"Have a look at that guy sitting out in the waiting room. And the woman beside him too. What do you think it says on their resume? Breast or bottle fed?"
Early in my first pregnancy, this was one question my obstetrician asked me when we were discussing breast versus bottle feeding.
While there are undoubtedly many proven benefits to breastfeeding, he was indicating that giving babies formula did not necessarily have significant long-term impacts on adult health or wellbeing.
When have you ever looked at another adult human being, trying to work out if they were breast or bottle fed? My guess is... never.
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While I hadn’t had kids yet, I had spoken to a handful of Australian friends and family about this issue. They held polarising positions, either being adamant that ‘breast is best’ (no matter what, basically), or they felt an immense amount of pressure to breastfeed when they could not or did not want to.
One suffered from horrific and ongoing mastitis. Another did not produce enough milk. And a colleague of mine simply revealed, without apology or embarrassment, that she found breastfeeding repugnant and was so much happier for not having to go through with it.
I wanted to breastfeed my first daughter and did so successfully for about three months. Sure, it was exhausting physically and mentally to be the only person who could feed her (apart from the odd bottle of breastmilk), but I soldiered on.
Until I didn’t.
I began showing signs of postpartum depression. My milk dried up, which is a common but rarely talked about side effect of increased stress and anxiety, coupled with a lack of sleep.
I consider myself lucky to have had a maternal nurse that immediately put my daughter’s wellbeing first, instead of pushing me to keep breastfeeding.
"Tal, she’s crying because she’s starving. You need to stop breastfeeding and give her a bottle."
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Once I felt like I had been given permission to stop breastfeeding, my baby was happy and healthy. I had one less thing to worry about in the fog that is new parenting.
Fast forward three years, I am once again sitting in my obstetrician's room.
"I don’t think I am going to breastfeed this time. I'm worried about my medication transferring to the baby," I reasoned.