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.