Dealing with the Breastfeeding Debate
It seems that this summer the issue of breastfeeding featured very prominently in the news, whether it’s the Time magazine cover promoting attachment parenting or Mayor Bloomberg’s voluntary program that hospitals only provide formula to new mothers upon their direct request.
In May, when the Time magazine cover of a mother nursing her not-an-infant son splashed across the media, I didn’t jump on the bandwagon with an opinion. I didn’t even read the article, which I’m told was about attachment parenting. But I cringed at the headline: “Are you Mom enough?”
Being a Mom is difficult enough without this faux-challenge to always be something better, something more. I guess it generates conversation and sells magazines, because suddenly everyone was talking about breastfeeding. A few months later, NY Mayor Bloomberg launched a citywide initiative designed to support breastfeeding mothers by restricting the promotion of formula in post-partum wards.
What’s a working mom to do?
I nursed all three of my children for a time. Because I work outside the home, I had to find a realistic solution for feeding each child that would allow me to continue nursing as long as I could when I returned to the office. Thirteen years ago, my employer didn’t have a room where I could pump, but fortunately I worked close enough to our child care provider that I could nurse on my lunch hour. We supplemented with formula twice a day and this nursing/formula combination lasted for nine months.
When I had my second daughter, I couldn’t nurse during the lunch hour, but I did have a private room to pump and a good electric double pump machine. She received a combination of pumped milk and formula and because she was fed almost entirely from a bottle, she quickly learned that food comes from the bottle, not mommy, and we struggled to make it to six months. She self-weaned to the bottle and cup very quickly.
With both of my daughters, we did what worked for us without regard for what all the “experts” demanded and both girls turned out just fine.
I had planned to use the same combination of nursing and formula with my third baby (my birthday surprise); however, when he was two or three weeks old, one of the doctors casually mentioned to his medical students that if a mother is going to breastfeed exclusively, she has to do it for at least six months in order for babies to get the full benefits. At the time, he was trying to reassure me to not feel guilty about weaning to formula to go back to work, but it had the opposite effect. Before I realized it, I had set myself the goal of nursing exclusively for the first six months. I didn’t really think I would be able to do it, and naturally I reminded myself that using formula didn’t hurt my girls and wouldn’t hurt him.
I don’t know what combination of factors helped me reach that goal. It might have been that I was much more relaxed with this baby, having him later in life, or that my employer worked with me to make sure I had privacy for pumping. I nursed him every morning on one side while pumping from the other. I pumped if he skipped a feeding, and I maintained a regular schedule at the office. I froze pumped milk for emergencies and somehow we managed. Having a good electric double pump turned out to be a real necessity. I can’t say that saw any particular difference in his health, from my experience with the girls, but my overall experience nursing this baby felt easier.
Whether you choose to breastfeed, pump and bottle feed, or supplement with formula, you absolutely have to do what’s right for YOU and your family. Don’t let anyone pressure you into thinking you have to do it one way or the other. Your baby will be fine in the long run and you will be more relaxed and able to enjoy motherhood.
Copyright 2012 Shelly Kelly