No, that is not what I call my family.
A few bloggers I read have been talking about breast feeding. I’m not one for controversy. I have enough drama in my life without creating it or contributing to it. But (you knew that was coming, right?) I want to throw my $.02 into the mix.
We hear so much about “Breast is Best” and while my husband may agree, it makes me a bit sad to hear it said in an exclusionary and judgemental way. Here’s my story.
When I was pregnant with E-baby I had every intention of breast feeding. I heard and read all the statistics that say breast is best. I wanted my child to have the best of all possible things (as does every mother I know). I also wanted the spiritual part of breast feeding…the connection to my baby…the knowledge that I was giving her something life sustaining. On the practical side, it was free.
So I stocked up on breast pads and milk storage bags. I got a Boppy pillow and borrowed a hospital quality pump from a friend. I took the breast feeding class at the local hospital. I read books on the subject. I had friends and family who supported me. I was ready, I was breast feeding.
The best laid plans, blah, blah, blah.
What really happened?
E-baby was born at 1:12 am on a Saturday. I breastfed her in the hospital. The nurse looked on and said E had a “good latch”. My boob said, “No shit.”
I was discharged from the hospital at 4:30 pm on Sunday.
Continue breast feeding. This baby wants to be constantly on the tit. Normal? How the hell do I know, this is the first one I’ve had. She could have sung an aria from “Aida” and I would have thought, “huh okay”.
Monday afternoon my friend calls, “How do your boobs feel?” What? Your friends don’t open conversations this way? I love my friends. I tell her my boobs feel fine and thanks for asking. She then tells me to just wait until tomorrow. Yeah, she was a little too gleeful now that I think about it. “What are you, a freakin oracle? What’s gonna happen tomorrow?” She tells me all about rock hard boobs (they don’t phrase it that way in the class) and milk spraying everywhere. Woohoo! Tomorrow? Can’t wait!
Monday night, the baby is wailing. My husband and I are at a loss. She is on the boob almost constantly and won’t get off. (Please get off, I have to go to the bathroom.)
In the midst of all this I am also trying to pump. I’m not really getting anything but figure, well she’s eating it all and everyone knows the boobs produce as needed so maybe the girls just need to catch up.
The baby cries all night long. Big Guy thinks she’s not getting enough food and wants to give her a bottle of formula. We had gotten a lot of free sample in the mail. Now I am freaking out, crying, snot every where. No, I am breast feeding, she’ll get nipple confusion, they said in class to keep trying, it can be tough at first but don’t quit, BREAST IS BEST DAMMIT AND YOU ARE JUST TRYING TO TAKE MY BABY FROM ME!! SHE IS ONLY THREE DAYS OLD I AM NOT A BAD MOTHER!! Uh, yeah, I had a little trouble with the whole post partum thing, that was just the beginning.
Tuesday morning I called the lactation consultant from the clinic at the hospital. I really liked her when she taught the class. She was La Leche all the way but never in the obnoxious way I’ve heard them portrayed. She did a hard sell for breast feeding at the classes I took but never judged (at least not in front of the rest of us) the mother who said she was going with formula.
She is free to see us that afternoon. Off we go. She weighs E-baby. Now babies are expected to lose a bit of weight in the first couple of days of life, I forget what the percentage is, but a little weight loss is normal. E-baby had lost one pound ten ounces- not normal. She was dehydrated. Then the consultant examines me. She squeezes my breast and out comes some fluid, that pre-milk (for the life of me I can’t remember what it’s called).
She comes up with a plan: go home and give the baby a bottle of formula (yes, the La Leche Leaguer told me to give her formula). The reason being E is too hungry and needs something now. Then on every even hour breast feed her. Twenty minutes on each side. Then give her a bottle of formula taking careful note of how much she drinks. Then hook myself up to the Boob Hoover and pump for twenty minutes. This will help stimulate supply. See you in three days. Ok, I’ll try anything, because Breast is Best!
I follow these instructions to the letter. I think my tits were basically outside of any clothing for three full days. I never pumped more than 1/2 an ounce from both breasts combined. After two and a half days of this, I got no milk at all. Based on how much formula E-baby drank, we figured she got no boob juice at all. Three days later it’s back to the consultant. After reviewing the data and examining us again, it is determined that I have no milk.
Let me tell you how that felt. I have no milk. I could not feed my own child. If my child had to rely on me for sustenance she would die. I could not give her what’s best. My baby is less than a week old and I am already a bad mother. What will happen to my girl? She’s not getting any of the good things, no antibodies, she’s going to get ear infections and ear aches hurt my baby will be in pain because I have no milk and she will be stupid because I have no milk I am a terrible mother because I have no milk I can’t feed my baby why?
The consultant saw that I was upset and was very reassuring. She told me there are good formulas out there and my baby would not be Forest Gump just because she was a formula baby.
Intellectually I knew that it wasn’t the end of the world. But in my new mother’s, post partum depressed heart I knew I had failed my baby on the most basic of levels. If I couldn’t do this fundamental thing, how could I raise her?
These days I know that my lack of lactation is due to my thyroid/pituitary issues. I know my child is smart, she is healthy (Thank You, God!) and she is vibrant. I know that millions of babies have thrived with formula, hell I’m one of them. My mother had six kids and didn’t breast feed a one.
So what’s my issue? When I read or hear others touting breast feeding as the only way, I get upset. Why do we feel it is our duty to judge others? Why is our way the only way? Why can we not put ourselves in the other person’s shoes? Why can’t we just calmly present our view without being so damn judgemental?
Why am I so twisted over this?
I guess it comes down to this- I am not a bad mother because my child had formula and not breast milk, regardless of the reason why and I refuse to let you imply that I am.
I hate that I let this bother me so much.