Cut Down to Size.

by Jennifer Sey

 

Where were you Stefanie Wilder-Taylor when I was wrestling infants into the nursing hold on the bathroom floor, reeling in boundless and unfathomable shame for not being woman enough to flood their little bodies with the mommy produced, golden panacea … breast milk? I needed you! I had no one to tell me it was ok that this wasn't going quite as smoothly as I'd hoped, that the formula I was supplementing with wouldn't poison them. I didn't know! Well, I knew in my head but in my heart I felt that with every scoop of Similac I was squirting the equivalent of arsenic down their gullets, condemning them to a life of asthma, allergies, Aspergers and other harrowing afflictions.

 

Of course, my boys are just fine now. They are 8 and 6, well past the ages in a developed nation where breast feeding is acceptable. They both thrive in school. They have no allergies as I was threatened they would if I didn't nurse them until they were 18 months old. They are not developmentally challenged, never had ear infections and seem to have bonded with me.

 

I nursed. I did. Both boys got the breast until they were about 8 months old. But they got formula too, from day one. Here's the deal: many years ago, during college, when anorexia transitioned to bulimia, my weight ballooned. And so did my boobs. There was great shame in that. And discomfort. My body was bloated and out of control. And my boobs had a mind of their own, inflating beyond the rest of my oh so puffy physique. To this day, I'm not really sure how big they were.

 

I crammed those suckers into the smallest size bra possible to avoid having to claim higher letters in the alphabet. I suffered the usual array of symptoms - permanent strap indentations on my shoulders, a sore back and unmanageable embarrassment due to ogling from crude college boys. I hated myself.

 

So I got a breast reduction. I told very few people because I was ashamed that I needed one. I was mortified that my body was so grotesque and disorderly that I had to mutilate it in order to feel even semi-normal. And then, once I had those puppies knocked down to size, it wasn't like they were small. Still a generous C cup. I still felt pretty unruly. But it was better.

 

Of course, I didn't think about the impact this surgery might have on my ability to nurse my children a few years down the line. And even if the doctor had told me – and she might have, I don't recall – that there was a chance I wouldn't be able to nurse, I wouldn't have cared. I would have had the reduction anyway. I was desperate.

jjmama
06.28.11

I know this post is old but still have to comment. How absolutely disrespectful of the poster with the SIL with supposed low milk supply (real or imagined, she will never know now) to sneak the baby formula without the parents' permission. 4 summers of nannying does not make one a lactation consultant. Pumping output is not a sure indication of milk supply. The poster did her SIL a disservice with her misinformation. What's really heartbreaking is that it also affected the next child. FWIW, I am not anti-formula. I used it myself (doctor's orders) when baby didn't gain enough weight after a month of trying everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. We also continued to nurse even with low milk supply....all the way until he was 2 yrs old.

ginnylou
06.10.09

Oh, where were YOU when I was going through nearly the exact same scenario?? The main difference being that my surgery was to voluntarily INCREASE my boob size! The same society that shames flat-chested women, women who aren't rail-thin, and encourages the "mommy makeover" so that we can look like teenagers again...That same media circus dooms women to shame, regret, and oceans of private tears when the procedures done to make you "perfect" prevent you from producing the nectar of life. I nursed for just over 6 months and, although I feared that weaning would doom my little man, finally felt free of the guilt once it was over. I loved those moments (that is, once my nipples stopped bleeding), but it was such a relief to be out of the blame-yourself cycle. Thank you for a wonderful article!

dpare23
06.03.09

I also had problems with breastfeeding, and had a situation much like the SIL described above. Once I realized I wasn't producing enough it was more devastating to know I'd been depriving my baby all along. Why do you think they had wet nurses in the past - because there are some who are pre-disposed to breastfeed and those who aren't. We should all be a bit more understanding about these things.

kjpope
05.27.09

You know I had almost the opposite problem. My dear SIL did not produce enough milk to adequately feed my then infant neice. After being a nanny for 4 summers I had a clue as to why the baby seemed colicy and when I would sneak her formula on the sly she slept like a rock. I frequently told my brother to say something to my SIL's doc when they went in for appointments but HE wasn't going to point any fingers, coward. My mom and I went over frequently to babysit and would bring ready made formula and feed her on the sly. We would try to convice my SIL to try to pump. She quit because she couldn't produce any milk pumping. An obvious sign but she didn't seem to clue in. And as she always said when we suggested she suppliment "Breastmilk is best". After we finially fessed up so she understood that the baby didn't have colic, she was hungry, my SIL was devistated, miserable and depressed because she couldn't produce for her child. It was heart breaking to watch. When child number two came she tried for a week then went right to formula. A year later I had my child. I felt so like an obvious over achiever to feed him in front of her that I would pump before going over and feed my son from a bottle. I had an over abundance of milk. I had to pump every two hours so I didn't completely drench. By the time my son was 9 months old I quit and tried to dry up because my mom was making embarrasing comments about my storing milk in their freezer because I had filled up my own. When I stopped breast feeding and pumping at 9 months I still had enough milk for my son to make it to 13 months old before switching to whole milk. This was only 6 years ago but I still feel some what embarassed about what a cow I was about producing milk. There have still been a couple times my mom has brought it up and my brother and other family members start mooing at me. There were no kudos in my infant's baby world for being a breast feeding mom. Just cow comparisons.