Ok so here is the deal, the problem I see with breastfeeding is the complete lack of knowledge most of us have about it. Maybe not most of us, but at least me.
When I was pregnant I assumed of course, like many other women, that I would breastfeed with no issue. I never really put any thought into the pros and cons of breast over formula feeding, and admittedly even now I haven't done the research necessary to effectively comment on either method. However, I know the drill. I know the benefits of giving your baby the boobie juice, and why so many of us just blindly enter motherhood with the assumption that we'll be feeding our babes from the very body they were created and grown inside of. I attended a child birth class, which included 3 hours on breastfeeding and walked out of there thinking "obviously" and never thought any further.
And herein lies the problem. I, like many, assumed breastfeeding was a no brainer and I for one, was wrong. At least I was wrong for myself.
The thing is, I do not recall anyone at anytime ever telling me that I would need to have my child attached to my body for at LEAST 6 hours of every day, or in the case of my child closer to 9. I don't remember hearing about latching troubles, or the fact that those first few weeks would be excruciating while your nipples toughened up. I don't think anyone talked much to me about bleeding nipples, or rock hard breasts that shy away from the delicate shower spray. And I definitely know no one told me about the guilt, stress and fatigue 1 bad breastfeeding day would create.
Like I said, I went to 3 hours of breastfeeding class. I sat in a poorly lit community centre room, with photos circa 1967 spread across the walls of latched on chubby babies sucking happily from their mothers breast. Me, the hubs and 14 other sweaty soon to be families crammed into this room, to be enlightened about this thing they call breastfeeding. I listened to a hairy, crunchy woman excitedly detail every benefit of the boobie juice to us, while highlighting the bonding and loveyness that come from such an amazing time. I held a 4 ounce doll to my clothed breast, a doll who didn't move and didn't cry and didn't have a mind or insatiable hunger of her own, and practiced the different holds. I watched a video of 3 hour old babes bobbing their way over to their mothers breast and latching on like champs, just like that (I am now convinced they filmed 10,000 babies to get those 8 to do that so effortlessly, and just neglected to mention that part). I played a game in which we put a series of photos in order from start to finish, showing a successful feed. I got a pamphlet which showed me the holds again, and further reiterated why I am only a good mother if I feed from the breast.
That was all well and good. At 37 weeks pregnant, perhaps that was all I could handle, but the class was seriously misleading. What it didn't tell me was the challenge of getting a dopey newborn to open her mouth wide enough for me to shove my cantaloupe sized breast into it. It didn't talk too much about how to get a good latch, just briefly showed what one looked like...and that shit isn't easy my friends. They told me how if done properly, breastfeeding doesn't hurt, but they didn't tell me what to do when it hurt like someone was holding a hot fire poker against my nipple. They told me to buy nipple cream, in case my nipples cracked but they didn't tell me that by crack they may mean bleed so heavily it would cause my 5 day old baby to vomit green chunks (of partially digested blood, I later learned), and send us on a trip through the emergency room.
My point is this - those of us who choose and are able to feed from the breast need more than just support in the form of "it's good for your baby and your wallet", and more even than all the support we so desperately need to feed without ridicule in public. We need reality. We need lactation people at the hospital to come for a visit and show us what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. Not just burnt out nurses who handle babies like pot roasts, latch them for you and move on. We need to hear how hard it is in the beginning, and how absolutely devastating it will feel when things aren't going the way they are "supposed to". We need to hear that breastfeeding a baby is a serious time commitment, which lasts around the clock and sometimes seems like it will never end.
I am infinitely lucky to be supported by an AMAZING group of people - men and women, on Twitter and through this blog who have been there with me, at 3am, when I'm crying and screaming and needing help, but not everyone has that. I've got friends who have chosen to formula feed for various reasons, from convenience through to a sheer and painful inability to produce enough milk, and I'm not going to lie lately, I've been a little envious. I shouldn't be I know it's not an easy choice, but I've got milk and a kid who wants to non-stop eat, so to me I have less reason to consider formula. I know I can make the switch at any time I like, and I would be lying if I said I hadn't considered it. But I'm stubborn, and poor and I truly do believe in the benefits of breast milk.
I've committed to 6 months, and I'm learning that I'll need to take that 1 day at a time. It isn't easy, and it isn't always hard but when your breasts are aching, your baby is fighting you and you have not slept more than a total of 6 hours in the last 15 days, things just seem impossible. When your baby screams at you in hunger, but refuses to latch on and looks at your with desperation, it seems like you will surely go crazy before you reach 6 weeks, let alone 6 months. When you sit lonely in the dark, trying to rationalize with a 2 week old infant that if she eats she can sleep, and if she sleeps she will feel better, makes you question if the craziness started around 6 days.
So to all of you who have fought the breastfeeding battle and won, I commend you. You are my inspiration and I thank you for your support. I think you are super women who have come through this challenge and truly done something wonderful for your children. I had no idea how hard it was, NO idea. I really thought I'd just put her on the boob and away we'd go. I want it to be easy, but right now it's still a struggle. My stubborn nature will ensure I keep on keeping on, at least a little bit longer. And I hope I am able to join you on the other side of this insanity as a successful breast feeder.
That said, to those of you who have formula fed out of necessity or sanity sake, I respect and commend you as well. Because I, like Mandy am a fan of feeding babies. And I don't think formula is evil. My niece and my BFF's daughter were both fed formula and are both two of the raddest kids EVER. I know now more than ever how hard breast feeding is, and like I said, I'm one of the lucky ones that this works for. I cannot imagine where I'd be if I had inverted nipples or a low supply or any of the other many things that plague many a breast feeding wanna be. Actually, that's not true, I know where I'd be. I'd be locked up somewhere with padded walls, crying over my inadequacy and feeling like a horrible person. And not because I should, but just because that it was happens more times than not.
So that's my piece on breastfeeding, from a 2 week veteran. Hardly as profound as what The Feminist Breeder posted, which broke the internets and was reposted, tweeted and Facebooked linked an unprecedented amount of times. Nor is it as heartfelt, candid and lets face it cute as that of Miss Mandy, who really just wants us to feed our babies and stop arguing about it. It's not even as Switzerland as Jill from Baby Rabies response to the above two ladies. But it's real, and it's coming from a new mom who is reeling and overwhelmed by all the insanity of late. And I hope it helps the rest of you mommy's to be know that it is effing HARD and you will feel like quitting, but if you want to do it, and you have your own reasons for it, you can! And if you don't want to do it or you simply cannot, then don't. And do not spend 1 minute feeling guilty about it, because it really won't get you anywhere and us new mommies? We have enough guilt about everything else without adding to it.
(As an aside, as I wrote this post this morning there was a knock on my door. And the hubs came back up the stairs with a small case, 6 cans, of Enfamil. Which the post man delivered especially for me. No pressure though, cause at 4am when the nips be burning and the babe be crying, I won't be tempted to just give it a shot).
It's like this, and like that....
I started this blog in an effort to track my experiences with pregnancy and beyond. Writing is therapeutic. Kind of like talking to myself without the people in WalMart thinking I'm crazy. If you find some entertainment in this along the way, then even better!
This is one woman's journey through unfathomable hunger, vivid sex dreams and a bulging belly...from conception to birth in 9 months or less...