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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The pros and cons of breastfeeding: a totally non-medical and non-health related journey

So everyone already knows that from a purely health perspective, "breast is best." Like if the only variable involved in the decision was "which is better for my child's health?", breast would win because breastmilk comes from humans and formula comes from cows and human babies obviously do better with human milk than with cow's milk.

But there are WAY more variables involved than that.

I was not able to breastfeed my daughter successfully. It just didn't work out for us. My supply was jacked up and I had terrible anxiety and stress about it, which made supply even worse. My commitment to breastfeeding her even when it clearly was not working actually gave me postpartum depression, and it was just a nightmare from start to finish. The depression cleared up within HOURS of me announcing to Jesse that I was "f***ing done with this shit."

With Trevor, however, things have been going pretty great (which is something to keep in mind for anyone else who struggled with breastfeeding their first child. Second kid might be a whole different ballgame). 

Because of this, I have an excellent standard of comparison, since I've both formula-fed and breast-fed kids within a couple years of each other. And based on these experiences, here are the pros and cons of breastfeeding:

PRO: You have a "shut up and calm your ass down" button attached to your body

This may sound cold-hearted, but seriously -- having the ability to silence your baby during even the most insane crying jags is f***ing invaluable. I'm not talking about normal baby wahh wahh I'm bored and my foot is cold crying -- I'm talking about the crying they do when they've just gotten three shots in five seconds, or if they're extremely overtired to the point where they cannot pull themselves back from the abyss. This is the type of crying that makes parents lose their minds, because it is so loud and hopeless and there's just not much you can do about it.

But there is. Stick a boob in their mouth, and it's like the whole thing never happened.

Trevor is 4 1/2 months old, and I can still reliably use a boob to calm him down and put him to sleep when he's worked up. With Audrey, we used a binkie, which worked sort of, most of the time. But the boob works 100% of the time.

I like those odds.

Even at a crowded family gathering full of people, excitement, and noise, I still managed to get him to take like a two-hour nap with some help from tit wizardry.

CON: Your wardrobe will be extremely limited

You need to be able to get to your boobs easily at all times. Some people wear regular t-shirts and just pull them up to get the boob out. I salute these people.

I cannot/will not/don't understand how it is possible to do this.

I wear nothing but open-front cardigans or a zippered hoodie with nursing tanks (which unsnap at the shoulder so you can pull down and reveal boob). I will continue to wear nothing but this until Trevor has been weaned.

I have all these great sweater-dresses sitting in my closet that just won't be making an appearance until next year. Can you imagine trying to get to a boob while wearing a sweater dress?! Good grief!

Also, nursing tanks are at least $20 each. Because of course they are. F***ers.

PRO: Impossible to overfeed, so there's no anxiety on that front

Overfeeding a formula baby is not only possible, it's pretty easy to do. Babies are greedy little bastards, and they can suck down a bottle in the blink of an eye and still come at you wanting more. Audrey was fat as hell when she was a baby. I mean look at her -- she looked like Chris Farley.


But you can't overfeed a baby at the breast. Literally cannot be done. So you can just shove a boob in their mouth whenever, and it's all good. With all the possible anxieties that come with being a new parent, it's pretty sweet to be able to avoid one.

CON: It is totally possible to underfeed a breastfed baby, though, so there's that anxiety finding its way back in

I don't think any breastfeeding mother has ever NOT googled "how can I tell if my breastfed baby is getting enough?" Googling this is a rite of passage.

And you don't really stop worrying about it unless your baby is visibly fat. But even then, you'll manage to worry whether your supply will be able to keep up with your baby's growth -- "sure they're fat now, but will they STAY fat?"

This sucks. This anxiety is terrible. It still plagues me to a degree, though not as badly now that I've given full permission for formula to fill any gaps left by my own milk supply. But with Audrey, it was this particular anxiety that eventually spelled death for our breastfeeding relationship.

PRO: It's free!

THE PRICE IS RIGHT BITCHES. Obamacare now even forces insurance to pay for pumps! YEAHHHHHH!

This is especially meaningful if your child has special dietary needs that mean special fancy expensive formula. My boobs are saving us hundreds of dollars a month.

CON: No matter where you are or what you're doing, the milk has to come out of you on schedule

I had to bring my pump to my brother's wedding, where I sat in the bridal suite with my dress around my waist TWICE as I pumped milk out. This was not convenient.

I also got to eat a PB&J sandwich because I still can't eat dairy (thanks TREVOR) so I didn't want to risk showing up starving to the wedding and not being able to eat anything there.

I had to leave a work Christmas party early because my boobs were like "time to go!" and I had left my pump at the office. This was not convenient.

When Jesse and I were in the middle of packing and moving houses, I had a series of alarms set on my phone and when the alarm went off, I had to drop everything and go pump for 20 minutes. I pumped in the car, I pumped sitting on the floor in our cold and empty old house, and I pumped while I was IN THE F***ING ZONE PACKING AND I HATE STOPPING WHILE I'M IN THE ZONE! This was not convenient.

I pumped in the middle of the locker room at an LA Fitness because my car was getting a trailer hitch installed. This, too, was not convenient.

You can't just leave the milk in there. It must come out, whether it's convenient for you or not. And you really can't pump in a public bathroom, as the pump itself needs somewhere to sit and then the whole process is meant to be as sterile and sanitary as possible. Setting my pump in a puddle of pee on a bathroom floor and then filling bottles carefully on my lap and hoping I don't accidentally drop them in the toilet is not very sterile or sanitary.

So, so many people walked in on me while I was pumping at my brother's wedding. Sorry guys.

PRO: You can feed your baby in the night without even waking up all the way

This one is gold, Jerry. Gold.

Baby gets hungry in the night. Do I have to get up, let the tap run long enough for the water to get hot, turn on a light at least bright enough to mix a bottle of formula, and then sit up and feed this bottle to the hungry baby, like we did with Audrey?

NOPE. I just whip out a boob and give it to him. He eats and we both immediately go back to sleep.


CON: If the equipment malfunctions, you're kind of screwed

The "equipment" includes both your pump and your boobs themselves. If the pump breaks while you're at work, well I hope you work close to a Target because your ass is heading over there immediately to buy a new pump. Oh yeah, and they're like $300. You could always just buy a manual pump (for $40) and use that until Medela customer service can overnight you a new pump ... except lol that manual pump takes forever and is a giant pain in the ass. Thankfully, the equipment is reliable, but ... shit happens.

And your boobs can malfunction too! Joy of joys!!! Last week mine decided that they weren't really feeling the pump anymore at work. Weren't into it. Just wouldn't let down, no matter what, no matter how many baby videos I watched, no matter how many kumbayas I sang. I literally had to call in sick for a day and a half because my boobs were having technical difficulties. How is that even something that happens.

Also, they're doing it again right now. What the f***, you f***ers. You have one job.

PRO: It's relaxing and you can look at your phone while you do it

Have you ever tried to feed a baby a bottle and look at Facebook on your phone at the same time? Can't be done!

Breastfeeding and Facebooking, though? They were made for each other! Plus, breastfeeding baby releases lots of happy brain chemicals that make you feel awesome and relaxed. It's pretty sweet if you can make it work.

CON: You still have to watch what you eat and drink

Want to get wasted? Ha! Good one!

Want to drink a bunch of coffee? Well, I hope you like caffeinated babies because that shit comes out in breast milk!

Want to take some cold medicine because you're sick? Not today, buddy!

Want to consume any dairy products at all when your kid has a milk protein allergy? LOL TO YOU, FRIEND. LOL TO YOU.

Someday my body will be mine again. Someday.

PRO: Impossible to forget boobs at home

You can leave the house without your diaper bag, without a stroller, without any of the things you need to care for your baby. But you cannot forget your boobs. God saw to the impossibility of that.

So no matter what, at least you can always FEED your little one. Borrow diapers from a stranger, or use a paper towel or something. I dunno, you're smart. You'll figure it out.

CON: Very possible to forget your pump, pump parts, storage bottles, breastfeeding cover, breastfeeding cushion, nipple shields if you need them, absorbent nursing pads, cooler, ice pack ...

A lot of this stuff isn't strictly necessary -- like the breastfeeding cushion or cover, for example -- but you'll be a lot happier if you have them than if you don't.

And the pumping supplies are necessary, at least if you're going to be away from baby for a while. Just yesterday I forgot my storage bottles, and was actually contemplating putting pumped breastmilk into an old Gatorade bottle before realizing I'm a moron and I just needed to go back home and get the bottles.

Of course, even if you're formula feeding, you can still forget all the stuff you need to feed your baby, so nobody's really safe from this unless they're not stupid. But we're all stupid, so ... here we are.

PRO: Required, non-optional downtime spent snuggling baby (and required, non-optional break time spent pumping milk)

While feeding the baby, you are helpless. You cannot do chores. You cannot get your own dinner. You cannot change the other kid's poopy diaper.

All you can do is sit on the couch and snuggle your baby. It's a hard life.

Even pumping is a required break. While Jesse and I were moving, I called my pumping breaks my "union-mandated rest period" because it was not optional and meant I got to play on my phone instead of lifting furniture.


CON: You WILL cry over spilled milk

Last night, I had to dump out a bottle of pumped breast milk because it had been warmed up and not drank twice and that's already more times than you're supposed to do it. I practically whistled Taps as I poured it down the drain, and even now I can't stop thinking about things I could have done differently to have saved that milk. That milk is like a fallen comrade for whose death I will never forgive myself.

I even had a nightmare about it last night.

PRO: Boobs look incredible

No, for real. They are bomb.

CON: Breastfed babies don't usually sleep through the night until they're older than formula-fed babies

This one isn't really that big of a deal, though, because as I said, I can feed the baby without even waking up all the way. So ... I don't really miss the sleep that much?

But in a couple months, I may well be singing a different song. Some breastfed babies won't sleep through the night until they're like a year old.


I ain't waitin' no year to get my nights back.

(and by the way, in case you didn't know, the reason for this is because formula is harder to digest than breast milk, so it takes longer, so formula-fed babies don't tend to eat quite as frequently. Which means they stay asleep longer instead of waking up hungry)


I'm not used to this. I don't know what to do with them. I will miss them when they're gone.

So, which is better? Totally depends on which of these pros and cons carry the most weight for you. With Audrey, I didn't find breastfeeding relaxing at all because I was drowning in stress and anxiety. My boobs didn't put her to sleep -- they made her angry and frustrated. The formula she drank was relatively cheap (though compared to the special formula Trevor has to drink, Dom Perignon is cheap). The cons outweighed the pros by a mile.

But with Trevor, well ... we're still doing it, so I guess that shows you which side is winning here! Breast may be best from a medical standpoint, but there's so much more to it than that. 

Choose wisely, friends. And please don't give yourself postpartum depression trying desperately to breastfeed when it's not working. Please.

Mixing bottles in the night really isn't that bad.

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