I am good at breastfeeding. It is easy for me. It is my favorite part about motherhood. I have become a die hard lactivist. August 1st starts World Breastfeeding Week and I am pumped (pun intended). Everywhere I look I see articles and research and pics – oh my! Breastfeeding fascinates me.
When I was pregnant, breastfeeding was the topic I was most anxious about. We were so prepared for the birth of our girl but despite a breastfeeding class, I did not feel even slightly ready once baby got here. I’d seen my sister nurse a few times but that was pretty much the extent of my knowledge.
Even so, I was determined to breastfeed. I knew the facts and I desperately wanted that bond and to provide for my baby. I have now exclusively breastfed for 5 months and I hope to for many more. I have a freezer with over 1,500 ounces in it and counting. My baby loves to breastfeed and I love it right back.
I don’t say these things to flaunt as I know many people who produce more and less than I do. I say it because I’m proud of my body and my journey so far.
The history of birth and motherhood in this country is crazy fascinating. Kensington’s great grandmother was telling me just on Saturday that she was “knocked out” for her births. When she woke up, she had had the babies! That when she was pregnant, she had to take paid leave from work when she started to show (oh don’t we wish that was still the case) and formula feeding was encouraged.
Though in some cases a lot has changed, some things really haven’t. Pregnancy is still treated like an illness instead of a natural process and breastfeeding support is hard to find. You receive formula samples and coupons in the mail every other week but after you leave the hospital, all you know is “breast is best” but it is frowned upon in public, at work, pretty much everywhere.
Then you get on Facebook and there is so much talk revolving around how babies are fed. Formula vs. breastmilk. Bottle vs. breast. Schedule vs. cues. So on and so forth. It is hard to know who to listen to and what is right.
Like any other important matter, I encourage mamas to do the research and talk to professionals. Reach out to lactation consultants and attend Le Leche League meetings. In the meantime, here are two facts. Proven by scientists, doctors, and time.
1. Breastmilk is best for baby. Scientifically speaking, breast is best. Breastmilk and formula are not equal. Not even close. Breast milk is a live, ever-changing tissue responding to your baby’s needs daily. I wish I had food specifically whipped up to meet all my needs – made by someone else at that!
2. Nursing isn’t just about nutrition. Babies nurse for a million reasons. Whether it be comfort, illness, development and growth; when baby is latched, she is being fulfilled.
If you haven’t gotten the hint, I could go on and on about the benefits of breastfeeding (like mama is 50% less likely to develop breast cancer, breastfeeding takes 40 muscles in baby’s face compared to 10 muscles to take a bottle, etc).
There are just as many reasons, if not more, why moms don’t breastfeed. Latch issues, milk supply, injuries or illness, work demands, lack of desire (gasp!!).
I think it’s absolutely ludicrous we have to say fed is best. It makes my skin crawl – are we that bad, moms? OBVIOUSLY fed is best. It’s such a shame moms have felt this judgement and criticism so much it affects their health and the health of their babies.
I don’t want to be insensitive. I know some mothers desperately want to breastfeed and can not. My heart goes out to them. I pray they have found something that fills them, as a mother meets so many more needs for her baby.
So, here are a few more facts:
1) Formula fed babies are still healthy babies. Loved babies. These babies can and will thrive and no one will know the difference when they are side by side to kids who have breastfed in school one day.
2) Mothers provide comfort, not just their breastmilk. Formula fed babies are still comforted babies. They’ll still bond, develop, and grow.
3) Your baby is YOUR baby. And mine is mine. Whether you have a reason to pass on breastfeeding or not, you don’t need to explain to anyone. You are doing what you think is best for YOUR baby. Anytime I get a slice of judgment from someone, I always kindly reply, “Good thing she’s not your kid then, huh?” (sometimes only in my head).
For me, I’m not going to be ashamed of my awesome, fulfilling breastfeeding journey just because I think someone could take offense. I’m not insulting anyone by feeding my baby. Let’s update our birth mantra: The beauty of another’s feeding journey does not minimize your own, mamas!
I know 5 months is far from the end of my journey. Sure, it KILLED at the beginning and some days are harder than others. It would have been so easy to stop sometimes BUT breastfeeding is one thing I know I’m doing right. I’m so thankful for a supportive partner and that God has blessed me with the ability to produce like I do. I’ve always been able to look down and get just as much out of breastfeeding as my baby: love, comfort, fulfillment.
We all have things in motherhood we should take pride in. And we all have things that cause mom guilt. I’m not going to say don’t judge each other, because that should be a given. I’m going to say, don’t let others’ judgments affect your motherhood. Listen to your mama instincts and what is best for your baby – and you! Stress and anxiety about feeding will bring health to no one.
You know what I’m not awesome at? Going with the flow. Holding my crying baby for an extended period of time (“Daddy! She said she wants you!”). Making even the slightest decision without going to google, books, or trusted friends for research.
My baby refuses a bottle. Possibly because I waited exactly 4 weeks to the day to introduce one – like the research says! My baby’s going to have some awesome face muscles but you moms can laugh at me when you can leave your baby for more than 3 hours at a time.
Your breastfeeding success isn’t measured by ounces and your mothering isn’t defined by judgments. Happy mamas and healthy babies is the goal. Breastfeeding is something that assures me that I’m being the best mom I can even though I lack in other areas. Do what matters to you.
Do I think breast is best? Absolutely. Do I know it is not possible for everyone? Yes. I’ll breastfeed my kid and you feed yours.
So raise your bottles, of formula or breastmilk, and Happy World Breastfeeding Week!