"In one corner, we have Fanny Formula-Feeder,
and in the other corner stands Betsy Breast-Feeder."
Ding, ding, ding! Who will you bet on?
Who will get the KO and leave the other walking down the path of shame?
Sounds very corny, I know...but isn't that what we as moms are doing?
Duking it out over each other's pregnancy, birth and parenting decisions?
Technology has enabled us to share our opinions with virtually the whole world. Perhaps two of the hottest topics of discussion among women of childbearing age all over the world are how you feed your baby and breastfeeding in public. These may be as common as such topics as your due date, your baby's gender, and whether or not you will have an epidural. Moms flock to Facebook pages and groups seeking advice on all their parenting decisions from pregnancy to preschool and beyond. Unfortunately, there will always be those who seem to cast judgment on moms who choose options that are different from their own. Often, instead of encountering support, moms come across discouraging comments leaving them confused and unsure of their choices.
Moms who made the decision to formula feed from birth feel they are being judged.
“Why didn’t you at least give breastfeeding a try?”
Moms who made the decision to exclusively breastfeed from birth feel they are being judged.
“You know you’ll get less sleep. Your baby will just use you as a pacifier.”
Moms who tried breastfeeding and then switched to formula feel they are being judged.
“Breastfeeding was tough for me in the beginning, too. But we hung in there and made it work.”
Moms who choose baby-led weaning feel they are being judged.
“You haven’t weaned that baby yet? There aren’t any benefits past a year.”
Moms who decide to pump exclusively and feed breastmilk in a bottle feel like they are being judged.
“Bottle feeding breastmilk isn’t the same. Babies don’t bond with moms the same way that babies fed at the breast do.”
Moms who decide to cover up while nursing in public are judged.
“Covering up sends the message that it’s not appropriate to nurse uncovered.”
Moms who decide not to cover up while nursing in public are being judged.
“No one wants to see exposed breasts in public; cover up.” or “Can I show you a more private place to feed your baby?”
Regardless of whether statements made are fact or not, words, spoken and/or written, can have an enormous impact. “Well, we have the choice whether or not to be offended and can choose to ignore,” you say; however, first-time moms early in their experience are vulnerable and may be teetering on the edge. Confidence levels are shot, decisions are second-guessed. They may hole up in their homes to avoid scrutiny and depend on the internet for socializing. ( I wonder if there may be a correlation here between isolation and post-partum depression?)
I don’t believe comments are made maliciously. Often moms are simply voicing their struggles, seeking to justify their decisions, and looking for support without condition.
How a mom feeds her baby is a personal decision. Isn’t that what our culture encourages? Choice? You don’t know the whole picture. You can’t see the whole picture on social media sites like Facebook.
Bay Area Breastfeeding & Education wholeheartedly supports breastfeeding as nature’s way…what our bodies are made to do. But we aren’t the momma, and the baby is not ours. Leah and I are advocates for more moms breastfeeding and more babies getting breastmilk; however, we work for the whole family and moms and their goals. Our practice is evidenced based, and we provide accurate information. It is then up to the mom to make the choice. The BABEs pride ourselves in meeting moms where they are on the breastfeeding spectrum. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There will be be no judgment cast on moms who decide to exclusively breastfeed or exclusively pump and bottle feed breastmilk or moms who breastfeed part-time and formula feed to meet baby’s need or moms who formula feed exclusively.
So, are you a boob basher or a lactation snob? Strive to be a Mommy Advocate instead:
Respect other moms’ choices.
Realize that words can make an impact.
Provide support to all fellow moms regardless of their decisions.
Be confident in your decisions.
Realize you are making the best choice for yourself and your whole family.
Remind yourself that often you don’t know the mom personally and can’t see the whole picture.
Choose to offer support without condition.
This doesn’t mean we back down from our convictions and opinions. This doesn’t mean we ignore or water down the facts. We can be radical in a way that is respectful. Let’s spend our time being Mommy Advocates and finding ways to educate families prenatally instead of spending time arguing amongst ourselves. Breastfeeding support should start before pregnancy.
What are some other ways you can offer unconditional support to moms?