Tuesday, January 25, 2011

True Confession: I Never Wanted to Breastfeed

I have confessed this once on my blog before. I did not breastfeed my daughter. I did not even try. And I am not ashamed of this fact.

That said, generally, I do not shout this off the rooftops. When I was pregnant and talking to someone and they would begin talking about "when you breastfeed," automatically assuming that I was going to, I did not correct them. I just smiled blithely and moved on to another subject. I've never wanted to get into a debate with someone over breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, because I don't think that's necessary.

The truth is, some women want to breastfeed. Some women LOVE breastfeeding. Some hate it, but do it anyway. Some women want to breastfeed  and try and cannot, for whatever reason. Some women have to pump exclusively for whatever reason, and they do that, no matter how hard it is.

And then there are those of us, I imagine it's a VERY small minority, who have no interest in it at all.

That was me.

I just never saw myself breastfeeding. I had no desire to do it. It seemed a little weird to me. Also, I'm the person who goes into the stall to change clothes at the gym, so there was no way I was ever going to be one of those people breastfeeding in front of others, covered or not. And I wanted my husband to share fully in the feeding as he would in all the other baby-related duties.

Since I was born in the 70s, at a time women were encouraged to use formula, my mother did not breastfeed either, so I did not get any pressure to breastfeed from her. She always talked about how great it was that my dad could give me a bottle while she made the two of them dinner when he came home from work and how they would pass me around to family members to feed when they went home to visit their parents and siblings every weekend.

My mother also told me that her mother, who breastfed nine children and then did formula with baby number 10 for some reason, told her that she wished she would've been able to do that with all 10 babies--it was so much easier.

Apparently the women in my family aren't natural earth mothers. :)

Although I had no desire to breastfeed, I did consider it when I became pregnant, mostly because my husband, who is much more natural and earthy than me (I attribute this to his Canadian-ness), thought I should. I thought, okay, maybe I could do it just for the first few weeks to give my daughter all those antibodies and such they talk about and then switch to formula.

So, on one of our OB visits, I asked my doctor, who I've been going to since I was in high school and trust implicitly, about this first few weeks' idea.

"You're going back to work, right?" he asked me.

"Yes," I replied.

"Well, unless you're really going to commit to breastfeeding for at least a few months, I wouldn't recommend starting it then moving on from it so quickly...better just to do formula from the start," he replied.

I have to admit, I was pretty surprised at his answer, but since I didn't really want to breastfeed anyway, it was fine by me.

But the final nail in the coffin on any thoughts I had around potentially breastfeeding came when I researched the medicines I take and if they would be safe to take while breastfeeding.

One, my migraine pill, was not. And that was all I had to hear.

I've suffered from horrific migraines for years. Most of my migraines are triggered by hormonal changes. Without medication, I cannot function. At all. I cannot think, I have to be in dark rooms because light bothers me, and I get so nauseous I throw up.

I was not allowed to take my migraine medication while I was pregnant, and I suffered two three-day-long migraines in the first trimester, when hormones are all over the place, that were so awful and debilitating, I felt like I wanted to die. I also threw up for the first time in my pregnancy (the only other time I threw up while pregnant was when I was in labor!).

With those two awful medication-free pregnancy migraines fresh in my mind, I considered how I would fare as a new mother if I could not take my medication and was struck with a migraine while caring for my baby. And I knew I could not. I needed to be able to take my medication and have the migraine go away fairly quickly so I could be a good mom.

So that became my "good for the public" excuse for not breastfeeding. That was how I got anyone questioning my decision off my back. And it is a very valid excuse and I stand by it.

But the plain truth is, I never wanted to breastfeed anyway.

When my daughter was born, after I held and snuggled with her for a bit, they were going to take her off to the nursery for a checkup and a bath and a bottle. Since I wasn't breastfeeding, the nurses wouldn't let me give her a bottle before they took her away, they said they were going to do that in the nursery, which I have to say, seemed kind of mean--they couldn't hand me a bottle of formula? I felt like I was being punished here a little for my choice not to breastfeed.

However, since we had already planned for my husband to go to the nursery with our daughter and take pictures of her first bath, I requested that they let him give her the first bottle and they did. It was pretty special for my husband to get to be the first to feed her, since I had done most of the nurturing up to this point. :)

This was my daughter's first feeding at home on the third day of her life.
My husband and I both wanted to do it!

For the first four months of her life until she went into daycare, my daughter was never sick. And I didn't keep her at home in a cocoon--we went out to eat, over to visit friends and the grandparentals, to the mall, all over. She was extremely healthy.

The end of her first week in daycare she had a cold and an ear infection. I felt extremely guilty about putting her in daycare and exposing her to all those germs. But all the babies had some cold, infection, or illness, even the babies whose mothers came and breastfed them on their lunch breaks while I was there feeding my daughter her bottle on my lunch break.

I felt more guilty about going back to work and exposing her to daycare germs than I ever did about not breastfeeding.

But, as I do on many topics, I support every woman's personal choice in this matter. If you want to breastfeed, I support you. If you pump exclusively, I support you. If you, like me, do not want to breastfeed, I support you. If you cannot breastfeed and want to get milk from a milk bank for your baby, I support you.

My husband mentioned this news story to me recently, about women going to milk banks to get milk for their babies, and was surprised when I had no problem with it. I guess since I had been pretty strident about not breastfeeding myself, I gave him the impression I thought breastfeeding was wrong. And I really don't! It just wasn't right for me.

I have friends who have breastfed their babies, and those who wanted to but have not been able to, and I did not. All of us made the right choices for ourselves and our babies. It would be nice if we could all support each other and our individual choices.