Apparently, it’s world breastfeeding week. Or was? It’s possible I missed it considering every time I had my laptop open to write a post, I have a 10 month old who wants to PRESS ALL THE KEYS and make my screen do things I have never seen before.
I’m not here to argue the fantastic health benefits of breastmilk. They have been well documented and any google search can lead you to that scientific evidence. But that doesn’t mean it’s always the best. I tend to eye roll every time I hear or see the slogan, “Breast is best.” Maybe it’s because I know women on life saving medication, who for her safety and the safety of her baby, breastfeeding is not the best. Maybe it’s because someone very close to me had breast cancer and a double mastectomy before she got pregnant with her son. So, no, breast is not best when you don’t have them. Or maybe it’s because before we got pregnant, we were planning to adopt and I knew I’d be out in public, probably shaking up the formula bottle all while some mom watches from the sidelines with judgement and thinks I’m not giving, “The best,” to my baby because after all, the slogan says I’m not.
I felt like I was bombarded with this question before and after Nathan was born. Even in the hospital when the nurses would ask me if I was planning to breastfeed and I said I was, I got the nod of approval, the proverbial thumbs up. I was also warned many times that due to Nathan being born at exactly 36 weeks, it would most likely be a struggle the first few weeks or months as it is for most preemies. And it was. Oh it was.
I never had really high expectations and I never had that super strong, crunchy mom desire to breastfeed. You know what I’m talking about, the moms who make their placenta into stamp art and display it on the fridge along with Christmas cards and birthday party invitations. And no, that’s not a dig at crunchy moms, I have several in my life. And I realize you can be crunchy without said placenta stamp art. I mean, I have a box of cloth diapers. They never actually made it out of the box, but that’s not the point.
I didn’t really see breastfeeding as beautiful and magical and glittery, but I planned to anyway because I was going to have a preemie in the beginning of cold and flu season and I wanted all the antibodies and health benefits I could give him. Also, it was free. Also, I was selfishly hoping to stretch the break from my endometriosis as long as I could. Also it’s a natural and semi effective form of birth control( I said semi, ok, you Irish twin moms.)
But getting pregnant was a struggle, staying pregnant was a struggle, so throwing this struggle in there was just par for the course for me. But at that point, I didn’t want to struggle anymore. The last straw came when I got myself all situated and Nathan proceeded to smack the worthless plastic shield I had just sanitized off of me and onto the dusty ground, kicked my extremely sore c-section incision and screamed at me. “Breastfeed,” they said. “It’ll be great,” they said. “The bond is amazing,” they said. I didn’t care who said what at that point. I’ll admit I didn’t want to push past it because, “It’ll be worth it,” as I heard from so many moms who had gone before me. I was done and I told Dan in some kind of version of the batman voice, “Get me a bottle,” and Nathan was happy and I was happy. And that’s when I switched to pumping and bottle feeding.
I won’t lie that there were times(still are) I’d wonder if maybe I should’ve tried harder. I’d be washing and sanitizing bottles, packing a cooler before every single outing, and having to awkwardly ask friends or family if they had a private room I could use. “To feed the baby?” They’d ask. And I’d be like, “Um sort of, except I’m not bringing the baby, just this totally discreet Mary Poppins bag to hold my pump and all the parts and don’t even worry if you hear a strange noise coming from the room.”
But then there were the times, I would hand the bottle to Dan and go back to bed, or the time my friend came to visit me when Nathan was 5 weeks old and I left him home with Dan, and we went to buffalo wild wings. I remember reading a post on the online baby board I belonged to about when moms would leave their baby at home and go out for the first time. Most women said not until their babies were 6 months to a year old. And I was the bad mom on the board like, “5 weeks!” I’m sure some women find that appalling, but for this mama, who spent the last 2 months on bed rest, it was exactly what I need. We were only out for a few hours because really, your body does yell at you to get back to the baby. It’s like go ahead and try and have some fun taking a picture in that sumo cardboard cut out at buffalo wild wings, cause it’s about to get super uncomfortable for you soon.
I’m not trying to bash world breastfeeding awareness week. Really, I’m not. I think the fact that a woman’s body was designed to grow a baby with her body and then sustain that baby, is a thing to be in awe about and celebrate. The fact that newborns can only clearly see 8-15 inches away(roughly the distance from a nursing baby to her mother’s face) and that it can help reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer in the mother. I mean, wow. God thought of everything, didn’t He? So if you want to share all the crazy amazing facts about breastfeeding during WBFW, go for it. And if you want to raise awareness about mothers being shamed for feeding their children in public, I’m behind you. A few months ago our baby goat stopped what she was doing, decided she was hungry and found her mom to eat. Throwing a cover over them is about as ridiculous as asking women to feed their babies in the bathroom or worse, asking them to leave a restaurant or public park etc.
But I also wish that there was less judgement about how women choose to feed their babies, less whispers about what may or may not be in the bottle. For all the #breastisbest hashtagging out there I saw during WBFW, I didn’t see one post offering to donate any of their milk or letting struggling mama’s or adoptive mama’s know there are websites like www.hmbana.org, and many others that will connect them to mothers donating their milk. I personally know three mothers who have done this and knowing what hard work every oz is, it’s such selfless thing to do. And one of these mothers had gluten free, dairy free, soy free, caffeine free, sugar free breast milk. LIQUID FRIGGIN’ GOLD, people. The recipient of that milk was one lucky son of a gun.
So no, I’m not gonna be the mom with a flower crown, feeding my baby under the weeping willow tree, at least not with my firstborn. But you will find my baby happily drinking from a bottle from his dad while I’m sleeping in, or at Buffalo wild wings. And you’ll never find me saying hashtag breast is best because I’ll always believe that ultimately hashtag fed is best.
Note: Due to the offensive nature of this nursing fawn, it’s mother was promptly told to cover up immediately after the photo was taken.