I think about breastfeeding a lot... probably because I spend a lot of time doing it or pumping. It is a huge part of my life right now. I was enjoying Juile's post on breastfeeding the other week and reading through the comments and I saw one where the mom said that she didn't have problems doing it, but didn't like it and quit for that reason. But the part that struck me about her comment was that she said that feeding her child was just such a small part of being a mother.
I was really taken back by this. I mean, she's right. I am probably more obsessed with breastfeeding than I should be. But at the same time, regardless of your feeding choices, feeding, eating, and the interaction from those activities is still, I think, a pretty big part of parenting. Beyond the breast/bottle feeding time, many experts emphasize how important it is to eat meals together as a family, at the table, TV off. Cooking is so important, the act of teaching your children to cook itself. And think about the many cultures in the world, they are often defined by their food as much as their geography. Eating is part of our heritage. Even grocery shopping. We are having baby-wearing success these days with our sling and I was wearing Michael while picking out tomatoes the other day and I saw him watching me and thought to myself that this is so trivial but still so huge. Just watching me pick tomatoes is such an important learning experience for him. And last but not least, the health of a person is strongly dictated by the choices made here too. Our lives revolve around eating.
But back to the breastfeeding. It has always been a HUGE part of mine and Michael's relationship. First, the kid was a hungry baby. For the first couple months of his life I was always feeding or changing him. Sometimes he would actually want to play and I would feel a little lost because I didn't know anything to do with him that didn't involve the digestive track. And there were all the difficulties feeding him that had to be overcome and I still am very sensitive about all of that. Then he started daycare, it seems like we are always fighting to get him to eat at daycare (he's been doing better with his sippy cup the last couple of days in case you were wondering). And the pumping... so much of my self-esteem is centered around feeding him and a bad pumping day just about makes me want to cry even though I've probably produced enough milk for him. And the allergy issue... I have to think about everything I eat because of it's affects on Michael (that's going pretty slowly right now... so far it appears that ALL legumes and most tree nuts are causing problems). Yes, so breastfeeding = HUGE to me.
And all of my 6 months of experiences here definitely have led me to form a complicated opinion of breastfeeding. Without a moment of hesitation I will profess to loving it. And I really do, it is just so awesome in so many ways. I think nearly (emphasis on nearly, because I know there are lots of exceptions) every mom should try to provide breastmilk (preferably at the breast) for their babies. I think it is a baby's right to receive it (sorry if this offends people, but it's my opinion). That said, I definitely understand that it is NOT for everyone. I mean, did you read the last paragraph? If I didn't love doing it, I would definitely not be doing it. Feeding choices are important, but a happy mom and baby are the most important.
This makes me think of my 3 SILs:
SIL #1 - When I told her I planned to breastfeed she said, "Oh, you won't do it for long, it's really annoying." A couple of months into breastfeeding she made a comment that she "could not" (read: unable) breastfeed. So this leads me to think she had negative breastfeeding experiences, but I've never really talked to her about it.
SIL #2 - Could not feed at the breast and exclusively pumped for more than a year. Now that I pump at work, I'm in awe that she did that. Wow. I could not have done that, at all.
SIL #3 - Made up her mind that she wasn't going to do it and never tried once.
I respect SIL #3's decision but at the same time I wish she would have at least tried. I think they are trying for #2 right now and I'm kinda hoping that we don't talk about this topic because I don't think I can talk about it without clearly showing my pro-BFing, lactivist attitude. I want to tell her to do it and how great it will be and all the wonderful things about it... basically I don't think I can say much about it without showing that I don't completely agree with her decision on her first child. Another thing is, I don't want to sell breastfeeding to her and then her actually try it and not like it. Breastfeeding can be HARD! I don't want her to be angry at me because I sold her an ideal and then she tries it and isn't happy. But if she does decide to breastfeed, I want to be there for her and help her and be a resource that she feels comfortable coming to, even if it's to ask, "Do you think it's ok to quit?"
But mostly, I just get pissed off at 'society' when I think about breastfeeding. If it wasn't hard enough to begin with, it seems like 'everyone' is telling moms to breastfeed and not supporting them in the least. They make it taboo to nurse in public. So many people see BFing a child past the first few months to be ridiculous (not to mention the weirdo looks extended breastfeeding gets). Mis-informed physicians. Shitty maternity leave. It just seems that there are so many road blocks on the horizon. Of course, that's not to say that formula feeding doesn't have it's critics (and that's an understatement). I hate the a-holes that equate formula to poison. Formula is the appropriate or best choice for lots of families. But society wants mothers to breastfeed and then freaks when they see a nipple. Society can say they want moms to breastfeed, but it will always be more comfortable with a can and bottle.
I don't have a nice way to wrap this all up into a neat little package. Breastfeeding is complicated. Parenting is complicated. (Getting pregnant is complicated.) We are all fighting our own fight and doing the best that we can. How someone feeds their child up to that person. My hope is that more of them choose to breastfeed. I think it's everyone's responsibility to look out for the right of parent to make that choice and support them in it.