Bottle feeding - root of all evil?
Or is it only the Dads who bottle feed that are evil?
Look at the picture in the link below. Go on, look. What do you think about it? What's the first thing that pops into your head?
Does the picture in this link offend you?
- See the Controversial Photo of a Dad Bottle-Feeding His Baby -- Does This Image Bother You? - Shine
From Shine from Yahoo! Canada: Breastfeeding activists protest New Zealand ad.
The bottle probably had booze in it, too. Obviously.
For those of you too lazy to click on the link, the photo is of New Zealand All-Black Rugby star Piri Weepu feeding his newborn son a bottle while kissing the boy on the head. You really should look at the picture - it is very sweet. Dad looks so happy and proud, and son looks safe and content. What could be wrong with that, right?
Well, a whole heap could be wrong with that, if you are New Zealand's La Leche League. They raised such a fuss over the nerve of this guy, trying to feed his baby a bottle, that the New Zealand government was forced to edit the image out of the larger anti-smoking ad that Weepu and his two young children were filming. I mean, obviously. What a bad man, feeding and loving his baby and all. How dare he understand that 'parent' is a verb as well as a noun. How dare he want to participate in a positive manner in his children's lives. He probably pokes the kid when it's trying to sleep, too.
After I read this article, it was a 'take a deep breath' kind of moment. Chris wasn't in the mood to be ranted at, and the girls wouldn't care. But still. Still. There was some piss-offedness on my part.
Let me preface this by saying that I am all for breastfeeding. I think women should be able to breastfeed in public if they so choose, and if you don't like it, don't look. It's not like they're wearing their pants down around their knees so that I have to look at their nasty underwear. Just sayin'. But the key thing here is the phrase 'if they so choose.'
I was a milk-making machine with our first daughter. I probably could have fed a village. As a result, we were able to package up and freeze servings of breast milk. This meant that occasionally, we would thaw some of this milk and put it in a - brace yourself - bottleand Chris could feed her. This served two purposes - one, he could get take a middle of the night feeding so that I could get more sleep, and two, he got to bond with his daughter in a way that shouldn't be exclusively for mothers alone. We were also able to let Maeve's grandparents and, most importantly for me, her great-grandmothers, my grandmas, have that bonding experience with her as well. This option worked well for us on so many levels, and brought happiness and peace to so many people. And sleep to me. Let's not forget about that. And Maeve was still getting the nutrients in the breast milk.
It wasn't always easy. I had to radically change my diet so that Maeve wasn't getting an upset stomach from what I ate. And the post-partum blues were always worst when the milk was coming down. Its like a floodgate opened that released milk, hormones and tears. But we stuck with it for as long as we could, and when I had to go back to school and my milk wasn't coming in as heavily but Maeve still needed to eat, we supplemented with formula. And you know what? Nobody died.
Things weren't as easy with the youngest, Marin, and we ended up putting her on a soy formula quite early on. Part of me feels guilty about this, because groups like The La Leche League tell me that I should feel guilty about it. They hint that you are somewhat less of a mother if you do not breastfeed your baby. And yes, there are health benefits, and yes, it is far more cost effective, and yes, it should be encouraged when possible. But you know what? Sometimes it isn't possible. And even sometimes when it is possible, it is not the best option. And in all cases, do you know whose business it is? The parents. And whose business isn't it? Anyone else's. Yes, La Leche League and other similar organizations, I'm looking at you.
But I'm looking at you, too, public health nurses. And some of you I am looking at with appreciation, because you are practical and believe a happy, healthy mother equals a happy, healthy baby. But the rest of you? A little bit of stink-eye, to be honest.
My sister had problem with her milk coming in. It only trickled in in small amounts, which meant that her daughter always wanted to eat. Always. This meant that my sister got chafed nipples and very little, if any, sleep. She was always feeding her girl. Always. And she was beyond exhausted and at the end of her rope. "Get a bottle and some formula and some sleep," I said. "Get a bottle and some formula and some sleep," our mother said. "I can't," Jen said. "The public health nurses say I have to keep trying." And keep trying she did, until she was beyond exhausted, stressed and at the end of her rope, which naturally meant that so was her baby. But she lived in such fear of disappointing the public health nurses in her area that she just kept pushing herself. Kept pushing herself, that is, until her doctor was finally all like "Dude! Get. Some. Formula." And while the conversation maybe didn't go exactly like that, you get the meaning. When Jen tried to say to the doctor "But the public health nurses...", he cut her off. Apparently, she wasn't contractually obligated to follow their orders, only to do the best that she could. Who knew? But still, she had guilt.
I think it is the guilt that pisses me off the most. Yes, I know that breastfeeding is fighting to be mainstream, and so it should - for those for whom it is a good option. More power to these women. I totally support their right to make that choice. But at the same time, when you don't respect that other women need or choose to do things differently, you are putting out the message that they are less than as mothers, that they are failing their babies in some way. I don't think it is asking too much for them to support any other woman's right to choose something different. Something that works for her. Because sometimes - and I know this may come as a shock to some of you - what works well for one woman/baby/family does not work well for another woman/baby/family. And with all due respect, stranger down the street who belongs happily to The La Leche League - and who I am happy for that things are working for them - it is none of your frigging business how I choose to feed my baby. It is none of your frigging business if I want my husband - or if Piri Weepu's partner wants him to - to have that special moment that comes with feeding your child too. Should he be denied that moment simply because he has a penis? I don't think so. I think letting fathers interact in this way gives them more of a feeling of being part of the new life and new family that is taking shape, as opposed to being an outsider. I think a lot of fathers feel that when their partners are so focussed on the baby. At least this way, Dad gets to focus, too, and gets to understand why that bond is so all consuming. And the idea that a Dad feeding his baby a bottle and having that moment is wrong offends me. I am offended for Dads who are trying their best and being shot down. I am offended for my husband who tried his best and is a wonderful father. I am offended for my daughters who do have that bond with their Dad, and who had those quiet feeding moments with him, staring into one another's eyes. And I am offended for me, who did the best I could with what I had, and don't appreciate being told it isn't good enough by people who have no clue as to my circumstances.
I will end this off by saying that my big, tough, army man husband tells everyone we know who have a baby one thing right off the bat "Get a breast pump," he says. "That way, the mom can get more sleep, and Dad can feed the baby too." Obviously, the time spent feeding his daughters has meant something to him. He wants his friends and family to have that special time, too. And really, why should they be denied it? Because someone down the street doesn't like it? I don't think so.
Enjoy your moments with your babies, Dads. Your partner will thank you for it - and so will your kids.