Before I was pregnant, I was a completely clean slate regarding feeding options for babies.
I was breastfed, but my mother was also a working mother (and this was before the days of lactation rooms and two-phase expression technology electric pumps) so when she wasn’t at home, we got formula.
Pretty much up until my friends started having kids, I thought feeding with a combination of formula and breast milk was normal. In fact, I once made the mistake of innocently and naively making a statement along those lines. I was then quickly initiated into the hottest debate this side of motherhood.
Welcome to the Thunderdome
Let it be known that I am not one for any kind of polarized debate unless I’m watching it unfold on an episode of Real Housewives and table flipping is involved.
And because of this, even before my child was a blip on an ultrasound screen, I found myself feeling intimidated into making certain choices and slowly internalizing this guilty feeling that if I didn’t succeed in breastfeeding my child – I was a big. fat. FAILURE.
When I, myself, became pregnant, I quickly adopted a motto I have held throughout my life – I’ll try anything once. After all, breastfeeding seemed like a reasonable, cost-effective, and nurturing choice. So, why not? My cousin suggested a great book, I signed up for classes, and talked to lots of different friends, health professionals, and fellow mothers all to learn how to breastfeed.
In my contact with this brief education, I saw an overwhelming theme: judgment.
It became clear that people who were passionately pro-breastfeeding were…well, passionate. And? A little nutty. (Calm down, I said “a little.”) It also became clear that a lot of those same people were ready to call me a failure the minute I didn’t succeed in something that is supposed to be “the most natural and nurturing thing a mother can do,” but what for me ended up being the scariest and hardest thing I would embark upon in. my. life.
I hadn’t even started and I was already awash with feelings of judgment and failure.
Those feelings didn’t exactly make me want to succeed.
It made me want to quit before I even started.
Yes, breast milk is the perfect food source that is engineered by your body for exactly your baby. It is an incredible bonding experience. The health benefits are numerous and the science behind it is so freaking cool it will blow your damn mind. The research supports women who choose to breastfeed their children.
So, why do some of those same women feel the need to demonize any mother who even sniffs in the direction of a can of formula?
Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question. But here’s what I can (and can’t) tell you after successfully breastfeeding for 12 months:
- I can tell you that breastfeeding is so freaking awesome for you and for your baby.
- I can also tell you that it’s really hard.
- I can tell you that there are lots of “fun” things that can happen to you while breastfeeding – thrush, engorgement, mastitis, etc.
- I can also tell you that I wore bras with underwire, cut down to 1-2 pumping sessions very quickly once I went back to work, and never had a single supply issue or was affected by any of the above.
- I can tell you that some women are fanatical about breastfeeding.
- I can also tell you that you don’t have to be one of those women.
- I can tell you that in your contact with books, nurses, and lactation consultants that you will learn about 8 different ways to hold, latch, and nurse.
- I can also tell you that none of those people or books told me that my son was “tongue tied” and that’s why he had a little trouble learning how to latch. AND, I can tell you that eventually, we worked it out without intervention.
- I can tell you my favorite metaphor about breastfeeding: that it’s like a nurse walking into a room, handing you a syringe, and telling you to give yourself an injection without teaching you how to do it.
- I can also tell you that, eventually, you’ll learn how to give yourself the injection.
- I can tell you that for me, breastfeeding was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and that at the beginning, I wanted to quit every single day.
- I can also tell you that after 12 successful months of breastfeeding, I am so, so, so glad I didn’t.
And if you do choose to stop (or not even start)? That’s okay. You are not – I repeat – NOT a failure.
My only wish is that more moms would stop being all judgy-wudgy of each other and the things that we do. I wish that these mothers will instead begin offering the acceptance needed to be successful in breastfeeding and in parenting. In the end, it’s up to you how you feed your baby. As long as it’s being fed, you can ditch the guilt, ignore the judgment, and keep on keeping on.
Also check out: 27 Amazing Old Images of Breastfeeding Throughout History