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On feeding my baby…

May 18, 2010

Whenever I plan ahead, life giggles at the preposterous notion. When I applied early decision to Kenyon, where I stubbornly believed was a perfect match for me, I was wrong. The school was too rural and too small. When I lived with a group of girls at Georgetown, who I thought were great friends for life, I was wrong. They revealed their extreme toxicity pretty quickly, and it was the group of girls that I did not live with who have shown me what true lifelong friendship means. When I decided that I did not want to get married until after graduate school, well into my 30’s, after a decade of living in Dublin of course, I was wrong. I met a man after graduating college, whom I could never imagine existed, and weaved graduate school into our lives. Dublin, he promises, we will do many times. With each of these milestones, people ask about the changes, and assume the worse. There is a human tendency to project negativity upon crooked trajectories. In the end, these changes teach me patience, and remind me of the lack of control over life we have. With each upset, I have developed into a calmer and more centered person. I accept the present as happiness.

After having Little Serafina, my plans changed again. No matter what you read and what you hear, modern mothers don’t prepare themselves for surprises. Although I have always had very politically open ideas about feeding babies, I didn’t expect to not really have a choice. People who know me, understand that I am never comfortable with women being told they don’t have choices. For that reason, I always supported the choice of breastfeeding or formula. In the 70’s, when I was born, it was frowned upon to nurse. Most people I know were formula fed. However, I don’t know a single person who exclusively formula feeds their baby today. And so, I hoped to nurse the baby when she was born, but I knew that once I returned to work, I would formula feed Serafina. The research proving either method of feeding as superior is very shabby, so I really saw no problem. However, for various reasons after birth, we realized that Serafina wouldn’t be able to nurse. As A. and I saw it, there was no choice. I was distraught. I never realized how upsetting it would be to not have the option at all, and it took a bit to mourn the loss of a plan.

Of course, Serafina is doing wonderfully. She is growing with each day and loves her formula. However, I have learned that in opposition to the 70’s, contemporaries villanize formula feeding, even referring to it as poison. There appears to be a backlash. People ask me if I am breastfeeding Serafina, and then look at me oddly when I say no. Then they ask with negative intonation”Why?”, as if this is a public matter. What strikes me as interesting is that how I feed my infant, with perfectly healthy formula, is public business. I don’t ask what someone had for dinner or chastize them for eating fast food. In our modern society, how people feed their baby is political, but how they nurture their child is forgotten. Like my twists and turns, I was nervous about bottlefeeding Serafina at first, but over time I have seen the millions of benefits, which allows confidence to sink in. Her formula is her food, and it nourishes her all the same.

When discussing food with people, open your minds to a diversity of approaches. We are all wandering through life, making plans, and changing the way we see, think, and eat. A person’s passage might influence their culinary choices, and they should be honored, not questioned.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2010 12:07 pm

    I am also baffled by the unsolicited advice and judgment that new mothers receive from loved ones and strangers alike. Our nephew Colin was born May 3rd and is being bottle fed, a fact that did not beg comment from me. My SIL and I had a conversation about how she is able to feed him less frequently because the nutrition on formula is efficient, and she can see exactly how much Colin is getting. Sounds like they made the best decision for their family. As did you. 🙂

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