Few things get women more impassioned than the breastfeeding versus formula discussion — except, perhaps, the equally important “Summer Neon Trend: Yay or Nay?” debate raging on a number of style sites right now. Although The Laughing Stork is generally not a place where mothers come for advice on such meaningful matters (but rather a place with pictures of expressive penis cakes), with all of the craziness in the media right now, I thought I owed it to readers to finally take a stand and share a page from my experience. I cannot overstate just how much I mean this:
Have fun with neon! Pair it with a subtle piece and you will rock it.
As far as the other topic goes, well, I am still not here to tell you what to do. Nobody should be — even though many will try to be. When I was pregnant with Skye somebody actually asked me, with this very phrasing, if I was “pro-breastfeeding or pro-formula.” “Pro-feeding my child,” I huffed, growling at the divisive wording of his question. I was planning on feeding formula to my baby at that point and had no desire to encourage people’s opinions about my choice. My choice. I had done all of the research, knew what I was and wasn’t comfortable with, and had my husband’s support of whatever I wanted to do. That was all I needed. End of story. Done deal.
I ended up nursing my daughter until she was 18 months old.
I’d like to relate my experience for those pregnant women who are on the fence about breastfeeding, women who may be confused by the extreme images and stories being portrayed in the media right now. If I nurse my baby boy, will he end up on my teat through college? they may be wondering. (Answer: No. It’s other girls’ teats you’ll need to worry about at that point.) Or they may be fretting: If I give formula to my child, will she end up overweight, slow, sickly and just really weird? (Answer: No. I was formula-fed and look at — okay, bad example.) I had, and continue to have, an interesting journey when it comes to nursing, so here it is for those pregnant women out there in need of a breastfeeding story without an agenda. Without any pictures of a kid nursing from a step-stool (you know, as kids always do…*AHEM*). Without any upsetting surveys about the acceptability of neon.
Just my experience. For whatever it’s worth.
It was never a question for me whether I would breastfeed or not. I had no desire to. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Kim Kardashian’s IQ. I hailed from a family of formula feeders, which may have fed into my aversion, but even more than that, the thought of a baby clamped on my breast — or a nurse squeezing my breast to help things along, as I had seen on TV and in the movies — was decidedly unappealing. I’m pretty sure the word “yuck” crossed my mind more than once while envisioning breastfeeding a child. “Yuck, yuck, yuck.” Because that’s the kind of eloquence one gets from a woman with a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
I scanned the research touting the benefits of breastfeeding, and found them to be misleading and biased. “Of course the breastfed children are healthier,” I thought. “Breastfed children tend to come from more upscale families with access to better healthcare.” And the headlines declaring that formula causes juvenile diabetes? If you read between the lines, it is obesity that causes Type II diabetes — and some parents feed their babies too much formula, making them chunkier and therefore more prone to the condition. But, of course, that doesn’t make such a catchy headline.
Then I gave birth to our daughter. “Are you breastfeeding?” the doctor and nurses asked. I shook my head, and they could barely conceal their surprise and dismay as they wrote “FORMULA” on my chart. I could feel my face flush and felt like shoving all of my research in their faces — if only I weren’t so busy staring at the Most Beautiful Creature in the World. Unbeknownst to me, the Most Beautiful Creature in the World was wondering, “WHERE IS THAT BOOB I CAME HERE FOR?” as we tried to feed her bottles of formula, to little avail. A sentiment that is obvious in this picture of us from her first day:
At the time, I thought it was a sweet mother-daughter shot. Now I realize the only thing on her mind was breakfast.
The next day, we were enjoying some skin-to-skin time in a similar pose…when that tiny 7 lb., 13 oz. human, not even capable of holding her head up, actually JUMPED toward my bra-covered breast like a Mexican Jumping Bean. Barely perceptible jumps. But jumps nonetheless — pure instinct driving her toward my breast for nourishment. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.
“DO YOU SEE HER?” I cried to Mr. Candy, in shock.
“I do,” he said, equally surprised.
Then I said them — the words I never thought I’d hear coming from my mouth.
“I think… I think I need to try to breastfeed her.”
“Are you sure?” he asked, mindful of my previous stance.
“Yeah. I mean, LOOK AT HER!” I felt I owed it to my little Mexican Jumping Bean to just try. I could actually hear my heart pounding in my ears as I paged the nurse, not really sure what I was getting myself into but knowing it was something I had to do.
“How the heck do you breastfeed?” I asked the nurse, feeling nervous and lost, having done no reading or research about proper breastfeeding technique whatsoever. The nurse, slightly taken aback by my change of heart, positioned the baby in my arms and said, “There you go. Now just try sticking it in.”
That was it. Skye latched immediately. Pretty sure she rolled her eyes at me: “FINALLY, WOMAN!”
“How does it feel?” Mr. Candy asked.
“Weird,” I replied. “But also more natural than I expected.”
I was only going to breastfeed for six weeks, I declared, so Skye could benefit from the most nutritious phase of breast milk. (Yeah, now I was a believer in the studies.) Then it was three months… then six months… and then I came to terms with the fact that I loved breastfeeding. It was sweet and deeply nurturing in a way I never anticipated. I was blessed with the perfect relationship — she never bit or had any problems with her latch, and would fall asleep peacefully while nursing — the kind that some less fortunate moms bend over backwards trying to achieve, and I had no desire to see it end yet. Studies or no studies, I cherished the private bonding time that Skye and I shared while nursing (not to mention it provided the perfect excuse to leave the room when visiting my loud in-laws…I kid! I kid! *AHEM*). As she got older, I would only nurse her in the morning and at night…and when I got pregnant again, I eventually stopped producing milk, thereby naturally ending our breastfeeding relationship. There were no tears, no drama — and Skye never indicated she wanted nurse again.
It was beautiful from beginning to end.
Which is my loooooooooong-winded way of saying: if you’re not sure if you want to breastfeed, just try it and then determine if it feels right for you. And even if you are steadfastly against trying it, you may end up surprising yourself when confronted with the awe-inspiring moves of your very own Mexican Jumping Bean.
To those who have problems breastfeeding (I had a slightly tougher time with my son, who had such a tight latch for the first two weeks that I would literally cry out in pain when he ate…and I wasn’t sure if I could continue much longer when he finally lightened up on me) or truly have no desire to do so, don’t let the world make you feel guilty about it. As I mentioned, my siblings, nephews and I were all raised on formula and, surprise, surprise, we did not end up growing three heads! Only two. So it’s all good.