Here's why I'm sure the booby obsession is my fault: In Psychology 101 in college, I learned about the Oral Fixation phenomenon. Apparently, people who don't get breast fed (like myself and everyone else born when formula was considered best) wind up with oral fixations--chewing on pencils (I do it), overeating (yup), constantly needing a cup of tea/coffee/water/soda/adult beverage close at hand (guilty), biting nails (only stopped when I slapped on acrylic fake ones, still occasionally find myself biting on those)...etc and so forth. Have I mentioned I was addicted, nay, psychotically attached to, my pacifier when I was tiny? I called it my "Binky," and I was simply not myself without it.
Melissa didn't do pacifiers (her father, a former orthodontia specialist, thinks they're of the devil), but she's well on her way to all those other things. I wasn't able to breast feed...or maybe I was and just didn't try hard enough. Breastfeeding wasn't a fun experience for me, either way; I was fairly miserable about the entire process--the latching on hurt (I was told it shouldn't if I was doing it properly and when I showed hospital nursing experts how I was doing it they all said I was doing it properly...yet my child and I managed to find a way to make it still hurt), and the milk production just wasn't forthcoming.
True story*: I called my doctor office's Official Breast Feeding Advocate/Lactation Consultant for help. I knew I was doing the latching on properly, as at least 5 separate nurses in the hospital all watched my technique and gave me thumbs up on it. I just got a body that wasn't really into producing milk. (Which is so ironic, because while pregnant all I craved was dairy; if I could have tethered a cow in my backyard and drunk straight from the teet, I'd have been in pure pregnancy heaven.)
And meanwhile, I was doing all of these exhausting things to supplement that really had me questioning what the point of breast feeding in the 21st century actually was. (Overshare #2 begins now) Like, to simulate breast feeding but provide nourishment while my body worked on making milk, I had this extremely thin little tube. I'd tape it right on top of a nipple, run it through to a bottle of formula that was rigged up to some type of drip drop contraption. Then the formula would run down through the tube into M's mouth--she wasn't getting actual breast milk, but she was getting the simulation of breast feeding.
I'd do this 8,9, 50 times a day and think: seriously?? Did the cave women do this? Because if Melissa and I had been cave people, she'd have totally been dead of malnourishment by her 3rd day on earth. (Actually, I would be dead, too, from childbirth, as she refused to come out during natural labor.) Which, I feel, is the whole point of being a 21st century mom: You have some options available to you, and the feminist power to flip people off if they decide to be judgmental d-bags about it.
But here's the thing: breast is best. I got it, everyone on planet Earth gets it at this point. We've all been exposed to the research studies' findings, we read articles about it every month in Parenting magazine, our ob/gyns give us long lectures on why we should really try to breast feed if we even wonder out loud about formula. We hear you, breast feeding militants: breast is best breast is best breast is best. Women who give their kids their breast milk end up with Nobel Peace Prize winners; women who use formula spend a lot of time at the wailing wall, praying over their sons and daughters doing hard time for bank robberies. We got it, for the love of God.
So, for months I'd been bombarded with the breast is best/if you don't do this your kid is going to suffer message, and there was a lot of guilt on my part about the fact I should be breast feeding but (a) was miserable doing it because it hurt so much and so I wasn't really bonding and top of that I was having to do this ridiculous contraption set up 100 times a day while I waited for my own milk to come in because (b) I was painfully aware my body was unable to properly nourish my own child and I was just stuck in this vicious circle. And the post-pregnancy hormones were no help: I could literally feel a funky funk of a depression setting in.
By the end of week 3 really, I just wanted to stop...I was utterly exhausted from lack of sleep, flattened psychically from the hormones, and if the whole point of breast milk feedings was better nutrition, then Melissa was already screwed--she'd been chowing down on formula for the better part of her first few weeks on Earth.
Desperate, I called a Lactation Consultant (aka Militant Breast Feeding Advocate) for help, or at least some encouragement. I expressed my frustrations, described our contraption and my current milk production predicament, moaned about the very real depression I could literally feel myself sliding into about this and begged her for help. I got told it was a supply vs. demand issue. If I truly wanted to breast feed right, I'd need to do the following:
1. breast feed on one breast for an hour (/end overshare #3)
2. breast pump on the other breast for the following hour
3. take a brief 30 minute break
4. Repeat steps 1 through 3. For 24 horror movie hours at least but possibly more like 72.
"But that sounds terrible!" I cried out, "I already feel like a cow...now I'm going to actually be one of those farm factory cows. Are there any other options?"
She was was humorless and unmoved. "If you really want to help your child, this is what you need to do," was the response.
And so I re-iterated that I could really feel myself sinking into a deep depression over this--I wasn't getting the cozy, lovey dovey feelings supposedly associated with breast feeding and was worried about the bonding I wasn't feeling, and I dreaded the whole feeding thing in and of itself. Mostly I was basically feeling like a failure, and I was really scared. Would it be really terribly so bad if I just switched to formula and bottles, the end?
"Well," said Militant Breast Feeding Consultant, "I think you need to really think here. Are you switching to formula because it's easier for you? Or are you going to do what's best for your child?"
Looking back on that conversation, I think the best thing for me to do would have been to end the conversation by asking to speak to her boss and then having an emotional, psychotic breakdown over the phone with that person like I did with the one Target manager several weeks ago. Instead, I whispered &%$%#ing &itch! and hung up the phone. (/end overshare #4)
And please understand: I am the most mild mannered, nicest person ever. I only use cuss words at other drivers while driving or I stub my toe or I'm very, very afraid. I never even cuss in front of my husband, and I know a lot of women who cuss at theirs. So if you and I are ever interacting, and I launch a raunchy word directed straightly at you, please also understand: You totally deserved it. You f*&^%$ing &^^%$#. Got it?
I was beside myself. I mean, obviously, my mothering skills sucked. I couldn't even feed my own child. And now I was literally going to have a baby on one boob and a contraption on the other. In between diaper changes, screaming cries, and nights of little sleep, I was (for 24-72 hours and/or until my body finally produced enough milk) to have someone sucking on me (/end overshare #5)and then follow that up with a machine milking me. Just like a factory farmed dairy cow.
It was too much.
Fortunately, I have a good friend who, while excelling at the act of breast feeding as she does everything else (Hi, Valerie!), is also a practical, nurturing thinker who likes life to make sense. After hearing my dilemma, she reminded me that her daughter had been a voracious breast feeder and still had a few, tiny little health problems so that whole breast-fed-kids-are-superior-health-wise wasn't necessarily true all the time. And that if breast feeding was making me miserable, it was okay to stop--no one walks around with EXCLUSIVELY BREAST FED or ALL FORMULA PRODUCT stamped on their heads. And also, that Lactation Consultant was clearly a real ^&^%$$# *&^% and I was right for whispering it into the phone in a way she probably didn't even hear me before I hung up on her.
And that I was right: what babies most need, above and beyond breast milk, are mommies who aren't depressed. That's way more important than breast milk vs. formula nutrition.
And then I had an ob follow up and told my doctor what had happened. And when your ob practically says, "Wow, what a &^%%$* B*&&^," you know you're in the right. Also, she told me that she was raised on formula and now she's a doctor. So while breast milk is undeniably, technically better and pretty much far superior to formula, your kid's not going to turn into a Quasimodo if you feed them formula. Go for it.
And so I did. And voila! I instantly began to bond with M. I loved, loved, LOVED our feeding times together. I got her on a schedule, and it was almost like instantly she could sleep a whole 3-4 hours straight (yes, because she wasn't starving). And I sent that stupid milking contraption back to whence it came. And we were happy. We were happy for ever after.
............Until we went to Target yesterday. And I needed a bra. And I entered the bra section. And Melissa said (and she might as well have used their intercom system for this since she has that Voices Carry quality to her that I suspect all 3 year olds do possess):
MOMMY, IS THIS THE BOOBY SECTION??
Yes, honey. Yes, this is indeed the booby section. And SHHHH! Lower your friggin' voice. (Of course that makes it into a game, and so now we have to use a louder voice and repeat ourselves over and over over, especially and when a creepy-looking man walks by just as I'm debating between a striped black number and a polka dotted one.)
*This true story is why I get a little militant with the breast feeding militants. Please know: I am not advocating for one way or another in this blog, simply relating my own personal experiences with the act of breast feeding/pumping. Adjusting to a newborn is a full-time job and a nerve-wracking process. I say: do what you need to do to get yourself to the other side of that and keep yourself out of a full-fledged post-partum depression. And if any #$%#&*^ s*&^%$ m*&&^% b**&&^% wants to make you feel bad or guilty about that, cuss them out and hang up on them. And then call me. We'll go have coffee and talk about what d-bags they are and how awesome we are.
*And furthermore and finally, I remain unapologetically thankful I was not born in the Dark Ages and/or China.
*(China likes to put lead and poison in most everything; I recommend you only buy sweatshop-produced bras from that country.)