Friday, August 5, 2011

I want it all...

Disclaimer: I'm doing something on the blog that I've never done before and never planned to do.  I am responding to another post that recently enraged me.  There is nothing overtly wrong with what the author says, and she clearly comes from a supportive place.  She is right.  Our culture could do more to support breast feeding.  But, she has some pretty radical view points (most of which are derived from her psychoanalytic background, and lemme tell ya, this behaviorist ain't buying it), and as a breastfeeding mother human being, I am completely offended.  This is only my response to her view points by expressing my own.  I am not out to attack, berate, or other wise demonize this woman.  That said?  She pissed. me. the. frack. off.

I had a rule when I started this blog that I wouldn't make the entire thing about breast feeding.  In truth, the topic did seem to be integrated into every aspect of the first year of being a new mom.  Now that we've closed that chapter, I really thought I could move on. (I have a guest post coming up about the topic, but other than that I've been planning to write about other things.)

I have to admit, I'm terrible at social networking lately.  I skim through my Twitter feed as best I can, but most of the time I don't truly digest anything and I rarely click on links (even though my tweeps always have awesome things to share.)  But, for some reason, the link above caught my attention.  Honestly, I wish I could have gone without reading it.  Because I am just floored by how judgmental this opinion is.

It is a difficult and selfless thing to decide to become a parent.  No matter HOW you decide to go about it.  We make excruciating decisions about the silliest little things and are all constantly scared that the decision was the right/wrong one.

One decision I never struggled with was my decision to be a working mother after I had The Incredible Hulk.  I was encouraged (by a wonderful and supportive boss) to take as much maternity leave as humanly possible (even beyond what FMLA would allow.)  She even was willing to allow me to come back part-time at first if that would work better for my family.  It didn't. It wouldn't. And it doesn't.

I have always known that being a stay at home mom would never work for me.  Money, sanity, and the fact that I love what I do has always made the decision easy.  I have had some people be very loving, accepting, and encouraging in my decision to be a working mom (some of whom were working moms themselves, some of whom weren't.)  I've also had people be very judgmental, condescending, and not at all supportive of that choice.  Perhaps it is those experiences with people which made me even more, shall we say, prickly about this article.

Listen, I haaaaaaaaaaaated pumping.  Hated it.  But, parenting - no - life is about sacrifice.  I wanted/had to work.  I wanted to breast feed.  So, I pumped.

No, it isn't the perfect substitute.  And yes, some studies (though there is still very much to know about the science of breast milk) suggest that the mechanism of breast feeding is as important as the composition of the milk itself.  However, the author states that to be a breast feeding mother is to be "exquisitely attuned" to your baby's needs and patterns of feeding.  She then further suggests that substituting a pump for a breast would cause you to miss out on the "building blocks of an intimate relationship with one's child."

To make this suggestion is not only judgmental - it's just plain wrong.

If this were the truth, the relationship between my son and I wouldn't have reached it's full potential.
If this were the truth, the relationship between any formula-feeding mom and her child would not be "intimate."
If this were the truth, the relationship between my son and his father would be almost non-existent up to this point.
If this were the truth, any set of parents who have ever adopted a child or used surrogacy would not be able to have a relationship with their child.

Enraged yet?
Yeah, me too.

You know what, folks?  She's wrong.  She's just wrong.  Breast feeding mothers do have a unique bond with their children.  You know why?  Because all parents have a unique bond with their children.  It doesn't matter where you come from or how you do it - you're always going to be tied to that little life you are so so so lucky to be a part of.  To suggest that a mother who gives her child a bottle (whether it be all of the time or some of the time) is less of a parent is...misguided at best.

Do I wish I had the option for additional paid maternity leave?  Heck yeah.  It also would have been awesome not to have to dip into my own vacation time in order to take as much maternity leave as I did (because Lord knows that is not a vacation.)  It's awesome that this woman is trying to lobby for that.  But leave the attachment I have to my son out of it.

If the government allowed me to take a year (even a year where they paid my full salary and benefits), I still wouldn't have done it.

And that doesn't make me a bad mother.
On the contrary - I think knowing my limits, knowing what works for me and my family, and knowing what I'm willing to do and where I draw the line?

That makes me a great mother.


  1. I think it's great that you know your limits, know your desires, and make decisions that support you and your child/family.

    However, I didn't feel any rage at the huffpo post because I think that author was merely suggesting the ideal situation - that babies be allowed to be at or near the work place and moms be allowed to breastfeed there. If you hated pumping so much, wouldn't that scenario have been more pleasant for you?

    To me, her main point was arguing that society get beyond giving lip service to the importance of breastfeeding and make some seriously active changes to show that support through more paid leave and creation of easier ways for moms to breastfeed without HAVING to pump.

    Additionally, for me, pumping didn't work so well (my child was FAR better at expressing the milk than the machine or hand pump) AND after a short time, she wouldn't even take a bottle from my husband or anyone. I was quite grateful that my job as a college teacher had a lot of flexibility so that I could run home and and feed her the best stuff on earth.

    Anyhow, I'm new to your blog myself. Nice to have found you.

  2. I know this is a very tricky topic. Everyone has their opinions on breastfeeding, and aren't scared to share them.

    I say good for you for knowing your limits! Everyone should do what works for them and their babies. And to insinuate that not breastfeeding doesn't give you the same intimate bonding with your child? That's ludicrous!

    I was convinced I would breastfeed. Formula would not pass my child's lips. Yeah. That was before she was extremely jaundiced and didn't give a flying leap about feeding. That was before we couldn't get her to latch on properly. That was before the hospital wasn't going to let her go home because she lost so much weight. That was before 4 weeks of seeing a breastfeeding specialist daily to try to get her to breast feed.

    I pumped. For 4 months. And she got breast milk through a bottle. And we had to supplement with formula, because I couldn't produce enough. And the entire time I was exhausted, and depressed, and full of guilt. At around the 4 month mark, I was diagnosed with post partum depression, and she was diagnosed with reflux. And I stopped pumping. We switched to formula.

    And it was the best decision for us ever made. I stopped crying 10 times a day, she started sleeping for more than a few minutes at a time, and we actually finally got to just enjoy being together.

    Sorry such a long comment, it's just something I feel very strongly about and wanted to share my story. I think as mothers we need to stop judging each other, and start accepting that we each have our ways of doing things... and that's ok. And we need to remember that there is always two sides to the story, it's not always so cut and dry why we do or don't do certain things.

  3. @54 Hour Mama - Welcome to the blog! Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your insights. Happy to have you.

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  5. @Jacqui- I am so glad you commented on this blog. It is SUCH a tricky topic and you clearly know very well how difficult, painful, and therefore emotionally laden this topic can be. Thanks for telling your story. Congratulations for surviving through it. I'm sure you're an incredible mother who went to painstaking lengths to make sure your child grew and grew. I have a guest post coming up that you will LOVE. And, I swear, I would have thought you would have already read it because this comment just about took the words out of my mouth. Thanks for reading.

  6. My daughter is formula fed after 6 months of age and she is thriving!

    I HATED breastfeeding and pumping. Let us say... I was not dealing well ;) So we started supplementing with formula, never intending to quit breastfeeding entirely and sure enough, nature took over and I dried up pretty quickly.

    The maternal guilt I carried over this issue would sink a battleship... and then i realized, to what point? Is the little darling happy and healthy? Yes. Is she meeting and exceeding all expected milestones? Yes. Am I happier and healthier and of sounder mind? Yes and even YESSER! (I found your blog through RFML) Am I a BETTER Mom because of formula? Well... I'd say that its a toss up. I don't think I'd have been a better Mom with the breast or am I with formula. I am one hell of a GREAT Mom because I love that little darling with my entire being.

    And does the little darling's face light up with glee at the mere sight of this formula feeding Mommy? YES! So am i worried about the intimacy and connection between myself and my child? Hellz to the no! :)

    Love the post and the perspective of a breastfeeding Mommy that isn't on the crazy side of "lactivism" :)


  7. I'm not a mom yet. But I plan to be one day, and I plan to take a similar route as yours. It is comforting to know that there are other women who have blazed a trail, and will support. Great post.

  8. Hey! I just found your blog through facebook. Ya know, the click, click, click that takes you from one page to another and you can't remember how you got there. Anyhow, I have been posting some some blogs lately in an poor attempt to get a little traffic on my own blog (which isn't how I found you but non the less) and I left a comment on one that I can't even remember now about this exact topic. I am a failed breastfeeder. I have however recently become softened to the ways and reasons behind breastfeeding. I think I spent so many years "against" breastfeeding because I was made to feel like such a failure at it. Now I work on the post partum unit at the hospital and I watch the best mama's struggle each day with their newborns to learn the ways of breastfeeding. I also see some of the best mommies give their hungry babies a bottle. As an individual and a member of the medical team I frankly don't care how people feed their baby as long as they are feeding it. That said, we need to always be supportive of a mom and the choice that she makes. Good for you for tackling this topic. I love your point and your approach. I am officially a "follower" :) I won't post the link to my blog or anything but if you ever want it feel free to email me and I will send it to you. My blog attempt is to be real and honest and to educate parents while at the same time helping to rid themselves of their "mommy guilt" Thanks again!


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