While pregnant with my first child, my husband and I read all the books: we watched all the reality shows about labor and delivery, we readied ourselves with every morsel of information we could absorb into our already clogged brains. We. Were. Ready. Kinda.
As we sat in the parenting class offered by our local hospital, surrounded by other expectant people, the “Parenting Guide” stood in front of the group and asked the question, “How many of you, are planning on breastfeeding?” All the other couples raised their hands; Except for us. The teacher nodded encouragingly at them, then turned her unimpressed gaze at me…
“Is there any reason you aren’t making the choice to feed your children with the greatest gift you can give them?” (you really gotta love the moxy on these boob wardens. They are on a mission, and you’d better accept it) but I stared directly into her eyes and stated the exact sentiments I felt about my decision to not breastfeed,
“I don’t want to.”
Maybe, just maybe, I sounded like a petulant child. That is possible… but in my head, that was all I needed to say. The pro-milker was unimpressed, “You don’t want to?” she staggered it out… as if I sounded like a petulant child. I reworded, “The idea doesn’t appeal to me.” Yes, that was better, much more grown up. She continued, “Well, you know, you’ll save $2,500 in the first year of your child’s life if you feed them with that liquid gold.” Everyone chuckled; Except for my husband and I. “This isn’t about the money, it’s about my own breasts and my own decision,” and it was.
I’ve heard breastfeeding moms talk about stigma, about the idea that they aren’t allowed to openly feed their baby wherever they need to. And that sucks, it’s freaking ridiculous. Whatever method you use to feed your child should be allowed and accepted everywhere, no judgments, no bullshit. But I’ve dealt with stigma too, because I didn’t choose that route for the nutrition of my children.
While breastfeeding might make other people uncomfortable, it can’t been near as uncomfortable as the way people look at you when you tell them you chose not to breastfeed. That you (in their minds) knowingly withheld the “liquid gold” from the child you claim to care about. I heard that exact quote from the hospital lactation counselor after the birth of my second child. I’m kinda glad for her actually, with that visit of shame, I developed my list. The reasons I chose not to breastfeed; All of my bottle fed children are perfect. Which just reinforces my list farther.
1. I like my boobs: There. I said it. I LIKE MY BOOBS. The rest of me looks like I was part of the German invasion into Poland; marked with scars and stretch marks and cellulite, but my boobs are real, and they are spectacular.
2. It didn’t sound appealing to me: The idea of being someone’s only food source on top of being their reason for everything didn’t jive with my life. The whole latching on, switching boobs, leaking, pain. No thanks, I’m all good.
3. I wanted my husband to help, especially at night: For my middle and youngest son, my husband did all the feeding from midnight to 6 am. He knows what a problem I have trying to sleep, and actually falling asleep, where he is the exact opposite. He loved that time with his boys, and he can fall asleep anywhere at anytime. I loved 6 hours of sleep to get up the next day and take care of everything else. It was the best parenting decision we ever made.
4. I wanted as much freedom you can have, while still having a baby: Yup, I said that too. I wanted to drink a glass of wine without having to pump and dump. I wanted to eat whatever food I wanted to eat without having to pump and dump. Did I mention I might want to leave the baby with my mom, or my mother-in-law for an hour without pumping? No? I didn’t want to pump.
6. I just didn’t want to: Call me selfish. I know, when it comes to the health and welfare of my beloved children, I’m anything but.
7. I didn’t want the additional pressure: Being a new mom is hard enough, and the idea that breastfeeding could complicate that scared the shit out of me.
8. I didn’t want to whip my boobs out everywhere: I’m not a modest person, but I would feel uncomfortable trying to nurse in public. It’s difficult to give a baby a bottle on a bench in front of Target, there is no way I could do that with my boob.
9. I wanted to see and regulate how much my child was eating: This was the biggest one. I wanted to be sure, I mean, really sure, that my kid was getting the right nutrition. I needed to see volume and numbers.
Breastfeeding was not for me.
Feeding my children was still a wonderful and beautiful time. With every bottle I held them in my arms and snuggled their adorable bodies. We never prop bottles, or leave them to drink on the floor or in their crib. With every feeding we still have human contact. And when each of my children was finished with their bottle, I missed it. Just like a breastfeeding mother would miss it when their baby weans.
Just because I chose not to breastfeed doesn’t make me a bad mom.
It makes me a human being.