Every time I hear a woman judge another mom for "not trying hard enough" to breastfeed, I want to introduce her to a friend of mine who was so desperate to nurse, her baby ended up in the ER with dehydration. Or another friend who wore a tube on her breast that fed her baby formula while he sucked on her nipple, just for the stimulation. Women will put themselves through Olympic-sized challenges just to make that breastfeeding happen. And still, sometimes that milk just won't show up. How much torture should we put ourselves through to make that breastfeeding happen?
Video blogger Johanna Stein fought the good breastfeeding fight -- and she lost. She wanted to breastfeed for at least a year -- but all she produced were "puffs of milk-scented air." She tried all kinds of things, including letting a lactation consultant named Fifi milk her in a windowless strip mall. She endured intense, foot-stomping pain. She spent several hundred dollars. She pumped with a nipple-stretching hospital grade pump for seven hours a day while her husband bottle fed their baby just so she could supplement that formula with a few teaspoons of breast milk. For six months! It's a crying shame -- or it would be, except Johanna's managed to find a way to laugh at it all.
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And really, all those crazy things women do to support breastfeeding -- the cabbage leaves on your breasts, the bitter herbal supplements, THE BEER -- when you think about it, it's so absurd, it's comical. Have women been putting themselves through all this stress for thousands of years?
My friend whose breastfeeding efforts landed her baby in the ER told me that if she'd lived in a village 200 years ago, at some point she would have just handed her baby over to some other female relative or neighbor who was lactating easily. Would she still have felt those same feelings of inadequacy and disappointment? Or would she have just shrugged and baked her neighbor some bread?
I think all middle-class mainstream moms have gotten the message: Breastfeeding is excellent for babies, and you should do it if you can. And if you can't -- know that you can still be an excellent parent anyway. Know that you can still raise a healthy, intelligent, loving child. Not being able to breastfeed is not going to break you as a mother. It's just one of many aspects of parenting, and you're going to excel at some of those other things in ways that maybe your lactation-fountain friends won't.
P.S. those hospital-grade breast pumps are instruments of torture created by the devil. That is alllllll.
How much do you think is reasonable for a woman to go through in order to breastfeed?
Image via © iStock.com/YsaL