Breast Feeding should not be attempted by fathers with hairy chests, since they can make the baby sneeze and give it wind. ~Mike Harding
There is a faction amongst parents, pediatricians, obstetricians, and all other pregnancy/birth/baby type people. Their motto is “Breast is Best!” and their manifesto boils down to “Don’t formula feed unless you want your child to grow up stunted and unloved.”
Now, on the whole, I agree with the Breast Party. I’ve always wanted to breastfeed, ever since I was a little girl pretending to breastfeed my dolls. The first time I nursed my son I felt like a goddess, that I not only had brought forth life but I nourished it from my own body. I was suffused with a feeling that this was right, that this was perfect. It was an unbelievable experience, and one that I can’t imagine any mother willingly missing. I do believe that breastmilk is the best food for babies, and that, if possible, babies should be breastfed for as long as possible — as a matter of fact, I plan to breastfeed my son through college in order to save on room and board.
There was a point, though, where I had to give my son formula. He was in a growth spurt, I had gone through my reserves of frozen breastmilk, I was pumping like it was my job in order to increase my supply, and yet my baby still cried that he was hungry. Giving him a bottle of formula for the first time, even though it was the right thing to do for us, felt like a massive personal failure. I cried.
Eventually I got used to it. My baby is still, at nine months, getting most of his daily calories from breastmilk, and only rarely do I give him a bottle of formula. I’m still a Breast Partier.
I take issue, though, with how combative the hardcore Breast Partiers can be. I feel like we’re all in this parenting thing together, we’re all struggling with our own circumstances, and we shouldn’t be beating up on each other because of the personal decisions we’re making about how to raise our children. No parent should feel guilt about making the right choice for their baby, as I did (whew, I think I just strained my sincerity muscle).
So I drew up a bit of a pros/cons list for breastfeeding and formula feeding in an effort to foster understanding, improve inter-party relations, encourage aisle crossing, and all that.
Pro: You are Meals on Wheels! Baby’s food is always fresh, warm, and ready to go!
Con: You are your baby’s sole food source, and you DO. NOT. GET. DAYS. OFF. You, and you yourself, provide every one of that baby’s meals.
Pro: Breastmilk is full of the tasty vitamins and antibodies that you’ve heard all about from other sources ten bafillion* times!
Con: Breastmilk is missing Vitamin D and iron, which means that you’ll have to give your baby Vitamin D drops from the start, and iron supplements after six months.
Pro: Breastfed babies poo less than formula fed babies, so you might only have to change poopy diapers once a week!
Con: That one poopy diaper per week will be SPECTACULAR. Under these circumstances it is appropriate to use the word “poosplosion”.
Pro: Breastfeeding helps you to lose your baby weight!
Con: You have to watch your caffeine, alcohol, and mercury intakes, and after 40 weeks of clean living, a girl really needs to cut loose a little with some tuna steaks and ‘after dinner’ coffees, ya know what I’m sayin’?
Pro: Breastfeeding is so cuddly!
Con: For the first week or so of breastfeeding, you will think that your child was born with the barbed tongue of a cat, and that your nipples are being slowly and lovingly scraped away. (IT HURTS.)
Pro: Your neighbors will congratulate you for breastfeeding! Well done, you!
Con: Your neighbors will hate you if you have to breastfeed in a public place. You disgusting skank, flaunting your repulsive lady lumps in front of decent people!
Pro: Anyone can feed the baby, including Daddy and Grandma (this leads to naps for Momma, which makes this a double pro)!
Con: Everyone wants a turn feeding the baby, including creepy Uncle Theo and that waitress at the coffee shop who smells like cigarettes and despair.
Pro: Your baby’s poos will be regular and predictable!
Con: Your baby’s poos will be daily and extra smelly.
Pro: You don’t have to worry about breast leakage and nursing pads!
Con: Formula is extra stinky when Baby spits up on you. And he will. Oh yes. He will.
Pro: Momma can eat whatever she wants!
Con: It’s harder to lose the baby weight when you’re not secreting out hundreds of calories a day.
Pro: Your bizarrely prudish neighbors will never have to see your nipples, even when feeding in public!
Con: Your know-it-all neighbors will cluck at you and tell you that Breast is Best.
Pro: Formula requires no freezing or refrigeration, unlike stored breastmilk.
Con: Momma guilt. If you’re anything like me, you’ll spend far too much time beating yourself up for not breastfeeding.
So at the risk of straining that sincerity muscle again: Let’s be kind to each other. How you feed your baby is a decision that nobody makes lightly, and there may be a lot of factors that went into someone else’s decision which you have no way of understanding. So let’s smile and keep our judgements to ourselves, and remember that we’re all just doing the best we can, shall we?
Whew. I think I tore something. I better go have a beer and be snarky with my husband before I do something irreversible.