What does the way you feed your baby say about what kind of mother you think you are? A whole lot. A new study shows that when first-time moms buy anything related to feeding their babies -- whether it's breast pumps or formula -- they're basing those decisions at least partly on their image of themselves as mothers. So for most moms, it's not just about feeding your baby the best food you can. It's also about feeding your baby in a way that shows what kind of mother you are (or want to be, anyway).
So women who buy nipple shields to help them breastfeed, even when it's excruciatingly difficult, do so partly because they see themselves as "natural" moms. Moms who formula feed may buy organic formula because that helps them see themselves as nutrition-minded, and compensates for not breastfeeding. It's not just about what moms think is the best for their babies.
In a way, I think we already know this. A lot of us, before our babies were even born, had a pretty clear idea of what kind of mom we wanted to be. We had an ideal in our minds, and that ideal came with a whole set of values and philosophies and choices.
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I think this is why it's especially painful when a mom who strongly identifies with attachment parenting has trouble breastfeeding. It's not just about wanting to nurse because you believe breast milk is best and that it enables bonding. It's also because that IS what attachment parents do. And if you can't breastfeed, you're going to struggle and feel defensive partly because you won't be seen as a real natural mama.
We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to conform to these ideals, I think. Obviously we want to get parenting right. And it's helpful and important to have an ideal image of motherhood in mind. But if we're a little more flexible with ourselves, we'll be a lot less stressed. And we may not end up buying things we don't need just out of social pressure.
Image via nerissa's ring/Flickr