Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Breastfeeding Nazi

If you have ever been pregnant, you know the bump prompts bizarre and rather intimate questions from many a stranger. From, "When are you due?" to, "Are you going to have them cut or tear?" the pregnant woman must be prepared for a variety of queries. When you start getting into the topics of birthing and raising a child, there are so many different opinions and theories, I simply plan to do as much research as possible, then draw my own theory from what works best for our family. However, other people (people I am not friends with, and who I don't care to be considered as my acquaintances) have my birthing and child rearing techniques figured out for me in advance.

The other day someone asked me if I planned to breastfeed. I gave my usual answer when this question comes up, "Yes, I'm going to try. Neither my mom nor sister were able to, so I won't be too surprised if it doesn't work out." The normal person would nod and move on to the next topic, but...we'll call her Sandy...decided to take the conversation to the next level. "Well, you know that feeding your son formula could lead to childhood obesity."

Hmmm...this is something I have not heard. I was a formula baby back in the 80's, a time when formula was not nearly as nutritional as it is today. Does that mean I was a fat child? I'm pretty sure I was one of the skinniest kids in my class until I hit puberty, so maybe I was one of the lucky ones? My nieces (also formula fed) are tiny as well. Oh Sandy, do you know what you're talking about? Because I'm pretty sure childhood obesity is caused by parents who are under educated about nutrition. Not to mention the fact that it is cheaper to buy junk food than it is to buy fresh produce, whole grain, and organic products; and State benefits like WIC just happen to cover formula for low income families, who in general fall through the cracks when it comes to nutritional education. I could be wrong, but I think it is a bigger issue than formula Sandy.

Her lecture, lasting about 10 minutes, also included this fun statement: "You know, breastfeeding is really hard. Maybe your mom and sister just didn't try hard enough." Maybe she's right, but I always consider my mom and sister to be fairly strong women when it comes to parenting. My sister has even expressed to me that she had intense guilt and sadness when she switched to formula. And do you know why she felt this way Sandy? Because of people like you! And what about parents whose children have severe reflux, and suck (literally) the life out of their mothers? I know one person who had this experience, and she told me, "I had my shirt off all day because he would feed, then throw up, then want to feed more. My body couldn't handle it. I had to switch to formula."

I ventured to change the subject before I yelled at her: "So Sandy, you must have kids then." And guess what...she does NOT! But she is considering having kids sometime, but hopefully not soon. Then she went into a very awkward monologue about why she doesn't want to have kids yet. I think she deduced that my having discovered her lack in parenting meant I did not value or appreciate her feedback, because the next topic of conversation was about the game Monopoly.

This experience has made me very cautious when people ask personal questions about my pregnancy. The other day, while having dinner with a good friend she asked, "Are you going to get an epidural?" I tiptoed around the topic for a few seconds before she recognized my embarrassment and followed up with, "Not because I want to judge you, but because I was just curious." Phew!

I want everyone out there to know that any decision I make in the birthing and parenting of my baby will be centered around what is best for us. If I need a Caesarean section, I am fine with the procedure as long as it is what is best for Baby. If I let Baby cry in the process of teaching how to self-soothe himself to sleep, it is because a sleeping baby makes a happy family. I will attempt to breastfeed, and who knows, maybe I will like it so much and be so good at it that I will do it until he's 7. Hopefully not, but you never know.

In conclusion, I think my go-to answer for breastfeeding questions in the future will be: Breastfeeding is SO bourgeois!


  1. Yeah, when people ask if I breast feed, I tell them that I did for three months (we had to use a nipple shield that entire time), but I had to stop because of some medication I had to begin taking again. I usually get kind of funny looks with that as if they are thinking "I bet that medication was something that could have waited for her to finish BFing or I bet she is making it up and doesn't actually have to take medicine. So then I have to explain that I have epilepsy and it is more important that I take my medication and not have a seizure than it is for him to get breast milk. They usually promptly stick their foot in their mouth.

    1. Wow that's insane Nadia! Good for you for making them put their foot in mouth!

  2. Love this post! GOod for you. I had a hard time breastfeeding with both girls. With Lauren I held on for about 2 weeks before we were both just physically and emotionally spent. Kaelin only lasted about 3 days on the boob but I just was not producing and the Dr. basically told me to supplement with formula or they were admitting her back to the hospital because she was losing weight. I can tell you that a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when I finally started formula. I won't ever say I "gave up" because both me and the girls fought like hell to make it work.
    I totally understand your conversation with "Sandy" . I had someone tell me once that if this was the "olden days" that my girls would have died of starvation because I didn't keep trying to breastfeed. NO JOKE!!
    My delivery nurse with Kaelin, when I told her I was going to TRY to breastfeed said "TRY?? THat's just setting yourself up for failure. Are you or aren't you going to breastfeed?" Yep.

    Anyways..I love your attitude about the situation and I'm glad you are going into this with the right mindset. I
    Wishing you the best!

    1. Thanks Kristen! It seems like there are so many women who struggle with this. It must be in the Kelleher genes. :) Realistically, in the olden days you probably would have just hired a wet nurse, or used milk from your livestock. Funny to think about!

  3. I've been on both sides of this (formula for Joe and bf for Sam) and it's amazing what a painfully touchy subject it is! Sandy was right in that formula has been linked to higher rates of childhood obesity, and as I'm sure you know, there are a billion health benefits to bf. That being said, there is nothing saying that formula fed kids can't be healthy and happy too. It's definately a decision that you have to make based on what is best for you and the baby, and you have to try your best to block out everyone else's thoughts, opinions and statistics. Either way, you'll probably get crap from people, either for not bf-ing, or for attemting to bf any place other than your bedroom. With the door closed. And the lights off.
    Breast feeding IS extremely hard--especially for the first 6 weeks. It's painful, hard work and physically and emotionally exhausting at times. But it can be really rewarding too once you get past the worst of it. If you really want to do it, the key is having support and experts there to help you if/when you need it. And if it isn't working for you guys, enjoy sending Jeff out in the middle of the night to make a bottle! I literally cried for months about not being able to bf Joe (hello hormomnes!) but you have no idea how many sleepless nights I've wished I could hand Sam off to Luke!


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