I wasn’t going to write much about breastfeeding just yet because it has truly been a journey for me, and the story is not quite over. And then we breastfed happily ever after until one year. The end. Yeah, no. But given that there is a lot of talk around here these days about Judgment-Free Motherhood in honor of Moms for Moms Day, and we all know that the how, what, why, and where of feeding is one of the most harshly judged aspects of motherhood, I though that this would be the perfect time to write a bit about nursing – and not nursing – my little one. You won’t read anything here that you haven’t probably heard a million times before, but I wanted to share part of my own personal story because this is what has really helped me turn a corner in my own mommy judgment.
I was one of those women who unquestionably wanted to breastfeed. That is what I have always believed is best, so of course I would do it, even though I had also heard that it is not easy. Recommended for one year? Done – maybe we will even go longer! Painful? If all those other ladies can do it, then so can I. Difficult? I will persevere – I have done hard things before. I wasn’t someone who thought that a woman who didn’t breastfeed was evil or stupid – misinformed, perhaps, or lacking resources or burdened by some sort of medical issue. None of those things were something that any woman would choose.
Fast forward to my daughter’s birth. Insert generic imperfect hospital breastfeeding story here. Insert typical list of interventions tried, supplements taken, articles read, and experts consulted. It was painful. It was difficult. I did persevere – to a point. I tried what seemed reasonable, skipped what did not, and pumped like a mad woman. We eventually did have some success – it became a lot easier about eight weeks in – and for a period of time, we were even able to nurse a few times a day. But now things are not going as well, and baby is on a nursing strike. Maybe it is a phase, and I will keep trying – some. But I am finding myself choosing to let the idea of breastfeeding drift quietly away.
Why does this make me feel like such a crappy person? No one has said a single explicitly negative thing to me about this. What I do hear is along the lines of: Have you heard of La Leche League? Have you spoken to a lactation consultant? Have you tried fenugreek? Have you used lanolin? Have you? Have you?? Have you??? It is somehow implied that it is not acceptable to give up on breastfeeding unless you have tried Every Possible Intervention to infinity. There is certainly judgment in that. Good moms climb Everest to breastfeed.
This is not a post about wanting help or answers, and it’s not about a lack of resources or education. I had and have access to those things. This is about choices. I have chosen what works over the ideal. Maybe I could have gritted my teeth more, fought harder through the tears and frustration, gotten a little less sleep, and given up some conveniences. I could have climbed Everest, but I’m not perfect. I like to think that I am not alone in that.
The most important thing I’ve learned about feeding a baby is that it is hard no matter how you choose to do it, whether the hardship is a physical, emotional, financial, or logistical one. Breast may be best under perfect circumstances, but I have also learned that perfect circumstances DON’T EXIST. We all have bills to pay or people to please or other kids to care for or standards to live up to or walls to break down or any number of other obstacles. In the absence of perfection, we all have to choose what works.
I feel that judgment comes from insecurity. I picture little kids covering up their own answers and at the same time looking around at what others have written on their paper. Criticizing someone else for their choices somehow validates your own. My message to insecure moms everywhere is the following: A mom who feeds her baby is a mom who loves her baby, period.
And then we all lived judgment-free ever after. The end.