When I was pregnant, I had every intention of breastfeeding; I had looked forward to the bond it would create between me and my child. But once my son was born, I found that breastfeeding caused me excruciating pain. Nothing helped.
So, in order to give my son the benefits of breast milk, I used a breast pump for seven months. Five times a day, 30 minutes each time. Why did I stick with pumping for so long? In a word: guilt.
Every time I thought about quitting, I heard the mantra that had been drilled into my head by books, doctors, nurses, friends and even strangers: breast is best. Even the government is into the guilt game.
I'm not arguing against breastfeeding — there is incontrovertible evidence that it is the best food for babies. The problem I have is that I felt bullied and guilted—into doing it. And no new mom needs that.
It's infuriating that the same government that's telling us that we're risking our children's lives by not breastfeeding also doesn't provide mandatory paid maternity leave.
All mothers want to do right by their babies, so for those of us who don't or can't breastfeed, lay off. Formula isn't perfect, but it's also not poison.
Lori Leibovich edited the anthology Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth about Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives (Lori Leibovich, HarperCollins, 2006).
Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, and in the anthologies Mothers Who Think and The Real Las Vegas. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son.
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