March 23, 2011

All Fired Up

I saw on Facebook the other day that Andypants, a fellow blogging mommy and high school friend, joined a FB group called Formula feeding does not make me a bad parent! Having been a formula-feeder myself, I decided to check it out. And it led me to an article titled, "Why Breastfeeding is Overrated". I found that the article itself was kind of so-so and if anything. The comments, on the other hand, were something else.

I didn't read all of the comments, but I read enough to get me riled up and to bring back the flood of emotion that reminded me of those first few days with PK. In a nutshell, I started off by breastfeeding PK. After PK wasn't gaining weight due to a low milk supply (caused by a bad latch, I was told), I saw a lactation consultant, who told me I was doing it all wrong and had me supplement feeding PK with formula administered through a tube taped to my boob (oh so pleasant). I eventually got frustrated (after being berated by the lactation consultant over the phone - thanks) and gave up and gave her a bottle. PK could go between boob and bottle no problem, and actually started gaining some proper weight at last. My grandmother died when PK was about 2.5 months old, and the stress of it all caused my milk supply to basically dry up.

Here are a few old posts on some of my breast-feeding struggles during my mat-leave year:
  1. Feeding Woes
  2. The Breast-Feeding Conspiracy
  3. Geez... (this one still gets to me)
  4. Guilty
  5. It's Not Black and White!!!
I spent a lot of time brooding about how inadequate I was for not being able to breast-feed. I felt like a failure. My mom, who didn't BF too long herself (she produced crappy milk) didn't get it. The hubby didn't get it. They just wanted PK to be healthy. Among my mommy friends, I felt like an outsider, since they all fed without issues. It felt like I lost the one thing that made me a mom to her. My inability to breast-feed made me no different than if PK was being cared for by a nanny. As a result, I disengaged. Sure, I cared for her and I loved her, but there was a void between us. It took a long time to fix this void. In fact, I only fixed it in the last two months. THAT's how bad I felt about the breast-feeding thing.

Looking back on it all, I've come to realize that this whole situation was ridiculous and should have never happened. I am angry at the women out there who make women like me feel so bad for not being able to provide breast-milk to their children. To the point where it leads to post-partum depression. I'm pretty sure that I suffered from PPD (the breast-feeding issue was just one contributor to this), and it's unfortunate that I never sought help for it. I am also lucky that things didn't turn out worse for me, and that things are better now.

That's why it makes me mad mad mad, especially when I read some of the comments posted with regards to the article. One mom talks about how her baby was dehydrated from her inability to breast-feed properly and how her baby ended up in the hospital and almost died. In her own words:

"For the first days of my son's life, I was breastfeeding but convinced it wasn't going well. Every day, the midwives visited us and insisted I keep breastfeeding and that he was fine. At five days old, a couple of hours after being visited by a midwife who said he'd lost a bit too much weight and to try to give him a bit of formula out of a cup (not a bottle, don't you dare feed him from a bottle! nipple confusion!), we had to call an ambulance because my son stopped breathing. All the signs should've been extremely obvious to a healthcare professional, but they were blinded by their own agenda: my son was critically dehydrated because, for the first five days of his life, he hadn't been fed almost anything. My instincts were right, I wasn't producing enough milk, and my son almost died because of it. I know breastmilk is best, but in my experience it's being pushed at mothers regardless of their circumstances or ability to produce enough to feed their children. "

Here's one of the replies that this poor mom got:

"Did you contact a lactation consultant or an LLL leader? Breasts work on the concept of supply and demand so if you are not feeding on cue or throughout the night and are instead trying to schedule feedings or if your infant has latching issues your supply might diminish. It surprises me that they would suggest formula supplementing after only 5 days instead of diagnosing the real problem. Not all midwives (and nurses!) are properly educated on breastfeeding mechanics unfortunately. It saddens me that you were not able to enjoy nursing your son but you did what any loving mother would do: found a suitable alternative."

While this comment does somewhat redeem itself at the end in her very last line, it's the attitude at the beginning of the comment that gets me. Why does breast-feeding have to be the be-all-end-all? Let's face it. When you're a new mom, you're tired, and stressed. Not to mention the fact that you're on a hormonal roller-coaster ride. When things aren't working one way, you need to find a solution. One that will take the stress off of you as a mom, and one that will ensure that your baby is healthy. If it means "giving up" on breast-feeding, then so be it. There is nothing worse for a child than a mom who is not of sound mental health. And the pressure around breast-feeding for those of us who struggled with it doesn't help.

One other thing that I've noticed in some of the stuff that I've read on-line: even some of the bottle-feeding mommies seem apologetic for feeding their kids with a bottle. And some will make it a point of saying that they use expressed breast-milk instead of formula. Ah, even bottle-feeders have a way of making other bottle-feeders feel crappy. To this day, I feel like I have to explain myself for going to formula, and I shouldn't!!!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've read my rants about this over and over. I make no apologies for it. I'd like to point out that I have nothing against breast-feeding. I'm glad that women are able to do it. But I do get angry over the lack of support out there for women who formula-feed. And worse off, for the fact that formula-feeding women are made to feel so bad for doing what they do. Whether or not they choose to formula-feed from the get-go or have to supplement like me, or are forced to formula-feed because of whatever medical condition (e.g. mastectomy), it's none of your damned business. Just like breast-feeding moms don't like to be judged or stared at by strangers for feeding their babies in public, formula-feeding moms deserve the same respect. They also deserve not having the breast-feeding community and the goddamned La Leche League making them feel inadequate over this.

For all the concern that there is around PPD, I'm surprised that this pressure to breastfeed and the psychological effects from failure or even succeeding after much struggle don't get more attention. After all, we're not doing the new moms any justice by putting this undue pressure on them, and most importantly, it's hurting the babies (who cares if the babies get breastmilk if mommy turned into a headcase over it). This type of pressure most certainly puts new moms on a collision course with PPD.

My advice to new moms is always this: if you can breastfeed, then great, but if it's not working out, don't sweat it. It's not worth it. And most importantly, don't listen to those breast-feeding advocates. They just make you feel worse if you're struggling, and who needs that?

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