Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Breast is Best?

When I was pregnant, I imagined that my big belly would be the ticket into the Mommy Club. No need for membership fees - my stretch marks paid the dues! I would join this great big group of Mommies who would all love each other and laugh and joke about their kids. Of course, there would be a little comparing and frustration, maybe even a few fights. But we would all be sisters, getting past the fights and the differences because we share something so wonderful that we can't help but be friends.


I found out quick that this Mommies Club is more like any sorority I never wanted to join. Bad-mouthing, cat-fighting - you name it, the Mommies did it. (Fortunately, I have found three or four Mommies I love, but I'm talking about the other Mommies here.) When our walking threesome became a twosome because the other Mommy didn't want to hang out with me because I am "dirty" (i.e. my burp cloth fell on the floor, I rolled over with the stroller and - gasp! - used it again), I realized that just because I am a Mommy and you are a Mommy doesn't mean we are going to be friends.

But that doesn't mean we have to badmouth each other. We don't have to be mean. We don't have to judge and shame and hurt other women who are just trying to do as good a job at this parenting thing as everyone else.

There was an article in Redbook recently (No, You Don't Have to Breastfeed) about breastfeeding and formula. Omigosh great article. Then another popped up. Again, greatness. It was so well-written, a different kind of breastfeeding article. Instead of focusing on how breast is best and is the only way to go, it listed the pros and cons of each, giving specific examples from women who didn't breastfeed. Each one had been shamed for giving their baby something to eat that is specifically made for babies.


I breastfed my baby for 7 1/2 months and I still loved these articles. Because I never felt pressure from my husband, my parents or my friends on how to feed but felt the pressure from strangers and doctors. Because new mommies are scared and worried and want to do everything right and finally someone out there is telling us that formula can be right for you and that's OK.

Because two friends of mine were not able to breastfeed. Both of them felt guilty. Both of them stopped attending a baby play date group because of comments and back-handed shaming from other moms. Both of them wonder if they had done something - anything - differently, would they have been able to breastfeed?

And no one should make anyone else feel bad for something they do with their child that doesn't hurt them.

That's right. I said it. Formula feeding does not hurt a child. Do you think that at this kid's high school graduation a mom is going to lean over and say "If only she were breastfed. She might have made valedictorian."

Sometimes a mother makes choices and sometimes these choices are made for them. Whatever the reason for not breastfeeding, it does not hurt the baby. Isn't there all this literature out there that states that mommies who take time for themselves, whether at the gym, the library or the mall, are better mommies? That happy moms are good moms. And if not dealing with engorgement or mastitis, with leakage or publicly feeding without turning it into a peep show - if that makes you a happy mom, isn't that good enough? Shouldn't we support moms who have found something that works for both their baby and them?

I never enjoyed breastfeeding.

There. I said it. And I'm glad I did.

I never felt the "closeness" that I was told I should feel, nor was it comfortable or easy. I cried every time he ate for the first four weeks because the pain was so bad - nipple covers and all. I leaked milk like a faulty water faucet. I couldn't multi-task (type, eat, talk at all) while feeding or he would get distracted and not eat. I felt forced to sit and do nothing for what seemed like hours and I am someone who always likes to be doing something. The only time I really liked it was after my own dinner, when Bjorn was hungry, and that meant I had to sit on the couch and feed while the Hubs cleaned the kitchen mess. Definitely a plus to not clean dirty dishes.

It took almost a whole month to wean Bjorn from breastfeeding to bottle. Because I wanted to go back to work (Yes, wanted. Being a SAHM was driving me nuts.), and as a flight attendant gone for days at a time, I couldn't breastfeed while I was gone. He had to take a bottle.

At first we tried breast milk in the bottle. Then half and half formula and breast milk. Then, about four weeks into pumping on a plane and worrying if my milk was still good because I couldn't refrigerate it for twelve hours each day for three days, so I tossed it because I didn't think it was good enough for my baby (tossing the golden milk!!), I quit. Yup, I threw in the towel and the nursing shawl and headed out to Wally world for some good, old-fashioned formula.

And my baby is fine. He began walking at 10 1/2 months. He babbles and knows words like "dog" and "milk". He can point, laugh, high five and climb. He's a normal kid. Not because I breastfed for 7 months. Not because I formula fed for 5. But because I am a happy mom, Hubs is a happy dad and Bjorn is just the way he is.

There are all sorts of groups out there for breastfeeding - the La Leches being the first to come to mind. And I have nothing against them, as they have found something that works for them. But that doesn't mean it works for everyone. Those who formula feed aren't bad moms. They just need to start their own club.

The La Formula League. The I'm a Good Mom because I Love my Kid League. The I Don't Judge You No Matter if I Agree With You or Not League.

I'll be President of the non-judgers club. Because as snarky as I can be about the jeans shorts and jelly shoes you are wearing, I never want to make another mom feel ashamed for anything she does that does not harm her child.

I'm off my soapbox now. But head on over to Mama Kat's to read more about current events to feel strongly about!


Erinn said...

I think we can all use an occasional reminder that there are MANY "right" ways to do things. I am experiencing the same issue with choosing to do a natural birth...every time I mention it, I get weird looks, gasps, and a whole bunch of "why?", etc...everyone is so polarized when it comes to birthing options. So this experience has really taught me to empathize with any mom's situation...there isn't a "one size fits all" option for everyone. I have the feeling I probably wouldn't fit in with today's "mommy" groups...we'll see!

dusty earth mother said...

Amen! Hooray! That was great.

And thanks for the hilarious comment on my post...

Nicole said...

Erinn : I went for a natural birth 3 months ago with Claire. No one but my husband really believed I could do it and told me I was crazy. We had an awesome birth! Drug free! Friends still think I'm crazy for doing it. Another topic mommie tend to not support on another is vaccines. Just bc I question my doc and have different plans for my family doesn't mean I'm questioning what other mommies do. I felt the same about BFing. Claire is 3 mos and we are doing it bc I think it's best and when the time comes to switch it will be my decision, bc I'm the mommie and responsible for her. I love your post...I think the nasty talk comes from people who are trying to justify their own choices by judging others. While I think natural child birth is the only way to go....i have no opinion on anyone else bc I didn't make my choice based off what other mommies did.

Mommies should stick together bc there are different choices for everyone and we all need support to help build strong families :)

Sara said...

This is a great post!! My husband and I don't have kids, but are um, working on it... and I'm ALREADY getting breastfeeding pressure. Whatever. It's no one else's business.... said...

Great post. I'm 100% with you. I'm raising my three in another country, and I can tell you from my experience that they do everything different here. Different from the ways we think are "right." And guess what? Their kids grow up to be wonderful people...just like ours. Who knew?

KLZ said...

Ah, I had a post on this yesterday. I am sick of people sticking their finger in my face 24/7. Literally sticking their finger in my face. My son is happy and healthy.

Bless mommies everywhere.

Cheryl said...

#1 most important thing: FEED the baby! Who cares how?
#2 If Mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy

All moms do what's best for them and their family, and we all need to keep that in mind.

jen said...

This is a great post. I am nursing my seventh child right now (yes, right now) and I hate it when moms point fingers of superiority because their kid's breastfed.
Can I tell you the reason I breastfeed? I'm lazy. There I said it. If I didn't have SOOO much milk and it was so easy for me, you can bet I wouldn't do it as long as I do.
Convenience. Some get it from the bottle. Some from the breast.
I'm adding you to my roll, and I'll be you newest follower. Thanks for being brave and taking your stand!

kisatrtle said...

oh I want to join this club!

Jessica said...

Great post and amen! I BF my first for 8 months and it worked well. I wasn't able to BF my 2nd and she is doing fine with formula. Yet, I still feel guilty that I can't BF her. I know part of that is my own guilt because I wanted to BF - I feel like I failed. I really wish we could all be more supportive of each other in what we decide is best for our children.

AndBabyWillMake4 said...

Sad to say...we can't be friends anymore cause you hated bfing. How dare you admit to hating it, blasphemous! I kid, I kid.

I just don't get why it's anyone's business, as long as your baby is healthy and happy, who cares?

Someone else said it and I will too...I breastfeed cause I am lazy. There was no going back to work for me and pumping was a drag. So here I am at 16 months still breastfeeding my toddler. But if and when we have number 2...yeah, I think they will get some boob and even more formula! These mammary glands of mine are tired!

Jen said...

I totally agree with you!! I had to supplement with B in the beginning because he wasn't eating and then stopped BFing at 8 months cause of his teeth. No mom should ever feel guilty about what they chose to feed their child.

As for the mommy friends you really just have to find people who are on your same wavy length. Some people are just so out their. Oh I and I would of done the same thing with the burp cloth. Little dirt is good for them. B even use to suck on the back of shopping carts. Granted I tried to stop him but he just kept doing it. I figure he was just building up his immune system. :)