Wednesday, January 20, 2016

I've Decided to Formula Feed. Guess What the First Comment Was?

"You sound like a very selfish and detached mother.  Poor kid."

I can see where Anon is coming from.  When mothers post about their feeding journeys, they tend to be emotional.  Moms want to do what's best for their kids and routinely feel inadequate.  Stories about formula feeding usually start with trying to breastfeed, then there's a breakdown, then there's relief at a viable option and acceptance.  Often there's crying.  My post was not like that.  It was a cost-benefit analysis, and I called it that.  I made no mention of how excited I am to have a baby.  I didn't try to convey how badly I want to hold her in my arms right now.  I didn't write about how I was not a cuddly baby, but I really hope my daughter is because I love cuddles.  There's no difference in love between breast, combo, or formula feeding, so I left it out of my analysis.

(The analysis, if you didn't read the post, was for my family situation only, not to to tell anyone they shouldn't breastfeed.  Breastfeeding is also super cool and everyone deserves support and resources for their decisions.)

I came off as cold, I guess.  Because if I'm not crying over not breastfeeding, I must be a bad mom.  If I didn't start my analysis by gushing over how much I love my baby, then my analysis must be coming from a place of indifference toward her.  Though, "selfish" and "detached" seem like funny words to describe a woman who spent countless hours calculating where my energy will best suit my family.

Another comment wanted me to know that breastfeeding is not just about feeding.  It's about comfort and it's a beautiful biological function.  She expressed amazement at the capabilities of our bodies and thought that ignoring this aspect was "sad."  And I think that's just fine of her.  She's a wonderful mother and breastfeeding was something she loved even though it was really hard for her.  I will not discount that because that's wonderful.  But why does not breastfeeding equal not comforting my baby?  My baby can still be skin to skin with me.  I freaking love cuddling.  I will hold her when she's upset.  I will do everything to care for her needs because I love her.  But because I didn't say this in a cost-benefit analysis, it's assumed that I don't want to comfort my baby with my body?  My worth as a mother and my ability to comfort my baby have nothing to do with my status as a mammal.  To me, it's not sad.  Not one bit.

I cannot tell you the happiness I felt when I made the decision to not breastfeed.  It's not unique to me, though it does seem weird to some.  I love imagining being in the hospital and just being able to focus on her.  And imagining her cuddling with and being fed by her beautiful dad.  I imagine holding her to my chest and letting her hear my heartbeat and feel my warmth, and her dad doing the same.  I love that.  I'm gonna cry, now, are you happy?  Can my choices count now that I'm crying???

I want people to know that it's okay for me to be practical.  Babies need food, sleep, cuddles, play, hygiene, and safety.  Thanks to science and parents everywhere, we know the nuts and bolts of how to provide those adequately.  When we decided to try and become pregnant, that was a decision from love.  That was the same decision to feed and care for a baby.  After that decision, figuring out the ins and outs of providing for a baby became a practical issue for me.  I want to do it because of love.  I figure out how to do it by crunching numbers.  Sure, I'm going to have to rely on some amount of instinct, and every baby is different.  But if I can find some meta-analyses to read first, I'll do that.

And so I'll be formula feeding.  If my milk comes in, I'm gonna slap on some ice packs, pop some ibuprofen, and cuddle my gorgeous baby.  I'm going to do my best to plan ahead and delegate tasks so I can sleep enough and Hubs can study for finals.  I know that I will sacrifice for this child.  I already have and I love it.  But I think a friend put it best when she said, "Motherhood is taking care of your child, but that's only possible when you take care of yourself."

Because bodily autonomy and motherhood are not mutually exclusive.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reasons Behind My Boob Choices.

I'm having a baby in a few months.  Infants need fed and they can eat two things: breast milk and formula.  The following is a personal cost-benefit analysis.

Situation Facts
When baby is three to four months old, I'll be taking classes again and Hubs will be primary care-giver until she's at least one year old.
In the first few weeks of life, infants need fed every few hours.  I cannot be awake every few hours for weeks and maintain my mental health.
We can afford bottles and formula (but, you know, that doesn't mean I want to spend the money).
There is not enough difference between breast milk and formula for me to care (see here).

First Plan
My original plan was created to maintain my own mental health and save the maximum amount of money.  It involved using formula so I can delegate feedings, still giving breastfeeding a go, but not pumping.  Pumping would benefit the breastfeeding, but I only care about breastfeeding if it will save money.  I work from home and any time spent pumping I can earn more than enough money for the same amount of formula.  Which means I can earn enough for formula and have a little extra time for cuddling baby instead of pumping.

I discovered that this plan is probably not practical.  By not being committed to breastfeeding, I decrease its chance of success.  It's not imperative to me that I breastfeed, so any difficulty will probably outweigh monetary benefits and I'll stop.  Planning to skip feedings and not pump means I'll likely have supply issues.  It will also increase my risk for a mastitis infection (which you can still breastfeed through, but I would rather just not increase the risk).

I plan for things.  I plan for any possible situation.  I've read a ton about what problems can arise during breastfeeding and how to make it more successful.  So part of my original plan involves some start up costs for breastfeeding.  Nipple shields, nipple cream, breast pads, nursing bras.  If I breastfeed, I will have everything on hand for troubleshooting.  If I'm likely to stop breastfeeding early on via the original plan, then these start up costs are lost.  The only gain is that I would learn what would happen if I tried to breastfeed.

So my original plan was scrapped.  I now have two options I'm willing to consider.
1. Commit to breastfeeding and only add formula for supply issues.
2. Commit to formula, don't attempt to breastfeed.

Pros for breastfeeding
Possibility of saving money (see here).
Easy access to feeding when baby's with me.
Possibility for it being easy or me getting the hang of it.
Teeny tiny immunity benefits.
Possibly forego costs on bottles, etc.

Cons for breastfeeding
Possibility of not saving money.
I don't like things touching my nipples/soreness/all physical discomfort.
I'm gonna worry all the time about how much baby's getting/if I'm doing it right.
It's not predictable.
Judgment in public (f*** those people, but still).
Pumping (especially when I'm in school again).
Likely mental health drain.
Need vitamin D supplements.
Need iron supplements after six months.

Pros for formula
Predictability in cost and supply.
Zero things have to touch my nipples.
I know how much baby's getting.
Any feeding can be easily delegated/Hubs will get more experience before becoming primary.
Forego all up front costs for breastfeeding (supplies, the learning curve, etc.).
Includes vitamin D and iron.

Cons for formula
Higher monetary cost.
Bottles and maintenance of the beautiful invention.
Judgment in public and possibly in the hospital (again with the f***ing of those people).
Will likely become engorged and sore for a short time before I dry up.
I'll never know what breastfeeding would have been like.

All righty
So it's not just the number of items that matters, but how much each item weighs to me.  Pumping might not be a con to some people, but it is to me.  "Zero things have to touch my nipples" might not weigh very much to a lot of people, but it weighs a lot to me.  Those tiny immunity benefits mean a lot more to some people.  Some people would add things like "natural" and "skin-to-skin contact."

I will not be attempting breastfeeding.  For me, even the pros of breastfeeding come with too much uncertainty for them to weigh much.

I feel very comfortable with this decision.  After I push a baby out of my vagina, I don't have to suddenly try to learn a new skill on top of all the other new mom things.  I don't have to worry about my nipples getting cracked or sore or bloody.  I don't have to worry about all the uncertainty.  I'll be able to give 100% of that energy to my baby and myself.  Plus, I'm sure there will be plenty of other things for me to worry about.

If while you were reading this you thought, "Allie, I could help you with those problems you might have while breastfeeding," or "Allie, I think your opinion about this particular thing is wrong," rest assured that I don't care.  I'm grateful for your willingness to support me and help me troubleshoot, but I've simply made a different choice.  Please now support my formula feeding.

I didn't need to write this.  I don't owe anyone an explanation.  In fact, if this gets around, I'll be judged by a lot of people (like this misinformed ray of sunshine).  I want people to know that formula feeding is not just for people who can't breastfeed.