September 24, 2008

The Breast-Feeding Conspiracy

Throughout my pregnancy, I was constantly lectured by the instructors of my various pre-natal fitness classes about the benefits of breast-feeding. My Yoga instructor in particular, was VERY passionate about it. It was probably due to the fact that she's also a doula and a lactation consultant. She was so passionate, in fact, that she was even a bit militaristic about it. Basically, if you so much as even put a drop of formula into your baby's mouth or gave her the bottle at too early an age, you were a bad, bad mom. No wonder I was in tears when I had to introduce the bottle (with formula) to PK when she was having weight-gain issues.

Nowadays I've mostly come to terms with my decision. I am still a bit miffed/distraught by the whole thing because I keep comparing myself to other moms out there. Last week, for example, I went out to lunch with a couple of moms that I met through Baby & Me Fitness. We spent most of lunch feeding and changing our babies. (We did eventually get to eat too!) While their breast milk supply was plentiful, mine was crap. I gave PK a bit of breast milk, but unfortunately I didn't have enough and had to crack out the emergency formula that I keep in my diaper bag for such occasions. Boy did I ever feel inferior.

Even last weekend, I was talking to my sister-in-law, who is expecting her 2nd child and she said that with her first, she had so much milk that she didn't know what to do with it. Meanwhile, here I am with partially-deflated boobs, excited when I manage to pump 100ml of milk in one sitting from both boobs.

FORTUNATELY, I know that I'm not the first nor the last person to go through this ordeal. Last week I was talking to a mom who had to formula-feed her baby boy (who is now 3 months old). She had to formula feed him not because she was having latch problems or milk supply problems, but because she got very sick shortly after giving birth and had to go on such a cocktail of antibiotics that breast-feeding her baby boy was no longer an option as it would put him at risk. She was telling me about how she lost a friend over this. The back story is that these two girls met through the Baby & Me classes and were best buds. Let's call girl with formula baby Girl X and the other one Girl Y. X and Y due at around the same time and delivered at the same hospital. X and Y were talking on the phone one day, when X told Y that she could no longer breast-feed due to the antibiotics she was taking. Rather than be supportive, Y kept coming up with ways that X could still continue to breast-feed. Naturally X was upset by the lack of support and told me that she has never talked to Y again.

Equally-shocking is what happened to me yesterday. Although I'm not in the band this semester, I'm still involved with them to a certain extent, maintaining their Web site. Yesterday was the band's first full rehearsal after auditions were completed, and the conductor asked me to hang around to do my little spiel about the Web site. Before practice started, I chatted with a few friends, showing them pictures of PK. One guy, the trombone player (there's only one this year), became a dad to a baby boy on June 6. I told him about my feeding woes with PK, and rather than show support, he LECTURED me! He told me that there is no such thing as a low milk supply, that I shouldn't give up on breast-feeding, and that I need to see a lactation consultant ASAP to make this breast-feeding thing work. Who the hell made him a freaking breast-feeding expert? Who gives him the right to lecture me about how I feed my child???

I am the first to admit that breast-feeding is ideal, but guess what? Sh!t happens. Sometimes, we can't make do with what nature provides us. Thank goodness that we have formula available to us for times like these. Unfortunately, some people are so hung up on breast-feeding that to them, the matter is black-and-white. No shades of gray allowed. Instead, they would rather destroy a mother's self-esteem and feeling of self-worth. And for what? I can't emphasize how much of a wreck I was when I made the decision to supplement with formula. It's because of people like the trombone player and girl Y who just don't understand that sometimes, you need to quit while you're still ahead. To me, the most important thing is to make sure that PK is fed. If I can't do it by exclusively breast-feeding, then it's not the end of the world. Both the hubby and his sister were exclusively formula-fed, and they turned out just fine. My mom breast-fed me for about 2-3 months before switching over to formula. It's not the end of the world, and yesterday's conversation with the trombone player really made me realize this.

So to all those moms out there who are crying over the fact that they had to switch to formula, my heart goes out to you. There is very little support out there for people like us, and it's shameful. If you have a breast-feeding horror story, please feel free to share it here.

1 comment:

Fawn said...

No horror stories here, but loads of sympathy. I think first-time parents (like that boner dad - ha! I crack me up) are especially susceptible to Know-it-all-ingness. (Yep, it's a word.)

One of my good friends had her second baby this summer; the baby happens to be an angel who is super-easy to take care of, eats well, goes to sleep easily, the whole bit. My friend told me that if Eowyn had been her first child, she would have been pretty proud of herself for being such a good parent. But since her first was a lot more challenging, she knows better!

I am a HUGE supporter of breast-feeding, but I think being too militant about anything is dangerous. We have a pretty good rate of breast-feeding in new moms now (although I don't know how long most of them stick to it...) but I feel like there must be a backlash coming down the pipe. Maybe in a decade, maybe more or less, but with such strident voices in the BF community, it just feels like the pendulum will have to swing the other way at some point.

By the way, I know a woman from the La Leche League who didn't have problems with milk supply (she nursed her son until he was almost 7! I know that's a whole other topic...) but was never able to pump or express much at all. I, too, had trouble pumping and expressing and I've got to say that 100 mL actually sounds pretty impressive to me! I had a hard time getting more than 50 or 60 mL.

Thanks for letting put my blog URL in now! :D