When a child is born, she only has one real task; eat. For whatever reason, my daughter just wasn’t that into it. She regarded my lovely wife’s boobs as really awesome pillows, instead of milk dispensers. We were immediately bombarded with opinions, advice, suggestions and schemes on how to get our uncooperative little nugget to effectively breast feed. We enlisteda team of hospital nurses, a night nurse, a day doula, three lactation consultants, two breast feeding classes, a state-of-the-art breast pump, another military grade breast pump, small breast flanges, large breast flanges, fast flow nipples, slow flow nipples, two different contraptions that involved a formula-filled bottle worn as a necklace and attached to two thin tubes taped to your nipples, syringes, cabbage leaves, and a daily regimen of something called Fenugreek and Goat’s Rue. Nothing worked.
My bullshit sensor started pinging about a week into this arduous adventure, when we were told of a “solution” called Craniosacral Therapy. As far as I can tell, CST involves pressing on the child’s skull bones to regulate her “cerebro-spinal rhythms” and awaken her “inner physician” in order to cure everything from bad boob sucking to back pain. To learn more about the merits of CST, you can click here: www.quackwatch.org.
After two more weeks of being “educated” by this cadre of nurses and nudnicks, I seriously began considering the possibility that not one of them knew what the fuck they were talking about. Don’t get me wrong, they were all very nice, and I’m quite sure they all meant well. Unfortunately, not one of their suggestions had any positive lasting effect on Sleeping Booby’s feeding prowess. Failures, however, did not dissuade Team Teat from telling us everything we HAD to do to ensure success. And, more often than not, the guidance we got depended entirely on which member of the Boobie Bunch was currently in the room. For example:
- Our nurse told us we had to use spring water in the formula, the doula said tap water only.
- The doula said feeding our daughter formula would eliminate any chance of her breast feeding. The nurses in the hospital gave her formula on day ONE, telling us she would end up in the NICU on an IV otherwise.
- The books all say to feed every two hours. The pediatrician told us to let her sleep for up to 6 hours.
- The latest literature says babies who sleep on their sides could suffer from a nasty condition known as death, while our nurse said it’s fine.
- Our nurse said Casey’s habit of sleeping on momma instead of breast feeding was a good thing. The lactation consultants said to splash water on her to wake her up if she dared take a boob snooze.
This shouldn’t be this hard. Babies have been breast feeding for thousands of years. What if we were on a desert island without access to industrial strength breast pumps and cruelty free organic formula? We kept trying to no avail, turning our baby from a dream into a nightmare, and my wife from a confident, intelligent and happy person, into a self-doubting, depressed, confused one. On a desert island I guess this was the way it had to be; but on the island of Manhattan, it just seemed silly.
On what would be my wife’s final visit to a breast feeding clinic, upon hearing our plight, the lactation consultant told my wife she now would need to INCREASE her pumping to make up for time we lost by following our parental instincts. I gently guided my wife out of the room to avoid the first ever death-by-breast-pump bludgeoning, and went home. After making the little one a warm batch of formula, I pulled out my abacus and did some maths, because things were not adding up. Below is breakdown/schedule of breastfeeding an uncooperative baby:
Baby needs to feed every three hours, 15-20 minutes on each boob. Then, because uncooperative baby is not actually eating anything during these sessions, baby must be bottle fed, which involves mixing, warming, feeding with a slow flow nipple (to make the baby sucks the actual human nipple better) and mid-bottle burping which takes about 20 minutes in all. Then, because baby is not sucking any milk out, momma’s breasts must be artificially pumped and the pump parts must be cleaned and sterilized each time, taking an additional 20 minutes. Somewhere throughout this process the baby needs to be put down, and if you are lucky enough for that to happen, it usually takes about 15 minutes. Of course because the baby is now actually eating formula, it will be peeing and pooping which requires around 8 changes a day at about 5 minutes each, barring cataclysmic volcanic expulsions.
BOOBS 8x30+ BOTTLE 8x20+ PUMP 8x20+ PUT DOWN 8x15+ CHANGING 8x5= 12 HOURS OF ESSENTIAL UNCOOPERATIVE BABY CARE PER DAY
Now you might say, “12 hours? That’s not so bad, you still have 12 hours to do what you need to do. Welcome to parenting, stop whining, suck it up, and take care of your kid.” Point taken. I’d first point out that a baby that actually HAS figured out the breast feeding thing gives mom an extra 5.3 hours a day, or as is known in parenting, an eternity. But here’s the real catch - the 12 hours denoted above don’t happen IN A ROW. Not twelve, or six, or four, or three consecutive hours. You see, each breast/bottle/pump/put down/change cycle takes almost 2 hours. Then, in about an hour, it starts again. Can someone please explain to me how my wife, without an army of assistants and three or four extra boobs, could possibly last, utilizing only 12 one-hour intervals per day to sustain herself as a human being? Do you sleep for one, eat for the other, and use the bathroom in the third? If anyone out there is experiencing the same feeling of failure and hopelessness as we were, stop. What we were being asked to do is not possible. The numbers don’t lie. I swear, as much as these people pushed the merits of breast feeding, I started to wonder if they weren't part of some dark Similacian conspiracy to force new moms to the formula aisle.
I am a proponent of breast feeding. The simplest, most natural solutions are usually the best, in my opinion. In most cases, breast feeding is probably better for the baby. But in our case, it became a matter of how much stress we were willing to put our family under, in this all new and completely daunting environment. At what point is THAT unhealthy?
4 1/2 years later, our daughter is big, healthy and cool as shit. I’m not saying this is because we chose to formula feed her. I’m not saying everyone, or anyone necessarily should. Did we do the “right” thing? No way to know. All I’m saying to new parents is you are going to hear a LOT of advice and opinions from a LOT of places. There’s only only one opinion that matters; yours. Follow it. You might be right. You might be wrong. You might end up with an awesome little monster like we did.