You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t really written a lot about breastfeeding since having Miss C. This is odd, of course, because it’s basically all I do. With all the TIME hoopla, though, I think now is the time for me to go on the record with some quick notes and thoughts, “quick” being the key word because I’m sure you’re just as tired of hearing about it as I am.
Breastfeeding is hard. Well, having a newborn is hard in general, especially for me who basically has no idea what I’m doing. No, really. NO IDEA. But breastfeeding and all the related issues surrounding it are a big part of what makes it hard. This is especially true when everyone has an opinion about it, moralizes it beyond recognition, and judges you for not doing things the same way they did things. Heck, even if you do things exactly the same way as someone else but don’t do it for their reasons, you’re gonna get judged.
We’ve had our difficulties. Everyone has. My milk didn’t come in fully for weeks, and Miss C wasn’t back up to her birth weight until she was three weeks old. When she finally had regained that weight, I cried at the pediatrician’s office. Then she had a growth spurt and I was literally nursing her on the hour, every hour. And she still wasn’t gaining. It was massively frustrating.
One day a month in, it occurred to me that I hadn’t left the house for more than twenty minutes without Miss C since she was born. I just wanted to go to the grocery store, for Pete’s sake. I had pumped about two ounces for Miss C (that was all I could get considering she was nursing around the clock and I was still struggling to keep up with her), but I just bit the bullet and made her a bottle of formula for B to give her while I was gone. We had TONS of formula laying around the house because you’re bombarded with free samples of it when you’re pregnant.
And guess what? She took the formula and didn’t die! AND we are still bonded! AND it nourished her! AND she’s gaining weight!
And we’re not bad parents. I’m still primarily breastfeeding her/feeding her expressed milk, but you better believe she gets formula too. Giving her a bottle gives me comfort that her little belly is full.
So the other day I was reading this book called The Essential First Year because, y’know, I need all the help I can get. And here’s what this tome of wisdom said about bottle-feeding:
You may hear that bottle-feeding is better for modern families because the father can share the joy of feeding his baby and the mother can sleep while he does some night feeds. Oh please! Every parent knows that feeding is the baby’s basic need and has to come before father’s joy or even mother’s sleep. Anyway once a mother and baby have had a month or so to learn breast-feeding, father can give as many bottles as he likes – of expressed milk.
Yeah, well “every parent” also (hopefully) knows that they should create a feeding routine that works best for their family. If that includes exclusive breastfeeding, that’s great, but they’re not going to hell and their baby is not going to die if it gets *gasp* a bottle filled with *double gasp!* formula. I promptly shut the book and returned it to the library with a note to the next reader to stay away from this judgey-pants book. (It sucked for several other reasons too but this is the one that finally made me shut it.) This book was meant to be a general instruction book of a baby’s first year, so its in-you-face message of damnation if a bottle and formula ever comes into the picture really, really turned me off. I’d agree that it’s important to establish breastfeeding in the first month if that’s what you want to do, but there are about a bajillion babies out there that were never breastfed and only ever knew a bottle and formula, and guess what? They turned out fine. Actually, not just fine. Exceedingly well.
First off, if the baby has a father like B and Ande over at & Squatch Makes Three who cares enough about his newborn child to want to share in its feeding, I am ALL ABOUT including him. Dads are parents, too, people. If the child is blessed enough to have a father who doesn’t just see it as a lump of salami during those first weeks but as his baby, then you better believe I am going to indulge him the pleasure of spending some time with her in his arms, giving her nourishment.
Also, a mother’s sleep is not just a luxury; it is a major, major necessity. In the first months, rest is what can separate a new mom from a crazy-pants lunatic. The only reason I’m remotely cohesive and sane right now, 7 1/2 weeks in, is because I go to bed at 9:30 and B gives Miss C a bottle in the interim period before I get up and nurse her at 3AM and then again around 7AM. I am human and would resent the heck out of my new role as parent to Miss C if I lacked the clarity rest gives me. Rest makes me not want to cry when she cries. Rest gives me tons of patience. Rest helps me access my compassion. Rest makes me better for her.
And those are my remarks on breastfeeding.