Monday, August 17, 2009

Rachel's New Trick

With all the excitement about Eric transitioning to the floor... errr.. I mean, his toddler bed, I neglected to mention that Rachel has (finally!) stopped rejecting the bottle. Laurie, John, and I have been working with her all summer, but we kept coming up against the same routine over and over again: Rachel would be able to eat from a bottle. There would be much rejoicing, and then I would spend a day (ok, maybe 2 or 3) nursing her because I want her to be able to take a bottle and breastfeed. And then we would give her a bottle, which she would bulk at, and the cycle would continue.

The day Eric climbed out of his crib, Rachel decided to drain bottle after bottle. Turns out she hated the formula we were giving her. She now would rather drink from a bottle. This is great turn of events because it means I can get out and have a date that lasts longer than 3 hours. It also sucks in that she now barely nurses, and my boobs are killing me!

I remember when I was pregnant with Eric. I had read all the literature on breastfeeding, and there was no way I would introduce a foreign substance filled with crazy artificial crap to my baby. Then the reality of breastfeeding set in, and I realized that it wasn't easy. Having to feed Eric every 2-3 hours around the clock made me want to shoot myself. Then again, it could have been the postpartum depression. I don't do well on less than 6 hours of sleep a night, and I was a wreck for weeks. Eric would nurse for awhile, then stop latching on and scream his head off. And then I got an infection which forced me to switch to formula.

That infection turned out to be a life-saver. While it was a pain to mix and wash bottles every day, it made Eric thrive and allowed me the freedom to give bottle duty to my husband, family, and even friends who were thrilled (for some odd reason) about feeding my baby. John and I could go away for weekends without the baby! I lost weight; my breasts didn't hurt. For those shorts trips, I felt like I could be someone besides a mom...

... And I felt horribly guilty. Was I a bad mother for not nursing my son? Am I a bad mother for weaning my daughter onto formula at only 4 months? What about all the research that suggests I was/am hurting their health, their IQ, and their ability to bond with me (among other things)?

I can't speak yet for Rachel. But Eric is 19 months old, and I sometimes wish formula had dumbed him down a bit. That little rascal can figure out an electronic device in record time and has never had a cold, much less an illness (though I'm not complaining about his health!). And it apparently didn't hurt the bonding process because he's now permanently attached to my leg.

Maybe Rachel won't fare as well, but I've discovered that there really are different strokes for different folks. I love seeing women breastfeed their babies, and I feel such pride in what their doing. I also see women feeding their babies formula, and I wonder if they suffered through the guilt that I did. I hope they feel as good about the choice they've made as I have.

I will never understand why we women can be so judgmental on our own sex. It's bad enough that society tells us we should all be a size 2, June Cleaver for our kids, and sex pots for our husbands. What about us? Motherhood has made me feel lost at times. Does it make every woman feel as if she's lost her bearings? Do other moms get pissed off that they always put their families over themselves, as I do? Do other moms feel like they have to choose between their identity as the person they once knew and someone they may or may not want to become?

Or am I totally nuts?


Patrick said...

Not nuts at all. I'm watching Kristina go through a lot of the same things. We introduced formula to supplement at 5 weeks, after the baby basically stopped gaining weight and Kristina couldn't keep up with the kid's cluster-feeding needs every evening. Lactation consultants (seriously, that's a real job??), supplements, and even a frenotomy all failed to have any effect on Cecilia's latching or Kristina's milk supply. So now feedings are now split about evenly between formula and breast milk, much of which is pumped and bottled. The baby is happy and gaining weight, and Kristina gets some time to herself and some sanity in her schedule.

Some women, even close friends, can be super judgmental. Other women, even not-so-close friends, can be super supportive. Seek out the latter, and tell the former if their opinions are not welcome.

Studies about IQ and health struggle to control for every other factor that correlates with breastfeeding. Provide those other factors -- a stable, loving home -- and maybe breastfeeding isn't the big deal it's made out to be. Or maybe it is, but if it's making you crazy, your baby certainly doesn't benefit from that. Do what works for you.

A little light reading: The Case Against Breastfeeding in The Atlantic.

Anonymous said...

You know I love you, Jen AND I am so envious of your ability to breastfeed. But the most important thing is that you find balance (at least, that's what I believe) where your needs are met enough that you can meet your kids needs effectively, and I can't even imagine how out of balance you must have felt with a busy toddler and a breastfeeding newborn. You're a great mom. (((Hugs)))

Kelly said...

You are not nuts. I felt horribly guilty when I gave up trying to breastfeed Megan (she wanted nothing to do with my boobs, and would throw up after nursing) it turns out we had to give her special formula for gas. She is now a healthy, intelligent Kindergartner, and amazingly enough my depression went away a couple of days after we switched her to formula.
Now, with Lauren I did not even TRY to BF. I knew that I was going back to work 2 months after she was born, and while my company is super-supportive of nursing mothers.. I just did not want to mess with it. Call me selfish (I do) but we were all happy, Lauren is perfectly healthy and, like Eric, permanently attached to me so it has not seemed to affect the bonding process any. I do wonder about her allergies, and whether she would have them if I had BF her... but I blame Eric for those anyways. His family is the one with all of the allergy issues!

I love you! Go out on a date and try not to feel too guilty. You are doing what is best for you and your family.

emma said...

no matter what, we're all damned if we do, damned if we don't :) Hang in there - you're doing a great job.
Agree with Kelly - relax & ENJOY a date night :)
make yourself a happy mama & from there, you'll have happy, balanced kiddos

Leigh Anne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leigh Anne said...

Oh my goodness, you are totally not nuts. It almost feels like when you stop for whatever reason, you have failed. That is, unless you breastfeed until the baby is at least one. I felt totally guilty when I stopped with both of my boys, but I was a better mother after I stopped. I was much more calm, better rested and not completely stressed about pumping or getting him latched on.

I wrote about my feelings after my first experience with bfing.