Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Welcome to Parenthood: Part II

* This is Part Two of a piece written for my neighbour, who has recently had her first child. For Part One, go here: Welcome to Parenthood: Part 1*

Breast vs. Bottle

This is a doozy - deciding whether to formula-feed or breast-feed. Since I've done both, I feel compelled to offer my opinion about both methods, both of which were the best decision that I could have made for my child. The formula-fed child is gorgeous and healthy and I loved watching him grow into himself. The breast-fed child is gorgeous and healthy and I loved watching him grow into himself.

Whichever you decide, know this: She will grow and thrive and love you.


Formula Pros
1. Anyone can do it. Even your husband who may try to claim ignorance. Don't let him. He can and WILL feed the child you both created. So there.
1 b) This means you can shower. Alone. For at least 20 minutes, 25 if burping takes awhile.
2. It doesn't hurt.
3. You can eat tons of spicy food and drink a glass of wine celebrating parenthood without worrying that you're risking your child's future mathematical skills.
4. As long as you have water and a bottle, you can feed the baby pretty much anywhere.
5. Around Month Six or so, you can prop the bottle in your baby's hands and she can feed herself.
5 b) You can shower.
6. There is no awkward fumbling about with clasps on your bra or worrying about exposing yourself to passerby. Or your father.
7. It's good for your baby, providing valuable vitamins and nutrients and other such yummy goodness.

Formula Cons

1. It can be expensive. If you buy the ready-made tins, you'll pay for the privilege and the powdered stuff involves measuring and teaspoons, which is a LOT to deal with at 3 a.m.and you've been awake since yesterday.
2. It involves measuring and teaspoons and access to hot water at all times.
3. You may find that your child's sensitive digestive system does not appreciate certain formulas. Half-open and discarded tins of various formula brands will pile up alarmingly in your recycling box until you find the right one.
4. The poop of a formula-fed baby is, quite possibly, the worst smell known to man. Unless you've wandered into my house after Luke has filled his diapers, at which point, your baby's poop will smell like roses. I'm just saying.

Boob Pros

1. Breast milk is free.
2. Breast milk is always the perfect temperature and portable.
3. Although a light breeze going by hurts them, your boobs look absolutely fan-friggin'-tastic in ANY shirt    you own. Take photos because they will never be this high and smokin' hot again. Trust me.
4. It's good for your baby, providing vitamins and nutrients and other yummy goodness ending in "oxidants."
 5. If conversations bore you or you just want to drift off for 20 minutes, you can use nursing as an excuse to leave the room. Ditto for any social obligation that you resent having to fulfill: wedding, funeral, baby shower, Pampered Chef party...
6. You are, literally, growing a human being with your body. Powerful, heady stuff.

Boob Cons

1. Nursing hurts.
Holy mother of God, it hurts so much - in the beginning - that your toes curl at the mere thought of nursing and you've taken to hunching over while walking because every time your baby so much as whimpers, your milk lets down and you're simply assuming the position in advance. This too shall pass. Eventually.

2. Nipples.
Everyone will have an opinion about the state/shape/size/dimension and usefulness of your nipples. You will find yourself talking about your nipples with strangers in the ER, the Health Unit or the nursing room at Sears. Some of those strangers may even reach out as though they mean to TOUCH your nipples, especially women who've nursed so many children they consider themselves honourary lactation consultants.

Here are some examples of the sorts of things you will ponder or be asked. Or both:

Are they inverted? Why are there hairs on them?
Is the baby sucking them so that they look like a lipstick, and if so, is she creating the right shape for the nipstick, because it's supposed to matter.
Do your nipples bleed or itch and why are that woman's purple?
Is the baby getting enough nipple or not enough?
Does she prefer one to the other and in the name of all that's holy, will the ever stop feeling like they're on fire?

This too shall pass.

3. Thrush.
It's itchy and painful - like the yeast infection it actually is, just not in the spot you'd previously envisioned before reading this - and makes you crave bread and sweets and then you fart. A lot. (Which is neither here nor there, except that you may have noticed that since giving birth, farts ripple from areas of your body not previously known for flatulence. Anything you can do to alleviate that sort of weirdness is recommended.)

You can get a prescription for thrush, but it involves the coating of nipples and then rinsing before nursing, so be warned. Gentian Violet is purple and you coat it on your nipples before nursing, too, only the baby will suckle it off, which a) saves you from having to rinse your nips 5,678 times a day and b) coats her tiny, perfect mouth and rids it of any lingering yeast.

4. Mastitis.

Take the drugs.

Speaking of boobs....

S-E-X (alt. title: Are you effing kidding me?)

You're gonna have to do it again, sometime. Perhaps even sometime soon. If you have a wise and compassionate OBGYN or midwife, s/he will write a note to your husband, excusing you from sex for the next three months. It's unlikely, but s/he might, if you ply her with wine and chocolates first.

If you have any friends or relations who "did the deed"  before their six-week check up, make certain that they do NOT, under any circumstance, mention this fact in front of your husband.

If you have "that" friend or relation who insists that she made gentle love in the hospital bed mere hours after pushing a human being into the world through her vagina, stop speaking to her immediately. NEVER speak to her again. If YOU are that woman then even thought we're neighbours, you'll understand that I can no longer speak to you.

Let's say you did not receive a "get-out-of-sex" card and are dreading looking forward to a passionate reunion with your husband. Here's the truth:

It's gonna hurt. Maybe a lot. Maybe for several months afterward. BUT:

It gets better. You may find yourself buying stocks in lube and wine from the County, but it does get better.

I promise.

Now snuggle up with your daughter. Tomorrow, we'll talk about sleep and why housework is overrated.



  1. Oh Liz. The breast vs formula was fabulous! Love it!


  2. So glad you like, Krystle. It's a pet peeve of mine that mothers sometimes get their knickers in a knot about it all. It's such a personal choice and not without struggle. I wish women all over would simply accept and support their sisters who've made a different one.

    Well, except for those women who have sex three hours after childbirth. I try not to talk to them at all. LOL!

  3. Amen to the breast vs. bottle. I love you. xoox

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  5. Additional breastfeeding pros
    - when your baby is sick and they won't take anything- usually they will take the breast and will likely get better faster
    - the bonding that happens with the breast is phenomenally different than that with the bottle!
    -when baby gets bigger you don't even have to be awake for a feed if they are in bed with you- my middle on in particular could latch on for a night time feeding without me even waking up! Which was a much better experience than having to get up, go downstairs, turn all the lights on, measure mix and heat all the while babes is SCREAMING and now waking the whole household!

    -You and your baby are totally portable! You meet a friend at the grocery store and want to go for coffee- you won't panic about the fact that baby needs to eat again in 30 mins and you don't have another bottle! Sometimes i'd leave in the morning heading to the park and wouldn't come home until supper time. I'd end up at someone's place for coffee or walk to the shops or the library and not have to worry if i had enough bottles to last me!

    Bottle cons
    -You have to clean and sterilize bottles- and when you're working on no sleep and the dishes are already stacked high on the counter you've still got to do it. And when you try to travel you end up spending waaay too much on disposable bottles because you realized how hard it really is to try to clean and sterilize them in the hotel bathroom.

    - You get nasty looks from other mothers when you bottle feed your child- even if you are bottle feeding them with a medically necessary concoction- breastfeeding is the new "IN" thing and is what all the cool moms are doing. If you doubt this just try to give your baby a bottle in public and watch the reactions!

    - at least once during your formula feeding experience you will have to check the cans you have against the latest recall because they are happening fast and furiously these days.

    I think this is a great issue and I think more people need to realize the differences and similarities with breast/bottle feeding. At the end of the day your kids are still growing up and likely healthy as a result of either- BUT i think that the breast/bottle debate is fueled to some extent by this pro/con kinda list. (and now that i've added to it i suppose i'm contributing!). At the end of the day breastfeeding is how you are supposed to feed your baby. If it doesn't work out don't stress about it- there's another viable option. But for these first time moms to be weighing should I or should I not try to breastfeed I fear that they are bombarded by so many "pros vs cons" that it makes it hard to see the forest for the trees. Kwim?

  6. Again, you raise some excellent points, Carrie.

    I think that the hardest thing about deciding how to nourish our children is that often times, the decision cannot be made absolutely. Breastfeeding is not for everyone, for a plethora of reasons. The same is true for bottle-feeding.

    Some of us struggled with both methods, other sail on through without any angst at all. Oh, to be THAT kind of mum - free of angst and indecision, eh?