Breastfeeding. To many this might not seem like an intimidating word. To other, including myself, it is the principal source of fear and trepidation to becoming a new mom. The debate between breastfeeding and formula feeding moms is like watching a cage match between rabies-infested dogs. How are first-time moms suppose to get all the information they needs to make this important decision from an unbiased source as well as make a decision for herself without feeling like the world is judging her every move? And what truly is the best route for me, personally? I want to breastfeed, but I just don’t understand how to make it work, while still having time for yourself! Just to clear the air before I even begin, I am not trying to boil any pots or cause any arguments. I am just an honest new mom looking for honest answers to honest questions.
We have all seen the mom at the baseball game with her boob hanging out, just feeding her baby like its nothing at all. All the men sitting around her are awkwardly forcing their attention in other directions as to not blatantly stare at her exposed-to-the-world nipple. Or how about the women featured on the cover of Time magazine who was still breastfeeding her elementary school aged son? There is certainly a stigma associated with publicly breastfeeding, which is so sad to me because all these women are doing is feeding their babies. They are trying their best to do what they feel is right for their child, and if that means feeding in the middle of a crowded restaurant, then who are we to judge? But it also boggles my mind how these women that choose to exclusively breastfeed are able to have time to do anything for themselves, such as work out, have full time jobs, or go out for drinks with friends. Which brings up another thing I learned while doing my online research on breastfeeding… you can’t drink!!! You are expected to abstain from alcohol for 9 months while growing your mini human, and then you are told that you now must go without alcohol for an additional 6 months (or at least that’s how long they recommend that you breastfeed) in order to feed your little one. What cruel irony.
“Breast is Best” is the mantra for all the doctors, nurses, and lactation clinics who barrage pregnant women with information on why they should be exclusively breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months of a baby’s life. The nutrients in breast milk cannot be duplicated, and breast milk will help your baby fight illness, score higher on IQ testing, and lowers the probability that they will be obese in their adult life, just to name a few. Which leads you to believe that if you in fact choose to formula feed (or are forced to due to uncontrollable circumstances), your poor babe is destined to be a sick, low performing, fat adult. That is a hard pill for me to swallow, seeing how I know many children who were not breast-fed and turned out just wonderfully. Why must there be so much pressure on how a woman chooses to feed her child?
Breastfeeding is considered the “gold standard”, but I just don’t understand how so many women make this work while still having a life for themselves. With things such as bleeding nipples, biting, being on call for feedings 24 hours a day, low milk supplies, etc etc etc, it just seems like a daunting feat for any woman to commit on becoming an exclusive breast-feeder. And then you get into having a full-time job, which is the biggest weight on my mind in regards to breastfeeding. I plan on returning to work full time because I want to, not because I have to, and it is something that is important to me. But the idea of sitting in a room all alone a few times a day with my boobs just hanging out being pumped by a mechanical machine while I have piles of work to be done and customers needing assistance every other moment is mind-boggling to me. And I usually take my lunch breaks to get in a work-out, which would have to go away in order to provide enough time to make sure I am pumping enough. This would mean that I would have to go to the gym after work, leaving less time to actually enjoy my baby. Or worse yet, not work out at all! How do these women make it work? What happens if you simply don’t have time in your day to get this done?
So many women, including myself, also take the time to research the option of exclusively formula feeding. You have more time to get things done, you are able to return to work full time without the obligation of pumping every few hours, your boobs stay in-tact, you can drink! But with that comes the judgment that is associated with formula feeding your baby, which arrives in the form of an onslaught of horrible negativity aimed at the new mother. “Guilt” is the main adjective that is used when describing many mothers who formula feed their children. These women are coined by the internet blogs as being selfish mothers who are not providing the best they can for their child. Who is judging the quality of their parenting skills anyway? And it seems to me that a much more likely determiner of obesity, IQ score, and health is based off the parent’s genetic disposition, not their choice of nutritional supplementation. Even the topic of exclusively pumping brings a firestorm of debate. So if this route is the path you end up following, you are already beginning your journey with a bad rap.
So I sit here, stressed to all kingdom come. I plan on trying to breastfeed Harper when she is born. But if it isn’t the route for us, I certainly don’t want to be made to feel like I am a second-grade parent who is selfish and doesn’t care about the health of their baby. I also want to be able to work full time and not stress at every moment as to whether or not I will pump enough to continue to feed her. And finally, I want to be able to enjoy a drink, or a few. I would ask that any mother who has gone through this journey please share their experiences, advice, and wisdom to me as a new mom and all the new mom’s that read this blog as well.