This entry is one written for my blog on The Huffington Post.
I recently completed our Safe Infant Formula Guide, and have thus been living and breathing this topic for weeks, hoping to uncover a formula that every mom can feel totally guilt-free about feeding her baby, and perhaps even one I will keep on hand for my own baby. My second son, Wolf, is now 4 months old, and has never even had breastmilk from a bottle, let alone any formula. Truly exclusive breastfeeding like this is admittedly confining–most client meetings can’t exceed an hour, and date night with my husband is pretty much out–but it’s amazing how much less the confinement is bothering me this time around.
When my first son, Felix, was born, our pediatrician insisted that we give him some formula after he lost more than ten percent of his birth weight at three days old (in retrospect, I believe that this was entirely unnecessary). Once we had a 6-pack of Enfamil in the house, I found reasons to use it–once because my nipples were bleeding, another time because Felix was screaming in the car seat. Fortunately, skipping a breastfeeding session here and there didn’t seem to affect my milk supply, but I can see how using formula at all can be a slippery slope: once you start supplementing, you end up supplementing more because it’s so easy, this diminishes your supply further, and now you have to supplement because you aren’t making enough milk.
In addition to using a bit of formula, I also pumped a lot when Felix was born. Daylon and I enjoyed going out to dinner while Felix stayed with a sitter, and I wanted Daylon to handle some of the nighttime feedings. I also liked the idea of having maybe two glasses of wine sometimes and then feeding Felix the bottle of milk while I regained sobriety. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that I really couldn’t leave Felix for more than two hours at a time! After 40 weeks of pregnancy, I felt that I deserved a break from the tiny human now and again.
With Wolf, it’s been so different. I now know firsthand how quickly this phase passes–it seems Wolfie was just born, and yet in another two months he will be eating solid foods. The stage of intense confinement and attachment is brief. And with a 4-year-old with a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, a commitment to hitting the gym daily, and a rapidly expanding, increasingly active business (yay!), date night or even multiple glasses of wine in front of the TV have become both logistically difficult and significantly less important to me than they were back in 2009. Obviously, for mothers working outside of the home, my arrangement is not an option. But since I don’t HAVE to pump, I feel almost no inclination to do so.
I have gotten as far as taking the breast pump out of storage, but I cannot seem to make myself use it. It just seems like too much effort with not enough payoff, although some of my friends have expressed annoyance that I cannot be more flexible. I’m used to this annoyance by now and have (mostly) learned to not let it bother me. I’m making this arrangement work: last night, my parents babysat while Daylon and I had dinner at the wine bar up the street. I nursed Wolf before we left, and my mom texted as we were paying to say he wasn’t falling asleep and was sucking her shoulder hungrily. I was a block and a half away, and back in the apartment within ten minutes to nurse him (yes, with a glass of wine in me, but this freaks me out less this time around, too). Two weeks ago, I did a Home Detox for a new client, and simply brought Wolfie along (of course I confirmed with her first that this would be cool)–he slept in the Ergo while we walked room to room in her apartment. Instead of taking classes at a gym several blocks away, I’m making do with the gym in my building, meaning that if Wolfie is unexpectedly starving, I can head back upstairs when the nanny texts me. If my baby isn’t invited to your wedding, I’m not able to come, sorry. (This stance has struck certain friends as particularly outrageous, but again, I’m learning to let go of what other people think of my parenting choices.)
I don’t consider myself a hardcore attachment parent–I use the stroller daily and we eventually did a version of sleep training with Felix. But this time around, my laziness combined with a desire to enjoy this fleeting infant stage makes being attached to Wolfie a very pleasurable type of confinement indeed. (By the way: I did find one brand of formula worth recommending, although it goes without saying that it can’t compare to breast milk.)
I want to hear from my readers on this topic. What worked for you with pumping, formula feeding, or breastfeeding with first or subsequent children? How did friends and family react to your choices?