The older I get, the more I am convinced that all the combined “experts” out there telling us to do this and and not do that are suffering from an extreme case of Jon Snow.
They know nothing.
I say this because it’s recently come to my attention that when it comes to feeding your baby, breast may not necessarily be best. If I had a dollar for all the feedings I had to endure with an infant latched onto my sore breast, sending pain like my nipples were being electrocuted shooting through my body, then I’d at least be able to buy those cute Frye boots I’ve been eyeing this fall.
Don’t get me wrong — I was a maniac about breastfeeding my four children. And aside from its supposed health benefits — like a reduction in the risk of asthma, ear infections and respiratory issues — it also fit into my plan of being the PERFECT MOTHER. My strategy of doing everything right for my babies and thus raising exceptionally smart, well-adjusted, equally-perfect children who were forever bonded to me.
HA. HA. HA.
I am here to report that in the end, my children are no smarter, healthier or better-adjusted than yours. In fact, they turned out much like their mother, which is to say, pretty average. I mean, if you ask my kids they’d tell you that I think I’m all that and a bag of chips and I don’t think that’s a terrible way to go through life. I kind of like myself. And secretly, I think my children are pretty terrific, too.
But if we were to analyze data and compare my children to those who were bottle fed as babies, I’m pretty sure maybe some in one pool might have suffered from a few more ear infections while scoring higher on IQ tests and vice versa.
In other words, I believe I was sold a bill of goods.
Nursing all four of my kids also helped create the dynamic in which they also became mostly my problem. I’m not saying their dad never got up in the middle of the night with them, but when you’re the primary source of food then the onus is kinda on you to be the one to feed your kid all the time. It also meant that I couldn’t just hand the baby off to its grandma or another willing soul to be fed a bottle when the opportunity arose. I had to go hide in a bedroom while everyone watched football on Thanksgiving or in a locker at the beach to feed my kid.
My youngest sister had a baby recently (I know, I am so lucky) and I’ve yet to see her feed that kid. Every time I’ve been there it’s been our mom feeding him, and — after 8 kids — she knows a thing or two about feeding babies. I was shocked when I had my own baby and he cried all the time (all. the.time.) because I never remembered any of my younger siblings crying (I’m the oldest). Like, ever. In truth, my mom is the master of getting as much formula as possible into a 10-pound vessel so that in about two weeks, that kid is sleeping through the night. My kids took about three or four months to make it to that stage, which sounds like nothing now but when you are up with a pooping crybaby for 90-something nights in a row, you start to think dark thoughts.
And now, it turns out that all that effort I put into shielding my babies from drinking the poisonous formula and instead imbibe on my golden milk; the approximately 400 nights watching QVC at 3 a.m. with an infant nodding off at my breast; the horror of watching my postpartum knockers expand to the size of an exotic dancer’s and become hard as rocks not to mention the smaller, secondary breasts that developed under my armpits from errant milk glands; enduring the pain that must be akin to what it feels like to have someone douse your breasts in gasoline and set them on fire when a newborn latches onto your cracked and scabbed nipples; all of that, apparently, was for nothing because now the experts have determined that the benefits are “modest” at best.
And that is bullshit.
But here’s what I need to remind myself, that there were some nice parts, too. There was something quite soothing about nursing your baby once you got past that totally terrible beginning stage and had nowhere else to be. And when that surge of oxytocin kicked in and that warm feeling radiated throughout my body, that my friends was better than any glass of Kendal Jackson. And there was something pretty cool about looking down at my baby nursing and knowing that I was sustaining her. That my body was producing milk, I mean, that’s crazy and powerful and in the end I wound up with four healthy kids so I should just be grateful.
It also helped me learn how to be an expert multi-tasker who, by the fourth child, could nurse that baby while cooking ground beef for Hamburger Helper for the older kids. (Does anyone see the irony here of insisting on breastfeeding my kids and then feeding them a bowl of sodium?)
But I’m glad I kept the crazy to a minimum and only focused my perfect-mommy mania on the breastfeeding. Making my own baby food and homeschooling were also temptations for a while.
Glad I opted for chicken nuggets and public education because being perfect only gets you so far.