I am one of those mothers who “plans” to breastfeed to age two–as per the World Health Organization’s recommendation (amongst many others)–and is pretty militant about going to at least a year. E lasted until seventeen months, and I thought that was a little short.
R was weaned, completely, by nine months.
I have very, very mixed thoughts about this. I certainly didn’t plan it, and I don’t feel like we had much choice. She’d fallen off the chart (as in, below the 0-3% tier of averages) and was starting to look a little peaky to me–not to mention that the child was clearly hungry all the time–so it was an easy decision to introduce formula. Since she was never a comfort nurser, and didn’t nurse to sleep, either… she pretty much quit. And I realized I was prolonging it for no reason, since she wouldn’t nurse long enough to get any nutritional benefit (we’re talking seconds to a minute before she decided her thumb was preferable), and so I decided to see if anything happened if I stopped forcing it. Nothing happened. Life went on. And R gained 15% extra body weight in less than a month (putting her back in that 0-3% tier), which was a confirmation if nothing else was.
I’m a little abashed, sometimes. I have an opinion about formula brands. I never had experience to have an opinion before. I look for coupons. I used to give away the free samples. This whole thing, this bottle-feeding, this isn’t me. This isn’t what I know is “best,” and I’d totally agree with anyone who decided to preach at me in the grocery store. Yet this is what I’m doing, the little facts of our lives.
It’s given me a new level of compassion for formula-feeding mommies. How must it feel, to bring a newborn baby into the formula aisle, and cringe at every passerby and wonder what they must be thinking, judging? How do you wake yourself up five times in the middle of the night to mix up a new bottle correctly, or ascertain whether or not the old bottle is still good–all that thought, only to try to go back to sleep again afterwards? How much extra work goes into washing all those bottles? And the mess! Bottles, sippy cups… drip, drip, drip. Splash. Spit-out. Spit-up. Too-vigorous shaking leads to formula exploding out the spouts. Not to mention the expense. I haven’t figured out how much it’s costing us, but sometimes it seems like formula costs more than diapers–and it doesn’t help that the canisters generally aren’t very clear about how many servings each contains. And they seem to empty faster than water in a sieve. Lastly, there’s the psychological aspect: R doesn’t need me anymore. I can’t imagine not having that bond of needfulness with a newborn–having Daddy be able to fill my role entirely, or even a babysitter. Now that R knows all about sippy cups, I think she’d even take one from a perfect stranger! Who needs Mommy anymore?
Of course, all these downsides have an ‘upside,’ too, and presumably they’re what leads moms to not even try breastfeeding. And I’m still with the pro-breastfeeding advocates one-hundred percent: I think it’s wrong to not do as much as is reasonable and good (which I am leaving deliberately vague ;-)) to make breastfeeding a long-lasting success; certainly it’s morally wrong to tell a new mommy to just give up, that formula is just as good: that’s a definite and vicious lie.
In the meantime, though, I find myself a formula-feeding mommy for these short months until R is completely onto solids and whole milk. And if I’m honest, I have to be at least a little bit thankful for the technology and science that makes formula possible.
Apparently, it’s not all bad. 🙂