After a briefly bumpy start, Kristin mastered the art of nursing her daughter, thanks in part to a lactation consultant. She breastfed for about two years, cherishing the midnight bonding that comes when baby cozies up to mom, and the rest of the world yawns to a slumber.
Kristin is thankful breastfeeding went well, but if formula had been necessary, she said she’s confident her daughter would’ve been fine.
For more of Kristin’s experiences with nursing, read on.
Q: When your daughter was an infant, how did you feed her?
A: When my daughter was born, I planned to breastfeed for three months, then reassess. I had trouble at first, the learning curve in latching on and all that, and those first 48 hours were a panicked nightmare that I was starving her. Enter lactation consultant, who in an hour had me set up for success! The best $110 I ever spent!
I planned to go back to work after three months, and was pumping and freezing, also in the hope that my husband would be able to bottle feed her. I think she took two bottles total, and after that it was always straight from the source. I ended up working from home for the next several years, and she self-weaned just before she turned two.
My mantra was ‘whatever works.’ If she hadn’t been such a champion nurser I’m sure we would have tried bottle and formula, or bottle and pumping, but as the months progressed, I was really glad it worked out the way it did. It was an amazing bonding experience, and she was an incredibly healthy baby. Who knows how much of that was due to nursing, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt. One of my most unreasonably proud moments was when my daughter was a month old and her pediatrician saw some of my breast milk in a bottle and mistook it for formula, saying, ‘That’s breast milk? You’ve got ice cream in there!’
As she got a little older, I realized that she was likely going to be my only child, and the experience of nursing her, in a rocking chair in the dark, in the wee small hours of the morning is absolutely one of the high points of my life.
Q: Did you ever feel judged or scorned because of your method? For example, did a friend or relative criticize you?
A: I think you cited that study that found that women who bf were considered less intelligent, and I definitely found that bias. In a lot of ways, I ~felt~ less intelligent at that point in my life, but I’m sure it was the sleep deprivation, not the nursing. I know my mom thought I breastfed my daughter too long (I was a child of the 70s, bottlefed from birth), but she never said anything.
Q: If you did experience judgment, explain how it affected you emotionally.
A: The judgment definitely makes it harder, whether it’s overt from people you know, or something you read – I believe that the vast majority of the time, our mothering instincts are correct. I felt like I spent a fair amount of time pushing back those feelings of inadequacy (“Am i doing it right? That’s not what she does,” etc.).
Q: Based on your experiences, what would you tell first-time moms as they seek to feed their babies?
A: Do what works for you and your baby. Listen to advice, but don’t feel under any obligation to take it. You know your baby. Ask lots of questions, then trust your gut.
I am enormously grateful for the resources to be able to work with a lactation consultant when I had trouble, and I’m so glad I was able to nurse as long as I did. But had my situation been different, I have no doubt that my daughter would have been fine had she been bottle fed. Trust your gut. If you resent the time with the pump, or it’s a struggle physically to nurse, then by all means do what works best. I surprised myself by enjoying nursing much more than I expected, and the drawbacks (occasional inconvenience, often feeling somewhat cowlike) were dwarfed by the satisfaction and bonding of nursing.
Kristin was one of my journalism instructors in graduate school. Her writing and editing skills are some of the finest you’ll find.
- Got Milk? Breastfeeding’s Not Free–or Easy (Mama Writes, April 14, 2012)
- ‘Your Son Will Be Fat, Lazy and Sick’ (Mama Writes, April 21, 2012)
- Mom’s Milk+Formula=A Happy Baby (Mama Writes, May 5, 2012)