About a month ago, I called up a local store that specializes in breastfeeding for expectant and new mothers. I explained to the woman on the phone that because I'd had a breast reduction, was having twins, and might likely have a c-section, I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed my babies or produce enough milk to nourish two. I asked if they would hook me up with a lactation consultant who could give me some tools to help me ultimately maximize my milk production.
When she suggested I take their breastfeeding class instead, I told her that I really didn't want to sit in a room for three hours, listening to how formula would poison my babies, because I was dealing with a unique set of issues that might make it literally impossible for me to produce milk. I confessed that I was already feeling guilty and wanted help and support, not a lecture. Oh no, they assured me, this class wouldn't be like that! Well, I should have trusted my instincts and skipped it ...
Within the first 10 minutes of the breastfeeding class (and for the next three hours), the instructor (a mother of two) railed on formula and made it clear that if you give your baby any formula at all, he or she will be undernourished, neglected, sickly, fussy, and probably stupid, too. Yes, that's exactly what a fretful mother-to-be with specific issues wants to hear! Even in the context of supplementation -- which is often essential when you're feeding twins -- the message was "formula is bad." She even went so far as to say that babies fed with bottles, even if it's breast milk, won't feel as bonded to their mamas. Again, I am having twins, and there may be a time when they need bottle feedings as well! I felt blindsided, ambushed, and totally attacked. The only thing keeping me in that chair was a desire to learn what I had come there to learn: how to boost my milk supply.
Hey, I already know that breast is best -- that's why I even went to the class to begin with (and dragged my husband there with the promise of naked boob videos and free cookies). But I was looking for guidance and support, not a diatribe on how royally screwed my babies would be if I had to give them a bottle. I came out of that class fuming, raging, fire-breathing mad. Sorry, but if anyone's going to make me feel like my children may somehow be inferior, just because my body may not be able to do what I want it to, then you're damn straight it's going to unleash the fury in me!
So, while my blood is still boiling, let me say this: I'm not even a mother yet, and I'm already sick and freakin' tired of all the self-righteous moms, pushing their own parenting agenda on each other and expectant moms-to-be. Of course, breastfeeding seems to be the #1 hot button topic. Hey, if you were lucky enough to be able to breastfeed, good for you -- no need to make the mothers who couldn't feel badly about it! Breastfeeding wasn't for you? Alright then -- if you're bothered by the mother nursing her 2-year-old in public, just look away, lady!
According to the instructor in our class, only 5 percent of women can't breastfeed. Really?! Really?! Because I'd say about half of my friends weren't able to breastfeed, even after weeks of trying, for a variety of reasons (including infection, low milk supply, and postpartum depression). At the very least, they had to supplement. And some were so frustrated and exhausted and stressed out by the process that they weren't even enjoying their babies anymore. So that "Everyone can do it if they just care enough and stick with it!" attitude is totally misleading. I guarantee, moms who feed with formula love their babies just as much as breastfeeding moms do.
And for the record, the formula-fed children I know are all healthy, beautiful, smart, and thriving, just as much as the kids who got the breast. And those babies who were breastfed seem to have just as many gastrointestinal issues, they're just as fussy, and they end up at the pediatrician's office just as often. So, I absolutely refuse to believe that my children are going to be messed up for life if they don't get breast milk.
As far as I can tell, parenting is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor! I don't understand why mothers have to tear each other down and make each other feel like shoddy parents for not doing it their way. How about some empathy for those moms who are having a tougher time of it? Would you vilify a lower-income mom because she can't afford to give her child as many fruits and vegetables? Look down at the single mom for not having a co-parent? Tsk-tsk the parents who can't send their kid to pre-school more than one or two days a week? Most parents want the very best for their kid and, for whatever reason, can't always give it to them. Who is anyone to judge?
I guess in my kumbaya naivete, I sort of assumed that the mothering community was largely a supportive one and missed the fact that there's an angry mob contingency, ready to burn others at the stake for the crimes of Enfamil, playpen use, and TV before the age of 2. Instead of spending all that energy ranting about how wrong the other side is, why don't moms just get back to taking care of their own kids?
At the end of the day, most mothers are just trying to do the very best for their child, and for the most part, I think other moms do get that. You clearly have to find "Mommy friends" who will be supportive of you and vice versa, whether you need a cheerleader who's going to help you stick with breastfeeding or someone to tell you it's okay when you realize that you can't. And to those who just can't help shoving their opinions down your throat, always be ready with a response like, "That's so great, and I'm sure it worked really well for you, but it just didn't for me." Or, if that doesn't work, you can always tell them to suck it!
Are you sick of all the judgmental moms out there? And who has good info for me on how to maximize my milk production without making me feel guilty if I can't exclusively breastfeed?
Image via katerha/Flickr