On pumping, formula and breastfeeding

We just don't do much that is middle of the road here in the states.We really love extremes. In the 1950's society, and our love and belief in technology convinced generations of women that formula was best for their babies. The downfall of this was that that women and babies lost the benefits breastfeeding. The great thing is that women who might have had breastfeeding struggles had choices.

But then came the backlash (as it always does) and "breastfeeding is best" became a mantra for lots of people. Women were (are) encouraged and expected to breastfeed. That is the default. The downfall of this is that it creates guilt if you can't breastfeed (or exclusively breastfeed) and leaves out options for the poor, and ignores historical oppressive issues with women of color (think wet nurse). The advantage is that breastfeeding women are allowed to breastfeed in public and supported in their decision to do so, and are of course giving their babies any extra health benefits.*

The fact of the matter, as with many things, the answer for us and I think for most people is somewhere in the middle. Exclusive bottle feeding and exclusive breastfeeding and the range in between are all good. None of these options is bad. But coming to this reality is a struggle.

As Junia is no longer with me during the day 4 days a week I spend a fair amount of time pumping, thinking about pumping, or feeling guilty for not pumping yet. It seems no matter how much I pump in the day, no matter which pump I use I am only getting about 6oz. Or in real-speak I am pumping 1 bottle. It's no shock that Junia consumes more than 1 bottle in the time I am away from her. So we have the choice to give her formula or let her be a VERY hungry baby.

So what this means for us then is that Junia is getting a fair amount of formula. The problem is not that she is getting formula. It's not even the cost of formula (well that's for another post!) The problem is social shame we confront when we are committed to breastfeeding and around women who. 1. Can pump like a holstein, and 2. Don't have to be separated from their child and thus rarely have to pump at all.

People who solely use formula have contended with the "breast is best" crowd early on and are righteous in their position, even if they've come through a battle to get there. And the "breast is best" crowd often has tremendous social and economic privilege that is unnamed in their position. So being in the middle has been (and at moments still is) a source of shame. When Junia is gassy, or constipated, or fussy, or irritable I cannot help but wonder, "is it the fomula." Because, I have been slowly and subtly convinced by the "breast is best" crowd that your child is perfect and problem free if they are breastfed.

So what is really going on here?

I think this is another example of a place where women have a tremendous opportunity to support and encourage one another and instead we take on an often competitive nature within it. Furthermore, it seems that because men don't have experience with all this breastfeeding stuff, we pull them into our side of the arena. We label things as good or bad; we decide when women haven't tried hard enough to breastfeed, or have "given up." We (Seattle-lites especially) judge women who don't buy organic, who don't "wear" their babies, aren't obsessed with what does and does not have BPA in it- and breastfeeding is the loudest voice in this!

So once again women, lets affirm that the job of parenting (and of being woman) is hard, the spectrum is wide, and that we cannot be perfect no matter how hard we try. Let's affirm that each of us has the wisdom within us to make decisions that are right for our families, our children, and most importantly ourselves.

*Only for a certain amount of time. It seems that breastfeeding becomes "unacceptable" after a certain age.


  1. I could not agree more. Jeff's mantra is always that we are the only experts on our child and our family. Looking at it that way helped us (really, me) deal with the guilt factor and enjoy what I COULD give.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts