If you’re not a parent, or you are a parent who happens to live under a rock, you don’t know who Dr. William Sears is. But have no fear, sweet Internet, because I am about to enlighten you. He’s a crunchy-granola sort of doctor dude, the sort who has 43 kids and writes many, many different books on parenting. Not being the sort of person who tends to buy books on parenting–save for my coveted Dr. Spock book–because I figure that I do know more than I think I do, I only ran across him when I was highly pregnant with Alex and scouring the bookstore for a book on breastfeeding.
After my complete and abject failure at breastfeeding my first son, I decided that I must find the most militant book, written by the most militant author and read it cover to cover in order to be a proper breastfeeder. And Dr. Sears, with all of his 32 kids, was just the sort of militant breastfeeding advocate I needed.
It’s pretty safe to say that I was still pretty scarred from my inability to nurse Ben and had harbored a fairly large feeling of failure for the five years between the two of them. It was obviously MY fault (what shocks me as a parent is how quickly you begin to look for faults in yourself rather than accept certain truths about your child. My Ben was a lousy eater. My Alex IS a lousy sleeper. Neither of these has a damn thing to do with me) as an inept parent and everywhere I turned, this was only reinforced by everyone around me.
My brother was born in 1971 to a couple of hippies (also: my own parents) in a country hospital where breastfeeding was looked down upon as something that only savages did. The preferred choice was the far more sanitary and less savage-like baby formula, and despite my mother’s insistence that she nurse her son, she gave in to the nurses badgering after awhile.
The backlash to this formula craze was so severe, that even years later, when my first was born, I felt it. It seemed like no matter what I tried, no matter what excuse I had for why it hadn’t worked out, someone else was there to tell me that feeding formula to my son was Wrong. With a capitol ‘W.’
Even the cans of formula I carefully saved up for chastised my choice with a sweet message: “Breastfeeding is ideal.” It killed me to pay through the teeth to get the lip service from a can of formula.
(and yes, I know precisely WHY it says that on the can.)
Any parent I came across assumed that my choice to not breastfeed Ben stemmed from my age, my inexperience, and furthermore, from my abject laziness. (none of these are true, by the way. I tried desperately, but you know what? It turns out that autistic kids hate to be touched!) I’ve even heard the argument that formula ought to be available by prescription only.
Dr. Sears, whose book I did end up reading, succeeds in properly guilting anyone who dares put a pacifier near their baby’s mouth (nipple confusion!) or breaks down and feeds the child a desperate bottle so that Mommy can properly take a damn nap for more than 20 minutes. Apparently, you should only use YOUR nipples as comfort objects and consider formula that of The Devil! I mean, HIS wife breastfed their adopted children! What the HELL is wrong with you for not being able to do something SO SIMPLE?
Come on, people. Lighten up.
Sure, breastfeeding is best for the baby, I’m not claiming that it isn’t, nor would I ever. But having had one primarily formula fed (I pumped for the first month to very little output) and one primarily breastfed, I will tell you one thing: I preferred the formula experience.
I breastfed Alex initially to prove that I could, in fact do so properly (I could) and continued because I knew it was the best choice for him. Not because I loved it.
But what bugs me about the whole breast versus bottle debate is this: some of the breastfeeders tend to attack the formula feeders to the point where I’m not sure I’d tell someone if I chose to use formula.
Why should someone who chose to not breastfeed–for whatever reason–be treated like a leper? It’s not as though they’re giving their child apple juice and vodka. Breastfeeding is a deeply, intensely personal choice and–like the epidural–it’s not something that really makes or breaks you as a parent.
I’m not denying that breastmilk is best, because it is, but so is buying everything organic, free-range, and from a farmer’s market rather than shopping at Target or Aldi. Hell, why aren’t you growing your own veggies and raising your own livestock while we’re at it? And shit, you should totally make your own non-sweatshop produced clothes! Because those choices are all “better” too.
And besides, no matter how carefully you control what your baby/toddler eats, that ickle one will grow up into a child, then a teenager who will eat Cool Ranch Doritos at school for lunch, rather than the carefully hand grown carrots you sent to school. How do I know this? EXPERIENCE. My mother was that crunchy person who sent me to school with that sort of thing, and did I eat it? NEVER.
I guess all that I’m saying is why can’t we all get along? Why does one choice have to disqualify the other as a viable alternative? Because seriously, if we could stand united without having to pick apart the choices of others (*ahem* MOTRIN MOMS), can you imagine all that we could accomplish?
Or hell, maybe it’s just me and my propensity toward incontinence talking here.