Recently I recognized an appearance by the slippery slope in my life for the first time since my Philosophy final exam, occurring with regard to Rachel's choice to nurse the babies. One late night as Rachel and I drearily fed our two babies, Rachel looked at me as she fought Malorie to latch and told me that she didn't want to nurse Mal that time. Malorie is a notoriously slow and picky eater, usually needing an additional bottle to ensure she got her nutritional needs met. Also, it's not fun at all to fight sleep for an extra 20 minutes while trying to feed a baby who just wants a bottle. I looked at Rachel, muttered something about the slippery slope, and then went to prepare Mal her bottle.
My comments about the slippery slope went unnoticed by Rachel that first time, but soon Malorie was taking only a bottle for all overnight feedings, and I kept chirping about the slippery slope. The chain of events had begun, and Rachel and I were sliding down. A week later, Rachel decided to feed Malorie from the breast only when she seemed, "really hungry," a vague and relative term that in our case meant never. Mal was now a bottle fed baby.
Within weeks, Micah's feedings were dragging on longer and longer. Soon, the thirty minute feeding window allotted for each baby had become an hour for Micah, who nursed for thirty minutes and then took a bottle for thirty more. The elongated feedings wore us out and restricted Micah's playtime, as he would be so tired from the feeding that he would sleep soon after finishing. Rachel began to notice my slippery slope comments as we slid a bit further down the slope, deciding we would only allow Micah to nurse for 20 minutes.
Each time we tapered more time off of Rachel's nursing, we further depleted her supply. The body only makes enough milk to meet needs, and we kept telling the body we didn't need as much. This, coupled with Rachel's body's original resistance to producing an adequate supply of milk, slowly continued the slide down the slope. Soon, Micah was not content at the breast, crying until he was given a bottle. Eventually, Rachel chose to skip afternoon nursing sessions when Micah was most fussy. Then the nights dropped off, and within a week Micah was also an exclusively bottle fed baby. Rachel pumped her milk to meet some of the need, but within days her body realized no babies were being fed and stopped producing milk. Our descent was now complete and the slippery slope had claimed another victim.
Rachel and I have been feeding the babies only formula for a few weeks now, and feedings are more predictable, faster and easier than before. In the long run, Rach was going to have to stop nursing the babies eventually and she did a fantastic job of it for over three months, devoting countless hours to feeding instead of sleep. However, she's still saddened by her lost bonding time with the babies. If nothing else, over the course of the last couple weeks Rachel learned everything I did in a college philosophy class though; she had been unaware of the consequences of her decision until the slide began, but now she is well aware of the concept of the slippery slope.