Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The truth about breastfeeding.

The truth about breastfeeding is that it kind of sucks.

When you're pregnant, it feels like all the forces of nature and the government are trying to convince you to breastfeed. Every way you turn, someone is informing you that breastfeeding strengthens your child's immune system, prevents constipation, raises IQ, and ensures that your child will graduate from an Ivy League university.

(The unspoken, frightening alternative, of course, is that your child will get all the diseases, drop out of high school, and never be able to poop. That's where formula will get you.)

They also make ridiculous promises about how breastfeeding will release all kinds of feel-good endorphins in your body and make you feel like a mother-goddess who is magically bonded to your baby.

Give me a break.

I thought I would love breastfeeding. But I don't. In fact, after four months of my child's life, I have only just begun to not mind it so much. I think I could never do it again and be perfectly happy.

It kind of makes me feel like a cow. And there's that skeezy feeling when the milk lets down. Plus, it prevents me from going places. I'm not interested in breastfeeding in public. (I don't care at all that other people do. But I'm not going to join the revolution.)

I'm lucky that my baby is perfectly happy with the bottle. I still pump for nearly all her bottles, since, you know, I don't want her to flunk out of high school. (This might be a good time to say that my husband was fed entirely on formula as a baby and he has no allergies, he rarely gets sick, and he graduated from high school.) In the past week or so, actually, my child has developed a strange problem with breastfeeding, so I've been pumping exclusively.

And I have to say... I really don't mind it.

Despite all the supposed allergies, diseases, constipation, and low IQs, I totally get why people use formula.


  1. It's funny how times change. In my mother's day, formula was all the rage. When I had my first child, some people were just starting to turn back to breastfeeding as new information about its benefits was being discovered. I determined to breastfeed for a year. That was revolutionary at the time. I knew NO ONE else who did it that long. As each of my children was born, breastfeeding continued to become more and more popular. I guess now it is really being pushed on people, which is too bad because I think there should be a happy medium. I always enjoyed breastfeeding, but you're right about it limiting where and when you go places. There were so many times that I was standing in line at the store with purchases I just had to have, but it was time for the baby to eat, and darn it, my shirt was getting all wet and I forgot to bring a sweater or something to cover up my clothes!
    I only had one child who took a bottle when I was breastfeeding, and that was you. It was such a gift. All of the others refused the bottle, and three of them were difficult to wean at a year. But I feel I did the right thing for our family at the time. And even you graduated from college! Breastfeeding It is such a personal decision, and no one should be made to feel guilty whatever they decide to do (unless it's not to feed the baby at all!).

  2. I remember having SO much trouble breastfeeding Summer when she was a newborn. I don't remember specifics, though! All the hormones and exhaustion impaired my memory. I know I went to a lactation consultant and got bad advice, and a nurse from the doctor's office had me pumping in addition to breastfeeding because Summer lost too much weight at first, and I remember some of the problems I had when Summer was older, but my memories of Summer's first few months are just so fuzzy! But I remember just hating to breastfeed and sticking it out out of sheer determination. I had decided I would breastfeed, and by golly, I wasn't giving myself any other options. (At that point, I probably couldn't think clearly enough to come up with another option.)

    Now Summer is almost 3 and still breastfeeding! It's way easier to breastfeed a toddler, because she can do a lot of the work herself. And since it's not nutritionally necessary, I can say no when it's inconvenient. The leaking milk and weird let down feeling go away eventually (I can't even tell that I'm producing milk unless Summer falls asleep and dribbles it down my front). Over the years, I've had occasional moments where I've really loved breastfeeding and it has felt like that wonderful bonding experience that people talk about. I've also had plenty of times when it's uncomfortable or boring or just feels like a duty to fulfill. But I'm glad I stuck with breastfeeding, because Summer really seems to love it and be comforted by it, and for me it was more convenient than pumping. Pumping was such a hassle for me, because I couldn't take care of Summer while I was doing it! And despite the difficulty of breastfeeding in public, I liked that Summer would always have food available without any preparation or expense, as long as she was with me. But it sounds like you have a great system worked out.

    I think all the pro-breastfeeding pressure is trying to make sure that people don't get deceived by the formula companies, who have a financial motivation to get moms to think that their product is best. And I think it helps some mothers who have trouble with breastfeeding at first stick it out long enough to get past the initial hurdles. But it's unfortunate that people who thoughtfully make the decision that's right for their families are made to feel guilty.