I am totally pro breastfeeding. For the record, I do actually think it’s easier than bottle feeding when what you compare it to is the hassle of having to wash nipples and remember formula and fetch bottles at midnight for a full-term infant who is growing like a weed.
But yesterday I made the mistake of clicking a link that led to a breastfeeding advocacy forum and there I saw a picture of a form filled out by a new mom. Long story short, she wasn’t sure if she would breastfeed or for how long because she wanted to share some of the responsibility for feeding, though she did say she was interested in nursing and that her family would be supportive. Now the forum members did not, as you might assume, express their hopes that she would find the information she needed to make an informed choice.
Nope. What many did was say things like “People like her shouldn’t breed.” and “It IS her responsibility – moms are so selfish nowadays.” and “She’s crazy! Breastfeeding is so much easier!” and “Why aren’t you pumping OMG?”
Aside from the fact that these supposed advocates were not advocating, but judging – and harshly, at that – they were also ignoring something really important. Which is that they don’t know the mom who filled out the form. They had no idea if she would have to go back to work in six short weeks at a job that had no pumping support – or even if she could reasonably afford the upfront expense of a breast pump. None of them knew if her baby was a roly-poly termie who sucks like a hoover or a 33 week preemie with a weak latch and jaw issues. Whether this mom was taking a medication that isn’t compatible with breastfeeding and still considering whether it’s worth the risk of stopping for some period of time.
Here’s what they thought they knew: This mom must be selfish (because she wanted someone else to feed the baby now and then) and lazy (because she is worried that breastfeeding might be difficult) and stupid (because she hinted that bottle feeding might be easier). Putting aside for the fact that these supposed advocates were anything but and probably have caused more new moms NOT to breastfeed because they are just plain mean, let’s take a look at that last point.
Is breastfeeding easier? Sure, in a lot of ways. No washing bottles or worrying about the quality of the water or spending eleventy billion dollars on formula. But here are five ways that breastfeeding is definitely not easier.
1. A breastfeeding mom has sole responsibility for feeding the baby, day and night. For many moms, myself included, that means that the longest she can take a breather is an hour or two. The mister is wonderful about getting up with me more often than not, but I do plenty of solo overnight feeds there in the dark alone with nothing but my thoughts. If Bo was a needier baby, I might go crazy.
2. Yes, help with feedings is available if a mom wants to hook herself up to a breast pump. Provided she is the kind of mom who can pump enough to make a bottle or two with a consumer grade pump. Many can’t.
3. Leakage. I’m lucky in that I have only once ever had milk come out when there wasn’t a baby attached to my breast, but I know plenty of people who lactate like faucets – soaking through pad after pad until finally soaking through both bra and shirt. For SAHMs or moms still on maternity leave, this isn’t an issue, but if you’re a working mom in an office working with anyone who is not also a mom… I wouldn’t call dealing with that ‘easy’.
4. Breastfeeding is not easier when you have a preemie or a baby with a facial abnormality or conditions like Down syndrome or severe allergies. I shed too many tears when P. was a baby because I felt guilty that breastfeeding wasn’t just oh so easy like all those supposed advocates were saying it ought to be. For us, breastfeeding was really, really hard and something we worked at for MONTHS.
5. And finally, breastfeeding is not easier when you’re sporting a couple of cantaloupes. Or watermelons. I will be forever envious of my small-bosomed friends who can put a baby to breast with total modesty, hardly adjusting their clothing. These are the kinds of moms who can nurse in a restaurant without having to erect a tent out of spare scarves and sweaters. The kinds of moms who don’t have to use one hand to hold their breasts because even a strong latch isn’t sufficient to keep that sucker in a newborn’s mouth. Because when I’m breastfeeding, the world knows it. Luckily, the world has been kind enough to politely avert its eyes thus far.
Can you think of other ways breastfeeding is definitely NOT easier than bottle feeding? What did I miss?