Wednesday, August 8, 2012

National Breastfeeding Week is over!

Breast is best! Celebrate the ta-ta’s… Let’s all get together and have a breastfeeding MOB in the mall… Mother’s milk is liquid gold… Peace, love, and breastfeeding… Give your child the best that no money can offer!

I know I’m going to get some flack from this post, but I don’t care. The past week has made me feel so angry and jealous, and I am not ashamed to admit that I’m kinda glad it’s over. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy for all you moms out there who can breastfeed, but I’m so tired of it being thrown in my face (not that they are doing it on purpose or targeting me personally, of course, but it felt like that to me last week).

Every time I opened my Gmail, there were at least 3 emails on breastfeeding a day… Open my Facebook page, oh look, an invitation to join a breastfeeding MOB… window shopping on, 3 ads on the side of the page for breast pumps, milk bags and nipple shields… Oh, 30% off Old Navy nursing tanks online… It’s mentioned on the news before we go to bed… It’s on commercials… New York is even preparing to limit access to formula in hospitals and force the breast.

Now please remember, this post is coming from someone who is PRO-BREASTFEEDING, and I support breastfeeding women 150%. But I have some pent up remorse, guilt and a bit of anger from not being able to breastfeed my son. I would give anything to have been able to breastfeed, but after having breast reduction surgery (which left me with only half my milk ducts intact), an unexpected c-section (which included several drugs I had terrible reactions to) and not being able to see my son until 14 hours after birth, it just wasn’t possible. My body could not produce enough milk to sustain my son for even one feeding, I was maybe producing 5 ounces per day, feeding every 2 hours and pumping in between. This, above all things concerning my son’s birth, hurts the most. I thought I had accepted the fact that breastfeeding didn’t work out and I was okay with my son being on formula, but apparently acceptance is still something I’m working on. I remember the look of satisfaction on his face after that first bottle, it was incredibly bittersweet. I was so happy that his little belly was finally full and he was truly content and relaxed, especially after losing 16% of his birth weight in under a week (my attempt at forcing the breast). My shame at that moment was how selfish I was being, wanting to breastfeed so badly that I nearly starved my son to death and causing him to be checked back into the NICU. I felt guilty because I was so relieved that my son and I could have a positive feeding experience in which we could bond… instead of hours of trying different holding positions and getting him to latch on and feed for more than 5 minutes at a time. I also felt guilty because I was relieved that I could put on a regular shirt… clothes were completely pointless considering it took an hour to get my child to latch on properly and feed, and then pumping for 20-45 minutes and then 30 minutes later trying to get him to feed again, 24 hours a day.

I understand that breast is best, and envy mothers that have the ability to breastfeed their children. I remember taking the breastfeeding class and it all sounding so simple, and remember us whispering that we would never give our child formula as long as I could breastfeed. Then the first time Tuff latched on in the hospital, and this incredible wave of ecstasy washed over me as he suckled and looked into my eyes for the first time. I fell in love with my son that night, the deepest love I have ever felt, and looking into my husband’s eyes while feeding our son made me fall in love with him all over again as well. It was the most extraordinary feeling I have ever experienced in my life. Maybe that is why I was so irritated last week, and why I’m so glad that it’s over. It reminded me of what I could not provide for my child.

There are a lot of flaws with formula that we have observed. Most noticeably being Tuff’s stool. He only has a bowel movement every few days, and sometimes he has to strain to get them out. They are very thick, a consistency I can only describe as molding clay, and 99% of the time it is blue green in color from all the iron they have to fortify the formula with. We’ve had to switch to a “gentle”, non-lactose formula that is easier on his digestive tract. We also have to make sure that after each feeding, his face and neck are wiped of all drippings because it causes him to have little rashes in the crease of his neck and chin. Beyond the physical affects, it is a colossal expense to add to your already constricted post-baby budget.

Having said a couple of the cons to feeding my son formula, here is a pro that outweighs any con you can give me. My son is healthy, happy, alive and thriving! If it weren’t for formula, I’m not sure where we would be. (Only thoughts of wet nursing or giving goats milk come to mind, neither of which are encouraging contemplations.) He is the most laid back and happy child you ever would meet. He smiles, and giggles, and is so intelligent and sweet. He has received 5 stars for all of his well-baby visits to date, and we could not be happier.

My rage, of course, is not with breastfeeding women… but with the empty dreams of breastfeeding my son in the park on warm summer days and the fear that he could have had better. It’s not that I did not support national breastfeeding week, it’s that I was hurt that I could not participate.

If you know me, though, you know my rage has a very short lifespan (much like my attention span). I am so grateful for my son, and my family, and how healthy we all are… We are truly blessed with so many positive features in our lives that it’s hard to stay in a slump for too long. The nostalgia of breastfeeding will always be there, and I have confidence that when we have our next child I will be able to breastfeed her.