11/07/2007

Down with breasts

My difficulty with breastfeeding is well documented. Some may curse me for bringing this up yet again, as one would be forgiven for thinking this ship has sailed when it comes to me utilising it as a blogging topic. I suspect my comments will be hovering in the low single digits on this one simply out of reader boredom and disgust, but I have some things I need to get off my chest. CHEST, get it? My humour is just astoundingly complex, I know.

I'll be honest, breastfeeding - don't like it. I am so over reading about the myriad ways I'm putting my daughter at a disadvantage because I didn't breastfeed her. As most of you will know, I pumped for the first two months of her life, but I supplemented with formula from birth. I tried desperately to get my supply high enough that I could give P mostly breast milk, but that opportunity dwindled quite rapidly. I felt guilty at the time, but now I just find myself angry at rabid breastfeeding proponents, and ambivalence toward breastfeeding itself. If anything, I'm edging toward putting it in the category of things I'd like to banish from my brain entirely, along with thoughts of spinach, animal abuse, and tights.

If I were to have another baby (there I go with that humour again), I don't know if I'd try to breastfeed. I think my early relationship with P suffered tremendously as a result of my largely breastfeeding-related depression and lack of sleep. Her reflux and colic were other obstacles preventing me from gushing about loving my preshus baaaaaybee for months and months, but my difficulty breastfeeding was paramount. It's kind of like name association - if you knew a vile little creature in elementary school called Amelia, you aren't going to name your own preshus baaaaybee Amelia no matter how lovely the name might be. It's like that for me when it comes to breastfeeding. I'm sure it's a fabulous thing to do, but it pushed me into a cubbyhole and pinched me on the arm way too many times for me to want to try it again.

I know as female bloggers we are always begging women not to pick on others for their choices, but things don't ever seem to get better. Amongst the more enthusiastic breastfeeding contingent I often read statements granting exception to women who cannot breastfeed for medical reasons (oh, thank you wise, sanctimonious breastfeeding mothers), but those who choose not to breastfeed are self-absorbed and not concerned about what is best for their child. Who are they to judge? It's just so insignificant in the wider scope of things, I can't possibly grasp why perfect strangers feel it suitable to comment on the matter. It's a boob. Milk *sometimes* comes out of it. Who cares? Move along.

As a full-time working mum who didn't breastfeed and possibly doesn't plan to for a subsequent child, I am probably at the head of the queue to be designated as a selfish mother who shouldn't have bothered having children. I fail to understand how it is anyone's business but my own whether I choose to breastfeed my own child(ren). I did not hurt P in anyway by ceasing the pumping session at 2 months, and if it makes anyone feel any better, she has been no more ill than any of the breastfeed babies in her cohort, she says more words than most of them, and she was the first of the 8 babies to walk. Not bad for a kid who was fed poison for the first 12 months of her life, I dare say.

For me, it all comes back to the fact that my breastfeeding troubles made me depressed for a few months and affected my relationship with my child. What more reason do I need to not want to do it again? Is it really worth sacrificing the fantastic potential to bond with a newborn? If I decide that boob is off the menu for petri baby number 2, so be it.

To stand up for the rights of potential bottle feeders everywhere, should I create my own little icon saying "Suck on it rabid breastfeeders", with the image of a baby being fed a bottle to combat all those "Suck on it Facebook" breastfeeding icons?

I shall retire to my hole now and prepare for the flames.

26 comments:

geepeemum said...

Hi. I've never commented before but I feel I must, if only to show some support before the fiery hordes fall upon us both...
I halfheartedly attempted to breastfeed my first child - halfheartedly because a) she was low birth weight and required supplementation anyway b) I wasn't terribly keen on the whole concept and c) as a GP I have seen so many women get so hung up on having to breast feed and then feeling so terribly guilty if the can't/don't that I was determined not to stress out about it. In point of fact, my daughter turned out to be less keen than me. Despite all the breastfeeding counsellors at the hopspital pummelling my boobs and squeezing milk down her throat she refused to suck from me ever again once she'd had a go at the bottle. And, well, I tried pumping but I wasn't that good and didn't really want to spend 4 hours a day when I could be doing other stuff - like marvelling over my baby girl. So I stopped. And with my son I never started; at that point I had an 18 month old and I figured that someone else being able to feed my son whilst I had time with my daughter was something none of us would regret. And I think I was right. I don't regret it for a second. My children certainly seem above averagely intelligent (if not a bit more than that...), they're now 3 and 4 years old and have had 2 bouts of vomiting and diarrhoea between them, don't have eczema, asthma or anything else evil - despite coming from a pretty atopic family - and are extremely healthy and fit. I truly believe breast feeding is a beneficial thing in a worldwide sense - if the alternative had been crappy water to make formula in some developing country then I'd have worked a damn sight harder. Here I think the benefits are a whole lot less than the breastfeeding mafia would have us believe. And I have a huge number of patients who have cried with relief when I've told them that htey don't have to feel so bad about giving up breastfeeding, that's it's not their fault and they can love their babies just as much and make bottlefeeding just as close an experience... I hate the breast feeding mafia (just in case you didn't guess).

DD said...

I just had an email discussion w/a new mom struggling w/ BF. I told her that in the grand scheme of things when one struggles to "get it right", no one wins, not even the baby.

There's guilt in realizing two years down the road how you only remember how much you felt like you failed when you couldn't breastfeed instead of those minute joys of a newborn; or if you do decide to accept that BF just won't work, the guilt that comes from every sniffle a child produces.

Pumping is great if the supply is there.

Formula is not arsenic, people.

The last thing a woman, post-partum to boot, needs is to feel guilty about something so fleeting when instead five years later they will wonder what impact it will have on their child if they allow him to occassionally wear Mommy's bra and high-heels.

ENJOY the newborn! Stop torturing yourselves about breastfeeding!

Waiting Amy said...

I did manage to BF my son for 10 months. But as a newborn we had major latching issues. And he was starting to get more jaundiced. I was pumping colostrum and cup feeding, but it wasn't enough. I was so stressed out and fried.

What I hated was the the BF mafia has created such pressure that the nurse was AFRAID to suggest supplemental formula. Just because I wanted to BF I was automatically pegged at an extremist. When she stammered and finally offered formula so he wouldn't keep heading to dehydration I leaped at the chance. OF COURSE I wanted to do whatever was going to make him better! If he felt better, hopefully he would succeed at latching, duh. After one bottle, things went much better and we generally had a very successful experience.

But G-d that was awful! I hate to be pigeonholed with ANY extreme perspectives. Each person needs to do what works for them. This has been my mother's advice on parenting, and I think its pretty true of life. Why do we need to judge so harshly?

electriclady said...

Well, if you read my latest post you know how I'm feeling about the breastfeeding mafia these days...

I've been meaning to post about this myself (and maybe will get motivated to do so, finally): I'm realizing that I still have an incredible amount of emotional baggage around my breastfeeding "failure." And honestly, one of many reasons why I really don't know if I want another child is because I can't bear to face that mess again.

May said...

Um, yeah. What they said. I eventually had some success breastfeeding after much supplementation, but in hindsight, I cannot believe how miserable I made myself over the whole thing. For MONTHS.

I'd write more but I'm still waiting for the coffeepot to finish so I can begin my morning ritual of poisoning my unborn child with caffeine.

Shadiva said...

What I don't understand is how if formula is so bad, how did anyone in the 70's survived considering a small number of mothers chose to breastfeed in those days.

I just recently learned from my own mother that not only not breastfeed, she only gave me formula for the first 3 weeks of my life. After that, she gave me straight cow's milk in my bottle. Obviously, I am still alive and I was rarely ever sick as a child.

Shadiva said...

As I look back over my comment, I am embarrassed at how stupid as I sound. I just realized I made some pretty funky typos and grammatical errors. My apologies.

Melissa said...

I breastfed my first for 14 months and am currently BFing my second. It hasn't been 100% easy and there were times, especially with this one, that I really wanted to quit, but I knew I would feel like a horrible failure if I did. (I'm saying this was my standard FOR ME, not for anyone else--I, like a lot of women, hold myself to much higher standards than I do other people.) Honestly, I envied women who could quit and resented them for being okay with a choice I was unable to make for myself. Things have settled down now and I no longer want to quit, but I wonder if a lot of the ire comes from women who secretly chafe at the demands of breastfeeding but don't want to admit it? Just a thought.

PiquantMolly said...

Oh, Pru. Getting that pump off your boobs FINALLY left them free for me to grope at will. For that I will be forever grateful.

Jenn said...

To me though it wasn't "insignificant in the wider scope of things". It was major. I was absolutely devastated and heartbroken when LC after LC told me I wouldn't be able to breastfeed. I was lucky that enough hard work was enough for us (and I know that's not the case for everyone). I don't think formula is poison at all (I was formula fed), but I did cry every time I had to supplement the boys because it wasn't what I wanted.

What really kills me with BF though is that with all the pro-breastfeeding messages, there seems to be little information on how to actually do it and help for those that have trouble. It makes me sad for those woman that want to BF, and could, but got bad advice or didn't know how to overcome a problem and ultimately weren't able to because of something fixable like that.

Thalia said...

Clearly I have a lot of baggage on this topic, which I can't quite figure out completely - more rambling posts likely to come from me as I try to figure it out. But I agree with some of the above comments, I don't have any issues with anyone else's choices, this just isn't what I wanted for my baby. And I think, having worked this hard to get her, I wanted everything to be perfect. Of course this is ridiculous,but somehow I don't seem to be able to let go. I think you did entirely the right thing for you, and I couldn't agree more with your decision.

statia said...

I think the whole children getting sick debate largely has to do with the parents and how sick they get or did get as children. It's fucking genetics. While maybe it has something to do with breastfeeding, I'm skeptical. I was formula fed, and I could lick an entire subway floor and probably not get sick. I wasn't a sickly child, but neither were my parents. I think I turned out fine. The formula might have something to do with my sarcastic wisesassery though. My son is formula fed, and he's had one cold in the entire 8 months he's been alive. He's healthy and happy, and currently trying to balance a plate on his head.

Clearly the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

DeadBug said...

God, it can be so incredibly hard for the first days and weeks, even under the best of circumstances. Nobody can quite prepare you for it--the pain, the invisible tether of being the only food supply, the feelings of inadequacy when you can't seem to get the hang of it. And the only images you see of breastfeeding are the perfectly contented madonnas whose babies are sucking away with gentle gusto. Even with two full-term babies with no obvious latch issues, I was pushed to the edge both times from the insane pain. (Insane, insane pain. Why is this not made clear to new moms, that it may be unbearably painful?)

Now that I'm past the bad part, no, I cannot imagine not being able to drag out a boob whenever the baby is hungry, and I do take delight in the fact that it's working for me. The purported health and intellectual benefits of breast milk aside, I breastfeed because I actually LIKE breastfeeding. Gives me a rush of some happy endorphin that I really need in my sleep-deprived, low-level PPD state. If it were continuing to be tortuous, I would have given up. I think you should take pride in having lasted as long as you did.

What pisses me off about the breastfeeding mafia is the attempt to count bottle feeding in the same class as drinking, smoking or doing drugs while pregnant.

Also, just have to say, I found a LC who openly advocated supplementing with formula from the get-go for anyone having troubles. She advised it for me so that I could let my nipples heal from Joshua's ravages for a day, though in the end I was able to get by with the nipple shields instead.

sparklykatt said...

I am due with my first bio baby next week. I really, really want to breastfeed. I will be very disappointed if for some reason it doesn't work out for me. BUT, I wouldn't dream of condeming someone else for deciding it wasn't for them. My first son is adopted and BF'ing was never an option. He is a very healthy 4 1/2 year old, and has always been. And you should have seen what he got in his bottles for the first six months in the orphanage!

Interesting though, is how some of my coworkers have responded when I've mentioned how important it is to me that BF'ing works out. More often than not I get the "oh, I don't know, it doesn't alway work for some women" or "don't get upset if it doesn't work out" etc. Actually quite surprising to me. Very not supportive in a way.

And...one little anecdotal bit...my best friend went through hell trying to BF her first, and ended up pumping for a while, then stopping. With her second she tried again and had very few problems. Who knows why...different kid, maybe she was more relaxed since she'd already done the newborn thing once...who knows.

The important thing though is it is your decision and no one elses business what you decide is best for you and your children.

Now I'm off to read the comments and see if people behaved themselves.

Meg said...

Pru - I hear you on this, and have been getting bit worked up reading the comments about brestfeeding on another blog lately. Although things have gotten marginally better here as J has gotten older, I do know that I really did torture myself to get us to this (mediocre) point. Many many tears. I think in my case, it was something to attach my uncertainty about everything to, if that makes sense - a focus for my tendency to anxiety...

What gets me the most about the rabid breastfeeders is the way they refuse to accept that problems occur for any other reason than you are lazy and misinformed. Jesus people, don't you think breasts break down too, like any other body part???

T said...

Satan! Satan formula feeder! heh, heh. I loved breastfeeding - after the first 10 - 12 weeks I think. Before that it sucked. It motherfuckingly hurts. Why don't they tell you that?(I don't really know any rabid bfing people though). And pumping blows. Then my milk dried up and I fed A. lucifer's ambrosia for 7 months and lo, she's a strapping lass now.

How's that for a coherent comment?

Nico said...

I was lucky enough that breastfeeding worked out pretty well for us. Yes, it did motherfuckingly hurt for the first couple of weeks, but we got through that. I have to say, thought, that I was never one who felt any major emotional attachment to it. And yes, I did feel tied down. Definitely not all positives!

I think it is great for P that you pumped for two months, but if you don't feel like doing that for preshus number two, I think that he/she will be just FINE. Although it may be worth an attempt, it could be completely different (esp as P was 5 weeks early). But I agree with the others - completely YOUR call.

May said...

Oh, don't. My sister (who breastfed her daughter for 2 years, and clearly both of them had a lovely time from the get-go) was cheerfully telling me last summer that my breasts were so big I'd have trouble breast-feeding.

I said, chance'd be a fine thing, thereby winning the one-down-man-ship contest by about a zillion points, but I digress.

There is no part of reproducing, failing to reproduce, or any aspect of childcare that some dumbarse or other has not whipped the media into a frenzy about this year. The media has then spread this frenzy to every female relation I own. *sob sob*

Also, I was breastfed for nine months and I have eczema, asthma, insulin problems, incipient type 2 diabetes, discalculia, bad eyesight, the less we say about my reproductive organs the better, and I bite my nails and am completely neurotic, all things breastfeeding is ALLEGED to prevent. Hah bloody hah.

Momish said...

In all honesty, I was very excited to breast feed until I started. It hurt, it was hard and it all falled on me (every night, every day, every feeding, every time). I was quick to wean, even before I started back to work. The idea of pumping at work gave me the shivers.

I know a lot of moms that gave it a half hearted shot or none at all, and never looked back. My mom refused to BF me and my sister. We are just fine.

I think it is a choice, like you said. I have no problem telling the BF cult to mind their own business. My sister went through trauma attempting to BF those first few days that it too effected her bonding with her daughter. I think you did the right thing and went with your instints.

You will find you are far from alone! And it is good to hear others speak honestly and outright about the "other side". I am sure your post here has produced many sighs of relief!

Angela said...

I'm so impressed by the level of rationality on this comment board. I did not breast feed myself, and for the most part, no one really gave me the stink-eye over it. But I do have several "friends" who are members of the fiery horde and who have given me a bunch of judgmental boloney about it in the past. You have very cool readers! And I'm right there with ya' on all of this.

Sami said...

We've supplemented with formula and that was after a lactation consultant helped us... Right now we're pumping and feeding expressed breast milk. I felt a lot of guilt because it wasn't how I imagined it... heck his coming early wasn't how I imagined it either. I also had raging jealousy for those that breastfeeding came easily to - my sister, my friends... and then there was me with a baby that was asleep at the wheel. We force fed the Squeak for the first 4 weeks before he actually started to wake up to eat rather than us wake him up.

Ultimately formula is fine... and it's there if I need it. I just wanted breastfeeding to be easier... and still wish it was. Now I don't have the patience for it and neither does the Squeak.

Nicole said...

Ok, I'm not a mom, so you can take this as you like.

What it boils down to is this:

Are they healthy?
Are they happy (in a general sort of way)?
Are they loved?

If you can answer "yes" to those questions, then IMHO, you're doing really well.

(Oh and I was a formula baby from day 1 - mom's milk never came in. And I'm pretty healthy).

B. Mare said...

It really gets on my tits (har har, a bit of UK humour and a pun to boot) that there is so much judgment around how one chooses to feed one's child. If you're breastfeeding (as I am), it seems like there is always somebody pushing (overtly or not) the bottle agenda- **coughmymothercough**.

Then if you're formula feeding, some people act as if you're letting your baby mainline heroin. Good God. And either way, the mother in question, deranged from lack of sleep and often slightly loopy with postpartum hormones, winds up feeling like crap about herself and the mothering experience. Bah. Bah I say.

I so wish it didn't come with so much baggage but I am getting the impression it's the tip of the iceberg as far as putting up with Other People's Opinions about childrearing for the forseeable future, so I guess I better get used to it.

Rachel said...

If this posts twice, it's because Blogger is a bitch.

This is definitely something that I have absolutely no opinion on, when it comes to other people. Whatever someone decides to do w/r/t breastfeeding is perfectly okay with me. Well, up until the kid is 4 or so - then it's just gross.

I just love how there are so many people out there who think they are experts on how to parent MY child. Um. No. *I* happen to be the resident expert on parenting this kid.

This is why I almost never read other mommy blogs unless I'm Internet Friends with them. I'm an ostrich that way.

Jitters said...

So, tell me how you feel about adoptive breastfeeding? I will admit I have issues with breastfeeding and am considering it for our adopted child, but struggling with my rationalization. Am I doing merely because I feel robbed of an experience I was not provided with an opportunity to love or hate? Is my desire more for me or for the child?

I hear from so many that it is not worth the hassle. I am fine with that and would most likely draw the same conclusion. I cannot judge others becasue I am not them. An no, formula is NOT bad. I just want to have the opportunity to make the decision for myself, but at the same time I need to assess why I want to do it.

Get me?

tonya said...

Coming waaay late to the game, but just wanted to say: if you're feeding your baby, you're doing your job. WTF does it matter how?

If someone is looking for BF support or ideas, I can pitch in from what I've experienced, but I think it's asinine to judge others for such a personal choice. The irony is I was formula fed, and never knew it until Tiny Boy was born preemie and I couldn't BF him (the subject finally came up with my mom). It is such a loaded topic because I think many people have had strong experiences either way.