Thoughts on breastfeeding: the past, and the possible future.

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I don’t know if we’ll have more kids naturally. I have been gung ho. A couple of months ago I was convinced it was the ‘perfect’ time to get pregnant – and now, wow am I happy I’m not. Chasing after these two with a baby cooking? Ha.

The past month has been killer. August is always a big month – lots of sad anniversaries. But it also is our anniversary, and now the birthday of Snort and Coconut. Just like life, August is good and bad.

I wonder if my ambiguity about pregnancy is why I am also lackluster about weight loss. I know I have to lose all my weight to be able to donate eggs again, and I certainly think we’d go the IVF/eggshare route again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff. Breastfeeding….a lot.

How they got sunken fontanels (sp?), how they were so dehydrated, how they did not pee….except little crystals and blood. How their weight plummeted well below a loss of 15%.  How it kept dropping.   Breastfeeding was the best thing ever for me, but perhaps not for my babies. I don’t know if I would try again.

Certainly the suckling has been known to help regenerate nerves, and make breastfeeding after a reduction a possibility in second, third, fourth pregnancies. Certainly I would want to breastfeed, but it would be an act of courage as the last time it hurt me so badly when it failed.

I’m happy now. We formula fed our babies and, well, it was good. As I’ve said before, there are good things about bottle feeding – please don’t jump down my throat or criticize, because unless you have been desperate to breastfeed and medically could not, you don’t know what it’s like. I chose (finally) to forgive my body and move on. To accept things as they were, and to be grateful for how my cherished kids were developing.

The next time around I would meet with a lactation consultant before birth, to have an action plan in place. I know giving a bottle fucks with milk production in normal boobies, but with my boobies and history, I would not withhold a bottle to ‘just see,’ since my kids got pretty fucking sick from my inability to give them milk this time around.

All the buzz on Twitter lately is about milk donation. I applaud those who donate, as well as those mums who need a bit of help and have the wherewithal to get connected to resources. I don’t know that milk banks exist here, but again – I’d do some research before another baby came along, even to make some informal connections.

I think parents hold so fast, so tight, to their ideals – the way they do it is so good, feels so right, that they want to tell everyone else about it. Certainly I was like that with babywearing and baby led weaning. But sometimes that tips too far over the edge into condemnation.

The number of twitter convos I’ve had….

ie

Them: There is no reason EVERY mother cannot breastfeed her baby.

Me: Um, actually I couldn’t breastfeed. I was medically unable to.

Them: Bullshit. The only excuse is if you have some sort of disease you might pass on or something.

Me: Well, actually not. I had a breast reduction and the surgery damaged my breasts too badly to be able to feed my children.

Them: *backtracking wildly* Oh, yeah, well, I mean that’s different. That’s medical.

Me: *sigh*

I am the sort of person who will always speak up. Hell, if I was breastfeeding I’d do it outloud, so proud, in public. I’d get a couple of those boobie beanies and tandem nurse any old place. But I think it’s ridiculous how shamed and horrible I felt about offering bottles in public.

It’s interesting how the internet has skewed my perceptions. My online connections are usually all AP (attachment parenting) people. You know, people more likely to be into natural parenting, babywearing, cosleeping, breastfeeding, anti-CIO, etc. Most cloth diaper and some are anti-vax.

These people are so accepting of me and my non-boobie milk, but only once I’ve gone through and explained why I’m not breastfeeding. It’s like being gay – I come out again and again as a formula feeder. I used to sort of keep my mouth shut, which goes against my personality. But now I can say, well, you know know? I forumla feed. Breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone. I had a surgery when I was 19; I could beat myself up about that for eternity, but what is the point?

It’s so possible to be AP when bottle feeding. Not all formula feeders are propping bottles up into the mouths of babes strapped into carseats and ignored. I held my babies every feed – despite having one of me and two of them. They cuddled into me, and still do, to eat. My respect for breastfeeding and all the benefits is deep, and I emulated them as much as possible – we only fed on demand (they choose when and how much milk to eat, we do not encourage them to have more or discourage them from eating), and now we do baby led weaning and will led them decide when is the right time to transition away from milk feeds.

We do it as naturally as possible, as gently as possible, as respectfully as possible.

If only all parents offered other parents the same treatment.

I know it’s hard. Hell, I judge people. When the babies were first born, someone I went to school with sent me a link via facebook for this feeding thing (the assumption being there would be no breastfeeding, which is NOT a good thing!). It was like a pacifier connected to a tube that dipped into a bottle. She attached a picture of her three week old infant left alone on the side of a swimming pool while she and her hubby frolicked in the water.

Yes, I judge. Yes, I am horrified.

But what is my judgment going to do to her? Nothing. Offering shame and condemnation is not helpful; education is, but only in the right circumstances. I’ve had lectures (again, via my pal twitter) about formula being poison, about bottle feeding moms not giving a damn about their kids’ health, etc. And then always, always, the backtracking when they learn about my situation. Always the embarassed, ‘Oh, I don’t judge people who can’t feed because, like, they can’t.’

Well, you do. You do judge when you presume to talk about how formula is akin to the coming of the anti-christ.

Did I love breastfeeding? Yes. Did it work for us? No. It (well, not breastfeeding, but the failure of breastfeeding) made my children sick.

I’m sorry. I don’t know how this got so long or so rambling, or what was my original point. I think somewhere in here I meant to say that if I get pregnant again, I’m going to be a lot more gentle and forgiving of myself this time around.

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27 Responses to “Thoughts on breastfeeding: the past, and the possible future.”

  1. Claire Says:

    I think you’re an amazing mama and so sorry that people have said rude shit to you about not breastfeeding. This isn’t lactivism! And you’re completely right that you can be AP while formula feeding. My mother breastfed me for nine weeks before switching, and she was an extremely attached parent.

    I think that honestly, if I were in your shoes and having another baby I would do my best to provide as much colostrum/breastmilk as possible, but would not beat myself up about giving formula as well to make sure. That’s the thing with breastfeeding, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. *hugs*

    • existere Says:

      YES.

      TMD said this awhile back – I think things would have been easier on us, and maybe we would have kept trying with the breastfeeding (?) if we hadn’t been so black and white about it. It WAS all or nothing for us, and that’s part of the reason it all went horribly wrong….aside from my boobs, of course. The gray area is a much healthier place to be, and I am still pleased they got the bit of colostrum and milk that they did.

  2. Lauren Says:

    This is kind of off-topic from what I think the point of this post was, but I wanted to share. I saw a documentry (on 4oD called Other People’s Breastmilk) which featured a woman whose children were born via surrogacy and she pumped for pretty much the whole pregnancy in order to stimulate her body to produce milk, even though it wasn’t her body producing a baby. She breastfed successfully. So if suckling is meant to regenerate nerves, then pumping before the baby arrives might help. Also, even if it’s you that gets pregnant, doesn’t mean that TMD couldn’t breastfeed, or BOTH of you (that has to be some kind of baby heaven- TWO sets of boobs!). I have also heard of cases where adopted babies are breastfed.

    • existere Says:

      Yes – we didn’t go TMD feeding this time as she was finishing her MS dissertation, volunteering, and working fulltime while also looking after her crazy disabled wife and two infants. She prob wouldn’t have been able to make enough for two babies, but when she first held one of them in the hospital and they cried, milk beaded on her nipple. How amazing is that?!?!

      I did pumping with these guys, and it didn’t help. But thank you for the suggestions….

  3. @candiestaken Says:

    I heart you mama! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I, too, think about breastfeeding a lot, but I don’t talk about it much outside my own head. There are just too many raw nerves on both sides of the issue most times to have intelligent discourse on it. I fully believe that it is solely the decision of the mom to choose how to nourish her child. I may not understand why one chooses not to breastfeed, but I won’t say anything to you about because, you know what, it’s none of my damned business to comment.

    Excellent, excellent post.

    • saralema Says:

      Owning my words- this is from me. I obviously forgot to log in.

    • existere Says:

      You are right about the raw nerves thing. I’ve only *just* lost my rawness about a month ago. before then I felt every comment on twitter like an arrow to the heart. I now understand I did it to myself by being so sensitive, but on the other hand I would hate for those sorts of comments to be hurting another raw mummy.

      I think us formula feeders all get tarred with the same brush – everyone assumes ff just don’t care about bfing. It’s not true!!

  5. PottyMouthMommy Says:

    I could have written this! I sooooo know how you feel. I used to be judgy mcjudgerton rabid pro-bfing woman. I tried not to be- I really did. I generally kept my mouth shut though, while judging from afar… Now I’m older and much wiser, and I most definitely recognize that sometimes, it’s just better to let go, and enjoy feeding your children no matter how that feeding happens. My newest addition has never once been propped up in the carseat with a bottle. The closest she’s gotten is when I let her big sis feed her, and that is almost one of her most favorite things. The bond those two are developing is amazing and brings tears to my eyes. It makes bottle-feeding almost worth it! Almost… I’d still prefer to breastfeed, but it’s reassuring to know that there IS something positive in letting go.

    • existere Says:

      I like that TMD got to help feed. Some of my fondest memories (no, really!) were when we were in the middle of the night tandem feeding Snort & Coconut after they were just born. We were so tired, so slaphappy, so crazy. We would sit up, each feeding a baby, and talk. It was lovely, actually.

  6. ashley Says:

    I dont have enough time to write what I want to (awesome post, great mother, its ok! etc etc etc!) but I would like to suggest something

    Have you seen these before?
    http://wn.com/breastfeeding_with_a_supplemental_tube

    Its a tube that goes into baby’s mouth while baby sucks on breast. They get formula and stimulate the breast! So you up milk supply (or in your case, help your damaged nerves) and the baby gets fed adequate nutrition.

    If you decide to have another baby, the idea with meeting with an LC before birth is a perfect idea. She will help you better understand the supplemental tube if you wish to use that. Good luck with everything! I enjoy reading :]

    • existere Says:

      Yep, I do know about those tubes. Our lac consultant and us (bad grammar, what ho!) decided against it because it was just too damn hard with twins. I know one mama who did it and survived, and she is a ROCKSTAR. I, on the other hand, also had a punishing physical disability and, well, it was all so hard and fucked up. It would be something I would think about for another baby, but on the other hand my boobies repairing wouldn’t be such an issue next time as I don’t think I want four natural born children.

      But thank you for the info. It is always great to get ideas from other people who have experience and knowledge!

  7. incurable hippie Says:

    Great post, it’s very important to get this message out! It’s all very well ‘not judging’ when you know there’s a medical reason, but many women who formula feed for medical reasons don’t want to explain that to everybody. We shouldn’t judge anyway, medical reason or not.

    • existere Says:

      I agree. I think judgment in any way is usually unhelpful – and I’ve certainly got my fair share due to being gay, disabled, etc – let alone parenting ‘choices.’ Formula feeding literally saved their lives, and it certainly made my life better as well. I am stopping apologizing about it because in our life it was GOOD!

  8. Amanda Says:

    The whole ‘I’m going to judge you and tell you you’re wrong until you give me a reason then *I* shall be the judge of whether that reason is good enough and if you should be let off the hook’ happens in many areas of life. It’s such a cocky, assuming, up one’s arse attitude.

    I have to admit that when I hear/see a Mom bottle feeding straight from birth I do question why and wonder (in my head). This is genuinely just interest and not understanding a different lifestyle.

    There have been a few cases I’ve come in contact with where formula feeding the baby is actually a very sad thing. The one I can remember most recently is a teen girl being bullied quite viciously by her Mom not to breastfeed because it’s perverted, disgusting, makes the baby way too attached, and you can’t go out and drink. 😦

    I know the bottles you are on about as well. They are rather shocking. I’ve seen them attached to the side of pushchairs as the babies are pushed around town. 😦

    There’s no doubt in my mind that bottle feeding can mimic breastfeeding and be very AP. 🙂

    • existere Says:

      You’ve said a lot of good stuff here and I want to comment on it all, but basically all I would be doing was agreeing with everything, so maybe you can imagine it?? Heheh.

  9. Dora Says:

    My sister is a judgy lactavist, so in response to that, I’ve been very moderate from the start. Although I breastfed fairly successfully, there were times in the first few months that my supply was just not adequate. 2 oz or so of formula some evenings would end the HOURS long fussy nursing sessions and my daughter would finally fall asleep. I returned to work when she was 13 weeks old, and pumped for a few months. It was VERY stressful. I do not have a private office, and the room the company provided was not pleasant. As a large breasted woman, I never got the hang of double pumping, so it took twice as long. Stressed mommies do not produce much when they pump. So now I nurse at home, and my daughter gets formula at daycare. She happily goes back and forth between boob and bottle, and is very healthy. She will be 9 months old next week and has had one cold, which she got when she was 5 months old and knocked out in 4 days.

    I refused to get worked up over not exclusively breastfeeding. It took me a very long time to become a mother, and damn it, I’m going to enjoy her infancy. (Oh, and around my sister we refer to formula as “the poison.”)

    • existere Says:

      Yes, this exactly. Everyone should enjoy their babies, but for those of us who had to leap through extra hoops it’s even MORE important, I think! Sounds like you came to a nice balance.

  10. Winnie Says:

    You are a fantastic Mama. I hope you will always remember deep down that you are FABULOUS and blow me away with your love for you family.

  11. mamacrow Says:

    thankyou for this post.

    I’ve never really been witness to anti breastfeeding or, indeed anti formula feeding retoric until joining twitter!

    With my first baby I was struggling to stay in university, get over a hospital stay (i wasn’t badly unwell, just was inbetween moving from my mum’s to papacrow’s mum’s, and I was very hospital phobic then) and I was only (just) 20. Long story short, breastfeeding was unsuccessful and he ended up on formula. It’s taken a long time for me to let go of this, in fact, i’m not sure I totaly have.

    I was overjoyed with no 2 to find colostrum being produced later on the pregnancy and even more overjoyed when feeding went like a dream – he and i just both seemed to know what to do! No cracked nipples, masses of milk, in fact I went to work, albeit part time, as soon as leagally allowed and expressed with no problems (the trick for me is don’t even pick up a pump, just hand express), and he transitioned from bottle to breast no problems whatsoever.

    This was the story for nos 3 and 4 as well, with all of them I stopped breastfeeding somewhere between 8 and 12 months when we both lost interest and nos 2 & 3 went on to followon milk in bottles for a few months untill they were a year.

    With no5, I wasn’t going back to work, and she fed just over a year, and no 6 is still going strong (she’s only just coming up 10 months)

    I’m a bit bemused by this modern (to me) lingo of demand feeding and baby led weaning. You can’t force a baby to feed or eat if they don’t want to, they just wont (or will bite you if they are one of my daughters!), and you can’t not feed or give food to a baby who is hungry. I can’t anyway.

    All babies have been different in their patterns – some have been every 2 hrs, some every 3 or 4 from the very begining, some very snacky. no 5 memorably was sleeping long strectches at night from very early on, which meant my period came back after a few months *sigh* and no 4 used to go to sleep in the cradle and then cot at 6 sharp every day for an hour or so from when he was a few days old (so much for ‘if you sling babies and feed on demand, they’ll never learn to go to sleep’. what rubbish!)

    ANYWAY. Obviously breastmilk is the best for babies (by design and all that) BUT don’t lets forget that THANK GOODNESS we do have modern formula, because breast milk and wet nurses are hard if not impossible to get hold of these days!

    appologies for rambling… two more things…. On twitter, someone tweeted that formula milk should only be available on drs prescription. FFS. Admitedly they were american, and the situation over there, especially with formula companies seems vastly different, but still, come on!
    On facebook, someone posted this quote from some woman about how women who are unable to breastfeed shouldn’t feel guiltly, but women who are unwilling to breastfeed SHOULD feel guilty.

    Isn’t there enough guilt along with motherhood anyway? Everytime I make a damn desicion I’m wracked with guilt I’ve got it wrong!

    Besides, we really don’t know the whole story… past sexual abuse etc etc. At the end of day, as other people have mentioned, it’s really noone else’s damn business 🙂

    • existere Says:

      The sexual abuse thing is a very good point – and to be honest, one I had not thought of.

      I don’t really know anything about how things are in America….but I can guess. I think bottom line is: wherever in the world you are, guilt comes along with being a mother. Ha. I think the trick is trying to be just good enough, and not beat ourselves up or agonize over every possible choice we made that MIGHT have been slightly off.

  12. Jess Says:

    I had troubles from Day 3 of my son’s life. He had advanced jaundice and needed phototherapy for 48hrs to clear out. We were in hospital for a whole week as a result. Since the UV from phototherapy dehydrates very quickly Finn was bottle fed formula and my pumped breast milk. Once I got home I tried HARD to drop the pumping:
    http://myfirstbub.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/success/

    But it didn’t work:
    http://myfirstbub.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/it-aint-happenin/

    So now we formula feed. To make it as healthy as possible, we’ve chosen an organic brand. I don’t consider it ‘poison’, Finn is super healthy!
    http://myfirstbub.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/bottle-preparation/

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! xx

    • existere Says:

      I read along all through your pregnancy and then the breastfeeding stuff. Sometimes formula is the right choice, and your gorgeous, gorgeous boy is certainly growing and happy!

  13. The Barreness Says:

    I had huge problems feeding initially (literally, poor G couldn’t latch onto my huge boobs), and then I had to deal with nipple blisters, and oh the pain… I couldn’t have done it without the support of my excellent lactation consultant, but I also came through with a great deal of appreciation for how hard it is to feed even when all the equipment works well, and the supply is good, let alone when there are problems.

    So don’t be hard on yourself at all. You have two wonderful healthy babies, and if you get pregnant again you can try feeding again – and if that doesn’t work you know that it’s no big deal.

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