The other day I read a quote on twitter that kind of got my blood boiling. It was something along the lines of "Breastfeeding may not be the right choice for all mothers but it is the best choice for all babies". Um excuse me? Is that so? Is breastfeeding really right for every child? Do the benefits of breastfeeding really outweigh those of formula feeding no questions asked?
I seriously doubt that. Now, let me explain to you my situation. I was never the type of person to even consider breastfeeding. No particular reason why, I just didn't want to. I'm not going to say it repulses me because it doesn't. I'm not going to say there aren't health benefits because there are. I'm not going to say much other than I simply didn't want to. My mom never breastfed my sister or I and we turned out pretty damn okay. My husband wasn't breastfeed and he's alright too. Over the past what, 40 years they have said "Ohhhh breastfeed its the best thing you can do for your kid...." then a few years later its like "Ohhhh formula feeding is best you should do that..." and then a few years later... yeah it just goes back and forth.
When I was 13 years old I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease called Myasthenia Gravis. My body produces way too many antibodies which causes my muscles to get weak and when they are weak they affect the way I live my everyday life. I have trouble going up stairs when I'm weak, I have trouble getting off of the couch, chewing and swallowing become labored, and even speaking is hard because my throat will lock up. All in all its NOT a fun disease to have but I have managed to control it. I've been in remission for a few years with only an occasional flare up.
Getting pregnant was bittersweet for me. I wanted nothing in the world more than to be pregnant and start a family but at the same time I was scared shitless. My disease could flare up hardcore and send me into a really big relapse which would have me bedridden for the entire duration of my pregnancy. I was extremely lucky. I had a minor flare up right around 4 months pregnant and my neurologist just increased the dosage of my medication but the disease has been manageable. Not much has changes in the way I live my life pregnant vs not pregnant. The pregnancy didn't make me ultra weak like we were expecting.
So whats the point? The point is that when you breastfeed your child your antibodies are transferred to your child. Is that really what I want to give my child? I want the things that make me sick to go into my little girl? No, its not a hereditary disease and I can't give it to her BUT she does have a 20% chance of being born with neonatal MG until her body starts producing her own antibodies. Because of this I had decided before I got pregnant that I would not breastfeed. I wouldn't even entertain the thought.
Then I did. I did entertain the thought. I had an appointment with my neurologist who has followed a few pregnant myasthenics in his career and asked him on his thoughts regarding breastfeeding and MG. He recommended that I NOT breastfeed. He explained to me that breastfeeding was very taxing on a womans body regardless of MG or not so imagine how that would amplify my condition. Again, I had decided against breastfeeding. Sorry, call me selfish call me vain but I don't like being weak. The thought of my body relapsing because I am breastfeeding scares the crap out of me. The thought of my child sitting in her crib crying for me to pick her up but I'm too exhausted to get off the couch/bed freaks me out. I just don't want to risk it. How can I properly care for my child if breastfeeding will cause me to have a MG flare up or relapse?
Then at my 35 week appointment with my OBGYN I started to ask her more questions about how exactly would we deliver. Would I be pushing or would that be too taxing on my body and we would schedule a C-section. How would my labor be different from non myasthenics and have any of her other patients breastfed? (Mind you blogs and twitter are forcing me to look into this entire situation. I'm being told I'm a horrible mother for even THINKING of using formula!!) She explained to me that she does recommend that I breastfeed for at least 3 weeks after giving birth but to call MotherRisk and ask more questions just to be sure. Mother Risk told me that there wasn't enough information on MG and breastfeeding BUT I can be sure that the medication I am taking will not pass through to the milk so the medication is safe. That's fine. I appreciated the honesty of the lady I spoke with and thanked her for the little information she was able to find. About 20 minutes later she called me back with a little more information she was able to dig up.
The lady from Mother Risk informed me that although I can not pass the disease on to my child I can pass the symptoms on to her if I'm having a flare up. Basically she won't have MG but she will have the symptoms such as weakness in the muscles, trouble swallowing etc. So while feeding her I'd have to really be watching her sucking/swallowing motion because I'm making her sick. Yeah, I'd be making my kid sick. I'm 28 years old and I get so frustrated when I have a flare up I could not imagine what its like being a few weeks old and unable to swallow the food I need to survive. How can I do that to my kid? How do I do that with a clear conscious because hey, breastfeeding may not be best for me but its best for EVERY kid...no questions asked.
Still, I said I'd look into it even further. Yes, with all this information coming my way screaming NO DON'T DO IT, I'm still looking into it. I was advised to contact La Leche League Canada as they provide mothers and mothers to be with breastfeeding questions, support, help, consultation etc. I looked up the contact number to one local to me and I gave the lady a call. I filled her in ONLY on the condition I had and my questions regarding breastfeeding. I did NOT tell her what other doctors, research, etc had told me. I wanted to hear what she had to say for herself. Again she was honest and told me that she didn't have too much information but she would make some calls and get me the information I desired. The next morning she called me back and told me what she had found out. Although 98% of the information she gave me was AGAINST breastfeeding she was adamant that I try it. She told me about my child picking up symptoms of MG and how it could be dangerous for the kid (choking instead of swallowing!) but that breast is best. I told her that I would feel guilty knowing that I am causing my child to be ill and her response had me floored. It was along the lines of, "Not as guilty as you will feel not breastfeeding and knowing what other diseases you can cause her to get. Did you know that non breastfed children are 30% more likely to get leukemia than breastfed children?"
Are you fucking kidding me? You want to use scare tactics in order to push your agenda? You are meant to be SUPPORTING mothers but instead you want to scare them into doing something they aren't completely comfortable with and that most research points AGAINST? You want to scare me into breastfeeding my child by telling me what can potentially happen in many years from now?
Now, I'm not the best at statistics, in fact I think I had to take the course twice in university before I passed it but there is one quote I will NEVER forget from a very smart professor. "If you beat data hard enough it will give you the results that you want." What does that mean? I'm not saying there aren't proven benefits to breastfeeding children but I am saying that saying my kids is more likely to develop leukemia because shes going to be fed by a bottle is complete and utter bullshit. Did scientist go around to every person with leukemia and poll them on if they were breastfed or not? Did they go to a region where breastfeeding isn't as popular to get their numbers? Really? Seriously? Don't try to scare me into doing something I'm not comfortable with because I'm not as naive as other people you may speak to or as easy to influence.
I kindly told the LLLC lady to go fly a kite and that scaring me was not a way to convince me to try anything, but its actually more likely to piss me off into NOT doing something. Here are some stats for you.
I have one cousin who has 4 children, all 4 of her children were breastfed for different periods of time ranging between 6 months to 2 years (she had to quit breastfeeding during her pregnancies because she was high risk which is why the ranges are so broad.) and all 4 of her children are sick or are sicker than "the average kid".
Another one of my cousin has 3 children and all 3 of them were breastfed and they are all extremely healthy. They barely even get the sniffles.
My other cousin has 2 kids. Both of them were formula fed until they were able to start on cows milk solid food. Never breastfed. These kids are totally healthy and extremely smart.
So according to my "research" my stats show that breastfeeding is WORSE. Out of 7 breastfed kids 4 are chronically ill or have life lasting illnesses. Out of the 2 formula fed babies 2 are very healthy and show no developmental issues or anything else that the breastfeeding police try to shovel our way.
What I'm not understanding at all is why is it that breastfeeding parents/advocates are allowed to push their agenda on non breastfeeding people however if formula feeders do that we are horrible people? We are trying to poison the world and our children and we are spreading lies.
Hmmm maybe next time someone asks me if I'm going to breastfeed or not and then give a shocked/disgusted look when I say "No" I'll just reply with, "Oh please, don't hate me because you couldn't afford to formula feed your child."
Wait, I forgot...I'm a better person than that and I don't judge others for their decisions. Breastfeeding maybe right for person X whereas formula feeding is right for person Y. I don't tell people "Oh my God, you are breastfeeding, what are you a freaking cow!?" and at the same time I don't tell people "Well why don't you try formula feeding, its much less taxing on your body...". I let people make their own decisions regarding how they choose to raise their children and how they choose to feed their children. If someone I know is formula feeding my first response isn't, "Did you at least TRY to breastfeed and found you had problems?" I just accept that was their decision.
No one questions WHY YOU choose to breastfeed, why would you question why I choose to formula feed? When a few people found out about my MG and thats why I'm not breastfeeding they ask me if I've considered donor milk. Um, sorry but thats just wrong to ME. You may like it, you may choose to use that option if you can't breastfeed but I just can't see me doing that or even liking that. My best friend is pregnant and is due a month after I am. I can't see her sitting over here feeding her child and then I tell her "Hey I'll burp your little girl, can you feed mine?" Like I said before, breastfeeding doesn't sicken me but that does. It's just not an option that I am willing to consider because I don't believe that the benefits of breastfeeding are enough to make me feel like an inadequate mother by having other mothers pool their milk, have it bagged and shipped to me. Sorry, I'll take formula over that one.
I guess the entire point of this long winded post is that as mothers we face enough challenges in this world, why do we choose to berate, belittle, and insult those of us who choose to make different decisions than you? Support each other in whatever method of feeding they choose. If its not what you have chosen or would have chosen for your child and you can't accept that, then just shut up and keep your opinions to yourself.