Monday, October 4, 2010

Does Love Really Boil Down to THIS?

A couple of months ago, I posted my reaction to the whole Gisele Bundchen breastfeeding comments carnival. And because I don't know what's good for me, I also discussed it with Texan Papa.

I'm not going to go so far as to say that he was on Gisele's side. But, suffice it to say, he wasn't my favorite person right then.

I was thick in the middle of breastfeeding Violet at the time. She would NOT take a bottle no matter what. She refused formula of every brand and even pumped breastmilk got her stamp of disapproval. I was basically good for the bewb juice, straight from the tap, and she didn't want any substitutes.

The timing wasn't great to have this discussion with my husband, as we were on vacation in San Antonio, and being able to give the baby something to eat that didn't involve me flashing people at Six Flags Fiesta Texas would have been muy buena. However, instead, the full load of nourishing our daughter lay on my shoulders. Er, on my chest.

I have always been a big believer that formula is not bad for babies. Makes me so angry when people brag, "I never gave my baby formula" just like saying, "I had a drug-free childbirth." No one gets a medal for either of those feats. Gisele seems to disagree, with her comment, "Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?" Texan Papa asked me, "Well, why would you do that?"

Hmm. Good question. I guess it's a loaded question, though. Immediately I felt that he was disapproving of my choice to give the baby formula - even though it hadn't happened yet, although I was sure trying. I went on the defensive, and I was ready to come out swinging. How did he know what it's like to get up multiple times each night? How did he know the feeling of getting nipples chewed on and bitten and pulled and swollen and infected and plugged? How could he relate to trying to fix dinner, assist kids with homework, get a toddler to the potty in time, all while a baby is nursing at the breast? Sure, he had a personal interest in our baby's health, but not as personal as ME.

This was one of those times I needed to simply own my decision. So he disagrees with me. So what? It's not the end of the world. It's not a marriage breaker. It's just a disagreement. I think, possibly, he DID agree with Gisele. I think he would prefer that I breastfeed exclusively. That makes me ask myself, wouldn't I prefer it too?

If I know breastmilk is best, and I'm able to do it, and I'm past the hard part now, why do I still want to give my baby formula? It's not because formula has something that breastmilk doesn't. If anything, the opposite is true. Formula is close to breastmilk but definitely breastmilk has more - the antibodies plus everything else we haven't even found yet.

Now I have to ask myself the hard question that I keep dancing around and ignoring, pretending it will go away:

Am I the selfish mom? Do I love my kid just a little bit less than moms who breastfeed a full 12 months?

I have to banish these questions from my head for fear that I wiill begin questioning every single decision I make as a mom. I know that nothing in parenting is black-and-white. Yes, definitely, breastmilk is better. But is the breastfeeding experience better for everyone involved? Baby AND mother?

This is where the guilt threshold is tested. When do I get to make a decision that's better for me, at the expense of my child? How do you weigh the measure of that expense? Is my selfishness going to cause damage to my child? Is it a symptom of something deeper inside of me, possibly an inability to give unconditional love to my baby, at all costs?

And... this is just about the point I say to myself, "Seriously? Am I kidding? What in the world am I DOING???? My child is loved. She's well cared for. She gets tons of attention. She has her every need met and then some. She has excellent medical care, she gets books read to her, she gets brought to church. She has a huge loving family. She is in a smoke-free home. She was always put to sleep on her back. AM I SERIOUSLY GOING TO ACT LIKE GIVING HER FORMULA IS A CHOICE I MADE BECAUSE I DON'T CARE ABOUT HER???"

The end.

Texan Mama


Ash said...

Amen, sister. You're preaching to the had-to-formula-feed-my-boys selfish mom. Damn, good-for-nothing boobs and genes. I'm pretty sure my kids will still go to college and stay off the therapist's couch, or not, but that will have more to do with our parenting skills (egad!) then whether or not they took to my breast.

I fear for the moms who think breast is the ONLY answer. I hope the lactation gods are kind.

mama hall said...

how many nights did i stay awake fighting this very same guilt-ridden battle with myself? gisele's comment aside, i think we all have a breastfeeding angel on one shoulder and a formula angel on the other, both with plenty of grace for us and for our baby, whichever we choose.

Jamie said...

These decisions can be so hard. They come up at a time when we're over run by hormones and everything seems epic.

I formula fed my oldest child.

The youngest two have been breastfed. I wasn't opposed to formula, but it never became an issue. I produce well and I'm a stay at home mom so it was simple.

There were times with each girl when I was done. I was crying. I was in pain. It was SO hard. Apparently all my will power shows up to get me to persevere through nursing issues (It doesn't show up to help me diet FYI) and we made it. Littlebit nursed until 24 months and Baby Bee is still nursing at 15.

Families have to make the choices that best represent them. I'm not a better Mom than anyone because my youngest two never had formula. It was just a choice I made that best benefited my family. Period.

Bridgett said...

Sophia was breast/formula fed for two days, and then pumped breast milk for two weeks and then she went native and never took a bottle again. Maeve never did either, and Leo had one (the night Maeve had the seizure when he was a week old and I had to go the ER).

My first birth was terrible. I know this is the reason I was so determined, through systemic thrush for 6 weeks, to nurse that baby. But illness and c-sections aside, I had everything else in my favor:
1. great la leche leader support (I know this is rare, trust me!!)
2. family who were willing to let me do what I wanted (parents, inlaws, husband). I faced WAY MORE resistance when we switched to cloth diapers!
3. I wasn't going back to work so I could settle in and get used to the idea
4. A willingness (and then a laziness) to share my room with the baby--they sleep next to me in a co-sleeper so waking up at night isn't so much a burden.

Sometimes I get a twinge of sadness when I meet moms (friends of mine, I mean) who never even tried to breastfeed. Especially when they didn't try because they had bad information about longterm prescription medications they took, or because of the size of their breasts, etc. But I have nothing but compassion for moms who try and cannot make it work, mostly because they don't have all 4 of the things I was lucky to have. They went back to work at 6 weeks, or their hsuband was impatient, or bitter women on the phone told them they weren't trying hard enough.

I breastfed first because of health reasons, and later because of money reasons and lastly because of a strong libertarian streak (not wanting to hook my child's health to the bottom line of a corporation)....and if I hadn't breastfed, I probably wouldn't have bonded as well as I did (I'm not a baby person and I had severe PPD with the first one). So there's that, too.

But you're right about drug free births and exclusive bf. Nobody gets a gold star. My oldest never had an ear infection and I patted myself on the back A LOT. My second has asthma and recurrent ear infections. It's a craps shoot.

Jennifer said...

Breastfeeding IS best, but that doesn't make formula bad... or wrong. It is like organic food, yeah it is better, but that doesn't mean you have to use it all the time or that the alternative is bad (well not in all cases to all people). But you get what I'm saying. I think there are tons of factors that go into making these kinds of decisions and the quality of the milk is just one of them.

Swizz said...

Oh, the breastfeeding controversy! It's funny that you were worried about this...because you WERE breastfeeding. And if your baby got formula some, they were still getting the nutrients in breast milk the rest of the time. So who really gives a flip if it wasn't EVERY time? Not me, for sure.

And there are plenty of babies that were SOLELY raised on formula and they are just fine.

Why do we mothers choose to torture ourselves over these things? And why do we choose to torture EACH OTHER over these things. It's ridiculous.

More power to you in your ability to take a stance, any stance, and stand by it!

nicole said...

Wow, you sure give yourself a hard time sometimes! As moms I think we have all been there. I give my baby a bottle once a day, and it makes me happy. I don't think it is selfish to give yourself a break if you need it so that you can care for your child to the best of your ability. Happy mothers have happy babies, and as long as that is without the aid of alcohol or narcotics (not talking about antidepressants obviously) or something that endangers the child, then it is right for that family. I hope you are not making yourself crazy with this!

Rachael said...

I couldn't breastfeed. Before my first baby, I never even know that HAPPENED. My body doesn't make milk. With my 1st, it made almost nothing. With my second it made enough that he comfort nursed for 5 weeks, but his main sustenance was from formula.

I wish I could even express the anger I feel about a supermodel saying that I POISONED MY BABY by feeding him. What were my options, huh? Like I didn't already feel guilty (for no legitimate reason) and a little like a failure, now I have to deal with someone telling me that not only am I not doing what's best, I am actually harming my child? Give me a break.

My boys are both very happy, healthy little boys. I have taken care of them, and they have gotten everything they needed. And I love them fiercely. Breast may be best, but you know what else is best? Not being a jerk.

Gigi said...

As a mom who is so far past this stage I can barely remember it, let me weigh in with this.....

Whether you exclusively breast or bottle feed - or if you do a mixture of both - THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. You aren't selfish if you choose not to breast feed - and you are not uber-mom if you decide to breast feed. Whatever is best for you, your child, and your family is best. Period. And no one has the right to judge you for your decision. There is no need to beat yourself up over this decision. Believe me, as mom's we give ourselves plenty of grief - there is no reason to heap anymore on to ourselves.

Kat said...

This reminds me of myself standing in the supermarket today trying to buy a pacifier. I kept looking at the one I wanted (more breatheable, with teething nubs on it) and the one the said Bethynol A free (whatever that it is, I'm not sure I spelled it correctly). I started feeling guilting about the possibility that by buying the first pacifier I might put toxins into my baby, blah, blah, blah. Then I wondered if it was all just a market ploy.....So I bought the ones I wanted. Am I a bad mom? Who knows. But I am with all of you on being against women who seems to think they are superior because they breastfed. The majority of women don't breastfeed due to poor information and lack of support. As with many things, we should be bringing each other up, not down. We are all doing the best we can, are we not? ...Except those of you who feed your kids hot dogs....!:)(my sister just tore me apart on that one!)

Jaci said...

So, here's where I show what a wacked out conspiracy theorist I am.

Breastfeeding is pushed to the n-th degree right now, to the point that the WASP, middle class Mommies at the playground will snub you if they see you pull out the formula. Boob feeding is THE status symbol of sacrifical motherhood--the sign of a well-read mom--the proof of LOVE.

Breastfeeding is "better" than formula...but also? Every month another study claiming the superman benefits of breastfeeding is disproved. (Like increased IQ--where the study didn't factor in the IQ of the mom's breastfeeding--during a time when HELLO? every college educated woman is giving the boob a Herculean effort!)

So while I agree breastmilk has stuff in it that formula can't duplicate, that doesn't automatically mean that formula fed babies are sickly.

And who is pushing all this breastfeeding stuff? WIC. The medical community. Our government. So...let's think about this for a second. How many BILLIONS of dollars would our gov. save through WIC if every formula-feeding mom switched to free breastmilk? Is there an agenda here that we guilt-ridden moms aren't aware of?

Just a few questions that ran through my sleep-deprived, new mom brain when I couldn't produce enough milk and had brainwashed myself into looking at formula like rat poison.

Truth is--lots of babies would die without formula. Formula is a huge blessing--and a life changing option--for many families. Let's stop bashing it with our big ol' boobs and calm down.

And husbands who read propoganda and then firmly believe that their wives need to breastfeed no matter what piss me off. No offense to Texan Daddy. I'm just going all feminist. :)

And my kid is screaming and I can't really concentrate on this comment. GAH!

Aunt Crazy said...

AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH this is a hot topic these days. My kids are 14 and 17, so it's been a long time, but I decided before the first was born that I was not going to breastfeed. I don't know why, but I did, and I never felt guilty. We bonded, we are still very close, and both of my kids are healthy. I've worked all of their lives and they went to daycare, again, they are both healthy, athletic, well-rounded kids. These things worked for MY family. What you do works for YOUR family. Isn't that what is important? I don't think you have anything to feel guilty about and as for the men who feel so free to voice their opinions, I say tell them to kiss ass cuz they certainly don't have to make that choice or deal with the "mom guilt" that we do and most of them don't have a knowledgeable opinion anyway LOL

handstowar said...

Oh Lord... the neverending battle continues!

Gisele needs to get a clue. It must be nice being a supermodel who can afford to hire multiple servants to clean her house, take care of her kid, pay the bills, etc. while she rockets her body back into tip top shape within a period of four days. What she doesn't understand is that some people have INTENTIONS to breastfeed... and simply can't!

I know this because my wife struggled GREATLY with breastfeeding. No matter how hard she tried she just could not sufficiently feed our little one. Giving in to formula felt like we were going to poison her... but you know what? When she got the bottle of formula and realized she could drink it without any issues.... she sucked it down and passed out so fast it's like she had been hit with a mack truck!

My wife felt like a failure. She felt like she had let everyone down. We got coaching tips from our "lactavist" friends to which I told them (nicely) to shut up.

So, while breastfeeding is the ideal method, I don't think that people like Gisele who has her toilet paper made of pureed roses have any idea what the commmon men and women go through on a daily basis.

But hey... that's just my opinion...

Bevy-Anne Ruth Lucy said...

I brd my 1st born for 5.5 mos and after HAVING to go back to work had to go to regular milk - don't have a cow - it was 1979 - whole milk and a usual practice. I wonder if your child was lactose intolerant?
My second born was unwilling to EVER take a bottle or a nuke and was brfd till he was 13.5 - oh - I mean 15.5 mos. I told him - when you sleep thru the night - I will CUT YOU OFF! A tragedy occurred in our lives when he was 5 mos old and I found brfdg him to be a great comfort. At 4.5 mos he was sleeping thru the night for a couple nites and then the tragedy happened and he didn't sleep thru the night till 10.5 mos later ... UGH ... the 13.5 mos mention i when he ONE night slept thru the night. Otherwise he slept with me ALOT!
I had ample breast milk supply and found it the easiest - but to each his own - I have a DIL that couldn't brfd either of her children ... but they're doing well ... I think my son didn't take the bottle b'c of the taste and feel of the apparatus ... :) LOL!