Originally published on Eonline, March 4th 2016
I hate breastfeeding.
There, I said it. I know that’s not a popular opinion. It kind of astounds me how judgmental people can get over the topic of breastfeeding. It’s as if everyone is expected to love feeding their child nature’s way. The thought of breastfeeding is supposed to conjure up angelic images, like that one of Giselle, surrounded by her glam team, tossing her mane of shampoo commercial-worthy hair as she seemingly effortlessly feeds her child.
Needless to say, that’s not what it looks like (or feels like) for most of us. I am expecting my second child and am planning on breastfeeding again, but I have to say, it’s not the part of being a new mom that I am most eagerly anticipating. When I think back on the time I spent breastfeeding my first child, a vision of me comes to mind as a bedridden, wild beast with matted hair, surrounded by wadded up Kleenex and various stray breast pump pieces next to the most cluttered nightstand imaginable. I’m wearing pajamas I’ve been in for days (I haven’t had time to shower) and my right hand is curled into a postpartum, carpal tunnel syndrome induced, useless claw as I attempt to prop my baby up with my forearm.
I read up on breastfeeding before I started and found out that one session can take up to forty-five minutes and that you should breastfeed 10-12 times a day. Do the math and that amounts to over half of your day, assuming you are lucky enough to get eight hours of sleep! So, as you can imagine, I spent the bulk of several months in one spot, all the supplies next to my bed, watching the entire back library of Mad Men while I alternated between feedings and changings.
When my daughter was born, I set a goal: to breastfeed for four months. At the four-month mark, I had plans to do some business related travel with my husband. I knew we were going to be busy and that I wouldn’t be able to steal away to the hotel room every hour to feed the baby or pump. After my four months were up, I was proud of myself, simply because I had reached the goal I had set and because I felt extremely lucky to not have run into some of the serious physical issues many women have to deal with when it comes to breastfeeding. Still, even though I was proud of my goal, there were those who liked to make passive aggressive jabs and compare me to people they knew who breastfed longer (interesting note: these were usually people who have never raised a child).
I discovered early on that breastfeeding in public is not for me. I am completely supportive of others doing it, but I tried it once and it was altogether too awkward for me to try again. With discretion as the goal, I snuck off to a sofa in a seemingly out-of-the-way, deserted hallway of the building I was in, with a light blanket covering the baby and me from my neck to my waist. It was still pretty obvious what I was doing. The few people who made it down that hallway would walk by and gawk as if I were on display in a circus sideshow. One couple even made a point of walking down the hall and staring a few times!
I’m setting a good example, I tried to tell myself. I’m making a statement about how it’s OK to feed your child in public. But at the end of the day, I guess I’m not that brave. I felt kind of exposed and embarrassed and haven’t done it since.
So, if I don’t like it, why am I choosing to do it again? Well, to be fair, I didn’t have it that bad. Sure, it’s an unglamorous experience, but I wasn’t afflicted with cracked nipples, clogged ducts or painful mastitis like many women are. I choose to do it because it aligns with the type of diet I keep my children on. Yes, I am one of those super annoying, all organic, non-GMO, Whole Foods groupies. If you followed my private Facebook page, you’d be inundated with those “what’s in your food” posts. I do admit though, I am stricter about what my daughter eats than what I eat. I’m totally guilty of sneaking off to Taco Bell fairly regularly.
I hope the judgment cast on parents regarding the breast vs. bottle topic goes away. The research I did on feeding methods and speaking to other parents opened my mind to how many factors come into play when making the choice on how to feed your child. In fact, despite the “breast is best” ideals I started with, I ended up having to supplement with formula. Even though I devoted a lot of time to feedings and pumping, I found it difficult to get enough of a supply for all of my daughter’s feedings.
At the end of the day, as long as a child is safe, nourished and loved, who are we to judge breast vs. bottle? Making sure your child is fed is the goal, not beating yourself up because you aren’t doing it the “best” or trendiest way possible.