National Breastfeeding Month doesn't feel like it's something I'm included in. As a mom who didn't really breastfeed, I
feel excluded in the celebration of motherhood that seems to be taking place.
hold the belief that mothers should try to breastfeed, but the stigma of
forcing yourself— until you have nothing left—seems very drastic
and the opposite of what healthy is. So
this month of celebrating that is supposed to bring us all together as mothers actually widens the divide amongst those of us who couldn't, or chose not to, breastfeed.
I didn't breastfeed my daughter, even
though everything I read told me that, in order to be the very best mother, breastfeeding is what I needed to do. If I didn't nurse her, then my child would certainly suffer and would not succeed.
It wasn't that I didn't try, but that first day in the
hospital she wouldn't latch. That was frustrating. I worked with a lactation
consultant, yet she still refused to latch. After a few days at home, crying
and beating myself up, I finally made the decision to pump and supplement with formula.
Sometimes, I would lay awake wondering if I was poisoning my
daughter. That's what the moms on my mommy board believed. I watched their back-and-forth comments to each other, shaming the mothers who admitted using
formula, comments like, "You obviously don't care about the well-being of your
child" and "You know that's basically abuse right?"
I've kept these sentences with me even after all these years. If I pulled out formula and a water
bottle to make my 4-month-old's "meal" and I was in public, I never did it with
confidence. Fellow mothers had no problem letting me know how upset with me
they were. Women who didn't know me, or know my child, would make comments
about how I didn't try hard enough, that I was more concerned with
"convenience." Clearly they had never used formula, because whipping out my
boob would be the more convenient option.
When I sat and thought about this, I realized that even if I'm not breastfeeding my children into toddlerhood, I was loving my children the best way that I could.
Despite that, I don't regret not choosing to
pressure myself into breastfeeding. Six years removed from early babyhood, I still have conversations with mothers who
kind of look at me sadly, as if they have some sort of pity for me. Except I
don't think I understand why this is. I understand why breastfeeding is
important, but I also know that raising a healthy child is something that
matters much more. Why aren't these mothers celebrating the fact that my
children are thriving? And growing?
Why are they so focused on whether my
children were breastfed or not?
When my son was born, he latched perfectly, but
then would take his time eating. After his birth, we sat in the hospital amazed
by him, but I was so tired. Eventually, I asked my husband to ask the nurse for
a small bottle of formula so he could help me out and feed him while I slept.
The nurse was mortified and reprimanded us for about 20 minutes. Twenty painful
minutes of my baby screaming, and me losing my mind because I was tired. We eventually gave in to her scolding, and I
breastfed him while crying because I just wanted to sleep.
Being a parent, especially a mother, is rough. You feel more often than not, that you're braving the seas alone.
Every night while both my children were
babies it wasn't me who got up with them, it was my husband. He fed them every
single night, and I think that was one of the most special things about me not
breastfeeding. Feeding was more of a family affair—it wasn't just between me and
them. My favorite memory from my
son's first week home was when we were feeding him in the middle of the night,
and my daughter, who is only 14 months older, got up and joined us in the bed.
She held his bottle that night and, from then on out, would feed him for at
least one meal until he was old enough to feed himself. Even after that he
would insist that she help feed him. When I sat and thought about this, I
realized that even if I'm not breastfeeding my children into toddlerhood, I was
loving my children the best way that I could.
And it was felt and seen.
I believe that breastfeeding is something women should be able to do without shame. But I think that
this should be extended to women who can't and don't breastfeed as well. I see
women standing up for breastfeeding daily, yet I rarely see them standing up
for the women who don't do it. The long-term outcome is healthy children and, to get to the goal, there are many avenues mothers will take. I say we stand
together and support each other in achieving these goals.
Being a parent, especially a mother, is
rough. You feel more often than not, that you're braving the seas alone. I will
not support any celebration that encourages even more divide or this feeling
of loneliness. So, while I celebrate the mothers who breastfeed, I will also
celebrate those of you who do not breastfeed.
Because ultimately I'm celebrating
you loving your child the best way you can.