Sunday, August 15, 2010

Breastfeed Or Hide Your Head In Shame

We've been away on vacation for 2 weeks, but when I saw this story pop up on the news, I knew it would be the first topic to touch on when we came home.

Super model, mom, wife to American Football superstar Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen made a comment during an interview for Harper's Bazaar UK entailing that she felt that breastfeeding a child for the first six months of life should be a "worldwide law".

Really? She thinks that a law should be enacted worldwide?!

Now, let me give you the full disclaimer: I breastfed my children. I am breastfeeding my youngest now, and like his older brother, I have intentions to continue doing so at least until his first birthday. There are several reasons why I personally chose to breastfeed:

1) The health benefits of breastfeeding, both for myself, and for my little guy.  True or not, I'm hoping that both of us will have some benefit for all of this time we've put in to this rodeo.  I'm thinking both of us are healthier because it's so damned time consuming to breastfeed that we spent the bulk of the first 3 months, thus avoiding germs and contact with the outside world.  And vitamin D... which may be why "everyone" is recommending that newborns are given a vitamin D supplement now...
2) The fact that it burns up to 600 calories a day, which to me, is a welcome thing. Mama fit back in her pre-pregnancy jeans in less than two months. Not too shabby after spending 3/4 of a year on team "Fat Girl". (And fat is fat, pregnant or not, so let's not even have that argument. It's just fat with a purpose. But it's still friggin' fat. Tell yourself whatever you want though.)
3) It's monetarily free, which means that I frequently tell my (immensely cheap) husband that I get to buy X, Y,Z because "I breastfeed the baby, so I'm saving a ton of money". If you are like me, and shopping is your favorite sport, for which you are aiming to gain entry into the hall of fame, this is a huge perk. HUGE.
4) I'm lazy, and the booby has many times proved to be the ultimate "mute button". Sure beats getting off of the phone when you've been on hold with the insurance company for 45 minutes and the baby starts squeaking. Not to mention that I am pretty much useless at 3 am, and measuring/warming a bottle would definitely be pushing the limits of my abilities.
5) My boobs look hella good right now. Sure, by this time next year, they'll look like deflated balloons without the assistance of some "ultimate" push up bra, of which Gisele Bundchen will surely be pimping in the VS catalog, but for right now, they look pretty damn good.
6) Because I can, and it works out for me and my family.

Number 6 is key. It works out for me and my family. The other 4 reasons that I have listed (which, obviously only apply to me, there are surely other benefits that apply to other women/families) are all secondary to #6.

Notice on #3 that I said that breastfeeding is "monetarily free". That's because it surely ain't entirely free. It is certainly costly in terms of my time, since my little guy sneaks in an extra feeding than his bottle feeding peers, and for quite a while, he took A LONG TIME to finish a feeding, tethering me to the nursery for a lot longer than I would have liked to be there, particularly in the middle of the night. It is costly in terms of my inability to get a full nights sleep for more than five months, since I can't pass a night off for my husband to handle, lest I want to wake in a puddle of "liquid gold". We are just now at the point where I am hopeful that we have passed the night wakings, but I am still keeping my fingers and toes crossed. We could add in the costs of fuel for all of the times that I have sat in the car with the AC running to nurse the baby when an errand ran a bit longer than expected, and we could add in the cost of washing sheets every night for weeks while my milk supply stabilized and I would routinely wake up having leaked through multiple nursing pads. Don't forget the cost of the high end breast pump we purchased, hoping I could pump enough milk to avoid the need for formula supplements on "date nights" (I never have been able to pump enough for a full bottle). And we absolutely will have to factor in the cost to my sanity from when we both contracted a nice case of thrush, likely as a result of the antibiotics I received with my c-section, causing every single feeding for nearly 2 weeks to feel like my baby had razor blades in his mouth. Yeah, it definitely hasn't been entirely free.

But anyway, yes, I breastfeed. And despite the costs, monetary and otherwise, it works pretty well for us. My children have been relatively good nursers right from the get go, and I'm very grateful for that. For some people, breastfeeding is a real struggle, even just to get the latch correct, and we have been fortunate to have avoided those concerns. However, I am not so pro-breastfeeding that I intend to breastfeed my kids until they move out of the house (or even until they are 2, for that matter), and I certainly am not hell bent on making formula feeding mothers feel as if they are less than human for choosing to give their babies bottles. So to want to pass a breastfeeding law? No, I'd stand opposed.

I have friends who breastfeed until their children are five years old. I have friends who love the "breastfeeding relationship", and I have friends who breastfeed because it works, but aren't in love with the feeling that you are on 3 hour tether to your baby, or with your milk letting down while you are at the mall and you so much as hear a baby cry (I fall into the latter part of this group). I also have friends who had zero interest in breastfeeding, who happily shared the feeding duties with their significant others, and who have no guilt about it (and, may I add, who have healthy, intelligent, thriving children). I refuse to believe that any one segment of these women are "better" than any other segment, despite the fact that breastfeeding is inarguably superior in it's completeness and health benefits, to any commercial formula available. Just as I don't begrudge the mother who purchases a less expensive, 2 star safety rate automobile to transport her children rather than fork over the change for the 5 star safety rated Volvo, I don't begrudge the formula feeding mother.

Deciding to breastfeed is a very personal decision, and few things annoy me more than when a women is chastised by other women for how she has chose to feed her baby. First of all, many women try breastfeeding and are unable to continue, for a number of reasons, and often times, there is a lot of "mommy guilt" associated with the cessation of nursing. These people beat themselves up enough, and unnecessarily so, might I ad. They don't need some bitch at the park calling them out. Secondly, some people have no emotional support for breastfeeding, and when a baby is screaming in the middle of the night and you have tried nursing and the baby is still screaming, if your partner says to you "That's it, let's make a bottle", even someone who wants to breastfeed could very easily go along with this harried recommendation. And lastly, for some women, and some families, breastfeeding is not for them-- they might not want to pump every 3 hours throughout their work day, or have to worry about keeping milk cold, and being the only one able to sooth the baby night after night after night for those 4am feedings.

Why are they OK with me, the "Judgmental Diva"? Well, because it has absolutely no bearing on my family or our life. UNLESS-- and this is a big thing-- Unless the individual is crawling to the local social service office, begging for WIC or AFDC payments. Then it IS my business, because I don't want to buy their formula. If your behind is going to be sitting around at home, collecting a welfare check for a YEAR after your baby is born, without anyone hounding you to get a job and be self sufficient, yeah, you need to be conserving all of the funds that you can (funds that are not yours, by the way), so breastfeeding ought to be your first choice, and barring an actual physical problem, it should be your only choice. If it comes down to your personal choice infringing on my wallet via the continued hemorrhaging of tax funds, then you need to "keep on, keep, keeping on" feeding your baby with some free booby milk. But that's only because your personal decisions are now stretching into my realm in the nature of your seeking public funds for your family. So, yeah, in that case, I should get a say. And so should everyone else you are looking to for funds to feed your clan.

But for the rest of you out there, those of you who are self sufficient, and who may have had to deal with rude and assuming comments about how you choose to feed your baby, whether via breast, or via bottle-- do what is best for you and YOUR family, and I'll do what's best for me and mine. I promise to not harass you in public for feeding your baby synthetic formula if you promise not to try to convince me to feed my baby in a public toilet stall.


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