So, it’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and World Breastfeeding Week and I didn’t know that. But since I recently was in a hospital in Canada giving birth to my son, I’m well aware of the push for breastfeeding. In fact, I felt I was in a cult, not a hospital, because on every wall and in every hospital room on the maternity floor, there were signs posted about the “benefits of breastfeeding.” I read these posters, oh, about a million times, since that was the only decorations on the wall. I almost asked my daughter to bring me her art supplies so I could make my own sign with magic markers writing out the “benefits of formula feeding.”
I knew I didn’t want to breastfeed BEFORE I even went to the hospital and stocked my shelves with formula. Of course I was asked as soon as I gave birth if I was going to breastfeed. I answered, “No,” pleasantly but firmly. The first nurse didn’t say anything but in my two and a half days in the hospital I was asked this question time and time again, always with the added, “Don’t you want to try?” Um, no, I didn’t want to try. Even the pediatrician who came to check on my baby started to tell me about the benefits of breastfeeding while I listened patiently with a dazed look. She knew she couldn’t convince me and actually stopped mid-sentence and left the room because she knew she was arguing with someone (me) who was a lost cause.
The hospital I was in was fucked to put it mildly. The nurses gave me formula, but one day as I was walking my laps around the maternity ward I overheard a nurse tell a new mother that the hospital didn’t provide formula. This of course was bullshit because I was given formula. I suppose I was lucky I had a nurse who didn’t care whether I breastfed or not. I actually wanted to walk into this new mother’s room and say, “She’s lying! They gave me formula!” It was quite obvious that the nurses had all the power when it came to whether you could formula feed, and that pissed me off. I’m all for women’s choice and hospitals that ban formula feeding piss me off because shouldn’t it be the MOTHER’S choice?
Now for a bit of bragging, which I don’t often do: I didn’t breastfeed my daughter, who is now almost nine, because I wanted a bit of freedom, meaning I wanted her father to help out with feedings and also anyone else who wanted to feed her. I also didn’t want my boobs to turn to shit, which is what happens when some people breastfeed. I know this because many friends have shown me their boobs after breastfeeding, especially after two children, and have such anxiety about it. But back to bragging. My formula-fed daughter has only been sick with the flu once and had strep throat once in her eight years on this earth. Meanwhile, my two best friends, who breastfed their children, have constant problems with asthma, earaches, and sore throats. Yeah, breastfeeding really helped them with the health of their child.
Does breastfeeding make your baby smarter? Well, um, my daughter got into one of the hardest private schools in Canada and also got into the National Ballet of Canada. She is also the happiest kid around. In other words, the kid is all right.
There’s the losing weight faster argument, but for every woman who has told me they lost weight quickly, I can find another woman who says it didn’t do anything and even one friend who told me breastfeeding made her fatter. I was back to my fighting shape four months after I had formula-fed my daughter just by eating healthy and working out. I know. I know. Studies have been done about breastfeeding and the benefits. But do they take into consideration the woman’s age, the woman’s lifestyle, and most importantly, the woman’s choice?
In fact, these pushes for breastfeeding can be insulting to women who adopt, or who just can’t breastfeed (and many women just can’t.)
I’m not convinced obviously that breastfeeding is best. I am convinced the people who benefit the most from breastfeeding are plastic surgeons because every woman I know who has breastfed always starts talking about getting boob jobs after they are finished breastfeeding. Yet the biggest argument, I find, for breastfeeding is “bonding.” I know women who love the bonding, but I feel super bonded to my infant son (as I did and do with my daughter) when I bottle feed. My daughter and I are super close and I really don’t think I’d be any closer to her if I had breastfed her.
So whether you breastfeed or not, I really do think it’s a crapshoot whether your baby will have health issues, or if you bond more, or if you’ll lose weight quicker. Your child has just as much a chance of mine to end up doing drugs in their teenage years and telling you that they hate you. When it comes to babies, everything is cyclical. Five years ago, you were allowed to put your baby on their stomach to sleep. Now you can’t. Five years ago, you could have bumpers in your crib. Now you shouldn’t. Five years ago, the car seat could go anywhere in the back seat, but now it should be in the middle. Who the hell can keep up with what is best and what isn’t? I do know that a mother knows best. So breastfeed or don’t, but push back if tyrannical nurses push you into doing something you don’t want to do. In the meantime, with all this ruckus about banning formula feeding, I can just picture all the plastic surgeons laughing and thinking, “More clients for us! Ha ha ha!”