There’s so much talk of “goals” in the breastfeeding world. Reaching this goal, not giving up on that goal. So when I received Elise’s submission, I thought it was really interesting that her “goal” was to formula feed. It’s like the reverse of so many FFF stories: she can breastfeed, but she can’t seem to make formula feeding work. It would be funny, if I wasn’t so frustrated on her behalf. Because she’s right: why should she feel guilty? Why isn’t “I hate breastfeeding” reason enough to switch?
Happy Friday, fearless ones,
“The Goal I’m Working Towards”
I hate breastfeeding.
I can do it; I am one of those “lucky” women whose milk flows like honey. I’m on my third baby and struggling with the desire to formula feed.
With baby #1, my birth went terribly awry. I saw midwives my entire pregnancy and was supposed to have a water birth at a free standing birth center. Instead my son went post term and was delivered via c-section after a failed 30 hour induction. I never saw my midwives after they dumped me because I became high risk (baby being 2 weeks late). My cervix failed me but my breasts did not. I couldn’t give birth but I could breastfeed! Cracked and bleeding nipples did not stop me. I got my nipple shield training wheels and within a month my firstborn was EBF. This went on F.O.R.E.V.E.R. After his weight went to the 65th percentile from his consistent 90-95th percentile between his 12 and 15 month well-baby appointments, his pediatrician asked me how much milk he was drinking. “Eight to nine times a day,” I replied. He looked at me sternly and said, “He should be getting milk no more than THREE times a day.” “Do I have to keep nursing?” I asked, with a note of desperation in my voice. “No!” he exclaimed, and I happily went home and weaned, thrilled to be getting my body and breasts back. Within a month I lost 10 pounds.
Three years later, baby #2 arrived via planned c-section (I had to keep defending why I wouldn’t try for a VBAC). It was even easier to nurse the second baby. No nipple shield and only minor cracked and bleeding nipples that quickly healed. When she was eight weeks old, I noticed a bug bite on my right breast. Fast forward a week and this “spider bite” was almost the size of an egg and causing a tremendous amount of pain – so much pain that I drove myself to urgent care at 2am where the throbbing lump on my breast was lanced and stuffed with gauze. I was given orders to return 24 hours later to have it reexamined. By the time I arrived the second night (having already started antibiotics), red streaks formed across my breast. I had MRSA and started IV antibiotics immediately. I had to keep returning to urgent care at 2am to receive IV antibiotics for the next several nights and go on ten day course of antibiotics so strong I had to stop nursing. Suddenly the milky breasts that had been my salvation with my first born were now threatening to kill me. Post-partum anxiety set in and I lost my best friend because of my diagnosis (she was paranoid she or someone in her family would contract MRSA).
So for two weeks I pumped and dumped and succumbed to formula feeding my baby girl. By the end of my nursing “vacation,” I realized we were on a schedule and I was sleeping better (even with all that anxiety!). But once the course of antibiotics was over, I started nursing again and was back to exclusively breastfeeding within a few weeks. I couldn’t let my breasts fail me when my cervix was still broken and I wasn’t going to let that damn flesh eating staph infection stop me. I weaned her “early” at 10 months because I wanted my body back and was starting to feel the drag of always having a small human attached to me. Within a month of stopping, I shed those last 10 pounds.
Five years later and now I’m on baby #3. My breasts have swollen to a 36J/K cup from their pre-pregnancy 34H, and pregnancy 36I, the largest they’ve ever been. In the hospital I confidently supplemented with formula and had no problem politely telling the lactation consultant to shove it after she raised her eyebrows at the pre-mixed formula in my room. I told her I exclusively breastfed my older two children but that my nipples/breasts/self need the break only a bottle or two of formula can give in those early days but that I would get around to EBF within a month. Since I’ve given birth, I’ve pumped at least once a day and have publicly stated “I’m not going to feel guilty for feeding my baby” when given questioning looks for why I’m ordering my husband to go make a bottle of formula.
Except… I feel guilty as hell.
My baby boy is now a month old, five weeks tomorrow. I’ve had the EASIEST time breastfeeding this lil’ guy. I’ve had no cracked nipples, no blood, no sores, no plugged ducts, no supply issue, no MRSA. I can pump over 3 ounces in less than 10 minutes. He’s gotten at least a bottle a day; sometimes breast milk, sometimes formula. Mostly though, he’s been latched to me.
And. I. Do. Not. Like. It.
I shudder and grimace when he latches on; it’s not the pain. There is no pain. I dislike the feeling of the suckling, of the letdown. I absolutely cannot stand it when my nipples become pacifiers. When he nurses, I want him OFF my body. I can’t stand that while my belly has shrunk, my breasts have not and I have to buy plus sized shirts to get them over my gigantic breasts.
I’m a stay at home mother. I have the “time.” My older two are in school five days a week. I’m white, college educated, and live in the Bay Area, home of all things natural and attachment parenting. I’m SUPPOSED to breastfeed.
And I don’t want to.
Here is my list of reasons why formula feeding is awesome:
1) Your boobs can go back to being sex objects. Yup. Having to smack away hub’s hands every time they come near you gets annoying hella fast.
2) You know how much baby is eating!
3) Even for the uninhibited, it’s nice not having to whip out your tits several times a day.
4) No more Heave Wheeze Heave Wheeze Heave Wheeze sound of the pump.
5) No more pump parts to clean!
6) Daddy gets to share in feeding.
7) Mommy’s nipples can go back to normal. Er, “normal.”
8) You will feed on some kind of schedule.
9) For me, I will lose 10 lbs in one month (unlike every other woman whose weight just “melts” off while breastfeeding, I hang onto at least 10 lbs until I’m done nursing)
10) You can wear a REAL bra – not some shitty, ill-supporting bra with clasps.
11) wearing a bra to bed sucks
12) Wearing disposable nursing pads 24/7 gets old fast. Because I’m a squirter, I wear then however long I nurse.
In the most perverse way, I wish I had issues breastfeeding so I GET to formula feed, so I have an “excuse” not to breastfeed.
But really, why do I need an excuse? Why must I tell people why I prefer bottle feeding? Why do people care how MY baby is being fed? He’s well fed, isn’t he? He’s healthy, is he not? His pediatrician used the exact words, “Super Duper” to describe my thriving son. If my son is super duper and *I* am okay giving my baby formula, then why can’t I let go of this gnawing guilt and just feed my baby that way *I* want to?
I’m phasing out the breastfeeding as of yesterday. It’s not that I can’t, it’s that I don’t WANT to breastfeed. It’s not a bonding experience for me, it’s something I dread. Currently I’m pumping several times a day because I’m scared of mastitis but I know that will fade in time. This baby WILL be formula fed. It’s the goal I’m working towards.
Feel like sharing your story for an upcoming FFF Friday? Email me (the FFF, aka Suzanne) at firstname.lastname@example.org.