Before I even start this post I feel I need to put in a disclaimer. I endorse breastfeeding. I would have done it myself if for no other reason than breast milk is FREE and formula used to cost me about $150 a month!!
Having said all that, however, I think some women who breast feed need to cut women who can’t a little slack. I suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Eighty percent of women go into remission during their pregnancies. For my first child I was unfortunately in the twenty percent that didn’t. That pregnancy was beyond awful. I had to give up all my RA medicines for the sake of the baby. So not only did I have morning sickness and the less than fun parts of pregnancy to deal with, but I also had a disease that was raging out of control.
To try to control my pain and the swelling that was damaging my joints the doctors put me on high doses of prednisone. When it didn’t work, they just increased the dose. Thanks to all the steroids I was taking I blew up like a balloon. Seriously, I didn’t even look myself by the time I got to the eighth month.
My RA pain was unbearable and I was practically bed ridden from month 5 on. My legs and feet swelled so badly that the doctors and nurses felt sorry for me. My OB/GYN decided to induce my labor at 37 weeks for the purpose of getting me back on my medicine because I was building up inflammation around my heart and organs.
I had known all along that I would not be able to breast feed. The five different meds I would take to treat my disease would turn my breast milk to poison. I was not happy about that, in fact I felt a great deal of guilt over the fact that I couldn’t breast feed. All through my pregnancy well meaning women asked me if I was going to breast feed, and when I explained that I couldn’t almost all of them tried to tell me why I should. Once I was on bed rest I didn’t see too many people anymore so the topic stopped coming up, which was a relief.
Then that glorious day came. I was induced and after a long labor I pushed the baby out. After recovery they rolled me into my semi-private room and pulled the curtain. The nurse wasn’t gone even a minute before the lactation consultant (a.k.a The Boob Nazi) was pulling back the curtain and smiling at me. She came armed and ready. Six assorted pamphlets and booklets were thrust at me and she proceeded to ask me what my plans were for managing breast feeding.
I explained that because of my medications I would be unable to breast feed. She just stood there, still smiling, as if she was unable to clearly hear what I had just said. Then she asked me if I would like a consultant to come and show me how to have the baby latch. Seriously!
I repeated the whole explanation once again, this time a little slower since she was clearly not following along. This time her smile began to fade as she realized I was serious about not breast feeding. Then she actually had the nerve to ask me if I could just not take the meds, even if for just a few weeks. The whole purpose of inducing my labor at 37 weeks was to get me back on the meds, and here was this crazy lady asking me now to voluntarily not take them. At that point I picked up the six pamphlets and thrust them right back at her and told her I did not need her services and to have a good day.
To add insult to injury, during the 48 hours I was at the hospital I was visited by two more Boob Nazis, both of whom were as hard of hearing as the first lady. I was so happy to leave the hospital with my bundle of joy and return to the privacy of my own home.
When I became pregnant with my second child I blissfully went into remission and had a perfect pregnancy. However, it was recommended that I get back on my meds as soon as I delivered because once the pregnancy hormones were out of my system I would quickly come out of remission.
I was no first time mommy anymore. I knew what to expect and I was prepared. I used the same hospital, and I literally made them write on my charts while I watched that Lactation Consultants were forbidden to enter my room. I even made sure to tell the nurse who rolled me into my private room to please tell everyone and anyone that I would not be breast feeding and that I didn’t need anyone to come and explain to me why the breast was best.
I also realized the second time that I felt no guilt. Now I knew I was a good mom and I had managed to provide my children with proper nutrition while dealing with my own medical needs. Sometimes it isn’t just a good thing to put your own needs first, sometimes it is mandatory that a mom take care of herself, otherwise she will be in no shape to take care of anyone else.
It no longer bothers me when people ask me whether I breast fed or not, but I still hear it said to many other pregnant women. It seems to be the first question asked once anyone announces that they are preggers.
“Congratulations! Are you going to breast feed?”
The shocking truth is it really isn’t anyone’s business. I know some people mean well and are looking out for the baby, but I also know how judgmental and superior some women like to feel over their peers. They wear their saggy boobs like a badge of honor.
To all the breast feeding moms out there I say “Good Job! You gave your child something I couldn’t give my own.”
To all the formula using moms out there I say, “Good Job! You are providing your child with nutrition and your baby is growing just as well as breast fed babies.”
Being a mom is hard. We don’t need the added burden of guilt or judgment.