Yup. It’s Breastfeeding Month again. (Again? Yes, again.) Last year, I wrote a post – a choice against nursing, if you will – that was so close to my heart and sincerely personal I almost wept after I finished it. (You think I’m kidding?) As I expected a slew of comments from readers and the breastfeeding community ready to burn me at the stake, I was genuinely surprised and touched at how many women thanked me for sharing my honest point of view when it came to choosing not to breastfeed either of my children (who are now healthy and happy 2- and 3-year olds).
In the spirit of respecting Breastfeeding Month, and also celebrating this most unique day and age when mothers have endless resources and options to make choices that suit their particular situation in life, I’m going to re-share my thoughts about making a hard-and-fast choice against nursing.
The reason I chose to not nurse either of my babies is because I simply did not want to. Unapologetically opting out of breastfeeding from the first day of becoming a mom put me in a most peaceful, capable, thriving and happy place as a new mother.
Painful and shocking to hear? It’s the honest truth. My honest truth. And I didn’t feel guilty about it (no surprise there). I’ve written heated posts about this topic (when I was going through it), but now with a clear(er) head I’m more confident about it. I owned my decision back then, but now I own it more. Both my girls are as healthy (thank goodness! no underlying health conditions, well-developed motor and speech skills, reasonable and limited colds and seasonal sicknesses between the both of them) and we are as “bonded” as any mom can be with her children (maybe a little too much). Maybe I lucked out, or maybe it truly is okay if a mother decides that nursing is not right for her.
It started with my first pregnancy. Everyone wondered why I hadn’t registered for nursing pads and bras. Answer: I just couldn’t picture myself doing it. Yes, I was probably immature (as it’s apparently the most natural thing in the world), but the nursing process seemed so unreal to me. I’d think about it and wince. I’d think about how my friends would describe the pain, the frustration, the feelings of failure… overwhelming amounts of new moms would cite breastfeeding as the main source of feelings involving failure, frustration and even depression. As a new mom, I wanted to feel happy, secure, confident, awake (via caffeine) and successful. If choosing to nurse put me closer to those (positive) things, then I could live without the nursing, no problem. But that’s just me.
According to the most popular research and media/online chatter, breastmilk is THE best source of nutrients for babies (which, I don’t doubt). However, there is also some interesting counter-studies and points-of-views out there by legitimate experts/doctors that imply how breastmilk might not be that far ahead of formula when it comes to nurturing your baby’s insides (you can read and figure things out for yourself, should you be interested). All things considered, I remember rationalizing all things around the time my first born was almost here: I don’t grow my own food in my backyard (heck, I barely even buy organic), and I myself was a formula-fed babe… so what? I half-considered nursing as my due date approached, mainly because of the pressure that exists to do it. Finally, I asked my husband (the pediatric surgeon),”Are you going to flip out if I don’t nurse our baby?” He (and his 10+ years of medical school/training) shrugged. “No. It’s your choice.” And it was my choice. My choice.
I did get convinced to pump for my firstborn (on account of the nurses responses when I told them I didn’t want to breastfeed). My patience for pumping lasted exactly eight days. I was genuinely curious about the whole look-what-my-body-can-produce thing, and they did sell me on the power of colostrum. I repeated my pumping pattern for my second-born in an effort to treat each kid the same. But after eight days (again), I happily brought on the cabbages. I was IN LOVE with both of my newborns, but I was anxious to take my body back after each pregnancy… not in a vain way, but in the most basic way of “I won’t survive this if my body is constantly enslaved and exhausted from pumping every 2 hours.” (I needed coffee to function, period.) I didn’t feel like I was losing out on any bonding experience (I was home every day, pretty much 24/7, as I wasn’t working full-time), so why put myself through something that I was not into just to please strangers?
I thought about other things related to new motherhood too: Some women get night-nurses or full-time nannies from the get-go (and forego the duties and ‘bonding’ that take place when a mother tends to her own child, nursing or not). Some women return to high-powered jobs just days or weeks after birth. Those moms are not judged nearly as much as non-nursing moms. Non-nursing moms are perceived as being “less-than.” I will shamelessly share: I never felt less-than… I felt more-than for tapping into an inner confidence (about making my right choice) that I didn’t know I had. My newborn days and first years (both times) were not trying, difficult or a ‘haze’… they were fun, and I’m pretty sure it’s because of the choice I made. I know so many women – smart women – who recall nursing with such bitter hatred, and I want to ask: So why did you keep doing it? A happier mom is a better mom, hands down. We can all agree on that, right?
Whatever your choice about nursing, pumping or neither… STAND BY IT. Your baby needs a confident mom (who actually enjoys feeding her new baby, however she may choose to do it). Your baby also needs a mom that takes charge for everyone’s greater good more than he/she needs your actual boob. (And I say that with genuine admiration and respect for the nursing moms who tirelessly really do enjoy it.)
Did you decide to *NOT* nurse? (Let the comments begin. Sock it to me. I’ve heard everything…)