I'm not an expert in... well... anything. However, I feel like my life experiences have taught me a lot. Jack of all trades- master of none- is really a good way to describe me. I dabble in a little of this and that.
This is my breastfeeding saga.
When my son was born, I was a single mom. 23 years old and freaked out, scared out of my wits. I had never even changed a boy's diaper. I didn't even plan on having kids until my life took this unexpected detour.
I made a conscious decision to not breastfeed him because I knew I would have some hurdles in this solo parenting journey that haunted me and I wasn't up for any more unknowns. I knew I would likely be depending on the help of my family and friends and that being the sole milk machine, might make it more difficult to call on them in times of need.
In the hospital, I got 'the look' from the nurses, that look: you young, ignorant, slut- don't you know breastfeeding is best! I knew, I didn't care, I was lucky I had gotten this far- healthy baby, full term. In hindsight, I was selfish and fresh out of my college rebellion phase and maybe grasping onto it, slightly, minus the sex and drugs.
My son thrived on formula (GASP) and is still healthy and, as a 14 year old, I think he's thankful that I can't pull out stories and pictures of me breastfeeding him when his friends are over.
Enter child #2- planned- thought out- legs up in the air- watching the calendar- taking pregnancy tests constantly- planned. I was determined to do this one right. I wouldn't let those bitches judge me this time. I was in the mothering groove and I was ready to attempt breastfeeding. I took the classes. I read books. I was serious.
Child #2 had other plans. Plans of crying constantly. Plans of screaming until my ears bled. Plans of being lazy and having NO INTEREST of latching on. I went to the lactation consultants with baby in hand and tears in my eyes. Nothing.
I attended a nursing support group that was held in the backroom of a child's second hand store. The store owner and leader of the group was pregnant and had her 2, 3, and 5 year olds undoing her bib overalls at their whim throughout the meeting to get a drink of "milky". As much as I was put off by this, it made me feel like that much more of a failure, because I couldn't get my ONE newborn to latch on! I left there feeling worse.
I went to my pediatrician. I sat in a dark room swaddling a naked baby at my breast while massaging her legs and begging her to latch on while the doctor watched-for-an-hour. AWKWARD. But still nothing. She was 4 weeks old when my doctor finally decided that she was a 'lazy nurser' and I would probably be better off bottle feeding. She won. Her will was stronger than mine.
Child #3 -I could prove that I wasn't a failure. Breastfeeding wouldn't take me down. I was confident. I had done this before (no one needed to know that I failed, miserably.) From the moment she was born she latched on like a champ. It was a completely different experience- it was rewarding, overwhelming, redeeming. I reveled in it. I finally accomplished this hurdle and unspoken judgement that had followed me for so long. She nursed for 11 months and never took a bottle or drank formula.
Child #4 followed suit of #3- as if she left the directions, step by step, in utero. It was too easy. So easy, I never wanted to stop, knowing that she would probably be my last, I wanted to hang on as long as I could. I needed her to need me. I started getting family comments, "isn't she about old enough to be done nursing, yet?" She probably was, I wasn't. I could have kept going for a lot longer. I gave in to social stigmas and acceptability. At 13 months, I weened her. And me.
I've been on both sides. I see why people make the decisions that they make. I don't judge. This is never an easy decision and is rarely a simple road. Women need to stick together and stop with the high and mighty shit- from both sides.
The cherished smell of a baby, a mother's love, the emotional attachment and adoration for that baby is no less or more with breastfeeding. We all want to do what is best for our baby's health, future, and happiness. Every one's circumstances are different and we do the best we can with what we have. Only you know what works best for you and your baby.