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A Mother's Dilemma

Not enough milk?

Breasts Dry, Eyes Wet continued...

Instead, I found myself dreading the thought of going out and bottle-feeding in public. All my new-mom friends breastfed with aplomb, and it was painful to be around them. I forgot to bring formula to one new-moms'-group outing, and when Julian got fussy with hunger, I finally explained to the group that I had to leave. One of my friends asked, in all innocence, "Can't you just breastfeed?" I felt my face grow hot with mortification as I stammered that I couldn't, and when I got home I sobbed and sobbed. I eventually turned to psychotherapy to deal with the depression over my breastfeeding failure.

So I was a mess, but Julian was fine. Four years later, he's healthy, beautiful, and bright. It's absolutely impossible to tell which of his peers were exclusively breastfed and which weren't. It simply doesn't seem to matter. And I have come to see that my efforts didn't necessarily prove what a wonderful, devoted mother I was. Rather, they demonstrated how pervasive the mentality of "breast is best, at all costs" has become and the extremes to which a supposedly rational person can go to pursue this ideal.

A New Strategy

With this realization, and hazed by my first experience, I determined to do things differently the second time around. I decided that I'd give it everything I had for four weeks and then give myself permission to quit, guilt-free, if breastfeeding wasn't working and if I was miserable. I amassed the paraphernalia I'd need: a breast pump, a baby scale to monitor the baby's weight gains and losses, a new supplemental nursing system, and yes, clean bottles and fresh cans of formula powder. I informed everyone around me of the plan and insisted on their support, both for the up-front effort and for whatever I decided afterward. I was ready.

Things got off to a good start with an easy birth, and brand-new Eliot came home with me the second day. On day three, my milk came in, and I was actually thrilled by the aches and pains of engorgement. Nevertheless, I still didn't make enough milk to exclusively breastfeed. The difference this time, though, was that I was content in feeding him what I had. I no longer saw supplementing with formula as a failure of motherhood.

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