Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Formula feeding envy

For whatever irrational reasons, I am extremely committed to breastfeeding. Perhaps because I like challenges and following through on goals, and I set a goal to breastfeed this baby until she’s one.

Last night Mark saw me pump. I showed him the measly two ounces I got and reminded him to NOT TOUCH THE FROZEN MILK, since one 8-ounce bag is an hour and twenty minutes of my time. This is a stock for when I go back to work, not for when I get back a little too late from a short excursion.

“I think six months might be all the breastfeeding Willow needs,” he said. I think he has a better perspective as to the tradeoffs between the costs and the benefits. He thinks the benefits will only outweigh the costs for another three months or so.

“No way,” I said. “After all I’ve been through, now that it’s no longer painful, I’m breastfeeding her for a year.” My irrational self answered.

This was the same day I took a walk with a friend who is breastfeeding, but not exclusively, her five-month old baby. We weren’t able to walk far because Willow became hungry, started to cry, and there was no choice but to go to a cafĂ© and feed her. So much for exercise.

When my friend’s baby became hungry, she whipped a little container of formula out of her bag, put two scoops in a prepared bottle, shook it, and fed it to her baby. He was done in a fraction of the time it took Willow to eat and they were ready to go on with their lives.

Just a teensy weensy bit of envy there. But the greater envy is at her ability to leave her children and go have wonderful adult experiences. Recently she and her husband spent a week together in another city. Next week they are going to Morocco (for two weeks!), leaving the kids with the grandparents.

Morocco? I want to go to Morocco. Forgive my whining, but I spend a lot of time around a whining toddler these days. And I love, love to travel, especially international adventures. But Morocco is out of the picture. I’m feeling grateful for a month to explore Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

I also think back to the woman from my pre-natal yoga who had her baby about six weeks before I did. When I saw her at the library story hour, I had Willow attached to me, I had selected my clothing based on what would make it easy to nurse and I would halt my schedule the moment Willow needed to eat. I saw this woman pull a bottle out from her purse, feed the baby, and then sit back and relax, knowing that he wouldn’t be hungry for another good chunk of time, and she could go ahead and think about other things.

Things like exercise. Things like work. Things like her book group.

I’m sure I’d be in better shape if I weren’t breastfeeding. Despite claims that breastfeeding makes you lose weight, it’s doing the opposite for me. I’m convinced my body has the evolutionary impulse to consume every calorie possible and to hang on to every fat cell available as long as my baby is in need of food.

I’d be able to exercise more if I could leave for longer periods of time. I could do more things, focus more, and think more, if I could let someone else give her a bottle. I’d get more sleep at night and would be better rested and perhaps more patient. I’m planning to attend three conferences in April and it sure would be nice to be able to spend all day there rather than darting in and out, running back home to feed my baby.

I’m sure Mark sees all of this, and therefore doesn’t share my commitment to long-term breastfeeding. I also see it and wonder sometimes if I’m being a dope, overly influenced by the social forces that equate breastfeeding with being a good parent. But there is something in me that says no matter what a pain or inconvenience it is, I’m going to do my best to nurse her and to try to nurse her exclusively for as long as possible.

I don’t really understand it.


Allison said...

I just got a comment from you on my blog, so I thought I'd come check out yours and this was the first post I clicked on. Wow--I couldn't have said it better myself. I am/was fiercely committed to breastfeeding, but had/have formula feeding envy! The ease of it, the ability to be away (I just want ONE night, ONE bedtime off!)... I know my daughter's health is better off for it, but I still miss the freedom I could have had.

Lainey Wright said...

I confess I am shocked-I have never in a million years envied the so-called ease of formula feeding. For me, breastfeeding is about soooo much more than just providing food/health for my baby. The closeness it engenders cannot be replaced by anything. When you are breastfeeding your baby you are giving her your warmth, your eye contact, your intimacy & a sense of security that cannot be communicated by stuffing a bottle in her mouth & sitting back to do your own thing. And frankly, it's as convenient as it is INconvenient (maybe learn to nurse in the Ergo & keep walking?).

In any case, I find it amusing how widely opinions/feelings can vary where breastfeeding is concerned...I applaud you for continuing, especially if it is so irksome to you! (although I would surely rather you not feel so burdened by it...)