I know, I know. Just the title sends a horribly selfish vibe. Yes, I suppose there is quite a bit of selfishness in the choice I have made the last six babies and will for this surprise number seven when it comes to breastfeeding. With my first who was born early and spent two weeks in the NICU, I spent hours pumping and feeding him bottles while he learned to suck. I then nursed him, but every feeding lasted about 45 minutes PER SIDE and then I still had to give him a bottle for him to seem content and not hungry. So after four months of doing that and pumping, I quit. I just couldn't do it anymore. It was way too stressful and gave me a lot of anxiety that left me with an upset stomach constantly.
With number two, he learned a lot faster and things went more smoothly, but by four months, again, I was nursing him from each side about 45 minutes and still having to give a bottle for him to seem content. For him, it was a formula bottle, rather than pumped milk as with my first (whose pumped milk lasted another two months--so technically he got breastmilk through month six, the first did). After one really long weekend where he wouldn't sleep at all and screamed and screamed and I was about ready to do something horrible to him, I decided that I needed to just give formula and allow my husband to take turns feeding him. I was much calmer and happier after that.
With number three, I tried again but only made it two months. With number four, same thing. With number five, I made it six weeks and then when number six came around, I still nursed her in the hospital to give her that good colostrum and tried for the first few weeks, but my heart was no longer in it. I knew that it was a hugely stressful thing for me. Plus, I don't know how other moms can just sit and pop a baby on and off, no big deal. I have to have about four pillows stacked all around me for comfort, so getting ready to breastfeed is a major project for me, and to have to do that every 1-2 hours for more than an hour at a time makes it a highly unpleasant experience for me. I hate having huge achy breasts, I hate the feel of the baby suckling my nipple, and I just don't have the patience it takes to sit there for long hours without knowing if the baby is getting enough.
I am grateful that modern science has provided an option in the form of formula and while I'm intelligent enough to understand completely that formula does not come close to replicating breastmilk and the amazing thing that it is, I still appreciate that it's there.
As I'm coming up on the birth of surprise baby number seven, I am recognizing the massive anxiety and panic I am feeling over having to consider this choice all over again, as I thought I had left that in the past with number six and had finally gotten over the guilt of my breastfeeding-loathing. Part of me doesn't even want to bother with it at all, just give him formula right from the start and forget about breastfeeding entirely, but I still feel guilt over this feeling of mine. I will probably try again, knowing full well it's something I really hate to do. So, as I was showering the other morning and thinking about the possibility of giving birth anytime now and realizing that the choice is upon me, I started thinking of all the things I'd rather do than breastfeed.
Keep in mind, these are things I really don't like to do. Here it is:
#10. Perform any type of car repair.
I know I'm capable of repairing certain parts of cars, like changing the oil. I even replaced the light bulb in one of the front headlights of my husband's car for a Christmas gift to him, to save us $100+ on having a shop do it. It was time-consuming and gave me anxiety, but I did it. I didn't enjoy it, but I'm glad to say I did it. But I don't like trying to fix cars and even watching car repair videos on Youtube to see how something is done gives me anxiety. But if I had to choose between sitting and breastfeeding a baby or changing that oil, I'd want to change the oil.
#9. Cleaning up dog vomit.
This is something that since we've had a dog, I have had a hard time stomaching. I have done it many times, but if the dog ever throws up when my husband is home, I make him do it because I can't stomach it very well. It usually makes me heave and sometimes even throw up myself. But I'd rather do that than have to sit and breastfeed.
#8. Fly to Japan (or anywhere that keeps me on a plane for so long over water).
I haven't flown all that much in my life, and every time I do, I get nervous. But the two times I flew over water, I majorly panicked. It was really scary to me. But I'd rather make that trip than have to breastfeed.
#7. Plan and execute a social event.
Wow. Planning any type of social event, even a birthday party for my kids, is not my forte. I do not feel comfortable doing anything like that. I usually encourage my kids to choose a fun family activity, like bowling, rather than have a birthday party. Planning social gatherings for adults is even more out of my comfort zone. I recently attended a cub scout banquet and was in awe at how well it was put together, with the food and the decorations and the activities. Nothing my poor brain could have come up with or executed, especially the decorating part. But if I had to choose between doing that and breastfeeding, I'd rather do that.
#6. Go to the dentist.
Like most people, I do not like going to the dentist. I don't like it for probably different reasons, though. I don't like that there is a chance I may have a cavity, which means money will be spent to fix it. I also don't like the sound of the scraping of my teeth. It's a horrible sound, akin to fingernails on a blackboard, and there is no way to tune it out because it reverberates in my head, so even earplugs wouldn't work. But I'd take that horrible, miserable 30 minutes over breastfeeding any day.
#5. Eat brussel sprouts.
Even the smell of brussel sprouts give me the dry heaves. The thought of how they taste just makes me feel sick. But I'd rather eat a serving of them than sit and breastfeed a baby for one session.
#4. Run a marathon.
I know there are a lot of people for whom running is a great escape and fills them with vigor and excitement. I am not one of those people. Ever since I was a little girl and was a gymnast, I struggled with the lung capacity to really run. I hate running. It is one type of exercise I just do not ever do. But I would rather do that than have to sit and breastfeed a baby.
#3. Make a phone call.
If you know me, you know now nervous this makes me. Even when something important is on the line, I will postpone phone calls until I no longer can. Or, if possible, I will go talk to that person IN PERSON over making a phone call. Like taking care of a bill at a dentist office recently, I took the time to drive over there with my two little kids and sit with the insurance manager to go over it, which was definitely something that could have been done by phone. I just am uncomfortable making phone calls. But if making that phone call would get me out of breastfeeding, I'd do it.
#2. Speak at an all-male convention.
Generally, I don't mind speaking. In fact, I'd rather give a talk in church than have to make phone calls for a church calling. But speaking in front of men makes me nervous. I've never had any bad experiences around men, but I just prefer to talk to women over men. In fact, I choose my kids' pediatrician and my other doctors from an all-female list because I know I will be more likely to ask questions and talk about any problems with a female than with a male. Speaking in front of just men would terrify me. But I'd rather do that than breastfeed, if that were the choice given.
#1. Clean bathrooms or any other unpleasant household chore.
I would much rather do housework than sit and nurse my babies. I don't mind bottle feeding them and then getting to work, but trying to breastfeed took so much time and effort that I was never able to get anything done. So if I had to choose to breastfeed or clean the bathrooms, I'd rather clean the bathrooms.
Okay, I realize this earns me the "worst mom of the world" award and people can now start their mudslinging and symbolic stone-throwing. I get so tired of reading articles and blogs that talk about how wonderful breastfeeding is and how essential it is to that mom-baby bond, but that there are medical exceptions. However, in my opinion, the reasons don't really matter. If a mom doesn't like to breastfeed and would rather pay hundreds of dollars every month to formula feed, she should have that right without being ostracized. If she really tries hard to do it and just can't get it to work right no matter what she does and feels incredible guilt over it, she should be able to formula feed without being ostracized.
Besides, I never once was asked whether I breastfed or formula fed once my kids were past age one. Even when we moved more than once and got new doctors, if the kid was over one, the question of whether I breastfed that child or not wasn't even asked. It wasn't asked when they started school, it wasn't asked when they took IQ exams or gifted exams, never. So far, my kids are pretty healthy and happy and well rounded. Oh, and the bonding thing? My six kids all seem to think the world of me (so far--we are getting into the teen years with the oldest, so we'll see, but so far, he still tells me I'm a great mom). I guess I managed to bond with them after all, even though I didn't breastfeed for an entire year with any of them. Somehow, we managed to bond and have healthy, happy kids without exclusively breastfeeding any of them, and only doing the bare minimum with a few of them.
That said, I will support any other mom's choice to breastfeed. Just because I don't like it and can't do it very well doesn't mean I'm opposed to it and am all "formula is the way to go!" I do wish I enjoyed it and that I wanted to do it and that I had been successful at it, but I'm not going to waste time and energy feeling bad about it when there is another option out there that, based on my life experience with my own children, has been a successful way to feed a baby.
So there. I said it. I will not be breastfeeding beyond the first few weeks with this baby. Not because I can't, but because I choose not to. I don't like it and am a happier mom when I don't do it or spend hours trying in vain to do it. Yes, it's hard, and I'm not willing to sacrifice whatever it will take to make it work. I suppose I'm selfish for that, but I'd rather be happy and a little selfish than angry all the time because I'm breastfeeding.