My thought for the day as I was knitting in my bedroom during Cole's nap: breastfeeding in the parenting world is such a sensitive issue, like abortion in politics; there is usually such an extreme left or right view, with very little attention to an individual circumstance that might land middle ground. (Actually, not only very little attention, but often immediate judgement for not breastfeeding.)
I understand and fully agree that breast milk, with the ability to.. meet a baby's changing nutritional needs, provide antibodies to protect from common respiratory and intestinal diseases, and aid the mother's health, to name just a few benefits.. proves the best option for the baby. I am definitely pro breastfeeding, but Cole was only breastfed until he was five months old, all along being supplemented with formula since day one. I definitely didn't go without criticism (verbalized or not) for pulling out a bottle. To put it out there, here's my story:
Cole was born a HUNGRY baby. He still is.. always starving. When he was a newborn, he was immediately a "good" breast feeder. He would latch on correctly, had a very strong suck, and would empty both breasts completely, usually in as much as 30 minutes. I never had the problem of the newborn falling asleep at the breast. (Well, maybe the first 2 days.) This wasn't an option for Cole; he was too focused on filling his tummy quickly. His eating habits were nice for me. I very rarely felt engorged or had a problem with leaking. I always wore breast pads to play it safe, but only remember it every proving beneficial maybe twice in the entire 5 months of breastfeeding. But I very often fed Cole for a good 30 minutes to finish with a baby who was still hungry. His doctor encouraged me to supplement with formula. (Usually after just a couple of feedings a day.) And that helped!
Because of his ever-present hunger (that his original doctor attributed to being a big baby and a probable inheritance of my blood sugar issues), breastfeeding created a bit of anxiety for both of us. Even one second of the nipple being out of his mouth initiated a screaming, angry Cole. This is obviously unavoidable when I was switching sides, so I just got crazy good at being very quick. Our second and most pressing issue was Cole's refusal to feed under a blanket or cover without a fight. So feeding in public? Impossible..unless I didn't mind doing it with a kicking, crying baby, or, at it's best- an anxious baby that couldn't relax during feeding time.
So, for five months I would breastfeed Cole the appropriate number of times a day, sometimes follow with a couple of ounces of formula, and usually choose to be a calm mother with a calm baby on Sundays- our day with an inevitable public feeding session- and bottle feed him ONCE during church. Cole took to a bottle easily, and his bottle feeding never imposed on his breastfeeding. He would do both easily. This worked for us. And this allowed me to get out every once in a while, leaving Brad with a bottle and good instructions, without worrying about having to be back in two hours. (Or more often than leaving Cole with Brad, taking Cole with me and packing a bottle.) My anxiety was drastically toned down and Cole was calm and content. This made me a better mother.
Then a cross country move happened immediately after I was hospitalized for a rare tropical disease I picked up in Hawaii. Both events depleted me of fluids or caused major stress, lowering my milk supply. By the time we got to Utah, when Cole was just over 3 months, breastfeeding became a physical struggle between the two of us. I was so determined to keep feeding Cole the "best," but Cole's frustration with getting so little milk during breastfeeding turned him off completely. I tried holding his head to my chest to encourage him so suck. I tried only feeding him in a quiet room with just the two of us. I tried singing and stroking his head. Nothing would convince him to breastfeed. I researched my options. I cried. I had a serious inner struggle about my decision to bottle feed.
Come five months, Cole was easily weaned from the breast and took a bottle for all of his feedings. Arguments from the breastfeeding-is -the-ONLY-way community:
health risk from lack of antibodies: I hope I didn't jeopardize Cole's health! This was the major issue that caused inner conflict with my "to bottle feed or not to bottle feed" decision. He's had 3 ear infections and his most recent cough/cold. Maybe that is from the lack of antibodies from breast milk; maybe not.
contamination of bottles and nipples: I don't think I could get any cleaner/ conscious of what I give to my child. Not an issue.
lack of bonding between mother and baby: Luckily, this was NEVER an issue for us. Actually, it was quite the opposite: Cole is so much calmer with a bottle that he ever was with the breast. I would never compromise the time I have with Cole when I'm feeding him, breast or no breast.
ability for mother to loose pregnancy weight quicker: I'm 15 pounds lower than before I got pregnant. I need to figure out how to stop loosing weight.
I hope that I don't put Cole at risk for a lower IQ or myself at risk of Ovarian or Breast Cancer for breastfeeding 7 months shorter than the recommended amount of time. I have been conscious of not adding to plastic waste in the environment. I have tried to make a decision based on what was best for me and what was best for my son. It was a hard one but one that I have yet to regret.
Where does this leave me? It doesn't change my ideas about breastfeeding being the best option. I will definitely start new with my second child. But it puts me in a position where I have realized that life can't always be so two-valued: black or white; left or right; breast or bottle.