Breastfeeding: Take a breath, relax, it’s going to be fine

When you’re talking about parenting issues that cause people to become hysterical, breastfeeding is pretty much the number one. Something about the combination of new mothers, tiny babies, weird body image issues, and society’s utter fascination/hatred for breasts causes something so basic to become a gigantic hairy deal.

Now don’t get me wrong, when I say “basic,” I’m not saying breastfeeding is always easy. Heck no. In some cases, it’s downright impossible. And here’s the thing the breastfeeding mafia won’t tell you: It’s okay to give formula. Really, it is. If you have to give your kid formula, they will survive and their chances of getting into Harvard probably won’t be damaged at all.

And now that I’ve riled up the pro-breastfeeding crowd, let me note that I think breastfeeding is awesome. I think it’s a fabulous thing to do for your kid, and I think you should try as hard as you can to do it. My point is just that if you can’t breastfeed, or you can only breastfeed for a little while, or you need to supplement with formula, you shouldn’t feel that you’re already a failure as a mother.

Feeding your baby is an incredibly emotional issue and you need to understand that whatever you decide, it’s going to be okay.

I breastfed my daughter for 10 months and my son for 14 months, and I’m glad I did. Breastfeeding is cheaper than formula and whipping out a boob is a hell of a lot less work than washing bottles and measuring and mixing.

Not to mention the intangibles of snuggling with my kids and knowing I was taking care of them. Also, the oxytocin generated by breastfeeding is an all-natural high 🙂

But here’s the thing: It was a hard road to get to that point. Both of my kids took weeks to figure out the whole milk-from-the-boob thing and had to be fed a combination of formula and pumped breastmilk. And the first couple of weeks with my daughter, every single time she latched on, the first 30 seconds were intensely painful, so painful I would cry. My nipples got so sore and chapped that one of them bled.

It went a little better the second time, although I still had about a week of intense pain at every latch, I had sore nipples for months, and I developed a blocked milk duct, which is incredibly painful.

I made it through those hard times and I’m really glad I did. But I wish that the breastfeeding class I took had warned me that these things were possible, because I almost gave up. Everything I read repeated the mantra that if you’re doing it right, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. So I thought I was doing it wrong and I was thisclose to giving up, when a friend told me the same thing had happened to her. She urged me to hang in for a little longer and it would get better. And she was right.

But even if I’d given up and Yael and Barak got formula…they’d be same happy, smart, hilarious, stubborn rugrats they are now. Yes, breast is best. But formula doesn’t equal child abuse.

Do your best to take care of yourself and your kid. Because being breastfed isn’t going to do a baby a lot of good if you go nuts in the process.

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About mamamara

I'm a 40-somethng, work-at-home mother of two. I'm pro-vaccine, pro-medicine, pro-science, and an avid reader of information about all of the above, and I want to combine my love for my children with my love for science. So here we are!
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2 Responses to Breastfeeding: Take a breath, relax, it’s going to be fine

  1. Jenne says:

    When I said I was going to breastfeed for as long as possible/reasonable , I really didn’t want to get into any emotional wars– so despite the fact that I had strong emotions on the subject, I told everyone it was because I was cheap (I am, too; when you have worked in a drugstore, you know that formula and diapers are some of the most stolen items, what does that tell you?) and because the smell of formula (like the smell of calf-weaning formula) made me nauseous.

    I have a whole bunch of thoughts on how we talk to new mothers about breastfeeding, and how making it black-and-white [especially the scare tactics about ‘nipple confusion’] is not all that helpful, but I think I’ll save that for a time when I’m having tea with my apprentice (who is a professional lactation consultant, and thus is in a position to actually act on such things…)

    • mamamara says:

      Y’know, when I was trying to avoid an argument, I often said it was because I was cheap too! I don’t know why that’s considered an acceptable reason when “it’s good for the baby” or “it’s the way we evolved” are not…but it’s true.

      I know what you mean about the smell of formula too. We had to use some of it with Yael and I had to hold my breath every time. Ugh.

      Obviously I also have a lot of thoughts on this topic 😀 I suspect strongly that our views on this are fairly similar. (The phrase “nipple confusion” makes me roll my eyes. Neither of my kids was confused at all. Yael said “I don’t care, as long as milk comes out” and Barak said “I don’t care, as long as it’s mommy’s booby” :D)

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