This may come as a shock to all breastfeeding advocates who say the breast is always best when it comes to our babies, but I hated breastfeeding. There wasn’t a single thing about it that I liked or enjoyed or felt inspired to keep doing, so I quit after a few weeks. Thank goodness that was years ago, because nowadays, the pressure to breastfeed is out of control and people everywhere–even fellow moms, men and women who have never tried it–are attempting to force and shame us into having our child attached to our boobs for the first six months (or longer) of their little lives.
It’s kind of ridiculous that we’re even having this conversation, but so are discussions like a woman’s right to use birth control or have an abortion. Our bodies, our choices, people. But the war over breastfeeding has taken that ridiculousness to new heights. As if new moms don’t have enough stress as it is, now we have to justify precisely why we don’t want to breastfeed to our doctors, hospital nurses and the insinuating judgments of friends, family and fellow moms. What?! You’re not going to breastfeed? You are clearly the most selfish mom on the face of the planet!
Sure, we are all intelligent women here, and we know the benefits to breastfeeding. This milk has been referred to as “liquid gold“. It has the ideal mix of fat, sugar, water and protein for our little ones to thrive. It boosts their immune system with valuable antibodies and nutrients, and it’s easier to digest and protects babies from unhealthy conditions like gastrointestinal illnesses, asthma, type 2 diabetes and even obesity. We get that.
But here’s the thing: formula is just fine, too. OK, maybe it can’t boast all of the above goodies for our babies, but how many of us were bottle-fed and turned out just fine? (I’m raising my hand.) Infant formula is nutritious; it allows us to monitor exactly how much they are eating (or not eating); and it still allows you–and others–to bond with your baby. Most importantly, for many new moms, it allows us time to sleep, recover from child birth and have flexibility to spend more time with other children, our husbands, friends and our career. Repeat after me: There is nothing wrong with bottle feeding. And no one–not even the great Mayor Bloomberg–should be allowed to make us feel guilty about that. Geez, talk about a war on women these days.
Like I said, breastfeeding was not for me. In all honesty, I hated it. But I’m definitely not saying it’s wrong at all. I know plenty of women who have loved the whole experience–and even one friend who did so until her child was 3 years old. I think it’s great if you do it; And I think it’s great if you don’t do it. Whatever works for you.
For me, it was painful, exhausting, frustrating and turned into a myriad of problems. The constant fullness in my breasts was uncomfortable. The latching-on literally made my toes curl in agony. And everything revolved around my boobs. Sleep, work, spending time with friends and even how much time I had to race to the grocery store and get back before they started leaking all over my shirt (which happened a number of times) were constantly compromised. I also got a very painful infection in one breast, and with my second (very colicky) child, discovered that he was simply not getting enough. Did I feel like a failure when the pediatrician told me I needed to start giving him formula because my breasts were not producing enough milk? Hell, no. I jumped for joy (with my very sore, worn-out, chaffed boobs).
Quite honestly, I feel sorry for new moms today. No one should have to justify breast or bottle. It’s just not anyone’s business. But nevertheless, the pressure is on. There are lactation consultants who advice you to keep at it, no matter what. There are prescription drugs we’re supposed to take if we’re not producing enough milk. And some New York hospitals are choosing to keep baby formula locked up and only accessible by approval (you know, when a mom is the worst mom in the world and chooses to bottle feed).
Just remember: Giving birth does not mean your body is suddenly not your own anymore. And it’s OK to admit that you don’t like or don’t want to breastfeed. Because sometimes it really does suck.