Monday, March 16, 2009
Breastfeeding: Is it Worth the Hassel?
I just came across this interesting article that questions the current cultural pressure towards exclusively breastfeeding your baby. The article is interesting, and the woman who writes it is a smart cookie. The other day I was talking to a couple who recently adopted a beautiful little baby girl-- and therefore had no real choice about the whole breastfeeding thing-- and we agreed that formula feeding has its advantages. I know that in particular, I wish that Ben could have had more bonding with Zosia when she was a newborn, and he didn't have many opportunities, mainly because I was the one doing virtually all of the nurturing through feeding (now, Zosia wasn't much of a snuggler, so most of our intimate moments happened while nursing). And there's the fact that breastfeeding is an around-the-clock pressure that keeps you tied to the little squirt.
But at the end of the day, I am totally happy that I breastfed Zosia. Let me preface this conversation by saying that I have emerged from the first year of parenthood believing that biologically, psychologically, etc. there are inherent differences between men and women that are exaggerated by the process of procreation. I'm not saying that men can't be nurturing, that women can't be providers, etc. But I am saying that the process of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding encourage a very primal and female-centered process of self-giving, nurturing and creation that are beautiful and unique and could never be replicated by a tribe of men. It just wouldn't happen. That being said, I am very thankful that the process of breastfeeding was there to cultivate these virtues in me. There were many many moments in the first weeks in particular of parenthood that, given the choice, I would have handed my baby over to someone else and checked out, no questions asked. Had it not been for the fact that this helpless lifeform was counting on my fully for sustenance, I know that I would have done that, and in most ways, I'm sure that my life would have been more "normal" as compared to my pre-pregnancy life because of it. But instead, breastfeeding (a baby that refused even bottles of expressed milk, mind you), was a transformative experience that really changed the way I relate to other people, the way I think of myself, and the way I behave in the world. It was like a year of boot camp for detachment from the world or something.
So, I really do think that there's something amazing in breastfeeding. Do I think that all women must do it, or that those who choose otherwise should be shunned? No, absolutely not. But I also don't think that women should shy away from it because of the fact that it challenges our societal norms of independence, accomplishment, professionalism. And even in my own family, there are certain modifications I'm hoping to make with baby number two... I'm really praying hard that she is going to take bottles of expressed milk on occasion, which would be a beautiful experience for Ben, and give me the chance to take a class, go out for a couple hours, whatever.