Friday, June 15, 2012


I've been hemming and hawing over this one for a while and have finally decided to post it*: The Case Against Breastfeeding. I've been of two minds because I do think there are some definite benefits to breastfeeding (I can't speak to the accuracy or completeness of Rosin's 'findings' in the article), but there are downsides to it that are rarely discussed. Instead, you get these lovely pamphlets and books with pictures of mothers staring beatifically at their children and all is well with the world. Just master the right hold, go skin to skin, and voila, life is good and wonderful and your child will grow up to be Bill Gates.

 I'm still trying to gather my thoughts on the subject, because this is an intensely personal choice and I'm still trying to understand how I feel. What I will share is that I didn't have the beatific experience that everyone seems to emulate and that it took a lot of support from various parties to get me through the first 10 weeks. Around months 7 to 8, I felt that tug of, "Okay, I've reached my goal, let's get on with life. I want to wear a dress again." And then I felt immediately ashamed, as if my desire to wear a dress trumped the well-being of the child. I didn't necessarily feel closer to the baby because of the breastfeeding. I mostly felt a bit of panic, some frustration, some angst -- why isn't this working? Where is the milk they said would be coming in days? Why won't the baby latch? Isn't it instinctive? Didn't I follow all the rules?

The rules, mind you, came from a breastfeeding class and as a result, I had made up my mind prior to delivery that the baby would a) not have a pacifier and b) no bottles and c) no formula. Within 12 hours of birth, all three rules had been broken; the lactation consultant was confuzzled and told me she'd be back in the morning to try again, but not before she bottle-fed the baby a bit of formula. And she came back twice the next day and again, the baby wasn't interested in nature's best and instead, once again, there was formula in a bottle. On the third day, the day I left the hospital, another consultant came, and after an hour, told me, "You may need to just pump. Some babies take time to get it." Her tone of voice made pumping sound like a weekend in the Swiss Alps.

 So we rented the hospital grade pump and retired the one I had bought -- a rather inexpensive double electric, bought on the premise that it would be used sparingly. Instead, I was hooked up to this loud, monstrous yellow box 6 to 8 times a day at 15 to 20 minutes a pop, sometimes as long as 45 minutes. And then there was the cleaning and sanitizing of all pump parts and bottles. It was enough to make anyone go crazy. When I couldn't pump enough milk, which happened more than I liked, we supplemented with formula. And I kept trying and trying to get the baby to latch. Week 10, I was about to give up and give in and lo and behold, the magical latch happened.

 I made it to the six month mark, pretty happy that I was a) disengaged mostly from that pump, b) had less bottles to wash on a daily basis (and oh, the dishwasher basket saved my life for sure) and c) it was relatively to easy to feed the baby when the baby was hungry, regardless of where I was. But something changed after I hit the six month mark. Was it that I had reached the goal set by the AAP -- six months of exclusive breastfeeding?** Or may be it was the baby was getting wiggly and knocking my cover off in public. Or that it was getting hot in the summer and I was tired of wearing the same old t-shirts and skirts and wanted back into my pretty dresses. Maybe it was the baby always seemed hungry (at six months, the baby regressed to newborn sleeping habits) and I felt like a nursing zombie. Still, I made it through month six because then I thought it was cruel to wean a baby just like that. And the pediatrician assured me that the baby would lose interest as solids were introduced.

But not losing interest fast enough for me. And that's when I realized I had come to the end of my rope. I wanted off the nursing bandwagon quickly and as minimally traumatic to all parties. And yet, even though I had made it longer than most women, I still felt guilt. My heart and mind were no longer in the process and I found myself reaching for the bottle and formula often. Suddenly breastfeeding no longer seemed easy and I wanted my life back.  

* I'm pretty sure I haven't posted this one yet as an LoTD, though it's been on my 'to do' list for quite a while. I find the article provocative in every way and it's never far from my mind in its dissonance from what society/culture dictates. If this is a rerun, I apologize. ** I always had to supplement with formula, but I would say at the 6 month mark, the baby was on 80% breast milk and 20% formula.