As much as I did believe in breastfeeding, I felt I harbored some post-traumatic stress from our experience with our son, Leo. I knew it was irrational, but when I thought of nursing, I thought of pain, depression, frustration, craziness, and most of all, failure. My word associations with “formula” were salvation, ease, freedom. Along with those positive associations came others, too. Like selfish, lazy, unfair. Cheater.
I felt tremendous guilt over these emotions. I was a bloody hypocrite. Here I was telling random women all over the world that it was okay to choose formula, that a happy mom meant a happy baby, that there was no shame in not breastfeeding…but when it came to my child, this didn’t hold water. How could I justify not even trying with my daughter?
This brought a harsh truth to light. I’d claimed my blog, Fearless Formula Feeder, stood for feeding freedom; that I would fight for every woman’s right to feed their child as they felt fit. Reading through the past 16 months of posts, though, the focus was on women in extenuating circumstances--sexual trauma survivors, women with rare illnesses and conditions, cases of extreme postpartum depression and incompatible medications. There was little attention paid to women who decided to formula feed for less dramatic reasons, reasons like having a bad taste in your mouth from a bad breastfeeding experience with your son.
I decided I’d give it the old college try, but then the nightmares started. I dreamt of a trio of Macbeth-like lactation consultant witches, trying to force my baby onto my breast. Of a zombie version of me, submitting to an endless cycle of pump, feed, pump, while Leo cried neglected tears in the corner.