unlike me, they don't have a best friend who will simply say, "OK" when being presented with clear evidence that according to the La Leche League their best friend is THE. WORST. MOTHER. EVER.
I get the judging thing, I do...there are times when I see parents giving their tiny monsters everything they want and never saying no, and never disciplining and I think they are the worst parents in the world...or the parents who do just about anything that's going to have a long term impact on a child's ability to function in society, I totally judge them. But judging a parent because they give their child a perfectly healthy substitute for something I choose to feed my kid? No fucking way. And frankly, since I get people evaluating the midget's general diet all the time now (because you know, they are experts on Type 1 diabetes, and they are sure that my kid can't have that diet soda I just gave her, or that candy I just gave her), I almost think I'm more sensitive about the breastfeeding issue now than I was then.
Yes, in a perfect world, every baby would have breast milk, and mothers who have an aversion to breastfeeding could buy or get breast milk donated to them easily. But, we don't live in a perfect world, and there are plenty of mothers who have to choose between their antidepressants and breastfeeding, or other medications and breastfeeding, and they shouldn't be judged for that. It isn't as though they are depriving their child of adequate nutrition. So, shut the fuck up about it. It isn't any one's business what nutritionally sound food you are giving your child. I mean, fine, if you know someone who is filling their kid's bottle with vodka, go ahead and get involved, but even if you think formula is the last thing that would ever cross your baby's lips, it's not your fucking business what that other mother is feeding her kid, or why. Let's focus on the babies who are getting nothing to eat, or the mothers who are watering down formula because they can't afford enough formula, but let's educate them, not judge them, or even better, if you are breastfeeding and you think it's essential for all babies to get breast milk, make yourself part of the solution, find someone in your community raising an infant that's addicted to crack, or a mother who has HIV, and can't breastfeed, and donate your breast milk. And don't go around thinking that the ability to produce milk makes you a better mother than I am...any fucking mammal can produce breast milk, so doing so doesn't make you a good parent, any more than it makes an alley cat a good mother.