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Thursday, August 4, 2011

"Confessions of a Bottler Feeder"

"Confessions of a Bottler Feeder" is one of THE best essays I've ever read on any topic about being a mother. Written by Andrea J. Buchanan, author of the book Mother Shock - Tales From the First Year and Beyond, Loving Every (Other) Minute of It, this essay is so honest I almost cringed at some of what she put out there on paper. In fact, as I was reading I wondered if she just wrote it and pressed send to her editor to be published in the book without reading it over for fear she'd change parts of it or sugarcoat other things she wanted to say. It was fantastic.

Buchanan starts this essay by saying she was the type of mom who was definitely going to breastfeed her child. There was no way formula or bottles or pumping would be in the picture. She did not even purchase bottles before bringing home her daughter from the hospital. Then it just didn't work as planned. Everything was different when it was reality. From the start in the hospital her daughter would not latch on (same thing as my son!). So she instantly had to provide formula. She writes about the guilt she felt in dealing with that choice that ended up not really being her choice (definitely similar to what I experienced in the hospital). She then continues writing that she came to the conclusion that formula is not the end of the world (sound familiar? Read one of my earlier posts about this exact topic under the heading of "formula?!").

What is the point anyway?
Buchanan recalls a story a friend told her when she was struggling with nursing her child. On page 113 the author wrote, "The point of it was that her pediatrician finally told her the objective was a healthy, happy family unit, not a dehydrated baby and a resentful, guilty mom."

The author questioned why people judge mothers who use bottles so much, even more so than judging people who yell at their kids or feed their kids McDonald's or smoke in front of their kids. There is less judgment and anger toward those mothers than the mothers simply offering a bottle to their child.

On page 115 Buchanan explains, "There seems to be a not-so-subtle hierarchy in the breast-feeding worldview, with the exclusively breast-feeding at the top, the half pumping/half-breast-feeding moms somewhere after that, the exclusive pumpers even farther down the line, and of course at the bottom, those lowly formula-feeders." I hate to admit this, but it appears to be true. It's sad to me that this is the case, especially as I am one of those in the second to last category of strictly pumping for a year.

She goes on to question if mothers who breastfeed for six months are better than those who do it for four months, and wonders what is the point of all of this judgment?

On page 115, "What I'm interested in is the middle ground - somewhere between the stereotypes, between the family-bed/homeschool/cloth-diaper militancy of the avid breast-feeders and the ignorance of the uninformed bottle feeder must be a place where women can choose to fortify their babies without their particular method determining their fitness as a mother." She's pretty straight-forward with her opinions, and I happen to agree with them on this subject matter.

No judging, please
I am not a bad mom because breastfeeding did not work for us beyond the first week in the hospital.
I am a good mom for pumping for a year, but I'd have been a good mom had I never attached a pump to my body either.
Moms who breastfeed are not better than me, and because I pumped I was not better than my friends who tried pumping and stopped after a month.
I don't like the judgment.
I think it's unfair, and that people should be allowed to feed their kids however they want to.
I believe that bottles, formula or breastmilk, pumping or otherwise - will NOT matter in a year and definitely will not matter in twenty years when my kid has a college degree.

Buchanan wrote on page 116, "We all want to provide the absolute best life for our child, but the fact is that so much more than breast-feeding determines the quality of life. Say you breast-feed. Say you breast-feed for a year, even for two years. What then? Won't your child still have to face the world, go to school, grow up, become a teenager, get his or her heart broken, be rejected by or accepted to the college she aspires to attend, have a career and a life that may or may not bring him happiness or dissatisfaction? Won't the world intervene anyway?" She continues writing that she's not advocating to just succumb to the evils in the world, but that the point is formula is not the end of the world.

I will admit here though that when I was pumping milk and would be in public or even at a family party feeding my child my pumped breastmilk into a bottle, I felt people looking at me weird. I did feel instinctively - and even succumbed to saying it out loud a few times - that I needed to tell people what was inside my baby's bottle, to point out that no way was it formula. I feel ashamed to have felt that way. I feel angry at whoever or whatever made me feel that way. Because the point is it doesn't matter. There were times in the beginning and in the end when I supplemented with formula. My child is smart. He is going to do just fine in school. We are certainly bonded to each other. I agree with Buchanan. Formula is not the end of the world.

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