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.