My irritation started when I first got pregnant and people started asking if I was going to breastfeed. At first I thought it was sort of an odd question. What does it matter? Why are you asking me this? Do you want my breastmilk? Then I realized that like many parenting topics (circumcision, discipline, nursery school), breastfeeding is one of those things everyone has an opinion on.
There is no denying that breastfeeding is really great for a lot of reasons. It’s healthy, it’s free, it’s convenient. The longer you breastfeed, the lower your risk of cancer. Great! I’m so glad I’m able to do it. It’s a blessing, really. What bothers me is when disparaging remarks are made about people who don’t breastfeed. Remarks about how those poor babies are suffering, not going to be as smart, or how they will surely turn into formula feasting porkers. How absurd! How ridiculous! How very untrue. I know plenty of formula fed babies who turned into wonderful little children and intelligent young adults.*
Furthermore, breastfeeding is hard. It really is. It takes commitment, patience, and sacrifice–and that’s if it’s going well. Some women experience a lot of pain. Some aren’t able to produce enough. Some have to go to work to keep food on the table for everybody else and aren’t able to stop and pump every few hours. Some simply don’t want to breastfeed and that’s okay too. Truth be told, there are times I don’t want to either. Why?
1) It’s inconvenient. Breastfeeding in public is a nightmare. If he’s screaming for his nummies, I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. It is hard to be discreet. How freeing it would be just to sit down and nurse without having to excuse myself to the hot car, viciously uncomfortable toilet seat, or smelly dressing room.
2). I feel left out. It’s always a buzzkill when I’m in the middle of great conversation and need to leave the room to nurse. It’s especially hard when it’s a room full of people and I can hear them laughing and carrying on without me. I am forever yelling SPEAK LOUDER SO I CAN HEAR YOU.
3) I am deliriously tired. 12am and 2am aren’t bad, it’s the 4am shift that kills me. Bleary eyed I walk over to my screaming infant and think, “Are you kidding me? The milk bar is closed.”
Luckily I’ve been able to take steps to combat these three issues in the past few days. For one, I started to pump. Whoever invented that contraption should get a Nobel Peace Prize for saving women’s mental health around the globe. That 4am feeding was so much sweeter when I wasn’t the one doing it.
To combat the modesty issue, Austin fashioned an apron-like curtain to shield your eyes. I really wanted to purchase one of these like everyone else, but I married a do-it-yourselfer with a tight wallet and so now I look like this. Excuse the baler twine around my neck.
There are, of course, many moments when I’m feeding my son and there is no place I’d rather be. In fact, I couldn’t love him more than when he’s finished eating and pulls away with a milk mustache and big grin on his face. What an angel.
It is often said that breastfeeding is the best thing you can do for your baby. I disagree. The best thing you can do for your baby is love them unconditionally. And that’s the truth.
*My aunt, who will surely be christened a saint one day, has six children, five who are adopted, forcing her to have plenty of experience in formula. If you ever want examples of healthy, smart, well behaved children, you can take a look at them.