There, I said it.

Every week I get those emails from Baby Center about the development of one or the other of my children, and the ones for Theo often include a link to this poll:

a) love it
b) hate it
c) some parts are great; some parts are difficult

I usually pick (c), but I think I’m going to come right out and admit that often I want to choose (b).

That’s right, I’m going to take on the Nursing Nazis and this ridiculously controversial topic and say that I wish there were no such thing as breastfeeding.  Before I begin, I want to say a few things up front to put your mind at ease.  First, I think that for some people it is an incredible experience and… you know, kudos to them.  Second, I have definitely loved some aspects of nursing each of my boys and for sure it is easier this time around with Theo.  And third, I recognize that I don’t have to breastfeed.  Which brings me to why I wish there were no such thing…

1)  You feel compelled to do it.  Many, many other talented writers have taken on this topic and poked fun at the enormous pressure we all feel and the crazy thoughts we have as parents that if we don’t breastfeed we are dooming our children to lives of earaches and mediocrity.  We know intellectually it’s not true.  And yet… the “breast is best” message is nearly impossible to ignore if you pay attention to anything related to parenting whatsoever.  And the data just keeps on rolling out to support that breastmilk is better than formula for so many reasons I don’t have time to write them all down before someone wakes up.

So it’s pretty hard to tell yourself that what’s best for your children is also not having a mother who is insane (see reasons for insanity below) and that they will be just fine.  Even though you KNOW it’s true, you’ve met people who are perfectly normal who had pretty much all formula and even if you’ve given formula to your older child.  You still feel this crazy guilt for not breastfeeding.  You feel the need to explain to people why you stopped or why you supplement with formula, because total strangers will parrot “breast is best” at you if you don’t.  (I’m not making that up.  People are obnoxious.)

Even saying this out in the blogosphere leads to comments about the fact that you shouldn’t have children if you’re not prepared to make sacrifices for them, which is both rude and stupid since fathers get to become parents without this enormous burden.  I think the pressure to do it is one of the absolute worst aspects of this job.  If no one cared how we fed our children as long as we fed them, it would be a lot easier.

2)  It sets the mother up as the default parent.  I thought surely I had written about the default parent before on this blog, but somehow that topic never got out of my head.  But you know what I’m talking about, call it what you will:  Default parent, Parent of Last Resort, the Nursing Mom.  You are the person who MUST be with the baby every 2-4 hours or else you have to pump or supplement (see below about the breastpumps, a.k.a. the bane of my existence).  And how many of us have had the tired father hold out the screaming baby and say, “I’m pretty sure he’s hungry,” and you try not to have your head explode because seriously you just fed that kid an hour ago and two hours before that and SURELY he isn’t hungry, but then you take him and he snuggles in and eats like you’ve been starving him and the dad looks at you like, “See?  Of course I couldn’t calm him down,” and it’s a good thing you’re busy nursing because otherwise you’d throw something at him.  {Or maybe that’s just me.  But I don’t think so.}  The point is that then YOU HAVE THE BABY, and in order to get any time to yourself you have to ask someone else to take him after you’re done nursing, whereas everyone else has a clear endpoint to their time with the child – when he needs to eat again.  Sometimes you, the nursing mother, could have him all day before anyone else notices.

3)  Wardrobe malfunctions.  Honestly, having to spend a ton of money on special nursing gear seems crazy, but if you don’t then you end up having to lift up your entire shirt every couple of hours, which is cold and also a bit much for people who have any kind of desire for personal privacy.  It’s fine in the comfort of your own home, but who stays home all day every day?  And no matter what you wear out, you have to choose between using a blanket or nursing cover or risk snide comments about nursing in public, no matter how legal and supposedly acceptable it is.  Finally, I don’t know how many times I have also forgotten to pull my tank top back up and walked around with half my bra showing without realizing it.  Using a bottle?  Rated E for everyone.

4)  Breastpumps.  Seriously.  I hate these things.  They have a zillion parts that have to be cleaned after every pumping, and they look like medieval torture devices.  Yes, they allow people to continue “breastfeeding” even if they go back to work.  But they don’t let you truly skip a feeding because every time you don’t nurse you have to pump or else you have less milk the next day.  So it’s not like this is a free pass to get a day off.  You still need to be disrobing every couple of hours (see above).  I knew my experience of pumping at work was about to end the day I looked down while pumping in the conference room off my classroom and saw that I was pumping out my own blood.  I kid you not.  Apparently I had gotten some kind of cut earlier without knowing it and as I watched the pump go, red liquid was being squeezed out of me and into the little collector bottle.  Clearly I am still traumatized.

5)  Night duty.  This goes back to the default parenting, but really, if you’re nursing then you’re the one who’s sleep-deprived, end of story, unless you night-wean or pump enough at some other point in the day.  I’ve tried to have other people take night shifts, but then everyone just ends up tired because I still have to get up to nurse even if the other person then changes the diaper, puts the baby back to bed, etc.  It’s helpful once in a while, but for the most part it’s all me, every night.  Every.  Night.

6)  Better bonding with bottles.  Everyone says that you bond more with your baby when you breastfeed because you have to hold him closely for every feeding.  You see pictures of these blissed-out mothers (who I’m convinced are mostly just massively sleep-deprived based on #5) and their babies gazing up at them.  I have never found this to be the case.  Both of my boys nursed with eyes closed or staring vaguely off in the distance.  When I give them a bottle, they stare up at me with all the adoration a mother could want.  So to me the bonding was a lot better when I gave up the breastfeeding.  I know, that’s not true for everyone, which is why I put it last.

I know, I know, I’ve made it sound like it’s all bad.  It’s not.  It is awesome always having his food with me and ready to go, no bottles necessary.  I’m proud, knowing that all of Theo’s weight gain so far is my accomplishment.  I love rubbing his soft little head while he eats and holding his tiny hand, neither of which I seem to do when he takes his evening bottle.  That’s why I choose (c) on the poll.

I’m all for choices, and I’m happy that many mothers get to choose how to feed their babies.  But I wish there were no such thing as breastfeeding so that one choice wasn’t considered better than another by overwhelming consensus.  And so OUR choice to have children doesn’t feel overwhelmingly like MY responsibility for the first year (or so) of each child’s life.

I’d come up with a clever ending here, but it’s time for me to nurse the baby.

Wow, I know I’m low on functioning brain cells when I forget two of my top reasons why breastfeeding is so hard.

7)  It hurts.  I’m going to interrupt you and your “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong,” mantra and say that it hurts no matter what.  At least at the beginning, and occasionally at the start of each feeding, and definitely if you get horrible things like cracked nipples, mastitis, or a blocked duct.  Those last three caused major toe-curling pain, and I wasn’t doing anything wrong according to the hospital’s lactation consultant.  It just goes with the territory for a lot of moms.

8) The limited diet.  Sure, we know about not having a glass of wine too often (or pumping and dumping), but for some unlucky moms there is the realization that what we are eating is causing some gastrointestinal distress for our little ones.  That’s the fancy way of saying they get awful gas and wake up many times a night wriggling their lower halves, crying, and tooting like an old Chevy.  It’s no fun to give up most forms of dairy, I assure you, though it is worth the extra sleep we both get.  Still, when it’s Saturday and I know I used to enjoy my Ben & Jerry’s and relax after the boys’ bedtimes, I do curse the power(s) that be for inventing this breastfeeding nonsense.

And now you know what I’ll be doing the very day I finally wean Theo:  eating an entire pint of Chubby Hubby.

13 Responses to There, I said it.
  1. anymommy
    November 17, 2010 | 5:38 pm

    >True on all points. I enjoyed breastfeeding, but burned out way before the "recommended" age with all three boys. And I'll add another negative that rarely comes up: Many women (me!) aren't fertile while they breastfeed and for months after weaning, which is difficult when you start late and want more than one child. I felt tremendous opposing pressures to breastfeed to a certain age & let my body recover and begin cycling again.

  2. Lori
    November 17, 2010 | 6:59 pm

    >Omigosh—some things never change, even after 30 years!!! I feel tired just from reading your post and remembering what it felt like to be robotically going through this stage/routine. But, I was (falsely, I think) told by my doctors that my breastmilk was insufficient and not to bother with nursing after the 6-8th week. So, I alternated with a bottle and had to "deal with it". It all turns out fine in the end as long as parents and baby are happy with the feeding experience.

  3. Nell
    November 17, 2010 | 9:19 pm

    >Robotically – good word for the days when all you can do is breathe in and out, make sure the kids are safe and fed…that's it. Clean the dishes? Nope, make sandwiches. Wash diapers? Nope, use a towel and some duct tape. At the end of the day, greet your partner…well, I'll let you think about that one!

  4. Sydney
    November 18, 2010 | 8:58 pm

    >I think I started getting angry all over again when I read #2, laughing out loud with #3 and started crying with #5. I used to dread going to sleep, I used to call it: "my long journey till morning…"Great post! 🙂

  5. BJ_Mama
    November 19, 2010 | 8:23 am

    >This is AMAZING! I am tempted to print it out and give it to my husband 🙂

  6. Becky
    November 19, 2010 | 4:38 pm

    >Thank you for verbalizing the deep dark thoughts of millions of moms out there! I actually recommend moms try to breastfeed but always point out that a sane and happy mom is more important than a breastfed baby. I never look down upon my patients for giving it up, because most of them (myself included) could not be supermom and breastfeed while working a fulltime job. Nursing nazis need to just do what they want and keep their derogatory comments to themselves!

  7. Anonymous
    November 20, 2010 | 9:43 pm

    >On being a husband…1. You feel compelled to do it. Want to give up your career, or just a few months to take care of a child? Odds of success are most definitely not in your favor. You'll be lucky just to find someone to take you seriously if you even think of diverging from expectations.2. The mother is the default parent. If you attempt to believe otherwise for any more than a couple of hours, you will invariably find that people don't believe you know what you're doing, want to know where the mother is, or on some precious occasions have your child remind you mommy knows better or simply IS better than you.3. Wardrobe malfunctions. You have to go to your day job. You're still going to have to help before heading out though. You work though a morning routine which will include an appropriate clothing process, attend to the baby's needs, and sure enough some form of spit will make its way onto your clothes. Better that than what comes out the other end of the baby. Tough luck, off to work you must go. 4. Breastpumps. Let's face it, your baby gets far more attention from your wife than you do. You're not going to get close proximity to your wife every few hours, nevermind on-demand food. Someone somewhere discovered insult could be added to injury by hooking up your wife to a machine for the occasions where she might otherwise actually be available. Thank you, whoever you are.5. Night duty. When it comes to sleep, you're screwed, plain and simple. You're going to have to stay up late because you effectively have 3 jobs, still wake up every time the baby cries to feed and change him otherwise just for no other reason than not being immune to short distance high intensity sound. And unless you've got a lock on your office door and a clueless boss, odds are good that you don't have any hope of an afternoon nap to look forward to.6. Better bonding with bottles. Those bottles come and go at such a furious rate, you can expect to evolve a better bond with plastic containers than with most human beings.7. It hurts. Deprivation in its expected and unexpected varieties takes a physical toll. Another accute form of pain is the innevitable realization of your highly skewed diaper changing to "guy fun" ratio, quite possibly trending towards infinity.8. The limited diet. Welcome to your new diet – it is now restricted to whatever you can consume in expedited fashion, requires minimal dishes, and ideally comes with one-handed eating instructions. More importantly, you are now expected to eat whatever was so unappealing to your child that they screamed in protest and have therefore left untouched or unfinished.Parenthood is tough for everyone. There, I said it.

  8. Blair (grandpa/nanny, 43 years old).
    November 20, 2010 | 10:15 pm

    >> Parenthood is tough for everyonePerhaps, although previous generations of (us) males certainly had a free ride, and some of us still do. But I didn't get the impression that the original post was intended to be a CONTEST. So, why the vitriol? Plus, since the original blog was about BREASTFEEDING — something I'm reasonably sure that neither of us has experienced first-hand — it strikes me as a particularly high form of chutzpah for a man to even comment. > your highly skewed diaper changing to "guy fun" ratioPerhaps this explains the vitriol. And perhaps it says something about the emotional age of 'anonymous'. And anyway, how many breastfeeding women get any time for "girl fun"?I've watched many men of child-raising years do an *outstanding* job — including both of my sons-in-law and all of my nephews who are parents. (I've also seen other men who are stupid pigs, leaving all of the work to their wives, even in 2010.) But I don't think for a moment that the deprivations of the best fathers are anything close to that of their breastfeeding wives. (By that I mean a father in a father/mother family, of course — single dads and father/father couples are another matter — NO BREASTFEEDING for one thing.) Anyway, I doubt that any one of those men would be insecure enough to assert that they have as tough a time, much less in a public forum on a stranger's blog.And before you bring it up, I know full well that we grandparents have a very easy time of it. Mostly all "grandparent fun" and relatively little work. But as I say, it's not a contest. Typical nursing women put up with stuff you and I will never know. It's biology. We're mammals, you know.

  9. Anonymous
    November 21, 2010 | 11:30 am

    >The blog and this post in particular are very well written. My comment above was simply a lighthearted attempt at a similarly structured comedic reply, with intentionally ridiculous parallels.I have zero doubt that parenthood is more work for women regardless of any best intentions of husbands, and no illusions about understanding what breastfeeding (or choosing not to) is like.Please forgive or ignore the clumsy suggestion of anything to the contrary.

  10. Jessica {Team Rasler}
    November 21, 2010 | 6:06 pm

    >I feel like my blog has reached a milestone: its first snarky anonymous comment! Even knowing now that the comment was made in jest, I still feel compelled to reply to it.You will never hear me say that parenthood is easy for anyone who takes on the job, so this post was in no way intended to imply that the dads have it easy. I do envy them occasionally for being automatically in the bottle camp, but then again, Anonymous' second point is well-taken: the default parent thing can be tough on a dad, especially when it's reinforced by the little ones.Your fourth and eighth points were hilarious, and the fifth about night duty also made me laugh out loud, though in that case it was because I wanted to find your partner and ask her whether you truly wake up at every noise the baby makes and do all the diaper changes! Somehow I doubt it, but if so she is pretty lucky. Most dads I know can sleep through a pretty impressive amount of crying before getting elbowed out of bed by their irritated wives who know it's not time for a feeding yet and are desperate for just another half hour of sleep.And, appropriately, I have run out of time to reply because… you guessed it… it's time to nurse the baby. Thanks for commenting! I think your goal of providing amusement was definitely fulfilled.

  11. AJ
    June 11, 2011 | 8:55 am

    “Using a bottle? Rated E for everyone.” Awesome. And so true! I must admit, I felt good to be doing it, but it sucked. And with #2 she had reflux which gave me an incredible excuse not to nurse. Ahhhhhh…

  12. Accomplishment | Team Rasler
    August 11, 2011 | 9:39 pm

    […] you know me, or read along, you will know that I often wish that breastfeeding didn’t exist.  You will know that I fully support any woman who for any reason chooses not to do it.  I […]

  13. Brianna Storch
    October 24, 2011 | 10:46 am

    I was one of those with a generational genetic issue that made it so I never made anything more than half an ounce a day (most of it was blood). I tried so hard and it was the lactation consultant and LLL ladies who finally said, “You need to be happy for your baby.”
    The day I stopped breastfeeding I went to Taco Bell.
    I cried over my burrito but things started getting much better after that day, especially when I woke up in a frenzy one early morning to find my husband on the couch feeding our son. He said, “I’ve got this, go back to sleep.”

    Glorious, wonderful sleep.

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