How’s that for an honest true mom confession?
The subject of breastfeeding is one rife with confusion and powerful feelings for me. I truly believe that every new mom I know was riddled with insecurities over breastfeeding and that was evidenced by this question we all posed to each other: “Did you nurse and for how long?”
What that question really means is this: Am I a bad mother if I hate it? or Am I a bad mother if I stop?
So you hope the other person responds with feelings similar to yours on nursing and better yet, ended up stopping breastfeeding BEFORE you did. This way you can quell your fears and stop the guilt because you nursed for longer and their baby seems fine, therefore yours will be fine.
I don’t mean this as a mommy wars issue – I never found it to be a competitive one or snarky one or reason to bad mouth someone for being a bad mom. I found it to be nothing but naked guilt and confusion amongst mothers quizzing each other for their own personal reasons.
There is so much pressure to breastfeed and so much talk in the media about how breast is best for baby and there is so little talk about what it means for the mom. Somewhere along the way, it’s like everyone forgot about her. She became a mom, therefore what is best for her doesn’t matter because only the child matters.
Where along the way did we forget that formula doesn’t kill babies?
Where along the way is the discussion that to exclusively breastfeed means the mother is held prisoner to the VERY frequent feeding needs of the baby 24 hours a day. Where along the way have you ever heard someone waxing poetic about how newborns need to eat every 3 hours (if you’re lucky) and how it takes an hour for a feed, therefore the mom is at the beckon call of the baby every 2 hours for at least the first 6 weeks?
And during those same 6 weeks, the mom is recovering from the very difficult toll a pregnancy and then a delivery takes on a body – this is not something that should be brushed aside.
When does anyone talk about that on the Today Show?
Because again, formula doesn’t kill babies.
So I approached breastfeeding very differently with baby number 2. First of all – even though I was tempted SO MANY TIMES because I felt myself teetering on the edge of guilt, I REFUSED to ask any of my friends how long they nursed for and when they gave it up and why.
I’m sure I knew the answers because I asked them first time around or they’ve done it since, but frankly I couldn’t remember and guess what – IT WAS IRRELEVANT.
Forcing myself to follow that rule was very liberating and empowering because it forced me to stay focused on making a decision that I thought was best for my sanity, not just my new baby.
I also went into it just knowing me – knowing me as a mom, knowing the needs of my older child and how to keep my sanity. Part of keeping my sanity and therefore my ability to still be a good mom to my older child, meant sleep – which meant that I wasn’t going to be the only person feeding the new baby 24/7. So right out of the gates, I only nursed her three times a day during times when I knew the older daughter would be at school or sleeping – therefore I could focus on baby. This also gave me freedom to move about my day and not have to worry about whipping out a boob in public – something I am not comfortable with.
Also I am a believer in sharing of duties – and why in the hell should or would I be the only person getting up in the middle of the night to feed the baby? Yes, going to work is hard, but so is staying home with two kids – therefore we both needed sleep, therefore we took turns on splitting the middle of the night feeds. I’m not the gal who lives in a house with a husband slumbering away while I’m up. No sirree. NO way. NO how.
So back to nursing. On Christmas Eve, I came down with mastitis – and if you’ve ever had it – you know it is a miserable, horrible thing to deal with when you have a three week old. Combine that with a lack of sleep and an excited toddler up at 5am on Christmas morning and you think throwing yourself off the roof of a house is a good idea. Merry F*ing Christmas, was how I felt.
As soon as I learned I had mastitis and not the flu, I stopped nursing completely and just pumped. And I was very OK with that decision.
By 13 weeks, I’d hurt my back and the Excedrin I needed meant I couldn’t give her the breastmilk and guess what – the Excedrin won out over the pumping – and I stopped.
Truthfully, I was really proud of making it 13 weeks even though she never really had my milk exclusively.
My point in all of this – the whole experience was a lot less stressful because I worked very hard to TUNE OUT all the white noise around me about breastfeeding and I refused to allow myself to quiz others to assuage my own insecurities. We’ve got some kind of crazy cultural obsession with perfection in motherhood that begins with the breast – and I really think it creates a lot of unnecessary stress and confusion for an already tired and hormonal mom.
So I read the new article about nursing in the Atlantic Monthly with great interest. Of all the things Hanna Rosin says, she really struck a chord with me when she points out that everyone talks about how breastfeeding is free – but that assumes they believe the mom’s time is worth nothing.
AMEN. Just reading that made me feel better, particularly because the high price tag on formula is always a subject in our house, I just never considered it that way. Which is so dumb because one of the first things I did when justifying the expense of a cleaning lady was point out the high value of my time and why it should not and would not be spent on cleaning. So maybe we don’t make the same argument with breastfeeding because it is about feeding our child vs. scrubbing a toilet – but again – why is it a different argument? Is our time free?
Here’s a link to the Rosin piece….it’s definitely a good read:
Go forth and do what works for you kittens, and tune out the rest, is how I feel about it all.