And Yet

Why, when my child is almost 14 months old, do I have an emotional response- or at least a mini, internal gut punch- when I hear about someone breastfeeding?

My son is healthy. He has the most diverse diet of any toddler you know. It’s not like I didn’t breastfeed- there were half-hearted attempts at pumping and combo feeding for the first two months of his life. I believe that fed is best (informed is best!) and he’s growing amazingly and developing beautifully.

And yet.

And yet I’m sad. I’m disappointed in myself. I think! I’m not quite sure what I’m disappointed about. That it didn’t go like it was supposed to. My milk never came in. Wasn’t I supposed to wake up that first night home from the hospital having to change the sheets because my gigantor boobs finally leaked everywhere?! We spent the first night home from the hospital with him screaming because he was hungry. The gigantor boobs never came.

I’ve gone through it many times in my mind. The night nurse who said, “He hasn’t quite lost 10% of his body weight, but it’s close, so do you want us to go ahead and give him some formula?” Was it her fault? Was she was being lazy? The doctor the next morning said his weight was fine. What is a new parent supposed to say– no, don’t feed my baby? But I don’t hate the formula. It did its job. Formula saved us. Formula helped bond my husband and son during bottle feedings.

And yet.

Of course I had supply issues. The thought of food made me sick; my appetite completely dropped off the second he was born. I knew there’d be less sleep, but I didn’t know not sleeping at night when the baby did was an indication of a larger problem (and an extra blow to my supply.) The hours I spent laying awake, willing every cell in my brain to please god just go to sleep, maybe should have been spent pumping? Trying to coax my body into doing its job?

I don’t hate other moms who breastfeed. I’m happy for them, but I’m jealous. I know how hard it is. None of the roads are easy. 

I’m thankful I know to never ask another mom how feeding her kid is going. I’m working on the whole compassion thing when it comes to family who said, “Your supply won’t get better if you keep feeding him formula.” Thankyousomuch, unsolicited advice is my absolute favorite, and I definitely didn’t know that without you telling me!!!! I have the self-awareness of knowing that if I get pregnant again, my brain won’t let the breastfeeding thing go. I’m better prepared, but I’m also more fragile if I fail*. 

*Logically, I know it’s not failure. And yet…

A Rant

I’ve been reading the blog A Cup of Jo for many, many years & recently read this post, “Why Formula Feeding Was Best For Us.” Even the title tells you they’re going out of their way to make it as universally appealing and non-offensive as possible! The post goes on to share real stories from people in all walks of life who, at some point in their child’s first year or from the beginning, fed them formula instead of breast milk. As someone who stopped breastfeeding about two months after the birth of my son, I found it interesting to read other people’s stories of how they got to where I am. It was a lovely, informative post.

And then I read the comments.

Why, Brittney. Isn’t don’t read the comments the #1 rule of the Internet?!?!?!

I am angry. And I want answers. Why why why do women tear down other moms– people they DON’T KNOW– for choices that absolutely, 100% will never affect them?! The government isn’t looking out for moms, many employers and male colleagues aren’t looking out for moms. If we don’t support one another and the choices we make for OUR families because NO ONE is a better parent for your child then YOU, who else will!?!? (You can tell I’m hot and bothered by the amount of all caps words I’m typing. I do not apologize.)

The majority of the comments were, “Thank you for this,” followed by stories of their own formula-feeding journeys. A few simply said something like, “But breastfeeding is proven to be best. Stop trying to make formula feeding sound like an equivalent choice when it’s not as good.” I mean, fine. I don’t disagree that breastmilk is awesome for babies. The reason I wanted to breastfeed is because it’s so chock full of everything my baby needs straight from me to him. (Also, I’m cheap. Formula costs more cash money, yo’s! But, if time is money, breastfeeding isn’t exactly free.)

But then there were the comments that REALLY got me all fired up. Comments about “why are you trying to turn lemons into lemonade. You failed/ formula is second rate/ society shouldn’t glorify to parents that choosing formula is ok.” I! Can’t! Even! As a person who “failed” at breastfeeding and is now reading your comment, what is your intention? To make me feel like shit even more than my complex feelings about the situation already do? I highly doubt these same people would comment on a post about conceiving via IVF, “Why are you trying to turn lemons into lemonade? You failed.”

If you’re so concerned that my formula fed kid is going to have a smaller brain than your breastfed one, shouldn’t you be celebrating? Your kid will get a scholarship to Harvard while my little dunce still lives at home, attempting to repeat the 11th grade. (As if Harvard is a marker of success… but I can’t get off track here– I’m too incensed!)

And making lemons into lemonade is kind of, like, life? Not every parent in the original post ever wanted to breastfeed, so they didn’t have “lemons” to begin with. But those, like me, who weren’t able to breastfeed as well as we’d imagined while pregnant, have certainly grieved our lemons, thankyouverymuch. I didn’t look at my screaming child who was hungry but unable to get enough ounces out my boobs and think, “I’ll just go grab some formula and not once look back on this moment with a huge amount of self-flagellation!” Believe me, there were lemons. As humans so often do, I had an experience, I had emotions, I felt them, I processed them, I’ve learned things from it. If that’s what we’re calling lemonade, then come on over, honey, because I’m setting up a stand in the front yard!

If I sound defensive, I absolutely am. I’m defensive as hell against people who look at women in the most upside down/ twisty turvy/ you have no idea what journey I took to get here/ who even am I anymore/ period of their lives as new mothers and decide to tear down the choices they’re making. I don’t disagree with their core belief that breastfeeding is a wonderful option, but I’m disgusted in their conviction to impress these beliefs on people who are just trying to survive this hormonal hellscape while feeding their babies.

I fully plan to try to breastfeed again if we have another child, and I’m confident I’ll be more successful than I was after my first pregnancy. I had NO idea how hard it was going to be on top of a ton of other things I had NO idea how hard they would be. If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason– and you absolutely don’t have to give anyone else your reason– you can bet your ass I won’t be reading any blog comments.