Yeah, I said it. I hate breastfeeding and I hate smug lactivists. People wax poetic about how wonderful and beautiful and natural it is and I won’t even go into that. There are numerous short-term benefits and some long-term ones for mama, but not so many for the babe*. Even though I haven’t (and probably won’t) give formula to baby M, I definitely don’t view it as rat poison and think moms/parents need to make the choices best suited for them. That said, it’s free and that’s one of the few things I love. But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies:
- It’s exhausting. This is my biggest issue with it. I produce roughly 800 calories worth of breast milk every day. TMI? Whatever. That’s a lot of energy!
- That amount of caloric need also means I’m constantly starving. I strongly believe that pregnancy and nursing are NOT times to worry about your weight or how your body looks but, let’s face it, for someone as vain as me, it’s still hard, and it’s still important to me to maintain healthy eating habits.
- Aside from the physical demand, nursing an infant means you’re constantly releasing oxytocin (aka the “love hormone”) which tends to make one quite… sleepy. As if having an infant who sleeps questionably at night (and never, ever as much as you want them to, regardless of how much they actually sleep) isn’t enough.
- It’s hard. Breastfeeding is hard. And that’s another reason I hate it. Misha latched on the instant I put him on the breast when he was born, but after a few weeks he started to flat-out refuse to nurse**. I had to start pumping so he’d eat (also, for our sanity so that my dad could take him in the mornings and let us get a few hours of rest, since he ate every 2 hours or so) and it was hard, at first. It was hard for me psychologically, feeling like I was somehow inadequate at feeding my own baby. It’s supposed to be natural! It sounds ridiculous now, but it’s a hard thing to deal with.
- Pumping is a whole other beast. There are actually women who never nurse but exclusively pump for their babies. I think that’s amazing, because I know how damn hard it is. For the first 12 weeks, you’re supposed to go absolutely no longer than 3 hours between sessions to establish your milk supply. Yes, even during the night. After that you can start to cut back, but even if you’re only doing it three times a day (as I currently do) it’s just a pain in the butt (this coming from someone who isn’t even working).
- Everyone has a different experience with this one, but I think it hurts everyone to some degree. I was lucky to never have the cracked/bleeding nipples problem (which is fairly common, by the way), nor did I ever get mastitis (inflammation of breast tissue), clogged ducts, thrush, etc. BUT, babies will clamp down really hard in order to stop the milk flow. Just take a moment to imagine that. Then imagine the baby has teeth.***
*The World Health Organization recently did a systematic review of the literature and concluded that there are no substantial long-term benefit to breastfeeding over infant formula; Dr. Amy Tuteur (whose blog I LOVE) summarizes here. This should be somewhat intuitive, because it’s not as though you can look at your group of friends and go, “oh, yeah, she was totally formula fed as a baby.” That isn’t to say there aren’t short-term benefits. There are.
**My “let down” was too fast for him to swallow in time, causing him to choke, and also causing him to be a bit afraid of nursing.
***Misha does not… yet. :(