Defending The Mommies | Giftie Etcetera: Defending The Mommies

Friday, October 17, 2008

Defending The Mommies

When I decided not to breastfeed Ander, I heard some criticism. I was surprised, frankly. Most of the women I know bottlefeed. Plus, I had real medical reasons - serious ones - that made bottlefeeding a real necessity. As subtle and not-so-subtle little "breast is best" comments started flooding in, I developed my own philosophy. Breast is best, except when it isn't.

In my mind, "when it isn't" was a fairly limited category. I had a very serious infection and the doctor could not rule out breast cancer. I had a heart problem. I was unable to gain weight, even during pregnancy, and my body was literally fading away. "When it isn't" was clearly the category I fell into. I was annoyed by the "breast is best" campaign, because I felt like it marginalized women who truly should choose either donated breastmilk (which is expensive, difficult to get, and fraught with it's own set of potential costs and complications) or formula. Personally, I did not feel guilty. I made the best choice for my baby and my family. But I did feel like others either wanted to guilt me into breastfeeding or expected me to feel guilty because I was making what they would consider was the wrong choice. It's annoying when you think others, including real people, medical professions, the government with it's breastfeeding campaigns, and perfect strangers, are trying to guilt you into a particular position. Even if you don't feel guilty yourself, it's easy to get fed up with the whole thing.

Now I'm on the other side. I'm nursing my baby. I'm doing what is said to be "best." I'm following medical and government recommendations. You would think the "breast is best" campaign would make me feel empowered.

You would be wrong. :)

Actually, it makes me MAD this time (as opposed to the itty little annoyed of last time).

I've read the studies. Breastmilk has some wonderful qualities. (Obviously, I believe breastmilk is worthy, as evidenced by the boobies that I offer up for sacrifice every 2-3 hours.) It's rare for baby to have complications from or allergies to breastmilk. (You know, apart from my lucky baby and his jaundice. Oh, the irony.) I worry a lot less about Loki getting my cold or Alan's pneumonia because of the antibodies he gets.

But breastfeeding has some real, serious cons in other departments, including and especially the bonding department. Let me note right up front that some families bond just fine while breastfeeding. And, honestly, in those families, BREASTFEEDING IS BEST. :) But in my family, breastfeeding definitely gets in the way of bonding. Now, if the health of my baby was the only consideration, why, I'd say breastfeeding was far superior to formula feeding. But the reality is that my child's social and emotional development is, in many ways, more important to me than my child's health.

Health matters, but I'm not force-feeding Ander veggies. I let him have peanut butter and jelly, but I insist on table manners. Why? Because once his basic health needs are taken care of (veggies are offered, he gets a vitamin, and candy is limited), his emotional needs matter most. I'd rather a pleasant lunch where Ander and I chit chat and make circles with the sandwich than that Ander eat his carrots.

Formula, for all it's downfalls, provides for basic health needs. At that point, bonding weighs heavier in the whether-to-breastfeed equation, at least in my mind. While breastfeeding, I cannot look Loki in the eye. (Mostly, that's attributable to my body shape.) We spend his awake hours feeding instead of me talking to him and interacting with him. His daddy cannot console him sometimes. Poor Ander gets a lot less interaction because feeding takes at least 20 minutes instead of 5 minutes, and leaves mommy drained and tired and hungry. I am really not complaining. I'm truly not. I'm choosing breastfeeding because, at this point, the health benefits outweigh the cons. But the cons are real.

As I realize just how real (and understated and underreported) the cons are, especially the bonding con (but many others not mentioned here), I'm finding myself MAD at the "breast is best" campaign. Yep, actually angry. The bottom line is that best is an opinion. It's a judgment that someone made. And I'm just not convinced that it's true for every baby and every family. So how dare society tell new moms and dads that they are doing something not best when they use formula, even when using formula means their baby is getting it's nutritional needs met, mommy and daddy are bonding with the baby, and the baby and other children are getting their emotional and social needs met, perhaps better than the needs are being met in my own breastfeeding family.

I've also heard again and again that wanting daddy to bond is just an excuse and daddy can bond just as well in other ways. Bull (in my humble opinion ;)). All Loki knows right now is food. All he wants is to eat. The measly one bottle Alan gets to feed Loki does not make Loki turn to daddy for love (translation in Loki speak: food) and attention (translation in Loki speak: food) and comfort (translation in Loki speak: food...LOL). Loki is missing out on something precious when Daddy cannot feed him.

I'm still deciding that breastfeeding is best...for my family. But the cons are real, serious, and important. I dare not decide what is best for your family. I've decided to speak out against those who try to convince you what is best, including government campaigns to make women breastfeed. Breastfeeding is best, except when it isn't. I've just expanded in my mind my personal definition of "when it isn't." And, this time, I'm not just annoyed. I'm pissed off that someone else...anyone else...thinks they should tell me what is best for my family.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Natch - I share your same when it isn't additive. My first experience was awful and the nurses at the hospital would NOT allow me to give my daughter formula. They kept telling me to keep trying, etc. she had enough baby fat, yada yada yada, until the jaundice kept getting worse and she had urine crystals in her diaper, did they then, after the pediatrician went after them, did they give me formula, which I was supposed to feed though this contraption that would make DD "think" it was my breast - DUH.

This time around, DS born Oct 10 by emergency c section, is getting formula supplemented by my pumping, which is going better, but still would not feed a child enough.

So I share your soapbox!

Charlene from PW