Ask, and ye shall receive

I’m currently working on a “FAQ” page for common bottle feeding concerns – things to do with safety, procedure, etc. I’d love to hear from you all on what you’d like to see covered. What are some of the frustrations you had as a newly formula feeding mom, in terms of figuring out logistics, safety concerns, etc? Have you received conflicting information from medical professionals, formula advertising, friends and the internet? Any unanswered questions, or things you’ve wondered about?

Just comment below and I will attempt to answer as many as I can in this upcoming “FAQ” post. Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

Taking the easy way out

I’m exhausted, guys.

What with being pregnant/taking care of my 19-month-old/finding a new part-time nanny/trying to finish my book before the new baby arrives/scheduling a myriad of trips to conduct interviews for aforementioned book/keeping up with the blog/keeping up with other people’s blogs/finishing up my video series (coming soon to this site, incidentally)/battling an infestation of ants/meeting deadlines for articles/cooking, cleaning and other domestic duties (none of which I’ve been doing very well… we had thai takeout for the second night in a row today)/forgetting to call my best friend on her birthday/feeling like my head is going to explode from having too many things to worry about at once, well, I’m finding it hard to write a comprehensive post on anything.

I have promised FFF Lillily that I would look into some basic formula feeding issues for her, as she is about to enter a “baby-friendly” hospital which is decidedly formula-feeder unfriendly, to deliver her second child – and I’m hoping I can get that together by mid-week. But until then, all I can offer you is other people’s words, because my words are sure as heck not coming out very eloquently right now.

There have actually been a few interesting developments in formula feeding/breastfeeding news this week, so I’d encourage you to check out the following:

1.In Which Infant Formulas Contain Secret Toxic Chemicals, Mother Jones’ new media editor, Laura McClure, speaks of the guilt of weaning at 6 months, which is exacerbated by reports that formula contains melamine. The melamine thing is kind of old news at this point, but her article is interesting for several reasons – first, because she’s refreshingly honest about her conflicted feelings on formula feeding, and second, because she actually dares to mention Hannah Rosin’s article without scorn or derision. Brave woman.

2. The Globe and Mail printed What’s Wrong With Feeding Your Child Formula in the same issue as another article, Why Aren’t More Women Breastfeeding. I’m impressed with their effort to be fair and balanced, not something you see too often in the popular media these days. The former is about the guilt and alienation formula feeding moms feel in Canada, so it’s a pretty encouraging read in that respect – I’m glad to see someone acknowledging that this phenomenon actually exists. The author includes quotes from Tasnim Nathoo, co-author of The One Best Way? Breastfeeding History, Politics, and Policy in Canada, a book that I wasn’t aware of, and I’m curious to read. Any of you Canadian FFFs heard of this one?

The latter just reiterates what we already know – breast is best, and needs to be a public health concern; not enough women are breastfeeding, etc. It does allude to the Toronto initiative to make formula available in hospitals only in times of medical need, but does not discuss the toll this might take on a woman’s rights. In fact, the only caveat the author offers is that this is “a contentious issue because many hospitals receive free products, funding or other incentives from formula-makers that are difficult to turn away.” I find that assertion puzzling. I doubt that’s really why this is a contentious issue, at least on a larger, social scale, but hey. I’m not Canadian. Maybe I’m missing something here.

I promise I’ll be back with a more substantial post in a few days. But until then, check out these articles, and let me know what you think. I’m curious.

FFF Friday: “I can’t live like this.”

Okay, so, technically it’s Saturday, but it must still be Friday somewhere, right?


This week, we’ve been talking about the importance of respecting a woman’s feelings – acknowledging that many factors play into our feeding decisions, from body image to general happiness to PPD. I think Kirsten’s story serves as a perfect example of why we need to keep these things in mind when discussing formula and breastfeeding. No matter how she ends up feeding her son, I hope Kirsten finds the peace and happiness she so deserves.

***

I don’t exactly know how I found your site, but I stumbled across it in my guilt ridden and tear streaked search for some help. My son Erik, was born after 2 upsetting miscarriages, 40 weeks of a high risk pregnancy and an incredibly difficult, 3 day labour that resulted in an emergency c-section. I was always going to be “that mom”, you know the one who has a natural med free childbirth, co-sleeps, exclusively breastfeeds, extended breastfeeds, responds lovingly to every peep, cloth diapers, wears her baby and never lets them see a single minute of tv until after 2 years old. I was going to be an awesome “attachment parent”. I read every book by Dr.Sears, I went on every message board, fro here to kingdom come about attachment parenting, breastfeeding and cloth diapering. I was going to raise my boy right, the “natural” way.

After my labour, which was full of complications I was given drugs to make me sleep before I ever got to see Erik. I was awoken once in the recovery room by a lactation consultant who brought me this blurry looking baby and tried to get him to latch after several hours, apparently he wouldn’t latch and I fell back asleep. During my hospital stay, which was complicated by a spinal headache so severe I laid down for 4 day straight and would vomit at any incline over 30%, I had a wonderful lactation consultant. She came several times a day to try to get him to latch to get the colostrum, we tried nursing in every position available lying down, we tried every nipple shield they made, until it came down to her milking me by hand in my shared room with my wonderfully supportive and loving husband telling me it was okay, when I felt mortified inside. My nurses came and went all saying I was doing great, he had dropped some weight but hey, that happens right? Until the second night, Erik was listless and tired and screamed incessantly after nursing. Panicked and exhausted I buzzed and in came the best nurse ever, Wendy, who took one look at Erik and shook her head. She picked him up, popped a finger in his mouth and said, his mouth was bone dry, he was dehydrated, jaundiced and you’re exhausted. 

She brought in a bottle of Enfamil and he drank it in minutes flat and finally slept. I felt like a failure that night, as I kept trying to nurse him only to have to repeatedly turn to the formula as my milk just wasn’t enough. Wendy came frequently and took him so my husband and I could sleep and she just adored my son. The LC came in the next day and reassured me that I was doing what was best, stimulating my breasts to help my milk to come in and providing him with nourishment until then, but deep down I knew I was doing wrong by him. I was sent home with a supplemental nutrition system to wear and a big case of ready to feed formula that Wendy snuck into my room and gave to me as she said goodbye, telling me that if I had to resort to formula due to my low supply, it was okay.

When I got home I had new challenges: how do you nurse sitting up? I had only ever nursed lying down due to my headache, so a girlfriend showed me how one day. I was embarrassed by my bleeding and cracked nipples and embarrassing strechmarks that plague my pale breasts like angry red lines, but I HAD to succeed at breastfeeding. Eventually I didn’t need to wear the device anymore and I stopped giving Erik the Enfamil, but I decided to take Fenugreek and Brewers yeast pills to “up my supply”, I also took to pumping at least once a day to “stockpile my milk” (for what disaster I was preparing for, I’ll never know). I told everyone everything was going great, even though I never left my couch and my son nursed every hour and a half for 45 minutes and I hardly had time to shower and when I did I cried as I looked at my gollum-like body in the mirror. The one with the deep, awful, scarlet stretchmarks everywhere, the ballooning breasts that leaked constantly, the limp hair that hadn’t been styled in weeks, the pimple covered face with the dark patches under the eyes, the once flat stomach that hung like a pouch down above my painful c-section scar…yes, motherhood was beautiful. 

Then I had the guilt of not feeling bonded to my baby…how could this happen? Dr.Sears said it would, yet I felt disconnected to him, like he was a pet, not my whole world like other mothers said. Yet I was determined to fix it, we co-slept even though my husband and I both had nightmares of smothering him and I couldn’t sleep due to his constant night nursing and waking at every noise he made. Slowly I bonded with him and the breastfeeding got easier for a while.

Until one day I noticed Erik would vomit after every feed, choke and sputter while eating and cry and pull away from my breast while feeding, my milk would also spray vigoursly across the room. I had gone from not having enough milk to having an oversupply problem. I began dreading nursing Erik, the vomit was everywhere and his crying dragged across my already sleep deprived nerves from the co-sleeping, that was technically “no-sleeping” for us. I contacted the LeLeche League, where I met a wonderful woman who helped me lower my supply with block nursing. Finally it got easier, for a while again. We moved Erik to his crib with an Angelcare monitor, so we knew he was okay and we began sleeping again and Erik LOVED his crib and began sleeping through the night only waking twice, once to eat and once to be changed.. I got over the initial guilt of failing at co-sleeping, ad realized that Erik would do much better with a well rested mother than a frustrated and sleep deprived one.

Everything was going great until Erik stopped sleeping through the night at 3 months. I figured, maybe he dropped his soother, had a bad dream, peed, pooped, was hungry etc. He would literally wake up 8-12 times a night. I tried nursing him, changing him, rocking him, putting his mobile on, everything. I also noticed at the same time that he would scream after his last nursing of the night, even though he drained both breasts. He would jam his tiny fist into his mouth and scream. 

Finally in desperation I called my mother-in-law, who told me my baby was hungry and big boy (16.8 lbs at 3 months) and to try a bottle. I cried. How could I give him a bottle, of formula at that (my frozen stockpile was used up) ?!?! I mean everyone knows breast is best and people who formula feed are neglectful, un-fit mothers. I tried to avoid it but my screaming son, looking up at me with his tiny fist in his mouth was enough to kill me. So I opened the can of Enfamil and made him a 4 oz bottle. He drank it. In under 2 minutes. And then cried more. I made another 2 oz and he drank that too, and fell asleep. I put him in his crib and he only woke twice again, once to be changed and once to be nursed. 
I was upset about the formula, but secretly happy and relieved as well; I had gotten sleep, even though as many lactavists put it, I had given him “rat poison”. This one bottle at night pattern, continued until 2 weeks ago, when it started happening during the day: he would be hungry after the breasts. I spent HOURS, and I mean hours, reading every article and book I could about formula. All I found was “breast is best” and formula is only acceptable for medical reasons, not a large, hungry baby like mine. Mothers very rarely don’t make enough milk, it was all in my head.

I went to a mommy talk group, this past Friday, where I shared my story on the verge of tears with the other moms who happily told me to nurse him more, take this pill or that pill… I nodded politely. I told them I had to give him formula and that I felt guilty. I could see the condemnation in some of their eyes but the two formula feeding moms only looked at me with understanding and compassion. When the nurse running the class came around to offer me a piece of fruit she asked so sincerely if she could talk to me after class. I sat down with her and she asked what was going on in my life, I told her about my husbands injury that made me the only person able to do things around the house and get up with Erik, my grandfather’s cancer, my lack of maternity leave benefits, my attempts to be the perfect attachment parent and the overwhelming stress and guilt I had been feeling over the formula, and how I spent hours dwelling on it and reading up about different formulas. She asked if I had been weepy; yes, I had been. I told her how I was trying to eat more calories, drink more water, rest when I had time too, yet trying to manage the house by myself was killing me. She told me what I was secretly beginning to realize: I had postpartum depression and needed help.

She told me my milk was probably declining due to all the stress I had, and that what I was doing made me a good mom. A bad mom, she said, would let her child’s hunger cries go ignored. I was giving him all the milk I had available and then supplementing when it wasn’t enough. She gave me pamphlets about PPD and told me to call a local help line that would get me set up with a good doctor and in a counseling group. As I was walking out the door, she told me that yes, my milk might go away completely, but that in the grand scheme of Erik’s life it matters this much –  and she separated her hands to show half an inch between her fingers. It seemed so overwhelming, she said, that I was giving him formula, but formula was created for babies to meet their nutritional needs when breastfeeding isn’t perfect or chosen. 

I felt somewhat better, but still I can’t get it out of my head that I have to supplement with formula. Who knows what this following week will hold for me when I visit the doctor; meds, or more counselling, but hopefully it helps, because I can’t live like this. As for the attachment parenting, I’ve decided that I am just going to do what feels right to me. Not co-sleeping, mixed feeding, cloth diapers during the day and disposables at night, wearing Erik when I’m out, not constantly at home, and playing the rest by ear. If Dr.Sears doesn’t like it, well, too bad. Sometimes I think that attachment parenting advocates don’t realize the stress that it puts on women who can be already fragile and senitive after birth.

I truly believe breast is best, however I wish there was support for when it’s not perfect/chosen. There are no consultants, pamphlets, classes, drop in centres, books, or websites dedicated to formula feeding, at least not any that I can find. Not to mention there is an overwhelming sense of guilt that follows with it. We push breastfeeding so much, and it’s great, but when it isn’t perfect it’s beyond devastating. 

Secretly, part of me wants to give it up completely, I hate having to make a bottle after I’m done nursing him if that session wasn’t filling enough and listening to him scream while it heats up, because theres never a guarantee of which feeding will or won’t require a bottle after. The other part of me feels like a bad mother for giving it to him and wishing I could stop it completely and just exclusively breastfeed. So for now, I take it day by day and read the affirmations the nurses gave me, ” I get results with the parenting skills I use” and “I am not perfect, but I am always trying to do my best”. 
I am so grateful that I found this website, a spot where I can vent and where I can turn to for support and advice as I travel down this un-certain road of dealing with PPD and mixed feeding. So thank you for your site and for offering that supportive niche for women who normally would have no where to go.

***
If you have a story you’d like to share, please email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Public displays of affection

Apparently, the Carnival of Nursing in Public is currently in full swing. I’m not really clear on what a “carnival” is, but I’ve read some interesting posts from bloggers participating in this festival of sorts, and it’s gotten me thinking about the hot button topic of nursing in public, or “NIP”, like the cool kids are calling it.

As anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, my biggest pet peeve is hypocrisy. It kills me. Makes me switch political affliliations more often than Carrie Bradshaw switches shoes. (Actually, you could blame most perceived “flightiness” on my part – a trait for which I am well known – on my hatred of hypocrisy.) And this nursing in public controversy screams of hypocrisy, at least to my highly sensitive eye.

As mothers, we are inundated with conflicting messages: Be a supermom/Don’t over-parent. Stay home with your kids/Go back to work. Get back in shape/Relax, your kid should come first. Nurse for at least a year/Don’t let anyone see you nursing.

It’s ridiculous. We put all this pressure on women to breastfeed exclusively, and then we urge them to be discreet about it. After watching nearly every one of my friends nurse their children into early toddlerhood, I think I can safely say that even if you WANT to be discreet about it, it’s damn near impossible to do so. At the beginning, you and your babe are still figuring it all out – how the heck does anyone expect you to get a good latch when the parts involved in the process are covered by a sheet, even if it is a designer Hooter Hider? In my case, it took about an hour of fumbling and several highly trained adults to get my child to even latch a little bit. If I’d had to do it alone and sight unseen, forget about it.

By the time you perfect the art, the kid has probably become a little more in control of their bodies and minds, which means they likely have an opinion about being all hidden away from the world. I wouldn’t want to eat in the dark (although I seem to recall a weird trend in the early part of the decade where people purposely ate at expensive, completely darkened restaurants… but I think that trend died out pretty quickly. Probably because it was messy. I feel bad for the busboys at those restaurants). It’s probably pretty stuffy under those things, too.

I don’t even want to get into the whole nursing in a bathroom thing, because it just infuriates me. No one should have to hang out in a public restroom for more time than it takes for a quick pee, let alone a small infant who needs to eat.

I think the problem is that America, like it or not, is still a puritanical society. And unfortunately, I don’t know if promoting nursing as “normal” is going to solve the problem, as much as I believe it needs to be solved. I know that’s an unpopular opinion, but I hope that by discussing these things, we can try and figure out a way to alleviate the angst of this rock-and-a-hard-place situation for nursing moms, right here, and right now.

Our society is messed up on so many levels; we’re a nation of extremes. There’s no reason that near-pornographic fashion ads should be allowed on giant billboards in Times Square, while a mom can be made to feel weird about feeding her child in public. But that’s the world we live in. While for new parents, pediatricians and breastfeeding activists, it may seem like everyone cares about how we feed our kids, the fact is that most people just don’t. Even parents of older children tend to forget about all the drama over bottle vs breast as they start to deal with other battles, like learning and behavior difficulties, school budget cuts, and the REAL causes of childhood obesity or it’s ugly cousin, eating disorders. Ask your typical father of a 14-year-old girl what parenting causes he cares about, and I highly doubt breastfeeding rights will be tops on his list (even if 14 years ago, he cared deeply about this as he watched his wife struggle). And that’s a parent. What about all the childless folks who think kids are just annoying, short versions of adults that disrupt their meals, movies, shopping trips, etc.? (And come on, now… can you blame them? I wouldn’t want to be seated next to my child in a movie theater, which is why I’d never take him to one. )

This is not to say that any of this serves as an excuse, that we should just give up on trying to change public perception or cultural norms. My point is just that these issues go far deeper than breastfeeding, and we need to try and address our cultural attitude to the human body first and foremost. That may take awhile. And while it’s in the process of happening, I worry about the moms who actually need to deal with NIP at this very moment.

So, in the meantime, while smarter people than I work on the larger issues at play, I think it might be useful to address some of the more personal aspects to the NIP conundrum. Because here’s the thing: I live in a very pro-breastfeeding area, where we see people NIP constantly – and yet many of my friends never felt comfortable without a hooter hider, even if it was just a bunch of us girls hanging out in someone’s house. It struck me as strange, especially as time went on and it was just the status quo, nothing novel… I mean, at this point we were all friends, all thought nursing was “normal”…. and yet my friends were still more comfortable covering up, even 11 months into the whole breastfeeding thing.

I’m afraid that’s the thing no one talks about when they discuss NIP: it’s not always other people that make us feel weird about nursing publicly. Sometimes, it’s our own hangups about our bodies that are the true culprit.

I have more than just respect for those who are comfortable feeding their children, sans cover, in front of others. I have envy. I’ve had body image issues my whole life, and they’ve only gotten worse in my post-natal state. So when I see women who are strong enough to either not have those demons at all, or overcome them in order to feed their babies more freely, I want to cheer. But I also think we need to acknowledge that even if we change society’s attitude, right now, in our generation, there are women who are not going to feel comfortable being seen with their shirt off, or even just pulled down, in public. Even if it is in the name of love and nourishment for our children, for some of us, breasts are something we’d rather not share with the eyes of the world. And that needs to be okay.

Therefore, rather than dwell on what other people think of nursing moms, in the spirit of the Carnival of NIP, I’d like to propose two ideas to help new moms feel more at ease with their own feelings about this issue:

1. Encourage all malls, hospitals, and office buildings to have “Mom Suites” – places where all moms of infants or toddlers are welcome (both nursing and bottle feeding), with comfortable seating, and privacy. I’ve been in a few of these and I think they are the coolest. It couldn’t be that difficult to designate a small space for this purpose, could it?

2. As part of breastfeeding support groups or pre/post-natal classes, include help/advice/support for women with body image issues or particular anxiety about exposing their bodies. Rather than making them feel ashamed for not having the emotional fortitude to nurse in public, help them find solutions – ways to serve their babies’ needs without giving themselves more anxiety, because what new mom needs more of that? I believe this would help increase nursing rates among those who are afraid breastfeeding will chain them to the house; if there was some way to help them feel more comfortable in public situations, maybe it would make a year of nursing seem less daunting.

Anyway. Just two measly cents from someone who never got the chance to even attempt NIP (although I did actually nurse in front of a camera – we were the subjects of an internet series on pregnancy and they did film me that first week with one of the lactation consultants I saw… they never used the footage though, as it was probably too darn pitiful, what with the tears and screaming and all). I would’ve had to pump in public (PIP??). Now THAT would be an accomplishment. If I ever witnessed a mom pumping in the middle of Starbucks, I’d buy her a Venti Frappucino. Full sugar and all. She’d deserve it.

Happy mom, happy baby

On the private message board I frequent (which branched off from the Pregnancy Loss board of an uber-popular baby website), there have been only a few minor scrapples over breastfeeding/formula feeding. For the most part, whenever someone posts about wanting to throw in the nursing cover, she’ll get a bunch of responses basically stating “happy mom, happy baby” – meaning, of course, that she should make the decision that will make her the happiest and calmest in the long run. It seems like a rational thing to say, a relatively simplistic offering of comfort and support. It’s why I love the women on this particular board; despite differences in geographic location, socioeconomic status, religion and race, we all manage to acknowlege and respect that my choice may not be the same as your choice, but that as long as it’s done in the name of love and survival, it’s all for the best.

Unfortunately, as anyone entrenched in the formula vs breastfeeding skirmish can attest, when it comes to parenting, it is rare to see this philosophy upheld. For many parents, if someone else makes a choice in conflict with their own, it can seem like a challenge; a threat, even – “because I choose something different, I am belittling your choice; deeming it not good enough.” Parenting is an emotional rollercoaster, so I can understand why it could turn perfectly rational people into rigid fanatics – fear, lack of sleep, and a complete change of focus and priorities makes for a potent brew of crazy.

When it comes to matters of postpartum depression, though, I lose some of my patience. One of the things I don’t see discussed enough is the role of breastfeeding in PPD. Other than that blasted study, the reporting of which got me so pissed I publicly flogged another blogger (something I still regret, but those were the balmy days of FFF’s youth, and I plead innocence and ignorance. I’m older and wiser now. Although the basest parts of me still stand by what I said… I just probably should have said it in a more respectful manner), I’ve only found a few articles about the complex relationship between postnatal depression and feeding our children.

For some women suffering from PPD, breastfeeding is the thing that holds them together; the glue that allows them to forge bonds with their infants, to feel needed, to sustain life despite feeling like death inside. But for others, like me, breastfeeding is intricately wound with our feelings of inadequacy, fear and loss. Add breastfeeding difficulties into the mix, and it can be a recipe for disaster. Switching to formula was the first step to my recovery. I wish that hadn’t been the case, but it was what it was. Depression is a jerkface.

I’ve also talked to women who may not have had clinical PPD, but for whom breastfeeding caused a lot of pain and misery. Again, this isn’t the case for most women, although an informal poll of my friends did suggest that the first 3 months of motherhood were severely tainted by endless visits to breastfeeding support groups and lactation consultants, cases of mastitis, and so forth. But the beautiful thing is, after those first few months, they got the hang of the whole nursing thing. I remember one friend confiding in me that she hated breastfeeding and would stop if it weren’t so easy for her…and a few months later, she was the most vocal breastfeeding advocate in our group, announcing that she “loved it”, and I’m happy to say she’s still nursing past her daughter’s 15-month birthday. That was a cool thing to witness, and I do believe that for plenty of women, things do get easier, and breastfeeding can become a highly enjoyable and rewarding experience.

And then, for some, that just isn’t in the cards.

Maybe if my son hadn’t been intolerant of breastmilk, and was able to latch, and I didn’t have nerve damage that made breastfeeding hellishly painful, and if I hadn’t got PPD… well., that’s a lot of maybes. I’d like to think nursing would have been the incredible experience it was for so many others I know, but ultimately, it just wasn’t. Formula feeding, however, has been good to me. It allowed me to regain my sanity, to become healthy again; it also offered my child a life without constant stomach pain, a way to thrive, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

So, I was kind of excited to see someone else talking about the potential emotional toll breastfeeding can take on mothers, in this entry on BlogHer. Granted, I was reading this with my very biased eyes – it seemed like a personal take on the issue, more than a factual article, so I read it with my own emotional lens intact, rather than assessing it for accuracy. It was later brought to my attention that the writer, Molly Baker, may have (inadvertently, I believe, but I like to see the good in people) insulted breastfeeding moms who do enjoy nursing by implying with her inflammatory title that breastfeeding can “cause divorce”. She also made a pretty insensitive comment about how her nursing her child past the age of 10 months was “embarrassing”. I don’t condone either of these things – not in the least. But again, I was reading this as a blog post, not an article; the writer was an accomplished journalist, and I’m sure she chose her venue for a reason, and wanted a place to voice some rather controversial and emotional thoughts. Her remarks suggest, to me, that she simply hasn’t been around enough strong, proud, vocal breastfeeding women; perhaps within her peer group, nursing for 10 months is embarrassing. That would be sad, but if that’s her reality, that’s all she knows. It’s easy to forget that not everyone lives in the mommy blogosphere and knows the intricate rules therein; I’m not excusing her, but I think she could plead ignorance here, rather than outright animosity towards breastfeeding.

I do think Ms. Baker makes some valid points, like the following, save one particular sentence (see if you can guess which one):

I lend full support to the efforts of the study, The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: breastfeeding-friendly legislation, more support for nursing mothers in the workplace, and more breastfeeding help for new mothers in our hospitals.
However, a goal of 90% of American mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months is an effort I cannot rally behind, and nor frankly, as a woman and citizen, do I think it is a very healthy goal. Sure, doctors and researchers have been able to put numbers and dollars on losses due to the nation’s breastfeeding rates. But what they haven’t looked at is what these “suboptimal” rates have prevented or gained for American women, children and families. Where are the statistics on how many marriages have been saved by limiting breastfeeding? Or simply what postpartum independence has meant for women’s mental health, and their confidence and trust in their relevance outside the domestic sphere?

Okay, so, to be fair, she goes on to support that rather bizarre comment about divorce by citing a German study about happiness and divorce rates. Her thesis is basically that if a woman is unhappy breastfeeding, then that could ultimately lead to strife and resentment in her marriage, yadda yadda yadda. It’s a stretch, to be sure.

However, I can’t completely dismiss her point above regarding a woman’s mental health. It makes sense, to me. Because I’ve been there. In the comments section, where Ms. Baker is predictably ripped to shreds (this is unfortunately pretty standard for anyone who says anything that could be slightly construed as negative about breastfeeding, whether it’s an opinion piece or not), one commenter claims that she had PPD, and breastfeeding is what saved her. I was glad that this person shared her experience, because I wouldn’t want women to fear that if they breastfeed, they’ll be at higher risk for PPD, just as much as I wouldn’t want her to think the reverse (ahem).

But the problem is, when you’re speaking about PPD, or even just plain old unhappiness, you can’t make assumptions or sweeping generalizations, in any direction. What makes one person happy might make another miserable. Think about how tastes in music or food vary: it’s the same thing with any type of experience. I hate fireworks, for example; my husband thinks they rock. (And my dog fears them so much that he’s currently shaking like a leaf next to me – July is not a good month for my furry friend, especially in our explosive-happy neighborhood.)

If we are going to consider the mother’s health and happiness in the breastfeeding debate – and I strongly believe we should – we need to respect that all women are going to feel differently about nursing. It’s going to be lovely and magical for some; just something you “do”, neither bad nor good, for others; and emotionally draining for an unlucky few. That’s not to say that breastfeeding advocates need to stop fighting for the normalization of breastfeeding, because that will help everyone, in the long run – but I hope we can start to accept that happy mom, happy baby is a truism worth fighting for, as well.

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