Baby & Toddler

Breastfeeding Sucks

One thing that parents are best at — and yes, readers, I’m talking about you, and I’m talking about myself as well — is trying to tell other people what to do.

Maybe it’s natural. Maybe it comes from being parents. You’re forced to order your kid around. So, why shouldn’t the rest of the world do what you say, too?

Kveller recently ran a story on a shortage of baby formula in the Hasidic community (the Wall Street Journal followed it). As can be expected, it was summarily attacked, on here and on my way-too-sharey Facebook page. Mostly, it was that knee-jerk “a-ha!”ness of parents who see a mention of bottlefeeding and leap to point out the wrongness inherent in a parenting style not their own.

Breastfeeding has become a badge of honor. A few months ago, when a brand of formula started advertising itself as “the healthiest choice,” tons of parent bloggers (myself included) pounced on it. In parent-heavy environs like Park Slope, there’s a type of bottle that actually advertises that the milk inside is breast milk — which is so self-righteously snotty, conceited, and straight-up ill-willed that it’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking breast milk when I heard about it, or I would’ve spit it across the room in shock.

My wife is an ardent supporter of breastfeeding. And our baby drinks formula.

Both of our babies started out on a boobs-only diet. In both cases, however, we had at one point to face the reality that she just didn’t have enough milk.

My wife was the first to admit it. The fact that I’m saying this is a testament to her openness and honesty. Not to get all sexually-bifurcated on you, but if this happened to men, we would never talk about it. I mean, the male gender invented the term “pissing contest.” If someone were to tell us that a part of our bodies were insufficient? A check-outtable, oversexualized part? Forget it, we’d never step outside again.

But my wife, she knows how to face reality. Her mother is one of the top lactation consultants in Australia and a mother of seven, and she had to supplement feeds for all but one of her children. There are a million things that can cause a situation like this — stress, exhaustion, genetics, or simple dehydration. Or it could be something more sinister. For us, it was one of each.

When our daughter was 6 weeks old, my wife got a virus. It led to her becoming dehydrated, which caused her milk supply to crash. She was in bed for days. I had to get all Michael Keaton on her, playing at being a single father, jumping rooms from the baby to her and back again. I can’t imagine how my mother-in-law (or anyone else) dealt with newborn twins. (Actually: Maybe by getting stressed out and losing some of her milk. Duh.) It was hard. She recovered, but her milk supply took months of hard work to build up again. For our second child, the reason was less dramatic, but we had to face facts. There simply wasn’t enough.

We were hard workers. We were vigilantes. We only wanted what was best for our babies. We had homebirths, only fed our kids organic food (my wife made most of it herself), and I read the bejeezis out of every parenting book I could get my hands on. That was the hardest part of this recent formula shortage, and the frustrating lack of answers from the FDA — we’d decided to only give our baby cholov yisroel formula, since we believe it’s especially important on a spiritual level.

So yes, breastfeeders and overachievers, I’m with you all the way. I’m on your side. I hear what you’re saying.

But sometimes, you need to just shut the hell up.

Matthue RothMatthue Roth is an associate editor at MyJewishLearning.com. He has written three novels and a memoir, and is the co-creator of the animated Torah series G-dcast. He keeps a secret diary at www.matthue.com.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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