Philosophy with Attitude

Breastfeeding, Formula, and Guilt: Ann's experience

I just read your article on breastfeeding and guilt and decided to throw in my two cents. To begin with, any mother who plugs a bottle of formula in her baby's mouth in the first 6 weeks ought to be warned that she will likely have many parenting difficulties throughout that child's life. Why? Because she has most likely chosen the easy way out and will have estabished a pattern for her style of parenting. Setting aside my personal views on natural childbirth, I don't think formula parents should feel guilty - they are actually weak, and the guilt comes from being weak. Breastfeeding is not as easy as formula feeding.

When I was 20, my husband was stationed in Okinawa while I was in the US pregnant for the first time. My mom died when I was 7, so I didn't have her to help. My only older sister who had children has always been inadequate as a parent, to say the very least. I spent the entire pregnancy being treated like I was the child. I lived with my mother-in-law and even got a job at the office where she worked. I told everyone I wanted to breastfeed, use cloth diapers, and toward the end, even give birth without drugs. My daughter was born at a military hospital 8lbs 3 oz, no drugs, breastfed for 13 months, and used cloth diapers most of the time until potty trained.

Focusing on the breastfeeding, the hospital staff was useless - none that were there to "help" had ever breastfed. It took nearly all of the first month to figure it out. I had to tell the hospital staff I didn't want their formula, which they kept pushing because it was free. WIC made me take a breastfeeding class, which is only required for breastfeeding as opposed to requiring it before handing out free formula vouchers. My in-laws laughed when I told them milk is made on a supply and demand basis, insisting that small breasts cannot support a baby. When my baby was 6 months old and we wanted to go to the Marine Corps Ball, we were given lectures on why this was a perfect example of why we should formula feed.

Here are we are now, 8 years later, and I am trying to update my childbirth educator credentials. I have given birth 4 times without drug but the last 2 days I have been boo-hooing a cut on my knuckle. I tell people "if I can do it, you can do it too." Breastfeeding is really about going against those around you to do the right thing. I have "survived" having my nipple bit into during my sleep and bleeding 4 times, cracked nipples, a breast infection, criticism from friends and family, and am now searching for a job while pumping enough to support my baby while I'm away. I breastfed my first baby for 13 months, used a pump to exclusivley support a surrogate baby I had for 6 months, breastfed again for 15 months, have been breastfeeding for 4 months and pumping to feed for a month.

It is selfish of me to want to focus on my own interests. I am divorced now and feel uncomfortable even thinking about how to date "with a baby on the boob". And I am learning first hand how difficult it can be for a low-income mother to get a pump but how easy it can be to get formula. I will bitch and whine and complain about any little discomfort I feel or about my ex and his girlfriend or his mother. My body is going to make milk no matter what I do. The way I see it, it's all a matter of whether I waste the milk and my baby's health or whether I stop what I'm doing to pump the milk. And I have been learning how hard it can be to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle even occassionally. She is still fascinated with getting "her" milk from a bottle. A

nyway, sorry if I am rambling. I am trying to type this while getting the baby to sleep (teething now) and make sure the other two behave. I feel strongly about such issues, as I can tell you do from your article. When I was training to be an educator, I helped a mother who had to tape a tube to her breast to supplement the baby while she tried to breastfeed. Part of her problem was not knowing how to hold the baby so that he was comfortable enough to nurse for long periods. The other part of her problem was the guilt she had for how unprepared she was for he birth - weeks early - and how her natural childbirth educator had guilted her students into doing it a certian way. Once I talked her through her emotional issues, she was fine. I last saw them when he was on his way to his first birthday, totally breastfed, happier family. When a mother tells me she "couldn't" breastfeed, I ask why. My bestfriend from high school wasn't able with her first. She blamed the hospital's lack of support and not having anyone near her. (We have seen each other in person maybe 3 times in the last 11 years since graduation.) With her second, I sent her a book. She is still nursing him and he'll be two years old in August. With her, it was about positioning and positive reinforcement that it was the best think to do even when it was difficult.

I try to not guilt new moms into knowing how they lost control of their birth experience, but I think it is every mother's responsibility to breastfeed. I used to think it was sad when a mom "couldn't" nurse because she was working. I can now add that I have been using a pump for my daughter for 2 months now. It is a slight inconvenience to remember and take the time to go pump, but everyone knows when the door is shut, stay away and it'll happen at least twice a day. Meanwhile, my daughter is more active than a baby a month older at her daycare and they always tell me how alert and smart she seems. I feel like I am a wimp when it comes to pain and yet I've had 4 without any meds at all. And I am a very lazy person, but if I can breastfeed and work, there really is no excuse that is valid in my book. God gave you boobs for your baby, not for your husband or that cute top you just bought. You comitted to the baby when you had sex - then stayed pregnant - and you are giving up now??

You are free to spread my words anywhere, even if you don't agree. If someone has a problem with me, that's okay. I'm not holding a gun on them. If they are angry, maybe because they have shame or guilt. That's their fault, not mine.


Many thanks to Ann for replying, and giving me permission to add her response! I agree with her, but didn't feel it was my place to tell women they could nurse through problems, because my breastfeeding experiences were both so very easy. Now you have it from the source! If she can do it, so can you :)

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