Friday, March 25, 2011

The Choice: To Bottle Feed

I’m not a mom. And I’ve been verbally chastised enough by mothers to know that when you’re not a mom, you’re generally not allowed an opinion because you just don’t understand.

I don’t know if I ever will be a mom. I’m not married, so the option is out right now. And if I get married, I’d like to have kids – but only if I marry someone who is committed to being an actively involved dad. I’ve watched too many of my friends live as married single mothers, and I have no desire to do what they do, nor do I desire to ask children to live in a home with a dad who is there – but not really.
So all of my upcoming opinion may never matter. But just in case it does, it’s an opinion I do have. It’s wildly unpopular, but I stick to my guns on this one.

I do not want to breastfeed if I ever have a baby.

And by “I do not want to,” I mean unless God writes otherwise on the wall or it is 200% financially necessary, I will not do it.

The mothers who are fond of verbal chastisement have let me know in no uncertain terms that I’m already a terrible mother by even thinking this direction, and essentially, my children will be not only dreadfully unhealthy but also stunted in intelligence because of my selfish decision.


But here are (some of) my reasons, and I would like to say that the majority of them were introduced to me while I silently observed women who breastfed their children.

• I will not argue against research. Any article you read will tell you breast milk is better for a baby than any manmade formula. But this I know: some of the healthiest people I know were bottle fed babies. And some of the lectures I received about the health-merits of breastfeeding were spoken to me during said child’s breathing treatment or after a visit to the allergist to try to figure out for the 150th time just what might be the culprit. So while I won’t go so far as to say breast milk isn’t the best for a baby, it’s not a selling point for me. Not when I see just as much, if not more, general health battles in that population of children.

• Ouch. I read a lot of mom blogs. I don’t know why, since I don’t have kids and don’t need to read 765 comments on which brand of diapers is preferable. But I still read them. And many of these women are passionate about promoting breastfeeding. As a non-mom, I submit to you that writing about the pain of being bitten, anything involving the word engorged, talk of blood, infection, or plugged ducts does not inspire another person to go thou and do likewise. A couple of years ago, I had to stop reading one blog entirely because I couldn’t handle reading the physical horror stories anymore. I felt horrible for the poor mama – but if she was trying to convince me this is the way to go, she um…failed.

• This is where I start getting called selfish. I’m old, y’all. Old and set in my ways. I’m quite used to doing what I do when I do it, and I know if I ever have kids, that is going to be an enormous adjustment. But I can tell you right now that I will be a much better mother if I do not have to worry about being so tied to a feeding schedule. I know myself. If I have to be there every minute of every day (or be within reaching distance of a pump) – I will go nuts. Literally, certifiably nuts. If I need to run to the grocery store, I don’t want to stop and do mental math to see if I can make it there and back before the next feeding – and Heaven forbid Wal-Mart pull one of its stunts and hold me hostage in line for 30 minutes while I lactate all over my shirt. If babies sense stress, my kid will be much better off with a bottle and a mom who is at peace about her schedule.

• The guilt. Oh. The. Guilt. This is another one I learned from those blasted blogs. The guilt of – oh I only lasted a week. I failed my child. Next blog. I only lasted a month. I failed my child. Next blog. I only lasted six months. I failed my child. Next blog. I only lasted eight years. I failed my child AND get hate mail after making the evening news. There’s never a good time to quit. They all feel guilty, no matter how long they lasted. I live with enough self-battering. I don’t need to add that.

• The worry. I have examined my baby’s poop by digging it out of the diaper with a spoon – and I can’t tell…is he eating enough? I will look at the bottle and see how much he’s eating and thereby eliminate that worry. Should I breastfeed here without offending or should I go hide somewhere? No worries for me. I have a bottle. Did I eat something that upsets the baby? Bring me a cup of coffee and some Mexican food. I will be worried enough about things like body temperature, breathing while sleeping, cutting fingernails down too far, and the actual security of the car seat. If I can save myself this one, I am all about it.

• Dad. I have an image seared in my mind. I’d gone to visit some friends. Mom was a breastfeeding mother. As a result, baby generally only wanted Mom. Dad had been nervous about the role of fatherhood anyway, and I knew it. He and I sat in the living room one night while Mom tried to put the finishing touches on dinner in the kitchen. The baby howled, wanting Mom and dinner. Dad, trying to be a good father, took the baby and tried to comfort her. She screamed louder. The helplessness was evident and my heart broke for him. He just wanted to be useful and he felt anything but. That was actually the moment I decided this was not the path I wanted to take. I want my husband to be able to be a dad without reservation. I want anyone else who wants to pitch in and help with a feeding here and there (either to spend time with the baby or just to be a help) to be able to do that.

So that’s my stance. If I ever have a baby and God pours conviction over my heart to change my mind, I’ll obey. And if there’s absolutely no way it can be financially possible, I’ll give in. (But I’m giving up cable and eating out first to see if I can make it work.)


Marsha said...

As a mother of three (very healthy) children who were, for the most part, bottle fed... I salute you! I too, did not find the "ooey gooey bonding time" in breast feeding. For me, it was stressful, I was clausterphobic with the thought of being tied down, and dang it! IT HURT! So, slap me on the wrist and call me evil, but my children are excelling in school and there are no health problems or allergies. And can I tell you how nice it is to let DAD get up with them at 2am to feed them?? boo-ya!

Anonymous said...

Great little article. I attempted to breastfeed with both my kids, but as someone who is VERY independent and don't really care too much about what others think, let them say whatever they want, I ended the breastfeeding. Research is research, statistics are statistics, but that doesn't mean it's right or wrong for anyone and everyone. Apparently it's safer to fly then drive.......but I have better luck living through a car wreck then I do a plane crash. Bottom line is there's a lot to be said about minding your own business and not butting or bossing into others! Enjoyed reading. :-)

Kendra said...

I nursed both my babies. It was one of the single greatest experiences of my life. In fact, my daughter nursed for 20 months. However, both of my children would take a bottle of formula as well if needed. My husband bonded with our kids immediately and never felt anything like what you describe toward the end of your post. If you truly have a hands-on dad like the one you described at the beginning of this post, you won't have to worry about Dad not bonding w/the baby or feeling out-of-the-parenting-loop. You can choose to bottle feet, but you will find that most of your reasons are all about you and not all about your possible future baby. No parent lives their life to be all about them. Parenting teaches us that life isn't all about us. I'm thankful for that lesson.