food for thought

I just read something suggesting that breastfeeding isn’t as important as we think. It’s interesting, especially given how popular breastfeeding is right now. I use the word popular deliberately; as with so many other things, societal support of breastfeeding seems to wax and wane depending on the trends. Trendy right now? Lactation and all the earth-mother goodness it represents.

I’ve always been a trendy girl, but breastfeeding – dude, it sucks. Breastfeeding should be easy, right? Nothing as natural as baby on breast? Well, sometimes it doesn’t work that way. I didn’t even have that hard a time and it was still, well, hard.

I couldn’t get the baby to latch right at first and spent days weeping hysterically because he wasn’t getting enough of the magic colostrum. Once the baby did figure out how to latch, my nipples felt like they were being pierced with tiny needles every time he fed. I’d grit my teeth and do all that Lamaze breathing that was so useless during labor just to get past the first 30 seconds, after which it settled into a bearable sort of ache. My nipples were cracked and sore, and occasionally bloody. Fun fun.

Finally, after weeks of this, it stopped hurting – but then there was the engorgement issue (ow) and some exciting experiences with plugged ducts (ow OW). Aside from all that is just the everyday awareness of my breasts. Are they leaking? Will they fit into this shirt? Do my nursing pads show? My breasts used to be fun accessories. Now they’re uncomfortable and utilitarian.

I’ve gotten a lot more used to nursing, though. At first I really disliked the fact that my body was still required for the baby’s sustenance. I’d had such a wretched pregnancy; I wanted my self back, at least for a little while. But now it’s kind of nice that I don’t have to worry about bottles or formula or anything like that. I like that the kid enjoys nursing so much, and it’s sort of satisfying to watch him grow knowing that I’ve been able to provide everything he needs to do it. Breastfeeding is convenient, no doubt about that.

I wonder how willing I would have been to put up with breastfeeding if I hadn’t been so sure it was the best thing for the baby. I’m not knocking breastfeeding. Just because it might not be as beneficial as we all thought doesn’t mean it isn’t good for the baby. I mean, obviously it’s good for the baby. It’s just not the only thing that’s good for the baby. My kid is healthy, and that’s great – but I bet he’d be just as healthy if he was formula-fed.