I don’t know if you remember but Hanna Rosin’s article, The Case Against Breastfeeding, in The Atlantic caused quite the hullabaloo. Angry words were exchanged between mothers who felt judged for formula feeding and mothers who self-righteously claimed Breast is Best. I uneasily sided with the lactivists on this one. Their extreme message was off-putting but in general, I agreed: given the choice between breastmilk and formula, why wouldn’t a mother pick breastmilk?
At the time, I was nursing my then-nine-months-old daughter. I hated pumping, and rarely did so, a luxurious benefit of being a stay-at-home mom. We were attached at the hip, Alice and I. My reasons for breastfeeding were simple: free, all-natural and convenient as all get out. I weaned Alice at thirteen months, with the idea that I’d go back to work soon after.
Fast-forward to the birth of my second daughter. Instead of going back to work, I got pregnant instead! (The best laid plans…) Again, I took up breastfeeding, since it had gone so well the first time. When Stella was four months old, I had the opportunity to go back to work, as a teacher. We’d moved to Massachusetts from New York a few months before Stella was born. We were carrying a mortgage on our apartment in New York, and paying rent on an apartment in Massachusetts. My husband had taken a significant pay cut when we moved, and we were barely getting by. The bills were mounting. So, when that opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it.
Overnight, I became a working mother. (Really! Interviewed on Tuesday morning, offered the job that afternoon and began work the next day.) I dutifully hauled my breastpump to work everyday. I felt guilty for leaving Stella so soon, and the prospect of weaning her to formula made me feel even worse!
After two weeks of pumping, I was done. As a teacher, I didn’t have time during my day to pump every two hours. It was a huge time-suck and I fell behind on my work since I was using my only prep period (56 minutes) to pump. As the mother of two small children, I didn’t have the time to pump at home either. It became this hugely stressful endeavor, in which I wasn’t pumping enough milk to get Stella through the day and she was taking formula anyway, to make up the difference.
The last straw: I sat on my couch on a Sunday afternoon, trying to pump enough milk to get Stella through Monday, Alice demanding my attention while I tried to keep her grabby and curious hands off the pump. Alice was whining, Stella was waking up from a nap, my husband had stepped out of the house for a few minutes. I felt my blood pressure rising from agitation and stress. I looked down at the bottle I was holding and was dismayed to find that I hadn’t even pumped an ounce. That was it. I was done. My husband came back into the house and I told him as much. He might’ve breathed a sigh of relief. It’s not fun having a stressed out wife, I guess.
I planned to wean Stella to formula completely, consulting Google for advice. In the course of my research, I came upon a page on Kellymom.com that said I could give Stella formula during the day and breastfeed exclusively while I was at home.
Oh, really? I could? I could have the best of both worlds? Stella would be happily fed while I was at work, and get the benefits of breastfeeding while I was at home? SIGN. ME. UP.
And so here I am. My stress levels have gone way down, I’m more productive at work and I relish the moment that I come home and get to feed my happy little Stella, after missing her all day. Alice doesn’t have to hear “Mommy needs to pump first,” when she asks me to play. Happy mommy=happy kids=happy family!