Reasons Not To Breastfeed (by a breastfeeding mother)

OH HELL NO YOU DON’T IT’S 11PM FOR-

Too late, the editor’s open. I have to write the article now. What was it about again?

Oh yes.

I tend to avoid bandwagons. For instance, I don’t read the news daily, I just wait until a bunch of people on social media start talking about it, and then I read whatever’s being shared, or else I google it. This is how I inevitably end up late to the party, as it were. Usually so late that the guests are nursing hangovers.

When it comes to celebrity gossip, I’m not so much late to the party as I just never show up. If it hadn’t been about breastfeeding, which is a Thing I Have Strong Feelings About, I would have ignored it:

Adele Speaks Out About Pressure To Breast-Feed.

Not that I don’t like Adele. I love her music. I just don’t care much about her life, as long as she’s happy in it. I like it when musicians are happy.

But what celebrities say about Things I Have Strong Feelings About does inevitably affect my opinion of said celebrities, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

I still don’t know what all the fuss was about.

To be clear: Adele is right. There is an unreasonable amount of pressure on women to breastfeed, to the point where if you fail at it for whatever reason, it feels just like that – a massive failure. At least, that’s how I was feeling during the first two weeks of breastfeeding when it hurt like hell.

What I don’t get is why people think this is controversial. Saying there’s huge pressure on women to breastfeed isn’t the same as saying women shouldn’t breastfeed. Because there IS also a stigma about breastfeeding, especially in public, which varies from place to place, but which doesn’t make this thing we’re under immense pressure to do any easier. It’s like the world is giving us a high standard to live up to all while putting as many obstacles in place as possible so that we hardly ever attain it – oh wait I just described womanhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I love breastfeeding. I love being able to do it, and I especially love that I don’t have to pump at work in order to do it (pumping is so TEDIOUS and it hurts my back). I love how cheap and convenient it is, and how Baby Diva has never gotten a fever, barely ever gets ill at all, and when she does it’s just a few sniffles or a bit of wind (well, except for that one time). I also kinda like the idea of pissing off all those people who contribute to the stigma around breastfeeding, because that’s the kind of vindicative, childish person I am.

But I love breastfeeding because I chose it. And I chose it because I was pretty sure I’d love it.

The point of breastfeeding is that it helps you create a healthy relationship with your kid, right? Well here’s the catch with that: any woman being forced to breastfeed against her will is inevitably going to feel some resentment towards her child.

Because breastfeeding, while convenient in some ways, is incredibly inconvenient in others. For a start, you basically have a choice between taking your child everywhere with you, and pumping. I hate pumping, so I take Baby Diva everywhere with me, and thank god (or rather, Papa Diva) I don’t need to immediately have a job to survive. For a woman who needs her job, or simply likes it, breastfeeding is often more trouble than it’s worth.

It takes time, too. Sometimes you’re in the middle of something important and instead of waiting four hours as usual, your baby is hungry NOW because growth spurts, because it’s hot and they’re sweating a lot, because REASONS goddammit. Sometimes the important thing you’re doing is catching up on your massive sleep debt, and the time it takes to breastfeed your kid, your brain wakes up and BAM – 2AM insomnia. Happened to me just last night.

Then there’s the whole business of milk production itself which, aside from requiring 2,000-ish calories and at least 2L of water a day, can also be pretty uncomfortable. Baby Diva just finished a growth spurt, during which she was hungry every 3hrs or so (which is not bad, sometimes it’s every 2hrs), which left my nipples a bit sore even though, 5 months in, I’m technically supposed to be used to it by now. Also you’d think she’d drink as much now as she did during the growth spurt, but apparently not, I can tell by the way my boobs are all kind of lumpy and swollen and a bit tender.

Another thing. Remember how I said breastfeeding is cheap? It is, relative to bottle feeding, but it’s not free. You’ll have to invest in at least three maternity bras (or tops, I have two of these which are really comfy). And when I say “invest”, I mean you’ll have trouble finding anything halfway decent and comfortable under 50€. Not to mention the breast pads you’ll have to line them with if you don’t want to be sopping wet all the time. Clothes-wise, you can get away with wearing loose shirts and just pulling them up to breastfeed – I find this more discreet and more convenient than the maternity tops and dresses that were lent to me – but this does limit your clothing options.

But the health benefits! The antibodies! Baby Diva was born in November, Papa Diva and I both have various allergies, and we do plan on putting her in daycare at some point. So far we’ve noticed that she really doesn’t get ill all that much, and although she has developed eczema on her arms and legs, it’s nowhere near as bad as mine was at that age – nor as bad as her dad’s is now.

But is it really worth messing with a child’s relationship with its mother – knowing that a child’s future mental health is very influenced by said relationship – on the off-chance they’ll not be allergic to cats? You’re not sure? Let me break it down for you, then, physical health vs. mental health. Physical health medicine is seeing great scientific advances, getting plenty of funding, and physical diseases likely to be affected by breastfeeding are mainly preventable or curable.

Mental illness, on the other hand, still carries a huge stigma, concerns the most vital, delicate and least known organ in the human body, and varies so much from case to case that it’s difficult to establish a surefire cure. Prevention is therefore best, and one good way of preventing mental illness in people is not forcing their mothers to do stuff that might make them resent their children.

Or, to put it another way, is hay fever worse than depression? (The answer is no, it isn’t. Depression is worse.)

Aw come on, I hear you say, a child isn’t going to get depression just because its mother’s under a bit of pressure to breastfeed, and what if she changes her mind?

It’s highly unlikely that the mother will change her mind in time to actually start breastfeeding her child, and if she does, the fact that she’s doing it against her will is likely to make her fail. What might happen is that the mother will end up feeling like shit at a time when she’s already emotionally fragile, which can lead to post-partum depression in the mother, which can lead to insecure attachment in the child, which can lead to all sorts of bad things like… you guessed it, anxiety and depression.

Adele stopped breastfeeding because, for whatever reason, she physically couldn’t. And she still felt the pressure to breastfeed. Putting pressure on a woman to do something she’s physically incapable of and wishes she could do – excellent idea, society. Just the same as asking an infertile couple who’ve tried everything why they have no kids.

What I’m asking is that the pressure be taken off not only women like Adele who can’t breastfeed, but also those who choose not to. It’s not your business why they made that choice, and their children will certainly not benefit from you making their mother feel like shit. Stop doing it.

/Rant.

 

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