Tuesday, July 10, 2007

:: Osmosis and Positive Thinking ::

Tomorrow Evan, Brian, and I have an appointment with a lactation consultant. We're just over two weeks into breastfeeding and still having trouble. Evan is gaining weight, which is a sign that things are going at least OK, but I'm still having a lot of pain and something needs to change.

I've been very lucky to have several friends who've gone through this recently (particularly one friend with an 8-month-old baby one with a 3-month-old) who have emailed with me over the last several days about the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding. These friends have been so supportive, reassuring, and kind, and I appreciate their help. They have shared their own painful and messy breastfeeding stories and reassured me that it does get better -- both physically and mentally. They have given me hope. But they have also, in some strange way, added to my turmoil over the decision to breastfeed. I feel so much pressure to continue breastfeeding, particularly with all these friends telling me about how they stuck it out. And I mean, I did promise myself and Brian and Evan that I would try it for a month before deciding to give it up, so it's not just these friends adding to the pressure -- it's partly my own desire to make this work in the end.

Yet I still feel very conflicted about it and, honestly, have very negative feelings about breastfeeding. I seek these stories from friends and others who've been through it, but I also seek reassurance that if I choose not to stick with breastfeeding Evan, that's OK, too.

Interestingly, I have found so many stories from women who have stuck with breastfeeding, but I have been unable to find many stories from the other side, from mothers who chose to quit breastfeeding. I can't find these stories online nor do I have non-breastfeeding friends writing to reassure me. Only my mother, who never breastfed either of her daughters (it was common in the seventies to formula feed from the beginning), has tried to reassure me that choosing formula is a perfectly fine option.

I find all of this a little bit strange. First, I find the extreme enthusiasm from the breastfeeding side of the crowd a bit, well, zealous. It almost feels as though these women got addicted to some powerful drug that they want me addicted to, as well. Or maybe it's more like a cult, the members of which remember their early hazing days but think of them as a necessary evil that allowed them full membership in what they now promote as the most wonderful club in the world.

I find the silence on the part of non-breastfeeders equally odd. This is an difficult decision to make -- what with the American Pediatric Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and others advocating that breast is best -- and the emotional toll is extremely taxing. There's a lot of personal and cultural guilt attached to choosing formula over breast. Plus there's the financial element: choosing formula costs a lot more than choosing the breast. And what about the much-touted benefits for mother, including that breastfeeding helps moms lose their pregnancy weight? With all of these benefits and related factors, I'd think that mothers who made the difficult decision not to breastfeed might want to speak up and let other mothers know it's both OK and not harming their babies or themselves.

It's so interesting to me that breastfeeding is such a difficult thing here in the U.S., and I wonder if the same is true elsewhere or if we've just convinced ourselves as a culture that it's so hard. With all the lactation consultants and breastfeeding support groups, it's tempting to think that maybe breastfeeding isn't as natural as it seems. If it were so natural, wouldn't baby know how to do it better and wouldn't mom be better equipped? If there shouldn't be any pain related to breastfeeding (as all the books and consultants and other breastfeeding experts tell you), then why does every single woman I've ever heard of experience so much pain in the early weeks?

My current pretend solution is to just not feed the baby at all. (PLEASE note my emphasis on the word "pretend" in that previous sentence.) I am unhappy with breastfeeding but I also do not want to make the switch to formula. Faced with the choice between one or the other, and not wanting either option, I am forced, in my mind, to choose neither.

But alas. I don't live in a world where babies can take in vitamins, minerals, and calories via osmosis or positive thinking. Which leaves me, for now, sticking to the boob, if only because choosing not to breastfeed is a decision I can't reverse and I'm not comfortable making that BIG a decision yet.

Perhaps the trip to the lactation consultant tomorrow will transform my experience, initiating me fully into the breastfeeding community. And perhaps it won't. I'm trying to be OK with either outcome.


Katie Klein July 11, 2007 at 10:53 AM  

Congratulations on Evan! Reading your post reminded me that Kate Costa is very into breastfeeding (I'm sure you remember her from Alpha Phi). She is in georgia but runs a group on breastfeeding - http://columbusbirthnetwork.googlepages.com/

Good luck with it!