All those pictures of the serenely smiling mother who is tenderly cradling and eye-locking her happily breast-sucking newborn were sponsored by insane asylums or drug companies that want to depress the crap out of mothers then medicate them, thereby earning their big bucks.
You know those pictures! May as well call it "breastfeeding porn" for all the realism it bears to real-life average new-mama breastfeeding.
And here's the thing: most all of us buy into it. That breastfeeding is "natural" so it is as simple as putting the baby up, baring the breast, and like the positive and negative magnetic fields, they will find one another and instantly embrace.
Only it's not, it's really not. It's like the negative and negative magnetic fields from the way some babies (– mine) scream, arch, pull away, go red and writhe. And it's like…what the hell? And in my case, this being my THIRD time around, it was like what the HELL?
What the FREAKIN' HELL? Are you kidding me? Cuz this can't be happening to me! I'm supposed to have this thing down already!
I know "breast is best". You don't need to tell me that. My beloved Ma has always credited my stellar good health and cast-iron stomach to my having been breast fed. Never any hepatitis, dysentery or meningitis for me! Whatever smarts I might have, too, come straight from that warm mother's milk. I've grown up paying homage, albeit silently, to the wonders of breast milk, and believing that any mother that would give her baby anything other than the almighty Milk would be borderline abusive.
And yet. I've had to give my 3 babies – all of them – formula at one point or another. My first born was supplemented all the way until what milk I had dried up because I was pregnant again. Moxie, my second born, was almost exclusively formula fed for the first two months. And now Mac – we're easing off of it, but he had a good chunk of the stuff ingested since he came out of me, some 70 days ago.
It's sucked. Hard. And I have wanted to lash out at every disapproving pair of Berkeley attachment-parenting-crazed eyes that have lingered at the bottle that I was feeding my child with – scream at the ease with which they seemed to breastfeed, scream too at their taut, lithe yoga bodies that just naturally shed weight as they effortlessly nurse (- because don't you know, my body clings to each and every pound while I'm lactating, loathe to give up even a little).
Breastfeeding. It's not easy. It's just about one of the hardest things in the world to get the hang of, I think. It's not just learning to do it yourself, it's learning to do it with someone who was just BORN, for crying out loud. Someone who doesn't TALK and gets pissed off when it's not happening quickly because they are HUNGRY.
And it's not easy because the "professionals" in this field can – and do – include those winners of "lactation consultants" that tell me the solution to my problems is to get on my hands and knees on the floor, let my boobs just hang down and aim one into the mouth of my baby (whom of course I'll place strategically underneath me). Uhhhh… Right. Or they want to slap a nipple shield on me, the easy short term solution that has awful long term repercussions.
I guess I feel like if our culture is going to put so much freaking pressure on women to breastfeed and be so horribly judgmental towards women who don't, there really should be more in the way of help besides telling a struggling new mother to "relax, RELAX, you just. have. to. RELAX". You know? Maybe more people out there like Jack Newman who seem to really know what they are talking about and can give all kinds of concrete, helpful advice that will lead to an actual nursing relationship being born.
Until then, I want people to ease up on the judgment, step down from the high horse of Imperious Breast Feeding. Smile at the mom who is carrying the bottle, too. Believe in the best of her and that she's trying as hard as she can to be the most awesome mother she can, and if that means formula, then that's what it means and it's fine.
Let's just support each other a little.
Because breastfeeding is really, really hard sometimes.