Wild Wednesday

Hi everyone!
I thought today I would offer another opinion piece. I realize Wednesdays are turning into opinion-days, but since it's only once a week I hope ya'll won't mind.

You see, recently it seems a lot of my discussions have been centering on breastfeeding. No, I'm not currently lactating, but a friend of mine is so she and I have been discussing it. And then I've seen some conversations on facebook. And also I'm quite opinionated (you didn't notice, did you? :-P) and passionate about baby-related things, so the topic just comes up a lot.

So here's MY opinion. I think breastmilk is best. I think when mother and child can establish a happy nursing relationship, it is an experience that does not compare to any other. I still get warm fuzzies thinking about nursing my oldest when he was a babe. I miss that relationship.

Now think about that for a minute. Nursing is a relationship! Merriam Webster Online defines a relationship as "a state of affairs between those having relations or dealings." I think breastfeeding a baby certainly counts as a relationship. Why am I making such a fuss over the word relationship? Well, because nursing is a relationship, that means there are TWO people involved and TWO people to account for. Nursing is not about just the baby's needs. It's about the mama too.

If you are a self-proclaimed breastfeeding-nazi, I'll warn you ahead of time that what's coming up next is where I might get a few of you angry or upset with me. Since nursing is about the baby AND the mama, both need to be happy and satisfied with the relationship. If the mama isn't happy, then adjustments need to be made. This will vary depending on the needs of the individual family. BUT, if many remedies are tried to make both baby and mama happy (and well-fed) and nothing is working, formula may be the answer. It won't be the answer for every mama (I have a good friend who very assertively stuck through a year of breastfeeding, even though it kinda sucked for her), but it is one answer. Sometimes it is the right answer.

Am I biased? Absolutely. I switched my youngest over to formula at 8 weeks old. I do not regret it. I regret not getting the loving, warm-fuzzy nursing feeling with him. I do not regret feeding him formula. Because at 8 weeks old, we'd tried several "fixes" and just were not having good luck with nursing. Could I have made it work? Maybe. I could have quit my job that I was about to return to, and spent considerable time mashing my boob into his mouth and making him cry, to retrain his bad habit (he had a tongue tie that caused him to not latch properly). Quitting my job would have caused pretty significant financial stress. But I don't have to justify my decision to anyone. It was my decision because it was my relationship with my son. And the fact was, he and I were both crying and unhappy every time we had to nurse.

So, like I said, breastfeeding is a relationship between mother and child. And it's got to work for both of them, or it's a no-win situation. Why am I telling this to everyone? Because the lack of support that I see for formula-feeding mothers saddens me.

I hear the BUTs! coming! "But, mainstream media supports formula feeding moms--their commercials are all over the place!" "But pediatricians support formula-feeding moms--they are always handing out samples!" "But hospitals support formula-feeding moms--in fact they seem to encourage formula feeding by giving out free cans of formula!"

I'll agree with all those statements--and I'd also agree that it's a sad state of affairs when hospitals, doctors, and the media cannot appropriately recommend breastfeeding. But this is a cultural problem, and the fix will have to be a difficult one--to change the way our culture thinks about breastfeeding.

But back to the support. Support from doctors, hospitals, and media is NOT what a formula feeding mother needs--especially a mom who is formula feeding AFTER nursing didn't work out. For a mom who really wanted to nurse and finds herself choosing formula, she needs support from people around her--friends, family, etc. And yet, those closest to her sometimes speak without thinking and do not give the support needed.

I remember--the smile and nod. The looks that said, "Yeah, whatever, you just didn't try hard enough." No one ever said that to me, but their faces did and their statements about breastfeeding at other times said that. Their statements about OTHER women who did not nurse told me more about how they felt and what kind of support they'd give me.

And the truth is, I've got a somewhat unusual point of view. I'm a hardcore breastfeeding advocate because I think every woman should get the benefits of nursing and if more were encouraged to try, more babies would benefit. BUT, I fed formula to both my boys too. So I interact with many hardcore breastfeeding nazi-types and I am privy to hear what they say about formula-feeders. And it's interesting, from my perspective. These women are very passionate and very loving.

But what I see is that among people who advocate for the best start for babies (breastfeeding) there is a lack of compassion for moms who choose formula. And a lack of understanding. And I wish that would change.

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