Why it still matters.

31 Mar

I’m not pregnant right now-I never will be again.

But nothing still raises my ire like the breastfeeding arguments, and the attendant guilt’s and horrors, as detailed by Mad and ready to pop Hannah.

My own breastfeeding troubles were pedestrian. With Vivian, no one helped me, unless you count pushing the kid to the boob as help. With no mother (and hell, I’m adopted anyway) and a MIL who never breastfeed, you do what you know.

With Rosalyn, I was able to do it, physically. However, waking up every 2 hours to feed for days, weeks on end is very dangerous for someone with bipolar, especially someone that unstable after giving birth. I was unstable during the pregnancy as it was.

I had to not breastfeed to preserve my sanity.

There are times when I still feel guilt for this. When the weight of thousands of strangers and their judgement sits heavily on me.

Anymore, I become angry for this, irritated, hateful. Why should their opinions, their possibility misguided and ignorant opinions matter? How dare they judge what they don’t know? How dare they.

I harbour a kernel of hatred for crunchy people because of this. You know the ones I mean-the ones blind to anything but their agenda, the black/white people. The people who obviously cannot see beyond their own noses. If they could, they could see that their rose garden doesn’t always extend to other people. I harbour that black hate because they had a hand in making me hate myself.

And I shouldn’t. And I don’t. I couldn’t breastfeed. I chose the bottle and my sanity over the breast and suicide.

It’s a simple equation.

Except it wasn’t a choice. Not in the sense of “I choose to wear pants today.” It was life against crazy. For some women, it can be life against death. For some, they don’t have the milk, or the will, or the time.

And regardless of their reasoning, it is NONE of my business, or yours. No one will die if they are not breastfeed. Children will be loved by the bottle or by the breast.

But that doesn’t always matter in the face of someone’s agenda. I see it all the time-I see it in the mindless arguing over the Mother’s Act-instead of HELPING each other, we yet again polarize each other into groups, into meaning, into causes.

I’m tired of it girls. I’m tired of backsliding because we can’t get a long and decide that as WOMEN we are stronger together. That as WOMEN we can support each other, guide each other, and help each other find choices that make sense for us, that might make our lives better.

I am 3 years removed from the trenches of the breastfeeding battle, and yet it still hurts to see that women are considered lesser if they don’t, that women aren’t always given the best help from their medical establishment. It still hurts to see that I am so very much not alone in my guilt.

Yet I look at my kids, my nearly perfect, smarter or as smart as their age group daughters who are rarely sick, who love life, who love their parents and their books and their toys. I look at my girls and wonder what’s all the fuss about anyway. Hell, I was taken from my mother, and given to another. And I turned out fine, aside from that pesky bit of genetic crazy that all the breastmilk in the world couldn’t have fixed.

Can’t we just stop, and be there for each other instead?

31 Responses to “Why it still matters.”

  1. Hannah March 31, 2008 at 2:16 pm #

    Thanks for the shout-out. And yes. A thousand times yes. I can only imagine trying to breastfeed while bipolar. After all, it can easily be enough to drive the most mentally & emotionally stable person into a black depression.

  2. thordora March 31, 2008 at 2:32 pm #

    The mothering environment is nothing like it “used” to be. Women used to live in groups, or have their peeps nearby. Now, we’re lucky to have friends.

    The difficulties are worse now than before. And yet we’re still supposed to slap the kid on the nip and soldier on.

    So much has changed. And yet the stubborn mindsets of many haven’t. For every NORMAL lactivist I know, I’ve ran into 5 who aren’t.

  3. daisybones March 31, 2008 at 2:40 pm #

    Well said!

    It seems to be so difficult to advocate for breastfeeding without letting the guilt trip into the mix. I hope I don’t come off as judgemental… I know I am borderline obsessed with boobs and milk;)

  4. Sara March 31, 2008 at 3:16 pm #

    amen! This (more about working vs stay at home but same drift) has been my itch for weeks. Why can’t we just realize that it takes a lot of blood sweat and tears to do this job, we all have our own circumstances, but at the end of the day, we’re all so simlar. Our kids drive us all crazy, yet we’d die for them in a heart beat, can’t that be enough? Do we have to divide ourselves into breast feeders, bottle feaders, stay at home mom’s, working mom’s, work from home mom’s, and the list goes on.

    Come on, please. i’m with you there sister.

  5. mamaloo March 31, 2008 at 3:29 pm #

    I had mixed success, too. I breastfed my first for 2 years but he was a scrawny little chicken of a baby and I was sleep deprived for a solid year due to nursing constantly to keep him alive. It was my choice to do it, though.

    My second son wasn’t as fortunate. I had similar, but worse, problems this time and coupled with having to mother two children, supplemental food soon overtook breastmilk and we went with bottles and formula full time. It still breaks my heart that it didn’t work. I see differences between the two experiences (breastfeeding and formula feeding) and I favour the former.

    I acknowledge that all things being equal bottle feeding formula to an infant is not the normal or optimal feeding method for our species. I support the efforts made to re-normalise breastfeeding in our society and make sure women who need it get clinical support. But breastfeeding at all cost? That can’t possibly work.

    Some people definitely don’t have very good communication skills. Jerks are jerks.

    Of course, I have to point out that this statement “No one will die if they are not breastfeed” is not strictly correct as children die every day around the world (including the western world) because they are not breastfed. Mothers in severe poverty thin formula out, bad water contaminates formula, new formulations cause sickness and death (like when DHA supplements were first introduced)… There are many reasons. Like air travel, formula is mostly safe.

    Noone can truly understand how a mother arrives at the decision to formula feed. But it doesn’t help anyone, the mother or the educator, to make a person feel like shit because of the path she walks.

  6. Jen March 31, 2008 at 3:53 pm #

    You know, part of why I have been so adamant about nursing Chico, even after being hospitalized and choosing to stop, is that I still harbor guilt for not breastfeeding Lucy. I have good reasons and I made the decision after a lot of consideration, but I felt lesser for not doing it. And I’ll admit, it bothers me when I hear about people not breastfeeding. Part is because I remember crying over not being successful at nursing Lucy, part because I know how much I missed nursing Chico while I was in the hospital, and part because I do think I should have tried harder the first time. But is it any of my business? Hell no.

    The thing is, though, I know women who refused to even try to nurse. I know women who started giving formula in order to not have to get up at night. This bothers me, and I can’t put my finger on why. I think maybe because I look at them and wonder if my decision to formula-feed with Lucy was borne more out of selfishness than stress over her health/of being in NICU/of pumping alone in a little room while my MIL and mother cup-fed her/etc. Sorry if this is all awkward and circuitous–the subject makes me all skin-crawly uncomfortable.

  7. thordora March 31, 2008 at 4:02 pm #

    Mamaloo-that’s a good point-I wasn’t going anywhere NEAR the asshat behaviours of formula companies in poor countries-I’m sticking strictly close to home where clean water IS available, and we don’t have the same issues.

    The thought of selling formula in a country with no safe water supply scares me.

    Daisy-you’re one of the ones I think of as normal. Who have a wonderful, yet not “easy” relationship with breastfeeding. You’re honest about the good and bad, and not at all strident. I like that. 🙂

  8. charlotteotter March 31, 2008 at 4:32 pm #

    My feelings exactly. Whether it’s breast-feeding or not, stay at home mothers vs working mothers, whatever the issue, it saddens me when women are polarized against each other.

  9. Eden March 31, 2008 at 4:41 pm #


    Especially: “And regardless of their reasoning, it is NONE of my business, or yours. No one will die if they are not breastfeed. Children will be loved by the bottle or by the breast.”

  10. Miz UV March 31, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    Great post. I’m lucky in that I didn’t give a crap what people thought when I chose not to BF. Just didn’t wanna. Simple as that. My daughters are both smart and healthy teenagers now, so pbbtthh to the boobnazis.

  11. marcelarhodus March 31, 2008 at 6:05 pm #

    The fun part in all the breastfeeding debate is that women are judged no matter what.
    One of my best friends is being constantly criticized cause she’s breastfeeding an 18mos old. thne another friend is criticized cause she’s bottle feeding her 3 mos old boy that spent 2 mos in a NICU…
    it’s a no win situation.
    you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    I think the key is for each of us to know what we want and have realistic expectations, get away from the “pink commercials” expectations of what motherhood should be like and just be the best mother we can be.

    I may feel guilt over different things when it comes to motherhood, but about my choice of feeding for my two kids, that one I’m completely guilt free.

    Amen to all your words!

  12. Judy March 31, 2008 at 6:37 pm #

    So true that you get judged no matter what you do.

    I’m a bit of a “lactivist” at times, but it’s more about educating people and normalizing breastfeeding. I admit I don’t like it when women don’t even try to breastfeed, or seem to have purely selfish or silly reasons for not doing it (“My boobs will sag.” “I want my body back.” “My boobs are for my husband only.”), but ultimately no one else knows another’s reasons.

    My daughter was mostly formula fed. I watned to breastfeed, but my ex was not supportive, I got bad advice, and it all went downhill fast. I still feel guilt, especially since she HAS allergies, asthma, dental problems, had lots of ear infections (and ended up needing tubes in her ears), and I blame all of them on not breastfeeding. But I get guilt and criticism for the fact that my first son nursed until he was 2 1/2, and I tandem nursed for 4 months, and my nearly-2-yo is still nursing frequently at night. You can’t win.

    But it shouldn’t be about fighting. It should be about helping and supporting each other to do what’s right for everyone.

    When Turner was about 8 months old, and I was a little crazy (PPD, sleep deprivation, just having moved to another state), I decided to try going back on the birth control pill, to see if it helped at all. I knew there was a chance it would dry up my milk and I’d have to wean, but I also knew that I had to do what was best for ME, too, so that I could be the best mom for him, and if that meant switching him to formula, I was ready to do so. Fortunately it worked out for us.

  13. Procrastamom March 31, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

    THANK YOU! I always appreciate reading pieces on this topic that are written infinately better than I could ever express it. I have three formula-fed, healthy children and I shouldn’t care what others think of that, but it always pisses me off when the boob patrol starts shouting their schtick. I want to ask them, “why do you care how MY baby is fed/parented/raised? How does any of it affect YOU?” I often wonder if some people just have too much time on their hands.

  14. eringoblog March 31, 2008 at 10:22 pm #

    A-freakin’-men. I have no personal stake in this argument, other than being a woman…but I find this backbiting/sniping at each other happens in so many areas of womanhood. It’s beyond ridiculous. Your decisions are *your decisions* period.

  15. Jenn April 1, 2008 at 8:34 am #

    My mother had twins (my sister and I) and she could not handle having two kids pushed up against the nips… It was just too much. We got milk from a bottle, with a rubber nipple and we are just fine and dandy. Both of us healthy and happy and pretty well adjusted. I have never felt unloved by my mother. Just saying. The hype is all it is. Plain and simple. I would like to see a study done on the long term effects of not breast feeding children. I know many many people who were bottle fed and are smart well adjusted adults. I personally can see no difference. Besides bottle fed infants will also have the opportunity to bond with daddy while he takes the time to feed the baby. Eather way baby is glairing up into a loving persons eyes, and in the warm comfortable embrase of an adult. Love is love wether it comes in the form of a breast or a bottle.

  16. thordora April 1, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    Actually, they have done studies that there are gains made in IQ.


    But I wonder how much is the environment, and the parent. I don’t place much stock in IQ since it’s so very much a relative measure, especially when it comes to class situations.

    I don’t discount there being some benefit to the natural thing to do-I’m just sick of being shit on for not being able to.

  17. radical mama April 1, 2008 at 9:06 am #

    Honestly, I don’t care what other women do and I would never want to make anyone feel guilty or inadequate for bottle-feeding. That being said, I do consider myself a lactivist in the sense that I nurse wherever I damn well please (and for however long I please, which has varied with each child) because breastfeeding is a normal human activity and in no way, shape, or form obscene.

    But I also don’t downplay the health benefits of breastfeeding, which are pretty firmly accepted in the scientific community. I am very against GMOs, pesticides, etc, all of which are found in formula. But that’s me. If a breast feeding mom is eating GMOs and pesticides, there is still exposure to those things (although other health issues come into play as well). I dunno. For me, it is part of a series of lifestyle choices that work best for me and my family and make me happy.

    (I also know I am not one of the loonies that you are referring to. 😉 )

  18. Marcy April 1, 2008 at 9:21 am #

    I still feel a bit judgmental about folks who don’t at least try breastfeeding… but at the same time my experience taught me that “my boobs are mine” can be a real, albeit surfacely silly, reason not to. Theoretically I know breasts are intended for feeding kids, but I couldn’t get past feeling like a cow and considering that a negative. It was too much closeness, too often, too long. I had to acknowledge that psychologically I wasn’t where I was theoretically, and I couldn’t change that by will alone.

    PPD didn’t help, either, including preexisting issues with intimacy, i.e. being deathly afraid of anyone clinging to me.

  19. Mad Hatter April 1, 2008 at 11:48 am #

    I will support any woman who breastfeeds anywhere, anytime, no matter what her child’s age. I will kick at all societal conventions that conspire to prevent her doing so. All that I ask in return is the same kind of support. And that, in short, is what you are saying here. Thanks, Thor.

  20. Heather (the muse has left..) April 1, 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    If breastfeeding makes for gains in IQ, why does my bottlefed 3.5 year old have the vocabulary of a child two years older? And why does her little friend the same age who is STILL breastfed several times a day not have any discernible vocabulary at all nor seems to have the ability to problem solve for herself, much less function outside the small realm of her mother’s influence?

    Parenting, not feeding method. It comes down to the parenting. I mean, my child is supposed to be stupid and behind the curve because I’m low income and I had to bottlefeed her.

    Love your kids, talk to them like human beings, pay attention to them, and feed them. I don’t care how you feed them, because I really don’t think it matters. I hope to breastfeed baby that’s due in a month (it’s cheap and I’m lazy, frankly), but if I start losing my shit due to sleep deprivation or need stronger drugs than zoloft, then sane mama trumps “nature’s perfect food” anytime.

    And I’m all for breastfeeding! I get pissed when I hear about mamas kicked out of restaurants and told to go in the bathroom to feed their babies! Just afford me the same damn courtesy!

  21. Kim April 1, 2008 at 3:57 pm #

    I am so grateful for your post and the comments. I’m one of those Shove the Baby onto the Boob Midwives. But I never thought it could be seen as crass, just accurate. I will take more care. And I DO encourage exclusive breastfeeding. But I also know – and share- how hard it can be (physical, emotional, cultural, familial). The first 10 weeks with my eldest were HELL. Crying, swearing hell. And I’m not proud we made it through, just grateful for the support I had.

    We need to stop beating ourselves up- for births, bottles, diapers, foods, crying it out, screaming, disagreeing, etc, etc, and generally fucking up our kids from the moment they arrive. Isn’t that our job?

  22. thordora April 1, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    It wasn’t the shoving I hated. It was the shoving and walking away without another word or gesture to help. And then thinking I didn’t have any milk because it hadn’t come in.

  23. Kim April 2, 2008 at 12:54 am #

    you got shit for “help”
    i’m sorry for that

  24. Emily April 2, 2008 at 2:02 pm #

    People like to judge each other. I think you’ve done wonderfully well with being both bipolar and a mother – you see your bipolar for what it is instead of shrinking back away from it. I wish my husband would learn from your example and be more open with himself about his own brain and how it works (or doesn’t work). More power to you. I think you’re an inspiration.

  25. OnlyDogsPlease April 4, 2008 at 12:15 pm #

    I am still guilt-laden as well. After 3 days of trying to nurse with VERY inverted nipples, I threw it in and gave him the bottle. We both sighed relief. He was full and I was…ummm…still guilt-laden.

    I am jealous of those who have “no trouble at all.” I am envious of those soldiers that fought tooth and nail to get it to work. But in the end, I am respectful of those that choose the best option for their child and themselves.

    I am a full supporter of the breast, yet I think as women we should be able to choose the best….and that could be the bottle too. If it means happy mom and full baby for some…then it is the best for them.

  26. thordora April 4, 2008 at 12:45 pm #

    ahmen sista. We have enough crap to deal with don’t we. 🙂

    And I heard you on the other post. I just have nothing to offer aside from my ears.

  27. OnlyDogsPlease April 4, 2008 at 7:45 pm #

    Ears are good….:)

  28. OnlyDogsPlease April 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    Oh yes…after selecting the name OnlyDogsPlease, I realized that I am in Catperson territory, and want to assure you that the name was created based on the Mother post….that I used to vow Dogs Only vs Kids….nothing against the feline. They are gorgeous creatures.

  29. thordora April 4, 2008 at 7:51 pm #

    I figured as much. I can always go change it for you if you’d like. 🙂

    Dog people are very much welcome here. I like them. Just don’t want one. 🙂

  30. daureen May 12, 2008 at 9:18 pm #

    I’m so glad you wrote this piece. I’ve been feeling a tremendous amount of guilt for supplementing with formulas and bottles…


  1. Bragging again, are we? « What’s Your Name, Mommy? - April 1, 2008

    […] a really interesting discussion going on over at Thor’s about the judgments surrounding how we feed our babies.  It’s bringing up all sorts of […]

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