March 12, 2007

Please don't tell the milk nazis where I live.

So for a few months now, I’ve been struggling with a decision. If you’re of the male persuasion, this may be the part where you’ll want to avert your eyes. Because I’m talking about breastfeeding.

I guess I never gave it a whole lot of thought before I got pregnant. I’ve always known it’s the healthiest way to feed your baby. It was impossible to grow up with my mother (who nursed my sister and me for at least 18 months each) and not know the benefits of breastfeeding and the evils of formula. I always assumed I would probably breastfeed my child one day.

But now that I’m about a month away from the actual event, I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and talking to various people I know, and I’m still really torn about what to do. I really do know all of the advertised benefits of breastfeeding. And of course I want the lowered risk of allergies for the baby and lowered risk of cancer for myself. There is definitely the convenience factor for night feedings, of not having to get up out of bed at all (we’ll be using a co-sleeper infant bed). There’s also the added benefit of not having to pay for formula and sterilized water (we’re way to lazy to boil water and wait for it to cool).

However, I don’t really want to breastfeed. Of course I want all of the benefits, without actually having to do any of the work. But I find that I’m just not one of those people who feels a burning need to nurse their child. And no, it’s not because I think it’s icky nor am I embarrassed that I have boobs. Although I dread the idea of having to use a breast pump at work. Our setting at work is less than ideal, and though I’m not embarrassed about the boobs, I don’t exactly like the idea of drawing attention to them in front of all the pervs that seem to populate my office. The biggest con I have about breastfeeding is the fact that Rob has expressed a desire to help in the feeding equally, from the beginning. And when you have a husband willing to take on some of the night feedings so that you can get more rest, why would you want to turn that down? It would also give him an opportunity to get over his fear that he might break the baby, allowing for some important bonding time. There’s also the added peace of mind that would come with knowing that Rob would be able to care for our son easily, whether I’ve had time to pump milk or not.

Lately, the more I read, the more offended I become by so much of the breastfeeding literature. There’s of course the pervasive guilt factor: that if you don’t breastfeed, you’re a selfish mother. And then there’s the advocating of “exclusive breastfeeding” (no use of bottles or pacifiers). That may work out really well for the women who don’t have to, or don’t wish to go back to work six weeks (the standard maternity leave in the US) after giving birth. But it’s simply not realistic in this day and age. And besides not being realistic, I think it excludes the father in an unhealthy way. What’s the point of dual parenting if you can’t share equally in the tasks?

Some of the other pro-breastfeeding propaganda that bothers me:

Increases bonding between mother and baby. I don’t doubt this is true, but does that mean women who don’t breastfeed don’t bond with their babies? It seems that the act of feeding and cuddling your baby is how we bond, regardless of what that food source is. And when the father is also able to share in the feeding, he’s able to bond with the baby equally.

Formula Feeding is associated with lower I.Q. Possibly. Or not. According to this recent study, “Breastfed babies are smarter because their mothers are clever in the first place, not because of any advantage of breastfeeding itself, a study suggests. Researchers found breastfeeding mothers tended to be more intelligent, more highly educated, and likely to provide a more stimulating home environment.” And I can’t help but noticing that my formula fed husband, though not as smart as I am of course, definitely has stronger math, and geography skills than I do.

Breast milk contains immunities to diseases and aids in the development of baby's immune system. That’s probably true, but then I was sick so often as a child, that I had my tonsils out and tubes put in my ears (due to the numerous ear infections) by the time I was four years-old. My formula fed husband, though a seasonal allergy sufferer, still has his tonsils and tube-free ears.

Formula feeding increases risk of children developing diabetes. Yeah, so does McDonald’s and sodas and our sedentary American lifestyles. Statistically, kids in this country are getting fatter. We all are. I refuse to blame this one on the formula.

Formula feeding may increase risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And that’s one scary reason right there, isn’t it? But then again, they’re still not sure what causes SIDS at all. According to this excellent article, there’s some evidence to indicate that the reason breastfed babies are at a lower risk of dying from SIDS is due to the fact that they’re more likely to be sleeping in the same room as their parents (thus having their breathing monitored). That seems to advocate co-sleeping more than nursing.

Formula-fed babies are more at risk for obesity in later life. Oh yeah? Have you seen me lately?

Breastfeeding is easier than using formula. Except for the fact that breastfeeding infants feed every 1 ½ to two hours, whereas formula fed babies feed every three hours or so. I don’t know about you, but that extra hour of sleep nearly clinches it for me.

Facilitates proper dental and jaw development, less money spent on corrective orthodontia. I don’t buy that for a second. That part is all genetics. I spent $3,000 on orthodontia for my breastfed self.


Basically, the whole thing makes my brain hurt. I do believe that breastfeeding is best, I really do. But I also don’t believe that the millions of mothers who have to, or choose to use formula are horrible people who don’t care about their baby’s health. If I do end up breastfeeding, it’s very likely that I would only do it for 3-6 months, not the one year or more that the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates. But whatever choice I make, it’s going to be because that’s what Rob and I decide is best for our family. And I hope people are respectful of our decision.

Edited to add: Interesting article from a formula feeding mom.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe your mom hasn't responded to this yet...

From what I hear formula babies take longer naps than boob babies. In fact I hear they take 5 2-3 hour naps during the day and sleep at least 12-24 hours straight through the night! he he... and then boob babies will graduate medical school by age 16 and gladly support you for the rest of your life. Take your pick. It seems win win to me :-) Glad you're goin first Al!

-Sally

Deana said...

Hey Kandis...

Let me tell you what Rick and I did with Aubrey. I wasn't the biggest fan of breast feeding..but thought I would give it a try. So, in the hospital, we tried it. After the first night, my milk was taking forever to drop..and thus, Aubrey was nursing for 90 minutes non stop. That night, I needed some rest, and the nurse suggested we give Aubrey a bottle. Rick said sure. So, he fed her. Don't listen to people who say that this is bad because of nipple confusion. It isn't. Aubrey did NOT have nipple confusion. In fact, she would nurse, take a bottle and a pacifier just fine! So, from the time Aubrey was 2 days old, she got at least 1 bottle a day. Then, when we were home from the hospital, Rick would feed her at 2am, while I pumped. The only reason I did that because..well, I was cheap..and didn't want to spend more money on formula...so I had a built up milk supply. When I came back to work, Aubrey was getting two bottles of formula a day and the rest were breast milk. And of course, since Rick was home with her, he got to feed her all the time. We were able to manage this until Aubrey was 9 months old.

I liked breastfeeding..only because I wasn't with Aubrey all day, and it gave me a chance to sit quietly with her. I got to unwind, all while holding her. It was my "chill out" time. Rick helped even on weekends when it came to feeding her.

As for the conditions here at work, they are much better than they used to be. I used to have to use the bathroom or Brian's office! Now there is the quiet room on the 4th floor. It's quiet, has a shower and a nice sink to clean your stuff out.

I say that you can do both for a couple of months, then go to formula. From my experience with Aubrey, it seemed that evertime she had a formula bottle, she was constipated, which caused us to use Gripe Water.(That's a whole other story) I thought I was going to die with the expense that Aubrey was putting us through. Lucky for us, she was only formula fed exclusivly for 3 months. 60 bucks a week later, I was GLAD to put her on whole milk!

Come by if you want to chat about it!

Deana

Anonymous said...

hi, sorry that I couldn't pass this blog up. You were breastfed...... The fact that you are not a skinny person isn't saying a whole lot, and shouldn't give the impression that the statistics of Breastfeeding cutting down obesity are at all wrong, maybe in that comment you should've posted how well you take care of yourself now as an adult. Maybe, you should think about this when you make your decision, the FACTS are out there, and they say the BEST thing is breastfeeding, so don't you think that your Mother was a wonderful mother to do HER best and what she believed was right so that you could spend a little of your time, doing things you probably shouldn't do that aren't that great for your health. Breastfeeding can only do so much, eventually genetics will take over, but atleast your little baby intestines weren't kicked around by the harsh and UNNATURAL chemicals in formula. Maybe you should do a little more research before you make your decision, there are a lot of chemical contaminants that can be found in EVERY container of formula, there are also lots of preservatives, and also the formula cans cause a lot of waiste, in a world that doesn't need more for a reason that can't really be justified. Breastfed babies go through their growth spurts in the beginning (first three months) and formula fed babies go through theirs right before their first Birthday with a steady growth all the way through. That's why the first three months will be a little more hellish then the rest, but you'll find if you stick it out and get over the 3 month hump, life will be a lot easier then an unlucky formula feeding Mother, who wound up with the one, that has to change formulas 4 different times, put their child on medication for reflux, and spends 4 days a month in the ER, with a sick baby. Best bet is, it won't kill you to try, once you switch to formula you can't ever get back what you could've had, so it's safe to say, I think you'll be happy to try, and your husband can suck it up and change some diapers and give the baby a baby at night, so that you can get some rest. That's wonderful bonding time too, and if he wants to take over feedings, tell him to give it 6 months, and he can survive all the angry baby, throwing baby food all over, and see how much he loves that.

Anonymous said...

sorry i messed this up. "give the baby a bath at night, so that you can get some rest. That's wonderful bonding time too, and if he wants to take over feedings, tell him to give it 6 months, and he can survive all the angry baby, throwing

Queen Kandis said...

By the time this comment was posted, I had already made my decision to formula feed. When I developed a postpartum infection in the days after delivery, it was a great relief to me that my husband and our mothers were able to help feed and care for my baby when I felt too ill to do so. And when I see how our beautiful son is healthy and thriving and bonding with both of his parents every day, I don't regret my decision. But thanks for the advice!