I didn’t take any classes prior to little Bear’s arrival, so I did just about everything the nurses told me to while I enjoyed my stay at the hospital. There is no pun in that sentence…only irony.
About forty-five minutes after giving birth, they handed the little guy to me and said, “it is time for you to feed him.”
Now, I am not one for late-night snacking, so I was a little surprised that it was already time for this little guy to eat. After all, hadn’t we just gotten through some serious trauma together? I was exhausted, my legs were still numb from the epidural, and it was 2:45 a.m. I was ready for sleep, but that wasn’t going to happen for a few weeks.
Unless you actively seek out information regarding your choice to breastfeed, you wouldn’t know that after delivering your precious bundle, you’ve got to get started right away. And the fun doesn’t stop there; expect to feed a little newborn baby every two hours…and that is not from the time that you finish the feeding. Those early weeks, it was not uncommon for my baby to eat at 2:45, 4:45, 6:45…when sometimes he would be done eating at 3:45, 5:45…this would give me just enough time to eat myself in between feedings. Forget trying to do anything else. For a new mom, this may become one of the biggest adjustments; it was for me.
We are five months into this nursing thing and we haven’t had to use formula yet. Some mommies have told me to be proud that I haven’t had to supplement formula. Blame it on naivety, but I haven’t personally found the intersection between pride and breastfeeding. Yet, from birth on into adulthood, no mom is immune to the common practice of mommy-shaming; even the shame that comes with bottle-feeding.
With each generation of new mommies, there is a new trend. In our mothers’ generation, it was a sign of wealth and luxury if you were bottle-feeding your new baby. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging in the other direction because of research, but goodness. There is plenty of propaganda to support the breastfeeding mom, and very little to support bottle-feeding mommies. In fact, I saw a petition to stop formula advertisements in the hospitals. I have seen more women driving themselves loco attempting to continue nursing even when all odds are against them. Workplaces are not exactly the most comfortable place to use a double pump; most employers truly don’t understand how hard it is to get that liquid gold. To be honest, most employers really don’t care.
And why should they? It seems that breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding is like the choice between shopping at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s: you cannot go wrong. Babies get all of their necessary nutrition from either breast milk or formula in their first year of life. It is my understanding that whether you breastfeed or bottle feed, your child is being fed. I am no expert, but I believe that is the point.
It is my choice to nurse my child. It has worked for us and it is free. This is not as easy for some mommies, and some mommies are not afforded a choice. Their supply runs out and their child self-weans. I talked at length with one of my girlfriends who is a new mom and she made it to four months of nursing before she decided to move to the bottle.
She noted that she felt ‘ashamed’ about the necessity to begin with formula. Her follow-up comment, “I felt even more ashamed to admit this to Christian moms.”
It is heart-wrenching to me that breastfeeding can mix with religion. I liken this particular debate to using medicine versus prayer for healing. I am a firm believer that God is a supreme healer, but sometimes, he provides us with brilliant minds who develop medicine to heal us. God gives us the tools to help ourselves. It is our choice whether to use them or not.
Formula is a tool developed to help us feed our babies. And yet, the cruel irony of it all is that despite my cognizance of the fact that breastfeeding is simply a choice, I feel the unspoken pressure to continue nursing my child. I know the disappointment that would accompany not being able to provide that for my baby. I get it. But why?
Why can’t we just support each other? Why are there women who are almost militant about their choice to breastfeed? Isn’t it just a choice? I don’t care whether you got an epidural or not; I do not care about what you dress your baby in; why on earth would I care about the method that you feed your child?
I may get a lot of pushback in my beliefs. I know the argument; breast milk is better for the baby…it develops all kinds of super-powers. I get it. But can’t we give bottle-feeding mommies a break?