Third-Wave Breastfeeding

While I was pregnant, breastfeeding seemed like a pretty cool thing. I didn’t really think much about it, except to plan on doing it for about a year. I wasn’t going to be one of those crazy people who do it until the kid is taller than boob height, but I wanted to give my kid as much of the good stuff as possible.

A year sounds hilarious to me now.

I hear women say how beautiful/wonderful/magical breastfeeding is. I hear the words coming out of their mouths, but I don’t understand them. For me, breastfeeding is just a thing. It’s no more magical than changing his diaper. Actually, it’s less, because he can’t smile when his mouth is full. And he loves getting on that changing table.

Let’s run down my situation:

  • I haven’t had plugged ducts or mastitis. Breastfeeding is not a painful experience for me.
  • Mixon has had no trouble latching on (this was the only thing I was worried about pre-baby).
  • I work from home.

Those all add up to a perfect, lovely breastfeeding situation. But my boobs had other ideas. Milk production. That’s my issue. My B-sized boobs can’t keep up with a dude who frequently enjoys 9 oz. meals.

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It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that he needed more, but after multiple tear-stained pediatrician visits and a downward trajectory on the growth chart, I’m happy to be supplementing with formula and pumped milk.

Breastfeeding is a sacrifice. It’s another three, six, 12, 24 months of someone else using your body. So many liberal mamas are pro-choice, but militant about breastfeeding, and I think there’s a contradiction there.

I tried everything to increase my milk supply. The forums and the LLL and the Kellymom.coms made it sound so easy. I fed on demand, spent my life pumping, bought the expensive herbal pills, and ate the oatmeal (I’m still doing all of the above, by the way). When I’d think about supplementing, I’d see the NO, DANGER, DO NOT ENTER posts about how it would kill my milk supply completely. When Mixon’s ex-pediatrician looked at me condescendingly and said “formula isn’t poison, you know,” I wanted to punch her in the face. OBVIOUSLY it isn’t poison, lady, but it tasted like failure.

The truth is, the supplementing has been liberating for me. I can actually go out without stressing that I need to be there to feed him or get home to pump as soon as I can or my milk supply willgoawayandnevercomebackandmybabywillhatemeforeverand…

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I still have some stupid hope. I’m wondering if he’ll want less when he starts solids – maybe then I’ll be enough for him. (SEE this language? I’m like a scorned woman.) I’m wondering if he’s just catching up on growth spurts he missed and will even out at some point.

The other part of me sees him freaking out with joy every time he sees a bottle and screaming at my boob, dreams of enjoying more than one glass of wine, and really loves the idea of never seeing the pump again. This part of me thinks that maybe six months is a good time to stop the madness. At least I won’t have any issues with weaning…

There are bajillions of women like me, and I think the tide is starting to shift. I’m hoping we’ll fall somewhere between the ’80s formula-heads and the present-day breastfeed-or-die crowd. I’m calling it third-wave mothering.

Third-wave feminism is less about fighting against something and more about third-wave-300x257empowering women to make their own choices without limitations (made possible with the work of the first- and second-wavers, of course). I think we’re there with breastfeeding. Third-wave mothers don’t have to shout about how amazing breastfeeding is, we know. Now we can make our own decisions based on that knowledge. Yes, there are still battles to be fought on the breastfeeding front – nursing in public, for one (I’m looking at you, Delta) – but I think it’s time to take a step and make sure we’re not shaming women for making the choice that’s best for them. I understand the need for ‘breast is best’, but we need to remember that there is, often, a person attached to that breast.

Third-wave mothering, third-wave parenting, is parenting free from judgement. Just because something is right for my baby doesn’t mean it’s right for yours. I’m writing this with one hand and Mixon is reading along as I feed him formula from a bottle.

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Just like third-wave feminism pulled back from the second wave fear of women who stay at home, I hope third-wave parenting will pull back on the fear of formula. I’ll say it again – nursing is a sacrifice. You’re allowing someone else to control your body – the same someone who did it for 10 months, btw – and that should always be a choice.

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