On Breastfeeding

Filed Under: Life

I received an email today with a link to a piece that was published in the Atlantic. The email came from a pro-breastfeeding group and I clicked over ready to damn the piece since the group was obviously up in arms over what had been written.

But, as I read the story, a lot of what was written rang true for me.

First off were the holes in some of the breastfeeding studies that have been done. Ethically, you can’t tell a woman what to feed her child. You can’t have a double blind study where the parents don’t know if they are feeding their child formula or breast milk. And frankly, coming from a mom who breastfed her first daughter until the kid was 18 months and is currently breastfeeding her 6 month old son, I can’t imagine signing up for a study where my kids might be drinking formula.


I know.


I was formula fed, Tucker was formula fed. My parents were formula fed. We all turned out decently OK. And, despite whatever issues we all may have now, I seriously doubt that they were caused by formula.

The point is that I chose to breastfeed my kids-from my boobs, not through expressed breast milk-so I probably wouldn’t have been a candidate for the made-up study anyway.

There are a lot of issues that come into play when you try to decide which is better-the breast or the bottle, i.e., formula.

Does the kid have to be fed via breast because if that’s the case then you run into the variable of skin-to-skin contact?

To get around that issue, you could require that mothers feed their infants via the breast but with the assistance of a tube leading to the nipple like what’s used with preemie kids.

That would remove the variable of skin-to-skin contact but then you’d run into the issue of formula taking longer to digest than breast milk so now you have the variable of the number of feedings. How are you going to make sure that a formula fed baby feeds [and interacts] with the mother as often as a breastfed baby does?

SO many issues! No wonder it’s hard as hell to create a study that scientifically measures the effects of breast milk on an infant!

Though breastfeeding is a choice [and I think that everyone should give it the ole college try] there are some people who don’t have the option to breastfeed their baby. A very small minority, this “source”  states that 1-3% of women can’t breastfeed. However, I can’t find a reference to their numbers.

Some women don’t want to breastfeed because of the “ick” factor of being a “milk cow”. Some don’t want to be saddled with the sole provider of sustenance for their kid. And, some have to go back to work-as was pointed out in the Atlantic piece. While it’s wonderful to imagine that all women will have a private and clean place to pump, what happens if you work at a convenience store and you’re the only one at the register? How about the women who work in factories and the only place to pump is the bathroom? Not exactly private OR clean. The idea [obviously] would be to require all employers to provide a place and a time for the woman to pump but for some companies [and jobs] that’s just not an option.

I realize that I am in the lucky minority when it comes to breastfeeding. I was blessed with Cara who breastfed like a champ from the start and Oliver, who tried to starve himself early on but eventually got the hang of it. Since I knew what I was doing from Cara, I was able to handle Oliver’s issues without help and he’s now wearing 12 month stuff even though he’s only 6 months old. Obviously, he didn’t starve.

My work allows me to stay at home with my kids so that I can breastfeed Oliver on-demand. I only have to pump if I want to [and that means hardly ever] and it’s not an issue if my kid doesn’t like the bottle.

While working, I’m able to pull out a boob, plop Ollie on my lap and continue working. Try to imagine a waitress doing the same thing.

Also, breastfeeding is work…and hard work at that.

The people who tell you that breastfeeding is the most wonderful thing that they’ve ever done in their entire lives and they never had ANY issues and they don’t mind waking up five million times a night to feed their ball of screaming baby and what the hell is wrong with you, why can’t you get it right?


Like I said, I was lucky and even I will admit that there has been the occasional time when I’ve thought about how great it would be if Tucker could stuff a bottle in Ollie’s mouth and I could get a couple of more hours of sleep.

What I got out of the Atlantic piece [which I think was titled to drum up interest…like any good title should] is that the self-righteous people who breastfeed and turn up their noses at people who don’t should consider themselves lucky and not superior. Lucky because they have been given the opportunity to exclusively breastfeed. Even if that “luck” means that they secretly hate breastfeeding-and there are a lot of women out there who breastfeed just because they’ve been quilted into doing it.

We should all consider ourselves lucky that we have two options-both equally safe [in this country anyway] and both have been proven to produce children that function like normal humans should.

While I reserve my right to discretely whip out my boob when Oliver’s hungry, I don’t begrudge your choice to bottle-feed.

That being said, I can’t help my overwhelming urge to breastfeed your kid. But, I won’t offer…cause that would just be weird.