I was going to title this article Breastfeeding: Does it or does it not suck? But since I’ve already used that when talking about pacifiers, I thought I’d just be a grown-up and use a nice title.
Now, this article will not enter into the age-old debate on breast vs. bottle. Breastmilk is natural and therefore free and easy. Formula is a medical miracle that enables mothers to feed their babies if their milk supply is low, if they are working full-time, or if they choose to feed by the bottle for whatever other reason. It is a huge blessing that formula is an option today! For us, I had my first child out of my home country and she was born in Scotland, a country with a renown midwifery program and with heavy emphasis on breastfeeding. So that’s why I took the plunge. Additionally, we were stone cold broke so it wasn’t even a choice.
However, I remember having numerous conversations back in the States about breastfeeding and the general consensus was that it was just kind of, well, not weird, but, yeah, sort of weird. Women who, prior to getting pregnant, don’t feel particularly maternal and think that bottle feeding is just easier and less personally invasive. Even today, as any mother can probably agree, 75% of my Facebook feed are friends who are mothers. And, the majority of my friends from the States are bottle feeders and the majority of my friends from elsewhere are breastfeeders. It makes me think. Perhaps, if most people around you bottle feed and most babies you’ve ever been around (if you’ve been around many) were bottled fed, then many women don’t even consider breastfeeding.
Whether you breast or bottle feed is not an indication of how great of a mother you are and I am in no way trying to make bottle feeders feel bad or breast feeding mothers feel better. I just want to share some reflections and hopefully give a little more information and debunk a few myths on breastfeeding. I am eternally grateful I took the plunge to breastfeed. I don’t regret it for a second and would recommend it to anyone. It wasn’t all googley eyes at first, however.
Here are some thoughts.
1) Though it is natural, it may not feel natural at first. Animals do it and mothers have done it for centuries. In fact, our bodies are made to produce milk for our young. Therefore, it’s the most natural thing in the world. But, it doesn’t always feel that way. It can feel awkward at first and perhaps you second guess yourself. Rest assured, this phase will pass. It’s the first time you’ve ever nourished a human being from your body (aside from when you nourished them for the previous nine months) and there’s bound to be an adjustment period. The milk supply needs to get regulated, the baby needs to get used to it, you need to get used to it. When that’s all said and done you just slip into a rhythm and routine that feels like the most normal thing around. Don’t decide not to breastfeed simply because it seems weird or invasive at first. Soon, you’ll come to think of it as a privilege.
2) People say breastfeeding is more convenient, but it all depends on your personality. I remember reading how convenient breastfeeding would be, but with my first child I found it horribly inconvenient. Now, I never wanted to stop, but what I wanted to do was pump and bottle feed when we were in public. If we went out for the day or to the mall our whole schedule revolved around when we’d have to feed the baby. Oh, wow, the bird show at the zoo is really good, wait, I have to leave early so I can feed for 45 minutes. I’ll just go lock myself in the bathroom now. Okay, it isn’t really like that, but it does tie you to your child physically unless you pump and introduce the bottle early. With my second child I pumped from the beginning so that I’d always have a bottle to feed him with in public and I loved it. And, if you can believe it, I’d even feel a twinge of jealousy that he’d take the bottle without a fuss!
3) Is breastfeeding in public rude or offensive or is it normal and natural? Well, this depends on the culture I suppose. Before going to Scotland, if you told me that I’d ever breastfeed in public I’d think you were from the funny farm. I don’t think I even remembered ever seeing anyone and if I would have, I probably would have stared like at her like a big ugly mole, and found it hard to tear my eyes away. It just wasn’t normal scenery in the South when I was growing up. However, in Scotland, you can’t walk 25 steps without seeing a mother breastfeeding. In fact, it is so common you barely notice it. I, however, am still not adept at this. I can’t manage to sort myself out and get the baby in the right position without baring half the goods to everyone with mediocre eyesight. So, I tend to go to the bathroom or bring out the bottle. Not because I think it’s rude, but simply because I am not into Public Displays of my Chest.
4) Just because you breastfeed your newborn doesn’t mean you must breastfeed your 2 year old. You may have recently seen the Time magazine cover with the boy who looks like he’s in the third grade still breastfeeding on the cover. You can form your own opinion, but I think that is a little excessive. Most research that I’ve read (and, of course, I haven’t read all of it) seems to say that after the first year the benefits of breast milk are negligible. So, even if you only breast feed for three months that still offers immunities and still gives you time to bond with your baby. Of course I’m not saying bottle fed babies don’t bond with their mothers. But, breastfeeding is a strong bonding activity and that cannot be denied. Even if you pump until you have to go back to work or you determine a set time period in which you’ll breastfeed and then when you’ll stop, like I do, it can still be done. Just know that you can always stop breastfeeding after you start. You can never start breastfeeding a month after birth.
To breastfeed or not to breastfeed? That is every mother’s question! Every mother has her own decisions to make as to what’s best, preferable and what fits in with her lifestyle. I can’t compare the two because I’ve breastfed both babies and loved every minute, but I’m interested to hear why people have chosen which method. Do you think breastfeeding in public is rude? Do you think breastfed mothers are judgmental? Did you start breastfeeding and then switch? What is the “norm” where you’re from?