Look at the picture above...what do you see? If you became a mother after the year 2000 you probably see a symbol for FAILURE. If you're really loopy you likely see evidence of NEGLECT and proof that the user of said item WILL NEVER BOND, WILL HAVE ASTHMA, WILL BE OBESE, WILL HAVE TYPE 2 DIABETES, WILL NOT LEARN, WILL BE AN AX MURDERER!!!!!!! Most men and older mothers (i.e. sane people) see a baby bottle.
Breastfeeding is a big deal. Especially in the last 10-15 years. Well, actually, it's been a big deal since the dawn of man, then it was down for the count, now it is BACK WITH A VENGEANCE BABY and we will be damned if we're gonna go back again. And that's good, because breastfeeding is good. But, BUT--some mothers and babies can't do it. Legit CAN'T. Not won't--CAN'T. Now lest you get up in arms (I can hear it now "studies have shown", "you need to find the right consultant", BLAHH!!!), let me tell you a bit about how much I believe breastfeeding is good and how much I support it. This is my breastfeeding history:
Owen- Nursed 28 months including 4 months of pregnancy #2
Madeleine- Nursed 32 months including ALL of pregnancy #3 and then in tandem with Anna for 7 months of pregnancy #4
Anna- Nursed in tandem with Madeleine for 16 months until the 7th month of pregnancy #4 because 3 babies + 2 boobs is not a balanced equation.
Julia- Nursed 41 months (<---Full discolsure: Even I think that's nuts.) through all of pregnancy #5 and in tandem with Adam until my diagnosis forced me to ween them both in March of this past year.
Adam- Nursed 18 months in tandem with Julia
Some of that math may be off by a month here or there but you get the gist. So...if you have a question about nursing, I'm your go to gal. Fo realz. I think the kids call it "street cred". Anyway, I put that out there in all it's gory detail to show you that I am a breastfeeding supporter, some might even look at my history and call me a fanatic. Really, I'm just lazy. Breastfeeding isn't easy, it actually kinda sucks (pun both intended and not intended) a lot of the time, but it fits my personality because you can't forget to bring something with you that's attached to your body. It takes a lot of commitment and stamina but there's nothing to wash. I never intended to be that girl described above. If you had told me when I was 6 weeks into nursing Owen that 9 years down the line I'd have racked up that much nursing time I would have probably ended you. But you get used to it, and if you're like me you don't exactly love it--some of the time you HATE it, but you're glad you're doing it and soon it's all you know.
Fast forward to present day. I can't nurse this little girl. I'm packing poison and so obviously this dairy is closed for business. I can't really explain how I feel about this except sad and nervous. Sad because she won't have the same thing her brothers and sisters had and it is the best option. Sad because while I don't love nursing, I love loving my babies that way. Nervous because after 5 babies I'm basically going back to newbie status. I have NO CLUE about this formula/bottlefeeding thing. NO CLUE. I asked my pediatrician (who we love) about it and he was like "You just...open the bottle...put in the formula...and feed it to them.". I had no idea our beloved pediatrician was also a comedian. I'd also like to to add that he is a HUGE breastfeeding supporter and has two amazing lactation consultants on staff. This is not a man/doctor who doesn't take the benefits of breastfeeding very seriously.
Breastfeeding is pretty much: move shirt, feed baby. Don't get me wrong there is a learning curve, but the choices are limited. What I know nothing about is what bottle do I open and with what kind of nipple and then what formula do I put in it and then how much do I give the baby? When you're nursing you just have to remember left or right. Now with this bottle business I have to make sure I get the right kind of bottles and do you know there is not ONE kind of soy free baby formula available in the United States? I can't use the water from the tap to mix it and do I need a bottle warmer? Do I have to sterilize them every goodness gracious time I use them? Holy moley. That's a lot to figure out. That's A LOT of extra work.
We're blessed to have some very generous women pumping milk for our little girl so that she will still get at least some of the benefits of breast milk. Gratitude doesn't even begin to cover how I feel for these women. Do you have any idea how tedious and time consuming and inconvenient pumping is? It is the WORST. I hate it. I could barely force myself to bother with it for my own kids so we could leave them alone with a sitter every once in a while. Which incidentally, is a big reason working Mamas are heroes. Working Mamas who pump every goodness gracious day more than once a day are Grade A a** kickers. So anyhoo, THESE LADIES are pumping for a baby that's not even theirs. Do you realize that means they're already nursing their OWN baby, most of them also have other children, and they are taking on this massive inconvenience to help out someone else's baby? Women are awesome. Every precious ounce our little girl gets will be a gift of the highest magnitude and I am humbled by this generosity. It eases my mind and heart a bit while I contemplate the fact that the next time someone posts a formula recall on Facebook, I'll have to worry about it.
Let's face it ladies, if you nurse, you know that's one area you get to look like a "Good Mom" without even trying. If other Moms see you nursing it's like they check a box and you're cleared from a certain level of scrutiny. I've never encountered someone who was openly judgmental towards a bottle feeding Mama, but I also know it is something that they often feel terribly sensitive about. I know I will. I used to think "Don't worry about it, you know what's best for your family! Who cares what other Mamas think?". You're an idiot Nella. EVERY Mom cares about what EVERY OTHER Mom thinks about her. The first time I have to take a bottle of formula out in front of other breastfeeding Moms that I don't know I will probably be more nervous than the first time I nursed in public. I will probably want to explain myself. I will have to get over that because it doesn't matter. Breastfeeding is the best choice for babies, but it doesn't automatically follow that formula is poison. My breastmilk is poison. Just because there are health benefits to breastmilk, doesn't mean my formula fed baby will be doomed to a lifetime of health problems and added bonus: she won't starve to death.
You know the number one reason I will never explain my bottle using ways to anyone? BECAUSE NO OTHER BOTTLE FEEDING MOM SHOULD HAVE TO EITHER. Period. There is probably at least one breastfeeding Mom who started reading this post thinking "Well of course you have a good reason to use formula, but (fill in the blank).". I know because a year ago there is a chance I would have read a post like this and thought a thought like that. Ewww. Shameful. It's not enough for us to think things and not say them fellow Mothers. We need to banish this kind of judgement from our hearts and give each other the benefit of the doubt (I'm looking in the mirror-ok really the reflective computer screen--with a very stern look on my face AT MYSELF while I type this.) My reason for bottle feeding is no more valid than any other woman's. I will not explain myself because NO WOMAN should have to explain the choices she makes for her family and NO OTHER WOMAN should purport to know what is best for every baby.
Beyond that, while breastfeeding is free, it is often possible because of privilege. I could be the crazy breastfeeding lady because I could stay home. Had I been working it would have been hard but I would have been in a white collar environment where pumping would not have been easy but it would have been possible. I honestly probably would not have been tough enough to keep pumping and turned to formula anyway. I had a supportive spouse. I had many many advantages that made it possible for me to nurse. All that nursing was really difficult, but it was a challenge I could accept because there were factors in place in my life to support me. When I'm making a sacrifice, and it is a sacrifice to breastfeed your baby, I can start to see myself as some kind of hero or martyr, rather than who I really am--a woman of privilege who has the luxury of the best because of the sacrifices of others. Say it with me: "GET OVER YOURSELF NELLA!!!".
So. Bottle feeding Mamas: I need your help! What bottles, nipples, formula, or any other gadget/paraphernalia do I need to know about? What can I expect? What takes out a breastfeeding nazi faster, a drop kick or a left hook? Help a girl out!