Dear Breastfeeding mother:
Happy World Breastfeeding Awareness Week! Breastfeeding can be tough emotionally, physically and practically – if you decided that this was best for your child and have been able to do it: awesome. I am pleased you are parenting as you want to.
In honor of this week please:
Keep up the good work! It is so important that parents get to raise their child as they wish to!
Help to normalize breastfeeding. It is a great choice for many, and it is a shame that many people feel too inhibited. Please feed in public (covered up or not), or in your car, or in your home, or wherever you want.
Share your opinion on the benefits of breastfeeding. How have you found it? What did you enjoy about it?
Enjoy this unique time with your LO. I remember breastfeeding so fondly. In fact, curled up on the couch, nestled up to Sam, gazing into each other’s eyes – it is probably my favorite early motherhood memory.
Enjoy it. Revel in it. Be proud of it.
Please do not:
Have the arrogance to judge a formula feeding mother. Do not, DO NOT, assume you know the cost of breastfeeding to her. You know HER pain? You know HER emotional state? You know HER struggles? Like hell you do. Do not write some condescending ‘I understand those with a medical necessity to formula feed, but not those who are just embarrassed’. Have you felt HER embarrassment? Have you been in her shoes? No. Her shoes are not yours. So don’t judge them.
Do’t ever think a formula feeding mother is not doing her best. You are just not doing your best at stepping outside your own skin.
Ever forget that a formula feeding mother may feel tremendous pain / guilt / regret that she has ended up formula feeding (or she may be totally awesome and feel relaxed in her choice). Support her. Make her feel welcome. Make her feel normal. Make her feel the success she is, if she is doing the job of raising a loved child.
Misconstrue Science. Science has shown that breastfeeding is associated with lower rates of mild infections. It has failed to show that breastfeeding is associated with an increase in IQ, when the correlation between IQ and breastfeeding itself is controlled for. It has failed to show that breastfeeding is consistently associated with lower BMIs, or that it is associated with lower BMIs at all beyond childhood. It has never shown that if you force someone to breastfeed who did not want to, that there are any benefits.
This is both a terrible misunderstanding of Science, and an example of the cruel things formula feeding mothers have to deal with:
I am aware that breastfeeding mothers complain about stares, and rude comments: I would take that over being told I was choosing to willfully endanger the life of my child any damn day,
Make judgments about how worse off her child is. Or I’ll show you my formula fed son, who slept through the night at 4 months, crawled at 5.5 months, stood unassisted at 6, spoke at 8, and (because I have a developmental Psychology PhD and F*&^ING know the original attachment theory, and actually know what it is, rather than guesswork) who I know is extremely well, and securely, attached to me.
More than any judgement on me, or my decisions, it hurts me to the core when you think my child is not everything wonderful that he could possibly be.
Assume formula feeding is some grand statement about a woman’s parenting (or life) philosophy. She may formula feed and co-sleep, cloth diaper, home school or she may formula feed and use cry-it-out, Pampers and day care from 2 weeks. You do not know.
Assume that because you breastfed, you are a better parent. I know the Scientific literature pretty inside out. Whether it is your sleeping decisions, your weight, your eating habits, you daycare decision, your discipline method, your screen time (your lack of Seasame Street screen time), the family you have or do not have and how often you see them, the role model you are as a woman for your child, your body image, you decision to live in the city or rurally; – I promise that at least some of these are not optimized for your child. Do not think that breastfeeding is some magic panacea that wipes the slate clean and makes up for everything.
Think that your judgmental words don’t make some formula feeders cry. I know, because I just today cried for an hour over this post.
So please, if breastfeeding is important to you: fight for it! I did. Be a brave, fearless, passionate, pro-active, advocating breast-feeder. If it is not: be a brave, fearless, happy, secure, comfortable formula feeder. But whatever your choice, be supportive, understanding, kind and realistic.
Perhaps this puts it more humorously.
And this page from a pro-breastfeeder has the best ending: “As Jill Churchill so wonderfully put it; “There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one.” So if you see a baby glugging a bottle or suckling a nipple, perhaps instead of smug judgement or tittering at her mother’s exposure, you might just smile and think what a lucky baby and what a great mom. “