Linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum for 7 Quick Takes!
It's assumed that I breastfeed.
Because obviously, right?
I'm home with the kids, I homeschool, we do NFP and cloth diaper.
I had a homebirth for cryin' out loud!
But....nope. No I don't. And apparently that's a problem.
So much of mom socialization is predicated on breastfeeding. It comes up every where!
Give your baby a bottle while you're out, is that breastmilk?
Note your kid hasn't gotten the cold that's been going around, breastfeeding?
Snuggly toddler, is she still breastfeeding?
It's like a years long game of Pop-Goes-the-Weasel.
I know people are asking the question because they think they know the answer, but that's a stupid assumption y'all.
They don't know about the lactation consultants who noted aspect after aspect that might make breastfeeding a little harder - somehow never taking into account what all of those aspects mean when on a single person.
They weren't there for the holy hell that is PPD aggravated from not sleeping well for weeks on end.
Or when I was trying to convince "supportive" friends and medical practitioners that just telling me I can do this, despite the indications that this was not a good situation, is not support.
Truly they couldn't have known any of that. So why the prying? Why does the subject of breastfeeding come up like a society-wide tic?
Breastfeeding was "covered" in birth classes the same way NFP was "covered" in marriage prep - lightly and full of contradictory messages.
It was emphasized that it would take some learning, but wouldn't be a big deal (it's natural so therefore easy, right?). If you ran into big problems you could just call up a lactation consultant. No biggie.
No considerations for body differences. No counseling about mental health considerations. No awareness of the privilege and money needed to allow for the kind of support that gives a nursing pair a fighting shot at getting a good start.
Come on people, we can do better than this!
Somehow we've managed to convince ourselves that those who don't breastfeed do so because they just don't know any better or are selfish. Perhaps worse is the message that every woman CAN breastfeed if she just tries hard enough.
Just. Try. Harder. The three most unhelpful words ever uttered.
To what level of crazy, sick, stressed, and bleeding do we expect a woman to go before everyone is satisfied she has "tried hard enough"? How dare we make that demand?
When I finally made the decision, with my husband, to stop trying to breastfeed exclusively and finally give our baby formula, I felt like an absolute failure. (You can read in more detail some of the circumstances of our first child's birth in John's birth story.)
My community let me know I was a failure too.
There are no support groups for bottle feeding. In fact, it became apparent that most of the groups for new moms, in my area, were based around breastfeeding - if they existed at all. Ouch.
At first I took it really hard. When those prying questions came up I would find myself suddenly trying to explain to this complete stranger why I made this really intimate decision.
Because if you don't breastfeed than you should at least be apologetic about it.
I finally called myself on it. I wasn't doing anything wrong by feeding my baby formula, and I needed to quit trying to apologize for it.
I'm going to come out as someone who is strongly in the Fed Is Best camp.
I think formula is not second best, but actually truly fine.
Really really. No qualifiers.
And just because this actually came up in real life, my not breastfeeding does not make me unsupportive of you breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is what you want, and it's working for you and your baby, awesome. I'm happy for you. What I don't want is the deification of breastfeeding, and breastmilk, that has become so pervasive in "crunchy" circles.
Breastfeeding is great, but I am never going to encourage a woman to breastfeed at the cost of her mental or physical health. That baby needs a mom more than breastmilk. If a person does not matter more than a bodily fluid, there is something seriously messed up with our priorities.
Here's what I'm proposing:
1. Really teach moms how to breastfeed in prenatal classes (not just why, we're all super good on the reasons why. Trust me, #NormalizeBreastfeeding is well and done on that front.)
2. Empower moms to take the rest they need. Regular check ins (at home!) from a nurse, and productive counseling, prenatally, to plan for postpartum household help.
3. Empower nurses, birth practicers, lactation consultants, etc. to support a mom who might benefit from bottle feeding. So many people saw that breastfeeding was not a good situation for me, yet said nothing because they didn't want to be seen as unsupportive of breastfeeding. I would have been so greatly helped from some kind and gentle support to let me off the hook of breastfeeding pressure.
4. Have mom support that has nothing to do with parenting style or feeding method. Please. Believe it or not, you might find there is more to being a mom then milk.
5. Please stop spreading the click bait "science" articles. I know you are just SO EXCITED to share that your breast milk might make your kid baby Einstein, but look a little harder at what that "study" actually encompassed before you share. We all learned the basics for telling if something is good science back in grade school, so we can totally do this one y'all!
6. If you're a mom, make an effort to be real friends with someone who parents/feeds/etc. different from you. Everyone feels like the world is judging them about something in those early parenting months, and it can mean the world for another mom to reach out despite our differences.
7. When in doubt, ask moms about THEMSELVES. Seriously, treat a mom like a regular adult and you might actually have a nice conversation. I think a lot of the isolation I experienced the first few years was compounded by how little anyone wanted to ask about my life beyond my baby.
I'm writing all of this down, and putting it on the internet, because when I searched google in those deep dark days hoping to find someone, ANYONE, who was feeling the things I was I found nothing.
If you landed here because breastfeeding is not working for you, know you are not alone!
If you're here because you want to help someone who is struggling with breastfeeding, thanks for being an awesome person!
If you're here to leave a "Breast Is Best" comment.....bless your heart.