It’s World Breastfeeding Week! Which means my FB feed is filled with nursing photos, opinions, and memes. Here is my favorite: “I can’t believe it’s 2018 and we’re still discussing breast vs formula like it matters at the end of the day. Just feed your kid and get on with your day. They all grow up to eat Haribo and McDonald’s anyway. Yes, even your kid, kale-blending Cynthia in the pilates pants.” (Shout out to Casey Wilke for sharing that one.)
I’m not going to share the minutiae of my breastfeeding experiences. I don’t have the time to type it all out and you don’t have the time to read a novel, especially if you are a mom. (Unless, of course, you are trapped under a nursing newborn and you have nothing better to do but look at your phone.) I will sum it all up by saying I fought HARD against low milk supply to breastfeed my kids and made it to toddlerhood with all three, thanks to the modern invention of a nursing supplementer and formula. It was important to me at the time and I was (am, lol) stubborn. Now it just doesn’t matter at all to me. It’s been over six years since the last time I breastfed, and if I didn’t work with new moms, I’d probably never think about it.
When you are in the thick of the breastfeeding struggle, it’s hard to imagine you could ever get to a point where you no longer care. Amidst the messages that “breast is best” and all the research thrown at new moms touting breastfeeding’s benefits, it’s hard to find clarity in decision making and the motivation behind it. Parenting a new baby can be very much about just getting through one day at a time. It’s hard to believe they will ever grow out of those tiny clothes, or eat solid food, or….move out someday!? What!? Yes, it’s true- my first born has no recollection of our nursing relationship and our current discussions center on things like where she’s going to college and how she will afford rent on her own. If it weren't for the modern invention of photography, I'm not sure I'd even remember what she looked like as a baby.
I’m not sure why breastfeeding mattered to me so much when I struggled through it with each kid. (Thankfully, each time was a little bit easier.) I certainly wanted my children to reap the benefits of breastfeeding, but here’s the thing those breastfeeding advocates never mention. Breastfeeding doesn’t exist in a bubble- it’s not the only thing to support your child’s immune system, or the only thing to boost their IQ, or the only thing to increase maternal-infant bonding. Furthermore, like anything in parenting, there are no guarantees. In my own case, with all of the struggles I went through, I never really enjoyed breastfeeding, which kind of got in the way of feeling a bond. If anything, it was tool (like, if I needed a break, the offer of a boob could get the toddler to stop moving for a bit). There were times when I felt a bit cheated. Breastfeeding did not give me warm fuzzy feelings, or save us money (pumping supplies, herbs to increase milk production, etc.), or help me lose the baby weight. I do have kids with incredible immune systems, but I have no idea if it’s the breastfeeding or good genes or something else completely.
If you are currently breastfeeding your child and love it, awesome! If you are struggling through it, and getting by, good for you for perservering! If you tried and it just didn’t work out- no worries! Or if you had your own personal reason for choosing not to (and no matter what it is, it’s legitimate and you don’t need to justify it to anyone), you are awesome, too! It has nothing to do with your worth as a mother or as a person! Feeding our babies- however it happens- is just one experience we go through as moms. It doesn’t need to define us and it certainly shouldn’t divide us!
For those of you currently in the midst of the breastfeeding experience, for better or for worse, I acknowledge how important it feels right now. You deserve support- and whether it’s the kind to make it work or the kind to help you let go- I assure you it’s out there. I am always available to offer a listening ear or connect you with the appropriate resources. Please reach out. And while it may be hard to believe today, know that someday, you just won’t care so much about it anymore. It’s crazy to think that I struggled so hard, emotionally and logistically, to provide the wonderful nourishment of breastmilk to my dear first born for her to grow up to be a junk food connoisseur...dressed in pilates pants.