Susan's Blog

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rest is Best

A loved one recently had a baby and this made me remember the particular issue of newborn-feeding. Before Nat was born, I was so determined to breastfeed because of all that I had heard about it, that I went to La Leche League pregnant. I knew everything about it, all the benefits, the positions for holding the nursing infant, the convenience, the transmission of your immunities to the baby, the weaning, etc. I heard, for the first time, the anti-vaccine hysteria, the fears that moms had of putting “those germs” into “these pure, perfect babies.” Even back then I did not agree with that sentiment, and this was way before anyone was connecting shots with autism (other than Andrew Wakefield).

I did not agree with the anti-vaccination mentality, but I did agree that Breast was Best. That’s why it was such a calamity when, a week after Nat was born, I came to the conclusion that I was not going to breastfeed. After all I had learned, all that I had planned, it seemed that Tiny Nat was never full enough and was often crying. When he wasn’t crying, I was, because I was in horrible pain. I did not see how my mams were going to “toughen up” or get used to this; I did not see any progress in terms of Nat’s appetite. I did not know what I was doing wrong, and I didn’t feel like I could call any of those La Leche League Ladies I had lounged with for long learning lessons about lait, pre-partum. My sister, whom of course you all know I adore, had not had any children. Neither had any of my friends, most of whom were not even married yet! My mom had bottle-fed. There was no one to ask. Lactation specialists probably existed, but were not readily available. I had a book or two, and I had the nurses at Beth Israel where I had given birth, but every single one of them had given me different advice.

There was Nat splayed across my chest, screaming and screaming. A tiny little quivering pink wormy thing that I loved so much I could barely think, so I was always terrified of breaking him. Anyway, I remember the moment. “I can’t do this, I can’t do this,” I sobbed to Ned.

“Sue, it’s okay,” he said. “What does it matter?” Ned felt that it truly did not matter which way a baby ate; he just could not stand to see me so torn up, literally and metaphorically. He then even made me laugh, I remember that. And I think that was the deciding moment. We were in this together, and we decided together.

We gave Nat his first formula, the green and white label Similac dry mix, and Nat drank and drank. I grieved for a very long time, not being able to do what I had planned for so carefully. I was ashamed to tell all of my La Leche companions of the traitorous decision I had made. Later on in life I would still feel that shame, that somehow I had failed at something right away as a mother, and that I had not done what was best. If any woman can breastfeed, why couldn’t I? How did they rise above the pain and the screaming?

When Max was born, the exact same thing happened. I could not make it work. And he was a much bigger baby than Nat, and so greedy and needy in terms of food. Max drank four ounces of formula the very first time I offered it to him, and was the most content, fat little baby I had ever seen. (Oh. My. God. Stop remembering that…)

I actually did nurse Ben successfully because by then I had locked in place all the right supports and I figured out a way to get through some of the physical pain. But I never ever like it when people bully others into believing that you really really should breastfeed, and that it kind of means something if you don’t. Yes, of course there are health benefits, and it is lovely to connect in that primal way with your infant; but it ain’t everything. It’s one good thing out of so many. The sooner a mom learns not to beat herself up, the better.

Soon after their first few weeks with the bottle, Nat and Max slept the night. The night. What joy. So I could sleep, Ned could sleep, and then we could be our best to parent them the rest of the time. What could be more important than that?


I breastfed for 4 wks with the first one before the dh and I had pretty much the same conversation “I cannot help you” he said. I had post-partum blues as well.

Little boy was bottle fed from the beginning… don’t regret that for a moment. He couldn’t latch and I wasn’t going to upset both of us trying. No post-partum this time.


— added by farmwifetwo on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 8:38 am

Yes, there are women out there who call themselves “lactivists,” who are, in fact, nothing but boob bullies. They heap on guilt and judgment of women who cannot/choose not to breastfeed in the name of their pet cause. It’s disgusting.

I am one of those who actually teaches other women to breastfeed. I had read all the books, knew all the facts, and had successfully helped hundreds of women nurse difficult to nurse babies. I thought I knew it all and used to be one of those “lactivist” minded types. However, when my first (my autie) was born, breastfeeding was an absolute nightmare. I struggled and cried and managed to work through it, but not without first learning a powerful lesson. I was humbled. I was knocked off my high horse; the first in a very long line of humbling lessons my firstborn would teach me.

It’s sick what mothers do to each other. I tell my friends who formula feed their children that they need not feel an ounce of guilt or failure. A happy, sane, rested mother and a happy, well fed baby is what matters. How either of those goals is achieved, either by breast or by bottle, is irrelevant. I wish more mothers would recognize that and support each other instead of adding more fuel to fires of the stupid mommy wars.

— added by ASDmomNC on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 10:44 am

I breastfed Casey until he was 4 months and he got teeth, oh did he get teeth. Sorry, I was not a chew toy! SO we didn’t do it for long but it was a sweet sorta time. I loved doing and boy I could pump those babies like there was no tomorrow (even while driving-completely nuts I know).

I don’t know, in this day and age, there are so many great formulas, is it really that big of a deal not to breastfeed anymore? It’s not like it’s something that goes on for years….wait, I take that back, I have a friend you let her kid gnaw on her until he was well past 3. Very weird.

— added by Bonnie on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 10:55 am

I had my kids at Beth Israel as well and even though I was open-minded about breast-feeding, I was not entirely sure I would be, until the nurse handed me Nick and said “your breastfeeding right?” I felt like a bad mom if I didn’t say yes. After two week, I felt like a bad mom if I didn’t put hungry Nick on formula already.

I had the courage to tell the nurse No to breast-feeding the second time around with my daughter, but felt that pang of guilt.

— added by Holly Nappi Collins on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 11:32 am

I’m currently still BF (a little) my 4th baby, who is almost 10-months old….

But I myself was bottle-fed, and of course I am a healthy super-genius (LOL)!

Seriously, part of it is that I am LAZY and BF saves me from looking for all those pieces to all those bottles that mysteriously disappear just when I need them!

— Cathy in CT

— added by Anonymous on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 1:46 pm

LOL, Cathy in CT I say the same thing. I’m too lazy to bottle feed. Once I got over the hump (with both kids), breastfeeding was the lazy mom’s dream for me.

— added by ASDmomNC on Monday, November 24, 2008 at 7:07 am

What I found — after finally having managed to BF Ben, which I did for 9 months — was that breastfeeding was as easy from 2 – 9 months as it had been excruciating from birth – 6 weeks. Why is it SO difficult? Why do we have that horrible period, right when we are trying to heal from childbirth??? Doesn’t make any sense!!!

— added by Susan Senator on Monday, November 24, 2008 at 7:17 am

Twice, I made it through that first hellish week, after which I was convinced I could drive nails with my mams. Pure lanolin was a big help, but I never had any of those nursing curveballs like infections or difficulties getting the boys to latch on. Things went so well with Thomas that we never introduced a bottle during that “magic window” of 4-6 weeks. Three lactation specialists told me that it was going to be very difficult to get Thomas to take the bottle of pumped milk. My mother came down to help and took the brunt of Thomas’ discontent, as I prepared to return to work after 4 months. She said he would look at her like a fraud when she approached him with the bottle of pumped milk.

Meanwhile, it seemed like I was pumping whenever I wasn’t nursing. We never opted for the Cadillac of pumps, and that thing sounds like a generator when all fired up. People used to moo outside my closed office door.

Judging moms on how they feed their babies is ridiculous. Okay, no cheese puffs that first year – kidding, kidding. There is no shame in the bottle game. Honestly, new moms – don’t let anyone get you down for using formula. Is it going to factor in your kids ability to smile, walk, talk, get into college? No, so feel free to call BS on this nonsense. Lisa

…climbing off soapbox

— added by Anonymous on Monday, November 24, 2008 at 10:44 am

%d bloggers like this: