Nathalie's Notes

Raising the Hardy Boys

I seem to have stumbled upon an unintentional platform … calling out the haters. As I work on the draft for my next week's column I have to keep my tone in check so I don't come across as a hater myself. The subject? Breastfeeding.

Hello, hot button.

At first I considered suing the La Leche League for emotional damages but throughout the course of my research I have discovered how much of the problem is that we are doing this to each other. With the looks. With the comments. With the smugness. It's really enough already.

I'm not pretending I can change the world by putting the bare truth out there, by bearing witness to the raw and real. But I truly believe hearing our experiences echoed in another's gives us courage to tell the truth out loud more often. It's one thing to say you support a cause, and another thing to choose silence when your voice might make a difference.

"You really want to put yourself out there like that, Babe?" Matt asked protectively.

"I kinda feel like I have to. This is what I do. You should hear some of these stories!"

The condensed version of mine goes like this – nursing Sam went smoothly. I suspect he'd still be nursing today if he hadn't gotten distracted by all the other things he could be doing during that time. At 16 months I bawled my eyes out when I realized I was done before he was and I so badly wanted him to stop nursing "naturally." (I'm learning to hate that word, by the way). With a little prompting he eventually stopped pumping his fists in the grocery cart – the sign for more milk – and we moved on.

Jake … smooth start. Somewhere along the line my supply ran low and I didn't know it because he's built like a tank. The crying in the middle of the night I attributed to a host of other things, teething, traveling and such.

It occurred to me this weekend that the screaming, getting worse by the night, could be hunger. Could I really have been starving him out in my insistence that if I could nurse, I should? How could I have just run out? So I pumped to check the amount he might be getting – just a gauge – I am aware that babies are more efficient than machines. But, along with not being issued a third arm when I became a mother there are no measuring marks on my body to clue me in as to how much he's getting.

It wasn't enough. Not even close to enough. No amountof blessed thistle, fenugreek, or Mother's Milk tea was going to fix what this little guy needed:  a full belly. Now.

In case there was any confusion – to communicate as clearly as possible that this was not working for him, Jake looked me in the eye and then bit me hard. And then he cried some more. We played that scenario out more times than I care to admit.

So I got formula. And he is happier than he's been in a long time. He slept five hours in a row last night – his longest stretch of sleep in two months.

What I wish I could tell you is that it was as easy as realizing what he needed and then going to Fred Meyer to buy the formula and moving on.

But it wasn't.

First of all, it was in the middle of the night when I realized what was happening. I felt guilty for a host of reasons and then Google happened. I found a lovely site where a woman dressed down a new mom for "not loving her baby enough to give her what God intended." I wanted to write on her comments that God didn't intend for bitches like her to have blogs but what do I know about what God intended? Clearly, this woman is an expert. What do I care what this one, random woman thinks?

Well, she represents many. And it's painful to have your love and desire to do your best by your child called into question.

Out of all the responses I've gotten so far, not one single person has said "I chose to formula feed my baby because I don't particularly care about her." Because that is stupid. And yet, so many people – so many – make mamas feel like crap for not breastfeeding. We happen to live in a particularly pro-nursing part of the country – Portland was rated fifth among the best cities for babies by Parents magazine, cited specifically for its positive nursing culture. Which is awesome. Really.

What is not so awesome is the failure to mention the culture of hostility around mothers who either can't–or chose not to–nurse and feed their babies by bottle instead of breast.  

I think a mother should be able to feed her baby wherever she, and the baby, are legally allowed to be. I think a mother should be allowed to feed her baby from the breast or the bottle without feeling judged or condemned. For the record, I am rabidly pro choice. And by that I mean – I respect your choice, even if it's not the same as mine.

Speaking of which – I'm still interested in hearing your stories: bottle or breast? If you've had experiences on any spectrum with this question, I hope you'll write. If it's too personal to post here, shoot me an email.

11 thoughts on “Bottle or breast? Yes.

  1. Brandy says:

    Hey Nathalie……this story probably isn’t the one you are looking for…but it’s pretty funny;)
    I was sitting in Washington Square about 10 years ago, sitting in one of the chairs in the middle on the hallway…nursing Aiden. Ashleigh sat in a chair on one side of me and Dustin on the other side. We were sitting there nice and quiet…when an older woman comes up to me and asks “Are these all YOURS?”…pointing towards the 3 kiddos. I KNOW I look young….but really?? So I said “No…I am just the babysitter.” Her jaw hit the floor….she mumbled something and walked away….fast. 😉


  2. says:

    I admire you. Thank you for putting yourself out there and giving a voice to so many emotions that I have felt in this mothering journey of mine. And again, Thank you for your open mind! love andrea


  3. Phyllis Conway says:

    I don’t know where La Leche was back in the 40’s but when my mom was a brand new
    mother at the tender age of 19 it was considered very “old fashioned” to breast feed your baby. Modern mothers fed their babies formula in a bottle. I believe it was made from evaporated milk, water and corn syrup which doesn’t sound like a very healthy mixture but lots of moms did this and their children grew up just fine. I’m sure today’s formula is better than that concoction! For whatever their own personal reason, today’s mother should be able to choose how and what to feed their baby.
    And what about adoptive mothers, like me or your mom? No guilt trip needed there I hope!


  4. says:

    Thanks Nathalie! I cried many a day when Luca was born because my milk never really came in. I struggled for 4 weeks trying to make it work – going to a nursing specialist and pumping constantly to try to get enough. I felt so guilty because everything you read makes you feel like if you don’t breastfeed you aren’t doing the most for your baby. Eventually I had to give up and switch to formula and everyone was happier – aside from the guilt


  5. says:

    and can I throw another one out there? What about how after a person has one child, it seems to give everyone license to ask if they are going to have another and try to pressure them into it – making comments about how hard it is for only children, etc…
    People don’t know how hard a decision that can be sometimes and don’t know what’s behind it.
    Another annoying issue I’ve struggled with


  6. nathalie says:

    I think the history here is really interesting – and your point about adoptive mothers is excellent! Thank you.


  7. nathalie says:

    That little cutehead of yours seems perfectly fine! I hope the guilt eases with time because it seems to me that you are an awesome mama.


  8. nathalie says:

    I know, right!? I got that a lot after Sam, like, right after. I really wasn’t sure if I could handle more, or even if I would be able to have another baby … I know some awesome kids who don’t have siblings. And I know people who’s siblings are a huge source of stress – so there you go! we should come up with an off-putting conversation ending statement you can come back with!


  9. Martin says:

    That was awesome! Thank you for sharing that


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