I have a confession to make. I never tried to breastfeed my baby, not even once. His dad fed him his very first bottle in the delivery room while I still having repairs made. I didn’t struggle for weeks with latching on and a poor milk supply and then switch to formula to save my baby and my sanity. I don’t have a medical condition that makes it impossible for me to breastfeed, I don’t have a terrible workplace that discriminates against breastfeeding moms, I don’t have a “valid” reason for not doing it; I just didn’t want to.
I’ve known for years that I wasn’t going to breastfeed. For a few short months in college I worked at Motherhood Maternity. I heard horror stories about breastfeeding, sore, bleeding, cracked nipples, babies that bite, days spent doing nothing but breastfeeding, leaking in public, getting terrible infections or clogged ducts that were excruciatingly painful. I sold pumps that reminded me of the machine’s I’ve seen milking dairy cows. I tried and sometimes failed to find women a nursing bra that fit and wasn’t the most uncomfortable thing they had ever worn. As an impressionable 20-year-old all I could think was, “I’m never doing that.”
I have yet to see anything that gets women so riled up as the debate about breastfeeding. I’ve read countless blogs and articles about women who also made the choice not to breastfeed and based on the comment sections you would think they just told the world they feed their baby gasoline. Selfish, uninformed, naive, stupid, lazy, terrible mother… all anonymous insults hurled at formula-feeding moms through cyberspace.
Whenever the topic of babies and breastfeeding came up, I kept my resolve and told people I had no intention of breastfeeding. I would justify it by saying things like, “I can’t pump when I go back to work, the news isn’t going to wait for me while I pump,” or “I’m not sure I’ll be able to with the medicine I take every day.” Which is true, I do take medication every day but based on a simple google-search it probably wouldn’t keep me from breastfeeding and I don’t work in news anymore, so that “excuse” is out.
I was afraid to just admit that I didn’t want to breastfeed. I didn’t want to be called a selfish, horrible, bad mom. I didn’t want to have to defend my decision. I have always felt that it isn’t good enough to want my husband to be able to feed the baby in the middle of the night too or be able to go back to work without worrying if I’ll produce enough milk to feed the baby. It isn’t good enough to want to be able to take an uninterrupted nap in those first few sleep deprived weeks while someone else worries about feeding the baby or be able to go out with girlfriends and have a few drinks. It isn’t good enough to just not want too. I was afraid of being attacked and hounded by women who didn’t even know me.
When did women start being so hostile toward each other? When did what I choose to feed my baby boy, who is perfectly happy and healthy, become the topic of public conversation and debate? When did it become acceptable to berate and degrade a person you know nothing about based solely on how they feed their baby?
Let’s get something straight, motherhood is hard. You worry before your baby is even born how you are going to keep them safe and if you’ll be a good mom. You worry about SIDS and vaccinations and finding the right daycare. You worry if you are bathing them enough, if they are sleeping too much or if their poop is the right color. You wonder if your body is ever going to return to normal, if your sex life will ever be the same again and sometimes you cry for no reason at all. The last thing new moms or any moms for that matter should have to worry about is being judged and put down.
As women, and especially as mothers, we should be supporting each other, offering words of encouragement instead of hurtful, judgmental comments. We should make new moms feel loved and supported and like they are doing the best they can for themselves and their babies. Women should feel empowered and confident in the choices they make for themselves and their families; so let’s support each other, regardless of whether you agree with my choices or not. I’m happy, my baby is happy and we are both thriving in our new life together, what else matters?