I am most definitely pro-breastfeeding and I hope every new mom at least tries it. I believe that it’s the perfect food for babies and I always knew that I would breastfeed (although there was a time when I was pregnant when I started second-guessing my decision, thinking formula would be easier and less intimidating, so I can understand why some moms might choose formula).
But I am also very pro-support-a-mom’s-right-to-choose-how-to-feed-her-own-darn-baby and I do not believe there’s anything wrong with formula. In fact, thank God for formula–it’s necessary and useful at times. But my point is, it is a choice–and how another mom chooses to feed her baby is not your choice. In fact, it has nothing to do with you. So while I am a breastfeeding advocate, I’m not one who will look down my nose at your bottle of formula. Moms, you don’t know why another mom doesn’t breastfeed. Maybe she wanted to so badly, and could not for one reason or another. Or maybe she simply had no desire to breastfeed. Either way, it just isn’t your business. So if you’re being all Judgy Breastfeeding Mom, could you please stop? Because you make it hard for all of us.
That’s my take on it and it’s always been my take on it–but I have noticed a few things during the last 18 months since I’ve been breastfeeding. I chose breastfeeding, so my perspective is admittedly a bit biased to that side. Also, I think geographical location has a lot to do with a mom’s experiences in breastfeeding vs. formula issues. I’m in Alabama and while breastfeeding is on the rise, the rates are still among the lowest in the nation. So yeah, my experiences are probably a bit skewed. Regardless, here’s what I’ve noticed:
1. Breastfeeding can consume many aspects of your life. You’re hyper-aware of everything you put in your mouth, whether it be food, drink or medication, because you know that it will also eventually end up in your baby’s mouth. Sometimes it seems like every decision you make is impacted by your boobs. Do I have time before her next feeding to leave the baby at home with her dad while I run to the grocery store? Will I be stuck in a place that really isn’t breastfeeding friendly during the next time he’ll want to eat? What will I do if the UPS man rings my doorbell while I’m in the middle of nursing my child? Do I have time to have a glass of wine before my baby’s next feeding? Do I have enough milk pumped and stored to leave her at her grandmother’s house overnight? Will that 9:30am appointment at work run too long and interfere with my pumping schedule? If I leave him for the weekend, will my already-strained supply dwindle? If I take cold medicine at night, will it still be in my system in the morning when he wants to nurse? For a while there it seems like it’s all boob, all the time. Take it from me: Nursing mamas aren’t talking about nursing all the time to rub it in your face or to make you squirm. They’re talking about it all the time because it’s on their minds all. the. time.
2. I already mentioned Judgy Breastfeeding Mom, but it has to be said that I’ve encountered plenty of Judgy (or maybe it’s Defensive) Formula Moms out there too. I’ve encountered many who automatically assume that I think my way is superior. Well, you know what? I do think my way is superior–for my child. Why would I choose it for him if I didn’t think that? But it isn’t necessarily superior for yours. If you’re not going to be happy breastfeeding, or if you’ve tried hard and cannot produce enough milk, it’s not the best choice for your child. A happy mom far outweighs the benefits of breast milk. But understand this: my choice to breastfeed is not a judgment on you. You do not need to explain to me why you aren’t breastfeeding. I don’t care (unless you’re sad about it, in which case I care very much).
3. People equate breastfeeding with sex. “It’s inappropriate to feed your baby in public; nobody wants to see that.” “It’s fine if you breastfeed a baby, but once they’re over 6 months, that’s just gross.” Look, I’m not the one who sexualized breasts. You can thank Hollywood for that one. Just because some people can’t see past the image of breasts being intended as sexual objects, doesn’t make it so. Breasts are intended, first and foremost, to nourish babies. Do both men and women enjoy them in a sexual nature too? Sure. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But while my breasts are being used to feed my baby, there’s nothing sexual about them. If that offends you or makes you uncomfortable, that’s your problem, not mine–and certainly not my baby’s.
4. “It’s fine if you breastfeed in public, but use a cover.” First, thanks for the permission. I’m glad it’s okay with you if I feed my baby when he’s hungry (eyeroll). Second, have you ever tried to breastfeed a squirmy baby without flashing nip? It’s not easy. I do opt to use a cover in public, but not because I worry about anybody’s delicate sensibilities. I’m just a bit modest and it makes me more relaxed. But, you guys, it’s hard! Using a cover is really hard! It’s manageable during the first few months, but once that little bugger gets a little bigger and stronger, there’s no keeping the cover on him if he doesn’t want it. You cover, he yanks it off, you re-cover, he yanks it off. During the cover, re-cover process, I’m pretty sure you’ve flashed more nip than you would have if you would have just discreetly let your baby latch on and do his thing. Also? Alabama state law, one of the most conservative states there is, doesn’t say anything about a breastfeeding mom having to cover up. So there’s that.
5. “If a baby can ask for it, she’s too old to breastfeed.” Eh, my baby has been asking to breastfeed since he was just a few minutes old–it’s called crying. As babies get older, they learn to communicate differently. So yeah, there will probably come a point, if you breastfeed long enough, when your baby may ask for “nursies” or “milkies” or “boobs” or whatever it is that you call it. But if you base your decision on how long you will breastfeed on when your child can ask for it, I think you’re sorely mistaken. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby for 6 months, followed by a combination of breastfeeding and age-appropriate foods for up to 12 months or beyond. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding your baby exclusively for 6 months, followed by a combination of breastfeeding and age-appropriate foods for up to 2 years or beyond. While their guidelines are just a bit different, it’s interesting to note that neither recommends discontinuing breastfeeding your baby once she can ask for it. And they certainly don’t recommend the discontinuation of breastfeeding once it makes somebody else feel uncomfortable. So breastfeed your baby as long as you’re both happy and comfortable doing so. Or don’t breastfeed at all. I don’t care. Just feed your baby! (Like this post? Make sure to check out parts 2, 3 and 4 of Feed Your Baby!)