Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Great Breastfeeding Debate

Before I gave birth, I didn't talk a lot about my feelings on breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding. For one thing, I feel that this is a very personal choice, and one that each woman should make on their own. For another thing, I think that there is a lot of pressure out there these days on women to choose breast over bottle. There's a lot of criticism for not choosing the "right" option, and many other bloggers have been crucified for their choices. So I kept sort of quiet about my own feelings.

Now that my choice has been made, and I've mentioned a few times that I've been working on this post, you obiously know that I'm breastfeeding. But, like my birth story, this is not the route that I had planned on taking. I hope that by putting my thoughts on "paper" my own experiences can help some other woman out there who might be as on the fence as I was about breastfeeding.

Before I begin, let me say that I try not to judge others for their choices, or the reasons behind them, and I hope that my readers can do the same for me. If I offend anyone, please forgive. Some of my opinoins might not be your opinions, and things that matter to me might or might not matter to you. I hope that we can overcome those differences and still be friends. Basically, don't hate me if you don't agree with me, ok? Thanks!

First of all, you should know that I did not breastfeed my daughter. I had no desire or inclination to even try it, and I had heard from several women that if you didn't have the slightest inkling to do so, then you shouldn't attempt it. There were several reasons why I made the decision - no maternity leave time off, I worked in an office with only 3 other women and about 25 men, with no private area other than a bathroom that was unisex (need I say more?), and that lack of desire that I've already mentioned. So I didn’t even attempt to breastfeed with my daughter. When my milk came in, I stopped it right away.

With this pregnancy, for the first time, I wondered about breastfeeding. Like if I should attempt it and if I would like doing it. You see, as bad as it sounds, my first and foremost thought wasn't that breastfeeding might be the best for my child. My first thoughts were for my own comfort level. That sounds really mean, until you remember that I've had a child. A child that was 100% formula-fed. And she's completely healthy. She's a little pip-squeak, but that's genetics, not what she ate as an infant. In fact, I would go out on a limb and say that my daughter's been healthier than several other kids her age that I know were breastfed. So when people made the argument to me that breastfeeding is the best for the infant, I already know that this argument isn't necessarily true.

Yes, there are things that breastmilk can do for an infant that formula can't. I agree with that statement. I know that there are immunities and such that can be passed from mother to child that a child cannot get from formula. But once you've had a child that made it through those first few scary years with no really horrible diseases and such, and they did it without getting any of those immunities from me, then you become a little jaded on that point as well.

See, it's not as bad as it sounds that my child's well-being wasn't first on my mind. Really.

What was first on my mind? All the horror stories that I've either read or heard about from other women who breastfed and had problems. Even those women who didn't have problems feeding necessarily still had negative things to say about what breastfeeding did to their body. To their breasts, more specifically. There's everything from cracked nipples, bleeding, teething infants, clogged ducts, milk fever, change in shape of either nipples or breasts and the list could go on and on. Just like when you're pregnant and you hear every horror story about birth defects and deformities known to man, the same happens when you tell people that you're not sure about breastfeeding.

And to be perfectly honest, not to share TMI, but I like my boobs. Sure, they aren’t as perky in my 30s as they were while in my 20s, but that's to be expected. I think that they're one of my better features of my body, and I really didn't want them messed up. I know that's selfish, I really do. And I don't mean to be selfish, but hey - it's my body. And trying to be honest here, it was a major concern for me. I don't want to do something that's uncomfortable or painful to me. I mean, making the decision to do something that causes pleasure is an easy decision. Deciding to do something that can potentially cause pain is another thing entirely.

But yet, despite all of those arguments, there was a nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to consider all of my options. This little voice was saying "what if" in the quietest voice possible and I couldn't help but maybe listen a bit. What if I regretted never trying breastfeeding? What if it wasn’t as bad as I had heard? What if I really liked it? So I gathered information where I could, read all of the blog posts from other new moms on their experiences with breastfeeding that I could find. And I thought. Then I thought some more. And on the day of my son's birth, I was still thinking.

I know what you're thinking, Mom. Typical, huh? Yeah, pretty much!

In the end, the decision to breastfeed or not was made for me. You see, with all of the complications that I had during Jax’s birth, it was recommended that I breastfeed for my own health. Apparently breastfeeding helps the body make the uterus contract and stop clotting, and if you’ve read my birth story, then you know that I was having a problem with that not happening. Stopping the clotting was of utmost importance, for one to stop the clots and for another to conserve what blood was left in my body! I know that sounds extreme, but it’s really the truth. When faced with the options to either try breastfeeding (at least for a little while) or have a blood transfusion - the choice was pretty easy for me.

And to my surprise, Jax seemed to be a natural at it. He learned to latch on within the first day or so, with the help of the nipple shields that I’ve already talked about here. I breastfed him in the hospital and supplemented with the formula that they provided me since my milk wasn’t fully in yet. He was doing well on my colostrum and once we got home and settled in, my milk came in within a day or so. And even though I was a newbie with this type of feeding, by his two-week check-up he’d regained his birth weight plus another pound. Yea, I was doing something right!

Now the only question is how long will I continue to do this? I can’t answer that right now. I did have to find a breast-pump, my boobs are much more comfortable for me having one! I got lucky and scored a great used one off of my favorite shopping site – Craigslist. It’s a Medela pump (the back-pack style), the Pump In Style Advanced, and it came with all sorts of extras that the lady selling it threw in there. It’s easily a $300 system (not counting those extras) and she sold it to me for $85!!! Yes, you read that right. $85. It was a great score for me, and I can easily turn around and resell it myself when I’m done with it. Naturally, I went out and bought new parts for the pieces that touch me (and new tubing as well) which cost me another $35 - but still, it was a heck of a deal.

So, I’d easily be able to take along my pump when I return to work and pump there and continue to breastfeed at home. But I don’t know that I want to do that. I didn’t really have a goal set in my head for how long I wanted to be able to do this. At first, I figured that I’d like to do it for six weeks. I figure that if I’m not going to pump at work, I would need to stop two weeks before going back to work in order to get my milk stopped. And right now, I’ve made it almost 4 weeks. Will I continue past the six week mark? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not.

I guess that I’ll just take it one day at a time. For now, I’m shocked at how much I enjoy doing it and how easy it is for both of us. He seems to be thriving on my milk, which is a good thing, and I know that I’m doing something really good for him, with all of the extra benefits for me! Yes, the rumors about weight loss and breastfeeding being related are totally true – I’m at least 10 pounds below my starting pregnancy weight right now and losing each day even though I eat like it’s going out of style!

If you’re on the fence about breastfeeding, I hope that this helped you a little bit. There’s not scientific facts, or sources to read and help you decide. Just my own experience with not being sure, trying it and loving it. There are some moms that go through some really tough times while breastfeeding (I totally draw the line at stopping when the teeth come in!) and there are all sorts of problems that can come up while breastfeeding. But it can also go the exact opposite way. It can be natural, and easy, and mostly pain-free!

1 comment:

breast pump advocate said...

This debate goes on & on, weather to feed the baby or not, if yes till how many months ? Do we need any aid or tools to feed baby? Ultimately it should be decide by the mother with respect to doctors advice & baby's condition.